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Saturday, April 11, 2015

60" Laser EXP__Five Feet Of Smooth

You may have noticed we are flying a lot of the 60" EXPs lately, which is because we have been. Since October I have built a new Yak, Extra and Laser in 60" and my Edge is a year old but still in excellent shape ..... new almost. I've got one of everything except a 64" MXS, but I plan to build another one soon. That will give me a pretty righteous fleet of badass extreme aerobatic monsters.

When shooting video for "Picking The Perfect Extreme Flight 60" EXP" I kind of got hooked on these planes and I've lost a little interest in my 48" planes. Usually I will take a 60" out on the weekend with a 48", but the last few weeks I have taken out both even during the week, and a few times the 48s never even got flown.

The jump in stability, smoothness and solidness is quantum and then maybe even some more. It's just a one foot difference in wingspan, but the difference in flying is completely day and night. We fly for fun, but we want to look good too, and the 60"s put you way ahead on that front.

Each of the 60" planes has their own individual strengths. Previously I thought the Extra was the smoothest and most graceful, but since flying the Laser so much, that plane has the smooth part locked up. It's solid and locked in to the point it is very much like the 60" Yak in the way it completely inflates the pilot with confidence.

As such you will try a lot of crazy things until you scare yourself. I have had a few scares, but nothing that has shaken my confidence (especially in the plane) outside of realizing I was pushing too hard. With both the Laser and Yak you have to push ridiculously hard to go past the limit, and even then it's probably my limit and not the planes. It sure seems like Jase's planes have a higher limit, doesn't it?

To me, though, the Laser's shining characteristic is it's smoothness. I look good with the Laser even when I don't fly it well because the smoothness just looks good, even if I don't. This smoothness is like a fine shine. A really good glossy, shiny clear coat will hide a lot of imperfection in a paint job, and a smooth flying plane will hide a lot of piloting imperfections.

First video is just a warm up, but I had the CG dead on and was really groovin' with the Laser. The main thing to notice is again how smooth the plane does everything. Even when I jerk the plane or enter something off kilter, the plane hardly gives it away.

This second video is not real good because I got the plane too tail heavy. The first 30 seconds or so are a bit spazmatic, until I realize what I have done and then compensate by abandoning my precision game and strictly 3Ding the plane. You can get away with a bit too tail heavy if you are staying in post-stall flight more, but the precision aspect of the plane goes totally bonkers.

Finally, I moved the pack back to where it was and the plane went back to perfect. Smooth perfect.

Yet Again, the HS7245MH Rocks
In the never ending servo saga, I have to say I would never recommend building this plane with anything less than Hitec 7245MH servos. The Laser is a really big plane with huge control surfaces, and now Extreme Flight is stongly recommending the HS7245MG without mentioning any other servos. As such, if you have a set of HS5245MGs laying around you are probably out of luck. You might get away with using them in this plane, but you won't get the full potential out of it and would probably be disappointed.

Sport flying would be another thing and HS5245MGs would probably be ok. I have friends who sport fly 60" EXPs with HS225MGs, and while not recommended, they get away with it.

I am flying mine with a Castle 10 amp BEC set at 7.4 volts. I tried them on 8.0 volts (which is where most people run them), but the plane seemed a little twitchy at high speed. I have since set them at 7.4 and they feel just right with no hint of stalling or blowback or any other sort of unpleasant behavior.

Mostly I am shocked how fast this plane rolls on high rate at speed, and the pitch authority I have on the elevator in high speed parachutes and walls.  At speed is where you see the biggest difference in servos because the weaker ones don't have the torque to slam the surface instantly to full deflection in a high speed snap or tumble. I believe it is in the second video where I do a sick parachute and you can actually see the elevator stand straight up right at the most critical part of the maneuver, and with zero hesitation. If you are going to fly that hard, you gotta have that kind of control authority and servo holding power

I'm done looking around at servos because I am so happy with these. Anything new I build will get HS7245MH servos.

One last word on servo torque: The HS7245MH servos have enough torque to sink the Bismark. I think that covers it.

Bonus Footage: 48" Laser
I had the 48" Laser out as well and it was really cool they were both in identical yellow, kind of like big brother, little brother. The 48" is nowhere near as totally locked in as the 60", but this just makes it more agile.

This plane is using Hitec's HS5070MH servos on the rudder and ailerons, with an HS5087MH on the elevator, running on 7.4 volts. Power, of course, is by Extreme Flight Torque 2814/820 and Thunder Power 4s 2700 65C Pro Power packs.

