E-flite Taylorcraft - Review ...on snow skis, and in-flight video
My E-flite Taylorcraft is for sale! As detailed on this page, quite
a few improvements on the factory design have been incorporated
to make it a better flyer. The factory price is now up to
$160, with assembly required.
This model is for sale for only $90!
Now I know why nearly everyone who has submitted a comment or
review of E-flite's electric-powered
Taylorcraft 450 has raved about its quality of construction
and flight characteristics. Since it was first introduced three
or four years ago, I have placed in it Horizon Hobby's online shopping
cart, and then removed it, a couple dozen times. I never went through
with the order until recently for two reasons: There just wasn't
enough free time to fly it, and my innate resistance to buying pre-built
airplanes rather than building them myself. Well, there's still
not much free time either for flying or building, so at least by
giving in and buying an ARF model, that will offset some of the
time that would be needed to build one. In fact, I do have yet another
electric-powered Carl Goldberg 1/2A Skylane in the works - about
ready for covering - but with my schedule, it's still a long way
from being ready for its maiden flight. But, I digress. The Taylorcraft
is absolutely every bit as good as people say it is.
The quality of engineering
is utterly impressive. Laser-cut balsa and plywood components throughout
all of the structure (no foam, I don't like foam) has had all unnecessary
mass removed. What few parts remained to be assembled fit very well.
Although everything could have been used as provided, I took a little
extra trouble to re-adjust the wing bolt holes to achieve perfect
alignment with the fuselage and tail surfaces. Thick CA glue was
used to reinforce all of the high stress joints like the engine
mount box and the landing gear mount components. Factory-made glue
joint looked good, but ARFs have a well-known propensity for weak
glue joints in those areas, so I figured better safe than sorry.
CA is cheap.
control surfaces come pre-hinged, but the massive amount of excessive
glue that seeped between the fixed surface and the moveable surface
caused a high level of stiffness that would put undue strain on
the servos. Ailerons, elevator halves, and rudder all suffered from
the problem. Again, hundreds or thousands of people have flown with
the hinge lines like that, but I chose not to. When you inspect
the joints between the surfaces, at least on mine, you see a large
amount of yellowish glue that occupies about half of the total length
of the joint line. A little careful cutting and scraping with an
x-Acto knife revealed that the actual hinge area is only about 1/2"
to 3/4" long. Everything else was useless glue. After removing all
that excess glue, there was a huge difference in how easily the
control surfaces moved. If you do nothing else optional on your
Taylorcraft, do this. Your servos will thank you for it by lasting
a lot longer. Click the image to the right for a larger version.
thing I did was beef up the connection between the two elevator
halves. A rather thin music wire joiner come installed which caused
the half without the control horn to move less than the half with
the control horn. I epoxied a short length of 3/6" carbon rod between
the two halves on the bottom, below the existing wire joiner. It
completely eliminated the differential movement and adds very little
weight. On second though I would rank this change above clearing
glue from the hinge lines. Differential elevator throw can introduce
unexpected roll to the airplane, particularly at high speeds with
lots of airflow over the elevators.
Also, after the landing
gear mounting plate started showing signs of weakness, I replaced
the original wood with sturdy 5-layer aircraft plywood. Fortunately,
I had some red Monokote on-hand to use over the new wood. It will
outlast the life of the model.
One other major change was
made, but this one really is not critical as long as the strap for
the batter pack is tightened securely. I did not care for the way
the battery pack could potentially slide from front to back, and
how the back part of the pack was pressed against a bulkhead once
strapped down. I am using the recommended battery packs, so it is
nothing the model wasn't designed to accommodate. I used a little
bit of 1/6" aircraft plywood to build a cradle that captures the
rear portion of the battery pack to support the battery off of the
bulkhead and to prevent lateral motion. The photo below shows what
the cradle looks like when installed. Click on the photo for a larger
version. A close-up of the cradle hanging on the cabin floor frame
is also provided. Now, the Velcro strap only needs to snugged down
in order to reliably hold the battery pack in place without stressing
it across the bulkhead. More importantly is that the model's center
of gravity will not shift if the battery shifts position.
final thing is a note about making certain that the servo extensions
buried inside the wings are securely tied together. I use heavy
waxed cord that is used for sewing leather. It's a lot like the
waxed lacing cord used for electronic cable bundling. A photo is
shown here for reference.
Two big items factored into my
decision to finally break down and buy the Taylorcraft, and that
was to finally do something I have always wanted to do but never
took the trouble to implement. The first was to strap a video recorder
onto the model to get some in-flight motion pictures of my own,
like so many seen online. The second goal was to install a set of
skis for flying off the snow. A set of DuBro snow skis was ordered
from Tower Hobbies, along with a
Futaba 6EX digital radio
Futaba S3117 high-torque, high-speed micro servos. E-flite's
Park 450 brushless motor provided power, along with an 11.1V, 3,100
mAh LiPo battery pack (2 ea.) were procured from Horizon Hobby.
wheel axles are a set of 4-40 x 1" bolts (aka machine screws), which
fit the holes in the provided lightweight wheels. The holes in the
DuBro snow skis were drilled for a 5/32" axel. The fit was way too
sloppy for the skis, so I cut a piece of 1/8" I.D. brass tubing,
which conveniently has a 5/32" O.D., over the threads of the 4-40
bolt. The holes in the wheels were drilled to 5/32" so that the
brass tubing would not have to be removed for the wheels. Besides,
I never liked the thought of plastic wheels rotating over 40 little
sharp thread edges per inch. The supplied wheels have been replaced
with larger wheels because whether on grass or asphalt, the originals
were too small for good ground handling.
preparing to order the snow skis, I found a lot of comments from
people about the instructions for installing the springs being unclear.
It seemed pretty obvious to me, but for the benefit of anyone who
might find this page while searching for help on installation, here
are a couple photos to clarify the matter. You're welcome
Here is a short video of my
Taylorcraft flying off the
snow. It is really nice and smooth compared to grass or pavement.
Unfortunately, the 2011-2012 winter season has been one of the least
snowiest in history. The last two winters had record high snowfalls
in February, but boy, let me finally buy snow skis and what happens?
No (well almost none) snow! That's unheard of in Erie, Pennsylvania!
We're usually buried under a couple feet of snow by now, with no
bare sidewalks in sight since early December.
E-flite Taylorcraft Flying off Snow with
DuBro Skis, in Erie, Pennsylvania
OK, so my next big goal was recording an
in-flight video from
the Taylorcraft. I bought a relatively cheap, lightweight Kodak
digital camera that takes videos as well as still pictures. I spent
enough (about $80) to get one with at least some level of image
stabilization. The results of my first attempt can be seen below.
I edited out the boring stuff and let only the action-packed footage.
The flight occurred at a small business park in Fairfield, PA.
The next time I take 'er up, I plan to climb high enough to
get a good shot of Lake Erie, which is about 2 miles away. I'll
also try some rolls, spins, and inverted flight flight with the
camera mounted. I'm hoping to avoid the recording of a crash. Here
in Erie, we get a lot of strong winds from the lake, so flying opportunities
for a model with as light a wing loading as the e-Flite Taylorcraft
are fairly rare. I won't fly it yet with more than about a 10 mph
wind at ground level.
E-flite Taylorcraft In-Flight Video, in Erie,
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