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Monday, December 29, 2014

Laser EXP Sport Report And Set Up

Undoubtedly our most popular project has been the Sport Flying The EXTREME FLIGHT Extra EXP  and set up. That plane allowed regular sport pilots to experience a high quality, high performance 3D machine in a format they were comfortable flying, with the opportunity to later move into 3D if they chose. Some people were happy just sport and precision flying the Extra, but most of my students later wanted to move into Extreme Aerobatics, probably because I was such a bad influence on them.

By their very nature, 3D planes make excellent sport flyers. They are light weight and usually superbly designed. In the last few years most 3D planes have been really strengthened in the landing gear area, which is also a great idea for a durable sport plane. Since 3D planes have to go back and forth from flying airspeed to post stall flying, they have to have an extremely docile stall characteristic, again, a feature that marks a great sport design. The trick with any set up is tailoring it to match the performance characteristics you are after, and when making a 3D plane into a sport flyer, it's just a matter of getting the throws right  and moving the CG forward a bit.

The Laser EXP Sport
By friend Barry volunteered his new Laser for this project. Barry had previously flown an Edge EXP with sport set up, but got it into the SPARKS coffin corner of death toward the west at sunset. The plane greyed out and that was it. Since the mechanical set up for these planes is all the same, we used the servo arms and ball links straight from the wrecked Edge, and I will detail that out later.

Something we did differently this time is use the fiberglass wingtips from the 48" MXS. They match the Laser's blue covering perfectly and look perfect. The tips have the effect of making the plane a little more docile and locked in. This is perfect for sport flying. The main reason we used the tips is because they look so cool, and also to show the MXS doesn't need SFGs to perform beautiful sport and precision flying. You can get these from the 48" MXS parts page. 

Also on board is the trusty pilot from my beata Yak. He has been such good luck for that plane that I wanted to pass him on, and he really jazzes up the way this plane look.

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There has been a little confusion about the set up, though. Some people were trying to put that set up on 60" planes, and planes from other brands. Since each airframe design is different, this is not always going to work out. In this article, I am going to lay out how you develop a sport set up for any plane, whether it be Extreme Flight in any size, or even a different brand.

While we have not tried this set up on every one of the EXPs. so far it has worked on the Extra, Edge, Yak, and laser. I have every confidence it would work on an MXS too.

How To Develop A set Up
The hard way is to set the ailerons up for three rolls in five seconds at full deflection. Set the elevator up so that at full deflection you can do a full throttle loop without the plane trying to snap or veer out. That is usually perfect for most sport maneuvers and most general sport flying. It's enough to do snaps and spins while remaining easy to fly, but not enough throw to do any 3D. It's perfect for basic aerobatics and precision flying.

The problem with developing a set up like that is that it involves a lot of trial and error, something you don't especially want to do with a brand new plane. You will be adjusting linkages and programming the radio when you could be just flying the plane.

An easier way to get to this set up is to begin with what's in the manual. Most elite 3D airframe manufacturers go to great pains to get their low rate set up just right for precision, which is also very close to a good sport set up. All you do is take the low rate from the manual and use it as your high rate. On an Extreme Flight plane this is just a little too fast (for me) on the ailerons, so for that I use a low rate that gives me three rolls in five seconds at full deflection. This is a very comfortable roll rate that sport pilots can keep up with. From there, move the CG about 1/4" ahead of what's in the manual and you will have a very docile but capable sport machine.
By beginning with the low rate from the manual you only need a few adjustments to turn any good 3D plane into a nice sport/precision aerobat. I am sure there are some out there that have messed up low rates, but if you start with a plane from one of the top three or four reputable companies, you can't go wrong.
I have owned and set up a lot of  3D style planes, and on almost all of them the low rate is perfect (with a few revisions) for sport/precision. This is where I got the idea to tame the plane down for some of my basic students, or pilots ready to progress into aerobatics.
Developing a set up this way is not always going to work because not only is any set up subjective, but like I say, some manufacturers might not have a good low rate set up in their manual. Partially because of this, your best bet is always going to be to buy (preferably) Extreme Flight, or one of the other elite manufacturers. Certainly you can get some good bargains out there, but nothing is going to be as refined and pre-sorted out like and Extreme Flight plane.

