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ParkZone Super Decathlon Brushless RTF Review

Want a quick and easy, nice looking plane that actually flies well? Look no further than the new and improved Parkzone Super Decathlon Brushless RTF. Watch as Gary Grose shows you just how exciting this little airplane can be.

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INTRODUCTION

Super Decathlon Brushless RTF

Wingspan:35.4"
Wing Area:210 sq. in.
Weight:16 oz.
Length:25.3"
Wing Loading:12.8 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:Sub-micro 3-wire
Transmitter:ZX10 3-channel proportional 27Mhz
Battery:2S 800mAh Li-Po
Charger:12V DC 2-cell Li-Po balancing charger (for RTF version)
Motor:370 brushless outrunner
ESC:E-fliteŽ 10A Pro Brushless ESC
Manufacturer:ParkZone
Available From:Horizon Hobby
RTF price:$159.99
PNP price:$109.99

The Super Decathlon has been an aerobatic trainer for full scale pilots for many years. Since its introduction in 1976, many good aerobatic pilots have pulled their first loop with their hand at the controls of a Decathlon. It was the first high-wing aerobatic trainer to be capable of the extreme negative Gs that are experienced when doing outside snap rolls and tumble maneuvers such as the lomcevak.

Some of you might remember the red and blue Parkzone Super Decathlon that came out a few years ago. Well, ParkZone has kept up with technology and released a new, upgraded brushless motor version of the same airframe. It also includes a Lipo flight battery and DC balancing charger which are major upgrades over the NiMh pack in the old one. The Brushless Super Decathlon sports an exciting new color scheme of yellow, white and black!

KIT CONTENTS

Included in this RTF package:

  • fuselage - complete with servos, motor, ESC, and receiver
  • wing (with struts attached)
  • transmitter (with AA batteries)
  • battery & charger (charges through the balancing tap)
  • landing gear (2 piece, left and right)
  • accessory pack (rubber bands, screwdriver, control horn keepers, jumpers)
  • manual, warranty card, and extra 8.25x5.5 propeller

Needed to complete:

  • About 15 minutes - to inspect contents, attach wing and landing gear and flip through the manual.
  • Charge the flight battery (with supplied charger). Mine took about 30 minutes to achieve full charge.

ASSEMBLY

It will take you about as long to assemble the Decathlon as it did to make your purchase at the checkout counter at the hobby shop.

Wing

The Super Decathlon's wing attaches to the fuselage using four of the supplied rubber bands. I like to install two diagonally and the other two front to back. In addition to the rubber bands, you must attach the flexible wing struts to the bottom of the fuselage (the included screwdriver comes in handy here). You may be asking yourself about these floppy struts: They are there to support the wing during high-G maneuvers. You'll be glad they are there when you start throwing the Decathlon around the sky... a folded wing is not a pretty sight!

Fuselage

The landing gear come in two pieces, left and right. They install by simply pushing each one into the appropriate slots on either side of the fuselage. They are easily removed when you wish to store the plane back in the original box.

Radio Setup

Install the 8 AA batteries into the transmitter. After turning on the transmitter, ensure that your control surfaces are centered with your transmitter trims which should also be centered. I had to make about 2 turns of the clevis on both push rods to get them perfectly centered.

There was some shipping damage to the fuselage that I thought should be noted. The forward wing support rod that is right behind the windshield was tearing through the plastic of the fuselage. After putting the fuselage back into the shipping box, I realized what caused it: The fuselage rests against the foam at the forward wing supports. If the box gets dropped on the wrong end, then the impact causes the tears. I'm not sure how this could be prevented, but I do know that it is an easy fix with a few drops of foam-safe CA glue. After that, mine is stronger than before!

Now you're ready to fly!

FLYING

Choose a time when the winds are calm. After you get used to the winds, this will be an "anytime plane" to grab and fly.

Takeoff and Landing

The Decathlon takes flight very easily from a hand-toss, but for your first flight it would be wise to do a rolling takeoff just to get the feel of it. Rolling takeoffs require full throttle and are possible from very short grass, but pavement is best. When hand launching, give it full throttle and a gentle toss into the wind with the nose slightly up. It will climb out with no problem and give you time to get both hands on the transmitter. With my first hand-launch, I couldn't believe how stable the plane was.

Landings are a dream too! The best method I've found is to make a long, low approach with a shallow glide path. As you begin to get close to the ground (maybe 10 feet) give it about 1/4 throttle and allow the plane to maintain a good flight speed as you approach ground level. Just as the main gear touches down, chop the throttle to reduce the chance of prop strikes especially when landing on grass. Nice three-point landings are easy once you get accustomed to it. I'm not consistent with good deadstick landings, but they are possible.

Remember, there is no steerable tailwheel, but there is a tail skid. If you fly on pavement, the tail skid will get worn down over time. If you use slight amounts of down elevator while throttle is applied, you can lift the tail off the ground, but you could also have an unwanted prop strike, so be careful.

