Flyzone’s RTF Switch Trainer EP
By: Ralph Squillace
Start out with a high-wing trainer and advance to a forgiving low-wing, aerobatic sport model airplane. That is the way the great majority of model pilots start their careers. That has always involved building two airplanes which can many times slow the learning process. The transition may also posse problems as flight performance may be very much different using two vastly different airframes.
FlyZone has just made this simpler. A new RC pilot can still start with a high-wing basic trainer and then switch to a low wing airplane but without buying two separate airplanes. Flyzone introduces a truly innovative model which advances with a pilot’s skills without delays and without buying extra equipment or aircraft.
You have to pity the poor trainer. Once a pilot hones his or her skills, trainers are all too often stripped of their vital internals and powerplants then put out to pasture on a garage shelf. That’s a pretty substantial investment to simply set aside and forget. It would seem that the design team at Hobbico thought much the same thing when they placed pen to paper (or mouse to CAD-CAM computer as the case may be) to come up with a unique, an even revolutionary new product.
Meet the new Flyzone Switch Trainer EP RTF (Ready To Fly), the first trainer which easily and quickly converts from a high-wing basic trainer to an aerobatic low-wing sport plane with nothing more than a change of wing location, a revised canopy and relocated control surface pushrods. Everything, including four AA-cell batteries for the transmitter, comes in one box. You literally need to buy nothing else unless you’d like to have an extra flight battery or two on hand.
Included is a Tactic 2.4 GHz full-range, 4-channel radio system with digital trims and an innovative wireless trainer system, standard three-wire Tactic analog micro servos, SuperTigre 1250Kv brushless motor, 30-amp speed control and 1800mAh three-cell lithium-polymer battery and Aerocell extruded polypropylene foam construction. No proprietary electronics, no brittle “ice chest” expanded polystyrene foam. The pre-installed, discrete, universal electronics are Hobbico’s own brands and the Aerocell foam can be repaired with ordinary epoxy or medium-viscosity, foam-safe CAA. In the case of major airframe damage, affordable replacement parts are available from any Hobbico dealer.
Flyzone is so confident that new pilots will learn to fly with the USA-designed Switch that they back it with their Flyzone Success Guarantee: You’ll successfully learn to fly the Switch in the high-wing configuration under the supervision of an AMA-certified instructor. If not, return the Switch to Hobbico who will replace it with another Flyzone trainer of equal value. Even if you were to experience a serious crash during the training period, simply contact Hobbico for a replacement model. Since this airplane is ready to fly with just a few simple steps, all that’s keeping you from those first thrilling moments in the air is getting the battery charged and mere minutes of final assembly with little more than a couple of Phillips screwdrivers and a slotted screwdriver.
After you open the box and examine the contents, you’ll begin with the assembly and installation of the landing gear. The wheels come with pre-installed stub axles which in turn bolt to each landing gear strut. The screws come packaged in a clear plastic envelope but in this case, they’re further packed in a waxy substance preservative or perhaps thread locking compound.
A hex head fitting on each stub axle allows the axle to be retained by needle-nose pliers while 2 x 12 mm machine screws are used to retain each stub axle as well as the wheel pants. Despite the coating, you would do well to use a dab of blue thread locking compound to insure that these rather small screws don’t back out during use.
A 2.5 x 6 mm self-tapping screw is used on each of the wheel pants to further secure them to the struts via a plywood panel glued to the inside of the pants. Attach each assembled strut to the fuselage, secure them with four 3 x 8 mm machine screws and congratulate yourself; you’ve just completed the most involved assembly steps.
Installation of the horizontal stabilizer is next; set aside the tools because you won’t need them right away. A carbon fiber spar strengthens the stabilizer/elevator halves and powerful rare earth magnets help hold each half in place. Yes, you read that right: The stabilizer holds together with magnets and a “tight” (interference) fit into each half’s receptacle.