The Laser Sport Set Up
While many sport pilots have been introduced to 3D style planes by the Extra EXP, I felt it was time to give them a snazzy alternative that will fly just as well. When I had a chance to set a Laser up for sport and get a test flight on it, that was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

The Laser is also an ideal sport plane. It is smooth and solid to fly, and mist guys who can handle a T28 can move into a Laser with just about no trouble at all. With today's AX3X and other stability systems, this can be made even easier. I wish I had more experience with those systems, but I plan to try a few this year. I have flown a couple friend's planes using these, and was very impressed.

Before you do any set up changes, you need to know what you are wanting from the airplane. What we are after here is very simple..... we want it to be easy to fly, stable, and forgiving, yet still capable of doing all conventional aerobatics.  Most of that is already designed in to the plane with the long tail moment, big stabilizers, light weight, etc. The Laser EXP is already a very stable plane, but we are just going to dial even more of that in with the set up.

Remember also that set up is a personal thing and you may want to change yours around to suit your style and tastes better. You may also want to add more control throw as you progress and improve. That's fine too. Nothing is written in stone. We are just trying to give you a good place to start with a smooth, stable and easy to fly plane.

This is simply a baseline set up. Start with this, fly it, adjust as necessary. It turns out this is so close to my idea of perfect (for sport and precision) that we didn't really have to do much, and you may not either.

Remember that this is not carved into stone. The set up will be a few degrees different from one EXP to the next, because the airframes are different and have different characteristics. However, if you use this set up on any 48" EXP, I have every confidence you will be within a degree or two of perfect.
Elevator: Both Rates-15 degrees, Expo: 35%
Aileron: High rate-14- degrees, Low Rate 11 degrees, Expo: 35%
Rudder: Both rates, all you can steal,  Expo: 75%

Those are the measurements for the setup, but if you follow the steps I outline next, you will get very, very close to that.

Step One: Clear Programming
First, start with a clean program on your transmitter. Don't copy an old one. Format or clear a program so you start from scratch. We don't want to have to deal with any left over mixes or chase any other digital ghosts from the last plane.

Set all of your high rates at 100%, and the same with your end point controls. It is crucial you do this now so we get the right amount of throw and maximum mechanical advantage from the servos. I like to use the end point controls for fine tuning and make the major set up adjustments mechanically. Also, by starting at 100% end points, you have the capacity to add throw electronically as you become more comfortable with the plane and demand more performance.

For some this might be disappointing, but the high and low rates are very nearly the same, with the exception that, once again, the low aileron is set for three in five. I run 35% expo ailerons and elevator (on both rates), and 75% on the rudder (on both rates). 

Generally I put students into one of these planes so as soon as they can handle to T28 with good confidence. Since these are newer flyers, I prefer they spend more time learning to fly and less time flipping switches. If you are going to be flipping rate switches all the time you'de be better off  putting a 3D high rate and a low rate on it

Mechanical Set Up
No surprise is that we started with the same set up as Barry's Edge EXP. This way we did not need to set up the ball links on the servo arms and the throws would be right. We just used what we had before.

Make sure your ball links operate smoothly with no drag. Sometimes if you over tighten the mounting bolts the ball link will tighten up. You can loosen the ball link by popping the brass ball in and out a few times. When bolting the ball link to the control horn, get that as tight as tight as you can without introducing any bind, You don't want anything loose either.

I like to use a Dubro 2 X 12mm hardened allen bolt with a 2mm lock nut. On top of that I jam nut a regular 2mm hex nut. That alone will assure everything stays together, but then I put some medium CA on the exposed threads and that assembly should survive even a nuclear holocaust.

Here we used the inner hole of the standard Hitec HS65MG double servo arm. It does not look like it would give you much throw, but it is more than enough for sport flying.

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The inner hole of the single arm was still a little too much throw, so we just use the inner on the hole double arm that comes with the servo. The spacing on the holes is in between the holes on the single arm, so in essence  it gives you a half of a hole less throw.

