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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Extreme Flight 48" Laser EXP__LIVE

This is a (EDIT: This article is now finished.) live, in-progress report. Info and pics, video and such will be posted as we go.

I've wanted a laser in  the worst way for about 30 years. I quit flying in 1988 because I couldn't get a decent one. The only good Laser available at the time was the Bob Godfrey 1/4 scale, but the bare, uncoverered airframe was about $1400. The 0.40 nitro sized MK Models kit came out weighing about 6.5 pounds, so that was no good either.

I wanted a Laser real bad, but since there wasn't a suitable one, I was willing to settle for any scale aerobatic plane. Unfortunately, there were not any good ones back then. I tried Caps and Zlins but they sucked. I even tried a Diablo, which looked nice, but it was one of the early ARFs and it weighed a ton. The same company later came out with a Laser, but it was an overweight pig too and I did not get one.

The Great Planes Cap was especially bad. I considered a Dalotel, but those were so stinking ugly I just couldn't do it. Eventually I ran out of choices.

After years of pattern and pylon, I was done with that but didn't want to go back to flying boring sport planes......... so I quit. I sold my stuff and went back to work as a divemaster, which is not a bad job in Florida.

Eventually I got back into flying again and really liked the electric 3D style planes. The E Flite Edge sort of looked like a Laser, so I went through a few of those and snapped them all into the ground. Utterly horrible.

I bought one of the Goldberg Lasers, but when I got it home I found that the only way to build it with anything bigger than a 1300 mah pack was to actually build the battery into the plane permanently, so I got rid of that one quickly.

I went through a secession of different planes and some were good, some not so much. I have basically spent the last five years looking for something to satisfy my craving for a Laser.

While it is not a Laser, I was finally satisfied when I got my first MXS. It was cool enough looking and awesome enough flying that I sort of forgot about wanting a Laser until I heard there was an EXP version in the works.

If you had asked me five years ago what my RC dreams were, I would have told you that I wanted to wear the Extreme Flight logo on my planes, and on my back, and to fly a Laser. Today it all comes true for me.


As of this writing, it's 7pm on Friday and UPS just rolled up with my Laser.  I am so thrilled to get starting on this plane that I will be running a live build log. I can come back later, clean it all up make it look like a real article later, but for now I just want to get the pictures posted and give folks a first view of this awesome new plane.

I got my Laser a couple of days ahead of time, and as of right now there is no build manual for the plane. That is in progress, but Chris told me to just build it like it's an Extra, and that's the plan. I have built so many EXPs now that I think this one will probably go together instinctively.

Opening the box
My Laser came packaged nicely in a typically beautiful Extreme Flight box. Like always, 99% of everything you need outside of the power and radio systems is here. The hardware package is the same top notch stuff that comes in the other EXPs.

Of course, the difference is the Laser itself and it looks super bad ass.

Cool New Wing Mountings
Here you can see how the wing mounts differently. On the Laser the wing actually countersinks into the fuselage about 1/8 or so, and the wing is retained by vertical bolts inside the radio compartment. You will need an allen driver to install/remove the wing, but it is a straight down shot and you aren't having to twist the bolt inside a tiny little space like on other planes. Wing on/off is greatly simplified like this.

Here you can see the tab sticking out of the root. This slides into the fuselage as shown below and is secured but a 3mm bolt.

New Motor box
Here's the new style motor box. As you can see, the sides are angled more to stiffen the whole unit. Gone are the carbon rods and G10 reinforcement seen on other EXPs, and instead the motor box side formers extend further back past the first former. Because the sides are angled more, they don't get in the way of easy battery change out.

 There is more plywood, especially near the front where the shock loads and torque are the greatest. This box is very stiff.

Installing the tail
This is always the absolute most terrifying part of the build for me. I never trust my ability to get it straight, but I actually do a reasonable job. I run a long straight pin through the part of rudder post that you later cut out, and straight into the back of the stab. This keeps it from moving side to side when moving it to get it squared up with the wing. The pin in the front also locks the squaring measurement up, and then I can measure it over and over until I am blue in the face. Then I glue it in.

The radio layout is a little different on the Laser. I was not sure where to put the receiver, but I wanted to keep it away from the battery, and the antennae away from the carbon wing tube,so I just dropped it down low.

In the picture below, you get a good view of the allen bolts that secure the wings. As you can see, those are super easy to get to. With an allen driver you can twist those bolts right out instead of struggling with them. This might seem a minor annoyance, that is, unless you have arthritis in your hands, which happens to a lot of older modellers. Like me, that is. Then you can appreciate hot easy this system makes things.

Here's where my battery ended up. I just put it where it looked right and her CG is smack on the middle of the tube, which is pretty close to perfect. on these planes. Of course, we won't know for sure until we fly, which will hopefully be tomorrow.

