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Friday, March 10, 2017

52" Slick EXP__ The New Classic

It was a sad day for everyone when the original 3DHS 51" Slick sold out for the last time, the end of an era, really. Thousands of pilots were left without their favorite plane, and while there were plenty of other righteous 3DHS and Extreme Flight planes, for many there's nothing quite like a Slick. There were also Slicks in many different sizes, though the original remained the most convenient and affordable version. Overall the Slick developed an almost cult-like following (in a positive sense, that is), and plenty of other size Slicks remain in the lineup. With all this to consider, the market sorely needed a replacement for the 51". Now we have it in the Extreme Flight 52" Slick EXP.

Probably the worst thing you could ever say about a 51" Slick was that it was really too nice to be considered a disposable four foot class plane. I loved my Slicks, but I could never bring myself to treat them with the same disdain I applied to my other four foot planes. For years the 51" Slick was the 3D standard. It was a benchmark of excellence that has been sorely missed.

Now that almost a couple of years have past and the dust of the merger has settled a little, it was time to bring it back, only in a new and improved 52" form. The entire plane has been lightened, strengthened, stiffened, and just all-around made better than the previous Slick, which couldn't have been a easy job. Having been without a 51" Slick for a few years, I was pretty anxious to get started on this one. I saw the first pictures a few months ago and have been champing at the bit ever since.

Color Scheme
Again, 3DHS graphics artist KM has penned another winner. I can't say for sure what his thinking is, but to me it looks like he combined his own style of wild design with Extreme Flight's understated elegance and come up with a look that rivals the 52" Extra EXP for cutting edge, though traditional beauty. Both schemes are stunning, and I really can't decide which one I like best. As of this part of the writing, I don't know which one I am getting, and I don't care. Whichever one I don't get I will buy later! The top of the plane is a very sharp contrast to the checkerboard  bottom, which aids greatly with orientation. If you can see it better, you can fly it better.

Mostly, though, it's just breathtaking to look at.

The Kit
Those who have not built a 52" Extra EXP are going to be surprised by the level of quality and execution here. Previously the 60" EXPs had been a notch better on build quality, but now the four foot class airframes have been elevated to the same standard. The fit and finish is absolutely spot on and it's nice when everything slides together with a satisfying click. Since you don't have to tweak the parts to get them to fit perfectly, the build becomes less work and more fun.
This is what comes in the box:


While the covering on the 60"s has always been superb, the 52"s are now at that level. The factory has mastered the art of getting the covering down on the wood and tight better than ever, and the corners and seams are better sealed down. While I enjoy every aspect of the build process, not having to go back over the wrinkles and seams is something that helps the whole experience go a lot smoother. Again, since I built three of the 52" Extras, I was not surprised, but it's still not something I take for granted.

The big things you notice right away. The wings slide on first time with a satisfying click, the canopy seats perfectly and all the paint lines on the cowling lines up with the lines on the covering. The covering is tight with only a few loose seams around the corners that need a little touch up with the trim iron.

There are lots of new carbon fiber reinforcements on this plane. It goes from nose to tail in places like the motorbox, full length longerons, cowl mounting tabs, servo, mounts, anti rotation pin holes, and wing tube mountings. I mean, there's a lot of carbon fiber in this plane.

Carbon Reinforced Cowl Mounting Brakets

Pre-Cut Air Exhaust 
                    Carbon Reinforced Aileron, Elevator And Rudder Servo Mounts                          

Carbon Stringers and Balsa sheeted Fuselage 
Carbon Reinforced Wing Tube and Anti Rotation Pin mounts 

Paying attention to the smallest details pays off big in the finished product. The Slick features new Xcessories titanium colored cowl mounting and wing allen head bolts that match Xcessories servo mounting screws. The titanium color adds to the hi tech look of the whole package

Xcessories cowl mounting and wing bolts

Like on the 52" Extra, every hole you need in the covering is pre cut from the servo openings, wing tube hole, anti rotation pin holes and even the holes in the wing tip for the SFG bolts. It's all done which will save you about a half hour of tedious work that's in the way when you really want to just get on with the build. The servo mounting holes are already pre drilled, or maybe more correctly they are already laser cut. The hole for the switch is cut in a convenient location, but the covering was left intact for those who don't want to run one. Usually I like to do all this work myself because I could do a cleaner job myself, but not any more. The factory has raised the bar to the point I am happier with their work freeing me up to worry about things like getting the tail on straight and the hinges right.

