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Old Nov 03, 2013, 11:02 AM
Balsa Flies Better!
Stamford, CT
Joined Oct 2000
6,716 Posts
Mini-Review
Alien Aircraft Hornet

Hi all

There haven't been a lot of threads on Tom Herr's new airplanes since Sig bought Herr model. For those who don't know, Tom has started a new company- Alien Aircraft and is turning out a bunch of designs- all RC to date. Having built a few of Tom's airplanes under the Herr banner such as the Cherokee, RC Pitts, and Mustang as well as some of his FF ships (his Bonanza flies very well- I've come close to a minute.) I clearly enjoy building his designs. However- I will also admit to modifying them often, so from that standpoint- I'm not a great reviewer.

The Hornet is the first airplane I've built from Tom's new company, but those of us who knew and liked the stuff under the Herr banner will have no trouble recognizing the style. I didn't opt for a build log, because Tom has put his build manual on line, so you can get a sense of what you're tangling with before buying a kit. (http://www.alienaircraft.com/k107.htm) In a certain sense- this is an old style kit- done very well. If anybody remembers the Jig Time TF series and Goldberg designs which used tab and slot construction on the fuselage to get something that would come out pretty straight without a jig- well, this is the same idea. However, the parts fit is much, much better- I always used to snap formers, tabs would break off- slots would need relieving- you get the picture. With modern laser cutting, those problems are a thing of the past.

Building the wing is quite easy since he's included tabs on the ribs to position the ribs at the right height. Anybody who's built a symmetrical airfoil where you have to line the ribs up with the TE will appreciate this touch. Unlike my standard practice- I actually used a fair amount of cyano (thin Mercury which is fast becoming my favorite) in the wing build. Exceptions were gluing in the top trailing edge where I used Sigment (Ambroid equivalent)- think I used some Titebond on the top spar and turbulators- and Sigment on the sheeting! Cyano is a nightmare to sand- and this stuff dries quickly enough for me. These cements will allow you to sand the sheeting to the point where you can't see any joins. One thing I do differently...the wing has webbing in it- and I use the webbing as rib jigs so I start with the inboard ribs- add a rib- add the webbing to keep things square and position the next rib. I find this much easier than adding webbing afterwards. While the webbing is just on the face of the spars- (in between is theoretically lighter and stronger)- it's a nice fast method of construction and the wing comes out nice, strong and light. Any little twists that creep in can be corrected with an iron covering. In a perfect world- I'd radius the rib cutouts to reduce stress risers, but in practice- the only rib that got crunched a bit under construction was the rib that supports the servo. As a suggestion to anyone building the airplane- you might want to reglue the cutouts in this rib- a little extra beef would be good.

The ailerons were pretty straightforward. One trick I did that was probably unnecessary...I think there's a lot of wing on this airplane- I've toyed with the idea of cutting out one rib bay off the end. If I decide to do this- I've got hinges in the ailerons in both the most outboard bay as well as the bay next door. Also note- I used Gorilla snot (glue- the polyurethane stuff) for gluing in the hinges into the wing although I used cyano for the ailerons. I've often found that cyano doesn't do well around other adhesives and I wasn't crazy about using the stuff on the top TE. Gorilla glue works fine with these hinges by the way.

Wood selection in the kit was excellent- I didn't substitute anything. The LE is nice and firm- weights of each were pretty even- and it was easy to pair up the spars and turbulators so the wings come out pretty even in weight. I think mine were within a gram- and if you add any decoration- that'll take care of it.

In terms of the landing gear- this is often a weak spot on Tom's airplanes- he likes thinner wire than many others. On the Pitts and the Mustang- this meant frequent rebending. On this airplane, I found the wire thickness fine for this weight airplane. The bending for installation is a bit fussy- but not too bad. One suggestion though- I HATE cyano for anything that needs to be flexible--like landing gear, so I went to PFM. These adhesives are tenacious and flexible (Zap A Dap a Goo is similar) and I like using them for these types of installations. Some folks have suggested that the installation in the airframe is weak and will rip out- that's been a problem on one of his other designs- the Raven according to threads here- but having hopped (not flown- can't come up with a flight report yet) the Hornet already and plonked it down firmly (it's been blowing here) I'm pretty certain that this gear isn't going anywhere- and will be fine in service.

The fuse was pretty much built according to the manual with the exception of the motor. I opted for an Astro 010 direct drive because I had this whacko idea that the airplane could come in at 10 oz or so. I was grumbling about the glow motor mount I used- until the airplane was done and the battery had to go up against the firewall for balance- and I had to use a TP 1300 3 cell pack! Don't bother going nuts trying to lighten the nose of the airplane- not worth it. Note that the cutouts work fine for HS 55 servos- I have a bunch and I find they work well in this size airplane- reliable, and accurate enough for me...

One thing I'd recommend if you're flying off pavement...I've already sanded off the covering of the subfin- a piece of wire on the bottom would reduce wear in this area.

My ready to rock weight came in at 12.75 oz- probably from a lighter motor and ESC. A quick test hop in the front yard showed a comfortable amount of yank- the airplane got airborne easily after a short roll- but it's 20 feet- not 2 with 80 watts getting delivered to the prop. I'm using a 5.5 x 4.5 inch prop which probably isn't ideal- I suspect that's Tom's selection of a 7" prop might have been better. I may try a 6 x 3 or 6 x 4, but then I have to worry about the motor getting hot. The airplane doesn't have enough power to go vertical- but this bird isn't going to hover with the relatively small control surfaces it's got. Based on my hop though- it'll definitely be a nice schoolyard flyer.

