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ElectriFly FlyLite ARF Electric Powered Trainer
by Eric Henderson
ElectriFly’s FlyLite Slow Flyer is a lightweight, electric-powered, expanded polystyrene (EP) construction, Almost-Ready-to-Fly (ARF) Park Flyer trainer airplane. The ARF in the box requires additional equipment to complete the model. You will need a minimum of a 3-channel transmitter/receiver, a brushless motor, an electronic speed controller (ESC), a small, two-cell Lithium Polymer (Li-Poly) battery and two very small servos.
The FlyLite meets all the aircraft requirements of the Academy of Model Aeronautics’ (AMA) Park Pilot Program. The aircraft weighs less than 2 pounds (the Program’s upper weight limit) and has a level top speed under 60 mph (the Program’s upper speed limit). For complete Park Pilot aircraft details, visit ParkPilot.org.
The AMA Park Pilot Program offers non-AMA members the opportunity to become AMA members at a much reduced cost. Park Pilot membership includes a great magazine “Park Pilot”, $500,000 personal liability insurance, $2.5 million liability insurance for the flying field owner (see insurance details) and membership in the world’s largest sport aviation association – the AMA. For complete information and details about Park Pilot membership, just click here.
The box describes the FLYLITE as a lightweight indoor/outdoor model. The key is in the name. It is light in weight and must be flown with that in mind. This airplane is designed to fly well in small outdoor areas or in larger indoor facilities. The FlyLite has an under-cambered wing for extra lift. This is a great feature in a small basic trainer.
The box cover shows that servos, a motor and an ESC are needed to complete the model.
The manual is in well-written English and is easy to follow. The manual’s construction pictures are clear, making it very easy to follow the written instructions.
These photos illustrate the recommended ELECTRIFLY battery, speed controller and Rimfire motor components that were used to complete the FLYLITE. They are:
The review will use the ELECTRIFLY 2S, 300 mAh BP competition series, lightweight Li-Poly battery (pictured on the left). The ELECTRIFLY 8-Amp brushless ESC (center photo) has a built-in Battery Eliminator Circuit (BEC) for receiver and servo power. It is a good match for the motor, receiver and servo loads. Using the ESC to power the on-board radio system saves much weight and improves flying abilities. A Rimfire 250 brushless motor (pictured on the right) will provide plenty of power to fly the FLYLITE. You will not need to go any bigger.
The wing comes in one piece and can almost be used as it comes out of the box. The FLYLITE is a rudder and elevator model so no ailerons are fitted to the wing. This saves weight and uses less battery power during the flights. But it does limit rolling maneuvers somewhat. A center wing reinforcement panel (pictured on the right) is optional and intended for use if strong aerobatics are to be flown. (Ed Note: Can any pilot guarantee that excess elevator input will never be used during the airplane’s entire flying life? Of course not. So, install the brace to be sure.). This piece can be omitted to save weight as I did.
The right side of fuselage and top of wing shows the color scheme and name of the airplane. The general appearance strongly resembles that of a full-size Cessna 206. The left side of fuselage and the bottom of wing are shown on the right. The tail-wheel assembly is pre-fitted and will line up with a slot in the rudder.
The top of stabilizer shows the same colors as the wing. The elevator and rudder horns are pre-fitted. The bottom of stabilizer and vertical fin color schemes are similar to the wing. Both are very white but since the FlyLite will not be wandering far from its pilot, visibility remains excellent. The landing gear package includes the propeller, rubber bands, hook and loop tape, quick connectors, Allen wrench plus self-adhesive wing leading edge and trailing edge protectors.
When you open the box, the first thing you might want to do is charge the Li-Poly battery. It will almost take longer to charge the battery than it will take to build the airplane. This airplane really does not require a lot of assembly.
Using the recommended motor, ESC, battery and receiver system makes it easier to follow the instructions. The choice of motor, ESC and battery size has been done for you. This takes out the guesswork; especially if you are new to electric flying and its power system requirements. Everything is “plug-compatible” and you can be sure that it will all work together. A new 4-channel FASST micro receiver was used in this project but any small and light 3 or more channel receiver can be used.
The construction steps and tips, with clear photographs, are well laid out in the manual. Following them to the letter will yield a great flying, light airplane and makes the building task extremely simple.
In fact, assembling the FLYLITE requires only a small Phillips-head screwdriver.
The main undercarriage was fitted first, so the fuselage could be set down on its wheels. The FLYLITE comes with a pre-bent wire main undercarriage that is held in place by spring-tension/friction after being pushed into a slot already present in the fuselage. The wheels are factory installed. Note: The landing gear came out during a high “G” test maneuver and was subsequently held in place with a couple of spots of hot glue.
