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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Picking the Perfect 48" EXP



The Extreme Flight snowball keeps picking up momentum and getting bigger and bigger all the time. It's an awesome thing, though a lot of the newer Extreme Flight customers and potential customers are not real familiar with the line up and each of the airframe's features and handling characteristics. Here I will try to explain the differences between the airframes, and each one's unique strong suits.

First, though, it's worth noting that all the EXPs are pretty similar. They are all designed to do pretty much the same thing, which is extreme aerobatics. However, each one is designed to have it's own unique strong points. The differences are, for the most part, subtle, and in the end choosing any one over any of the others is going to be a personal preference sort of thing.

Progression
Here we will rank the EXPs based off of which I think is the easiest to fly. From what you read here, I think you will be able to choose the one that suits you best. If you are a really voracious reader, you can use this guide to narrow your choices down, and then go to my flight reports for a more detailed analysis.

For sport Fliers: All the the EXPs make outstanding sport planes with a simple set up change. You can refer to our Sport Flying The EXTREME FLIGHT Extra EXP blog report and use all of that information to turn any of the current EXPs into a very easy handling, but fully capable aerobatic sport plane. They are also most excellent as trainers for conventional aerobatics. In almost every way, the EXPs make better sport planes than almost any other sport plane I can think of.

Easiest: Edge 540T EXP:

Because of the straight LE (leading edge) of it's wing, the Edge 540T EXP is the easiest of the bunch to fly 3D with. The straight LE virtually eliminates wing rock when in post stall flight and the plane is so stable like this that most people who have flown one say it is almost like cheating. No matter how hard you rotate the Edge EXP on it's elevator, it will always simply rotate, and not drop a wing, snap out or go crazy on you. It stays stable, sure footed, confidence inspiring, and supremely forgiving.

The Edge also harriers so effortlessly that it is almost too easy, so if you are a newer 3D pilot, or a sport pilot looking to move into 3D, this plane will be the right choice.

When you are learning 3D, the best place to start is to work on getting a really good harrier going, so it makes sense to fly the plane that does the easiest harrier. I start my students off working on their elevator maneuvers, and when they can get that working well, it is not that hard to move it forward into a harrier. The Edge does all of these things so well that most of my students can get a sweet elevator maneuver going after only a handful of tries. Harrier takes a bit more work, but the Edge EXP makes that easier by not rocking it's wing back and forth and causing the pilot to spend more effort correcting than flying.



There has been a little talk that the Edge EXP doesn't snap, spin or KE spin that well because the straight LE makes it too stable, but with the EXP style huge elevator surfaces and big movements, this is not so. The Edge EXP does a KE spin that can be so violent I have actually flung the wheel pants completely off the airplane!

In short, the Edge EXP is a super stable 3D monster that is completely capable while remaining docile enough to be a 3D trainer. I do suggest that the newer 3D pilots set up their elevators at 45 degrees in the beginning. Flying with the full 88 degrees is a bit different and you want to have a reasonably good harrier going before you try it with that much movement. It is much easier to harrier the plane with 45 degrees of elevator, and you can always crank the throw up later when you have a smooth harrier going and are ready to step up to the next level of performance.

Smooth, Easy and Gyroscopic: Laser EXP

Here it's going to get a little weird because the Laser is very, very similar to the Extra EXP. In a lot of ways they are almost interchangeable, but in others the Laser gives up a little or pulls away on it's own.

The Laser EXP appears to share the same wing as the Extra EXP, and it also appears that the moments (the distance between the wing and stabilizer) of the two is very similar. While I have not measured it, I believe the Laser uses the elevator from the MXS, which has slightly more area. I can tell you for sure the Laser's rudder is taller because when sitting in the back seat, it hits the inside of the back window of my car. I generally put the back seat down and transport the laser in the trunk.




The most telling difference is that the Laser has a bunch more pitch authority (PA) than the Extra, and very, very nearly as much as the MXS, which is the king of PA. You can see that in the videos that the plane will stand right up on it's tail like a doggie begging for a bone. Pull that elevator and she just pops to vertical. This plane does beautiful walls and parachutes.

Where the Laser EXP sets itself apart is how it twists and turns itself nearly inside out in snaps and tumbles. You can make this plane do some really weird gyroscopic stuff. I've actually even done a few things I have never seen before and don't know what to call them. A few times I have gotten the timing wrong on pop top maneuvers and the Laser has blown out tail first and squirted across the sky backwards. I'm still trying to duplicate that because it looks pretty cool. It's in one of the later Laser videos.

The laser also harriers just a little more easy than the Extra EXP, which because they are otherwise so similar surprises me a bit. The Extra still holds the edge (so to speak) on high speed precision and smoothness.




Between these two, it is really, really, really close. They are different, but so similar in so many ways that it is a really tough call between them, I am betting that most guys have already had so many Extras is so many different brands that they will go for the Laser simply because it is so different looking. Both of these planes are so good that any reason you can come up with to choose one over the other is valid.

