the Pico Stick,
rather than move on
to a high-wing cessna-like trainer like a sensible person, I decided my
past R/C experience (even if it was fifteen years ago) was enough to
warrant a more sensitive plane. I hate mushy vehicles, anyway --
I have no patience to wait for a car, motorcycle or plane to respond to
inputs I give it. When I was flying power planes my favorite
plane was an Ace GLH, a tiny pylon racer (I didn't race, I just liked
the small, fast, responsive plane).
But I never had a pattern plane (meant for competition aerobatic
flying). I flew some aerobatics with the GLH and with a little
high-wing ARF I had, but nothing precise. But as I looked at
various foam ARF planes trying to pick one, I noticed that everyone who
works at hobby shops around here has a Formosa, a pattern plane with a
350 engine, and loves it, and they all say it's quite forgiving as well
as being a good aerobat, and opinion on the net seems to agree, even
though the box says it's For Advanced Pilots. Besides, it
was cheap. What's to lose?
Building the Formosa took longer than I expected -- basically about a
day and a half. I'm not sure why it took that long -- it's all
foam, pre-formed. There are just a lot of little fiddly parts
that have to go together, and everything has to be hinged, and there
are lots of different glue steps (glue, then wait for the glue to dry
before you can do anything else on that piece). Also, the Formosa
manual is worse than most of the GWS manuals I've seen: the English is
less well translated, lots of steps are skipped (I guess this is what I
get for getting a kit intended for "advanced pilots"), a fair number of
holes need to be drilled, and some things just don't fit together so I
had to improvise.
One problem was with servo installation. The plane has a hole cut
in the foam just big enough for two pico servos, and the instructions
say to tape the servos into this hole with double-stick tape.
This posed a problem: first, since the hole was barely wide enough for
the servos, I wasn't sure how I was supposed to slide in the second
servo after the first one was taped in; and second, I was borrowing
servos from Dave (because my servos were in the Pico Stick which he was
flying, while his E-starter wasn't quite ready to fly yet) and I wasn't
sure I'd be able to remove the servos, and didn't think it was kosher
to muck up his nice new servos with tape. I ended up making two
servo rails out of some spare plastic parts from the GWS kit, then
taping them into the plane. Probably a bad idea -- see below.
Another problem was that the plans called for a 1mm drill bit, which is
smaller than any of my drill bit sets included. Hobby shops don't
sell drill bits that small, either (at least not without having to buy
a whole set of bigger sizes I didn't need). It turned out the
local hardware store had a 1.02mm drill bit -- close enough!
think the "white foam with red, white and blue
stickers" of the stock
Formosa is really ugly. For some reason that doesn't look as bad
on a Cessna-type trainer, but I don't like it on a pattern plane.
So I got some paint (Tamiya model paint, said to be safe for foam) and
did a quicky job painting the fuselage purple and the wing
yellow. I used the last of the purple to feather the leading and
outer edges of the top side of the wing. The theory was that I
wanted to make it easy to tell whether the plane was upside down or
rightside up, and whether it was going toward me or away from me.
I suspected this was a good idea in principle but that in practice I
wouldn't be able to see the difference, or wouldn't remember which was
which when I was busy juggling controls. But that fear was
unfounded: the leading-edge-top feathering made a huge difference in
figuring out the orientation of the plane, and I was never confused by
it at all. Since this plane is (at my current level of flying)
quite fast and quite responsive, I'm sure it helped a lot in my not
losing the plane when it got far away from me.
(Note the engine cowling is missing in this picture, compared to the
first picture on the page. After its first crash the engine was
pushed back, and the cowling doesn't fit any more. I'll probably
try to do something about that eventually ...)
Flying weight is about 15 oz. I don't know what's typical.
I know I used a lot of epoxy compared to what the instructions said.
up the control surfaces for the minimum
I said I like quick and responsive planes, but I suspected a pattern
plane might be a bit much for me at first, and I didn't want to over-do
The plane taxies fairly well -- it's a breeze to run it straight and
get it into the air, compared to smaller planes like the Pico Stick and Baby Bee.
Once I gave it full throttle, the plane nearly leapt into the air --
followed by wild gyrations as I tried to make small adjustments and
found that even small adjustments on this plane lead to large changes
in the air.
I ended up reducing the control throws on my radio. With ailerons
set to about 77% and elevator at 90%, the plane is responsive and easy
to fly even for my rusty piloting skills.
Unfortunately, I've crashed the Formosa every time I've had it
out. It's not the plane's fault: the problem is that the engine
dies shortly after getting it into the air, and while the Formosa is a
wonderful flier, it's a lousy glider -- it sinks like a rock if the
engine power starts to sag. The place where I fly, Rancho San
Antonio, has the takeoff/landing area up on a plateau, but most of the
flying area is over a valley. If you lose power when you're off
the edge of the plateau, the plane sinks out of sight so you can't
bring it in gently; all you can do is cut the throttle and hope the
plane flutters down gently.
I've tried replacing the engine (with another 350)
and I've tried two
batteries (both 8 cell NiMH 730mAh packs). Looks like Dave's Slow Stick is having exactly the same problem
(with the same batteries). At this point, we suspect our charger
(a Wattage PF-12) isn't charging the batteries anywhere near enough,
but know of no way to tell for sure. Electric flying is very
frustrating! Now we have some Li-Po batteries (had to buy another
charger, a Triton) so once I get around to repairing the latest crash,
I'll try those ... but in the meantime I'm flying something lighter and
more durable, a Sporty.
Anyway, this has given me an opportunity to get familiar with the
Formosa's repairability. Since it's an all-foam plane, it's not
very strong, and nearly every crash breaks the fuselage in some
way. The only exception was my first crash, in which both landing
gear (mounted on the wing) came off. Apparently I didn't use
enough glue when first building the plane: the plastic gear blocks
don't fit snugly in the holes in the wings, so it turns out you need to
use gobs of epoxy to fill the gaps and seal the gear in. Spread
some epoxy over the outside, too. After doing that, I haven't had
any more gear breakage (and Dave's fear, that the gear would cause the
wings to break, hasn't materialized either).
I've had a lot of trouble from the batteries sliding forward in the
nose upon crashing. I used lots of velcro to hold the batteries
in place, but it's not enough, and the batteries tend to slide forward
and rip the front of the plane apart. Now I have an extra piece
of foam stuffed into the nose in front of the batteries.
one crash, I came in nose first, bent the
propeller and broke the
engine gearbox as well as the front of the fuselage. When I
the stick engine mount area, I neglected to check whether the engine
would still be pointing straight, and discovered after I installed a
new motor that it was pointing severely to the right. But
the plane still flies fine; neither the engine cant nor all the extra
epoxy seems to have hurt its flying characteristics much.
Eventually I hope we'll get the battery situation straightened out, and
I can fly the plane long enough that I can test its aerobatic
capabilities. I know the Formosa is quite capable -- I've seen
other Formosas fly, like this one flying inverted:
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