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Monday, January 9, 2017

48" Demonstrator__Rebooted, Dialed In, And Rockin'

Recently 3DHS did a total reboot of their wildly popular 48" Edge 540, by adding the dazzling
Demonstrator printed color scheme and significant carbon fiber reinforcement and carbon landing gear. The entire plane was rethought, redone, and reimagined, which is sort of the definition of a reboot.

You can read all of the specifics in great detail in 3DHS 48" Edge Demonstrator__A Nice Plane Turned Badass , and this article is merely a follow up with additional set up info and flying observations.

This was originally a really nice little plane built with the beginner in mind. It had wire landing gear and was just about nearly indestructible. We had one in my club go through about 50 propellers and 10 sets of wheels because it took so much abuse, and all the guy who owned it ever had to do was bend the gear back into place. That was one ratty looking plane with patches and epoxy smeared all over it, but it still flew great.

A lot of guys got their start with this plane, and most of the pilots who have moved on to other planes still hang on to their Edge simply because it's always nice to have something to fall back on that's so easy and reassuring to fly. I still keep an SHP in the fleet to this day for that reason, though I think I'm always going to need a Demonstrator too..

The original 48" Edge was designed to fly with either 3s 2700-3000mah or 4s 2200-2700mah packs. The larger capacity 3s packs balance the plane nicely, give you really good run time, and allow you run as large as a 14" prop. This is superb for either 3D training or nice, easy, relaxed sport 3D. The smaller capacity 4s packs keep the plane light and deliver blistering performance for the more experienced pilot. You could also fly it on low rates and do pure sport flying, so as you can see, this plane has something for just about everyone. It can be almost anything you want it to be.

Cool Again
Sadly even the best airplanes fall out of favor because there is always the latest and greatest coming out next week. However, the latest and greatest isn't always for everyone, especially if that means giving up something as trusty as these planes always have been. What the 48" Edge really needed was to be cool again, and the Demonstrator has redefined what a cool 48" plane can be.

The dazzling Demonstrator scheme was just the start. The inside of the plane is full of carbon fiber, mostly where you can actually see it and show it off to your envious flying buddies. It not only
looks cool, but makes the plane stronger, tighter, and fly better for longer. The motorbox is now so much stiffer that the transfer of energy to the propeller is much more efficient, which in effect gives you more power.

That and with the carbon landing gear I feel like this has become a much more serious airplane. It hasn't of course, because it's still just crazy fun and easy to fly, but now it's so upgraded I enjoy showing it off to people and pointing out the nuances in the graphics and the carbon reinforcement. Before it was a nice beginner plane, but now it's a nice beginner plane that the more seasoned pilots will enjoy because looks so serious.

Essentially, the airframe has been made to be the best it can be with what we now know. Who knows? Another five years and we could see another reboot, but for now, this plane is satisfying enough.

I've flown a few of these in the past on 3s and they were great, so I assumed it's a 3s plane. This is actually a 4s 2200-2700 plane that's light enough to fly on larger 3s 2700-3000 packs, kind of like the SHP. I decided on 3s for this project because that's all I know, and also because the SHP is the same size and weight and it's magic on 3s 2250 packs.

Early on I found out a 3s 2250 55C Lightning pack is a little light for this plane, and I needed 1 ounce of ballast bolted on the bottom of the motorbox to get the CG where I wanted it. I flew it first tail heavy and I can attest the ballast made the plane fly a lot better but not any heavier. This plane is still really light. I may pick up some 4s 2700 packs and turn that ballast into more run time. I'm getting a real solid 5 minutes now, so I could probably get six easy with a 3s 2700.

Running this plane on 3s offers some solid advantages. First is 3s packs are lighter than 4s packs. I kind gave some of that up with the ballast but it's still way lighter than running a 4s 2700 pack. The other advantage is the ability to run a 13/6.5 or 14/7 prop. This gives you a bigger cone of thrust over the control surfaces when you are in a stalled or near stalled condition, which really improves 3D performance. Less voltage is less power, so the plane is slower and this gives me more time to set up and execute my moves cleanly. Less power is also a lot easier to fly because the power band is wider and not as spikey. You get smooth, progressive throttle control and the plane is not always trying to accelerate away. It's kind of like the difference between driving  Corvette or a Volkswagen on a slick road. it's much easier to control the lower powered car.

In rough, all around terms, 3s and the big prop makes the plane much easier and gentle to fly. It's better for learning that flying a fire breathing monster. And also, even he experienced guys still love to have something really easy to fly  when they just want to relax, and it's both of these in this configuration. Like this, the Demonstrator is so easy to fly I can favorably compare it to the SHP, which is really saying something, and considerable praise..