Speaking of which, brand new for this plane is Extreme Flight's self jigging stabilizer. We will go into this a little deeper later in the article, but for now just know this takes a big chunk of stress out of the build and assures a good, straight assembly. The stab slides in straight and you don't even have to measure it.

Quality like this jumps right out at you, but when you dig deeper you find the thousands of other little things that add up to so much. Having less piddly things to worry about makes the build go much more smoothly. When you look through the whole plane you will discover little things like hooks on the formers to secure servo wires, and even the rear bottom corner of the canopy (where they are most often chipped or broken through mishandling or outright dropping)  is reinforced with G10 composite material.

Mostly I would have been happy if the Slick was manufactured to the same level of completeness we saw in the 52" Extras, but Extreme Flight has improved on even that. The addition of the self jigging stab is yet another step forward in both improving quality and assuring the plane goes together correctly. Hard to believe any kit could be even more complete with less work than the 52" Extra, but the proof is going to be in the build, which we will get to a little deeper into this article..

There is always great comfort working with things of familiarity and the hardware package is just that. These are the same quality items we have used for years in the 48" EXP series. They go together right, work perfectly, and none of these pieces has ever given me a problem. I never have to worry about any of these things coming apart when I am pushing the plane hard and on the deck. People ask me if I worry about breaking things on the plane when I fly them so hard, but that's never a worry,
simply because I have so much faith in the equipment and especially the hardware. I don't have to worry about important stuff falling off the plane, so I can zone in on flying the plane.

The pushrod assemblies are the same steel rod and ball links we have been using to great effect for years on the 48" planes, so one less thing to fret over here. The wheels and axles are the same that have proven themselves on the 48s and also the 52" Extra EXP.

Of course the hardware pack features the solid and reliable Extreme Flight tailwheel assembly, One previous area that required a little tinkering was the two piece tiller arm, but that's been replaced with a one piece machined and polished arm. I tested a few of the pre-production units and on one I smashed the crap out of the plane so badly that it ripped the entire assembly right out of the plane. The arm was twisted up like a pretzel, but I put it in a vice and hammered it back into shape. It's still on one of my planes somewhere. The only concern during assembly is to grind flat spots where the arm and wheel collars bolt to the tailwheel wire, and to be sure you get the wire centered over the hingeline. If you do those two simple steps the arm will work perfectly and never fail you.

The wheel pants are also the same ones that have proven so durable on the 48"s. You might think they would not look right on the slightly larger plane, but they still seem proportioned just right. This is nice for those of us who have a collection of spares from our 48"s.
Part of what made the 52" Extra build experience so satisfying was how well the new lineup of Extreme Flight Xcessories worked and how well they integrated themselves into the whole package. All of this stuff was made to work together, and as a result it all goes together pretty effortlessly.

The Socket Head Servo Screws make servo installation a snap because they fit snugly on an allen driver and you really only need to use one hand because they won't fall off. Their titanium color also looks really good. This is a seemingly insignificant thing, but it's just one small part of many that make a complete, high quality package.

 As noted earlier, The Slick came with Xcessories style titanium colored allen bolt for both the wing and cowling. Now everything on the plane matches, and it hi tech titanium color too. When you combine the titanium hardware with all the carbon in this plane, it sure looks like a modern spaceship. It's a very cool look.
I also like Extreme Flight Xcessories Twisted Servo Extensions. These are listed in the  appropriate length on the plane's web page and make for a really clean looking and professional installation. I used these on all my 52" Extras and really like them.