You might notice the little Laser doesn't float as well and is bothered by with wind a bit more, plus it is generally not nearly as smooth as the 60" This is simply a function of bigger planes fly more solidly, more precisely, and more smoothly. Still, the smaller planes definitely have their place because of practicality and maybe a little more expendability because they cost less. that and they still fly damm good.

In the end I believe I need both sizes. The 48s are so practical and easy that they make great every day flyers.  The 60s are great every day too, but they are so nice that sometimes it's too much stress to fly them. I just love them too much and it's great to be able to beat a 48" with inpugnity. Still, I think everyone looks better with a 60," so you'de better have a few of those in the fleet too.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Yak EXP__Tales Of The Big Dog

After writing Picking The Perfect 60" EXP I wanted a little bit of a break from writing, shooting and editing video. I was not actually planning to do another article of any sort, at least for the rest of the month, but we got so much great Yak footage yesterday that writing a little something around all that would be pretty easy. Of course, everything I plan seems to start off small and grow into a monster, so I guess we had better get started.

The Mix
As you may have read in other recent articles, I have been experimenting with a 25% spoileron mix. I have been flipping this on and off depending on what I want to do, but the Yak spends so much time in alpha that I usually leave it on all the time except for when I do my precision work.

It's been great fun and with the ailerons spoiling lift any time you pull the nose up, it's really easy to just drop her right down into 3D and start hucking. Because the spoilerons keep the lift spoiled, the wing does not start flying again as easily, and this absolutely kills any unwanted wing rock dead in it's tracks. The Yak doesn't have much to start with unless you get really sloppy with your flying, but with the mix this plane harriers about as well as the 60" Edge. In fact, I am rethinking my stance on whether the Edge is still the undisputed easiest of the 60" EXPs to fly. The Yak is right there with it, plus it might be a little more agile on top of it.

This was a warm up video, but pay attention to the elevator drops. The plane is still moving forward a bit instead of dropping like a stone. I'll explain why that is important in the next section.

The Final Tweak
All this time I thought I had the Yak pretty well dialed in. I put the battery about two inches from the wing tube and just flew it. I have about 25 flights on the plane and never moved it, simply because was so happy with it right from the beginning. The plane is so solid and dead locked in that it never occurred to me to change anything.

When shooting the first video, I noticed that with the spoileron mix that the plane was not dropping dead straight down, indicating that I might still be a little nose heavy. I did not pick this up at any other time flying the plane, including the usual roll-to-inverted and 45 degree up line tests. I probably missed this before because I had never flown the plane in anything but ripping winds. This time it was really calm with nothing to hold the plane back.

I was already so happy with the plane that I was loathe to change anything just to improve one aspect of flight, but I moved the battery thinking I could always move it back. Today's 3D airframes are not nearly as critical as the early 90s aerobatic planes that would snap into a spin and screw themselves into the ground if you got them a little tail heavy, so there was not much risk in trying.

I turned the battery around so the balance taps were forward, where they would not get caught up in my receiver and wires, and pushed it all the way back against the spar. This was a pretty big adjustment. I could have crept up on it instead, but we had clouds across the sun, which makes for most excellent video shooting conditions, and I did not want to waste any of that. This is as tail heavy as you can make the plane without adding any weight, but I have been known to do that too if need be.

I was delighted with the plane instantly. Now it came completely alive. The agility about doubled without giving up any stability at all. Now in an elevator the plane drops straight down like a rock. Completely insane.

Now check the elevator drop at about 2:20 of this video. You can clearly see how big of a difference moving the pack made. It is small adjustments like this that turns a really good airplane into a jolly damm great one.

With each succeeding pack, I became more and more confident until it was getting too crazy and we simply had to quit before I did something really stupid and killed the plane. It's been awhile since I felt totally invincible with a plane, but the Yak certain makes me feel that way.
I also think this plane is helping me improve my game all the way around. While my rollers are still a bit (ok, a lot) sloppy, at least they are starting to come around and look like sloppy rollers instead of mindless flopping around!

I think this is probably my favorite video from the day. I make a big mistake and almost killed the plane, so then I have to make up for it and the rest of the flight was pretty fair. That, and it was just simply a fun flight.

In the end, I don't think any of is are doing this for anything but fun, and this underlines how important it is to get the right plane and get it set up properly. I loved the Yak before I moved the battery, but now we have gone to the next level, so never forget that set up is everything. You can make bad plane better with a good set up, and you can turn an excellent plane into a nigthtmare (or worse) with a bad set up. 
The Big Dog
Some may wonder where all these dog differences are coming from. It took a few flights to trust the Yak's stability because it was simply too much to believe. You know, too good to be true. Once I fully understood what I had, I pushed harder and harder until the Yak reminded me of a big, friendly, obedient, giant, flying standard Poodle that happily does whatever it can to please it's master. Perhaps that's an overly enthusiastic characterization, but the videos don't lie. It is truly as easy as it looks, though admittedly it doesn't look as easy as one of Jase's Yak videos. 