Control Set Up
For this project Hi Tec was kind enough to send me a set of HS5065MG digital servos. These things are awesome. They absolutely scream. The things are just wicked fast and they seem to have a bit more torque than the HS65MG. The nice thing is they are built on the same case as the HS65MG, so they drop right into the existing servo cut outs with no fuss.

The 5065MGs performed beautifully. They delivered blinding speed and  excellent centering. Because the standard HS65MG is so good on 6 volts, I was not expecting the HS5065MGs to stall or blow back, and they didn't. From what I can see in six flights, the big difference is that they are very smoothly responding servos, and that might be their advantage. So far, I am really, really pleased with them.
Ailerons are set up just like any of the other EXPs with short, direct linkages.

I may have rudder and elevator servo placement wrong because I did not have a manual. Unlike other EXPs, the servo openings were not cut out, but there are two on each side. I didn't know which servo went on which side in which hole, so I just made up the push rods and guessed where to put the servos. It worked out just right.

I am using the long G10 arms that come with the kit for both the rudder and elevator.  You can also see here that the Laser continues the use of Extreme Flight's most excellent tail wheel unit. In fact, all the hardware is the same as on other EXPs, with one small change we will get into later.

I may jettison the long arm for the rudder and go with a standard arm because I had to turn my end points down to 100%. I would like them up around 140-150%, and I think I can get that with a shorter arm.

Using the G10 arm that comes with the kit, I am getting right at 75 degrees of elevator travel. If I want more I will got with an HS5065MG servo because I can get the long Dubro arm for that and it will bump me up to 88 degrees. I'm going to fly it like this for awhile simply because this is the standard set up which has been flying so well and no one who has flown it complained about lack of elevator authority.

A nice touch is the Laser comes with a set of neat thumbscrews for attaching/removing the SFGs without tools. I am sort of half torn about using them on a 48" that I will probably almost never take the SFGs off of, or saving them for my 60" Extra, which gets the SFGs installed/removed every time I transport it. In the end I figured I'de leave them on at least long enough to show them off.

For now I want the covering on the model to settle a little bit before I put the decals on. That, and I want to take my time cutting it all out and getting it perfect. I might just get B and E Graphix to make up a package for me. Either way, I am going to fly it like this for a few days. It's a little bare, but it will be worth it to take my time and make it look perfect.

Right now, though, I just want to fly it.

Live Update 5/26/12

My club is mostly nitro scale planes and helicopters, and most of them could care less about a 3D electric plane. One looks pretty much the same as any other to those guys. Surprisingly the Laser drew a large crowd all day. Everyone there stopped by at least once or twice to give it a hard look, and everyone stopped what they were doing whenever I flew it.

A good way to assure you will have nice, high winds to fly in is to take a brand new type of plane to the field. I hung out at the field and waited as long as I could stand it, but it was a case of fly in the high wind or wait for another day. We fly in high wind all the time, but I was hoping for better considering I've been waiting 30 years for this plane. Finally I couldn't stand it any more and had to just fly the thing.

I flew the Laser straight out to check the trims, and because I had missed on the GC a little, it took two notches of trim. In later flights I moved the battery back and the trim came out. Once I had rolled the plane, threw it into a wall and snapped it, I knew exactly what I had .... a true EXP .... and went straight into flying it really hard right on the deck, simply because I was so comfortable with it instantly.

My bud Ken Elder was kind enough to spot for me, and he reminded me several times that this was a trim flight on a brand new, completely different airplane. A lot of my friends commented that I was flying it too bravely too quickly, but it didn't feel that way at all.

Five packs later I was extremely satisfied with how the day had gone. I had not made a single change to the plane except move the battery all the way back, which was perfect, and after that my trims were perfectly centered. All my throws were right and I did not have to add any mixes, so how can you ask for anything better than that? In the end, the biggest error of the entire project was that I started off with my battery 1/2 too far forward.

The Laser is very different and has it's own characteristics, but it is so solid I loved it right away. It is a lot like the Extra in it's precision, and a lot like the MSX with it's tumbling ability and pitch authority. I will probably put an HS5065 on the elevator so I can bump the throw up to 88 degree using the long heavy duty Dubro arm.

One thing that was a bit shocking was how the Laser transitions from a blender right into a KE spin. If you manage the energy just right and hit the timing, it throws the ass over the nose so violently and quickly that it's a bit scary. As far as a conventional KE spin, the Laser does those really well too, and it is one of those moves where it is virtually indistinguishable from the Extra EXP.

Harrier is real nice and the plane has no bad habits. Some of the build is a little different, but it flies very, very much like an EXP. Very. From what I can tell so far flying it in 15 mph winds, it is a little bit of Extra, and a little bit of MXS, plus a little bit of it's own.

The important thing is that I loved it right away, and even though I was so nervous flying the plane I have dreamed about for 30 years, I was completely comfortable and knew what to expect from about 15 seconds into the maiden.
But remember, it's an EXP and it flies very much like an EXP.