 Finally, Extreme Flight's excellent Xcessories Aluminum Servo Arms are listed on each plane's webpage in the appropriate size. These are anodized in the same beautiful red as the Xpwr motors, and are top of the line quality. Ball links bolt to these with the same 2mm hardware that comes in the kit, so all you need to buy are the arms themselves. They slip on easily, fit perfectly with no slop, and come off with a gentle tug. These arms solve all the problems we used to have with extended servo arms and the quality sets the whole package off very nicely.

While not part of the Xcessories lineup, it's still worth noting that Extreme Flight now carries the superb Radio South CA Hinges. I have been using these almost exclusively since the early eighties because they are absolutely the best you can get.

The whole lineup of Xcessories is so nice I plan to use everything that will fit on my planes. One nice side benefit is that with Extreme Flight's near one-stop shopping you can get everything in the same order, and most times it all fits in the kit box so you only pay shipping once.

You can also get the proper servos off the plane's order page, so if you already have a transmitter and receiver, you can get everything you need directly from Extreme Flight. About the only thing you can't get from Extreme Flight is your radio equipment, but I would not put it past them to be working on solving that.

Kit: Final Notes
In general, when you combine this level quality of kit and Xcessories, the entire build process goes so smoothly it's almost over before you are were ready for it to be. Part of this is offset by the kits being so damm nice to work with, and with this plane and my Extras, when finished I was a little disappointed there wasn't more to it. Since I enjoy building so much, I get around this by simply building more planes, but for those who want to get it over with and go flying, you will really enjoy these planes.

Power System
The new Xpwr 3910 motor signals a new dawn for the four foot aerobatic 3DXA class airframes. We first saw this motor in the new 52" Extra EXP, and it's been so good that Extreme Fight is building an entire new generation of airplanes around it.  The motor runs cool, even in the Florida summer heat, and has blistering grunt and speed. Acceleration is so intense and instant that you kind of have to readjust your flying style to make best use of it, Along with lift, power is your best friend, and it's so readily on tap with this motor that the plane simply responds. As with any kind of power, you have to wield it responsibly. We're not playing with toys any more.

It's still a bit early and we have only had two 3DXA airframes designed around this power system.
One flight on the 52" Extra EXP told me the revolution was well underway and we can expect Extreme Flight to provide us with many exciting new airframes in this size class. The Extra and Slick are just the beginning.

Propeller Choices
My own personal numbers on the motor is that it pulls 1068 watts at 73 amps with a Xoar or Falcon 14/8 prop, which is crazy power for this size and weight plane. I prefer the additional thrust of a 15/6 because it pulls a little less amperage, and with it's larger diameter blows more air over the control surfaces to provide better post stall control. I have not actually done an amp draw test on it yet, but I definitely get cooler motor and battery temps, plus some more run time. It taxes the whole system a little less, which is never a bad thing.

In the air the difference between the 14" and 15" props is as follows: The 14/7 or 14/8 provide blistering, almost unusable top end speed. People asked for stupid power on these 52" planes and they are not going to be disappointed. Flying off of smaller fields with tighter airspace restrictions, a slightly slower plane works better for me, which is where the 15/6 or 15/7 comes into their own. You give up a little speed that you don't really need and get big diameter vectored thrust, which means a bigger cone of air blowing over the control surfaces and better control in post stall 3D flight.

To shorten this up a little, if you want blistering speed, go with the 14", but if you want better 3D, the bigger prop wins. The plane is great either way and propeller selection is going to be a personal choice depending on how you want to fly the plane.

I have not tried any propellers in this size than Falcon and Xoar simply because we have seen non-
wood propellers larger than 13" simply come apart. You spend a little more money with wood, and they don't take a ground strike as well, but I think the peace of mind is worth it. Wood propellers also seem to run more smoothly and sound better.

Speed Controller
Coupled with Extreme Flight's venerable, but dead solid reliable Airboss 80 ESC, you get blood curling primal horsepower and the kind of surreal reliability we have come to expect and demand from Extreme Flight power systems.