I plan to do a lot more with the Yak in upcoming months, and will probably even build a 60" Russian Thunder. This has been an amazing project so far and it has really opened my eyes to a lot of things, including a different way of flying. I do believe the Yak has helped me up my game, and I really want to keep that going.
Reviewing The Equipment Set Up
My friend Dan posted one of these videos on Facebook and that generated some interest in my set up.  So, for all my facebook friends, here it is.

Extreme Flight strongly recommends the use of Hitec 7245MH servos for the Yak, but at the time I built this plane I was scratching pennies together to make it happen. This was a turn-the-couch-upside-down-and-shake-out-the-change kind of project. I almost had to go to the field and sell pencils to make this plane happen! The plane became available at the worst possible financial moment. All the co-payments from this summer's hospital misadventure (which is being charatible) came in the week before, to the tune of about $3000 that I did not have. I had to use what I already had on the shelf.  I took the entire set up of Hitec HS5245MG servos straight out of my red MXS, with the ball links even still connected to the servo arms, and dropped them into the Yak.

Also part of the set up was a trusty Torque 4016/500 Mk II motor and Airboss 80 Elite ESC. To me, all Torque motors are interchangeable, simply because they are so bulletproof. Even one that's been beaten for three or four years is every bit as good as a new one, and the same with an Airboss ESC. This power system is the one bit of used equipment I will confidently put into a brand new plane and not even think twice about. As you can see, it works.

The beauty of coupling this power system with the HS5245MG servos is that those servos run straight off 6 volt of current delivered by the Airboss and it's on-board BEC. There is no need for a separate BEC, it's extra wiring solder joints and potential failure points.

This is a nice, simple set up. You just plug everything in and go. If you are going to hammer a plane every day, you have just got to keep things simple and tidy.

The 5245MG is the exact same size as the HS7245MH, right down to the matching mounting holes. I can drop in 7245MHs any time I please, but the plane is fly so extraordinarily well that I am loathe to change even a single thing. I am almost even afraid to clean the plane for fear of wiping off some of the magic!

Last year I had a few servo arm issues, so I switched to Hitec's PN55709 pack. These are fiber filled nylon and stay tight on the splines, assuring a solid, slop free connection. One thing I have since done differently has been to change to 2..6 X 8MM allen head bolts to secure the arms to the servos (which I get from Micro Fasteners). The arms are very solid and don't compress much, so you have to stay on top of keeping the bolts tight. You can either locktite the bolts (which makes a mess) or crank them down good with an allen driver. The Phillips head that come with the servos can round off unless you have exactly the right screwdriver, but the allens won't.

Click to Enlarge

If you follow the mechanical set up in the pictures, and set your end points at 140% (all I can get with my Futaba 7C), this will give you the exact same plane that I am flying. I run -75% (remember, Futaba is negative) on all high rates, and run the low rate from the manual. All of this is extremely simple and easy to remember, so I use it on all of my planes. I do not dink around with running different amounts of expo on different surfaces or try to get tricky. I took the set up from the manual years ago and simply learned how to fly it. I figured the guy who designed the plane has a better handle on how to set it up than I do, so the manual is the best place to start.

Set up with this equipment, there is next to no maintenance and absolutely no problems or complications. It is all extremely simple, which is a keystone to reliability. I will be able to fly this plane absolutely every day this year, beat it hard, and not worry about anything coming apart. Of course, you have to check things every so often, and I like to tighten the allen bolts on the servo arms at the beginning of every day at the field. Outside of that, all that is left to do is simply fly it.

Last Gasp for the HS5245MG?
Uhhh, no. This is still a fine medium priced servo, and as you can see, I get good performance out of them. They do have a few issues that could be better, but on balance they are about half the price of a wunder servo. For those on a budget, this remains a viable servo. It works..... just not as well as an HS7245MH.

The downside is that these servos don't have the speed, torque and laser-like centering of the more expensive Hitec HS7245MH servos. This does not make the HS5245MG a bad servo by any stretch of the imagination.  It';s just not a high dollar wunder servo.

I can get away with this on the Yak because it is not really a fast plane. The big, flat cowling is a lot of drag, and as a result it is much more fun to fly the plane around in alpha, hover and harrier it back and forth, and generally treat it like a big foamy. You don't need enough Torque to sink the Bismark for this kind of flying.