The Rimfire brushless motor has three leads that need to be connected to the ESC. It is important to determine the direction of rotation of the propeller before mounting the motor to the firewall. Before installing the propeller, connect the wires and test the rotation direction. When standing behind the motor, the propeller shaft should rotate clockwise. If it does not, exchange two of the wires.
Mark the wires so that you can reconnect them during installation. The ESC is fed in through the wing seat cavity underneath the battery tray area. The wires are fed out the front and then connected to the motor.
Once the wires are pulled back inside the fuselage there is no easy way get at them. To change the connections the motor has to be removed and the wires pulled forward again. The motor is held in place with three screws that fit into pre-drilled holes in the firewall.
The propeller is held on to the prop-driver with an O-ring type rubber band. This has two functions. It keeps the propeller in place and acts as a “give-device”, which absorbs any shock impacts on the blades if the airplane noses over or has a rough landing. It is very difficult to break a propeller with one of these devices fitted.
There is a hatch on top of the fuselage for the flight battery. The hatch is retained by a magnet. Some self-adhesive hook and loop tape was added to the battery to stop its punching out during extreme maneuvers.
The elevator and rudder pushrods are already installed. They are connected to the rudder and elevator horns during assembly. The adjuster screw is left loose at this stage. Pre-fitting of the servo arms and connectors establishes which servo actuates which control surface.
The finished stabilizer-and vertical fin interlock does not require any gluing or screws. The attachment is hidden from the camera.
This strong magnet on the lower end of the vertical fin, and another hidden inside the fuselage, are all that hold the rear assembly together. There were no problems with this assembly experienced during all the flight tests.
For assembly, just slide the stabilizer into place and drop the vertical fin through the stabilizer-slot into a deeper slot in the fuselage below. You will, at this stage, need to engage the elevator and rudder control horns with their respective pushrods as you slide the parts into place.
You also need to slide the tail-wheel steering arm into the rudder at the same time. It sounds difficult, but it is just a matter of doing it all before you slot the vertical fin into its final position. There is no rush, because NO GLUE is required. There is only a magnet to engage when the vertical fin is pushed all of the way in.
The completed stabilizer assembly showing the pushrods connected to the horns. The tail-wheel steering is driven by the rudder.
No wing assembly is really required. You have the option to fit the center panel for extra strength or to add the protective leading and trailing edge self-adhesive strips. This airplane used just the reinforcement strips.
The wing is attached to the fuselage using the supplied rubber bands. The supplied rubber bands are white and look a lot better than the regular brown rubber bands often seen on small airplanes.
The receiver was simply connected to the servos and speed controller throttle lead. It was then no problem to hold this very light component in place with self adhesive hook and loop pads.
Initially, it was not easy to determine the channels or the orientation of the receiver’s servo plugs. Upon closer examination it became obvious that cross-sections of the Futaba servo plugs had been printed onto the tiny receiver. It was not intuitive so extra care is advised. (Perhaps younger eyes would have seen this immediately?)
The receiver is a work of art and only has short antennae. This avoids having any ugly wires hanging out of a nice clean airframe.
You need to switch on the transmitter and plug in the Li-Poly battery to the ESC to power up the receiver. The ESC has a servo lead that is plugged into the throttle channel of the receiver. Be Sure To Have The Throttle Set To The Low or Off Position First.
The servo-type lead from the ESC to the receiver has two functions. First, it supplies approximately 5 Volts to power the receiver and servos through the positive and negative wires. Second, it uses the third wire, known as the signal wire, to communicate throttle stick commands to the receiver.
All of the transmitter trim levers were set to their center or neutral positions. Then, the rudder and elevator control surfaces were aligned to neutral using the screw lock connectors. The control surfaces were checked for direction and a good neutral.
In addition, the rudder stick control was mixed to the aileron stick. This allows either control stick to operate the rudder. What this does is let you taxi with left stick--like a true rudder, and fly with the right stick--like a true aileron. The wisdom behind this action is that you will learn the correct four channel stick inputs to steer and fly four-function aileron. The rudder steering on the ground, and the rolling action of ailerons in the air, may well appear sometime soon in your future. (Ed. Note: An Excellent Tip!)
The baby Li-Poly battery only took 24 minutes to charge, but the whole assembly process took just under 1-1/2 hours. As usual, this time included taking photographs. This is a good looking small airplane that any pilot would be proud to fly.