In the end, they are so similar that either one will do, but they are also different in other ways that makes it necessary for me to have both of them. I would say the newer 3D pilots would find the Laser to be just a little bit easier to fly, so it is ever-so-slightly higher on the easy-to-fly list.

Smoothest/Most Precise: Extra EXP
 
Let's get it out of the way right now that I am probably a bit biased here. I have always been a little bit weird for Extras. I liked them when I flew other brands of planes, and I now like the Extra best in the 48" Extreme Flight lineup as well.

In the 80s I flew AMA precision pattern, and the long, drawn out and graceful lines of the Extra EXP are very, very reminiscent of that time. From the underside, the Extra EXP is almost indistinguishable from something like an (Wolfgang Matt) Atlas or (Hanno Prettner) Curare. It is only on the top side that the scale cluing of the Extra tells you this is something different.



 
Of course, the long lines are part of what adds so much stability and
smoothness to this plane, and the Extra draws the nicest lines of the bunch, and flies at high speed so locked in that it looks like it is speeding along on a giant rail in the sky. For my money, nothing in the 48" class can touch the Extra EXP for being smooth to fly.

While the long moments work against the plane being agile, Extreme Flight got that back with big control surfaces and the ability to stand that elevator up to a whopping 88 degrees. With that going for it and those big SFGs, the Extra EXP 3Ds as well as anything I've had my hands on outside of an Edge EXP. Snaps are ultra crisp and precise and with a little power added she will flatten out in a spin really nice. The surprising thing is that even with all the precision and stability built in with the long lines, the Extra EXP will still wrap itself up really tight in a very pretty KE spin.



The Extra EXP does give a little bit up to the Edge EXP in it's 3D ability, but the Extra EXP is still very, very comfortable to drag around in post stall. It's just not as easy as the Edge, which again, is probably too easy anyway. This is why I rank the Edge EXP slightly higher on the "easy list."

However, what might at first glance appear to put the Extra EXP at a slight disadvantage to the Edge EXP, is actually what makes the Extra EXP my favorite plane of the bunch. The Extra EXP is the best balanced airplane I have ever flown. It does everything so well that it just feels right. It doesn't do any one thing or series of things better than it does anything else. It just does everything right.

OK, I'll admit that part is not a very technical analysis, but from a very personal and subjective viewpoint, to me, the Extra just feels like and flies like an airplane is supposed to feel and fly. Other planes can do this better than the Extra EXP, or that better than the Extra EXP, but I don't believe any of them does all so well like the Extra EXP does. This is the most well rounded and performance balanced plane I know of.

I like the Extra EXP for my every day go-to airplane. This is the one that I can count on to deliver for me every single time. It flies eerily smooth precision, and extremely solid 3D.

Most Extreme: MXS EXP
 
Well, this one's not even close. The MXS is easily the most extreme and bad ass 48" plane I have ever had my hands on, and I love it that way.

From what I can see, the MXS is essentially an Extra EXP with the moment shortened, and a slightly larger elevator added. There are a few other things involved, but with myself not being an engineer, these are the things that stood out to me the most to me. The MXS flies very much like an Extra EXP on acid, which essentially is what it really is anyway.

What the shorter moment does is make the MXS more responsive in the pitch (elevator) axis. When you add that to more elevator area, the MXS has explosive pitch authority, while only giving up a little in pitch stability. The MXS still flies really solid at high speed, but when you pull that elevator the plane will rotate hard.  When going back to the MXS after flying something like the Extra EXP, I have to be careful for a few flights because the pitch authority is so much that it can catch you by surprise.



For instance, the Extra EXP will generally climb just a little when you throw it into a hard wall maneuver (when you pop the nose hard to vertical from level flight), whereas the MXS will simply throw the tail completely under the airplane and maybe drop a little altitude. Like this is is very easy to misjudge the maneuver and bang the back of the rudder on the ground, simply because you are expecting the plane to climb a little instead of dropping.

In one video I actually popped the MXS into a hover straight out of a parachute. One second it is headed straight down, and the next it rotates so hard the nose is pointed straight up and it's sitting there in a hover. It's on one of the Bad Atitude series videos. I'll have to find it, then come back and edit the article and include the video.

Going the other direction, in a waterfall maneuver (throwing the tail over the nose with down elevator), the MXS is simply wonderful. The big 60" MXS is even better, the best even, at this.

Pitch authority definitely has a lot of cool usages. Doing parachutes with an MXS is an exercise in nutbaggery. The plane will pop to level so effortlessly that it is too easy to get really crazy ass brave, and I know that one day I'll be walking out to pick up the results of cutting it too close. As it is, check the landing on the video and that will give you an indication of how confidence inspiring all that elevator control is.

Pitch authority also comes in really handy when it comes to snaps and tumbles. The MXS will really wrap itself up in these kinds of maneuvers. For pilots who love that kind of stuff, there is no substitute for the MXS.