Basics

Basic, scalelike flight maneuvers like the gentle turns of a flight pattern are a dream with the Decathlon. It shows no bad tendencies like tip-stalling or death-spirals. The ability to have "nearly" hands-off flight makes it a very relaxing plane to fly. At half throttle it putts around the flight pattern with ease. I fully expected the Decathlon to be much faster, but I was glad to see that it was comfortable even at slower speeds. Choose a calm day to fly: the downwind turns can be tricky unless you're familiar with how rudder/elevator parkflyers act in that condition.

For battery duration, I'm getting about 12 minutes. This is with about half of my flight spent doing a lot of full throttle aerobatics and the other half doing nice patterns and touch-and-go's. The Decathlon has a surprisingly good glide rate at dead stick. I've even caught over a minute of thermals with it and maintained altitude at about 100' while dead stick.

When the battery gets close to the low voltage cutoff, you will recognize a decrease in power, but it doesn't totally cut the throttle off. If the plane is close enough, you will also notice a pulsing sound instead of the normal steady motor sound. As soon as you notice this, be sure to land as soon as safely possible. It is possible to keep flying after the cutoff has begun but I wouldn't recommend it. I flew for about a minute after noticing it and when I put the battery on my Triton charger to check the voltage, it was at 3.1volts per cell. I decided to charge it on my Triton charger to analyze the amount of "juice" I put back in it. It topped off at 8.41volts and I put in 730mah. Out of an 800mah battery, that's cutting it pretty close. And if you're into getting more flying time, you can always buy an extra battery or two!

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

The stock control horn settings are nice for a beginner, but to really "unleash the beast" in the performance of this plane, try changing the control horn settings on the elevator and rudder by one or two holes (closer to the control surface). Then remember the "High/Low" rate switch on the top of the transmitter. The first part of my flight video is with the stock control horn settings and the switch on low rates. When you see the snap rolls start happening, that's when I changed the control throw to more extreme and switch to high rates.

Even though this plane is rudder/elevator, it does some near-axial rolls. Give it full throttle and build up some speed from level flight, pull the nose up slightly, give it full right stick (or left), hold it until it completes the roll and then release. Stall turns and tail slides are pretty fun too. And yes, loops are always a blast! The Decathlon will loop from level flight with full throttle.

Yank-and-bank is a nice term to use when you're ready to get crazy with the Decathlon! Climb to a few mistakes high, give it full throttle, pull the stick back full back and to the right and hold it until you have completed the snap roll.

Inverted flight took a little getting used to with the Decathlon. At first I was actually giving it too much down elevator (forward stick) when inverted and it seemed to "mush" out of the sky. I then realized to not give it as much down elevator and let the speed build then maintain altitude with small amounts of down elevator. I would suggest entering inverted flight from a nice quick half-roll to the right; This way you keep your speed up and make it easier to sustain altitude once inverted.

Is This For A Beginner?

With a little help or a good understanding of flight, this plane is definitely for a beginner! Keep the transmitter on low rates. The foam seems to be fairly durable and is showing no signs of tearing or cracking even though I have put it through a few bouncy landings and one cartwheel.

Flight Video

Downloads

Conclusion


A WORD OF THANKS


I owe a huge thanks to my brother, Andy, for help with the video, photos, formatting and some of the flying. Thanks bro!

Thanks to Horizon Hobby for giving me the opportunity to review such a great new product.

When you want a easy airplane kit to put together and fly, look no further than the ParkZone Super Decathlon Brushless! With its scale looks, updated battery and motor and excellent flight characteristics, this is definitely a winner.

The Decathlon is truly a "go-to" plane when I want a quick flight as the sun sets and the winds die down. It doesn't get much better than this for an RTF plane.

Pluses:

  • Quick assembly
  • Everything included
  • Excellent flight characteristics; slow flight and mild aerobatics
  • Lipo upgrade with balancing charger
  • Colorful graphics, and semi-scale looks for an RTF
  • Also available as a PNP (Plug -n- Play) version for $109.99

Minuses:

  • None noted!

Last edited by Angela H; Mar 23, 2009 at 04:52 PM..

Discussion

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Old Mar 30, 2009, 06:40 AM
When's the next fly-in?
dee-grose's Avatar
Tanner, Alabama
Joined Oct 2003
6,439 Posts
Yeehaw! Great job on the review, Bro!

