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Peter Nicholson is the man behind the Model Designs range of electric aircraft kitted by Balsacraft International. Peter has in recent years become a prominent name in the world of electric flight for designing a number of scale electric model aircraft that were fairly inexpensive in terms of cost to build, and fly. His models all have good flying characteristics and have been well finished and pleasing to the eye. The aircraft are also fairly easy to assemble making use of CNC routed parts.
When these aircraft were first available several years ago, you could get a plan pack. It was only a matter of time before someone pursued kitting these models, which is what happened for 1999. The range has since then been expanded such that it now covers the Hawker Hurricane, Hawker Sea Fury, Grumman Bearcat, Bristol Blenheim, Focke Wulf 190A, and Supermarine Spitfire MkIX. All of these models are designed to use as a minimum, standard Speed 600 motors, and 7 cell Sub-C Nicad, or Nickel Metal Hydride battery packs with 2 or 3 mini or micro servos. The design also caters for 8 cell packs and hotter 600 size motors, for which there is an impressive increase in performance. Also with kitting these aircraft, has come the option of i.c. power, using .12-.17 size engines.
Having seen these models fly at various electric flight events, I wanted one of these kits for myself. Having always had a soft spot for the Hurricane, I opted for this model.
So what do you get for your money? Well you get a very good quality kit that is well packaged in 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 that are sealed in polythene bags to ensure no parts are lost. There are also several sheets of balsa, a hardware pack, plastic mouldings for spinner, canopy AND pilot, and a nicely rolled plan. Personally, I felt this was the best packaged, and presented kit I had ever come across, and clearly sets the standard for kits of this type. I was fairly chomping at the bit to get started.
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 would make assembly very easy for someone who has built one or two models previously. The instructions recommend the adhesives to be used, and provided several handy hints for construction i.e. the joining of wing sheeting, servo types, 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, with an 8.4 or 9.6 Volt nicad (NiCd) or nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) battery pack comprising of sub C size cells, and charger to suit. There is also an option to build the model with i.c. power. In which case a .12-.17 size engine is needed and a fuel tank, plus additional servo for throttle control.
This is fairly straightforward, as the instructions supplied are very good, with some excellent assembly drawings to aid the builder. Therefore, I will concentrate upon any areas that may cause a problem, and any personal preferences. Although the instructions and the overall design is very sound.
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 looks like a Hurricane wing. One point to note at this stage is DO cut out the holes in the bottom skin for finger holds to aid hand launching. While it is optional, it does make launching easier.
The fuselage construction is what really makes the Model Designs models so good in terms of ease of construction, lightness, and strength. A double box like structure encompasing several formers, using Liteply is the basis for the fuselage. One box is to house the motor, and servos, while the other is for the battery pack. This structure can be dry assembled and then glued with cyanoacrylate. This done the longerons and remaining formers are added, and the fuselage sheeted, along with the snake outers for the controls and receiver aerial. It is then just a case of spending some time with a balsa plane and glasspaper, shaping up the fuselage. The tail surfaces are all sheet and are just shaped as per the plan.
The model now resembles a Hurricane, but needs finishing. The instructions are very good and recommend ways of finishing the model, including how to simulate the fuselage stringers and ribs of the full size. I have to admit that at this stage I departed from the recommended course and followed the method described below.
Having applied two coats of Sanding Sealer - rubbing down in between coats, I proceeded to mark out the panel lines on the fuselage and the wing. I opted to model it on a Mk1 that had metal covered wings rather than the earlier production aircraft, which had conventional rib and fabric covered wings (as replicated in the kit's finishing). Then I followed the instructions for replicating the ribs on the tail surfaces and ailerons, and fuselage stringers, with the exception, that instead of using 1.5mm wide strips of masking tape, I used some graphic artist's tape of the same width. All of this took me about two hours work.
