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Balsacraft's Easy Street Kit Review

Paul Oliver

Easy StreetThis review is intended as a personal review by a modeller that may be of interest to fellow modellers, and therefore comments made are the opinions of the reviewer only.


I was first drawn to this aircraft when I first saw pictures of it in the modelling press as it went on sale. I have liked electric aerobatic models that are fairly simple in their requirements i.e. non exotic motors, do not require mega quantities of cells, but have reasonable aerobatic performance, and provide hours of fun. Having had a number of models in this category I had a reasonable background as a basis for comparison. The Easy Street appealed not only for the above, but having built other models kitted by them, I had a fair idea of what to expect. Finally, having seen the model fly at Sandown in 2000 I was reaching for my wallet.


The Kit

So what do you get for your money? Well you get a very good quality kit that is well packaged in a box with a very nice full colour printed box top. When you lift off the box top you are presented with a set of instructions, which include diagrams for the CNC routed parts. There are also several sheets of balsa, a hardware pack, plastic mouldings for the air inlet and outlet, a nicely rolled plan, and a spinner. Personally, I have been impressed with the high standard of kit quality, both in the parts and packaging of a number of Balsacraft's kits, and was not disappointed with this one either. Balsacraft's kits have set standards for others to follow.

I first of all read the instructions, and unrolled the plan to familiarise myself with the construction. The plan is very well drawn, which in conjunction with the instructions makes assembly very easy for someone who has built one or two models previously. In fact it was clear that building was not going to be a long arduous affair that some models of this type have been in the past. The instructions recommend the adhesives to be used, and provided several handy hints for construction i.e. the joining of wing sheeting, servo types, type of electronic speed controllers, etc.

What other items are required to complete the kit, apart from covering material? A three or four channel radio control system with two or three servos (depending on whether Rudder control is required), and an electronic speed controller of 20Amp - 35 Amp rating to suit the motor used. A Speed 600 Motor is the recommended minimum, but a higher performance Speed 600 Race version is also advised. This is powered with an 8.4 Volt or 9.6 Volt nicad (NiCd) or nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) battery pack comprising of sub C size cells, and charger to suit.


Construction

This is fairly straightforward. The instructions supplied are excellent containing photos to aid the key points, coupled with some now defacto CAD drawings to aid the builder. Therefore, I will concentrate upon any areas that may cause a problem, and any personal preferences.

Construction is started with the wing. Having joined the wing sheeting as per the instructions and sanded them smooth, construction commenced in the normal manner using a combination of cyanoacrylate, pva, and epoxy adhesives as recommended. In fact wing assembly is fairly rapid when using cyanoacrylates, and you are soon left with a wing that is fairly complete after only a few hours work. One point to note at this stage was that the instructions advised that there was no need for bracing or bandaging the wing panel join. However, there is an addendum to the kit, which is some glass cloth for the wing join. It's use is recommended in the enclosed instructions if very high performance motors such as brushless types are to be fitted. The wing tips are roughly shaped at this time but not glued permanently, as are the torque rods and trailing edge for the wing root. You may find it necessary to open out the hole slightly in the fuselage to accommodate the bandaged wing when fitting it. If so, be careful don't be too exuberant. If you are careful when applying the bandage in keeping it taught and flat, without using an excess of glue it may not even be necessary.

One comment to note at this stage regarding the torque rods. Check the length of the threaded rod part of the torque rods, against the plan. I found that mine exceeded the height of the fuselage top, which prevented the fit of the canopy! This was easily remedied using a hobby drill with a carborundum slitting disk to cut off the excess. It is easier to do this now than when fitted to the model. I realised this only later. It serves me right for being lulled in to a sense of security and not bothering to check beforehand, though it was no real trouble to remedy.

The fuselage construction is very simple. Liteply fuselage doublers are bonded to the sides, and the formers and some of the bottom sheeting added. The control rod outers and receiver aerial tube are fitted prior to sheeting the top and bottom of the rear half of the fuselage.

The tail surfaces are all sheet and are just shaped as per the plan, with ply bonded to strengthen the balsa wood where the control horns are to be fitted. I did consider using Sellotape Diamond Tape to hinge the rudder and elevators after covering the model, but opted to hinge the surfaces as per the kit.


Covering and Finishing

The model now resembles an aircraft, but needs finishing. This is simply a job of applying some Solarfilm rather than Profilm (which is my preference), only to keep the weight down, and adding some trim of my personal preference. A point to remember. Don't forget to cut out the cooling holes in the fuselage sides and fit the plastic mouldings. After all, the cooling air coming in via the air scoop at the front has got to exit somewhere! If you follow the instructions, they do remind you at the covering stage.