On the speed controller front, the airboss 80 ESC has worked so well in my 52" Extras there was never a thought of using anything else. With this being a completely integrated package, the motor and ESC work together perfectly. Even on fully charged 70C packs there was never a hint of squeal or hesitation, and throttle response is smooth and linear. This is what I expected from the Airboss ESC and what I've become accustomed to with Torque motors. Xpwr certainly got everything absolutely right on this package.

Here I have the Airboss mounted on the bottom of the motorbox where it sits right in the cooling air flow from the Slick's chin mounted snorkel.

When I run a separate BEC, I  do not like to use the switch. The power from the radio will be coming from the separate BEC, so the switch doesn't work anyway. If anything, it gives you a false sense of security when you plug the battery in. I cut the switch off, shorten the wires, solder them together and use heat shrink over the joint. Then I stuff it under the clear covering on ESC. This gets the switch wires out of the way, but if I ever need to go back to using Airboss' on board BEC, I can just solder the switch back on.
Power Systems Savings
While we are all trying to save a few dollars, it's worth noting that you save about $45 when you order the Xpwr/Airboss power system with the kit. You'll find that on the plane's order page under "Choose Options." Here you can also order the servos, spinner, and right length servo arms and extensions. The only thing you will need to leave the page to order will be for the servo mounting screws, so it's hard to be more convenient than that.
 The Extra and Slick are enlarged just enough to be able to take advantage of the power and torque provided by the slightly larger and more powerful Hitec HS5087MH  servo. I have used the HS5087MH to great effect for years on the elevators of my 48" EXPs and they are smooth, powerful and center very well. Because they have performed so well over such an extended period of time, I have zero concerns about their reliability, and I already know about their performance.

This set up will be perfect for the most extreme abuse-the-equipment style of pilots, but there are other benefits that will work to the advantage of regular every day sport 3DXA pilots.
Motor Type:3 Pole Ferrite
Bearing Type:Top Ball Bearing Support
Speed (6.0V/7.4V):0.17 / 0.13 second
Torque oz./in. (6.0V/7.4V):50 / 60 oz-in
Torque kg./cm. (6.0V/7.4V):3.6 / 4.3 kg-cm
Size in Inches:1.14 x 0.51 x 1.18 in
Size in Millimeters:29 x 13 x 30 mm
Weight oz.:0.77 oz.
Weight g.:21.9 g.
For the slightly insane over-the-edge type of pilots who love to do repeated full throttle blenders, full throttle walls and parachutes, and tear-your-guts-out type of tumbling maneuvers, the high voltage performance of this set up is ideal because of their enhanced speed, torque and laser like centering.

The laser like centering will also come in extremely handy for precision or IMAC style of flying because a perfectly trimmed plane is always going to be more precise. This will also really help the regular every day sport 3DXA pilot because a servo that locks in and holds it's trim and centering  will make the plane go and stay where you put it. This reduces the workload on the pilot and makes him look good. We can all use a little more of that.

Thanks again to my friends at Hitec RCD for their support and helping make this project possible.
Separate BEC 
You will need to supply 7.4 to 8.2 volts to these servos, and for this I trust the Castle 10 Amp BEC, which is fully adjustable using the Castle Link Programmer. 

The Build
Most of the Slick build is almost identical to the 52" Extra, so if there is something you are looking for that isn't covered here, check 52" Extra EXP__Synergistic Integration. 

New and much appreciated for this build is Extreme Flight's self jigging horizontal stabilizer assembly. As you can see, the leading edge is notched out, so you simply insert the stab from the rear, jam it all the way forward and glue it! This eliminates a lot of potential to get the assembly wrong.

Here's  how the self jigging stab works: The leading edge is notched back at the center. As you can see, the LE of the notch is straight.

When you jam the stab forward it seats against the front of the wing saddle. which aligns it with the wing. This is simply ingenious engineering.


With this being a new feature I wanted to check the measurement myself, and it was dead on. I checked it a several times and took the stab out, reinstalled and checked it again. I did this about three or four times, and as long as I jammed the stab all the way forward it came out straight every time. This tells me I probably don't even need to measure the next one I build.