Surprisingly the MXS displays this sort of unbridled wildness without being twitchy or unstable. All the high speed and precision maneuvers you see in the video were all done on high rates, so clearly this is a smooth airplane in spite of it's crazy agility. I've since set up a low rate on my MXS' and it is nearly as smooth and precise as the Extra EXP. We just haven't made a video with it like that yet, but it's coming.

The reason I place the MXS in fourth place on my "easy scale" is not because the plane is hard to fly. It really isn't. It's actually a pretty docile plane until you start pegging the elevator throws to 88 degrees and then the only hard part is managing the responsiveness.

For a newer pilot this might be a bit of a concern, but if you just absolutely have to have an MXS, you can dial that high rate (or mid rate if your radio has it) elevator back to about 45 degrees and you'll have yourself a nice little plane. However, as a 3D pilot, your nature will always be to want to get the most out of the plane and yourself, so It won't be long before you are dialing the throw back in. The MXS is so stable and locked in that you really do need all of that throw if you want it to perform to it's potential as well as your own.


EDIT: Yak 54 EXP

Unfortunately, at the time this article was published, the Extreme flight Yak 54 EXP was not yet available. I have since built and flown several, and you can read about that in my report, The Yak Is Back.




It's been about 9 months since I published the original Yak report and I've done a lot with these planes in 2013. I've really gotten to be very fond of the plane and have built a few more. Subsequent articles include Another Tale of two Yaks: Flying The Twins  and A Tale of two Yaks: October Buildfest.

The Yak is a bit different and it took some flying to truly understand it's different layout. The wing and stabilizer are both on the thrust line, so everything rolls, spins and snaps on a single datum line. Like this, the plane becomes much more agile on the roll axis and you need to adjust your flying to this.

 Once you have flown the Yak for a bit it suddenly just comes to you and it is a very instinctual plane to fly. It does such pure axial roll that I am finding myself automatically beginning to learn to do rollers. I'm starting to put the inputs in without thinking, whereas before I hardly used the rudder when rolling the plane.

Also, the new red scheme is beautiful on the ground, but especially striking in the air. The Russian Thunder scheme will always be classic, so the Yak is another one of those EXP that you have to have two of!

 

Look for us to do a lot more with the Yaks very soon. I killed the Russian Thunder because I got too fearless and stupid with it, so I am just waiting to get another one and then we will start shooting more video.

For now, though, I was really pleased with this one:


 

Set Ups
Here we're going to get into a bit of controversy because set up can be a very personal thing and everyone wants something a little different from the plane. Personally I think you need all the throw that you can handle comfortably, confidently, and smoothly. Anything less and you might not have enough for certain maneuvers. Too much throw and you will be over controlling the airplane, and probably not flying very comfortably, confidently, or smoothly.
 
For the newer 3D pilots, how do you know what is right? Generally, go to the manual because all of the elite manufacturers have put a lot of effort into getting the set up dialed in before they put the planes on the market. They are a lot more experienced than we are, so it makes sense to follow their recommendations, at least in the beginning.
 
Especially in the case of Extreme Fight, Chris Hinson puts a lot of testing time on any new design and he gets the set up locked in tight. I take the set up straight out of the manual and don't change anything, except I slow the low rate ailerons down just enough so the plane rolls a perfect three in five seconds. That's all I change.
 
If you are a new 3D pilot, or even a new Extreme Flight customer who is otherwise proficient with other brands of 3D planes, I heartily recommend that at least in the beginning you set the plane up exactly like the manual calls for. You newer 3D pilots stay with that for awhile and make sure you get an experienced 3D pilot to give you a little coaching. For you experienced 3D pilots I recommend that you start with the set up in the manual, feel the plane out for a pack or two, and then start tweeking the plane to your preferance.
 
One very telling and impressive thing about the EXPs is that they react to set up changes very progressively and very predictably. This is one of the hallmarks of a well engineered airframe.
 

The Nail
Hopefully that cleared things up a bit for those who are just starting to familiarize themselves with the EXP lineup. Again, for those who would like a more in depth analysis, please check my other blog reports. I cover each of these planes individually, with flight reports and set up notes and photos.
 
The important thing to remember is that you can't make a bad choice. All of these EXPs make outstanding 3D monsters, but can be tamed with a set up change to be as docile and forgiving at a Mini Pulse or a T28. We've done it with the sport set up!

The end goal is extreme aerobatics, so they are going to have to be similar to achieve that. While each plane has it's own individual strengths, I don't believe any of them have any weaknesses outside of that it takes a Daniel Holman to make one fly like Daniel Holman flies his.
 
This means that if there is any sort of problem, it's with us, as non-perfect pilots. Of course, I kind of like being the weak link because the whole idea is to grow and improve as a pilot. It's really nice, no matter which EXP I am flying, that I never have to worry about the plane holding me back.
 
Also remember that, like with any plane, set up is crucial. You can make an EXP as wild or as docile as you want. Essentially, with set up, you control how responsive or gentle you want the plane to be.
 
 
 
 
 
  
 

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