Completing the tail section is as simple as sliding the carbon fiber spar through the right stabilizer half and then sliding the spar through the fuselage. Lock the stabilizer half via the magnets. Slide the left half in place, making sure that the elevator joiner fits into the tube on the right half. The pre-installed elevator pushrod clevis then slides over the elevator pushrod.
Now you can reach for a small Phillips screwdriver; snug the screw without overdoing it. Once you do, you’ve completed the tail section. The clevises themselves are composite plastic and similar to those found in other, more advanced Hobbico models. They’re identical to the clevises on my ElectriFly Yak-54 EP.
I did run into a slight problem here: The screw simply spun in place and didn’t want to tighten. Remembering that the clevises on the Yak-54 had a slightly smaller hole on one side which allowed the screw to engage properly, I thought flipping the clevis upside down and reinserting the screw from the other side might solve the problem. Removing the factory-installed clevis proved to be impossible without destroying it; unlike the replacement clevises which are packaged with the model, the factory-installed part was retained by a one-piece, one-way tab. The replacement clevis had the same problem regardless of which hole I used. Rather than waste another clevis, I went through my parts bin for a slightly larger screw. Problem solved.
Since the Flyzone Switch is aimed at new flyers, the manual instructs you to set it up in the high-wing configuration for first flights. Like the horizontal stabilizer, the wing halves are held with a combination of rare earth magnets and interference fit. Slide the carbon fiber spar through the high-wing canopy, slide a wing half over the spar, feed the aileron servo lead through the holes atop the hatch and press the joiner through the wing until the magnet at the end of the rod clicks against the magnet inside the wing. Do the same with the other half and attach the enclosed Y-harness to each servo.
You may have to do a bit of work to get the rear alignment pins to line up. A screwdriver may be used to on the outside of the alignment pin in order to move it ever so slightly rearward, allowing you to fully install the wing half to the canopy. Make sure that the servo leads on each half are threaded through their holes in the canopy and aren’t pinched between each wing half and the canopy and make sure that the half you’ve already installed doesn’t pop out when you try and slide the other half in place. It can be frustrating having to reinsert the guide pin. When your wing is assembled and you’re ready to fly, plug the Y-harness into channel 1 of the receiver.
For those experienced pilots looking for a fun sport plane straight out of the box, the low-wing installation first requires that you remove each of the servo arms and relocate the pushrods to their outside holes for additional control surface movement.
A radio with dual control rates, or at least adjustable servo throw end points, would simplify things greatly, but since the Tactic TTX404 transmitter has neither, mechanically lengthening the controls in this manner is the only option. Analog end point adjustment would actually be out of the question on the TTX404 with its digital trims. The servo leads are fed through rectangular openings in either side of the fuselage and the wing halves are otherwise installed in the same manner. Connect the Y-harness to each servo, plug the harness into channel 1 and you’re set.
I would suggest purchasing a standard 6″ servo extension to provide a little “spacing” when removing and installing the high wing setup with each battery change. Insert the extension end into the receiver port and then the “Y” harness into the extension. During wing removal, disconnect at the extension/”Y” harness connection. This also saves the pins on the receiver from excess wear and tear with each insertion and removal of the Y-harness when the model isn’t in use. Once you progress to the low-wing configuration, you can eliminate the extension since you won’t need to remove the harness.
The elevator and rudder servos are factory installed as are their pushrods. The rudder control rod is connected but you must connect the elevator pushrod once the stabilizer is installed. Use the outside control horn hole for the basic trainer version. If assembling the low wing airplane, you can connect the clevis to one of the lower holes for more control response. The 6-channel, 2.4 GHz receiver is also factory mounted.
The prop and spinner are next. They and their attaching parts come pre-assembled in the order they’ll need to go onto the motor shaft. If you’d like to sneak a peek at the SuperTigre outrunner before you proceed, it’s as easy as pulling off the magnetically retained cowl. The motor is mounted to a laser-cut plywood mount with a degree or two of right offset.