The upside is that for most pilots this is going to be enough servo for the Yak. You are going to lose a little authority in wide open snaps, tumbles and such, but then again, if you want to wind the airframe up that much you are probably better off with an MXS. while the yak does everything beautifully, I love it best for post stall flight. This is much less demanding of the servos and the HS5245MGs are still fine with this kind of flying.

Still, as you can see, the plane performs brilliantly, and you will spend about $100 less on these servos, plus another $25 less because you don't have to buy a separate BEC. With the less expensive servos you will give up some torque and speed, but I think only the guys who are really hammering the planes hard will be able to tell that kind of difference.

I am sure the plane would fly better with the Hitec 7245MH servos, but the money just wasn't there at the time I built the plane. As it is, I want to build another Yak, only this time I want it to be the 60" Russian Thunder. I will definitely pick up some HS7245MH for that plane.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Picking The Perfect Extreme Flight 60" EXP

One of our most popular features has always been "Picking The perfect 48" EXP" and I have long meant to do the same sort of article with the 60" variants. First, I had to wait until the 60" Yak became available, and then a lot of things (mostly dollars!) got in the way of my building a 60" Laser. Now that I am flying all of these planes pretty hard, I feel like I can comment on and compare them.

What I will be doing here is a bit of nitpicking, simply because the differences between the airframes is much more subtle than they are in the 48" series of EXPs. These planes are so closely matched that I usually have a hard time making up my mind which one to take out. Usually I just pick the one I have not flown for awhile because whichever one it is, I'm really going to enjoy flying.

While it's fun to point out the differences, we are not buying a house, or even a car.  All of the 60" EXP ARFs cost $269 to $279, so even in the nearly impossible scenario of choosing an EXP that doesn't totally thrill you, three Hamiltons will give you another spin of the wheel.

However, the odds are overwhelming that whichever EXP you choose,  it is still going to be the finest plane you own, even if you don't choose the one that is "perfect" for you. I think they are all kind of perfect.

Now, if you can only have one or two 60" planes it becomes a little more difficult. I chose them all because I love them all, but if I had to sell off one or two I wouldn't even begin to know where to start. Losing any of these planes would kill me.

Once you narrow your choices down a little bit, you can use the archive listing over to the right of this page to find construction and flying articles on all of these planes. There are also good set up photos in those that will help you get the most out of your new 60" EXP.

As in the 48" article, I will rank the planes in the order in which I feel they are easiest to fly, and I will try to point out each plane's strongest suits. Those who have read the first article will find a surprise or two here because the rankings are a little different this time.

Easiest: Edge 540T EXP

I came oh, so close to making this a three way tie with the Yak and Laser, because it is really, really close. The Edge in both sizes has long been the plane most knowledgeable 3D flyers recommend for safe, smooth, easy 3D training.

The Edge's secret is the straight LE (leading edge) of it's wing. This goes a long way toward killing off wing rock, which we will get into a little later. In super hard pitch rotations the LE minimizes tip stall, which is a nasty condition of one wing tip stalling before the other. As you can imagine, with one wing flying and the other not, the plane is not often going to go where you are pointing it. With the Edge, you can slam it into a wall or a parachute or just turn it so hard that other planes would snap out, yet the Edge totally maintains it's composure.

Before I explain wing rock, let me say this is a phenomenon that does not even remotely affect the Edge. This invulnerability to wing rock is the Edge's biggest single strength and what makes is so easy to fly, especially in 3D alpha flight.

The hardest part of learning to harrier (first step of learning 3D) is dealing with wing rock. This is when one wing stalls and recovers, and then the other does the same thing until the wings rock back and forth, getting worse with each rock until the plane just sort of goes off wherever it wants to go. A really bad  plane will simply stall one wing completely, snap roll out and spin into the ground.  A little wing rock is harmless compared to that, but you still don't want any because it just looks sloppy, which is something few of us aspire to.

Edge EXP After The Storm II from Doc Austin on Vimeo.

The Edge just refuses to wing rock at all. I have even flown mine without the SFGs (side force generators) and it was absolutely dead solid in harrier without any trace of harrier rock. Sometimes I will just harrier the Edge around for a whole flight because it is so much fun and so little stress, but the Edge always impresses everyone watching. People are impressed with smooth flying, and the Edge does smooth harrier so well that it is by far most of my friend's favorite all around plane. Even my students who have moved on to more challenging planes still keep an Edge around because they are so sweet. I've got three of them right now. 