Andy
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 06:46 AM
Honey, I got more planes!
ghee-grose's Avatar
USA, AL, Athens
Joined Jun 2003
4,274 Posts
Thanks for the help too!
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 07:38 AM
Mk 9 Lunatic
Atra's Avatar
Perth Western Australia
Joined Sep 2008
267 Posts
Does this one have better landing gear then the first one? The red one had gear that if you sneezed at it, it would bend out of shape.
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 07:58 AM
Honey, I got more planes!
ghee-grose's Avatar
USA, AL, Athens
Joined Jun 2003
4,274 Posts
I never had the opportunity of flying the red, brushed motor version. This one seems pretty tough on the landing gear. I never saw them bend out of shape. I did however break some of the plastic loose inside the fuse where the gear "snap" into place. I dropped it in on a real "Navy Carrier Style" landing one time and it got kinda broken. As usual, a quick douse with foam-safe CA around that area firmed it right up. I've flown it about 5 times since repairs and it hasn't loosened up yet.
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 08:17 AM
When's the next fly-in?
dee-grose's Avatar
Tanner, Alabama
Joined Oct 2003
6,439 Posts
Easy flyer!

I'll jump here and add a little commentary on this plane...

I've flown Gary's Decathlon several times now and I still think this is one of the best-flying RTF planes out there. It is SO stable and can be flown hands-off with ease. This plane is fun to fly nice and steady circuits, just bringing it by around half-throttle or so...just cruising by.

It really gets fun when you push the throttle up and go do some aerobatics. Yeah, loops and stall-turns might be what you'd expect from a 3-channel bird, but hold on to your hat! This puppy can snap-roll like it has ailerons.

Landing the Decathlon is almost a no-brainer. Just keep a little throttle in and ease it down. The ground-handling after you get the mains on is great. Landing on the short bermuda grass, we were able to do nice wheel-landings (only the mains, no tail on the ground) and then take-off. It wasn't a handful. Felt like you could drive it around on the mains all day.

Needless to say, I give this plane two thumbs up!

Now Gary just needs to get us some video of the extreme aerobatics he's discovered this plane is capable of since he wrote the review!

Andy
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 09:17 AM
Honey, I got more planes!
ghee-grose's Avatar
USA, AL, Athens
Joined Jun 2003
4,274 Posts
Yessir, I've learned a couple new tricks with the Decathlon. It will do some insane flat spins and knife-edge spins. I know, I know....you won't believe it until you see it. Let me work up a new video and get it posted.
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 09:23 AM
3DHS Junkie
800mZero's Avatar
Rhode Island
Joined Jun 2005
5,683 Posts
wow---glad to see how the brushless really made this plane a winner. I tried my but off to fly the te red brushed version and never got it to fly--i had a flying buddy who couldnt get his to stop flying---looks like the the brushless turns this one into a really nice rtf.
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 11:14 AM
Fly it like you stole it..
Tram's Avatar
Florence, Al
Joined Oct 2000
29,301 Posts
When you gonna let me crash it?


Jeff
www.CommonSenseRC.com
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 11:20 AM
Slow Flyer
Bombay's Avatar
Richmond, TX
Joined Apr 2008
3,236 Posts
Wow, what a nice steady flyer. Great review...especially with all the takeoff and landing clips. That is often what is missing from a good review. thanks.
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 11:23 AM
Air, Ground & Water
freechip's Avatar
Canada, ON, Rockland
Joined Aug 2008
24,112 Posts
Great review, this is my very first plane that I got myself for X-mas and I luv it. Great little plane and pretty agile too.
DecathlonBL (3 min 48 sec)

Nice day for flying my Parkzone Super Decathlon BL (4 min 56 sec)
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 11:50 AM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Birmingham, Alabama
Joined Feb 2007
7,876 Posts
Nicely done, Gary! Props to your brother for some great video and photos, too.

Looks like a great three-channel plane, and I'm looking forward to getting some stick time on it at some point.

Now, how did you say you had to move the sticks for the low-to-the-ground snap rolls again with this plane?
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 12:27 PM
WARNING: May contain spam
Xpress..'s Avatar
United States, CA, Alpine
Joined Oct 2007
20,936 Posts
Nice review! And my hats off to your brother

Looks as though you could cut some ailerons out and pop on a couple servos if you have a 4 channel reciever and 4 channel radio.
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 01:14 PM
Crashasaurus Dumbthumus
road_rascal's Avatar
USA, MN, Apple Valley
Joined Dec 2008
1,506 Posts
I bought mine used with a Spektrum AR6100 fairly cheap from another forum. It also came with a custom steerable tailwheel. I really like this plane. Flies well in about 10mph winds, but anything over that it really doesn't have enough power. I run about 10 minutes or so using an 800-900mAh battery. I did have to replace the ESC though. I think the stock 10A is a little undersized, so I put in a Thunderbird 18A and no problems since. I also glued a small piece of balsa to the inside of the fuse where the front rubber band mounts are so they won't move. This seems to be the only weak spot on this plane.
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Old Mar 30, 2009, 02:24 PM
Have glue gun, will travel...
Ken1.8T's Avatar
USA, NY, LONG ISLAND
Joined Mar 2004
870 Posts
The PZ Decath is a cool beginner's plane with good looks. It would be extra cool if PZ offered an optional main wing with an aerobatic airfoil and ailerons. It would make for a nice transition to 4-ch sport flying...
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