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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

REWIND: Extreme Flight 45" Extra 300E__No Surprises

Disclaimer: This airframe has been out of production for about four years. The purpose of this article was simply for a bit of nostalgia.
 
 
This is a reprint of one of our very first reviews. Sadly we lost our original video and image host, and with that we also lost a lot of the images. Thankfully I saved as much as I could at the time, though we are missing photos of the motor installation and some of the glamor shots. Still, I thought it would be interesting to revist a plane that was such a solid favorite for so many of us.
 
 
 
 
WHY THE EXTREME FLIGHT EXTRA 300?

There are a lot of Extra models available to sport and 3D fliers. Some are really, really good, and some are......uhhhhhh, not so. I haven't had the opportunity to fly all of the good ones, but I am certainly loathe to try any more of the ones that are.......uhhhhh, not so. The Extra generally makes a good R/C model because the full scale Extra is such a good place to start. This is undoubtedly is what Extreme Flight was thinking when they penned their Extra 300E.

So, why Extreme Flight? We have been using Extreme Flight Torque motors and Airboss ESCs in all of our 3D projects right from the start. They have always given us plenty of power and great reliability, even in the face of extreme (no pun intended, but of course) abuse. These have been such solid systems that we have only had one minor technical issue, which in the end turned out to be my own fault. Extreme Flight took care of it anyway, and in a fast, professional manner, so it is clear that we are dealing with a solid company.

I like these power systems, but more about that later when we delve into the specifics.

As such, I am loathe to try anything new. A bad product will unravel really fast when it's in the air and we can't chance that. There's no surprise like a nasty one. Sometimes this means I will pass on an otherwise good product, so for me to be comfortable trying something unfamiliar, everything has to be in place including reputation, word of mouth, and actually seeing the stuff in action. Having so much good experience with Extreme Flight power systems took a lot of angst out of making this project happen.

There is also the reputation of this particular plane to be considered, and it is considerable. Among the 3D set the Extreme Flight Extra 300E is a solid favorite and you don't get that unless something is pretty special. Judging from previous product reviews and internet talk, the Extreme Flight Extra 300E is a top flight performer. The Higher Planes videos on Extreme Flight's site certainly don't hurt that perception either.


And, one last thing.......I recently had the chance to look over and fondle a used Extreme Flight Edge 540 at my LHS, and it was hard not to be impressed with the quality of workmanship. I was very tempted to buy it, except I want control of the entire project from box to air.....but it was that nice. I have read a lot about the Extreme Flight lineup, and have wanted to give their Extra a go for awhile, but actually seeing how nice their planes are in person convinced me it was time to do it.

Generally, though, by reputation alone we went into this expecting no surprises, and certainly not wanting any either, because there is no surprise like a nasty one.

POWER SYSTEM

Again, it's Extreme Flight, which we would have gone with anyway, but it's merely a bonus that the stuff fit into the Extra perfectly. It also helps we already had the gear on hand and didn't have to pay for it again!

Motor
One of our trusty Torque 2818 motors was pressed into even more torturous service for this project. This particular motor has seen service (and a big impact) in my Katana and both of my Yaks, so it's well over 100 flights down the road. It's also been matched to the same Airboss 45 ESC the whole time, so this combo has been really solid. In the Katana this unit was dedicated to 4s service, but in the Yak she served admirably on 3 cells. Most of our projects have turned into 4s firebreathers, and beaten relentlessly, but that seemed to have no ill effects on this unit. Certainly it doesn't have quite the same grunt on lower voltage, but with the Extreme Flight Extra 300's lighter weight, it won't need it either.



Also having no ill effect was once switching from 3 to 4 cells and forgetting to change the prop. The thing amped up to 70 amps (30 over max) whizzing away madly while we all stood around with puzzled looks on our faces, and wondering if it was going to melt down. It screamed along for way too long until it dawned on me what a bonehead move I had pulled, and then we quickly shut her down, all but convinced the little 2818 would never be the same. Hey, maybe we ought to stop it before the magic smoke comes out! Amazing, it didn't blown up right on the spot, but this just confirms how tough these little jewels are. Please don't try this at home. Hopefully the Extreme Flight guys won't see this part or my poor, abused little 2818 would certainly have a void warranty!

I like the finish of the Torque motors. They are very nicely turned out and they fittingly look like a quality piece. I have also said that I adore their sound, particularly on 4s power. You can hear the air whooshing in and out of them, as well as the sweet whine that is very reminiscent of the turbine cars I saw race at Indianapolis. On 5s, the Torque sounds like a raging, rabid monster, which is a little amusing once you get over being frightened by it.