The Edge's other trump card is it's ability to do easy, controlled and smooth elevator drop maneuver. I start my students with this first because it teaches them basic harrier skills. An elevator drop is simply stalling the airplane deeply and holding in elevator, allowing the plane to sink belly first in an almost straight down line. You have to play the elevator, rudder, ailerons (minimally) and throttle to steer the plane, keep it level and control the rate of descent, but doing all of these things from the safety of higher altitude teaches you a lot in a hurry. Once you get a good elevator going it is simply a matter of adding a little power so the plane moves forward, and then you have a harrier going! Most of my students transition from doing elevator drops into harrier flight just by my telling them to add a little power, and then they get it all figured out pretty quickly.

The Edge also does high violence maneuvers very well. It does beautiful pops tops and KE (knife edge) spins. In fact, all you do in a KE spin is lock the controls in the right position and watch the nose flop over the tail again and again. Entry is not even that critical. With the Edge, KE spins are almost automatic.

Snaps both inside and out are really crisp, though the straight LE does make hitting them perfectly a bit more difficult than flying a triple tapered wing. Of course, with a simple adjustment to your timing (flying style) you can still get razor precise snaps. It is just when you jump back and forth from one EXP to another that you might notice this. When I fly my Edges a lot the difference just seems to sort of disappear because I adapt to it.

You can also wind the Edge up really tight in a good tumble. I can get mine to actually do a backflip!

In the 48: size, the Edge gives up a little bit of precision to it's other EXP siblings, but again, you can make up for a lot of this simply by adjusting your technique. However, the 60" Edge is so smooth, solid and locked in that this margin is much, much smaller. The big Edge does really smooth slow rolls, point rolls and consecutive rolls. With a good pilot you would never know the Edge is not quite as precise as something like the Extra EXP, just because it is that damm good.

KE flight is also really excellent, though because of the straight LE you give up just a little yaw authority at high speed. This is not much of a problem at all because it's simply a flying adjustment. You just use more stick and the problem never was.

As you can see in the video, the Edge EXP does everything really, really well, and it's 3D manners are unparalleled for learning 3D or for flying all 3D all the time, while still having excellent precision manners. The Edge is a most excellent choice.

Laser EXP: Smooth, Precise, Reassuring

Surefooted as a mountain goat would be the best description of the Laser EXP. You could say almost the exact same thing about the Yak EXP too, so it was very difficult to rate one higher on the easy scale that the other. In fact, I have a hard time separating one of these from the other. I fly them pretty much the same, except with the Laser being new I naturally fly it with a little less abandon, but I am working on that part!

The Laser has a very slight advantage in having easier harrier manners. The fuselage, fin/rudder, canopy and SFGs are so huge that there is a lot of stability inducing area, which also produces lift. Stable, lightweight planes tend to harrier exceptionally well, and the Laser is so close to Edge-like harrier performance that it is, again, really hard to differentiate one from the other. Extending into the elevator drop maneuver, the Laser does this so well that it is easy to just get into a groove harriering and elevator dropping  back and forth, and then forgetting to do anything else It's just that much fun!

The lightweight nature of the Laser makes it excellent for ultra slow speed 3D flying, and this goes beyond harrier and elevator drop performance. On all of my 60" planes I find my rolling harriers, while still pretty sloppy, are getting much better because I have the time to work them without the plane dropping out of the air. Because the planes are lighter you can slow them down more and everything happens much more slowly. The mind learns better this way, sort of like the half speed drills that professional football teams practice.

The Laser has a huge, cavernous fuselage, which is not only a lot of lift producing area, but corresponding drag. For this reason it has a little less outright top end speed than the MXS or Extra, but the Laser still eats up the real estate below pretty vociferously. This is not a slow airplane by any stretch of one's imagination, but the big expanse inside the fuselage soaks up a lot of sound and the Laser is audibly not quite as intimidating. By way of explanation, the MXS absolutely screams, but the Laser sort of whooshes as it goes by. The MXS demands "look at me," while the Laser simply says "That was easy."

Because the Laser has the triple taper wing featured on the Extra, Yak, and MXS, it excels at precision maneuvers. For slow, point and consecutive rolls, all of these planes do really, really well.

Without having a radar gun available, I can only guess from experience that the laser is down a few MPH to the faster MXS and Extra, but this allows more time to set up and execute precision maneuvers. This is helpful at a field like SPARKS where we only have about 600 feet of usable left to right airspace boundary. No one complains that I fly the Laser out of bounds, and while part of this is because the plane turns so well and so tight, it's also that tiny bit slower that I don't run out of room so fast.