Posing for the camera, the ElectriFly FlyLite looks the part. The generous dihedral makes the airplane extremely stable in flight and much easier to fly.
The white foam was going to be easy to see in the air.
Here is a close up shot of the primary controls. Would the rudder-only be as good as ailerons?
Four light-colored rubber bands were used to hold on the wing. Any more than that would probably be too much for the wing skin.
The little Rimfire motor, all ready to perform.
Tilted on her side, the FLYLITE shows you what you will see in the air.
OK! Enough talk, breeze or not, we are going flying.
With the Li-Poly battery fully charged it was time to fly. The wind was a constant 8-10 mph during the first flights. This is a little more wind than the FlyLite was designed for. Even worse for a non-aileron equipped aircraft, those 8-10 mph winds were all crosswind.
Up, up and away in very short order off grass. Hold in some up elevator, give a short burst of power and the FlyLite leaves the ground very quickly indeed. Be prepared to release the elevator almost immediately. If you set the elevator and rudder to be straight at the neutral stick positions, you should not need to enter any flight trims.
Holding steady immediately after take-off--no trim required. The dihedral of the wings tends to self-level the airplane if you leave the sticks alone. This makes recovery from “unusual attitudes” (read pilot goof ups) easy: Just release the sticks!
A couple of shots with the wings dipped to show the blue trims on the top surfaces. Maneuvering the FlyLite for photos was easy. This is a gentle airplane to fly.
Seen here is what you will experience when pulling a tight turn. You can bank the lower wing as much as 90 degrees before the elevator cannot pull the nose up in a turn. The dihedral is a good property in a trainer.
The late evening sun clearly shows the under-camber of the wing. The strong light can also show the top trim through the wing. When in doubt, look for the wheels first.
Here is the FlyLite lining up for its first landing after a very successful flight in some fairly challenging wind conditions.
Landings were very easy. Just line up on the landing area and pull back on the power lever. The FLYLITE will settle down very gently. You can perform a very slow, almost stationary landing without experiencing a serious stall. The FlyLite just about lands itself.
The flying characteristics were just great. There is always a moment of trepidation—no matter how many models you will ever test or fly. That moment is gone in a heartbeat with the FLYLITE. The airplane wants to fly. A short burst of power and we were quickly airborne. The rudder was strong and made the airframe do what it was told.
No trim changes were needed. There is a slight climb at full power, straight and level at half power, and a slight dive at low power. Power off just causes the FLYLITE to slow down and start to sink (lose altitude). Loops were easy and well within the realm of this little beauty.
Rolls using the rudder were a surprise. They are quite fast and the rotation was easy to stop. Just add power, give a hint of up elevator and hit the rudder. The roll performance in either direction was the same. Inverted flight, however, was not a good idea. The wing is not intended to fly inverted and it flew as designed.
The electric FlyLite ARF, by definition of its name, is very light. It can also be considered as a first-time airplane and do-it-yourself basic trainer. It has a semi-scale appearance and flies well in calm and light wind conditions. The overall flying characteristics are really great. The small wheels made the airplane a bit hard to taxi on grass, but it leaves the ground so quickly that their size really does not real matter.
Due to the lack of local facilities, no flight tests were possible indoors. Tests were done using cones to simulate the indoor area needed. It became clear that the FLYLITE needs a bit more room than an indoor basketball court, but way less than an indoor soccer field. While it is true that FLYLITE can be flown slowly, it will still need a certain degree of speed to execute the tighter turns needed to fly inside the constraints of a building. Holding the nose up to fly very slowly has the effect of greatly reducing precision of directional control and maneuverability.
There is no doubt that this is an easy airplane to fly and that it performs some pretty good aerobatics for an under-cambered wing. The rudder and elevator controls are effective and give quick and positive primary steering.
The construction should not present any problems to the novice. It is always a good idea to consult with an experienced modeler and ask them to do at least one test flight. Of course, you might have to wait a bit to get the radio back into your hands.
For more information and pricing on this fun, inexpensive (60$) indoor/outdoor airplane, go to: Tower Hobbies.
Excerpt: Ready for some inexpensive, outside-your-house type flying? Try ElectriFly’s FlyLite. The FlyLite can be flown indoor in the larger than a gym venues and can handle moderate winds outdoors as well. This simple to fly Park Pilot type airplane can also be used to self-learn RC flying in a larger outdoor area.
Post date: 2010-05-11 20:17:34
Post date GMT: 2010-05-12 00:17:34
Post modified date: 2010-07-04 22:31:35
Post modified date GMT: 2010-07-05 02:31:35
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