Having built-in right engine thrust is a common practice on full-scale single-engine aircraft as well as on models to compensate for the torque of the motor and the resulting pull to the left if the motor were mounted straight. Disassemble the spinner, attach the prop adapter to the motor shaft with the enclosed Allen wrench followed by the backing plate, prop, thrust washers, retaining nut and spinner cone. Another newer user note: When you install the propeller, make sure the numbers around the shaft mounting hole face forward. That’s standard operating procedure for any model with a front-mounted propeller.
The Switch airframe is now complete. But the electrical tasks still have to be completed. First install the four enclosed AA-cell alkaline batteries in the transmitter and then charge the included SuperTigre Li-poly battery with the enclosed charger. Many ARF and RTF models provide a DC powered only charger and then charge extra for the convenience of an AC adapter.
Not so the Switch. You can use the included charger using the DC “cigarette” lighter plug or the AC adapter. A real plus is that the charger isn’t set for a specific output. It can be used with any three-cell lithium-polymer battery of 1250 – 2100mAh capacity with a common “XH” balancing plug. That’s according to the instruction sheet. The sticker on the bottom of the unit says it will charge packs as low as 800mAh.
Speaking of charging batteries, the transmitter has a standard Futaba charging jack located beneath a label on the lower right side. Should you wish to use rechargeable nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) or Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) AA batteries; the transmitter will gladly use them. Any hobby dealer which stocks Futaba products can get the proper charger for you.
Install the enclosed adhesive hook-and-loop strip on the underside of the charged battery. This strip mates to the opposite strip already mounted in the fuselage. Check that all control surfaces are in the neutral position when all the transmitter trims are centered. Insure that the control surfaces move the recommended distances and that they move in the correct directions. With the propeller removed, check the throttle operation.
Bolt down the wing (or canopy if you’re in low-wing configuration) with the enclosed nylon bolt. Snug it down with a slotted screwdriver and double-check the airplane’s center of gravity with the flight battery installed (not connected since the propeller and spinner have to be installed for the CG check).
I was a bit concerned at the lack of a battery retaining strap. The battery is held in place solely by the hook-and-loop fastener system. But subsequent test flights showed the setup to work well. The radio system worked right off the bat without the need to bind the receiver to the transmitter as it was bound at the factory. All the controls responded properly but check yours anyway. The servos are noisy and a bit on the slow side, but they work well for an application like this which requires forgiving control input.
The Switch should balance in either configuration between 2 7/16″ and 3 1/2″ (62 – 89 mm) behind the leading edge of the wing next to the fuselage or at about 25% of the way back at about the point where the airfoil tapers off. Once you do an initial radio range check, making sure the Switch responds on the ground from a distance of 100 feet, you’re good to go.
Flying The Switch
Are you ready for some flying fun? Let’s get this bird in the air!
Longtime readers of Model Aviation may recall its ongoing coverage of the annual “Best of the West Jet Rally” at the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club southeast of Palm Springs, California. Needless to say, the Switch is no turbine or electric ducted fan, but I’m a member of the club and it was worth the drive from my home in the nearby Mojave Desert to get some photos of the model with the San Jacinto Mountains as a backdrop.
After the ground photo shoot with the wings in both configurations, I reattached the high-wing canopy, checked the controls and CG and taxied the Switch out to the club’s 600′ runway to first check the ground handling; I was the only pilot at the field that day, so I didn’t have to worry about others taking off or landing.
There isn’t a whole lot of tail wheel movement available; the rudder is set to move only 3/4 of an inch in either direction in the high-wing configuration, That translates to maybe half of that distance at the tail wheel. It steers smoothly, but takeoff needs all the rudder you can give it on pavement.