The same wing also allows very sharp control of starting and stopping snap rolls, so precision in this aspect is very sharp too. KE flight is very, very solid, and I am finding myself flying KE from right to left with nearly the same ease as the other way, which sort of surprised me the first few times. I am still stronger flying from left to right, but now I am coming the other way more often, just because the plane has me that comfortable.

And that's probably the defining aspect of this plane. Comfort. I knew 30 seconds into the maiden exactly what I had, but it was hard to believe because I was not ready for it to be so solid and reassuring. I had experienced this with the Yak too, so I was sort of half ready to be impressed, yet the Laser feels so good that I know I have not even begun to scratch the surface of her potential.

Yak: Too Good To Be True
The Yak is very hard to differentiate from the Laser, simply because they are both so good at the same kind of things. Both are extremely light weight and they fly that way. Both are so stable that it is hard to believe, and both are rock solid locked in at high speed precision.

The difference is that the Yak has it's wing directly on it's thrust line. This means that everything rotates around the same axis and you get beautiful, clean and perfectly axial rolls. The Yak actually rolls so much easier that I use the least amount of throw on my low aileron rates to get the same roll rate. Everything isn't fighting everything else to roll around it's own axis because everything is on the same axis. I love to slow roll, point roll and consecutive roll this plane simply because it looks so damm good doing it. That, and it makes me look good. It will make your rolls look good too.

It was the 48" Yak EXP that got me working my rollers to start with, simply because it was so natural with that plane. The 60" Yak encourages this even more because, as with the Laser, the plane won't drop as quickly and you have more time to roll, examine and make any corrections.

If the Yak gives up any one thing in an appreciable way, it is on sheer, utter brute top end speed. The big round cowling is a lot of drag, so the slicker EXPs (which would be all of them) are going to cut through the air a bit easier. Strangely, I like it this way, because again, a slower top speed gives you more time to set everything up and get your maneuvers straight and centered. This is extremely handy at a place like SPARKS where you are almost always turning the plane to keep it in bounds. Still, it's not like the Yak is a slug or anything. Every time I bring it in tight at high speed it is still fast enough to make everyone hold their breath.

The Yak does give up just a little in harrier performance to the Laser and Edge. It is not horrible and almost not even worth mentioning, and I'm sure someone like Jase would just make it stop with his superior control. For the rest of us mere mortals, if you get your harrier sloppy the Yak will rock back and forth just a tiny bit, but it is more of a little dance than any sort of problem. You can pretty easily arrest this by carrying the nose higher with a little more power. Once I started playing with a 25% spoileron mix, all of this rock disappeared absolutely and completely.

The overriding impression of the 60" Yak that stays with me even today is how surprisingly stable it is. The 48" Yak is a challenging little plane, sort of a snapping, ankle biting, rabid little flying Chihuahua, but the big Yak is more like a friendly, happy, goofey flying giant poodle. No matter what you ask from it, the Yak seems so willing to please it's master.

It is almost like you can't do anything wrong with the Yak, and when you do, the plane is so stable and floaty, yet responsive, that you just fly your way out like you have all day. Perhaps I have made it sound more easy than it really is, but for reference I cut the maiden flight short because I thought something was wrong with the plane. It was so smooth and stable, again sure footed and reassuring, that I didn't believe it.

Perhaps I was expecting the plane to be more demanding because the 48 is, but the big Yak is so much more docile and stable than the little one it is hard to believe they are the same plane. It took me a few flights to understand that the plane really was that stable, and once I started to trust the plane enough to push it really hard, then it opened up for me. Most planes show their weakness when you lean on them really hard, but the Yak just shows you how good it is.

I am sure in the end I will try something I know I can't get away with and I will be right.....I won't get away with it. It's always horrible to tear up a good plane, but with today's Laser cut parts, jig built assembly, and Extreme Flight's crackerjack factory manufacturing team, with three Hamiltons and you are back in the game. That just doesn't sound like such a horrible price for having so much fun.