ESC
I particularly like the Airboss ESCs. First, as opposed to the usual heat shrink covering of other brands, I really like the metal casing, which adds to the overall impression of durability and quality....not to mention crash survivability. The Airboss will happily jump from 3 to 4 to 5s operation merely by changing the prop and reprogramming the low voltage cut off. It's the second item in the menu, so it's no big deal and I've almost got it memorized.




There is no need to install the extra spaghetti-like rat's nest of wiring you get with a separate BEC, and I've been very vocal about how I like to keep things simple. This simplicity means it's not only much easier to get a pristinely clean radio and power system installation, but it also eliminates a few more things that have to be checked in routine maintenance. The most shining virtue of electric airplanes is that they are simple and low maintenance. The Airboss ESC assures we will be able to keep that theme going, and this increases my comfort level.

Now, I don't want to go on a rant, but...........
The Airboss ESC saves me a lot worry. I have a monumental problem with buying things that don't work. I can't imagine why in the world a company would make a large ESC and not expect guys to want to run large planes on large batteries with big voltage, so why do they equip the things to crap out on anything more than 11.1 volts? This just makes more work and more complexity out of something that's supposed to be simple and easy.

Of course, this will be a 3s project, but when the ESC runs the show, I want it to have more capability than I am going to ask from it. I can't afford for it to decide it doesn't like my batteries and then go on vacation long enough to cause me to crash in the pits. To me, running a 3s motor with a 5s capable ESC just makes sense that way. It's overkill, but it's nice to know the ESC isn't going to fry and shut the radio down.

With the Airboss, I can put this out of my mind and just fly, which is invaluable when I am busy trying to keep the airplane out of the ground. It may end up there anyway, but not because I was thinking about the ESC maybe blowing up instead of what I'm supposed to be doing.

Thank you, Extreme Flight.

THE ARF

Sorry, no surprises here. I got exactly what I was expecting and maybe a little more. Everything was packed real nice and nothing was damaged.

Not that I care or anything, but the box is really attractive. This doesn't make the airplane fly any better, but it is a nice touch. For my weak eyes, the nice, big picture of the completed plane on the lid gave me a good visual of what I could expect when we were done. On the other hand, we all need boxes to store stuff in, so this one's a keeper.



 It's a lot of fun to unpack and inspect something nice, and that's what we experienced with the Extreme Flight Extra 300E. Lots of things about the ARF were very familiar, just like I had built one before. I attribute this to a similarity to another brand of high quality ARF I've had a lot of success with, but I don't wish to compare them and instead intend to judge each plane on it's own merits. This plane, however, has plenty of it's own, so this is a really good start.

Then again, it's not a bad thing that a plane has so many good attributes that you also find on another premium brand. That just confirms we've found another premium brand. Life is good.

Worth noting is the newer versions of the Extra come with a pre-installed canopy latch. I can blow the canopy off anything, but this one looks pretty bomb proof. It's easy to work and latches tight.
 
 

The magnets from the older version are still there too, so even if that latch gets some grit in it and sticks, the magnets still have a solid lock on the lid.

Also on newer Extras is a thicker stab with a pre-installed plywood elevator half connector, which provides a more robust connection between the elevator halves. This will eliminate flexing and the plane will undoubtedly fly more precisely. I also like the thicker stab because I'm always banging the tail on something when I'm either loading or working on the plane.

The fit an finish of everything is very, very nice. The covering work was done very well, though there were a spot or two that needed a little attention with a trim iron. Nothing major, of course, because almost all ARFs come like this, and many, the majority in my estimation, are not nearly as nice as this one.

Getting ahead of ourselves, the plane built up beautifully, and it's extremely (no pun intended, but of course) handsome. After a good look over of the parts, I was expecting this, so I'm really not even surprised how well she came out.

No surprises is good.




THE BUILD


 Again, we chose to have Jimmy D's Airworks assemble the airframe. Jimmy is a multi-time pylon racing, pattern, and free flight champion, so he definitely knows how to get one straight. I feel this is important because the only way to judge an airframe is if it is assembled precisely, and I trust all of my important projects to his expertise. If he builds the thing, it's right, so if there is a problem at least we know where not to look.

But again, no surprises. The plane went together with no problems outside of that this installation places the motor behind the firewall instead of in front of it like all our previous projects have been done. This was merely something we hadn't dealt with before. The Torque motors come with the type of prop adapters needed for either installation, but as I delivered the pieces without the proper adapter, Jimmy was held up until I got over the flu and could bring him the right one. This delayed the project a few days but I wasn't going flying like that anyway.