If you’ll be flying from grass, I discovered later that it tracks far better on grass. The tail felt a bit light, but I wasn’t worried about the Switch being nose-heavy since Hobbico’s own online promotional video shows the same tendency. Punching the throttle got the tail really loose. The Switch needed a lot of yaw correction with the rudder before the tail lifted off and the model was airborne, all within about ten feet of runway. There is sure plenty of power available for takeoff.
Ah, but once it rolled out and headed toward the desert sky, the Switch started showing its pedigree. At full throttle, the climb was smooth and fast; much faster than I expected. My own estimate was somewhere in the 40 to 45 MPH range, or roughly 65 – 70 km/h. As I’d find out later, my guess was pretty close to the money according to Ken Young, an RCGroups.com contact of mine who sells electric power systems. I asked him later that day via e-mail to crunch the numbers for me. He assumed 78% motor efficiency, 10.8 volts with the battery under load and motor speed of 10,530 RPM with the stock propeller. Pitch speed less airframe drag: 49.86 miles per hour, or 80.24 km/h.
But getting back to the actual first test flight, I throttled down to about half power as I brought the Switch around for a few basic maneuvers around the pattern. I was immediately at home with the airplane. The high-wing setup translated into smooth, predictable control.
However, I soon discovered that it likes a bit of rudder in turns. The Switch steers just fine using ailerons only plus a bit of the obligatory up elevator. But the tail exhibits quite a bit of opposite yaw at the lower speeds one would expect to be flying a trainer. (Ed. Note: This is called Adverse Yaw and is a function of most basic trainers that use flat-bottom or semi-symmetrical airfoils.) This is actually a good thing as it will teach new pilots how to steer with both sticks.
The Hobbico demonstration video shows large, easy loops but no rolling. I wasn’t sure it would roll, but roll it did, surprisingly well, even if somewhat slowly due to the limited aileron travel. The airplane just needed plenty of airspeed to pull it off. Loops needed a lot of airspeed as well so give yourself a lot of room since the half-inch of elevator throw necessitates a large loop.
Budding pilots certainly won’t put their Switches through these sorts of maneuvers right away, but it was interesting to see what it might do should a new pilot wish to “bang the sticks” a bit during the instructional phase. After about five minutes of fun, I set up for a landing.
Landing is simplicity itself; it will come in beautifully under a dead stick landing and flare out for some of the most gorgeous three-pointers you’ll ever see. There’s a very slight tendency for the Switch to bounce just a bit on touchdown; again, the video pretty much matched my experience.
Back to the pits for a change of battery pack, wing configuration and control surface movements (oh, how I longed for a radio with dual rates) and it was back to the runway. This time, I rolled into the throttle a bit more carefully to avoid wagging the tail. Once the tail lifted off, up came the throttle and off zoomed the Switch.
It was a plane transformed. If anything, it actually felt better in the new configuration since it was so much more responsive. The only thing that hadn’t changed was the top speed. Rolls were smooth, medium-fast and straight, loops were as tight or as loose as I wanted them to be at any speed.
Basic Immelmann turns, chandelles and Cuban Eights came off without a hitch and inverted flight, while easy, needed more down elevator than I normally like (Ed. Note: The usual case for a semi-symmetrical airfoil airplane). The Switch will even knife edge to some degree, but there simply isn’t enough rudder area to pull it off well. Landings were unaffected. Once more, the Switch flared out for a perfect, dead-stick three-pointer with only a slight bounce on the mains.
Only one question remained: How would a new pilot do under the supervision of an instructor?
I arranged to meet photographer, videographer and part-time local radio personality Ken Alan at Southwest Community Church in nearby Palm Desert for action shots and video of the Switch in both wing setups. The church is kind enough to set aside their grassy parade area and parking overflow lot for use by electric flyers on Saturday mornings; the weather simply could not have been better for the occasion. I’d also arranged for my father to meet me there.
The elder Ralph Squillace had never operated a radio control model before save for a Micro Mosquito indoor coaxial helicopter. I’d put him on my RealFlight simulator a couple of times, so he had a basic idea of how to proceed.