We do plan to do a 4s report, but maybe not with this particular Demonstrator. This one is working so well I don't want to change anything, so I just might build another one for 4s power and Hitec's new 5070MG servo. The specs suggest they will be a much better servo for this plane, and since they are six volts you run them straight off the Airboss 45"s onboard BEC. No extra messing around soldering up a BEC and having extra wires clogging up your neat power system installation.

For this report I am going to concentrate on the maneuvers that the newer pilots need a little help with. While this plane is considerably capable, it's still a good platform for the newer 3D pilots to sharpen up on.

Part of me is still not sure whether this or the SHP is the best plane to start with, though because of it's great harrier manners, I am leaning toward the Edge.  I think the SHP might be a little bit more forgiving of errors, but the Edge is easier for someone new to learn harrier on, and that's the maneuver you want to start with,
First, it's an Edge, which means as long as it wears the Big X or 3DHS logo, it's automatically going to be a harrier monster. As a crucial skill in 3D, having a plane that harriers so well and forgives mistakes so freely is a big plus for the new guys. It's also a nice trait to for the experienced guys to have on hand when they are pushing the plane hard on the deck.

It was hard to cram everything into a five minute video, but there's enough harrier and elevator work in there to show you how stable the Edge is with the nose way up in the air. I'm probably starting to get a little too brave with it, but the plane just feels that good to fly.

Initially I had my CG too far back, but the plane still flew harrier with no wing rock or surprise tendencies. It really should have flown badly, but instead it merely just wasn't as good as it could be. Once I dialed that in, the plane reacted exactly like I was expecting and harrier is now so locked in that it's simply instinctual to haul the nose up and drive it around on the rudder with very, very little aileron correction. Superb and easy harrier manners all the way around.

Harrier Turns
The Edge likes to have the nose pulled up, then slightly banked into the turn, and rudder applied to initiate the turn. A little opposite aileron helps the inside wing from dipping, and some power added to keep the nose up and air flowing over the controls. From there it's a matter of juggling all four and I made it sound a lot more difficult than it really is. With the Edge, after a day of harrier practice, even a new 3D pilot can drive it up and down the runway with the nose up for a whole pack.

I picked up harrier turns almost before I learned straight line harrier because I had practiced stall turns so much in my pattern days. Having a good stall turn going comes in really handy when learning harrier turns because most of the skills are the same. The angle is just different. If you are a sport pilot coming into 3D, make sure you have good stall turn in your bag of tricks because it will come in handy.

As you can see in the videos from this and the earlier article, the Edge does a nice gentle harrier turn, or if you want to manhandle it, you can spin it right around on the rudder with a sharp blast of power.

As always, especially when learning a new move, cut yourself a break and use a bit more altitude than seems necessary, because it just might be.

Elevator Maneuvers
Elevators are a really good first maneuver to learn for new 3D pilots, and the Edge simply loves to do them. You do an elevator by gently stalling the plane (because you don't want to begin the maneuver out of control), and, locking in about 7/8 full elevator stick and steer it with the rudder. Stay off the ailerons as much as you can and it will drop straight down like a brick falling down an elevator shaft, though certainly not as fast. Like I say, you can actually control the speed of the descent with a little throttle.

It's much the same as with turning elevator maneuvers, though there are a lot of planes you simply don't want to try it with because they can bite you and the Edge won't. I use a turning elevator to burn altitude when I am setting up a slow speed maneuver on the down low, and with the Edge it's easy to do even when you are turning the plane. Just hold the nose up and turn it on the rudder and control the speed of descent with the throttle, holding a little opposite aileron to keep the wings level.
Having this plane be so flexible and forgiving in this attitude allows you to adjust your speed, altitude and placement with almost instinctual ease. Of course, by instinctual I mean provided you have a little experience and a decent elevator and harrier going for you.

Snaps and Spins
Low rates: Compared to the EXPs I am used to flying, this Edge has a short tail moment, which is the distance between the wing and tail. This makes the plane respond better to elevator and rudder inputs and why you only need 45 degrees of elevator to do 3D with this plane.

The Edge does nice, clean snaps and recovers instantly, as soon as you center the sticks. The only hard part of snapping this plane is getting the timing right, so it does a full rotation and stops where you want it. You learn that just by flying it and snapping it.

Low rate and high rate snaps are different though, and this is true of every 3D plane I have flown. On low rates you hammer the elevator and hold it, then after 1/4 second delay go full rudder and ailerons either right or left, depending on which way you want to go. You will have to play with timing so you release and have the plane come out straight and level, but it's not that hard. Bang, release.