The flu turned out to be the nastiest surprise of the whole project.

Stabilizer Braces
One modification we make to all our 47" planes is to add two .055 carbon fiber rods under each stabilizer half to stiffen the structure. We do this for several reasons. First, we have seen stabilizers flex, twist and warp when the elevators have been deflected to large degrees, like as happens much of the time in 3D flying. If the tail is wobbling about the plane isn't going to fly straight. The last thing you want when you are slamming the elevator is for the plane to take off in your direction, or worse, someone else's. Of course, that's the extreme (no pun intended, but of course), but if a plane doesn't go where you point it, it won't go where you want it to.


With the carbon braces, the stab is totally rigid and can't do this. We have seen complete, total dogs of airplanes transformed into nice flying planes just by adding these braces, so we just do it up front on all of them now. The Extreme Flight Extra 300E has already got a nice, stiff tail group, so this mod isn't strictly necessary. However, that doesn't mean you can drop it off the workbench, or slam the car door on it. The braces also give you additional protection, mostly in this case, from you.

As with all my reports, this one will be about the flying. This plane has been reviewed before, so if you are interested in the construction process, those are better at telling you how part A glues to part B and how part C screws into part D. Better still, few reviews are as concise and clear as the instructions, which you can find here: http://www.extremeflightrc.com/manua...00e_manual.pdf

THE INSTALL

What was left for me to do was install the radio equipment and ESC. I am extremely picky about these sorts of things, but the Extra has so much room under the canopy that this was easy.

  I needed to move the receiver back a bit so I could use a 3" elevator servo wire extension. With a 6" I had too much wire flopping around, and 3" was too short, so I moved the receiver back 2" and everything was perfect. To hold the receiver, I ran two Popsicle sticks across one of the formers and this also placed the antenna wire right where I could run it into the wing. Without too much thought, I think I ended up with a pretty neat installation.



 I've always been infuriated trying to get pull-pull rudder cable systems to work, so this time I used ball links at the rear and it was a magic cure for me. I've got big fingers and bad eyes, so routing all that tiny wire got a lot easier when I just soldered the cable ends into the threaded connectors. At the front I wasn't confident I could get the cables soldered at the right length, so I used the traditional method of looping it through the adjusters and then a brass tube. Once I got it close, I crimped the tubes and then CAed them. Astonishingly, I hit it perfect and the rudder was perfectly trimmed and centers beautifully.


This method gives me adjustment at both ends, and it allows me a wider margin of error when assembling the system. As it turns out, I didn't need it, but this method worked so well I'm going to use it from now on. This is the only area where we deviated from the instructions and it was only because pull-pull has in the past always baffled me.

The rest of the servos just dropped right into place. On each I had to take a nick out of the servo bay opening so the bulge where the leads come out of the servo would slide in. It's not a big deal. The instructions picture Hi Tech HS55 servos and we are using the ever so slightly bigger HS65MGs. With just a little nick out of the wood the servos dropped right in with no trouble.


Both ailerons and elevator use a swiveling adjuster at the servo. We've used these extensively on other brand planes and they work well. They take a little care to get these swivels to move smoothly with no binding or slop, but it's worth the effort.



For the rest of the assembly, I used what came with the kit and followed the instructions. Today's ARFs are pretty well though out and by the time you get to 3D flying you've build enough planes to fill in the blanks by yourselves. Still, there were very few blanks on this build.

THE SETUP
  Since so many people have had great success with this plane, it only make sense to start with the set up from the manual. I used the throws, rates, and expo settings in the manual and the plane was very comfortable right from the start. I first trimmed the plane on low rates and flew it around a little, but I was on the high rates almost right away and was very comfortable.

 The recommended CG is 3.5 to 4" aft of the leading edge of the wing, measured where it meets the fuselage. With the battery placed as in the picture, she sits right at 3.5". This I also felt was a good place to start, but it will inevitably be going back as I look to squeeze more performance out of the airframe. For now we are playing it safe.


FLYING

 

The whole project came together in three days (excluding downtime from the flu). When I got the ARF, I was so impressed with how nice is was that I ran it up to Jim's as soon as I could stuff it all back in the box. In turn, Jim was so impressed that he couldn't put it down until he was finished. After being in sick bed for a few days, I wanted to get out and fly it so bad I that stayed up all night getting the gear in it, sealing hinge lines, and generally making sure everything was perfect.