Radio installation is fairly straightforward. In my case I opted to use Supertec Naro Servos for the rudder, elevator, and ailerons, a GWS 8 channel Receiver, and a Diamond Line 30Amp Electronic Speed Controller for an Overlander Hurricane 650 Motor (similar to a Speed 600 but with a longer can to accommodate a cooling fan). It was decided to try these for initial flights. No separate receiver power supply is required, as nearly all speed controllers these days have Battery Eliminator Circuits (BEC's) fitted, thus making your receiver pack redundant. Well, you can always build another model for your receiver pack. That's my normal excuse.

For some years now I have used Powerpole connectors for my battery pack connections, and have found that not only are they reliable, but handle the current demand far better than the standard buggy type connectors. You can always use 4mm gold plated connectors, which are also extremely good, and are also very popular. Incidentally, I do use these for connection between my speed controller and motor, making motor or speed controller swaps between models very easy.

Finally, I checked the Centre of Gravity which even with the seven cell pack of 1900SCR's pushed all the way back still left the model slightly nose heavy on account of the extra weight of the Hurricane 650 motor, but I elected to try the model as it was. The controls were double checked and the rates set up for the throws recommended, and it was off to the flying field to see if it would fly.


Flying

Well the model looks like it should fly well, and be very aerobatic. I guess there is only one way to find this out and that is to fly it! Having charged a couple of 8.4V Sanyo SCR packs it was time to fit one, and having performed all the pre flight checks commit the Easy Street to the air.

From launch the model accelerated away with no trouble, the ailerons were extremely responsive (but I was flying this without any exponential) with nice fast axial rolls. The elevator response was sluggish due to the forward C of G, which made loops almost impossible in this configuration. However, no trim adjustment was necessary, and the model had a fair turn of speed, in fact it was comfortable to fly on half throttle and still be fast. The model looks very good in the air, and is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I spent five minutes flying around and experimenting before electing to land with plenty of power in hand in case of any aborts. I need not have worried though. The glide was fairly fast and flat, but the landing was uneventful on our fairly flat patch. On retrieval I noticed that the airscoop/battery access hatch, was dinged slightly by it's contact with hard terra firma (more about this later).

Before the next flight, fellow club member Gary Johnson turned up with his Easy Street to fly as comparison. The model is fitted with the higher performance items outlined in the instructions - Speed 600 Race Motor (Graupner Part No. 6312), powered by eight 1700SCR cells. From launch this model accelerates very rapidly, and is pretty fast. There is power to climb vertically quite happily. Loops, rolls, bunts, etc are all performed with ease. Again this model can be flown quite happily on less than half throttle, and turns in good duration.

Other flights followed with my model, using exponential which helps smooth out the flying, and the addition of some weight to the tail to balance the model on the C of G has improved the performance and loops are now easily achieved. Both models have been flown with Sanyo 2400 mAh, eight cell packs for increased duration. Highly recommended!

The performance with the higher specification set up is enough to satisfy the most ardent i.c. powered flier - but without the noise. The only criticism is the vulnerability the model underside has to ding damage caused when landing owing to the soft nature of the wood. With hindsight, I would recommend that the airscoop/battery hatch and the underside of the fuselage certainly up to the trailing edge of the wing at the very least, is coated in thin grade cyanoacrylate to toughen up the surface.


Summary

Easy StreetAs you can already tell, I liked the model very much. The kit is reasonably priced, and the cost of the additional items is very reasonable. The kit builds into a very attractive model that performs as well as it looks. In terms of enjoyment, I think this model will provide many hours of flying pleasure, and makes for a useful 'environmentally friendly' second model to take to the field if you are a regular i.c. power flier, and want to try electric. This is a great model for an experienced flier that may want to get into electric flight, or wants to try something different. The time from kit to flying is quite short, particularly if cyanoacrylates are used in the building process.

As said earlier, I have built a number of similar models. This is the latest design in this sort of niche in electric flight, and if not in all cases superior, it is easily the equal to its rivals/predecessors. This aircraft will help attract more people into electric flight, from i.c. because of the cost, ease of build, flying performance, and scope of development.

Likes:
  • Price of the kit.
  • Quality of the kit, in all areas.
  • The instructions which for anyone just entering electric flight is a great source of help.
  • Flying performance is great. I would like to see one of these fitted with a brushless motor.
Dislikes:
  • Remember to check the length of the threaded part of the aileron torque rods.
  • Poor resistance to dings when landing to the underside of the fuselage through the soft grade of the balsa used. Easily overcome though.

As for me, I'm going to up rate the motor and number of cells now to the high performance specified in the instructions to have some real fun. I may well let you know my findings. I don't think you can go wrong with this model. I know of at least three people that as a result of seeing Gary's and my models fly, have either gone out and bought one, or are seeking to buy one.

As a postscript, with the demise of Balsacraft International, the future supply of Easy Streets is not certain. I have heard rumours that the kits may be available again when an overseas manufacturer has been sourced by Ripmax. I don't know how true this rumour is. In the meantime I would recommend buying one before supplies are exhausted.

Paul Oliver