Nail: Just For Now
Some of you may be wondering why I would stop now before I have covered the Extra and MXS. For one thing, this article got really long, but mostly it is because I almost lump the Edge, Laser and Yak together as the same kind of planes. They each have their own strengths, but all of them are super stable and floaty. These are lightweight planes that instill an absurd amount of confidence in the pilot. They are really big planes for their wingspans with lots and lots of lift producing area everywhere. While they fly really superb precision because of their long pattern plane inspired
moments, it is in 3D alpha flight where these three really come to life best.
These two are very similar to each other as well, and thusly I have grouped them together. I have had very long love affairs both of these airframes, and while I am currently without an MXS, I have just put a new Extra together.
Both feature a triple taper precision wing design, so they are going to fly similar. What makes them a little different from the Yak and Laser (which share the same wing) is that they are the last generation of EXPs before the boss started blowing out the fuselages and making them so huge. As a result, they are not quite as floaty, simply because they don't produce the same amount of lift off the fuselage and canopy. You might not think an extra inch or so of canopy makes much difference, but you will after you have flown all of these.
As a result, the MXS and Extra still do wonderful 3D, but really love to be up on the wing and tracking. With their smaller frontal profiles, these are faster planes, and with speed comes stability. Nothing can touch the Extra for cranking off smooth, beautiful big-sky maneuvers. Point and slow rolls are simply ridiculously smooth and dead on. Also as you would expect, snaps are dead solid and you can start and stop them nearly at will.
In spite of being so good at precision, these two don't really give up much in 3D. The Edge/Yak/Laser trio seem to be a bit lighter on their wings and a bit easier to fly, but the Extra and MXS are not far behind at all.

We are unbelievably short on 60" Extra EXP video in spite of years and years and hundreds and hundreds of flights with my first Extra. This is probably because I fly the Extra for me, because this is my plane, and if we happened to get any incidental video that's just a bonus.

For me the Extra in both 48" and 60" sizes have the best rounded performance. This is absolutely the most graceful flying plane I have ever had my hands on. For now, please bear with me and check out this video from last week, but I promise we will get some more 60" Extra EXP video soon. This is a relatively new plane and I definitely plan on putting a lot of time on it this spring.

The biggest differences between these two  are (1) The MXS has a shorter distance (moment) between it's wing and stabilizer, and (2) The MXS has a little less wingspan.

The shorter tail moment increases pitch authority, so the MXS will wall, parachute, snap and tumble with a bit better violence than the Extra.  If you couple the MXS' slightly shorter wingspan with that, the MXS rolls a little faster, spins and poptops a little better, and is generally more of an extreme aerobatic machine.

With more wing and longer tail moment, the Extra is better at high speed precision. The long moment generates pitch stability, and this locks the plane in really hard, and it will not move around much on the pitch axis even in gusty conditions. This makes setting up your precision maneuvers much easier, which makes performing them even easier still. Point it and go.

In short, the Extra and MXS are precision machines that do really good extreme aerobatics. The Extra is biased a little more toward precision, and the MXS is biased a little more toward snaps, spins and tumbles. They are, however, really, really close, and again, the differences are reasonably subtle.

As a result, right now I am willing to live without an MXS, simply because I fly the Extra very much the same way. To me these two are almost interchangeable, with the notable exception that the MXS is completely off the cool looking airplane scale. I really, really, really do miss having a 64" MXS, but I do plan to build another one as soon as I can scrounge up a few dollars.

Power System
Since I am using the exact same power system in each of these planes, you can directly compare their performances, because the difference is strictly in the airframes. On the videos you see here, the power system plays no difference in how these planes fly in comparison to each other.

You can use any number of different power systems in these planes, but for my money nothing comes close to the Torque 4016/500 Mk II motor and Airboss 80 Elite ESC. For one thing, power and reliability are paramount, and for another, since you are buying the airframe anyway, you may as well get the plane/power system combo and save about $70. That puts the whole power system pretty close to the price of a "budget" power system, but the difference is the Torque/Airboss is designed to fit perfectly and balance the plane perfectly, and is backed by one of the finest companies in the industry.

There is just also something really special about how smoothly a torque motor runs and how sweet it sounds.

For all the videos in this report, I use Thunder Power 6s (six cell) Pro Force 70C 3300 packs.  In the past I have used 3850 packs, but you can actually tell the difference when you fly the lighter 3300s. These packs have explosive power and provide long life. Thunder Power batteries come with a two year warranty, and a half price crash replacement warranty.

Special thanks to my friends at Hitec who provided sets of HS7245MH servos for my Extra and Laser. I was not going to build those two planes without anything but the very best servos I could get my hands on, and without Hitec's generous support this article would not have been possible. So, thank you Hitec.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