The model was now ready to be covered in tissue. I used 5 Star Products, Starspan lightweight tissue, as this has excellent properties and is light. This was applied using dope on to the model. When dry a coat of sanding sealer was applied. The model was then given a light rubbing using 600 grit wet or dry paper, used wet. A final coat of dope was applied, and after a final rubbing using 1000 grit wet or dry paper, the model was ready for painting.
A quick all over spray using grey cellulose primer, was followed by Humbrol Enamel's sprayed on in the colour scheme of a Hurricane during the Battle of Britain.
Radio installation is fairly straightforward. In my case I opted to use Supertec Naro Servos for the rudder, elevator, and ailerons, and a Diamond Line 30Amp Electronic Speed Controller for the Ripmax Electric Flight Pack which suits this range of models, with my Futaba Field Force 8 Transmitter and a GWS 8 channel Receiver. Owing to this set up no separate receiver power supply is required.
For some years now I have used Powerpole connectors for my battery pack connections, and have found that not only are they reliable, but can handle the current demand far better than the standard buggy type connectors.
Finally, I checked the Centre of Gravity and controls and it was off to the flying field to see if it would fly.
The first opportunity was late one Friday summer evening, in calm conditions. Having carried out the usual checks for a new model, a freshly charged set of seven Sanyo 1700mAh SCR cells was fitted. The model was launched for me so that I could concentrate on the flying. The model climbed away nicely from launch, so some down trim was fed in. The model flew about quite nicely and was comfortable to fly with no real vices. With about half throttle the Hurricane was on combat patrol looking for the enemy, and looking right in the air, and would loop and roll with the application of power to maintain airspeed. It was roughly four minutes in to this flight that the Hun came out of the sun, and shot me down. Or in this case, the motor shut down while low and banking in a turn. The result was the model quickly stalled and went into a spin. The spin was countered, but the model was too low to level out in time, and went into the field with a sickening crump.
Examination of the damage revealed that the wing coming away from the fuselage had damaged the wing mounting points in the fuselage and the nose was damaged. The cause of the motor shut down was never totally traced. It would appear that the Speed Controller decided that the supply voltage was too low, yet post flight checks showed all to function correctly, with another couple of minute's power left in the pack.
The damage was all surprisingly easily repaired in a few hours, once back in workshop. A few weeks later the model was taken out and flown again. On this occasion I launched it myself. This is where the finger grips really help, and the model again climbed away quite nicely. The flight was very pleasant, and landing is quite easy with a not too fast glide speed that can be slowed up nicely, just prior to touch down.
I suspect that the ideal set up for flying this model is to fit a Speed 600 Race Motor and to use eight cells as opposed to seven. This gives an improved flying performance, with increased aerobatic capability, and probably will be the path a number of modellers will take once they have got used to the model in it's basic form. Incidentally, I know of some people who have fitted Cobalt equivalents of the Speed 600 and retained seven cells, and have had a marked improvement in performance, which with good throttle control only reduces the flight time by about 30-40 seconds on 2000mAh cells to a standard Speed 600!
So did I like the kit, and is it value for money? The answer has to be yes to both. The kit is reasonably priced, and the cost of the additional items is very reasonable. In terms of enjoyment, I think this model will provide many hours of flying pleasure. The time from kit to flying is obviously longer than an ARTF, but construction is quite rapid for a built up model.
I see this range of kits being very popular, as people are able to build small, scale aircraft, electric or i.c. powered, that can fit on the parcel shelf of the car and provide hours of enjoyment. I have seen i.c. powered versions of these models fly, and they perform very well. The additional power of the engine, gives a fast and aerobatic performance. Electric powered versions using better Speed 600 size motors and eight cells also give a good flying performance. Basically, you pays your money and makes your choice.
As for me, I'm going to up rate the motor and number of cells to see what improvement I get. I also, now want to build the Sea Fury, as this is another favourite of mine. Go ahead build one of these models, and then look out for enemy aircraft while flying on patrol.