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This is again the double arm, which is not enough throw, so you crank up the end points on your radio.
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For sport flying I like the planes to be a little more nose heavy. For one thing you do not need it to be so on edge for sport flying. On the other hand, you don't want it to be so nose heavy that it files like a pig. I generally like to move the CG about 1/4" forward from what the manual calls for. That makes the plane a little more docile, and helps it track better at higher speeds that you maintain for sport flying.

Start off on the low rate and try that until you have the plane trimmer and have felt it out a little. The high rate is only a little more, and on the ailerons only. Best bet is to adjust the low ailerons to where you are most comfortable, but with this set up most people are very, very comfortable.

As you can see, the plane is capable of all conventional aerobatics, while being docile and easy to fly. As you become more experienced with the plane you can use the end point adjustments to add throw to the plane and make it more agile, but once you use that adjustment up it's really time to just throw the full 3D set up on it. Most sport flyers keep this set up on the plane, but guys who want to get into 3D will end up tinkering with it. In that case, the set up from the manual is always best.

Enjoy sport flying the Laser EXP, and please tell your friends about this article.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

60" Extra EXP __ The Love Affair Continues

Regular blog readers will remember my original beloved 60" Extra. We shot a lot of video and got a lot of blog material out of that plane, but that wasn't really why I remember it so fondly. I have great memories of that plane because I had so much utter joy flying and working on it, and it helps that I sold it  after hundreds of flight, instead of having it die at my hands. I got all that joy out of it, got my money out of it, helped a friend out, and never had a single bad experience of any kind. Win, win, win.

I had to sell her because I was out of storage space and had to make room for a 60" MXS. I also needed the equipment out of her for the new plane. So the irony is that I have nowhere to store the new Extra, and I had to buy all new equipment anyway!

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For a lot of reasons I have not been able to put another 60" Extra together until now. I had enough other projects to keep me busy, and I also wanted to wait until I could afford to buy some of Hitec's most excellent 7245MH high voltage servos. I wanted my next Extra to have the latest and greatest of everything, so when Hitec was kind enough to send me a set of HS7245MH servos, I knew exactly what plane I wanted to put them in.

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EDIT: Graphics package Update
For this plane I was loathe to put even a single decal on it, except for the Extreme Flight
Aerobatic Team for the SFGs. I take a lot of pride in wearing those on the plane and myself, so those were always going to be there. I did something a little different this time because I never liked the blue SFGs on this plane. The SFGs make your wing tips more visible and in keeping orientation. I like them to be a lighter color. I had a local graphics place resize the SFGs decals from the 48" Yak.  These are white with red lettering, and they really brighten things up. I like them so much that after I published this article I had a set made up for the tail, and maybe later I will put one on the front of the canopy.

Wow, have I ever missed flying this plane! It was so good to get her in the air and grooving. The Extra is so smooth and graceful. It's a lovely airplane.

In just about every way, this (like I say) is just like old times. I knew that plane inside and out,  and flying the new Extra is just picking up where I left off with the old girl. As much time as I spent with the first Extra, I developed a solid bonding with her, and I felt this right away with the new plane. Of course, I was a little shaky for the first few seconds of the test flight because if you got anything wrong that's usually when you find out. After that, though, it was just like old times and I forgot this was a new plane. I was almost instantly back into my 60" Extra groove. I have often said flying the Extra is like going home, and that was never so true as with this one.

I already had a really good idea what to expect from my second 60" Extra EXP, and I knew exactly how I wanted to set it up. I had the aileron and rudder throws figured out, but I always wanted more elevator throw. This time I paid real close attention to getting as much travel as I could while keeping a really tight hinge line gap, and I ended up with about 70 degrees or so. As of now I might back it down to 60-65 degrees or so. It seems a little touchy at high speed, but that might be the faster servos. That, or maybe I will just get used to it.

So far I am not seeing much difference from my previous big Extra, but that's a really good thing because I so loved that plane. With the additional elevator throw I am getting on this one, though, the pitch authority is just about right. At first I thought I might back it off a little, but the more I fly it, the more I like it just the way it is. This Extra is much more capable for flying aggressively than my first one was, and I really appreciate that part.