60" Extra EXP__More Spoileron Testing

With all the Laser flying that has been going on, my new 60" EXP Extra has been sadly neglected. I put a few flights on her in the beginning to get her dialed in and make sure she was ready for the flying season, and then put her away to complete the Laser projects.
While I really loved flying the big Laser, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the Extra again. This time though, I added the 25% spoileron mix I have used on both sizes of Laser, and lately my 48" Yak. You can read more about the mix at Laser EXP__The Spoileron Files 
I put three solid flights on the Extra using the mix most of the time. I found the mix makes harrier more stable and just about totally kills off any possibility of wing rock. Certainly you can get anything to rock if you are sloppy enough, but with the mix you would almost had to do it on purpose. Since I am not an engineer I can only guess the spoilerons kill lift, and that keeps the wing more deeply stalled and less prone to start flying and setting up the back and forth rocking motion. Since the lift is being spoiled, you have to carry the nose a bit higher, and if you play around with it you can learn to drag the plane around on a ridiculously high angle. 
Because the lift is being spoiled, it is much easier to toss the plane around and have it slide through the air. You can see in alpha flight the Extra is rarely going in the same direction it is pointed, and that's on purpose. It is kind of like sliding a car around on a wet road for fun. You are sort of out of control, but you are still putting it exactly where you want it to go. Before the mix it was more difficult to do this with the Extra because it is light on it's wings and wants to fly, but when you kill the lift with the spoilerons, the plane becomes a bit more lively to throw in and out of alpha.
I would say that I never flew my older Extra with this kind of vigor, simply because this plane flies much better. Part of this is because I built this one and got it exactly the way I wanted it, and it flew better even before I started playing with the mix. The difference is that the mix opens a new dimension, a different way of getting more out of the plane. If you compare to my older extra videos, it is almost like they are different kinds of planes.
Surprisingly it did not take much effort to adapt to this new style. We have sort of been sliding the planes all along, but now it is much more visible and much more deliberate. You do have to be a little more careful when you rotate the plane super hard because now the spoilerons dump all the lift, and in maneuvers like parachutes and walls you have to be careful the plane doesn't fall out from under you. This aspect was potentially deadly when I was running a 50% mix because it would dump all the lift instantly and the plane would not even slow down! This is why I cut back to 25%, and like this it is much more manageable.... to the point I will fly almost and entire flight with the spoilerons on.
There are two things the mix does not do well. First, high speed precision seems to be better with the mix off. For this, it is easy enough to flip the switch and crank off a sequence, then flip back on when you drop back into alpha. The other area that suffers is inside snaps and tumbles. In a high speed snap the plane will sort of wallow, pitch up and half roll. As such, for inside snaps, spins and such, I will turn the mix off.
Still, this is a work in progress, with most of it being on the pilot. The plane flies differently and I will have to fly it differently to get the most out of it. It would be easier to just stick with what I know and try to expand on that, but the whole idea is to open up my entire game and the mix is helping that.
In general the mix seems to make the plane more lively in alpha flight. The addition of the extra "tossability" was an unexpected bonus that I have really been enjoying.

Mostly, though, I am simply delighted with this plane, mix or no mix. I started the day conventionally enough and put the mix in for the second flight. It was not until the third flight (in the video) that I left it on and started pushing the plane. Before that, I was still totally enamored with the new girl. I might be a little bit weird for Extras, but maybe that's because they are the best.

Right now I am between projects, but I am planning to build a new 48" Extra with Hitec HV servos and using the spoileron mix. as well as I know that 48" Extra, I think the mix will really allow me to do some bizarre things with that plane.

I also tried the same mix on my 48" Yak and that plane absolutely came alive. It became something totally different. Sadly we did not shoot any video because no one was expecting what we got, but it was truly insane,  balls-out and epic. I was able to hang the Yak on the edge for the whole flight with it wiggling and squirming all over and rarely going where it was pointed. My friends finally had to intervene and convince me to land because it was getting a bit too nuts.
It was pretty huge fun and we will get some video of that if I don't kill the plane first being so stupid with it!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Laser EXP__Video Showcase

60" Laser
I like to rotate my fleet so that I am always flying something different, but right now I am on a bit of a Laser streak. I recently put together a yellow 60" Laser and have really been enjoying flying that plane. So far I have been pushing it pretty hard but haven't even had any close moments with it. It's so steady and solid that it goes exactly where I point it and does what I tell it to do, every single time. I am really enjoying this plane.

My 48" Laser is running Hitec's most excellent HS5070MH servos on rudder and ailerons,  and an HS5087MH on the elevator, all on 7.4 volts. I beat this plane especially hard because there is such solid control response at high speed that snaps and tumbles are so violent that they peg the stupid fun scale. Parachutes and walls are crazy.

I've also extensively experimented with a 25% spoileron mix on this plane with very encouraging results. I can almost leave it on full time, though the mix does screw up precision and point rolls, so I turn it off for those.

 Laser EXP Memory Card Full from Doc Austin on Vimeo.

Laser EXP Spoilerons, The Musical from Doc Austin on Vimeo.

Finally, here's a previously unused film of my beloved red 48" Laser, and I am guessing it was probably from last winter. We just don't know. It showed up on one of the cameras and was pretty good, so it was just something cool to tack onto the end of this article.