If you are starting to really get brave hold the snap roll control in and the plane will drop into a nice controlled spin. When you let off the sticks, she will stop, so you add power, level the nose and wings, and simply fly out. If you are learning, be careful you don't get hypnotized by how cool it is and watch it spin all that way to the ground, and we've all done it.

Now, don't even try this until you have a good grip on your snaps and basic spins: You can also center the ailerons and the spin will flatten out a little, then ease off the elevator and it will go really flat. Then you can speed the spin up with down elevator, or slow it down with up elevator. When you come out of this spin you may get one or two more rotations than you bargained for, but this can be arrested instantly with a little opposite rudder.

High Rates: High rate snaps are a little different though. If you use full elevator deflection it's too much and the plane will just wallow through it. I think maybe the elevator is so much drag that it acts more like a parachute than a control surface. On high rates I still use full rudder and ailerons, but I back the elevator off to about 1/2 stick movement and that seems to do the trick. Oddly, outside snaps are best with everything fully deflected, and I have no explanation for that, but it's the same on every plane I own.

I accidentally discovered a really cool spin that uses right, right (or left., left) and down elevator. It comes down pretty fast and spinning hard, but the moment you release it stops dead in it's tracks and then you pull up, power up and fly away. It will scare you the first few times, but it comes out so easily that soon you'll be fearless with it.

Knife Edge Spin
For some reason I can't explain, Edges always see to be the easiest planes to Knife Edge (KE) Spin. Other planes can be finicky about control input, control timing and entry, but both the 3DHS and Extreme Flight Edges drop right in from any altitude if you get the sticks right. I use full left rudder, full down elevator and about 1/8 to 1/4 left aileron and about 20% power. You can even pulse the throttle if you like, or once you get started just peg the throttle and let it growl. I like to reduce the power as low as I can get away with and that seems to wind it up really good too, plus it sounds and looks prettier.

You can do this from almost any attitude, though I have found the most efficient entry is from an outside snap of some sort because from there you just carry the momentum into the KE spin. My favorite is to enter from a pop top, hold the rudder in and add 1/8th aileron, and then it just keeps spinning right into it. The only hard part is the timing is crucial if you want it to look clean. If you miss it, just put the KE stick movement in and it will go in by itself after it thrashes around a bit.

KE spins are really hard on the airframe and it burns power almost as quickly as a dead short. For this reason I like to enter them really low and pull her out after one or two revolutions. It's still a KE spin, but it saves wear and tear,and energy I can use for other maneuvers.

Mostly it's all timing, which you can't teach. You can only get that with stick time, but that's not so bad because we all really want to be out there flying anyway.

Now We are going to kind of split hairs because an upright tumble is just a snap roll at high speed and full snap roll controls. Like I say, for a clean snap you don't use all of the elevator travel, but for a violent tumble, let it rip. You'll see several of those in the video because I use them as a turn around maneuver. I've just figured the timing out and know how to make it stop and fly out the opposite direction it went in. This is the kind of thing you learn simply by doing it enough until you get it right, and then repeat as necessary.

Triple taper wings are generally considered to be more precise in rolling and snapping maneuvers, though the 3DHS and EXP Edges have closed that gap considerably. These Edges are really good at big sky maneuvering.

Mostly I like to use my low rate for any precision work. The plane is just too agile on high rates, though that doesn't seem to matter to people like Jase. For the rest of us though, a good low rate is absolutely essential.  I use the set up from the manual, though dial my low ailerons back to three rolls in five seconds. That way I come across the field and peg the ailerons over, and then use tiny inputs of up, down, up, down, etc to keep the plane from dropping. Being able to peg the ailerons and forget about it just leaves me one less thing to get wrong and takes a considerable workload off the pilot. The three rolls in five seconds is a good speed because it's fast enough that the plane doesn't drop really badly, but it's slow enough that a sport pilot can keep up with it. You'll see one or two of those in the video too.

Point and slow rolls you just have to work on, and the Edge is really good here. It seems like you need a little more rudder in knife edge during the points, but it's all in adapting to the individual airframe. Once you get yourself dialed into the plane, you forget about it.

The Edge is just sweet and easy all the way around. I am flying it on 3s for now so I could compare it to my SHP, and it stacks up quite well. In a lot of ways they are almost the same plane, though the SHP is Better at precision and the Edge harriers better. The two seem to fly about the same as far as being light on their wings, and if there is a difference it's too close for me to tell.

This is making me rethink my belief that SHP is the best first 3D plane. Right now I am thinking either one of these would be impossible choices to beat. The plane does what you tell it to do and it stays where you put it. There are no bad habits or surprises and it's solid and reassuring to fly. It will make you confident, which is exactly what the new 3D pilot needs, and something veterans really appreciate too.

I really like it.

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