 From there it's a matter of running a bead of thin CA on the joint, giving it a few minutes to set up, then flipping it over and doing the bottom side.

Essentially, Extreme Fight has taken the hardest part of building a world class 3DXA machine and made it as simple and easy as making sure you get the stab shoved all the way forward.

Stabilizer installation was always the part I hated doing because the were so many opportunities to get it wrong. I've said many times that any time you mess up almost anything, you can disassemble it and try again, but not the stab and hinging. If you get the tail on crooked you have to live with it, but now the chance of that has been greatly reduced. This finally takes all of the stress out of the build because you can hardly get any of the rest wrong. The only other part I worry about is the hinging, but I have outlined my technique here: (scroll down to "hinging").

Once you get the tail in and everything hinged, the rest of the build is simple assembly and as I have said, if you get it wrong you just take it apart and do it again. This is why I like to do the tail and hinging first, when I am fresh and less likely to make a big mistake on the only crucial part of the process. With the stressful parts out of the way, I just slow way down and enjoy myself. Now this part of the build is no longer stressful because you just about can't get it wrong. I can't wait to tackle another one because, with the new construction techniques, it's going to be nothing but fun.

Set Up 
No surprises here because you don't change something that works so well. As always, the best bet is to set the mechanics up like the photos in the manual say, and to adjust your radio to match the throws and expos as spelled out in the manual. Of course, you will probably want to tweak it to your own personal preference, but at least for the first few flights use what's in the manual because Extreme flight put a lot of time and effort into getting this part right.

Once again, you got love the Xcessories arm. It just bolts on. Here, note which side of the control horn the ball link is mounted on. This will look wrong to sport pilots who are used to making the pushrod as straight as possible when centered. In 3DXA we use so much deflection that it's better the pushrod is straightest when fully deflected.

Extreme Flight specifies the use of the supplied G10 composite servo arm extension. Here I did something a little different and used the anodized aluminum arm that comes with the Hitec 7245HM servo. It's the same spline as the HS5087MH we are using in this plane. By itself it's a nice arm that fits beautifully, but by itself it is also useless for 3D flying because it is too short. However, it makes a beautiful place to mount the G10 composite arm. It fits the spline tight and since it is metal it probably won't get any looser, which assured a nice, tight, slop free connection.

I'm getting about 70 degrees of throw, which should be enough. I can always switch to the Xcessories 1.5 arm if I want to peg the control to 90 degrees.

For now I am using the short single arm that comes in the PN55709  pack, and it works quite well.  I may later switch to an Xcessories arm, but I ran out of them for this project. I'm still tinkering with it. it's actually almost perfect the way it is and I hate to change things that are working.

 Again, the arm may look like it is not parallel, but that's not how you want to set a 3D plane up. Since we run so much throw the arm is actually straight at full deflection. This set up gives you the best mechanical advantage.

Radio Installation
This is much the same as the 52" Extra. The receiver mounts on the cross brace behind the wing tube and the only tricky part is the antenna installation for Futaba users. I use clear plastic tubes, glue them where I want them, and insert the antenna when they are dry.

Especially useful are the hooks cut into the formers for securing the servo wires. This not only keeps them from slopping around inside the plane and potentially pulling out of the receiver, but it makes for a much cleaner looking installation.

Wow, Was this ever a nice project. I was pretty amazed with the 52" Extras and didn't think you could make a plane much nicer, but Extreme Flight has done it again. They have made a better airplane. The build was a joy and I already know it's going to fly incredibly well. Now we just need to get out there and do it.

I will get better glamor photos at the field and will publish those with the video flight report, which will hopefully be tomorrow.

Keep an eye on the blog in the next few days for a flight report. I have found that the first day is not very good for making a video representative of how well any plane flies. It's better to take the first day to dial the plane in and learn it's subtleties, then sleep on it, come out the next day, and deliver it a beatdown worthy of capturing.

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