Day One
The trim flight was, well............no surprises. She took four clicks of up, but remember that we are still a bit nose heavy. Right away the plane felt groovy, and at the same time it was very light on the controls. At slower speeds I had to hold some throttle to keep her from flying backward in the wind, so this plane is pretty floaty.

I didn't want to go too crazy with an unfamiliar plane in bad conditions, but I still flew her in tight and down low because this is a very comfortable plane to fly. In the higher Planes video they make a big point about how easy the plane is to land, and it indeed is. She slowed down to just about nothing, but admittedly she was bouncing around a bit in the wind gusts. She did surprisingly well in the wind considering how light she is and outside of getting bumped around a bit the Extra took it all in stride.

There was one nasty surprise (and there's no surprise like a nasty one) on the first day, however. I was having so much fun I forgot to set my timer, and when I hit the low voltage cut out it surprised me (and there's no surprise like a nasty one) right in the middle of a low level hover. The wind slapped the little Extra out of the air and straight down, right at the dirt, from about 10 feet up. I knew I had one last blast of power left, so I saved it right up until just before she hit and used it to blow the tail down so she didn't hit on the spinner. She ended up hitting on the wheels, and cartwheeling over onto her back. I was convinced she was going to be torn up pretty badly, but the only damage was the dural landing gear spread out a bit, and even that just bent right back into shape with a little persuasion.

So, impressions on the first day were that we had a nice little plane that is smooth, floaty, and tracks well. It's also one tough little hombre.

Day Two
Subsequent flights revealed a lot of the plane's character, which became more and more charming with each trip up. Wind conditions were making things a little dicey. As such I tried to give the ground a little room, and instead of low level craziness, I concentrated on smooth precision maneuvers. Even in winds that had scared off everyone else at the field, the little Extra tracked beautifully. She would get bounced around a bit, but considering that even the nitro guys wouldn't go up, the Extra was doing a sterling job in the conditions. With a little altitude I worked on blenders, which the Extra does nicely, and elevators. In the wind I had to carry a Little power in the elevator maneuver because she would back up, but there was very little wing rock and I was so comfortable doing this that several times I forgot about the conditions and brought her right down to the deck this way.

For 4 flights 3, 4, and 5, we switched over the 4s power and the Extra is scary with this much grunt on hand. Not only is she fast, but now vertical power is much more than enough. Carrying extra speed, the Extra 300E now tumbles with ferocious intensity, but again, this is such a strong plane that I didn't hold back much except to watch my altitude.

Video Day
Thanks to Dr. Who, whom graciously offered to help with the video. This was our second day out together and we have worked up a great accord. No matter what I try, he won't bail out and always gets the shot, so we are going to make some sick stuff together.


For the video shoot we went with the 4s packs, and you can see with this much grunt on hand the little Extra is a hoot to fly. However, she was much more pleasant to fly on 3s, and we will go back to that and hopefully get some more video in the next weeks. On 4s the Extra is a raging little beast. At the advertised 33 oz, that isn't much dead weight for 14.8v to be yanking around. Acceleration is absolutely off-the-scale brutal and rivals anything I have flown so far, including the insanely overpowered Mini Ultra Stick 480.

You can judge for yourselves by watching the video how easily this plane handles, even in the still horrific wind conditions, and even severely overpowered.

Flights 9 Thru 25
For the remainder of the 25 flights, we went back to the 3s power the plane was designed for. Running her so hard on 4s didn't seem to have much ill effect on her, but going back to 3s made her much more docile and easy to fly. At the lighter weight of the 3s set up, the plane is very floaty and comfortable. Even when you dead stall the plane she doesn't want to fall out because there just isn't much weight there. Oh, you can stall her, for sure, but it's not scary. I use the power a lot to save the airplane when I blow an alpha maneuver low to the deck, and that's why I like 4s...but the Extra 300E is so light that you don't need it. On 3s you have plenty of power to blast out of a hover or pull her out of most trouble.

The flying strength of the Extra 300E is obviously her low weight, and this allows you to go from 3D right into IMAC style maneuvers just by flipping the rate switch. It took a few flights to dial it in perfectly to my liking, but I can now fly either style which suits me at the time. This is a very versatile airplane and it is no wonder it has become an industry staple.