A great feature of the Tactic radio system is that a second, “buddy box”, transmitter can be bound to the receiver in a secondary roll. Binding the second Tactic TTX404 transmitter provided for the occasion to the transmitter packaged with the Switch starts by turning on the student transmitter and placing it near the master transmitter.
Hold the trainer switch on the master while turning it on; three blinks of its LED signify the two are tied together. No clumsy cord! A quick flip of the master trainer switch and a wiggle of the sticks verified the two units were connected. (But I’d neglected to do one glaringly important step as we’ll see.)
After a brief “ground school” class, Dad and I were ready for his first lesson. We would keep it simple with left turns around the pattern using aileron and elevator only and with throttle as needed and of course, sufficient altitude. I told Dad that he would have the model after a countdown from three to one…3…2…1…oops!
No crash, but darn close. The Switch veered hard right and down. A second attempt yielded the same result. I quickly landed the airplane and recruited some help from fellow flyer Doug Dean.
What we’d found was entirely my fault:
I’d tested the system on the bench the night before, matching the servo reversing switches and digital trims on the student transmitter with the master. Trouble was, I’d installed the receiver provided with the student transmitter in another plane of mine the night before and I hadn’t matched the servo reversing switches and trims back to those of the Switch!
Lesson to new flyers: Never take your radio settings for granted, even when you’ve become a seasoned pilot. Had this happened on the master transmitter, I would have gone home with large chunks of strangely shaped Aerocell instead of a model airplane.
Doug took the Switch back up via the student transmitter once we’d matched the reversing switches, got it trimmed out, landed it and handed the transmitter back to Dad. I took off, flew the Switch back into the pattern and kicked the control back to Dad during the left-right flyby.
Now that he had proper control; he actually let out a laugh of joy when he found himself flying a sophisticated four-channel R/C model plane for the first time. On the simulator, he’d exhibited a typical new flyer tendency to both over-control the sticks and to hold the ailerons over too far and too long.
He did the same thing here, with the Switch naturally wanting to roll hard left and down. Regaining control, I got it back into a proper attitude and tried again. After a few tries, Dad was actually starting to get the hang of it and loved every minute. Our moments of victory were short-lived due to a dying battery. So in came the Switch for its final touchdown of the day.
Ken, Doug and I were all smiling, but none so broadly as Dad. I asked him if he thought that he might learn to fly on the Switch and he said that he could. He’s looking forward to his next lesson!
The Flyzone Switch Trainer RTF may well among the most significant innovations in radio controlled model aviation in years. You literally get two unique model planes for the price of one.
Beginning pilots should have no problem learning to fly with the aid of an instructor. Intermediate and even advanced pilots will enjoy the Switch as a gentle small-field or exciting sport airplane and it will look good doing so in either setup.
The Switch comes with name-brand electronics installed and ready to hit the skies. Final assembly takes literally minutes to accomplish and the whole thing is backed by Hobbico’s generous customer service and success guarantee.
While it certainly isn’t the most inexpensive airplane in its class, it isn’t a budget-buster either. Even with a second transmitter and battery, you’re still well under the $500 mark with a model that will grow as your skills do and will almost certainly remain a favorite for years to follow as you progress to other aircraft.
If you’ll pardon the cliché`: Make the Switch!
(Ralph Squillace is the weekday afternoon drive personality on contemporary country music radio station KPLM-FM, Palm Springs, California. He is a frequent contributor to RCGroups.com. This is his first piece for Sport Aviator.)
For more information on this unique airplane, go to: www.flyzoneplanes.com/airplanes/hcaa2530/index.html
|Additional Aircraft Specifications
Two aircraft for the price of one.
Grows right along with the pilot No building, magnetic attachments work great.
Flies great in either configuration. Full-range 2.4 GHz radio and receiver.
Readily available, inexpensive parts.
Short URL: http://masportaviator.com/?p=2087