The high speed precision work is just the way I remember it, which was fabulous. This plane tracks like a laser beam, and point/slow rolls are like they are on a rail. With better centering servos it is easier to set up my moves because the plane stays better trimmed and goes where I point it, and stops where I point it.

With more pitch authority to play with, I am already more confident than I ever was with the first one. Once I knew it did not need any trim I just went into my flying routine and ran her through the hardest stuff I knew how to do. By the second flight the new plane paranoia was gone and I was point rolling and harrier flying her right on the deck, just like old times.

With only a few flights behind us you might think it is a bit early to evaluate the plane, but I don't. I've already had one and knew what to expect, only this plane is a little better because I put what I learned from the first one into this one. That, and unlike the first one, I built the entire thing myself, which delivers it's own sense of satisfaction.

So, my initial assessment is: More of the good things I always loved about this plane. The one most overriding impression this plane always leaves with myself and anyone watching is just how graceful this plane does everything. Even when you get it wrong, the Extra's swoopy lines and sexy profile seem to dampen the way poor flying looks!

This plane is so smooth that it's hard to look bad with it. I was flying the 48" Yak the same day and the contrast was horrifying. If you fly the little Yak badly, you look bad... period. The Extra doesn't seem to care much. It is simply a lovely airplane that does everything with consummate grace.

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In the final analysis, well .... I could not be happier. I've missed having a sweet tracking 60" Extra for about a year and that was way too long. With the 7245MH servos it locks in even tighter, which makes precision maneuvers much easier to execute cleanly. I'm looking forward to putting a lot of mileage on this plane this coming year. Since I almost never get anything RC related for Christmas, this plane was sort of my present to myself. I have been wanting to build this plane since about a week after I sold that last one, and the wait has convinced me to always have one of these around from now on.

Servo Assessment: HS7245MH
After three flights my initial assessment of the servos is that they are faster for sure. They are so much faster that I had to adjust my flying. For day two I turned the voltage back to 7.4 and was much more comfortable with the plane, especially at high speed. They are rated at 7.4 volts anyway, so why stress them out if you don't have to? On 7.4, they are fast enough and strong enough, and I'm pretty happy with the plane set up this way.

This was the first flight with the servos set at 7.4. they are still wicked fast, though the jumpiness I was feeling at 8.0 is gone., Now it feels like every other plane, except the servos are exceptionally strong at high speed and high deflection.

Something else to consider is that I may have been getting a little stalling with my 5245MGs and was just used to it. The new Extra with the 7245MHs is much more responsive at higher speeds. The roll rate was blistering on the first plane, but now it's simply blinding. At full deflection, there is no way I can keep up with it. This still comes in handy for winding up before a blender or tumble. For high speed high energy control, there is a substantial improvement.

Notice the elevator servo arm is the longest double arm from the Hitec PN55709 pack with one arm cut off. This arm is approximately one hole longer than the long single arm I've been using on the MXS and Yak, so I am able to be more elevator throw on this plane than any of my other EXPs. It does not rotate on the pitch axis as hard as the Yak because that plane has a bigger elevator, but the Extra now pitches pretty close to the MXS.

For the rudder I used the long single arm and brought the ball link in to the second hole from the outside. This gives me pretty close to hitting-the-rudder kind of throw, and I can max out my end points. For the ailerons I used the small arm from the pack and it's just right for me.

Centering seems really solid and the plane stays trimmed out. I had a little trouble with that running 5245MGs, and that let the precision side of the flying down a little. With the tighter centering, the plane locks in dead solid. and for that reason alone, these servos are worth the extra money. The 7245MHs are known for their durable geartrain keeping a tight mesh and eliminating play. Sloppy servos make for a sloppy flying plane, but that's not a problem with the 7245MH.

It's too early to make a final assessment, but so far I'm very pleased with these servos. As long as they hold up as well as my 5245MGs did, I will be delighted with them.

New Extra Wallpapers
While I was waiting for the kit I photoshopped up some new video artwork.

Click to enlarge. Right click and "save as."