At 33 ounces, the Extra 300E comes in so light without the penalty of sacrificing any strength. You will see several "suicidal" snap rolls in the video, and these are done at terminal velocity coming out of a dive at full throttle. It's basically a horizontal blender and it is viciously brutal on the airframe. I mean, if you try hard enough you can break anything, so I think these snap rolls are as harsh a real world test as is as fair to put a plane through. No sane person is ever going to abuse their own plane like this (except us), so if it survives our wringer most of you will never have a problem. We subjected the Extra to repeated vicious snaps and she is still in like new condition. We also did them on 4s power, and this plane was never designed to handle those kinds of stress, but she did, and easily too. Honestly, I am surprised it didn't just blow up. However, we do not recommend that you try these on your own. Extreme Flight isn't going to warranty this kind of stupidity and they shouldn't. These were extremely (no pun, but of course) unreasonable tests, but it's nice that the plane sailed through them completely unfazed.

The only real trouble we had in the first 25 flights was that I bent an axle trying to do forced ground loops (donuts) for the video. Since I was obviously asking for trouble, it's no surprise (and there's no surprise like a nasty one) that I got it. Also remember I dropped her hard on the gear once when the LVC surprised me (and there's no surprise like a nasty one), so if all of that abuse bent a steel bolt and the plane itself didn't suffer any damage, that's a good endorsement for how strong the undercarriage is. I had a few bits of hardware left over from the kit, and I was delighted to find that there was an extra axle bolt left over. Of all the things to break, and we got lucky enough that an extra one slipped into our kit.

We have a lot of projects going, so most of the time when we go to the field it is to test or video, as well as working with students and generally helping all the new guys. It doesn't leave a lot of time for fun, so what I've been doing is taking the Extra 300E out in the late afternoon, near sunset, when no one is there. I wasn't doing it to get 25 flights on the Extra 300E, I was doing it because I wanted to get out there and have some fun. I racked up 25 flights like that pretty quick, and I was having so much fun that those 25 flights came and went before I knew it. We would have had more video, and I would have had more notes to work with if I had been more diligent about planning the flight times, but I didn't think about it. When it was time to go flying I just reached for the Extra 300E.

But that's sort of the point of sport flying, isn't it? I really didn't realize I was working on the project. I just went out, had a blast with the Extra 300E, and suddenly, the project was done. I don't think it's a bad thing that an airplane is so much fun that it makes you forget about work, is it?


FINAL NAIL

Again, there are a lot of Extras out there to choose from, so why this one?

It's a fun airplane. It's nice and light and floaty, but it's still very precise, and when you bury the sticks she will respond as well as almost any other 3D plane I've flown. I've got a few planes that hang from the ceiling, not because they aren't nice planes, but because they don't inspire me to want to fly them. The Extreme Flight Extra 300E is never going to be one of those planes. I can take the Extra 300E, throw it in the trunk, and head out to rip off a couple of packs on a minute's notice. Sure, you can do that with a lot of planes, but when a bad storm stops, or if the wind suddenly lays down, and I've only got enough time for a few flights before sunset, it's the Extra 300E that I reach for.

It's the plane I want to fly. I've got other planes that I really like, but I really enjoy flying the Extreme Flight Extra and currently it is my "go to" plane to take to the field.

The Extra 300E is a quality built plane. We used every piece of hardware that came with the kit except we added ball links to the pull-pull system. Things we didn't have to do included installing a hatch latch, and beefing up the elevator joiner. Those things were already taken care of for us, so the plane went together really well.

Besides the Extra 300E's quality and sturdy build, her biggest strength is her low weight. 33oz is not much, and the last time I read anything about AMA's park flier program, it was for planes 32 oz and under. I'de imagine if you left off the wheel pants, and maybe the spinner, you could make 32 oz and fly her at parks within the new AMA guidelines. This is probably the biggest plane you could squeeze in there, so her value has just been increased exponentially.

So, this is a fun plane for just about everybody. With the reputation that Extreme Flight has earned, largely with this airplane, that's no surprise.

Come to think of it, maybe I can rip off a couple of packs before the  afternoon showers. Now, there's a nice surprise.

 
 
 
Rewind Bonus Feature
 
I had a such a blast with my Extra 300E that it only seemed right that I'de try one of the Extreme Flight Edge 540Ts.  I had some custom vinyl made up for it and it came out beautiful. I flew it a few times and really liked it. It was similar to the Extra, but I was so new to 3D then that I never got it near it's potential.
 
Unfortunately someone offered me so much money for it that I couldn't say no and I never got around to getting another one. I'de still be kicking myself over that except the 48" Edge 540T EXP is so awesome.
 
Still, it's such a beautiful plane that I felt it belonged in this article alongside the Extra 300E. Both were the ground breaking planes that started the 46-48" high performance electric class. These planes blew the industry wide open. 
 
 


 
 

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