Sam Brauer
Stamford, CT
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Old Nov 04, 2013, 12:34 PM
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Carnifax's Avatar
Cleveland
Joined Jun 2002
2,316 Posts
Sam,

Nice write up and mod description. I have a Hornet in the build pile too and Im going to try and make it come alive this winter.

Your descriptions are pretty much spot on for the Herr design style. I think the Herr line shows a heavier design geared towards glow while the "new" Herr line is geared to electric.

One area where you may not need as much "beef" is the tail area. I got rid of the slabs and replaced with a built up tail on my Stearman. It takes more time but eliminates that flat plate look.

Let us know how the Hornet flies.

Dan
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Old Nov 04, 2013, 12:41 PM
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USA, TX, Trophy Club
Joined May 2002
14,479 Posts
Great review. He has some great looking stuff...
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Old Nov 04, 2013, 12:52 PM
Balsa Flies Better!
Stamford, CT
Joined Oct 2000
6,716 Posts
Hi Dan

Nice looking Stearman! I considered that kit too- but I've already got the Aerodrome RC kit stashed for a building season.... (hmm, hadn't considered that one for this year...)

I had a chat with Tom a couple of months ago when I ordered his Corsair. He actually likes glow in larger sizes- and that's what his newer airplanes are looking like...It's true that the Herr stuff spec'd glow engines- but they were pretty good conversions even back in the nickel cell days- he designs light whether glow or electric...

In terms of the Hornet and built up surfaces....I could have done some cut outs- and in hind sight, I wish I had- but I thought I was going to have a nose heavy airplane!

I alternate between built up tail feathers and sheet...what I've found is that built up is lighter (most of the time- although I do have some good lightweight balsa...)- but it's more delicate in service. Much harder to crunch sheet surfaces. Since I batted out this airplane for casual flying- I'm not that concerned about being ultimate in light weight- I also wanted serviceability. This is why I often like old glow ship conversions- a lot of nickel cell airplanes are very light- but often get delicate whereas glow ships tend to be more robust.

Hopefully I'll get to fly the bird later this week and I'll let you know how it goes...

Sam
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Old Nov 05, 2013, 12:22 AM
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Cleveland
Joined Jun 2002
2,316 Posts
Sam, I agree 100% with you about the durability of Tom's designs. I started a long time ago with the P-51 and moved through most of the (now) Sig line.

I have spoken with Tom about a multitude of subjects. Every time he is gracious and polite about sharing his time no matter if your a rank newbie or seasoned vet. Furthermore, how cool is that when you can call the designer and kitter of your plane. He is a standup guy and someone that helps make this hobby what it is today.

Im halfway through bashing a CloudRanger with a low wing, details to follow.

Your build looks great, thanks for posting.

Dan
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Old Nov 05, 2013, 07:18 PM
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turbojoe's Avatar
United States, AZ, Mesa
Joined Jul 2002
7,232 Posts
I have an Alien Aircraft Blinker that has been ready for maiden for many months. If I ever get out to fly again I plan to bring it along. It was a fun build. Cheap too!

I also have a Herr Cub that is built but uncovered. I already have a few Cubs so this one will most likely end up with the mains moved back and a nose gear added to become a Piper Tri-Pacer. I also have a N.I.B. Herr Mini-Sport, Cherokee, T-6 Texan and a Herr mini floats kit. I've also got a Herr V-35 rubber power Bonanza kit in the middle of conversion to electric R/C. I'd love to have the Alien Aircraft Cessna 310 but money is tight and while it's not overpriced at $109.00 it's still out of my price range. Herr and Alien Aircraft are nice kits for the dwindling few of us that still like to build.

Joe
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Old Nov 06, 2013, 04:34 PM
Balsa Flies Better!
Stamford, CT
Joined Oct 2000
6,716 Posts
Hi all

OK- I've got a flight report....

The short version- nice parkflyer with my setup. I don't feel the need for more speed and I get a very nice climbout, but vertical is certainly not unlimited. There was some breeze today and the air was choppy down low, but it's clear that you can fly the airplane in a relatively small space...

Longer version- the airplane tracks surprisingly well given the long wings. And after flying it- I have no wish to chop them down. Roll rate is not brisk- also not surprising- but I found the ailerons twitchy around the center at first. This airplane needs a computer radio- I think its going to need a bunch of expo on the ailerons to damp things out around the mid point. The airplane will snap nicely if you throw everything into the corners but recovers instantly. What I was most surprised about was the inverted flight- it's really good. Most small airplanes don't have symmetrical airfoils which means that when you go inverted- you need to have some speed or the airplane falls out of the sky. This one was very easy to fly inverted and at relatively slow speed. I'll get to work on my inverted rudder technique...
Oh- about the rudder- it has very little coupling with roll- which makes this airplane track very well. This is really sweet- you can slam the rudder around and the airplane will show very little change in the roll axis. Once I get the ailerons dialed in- I think it'll be a good little aerobat of the old fashioned ballistic pattern style- although it's not that fast. However, for flying in a park- I think it's a comfy speed- wouldn't want it any faster.

In terms of landing...this airplane is not a floater. You cut the power and it comes down deliberately. I was flying in grass so of course the airplane flipped over-that's endemic to this size bird. I did take off the ball diamond- should have tried landing there too...Takeoffs are easy- but they do require some length as noted before. What this means is that there are better airplanes in the low and slow regime-such as a BMJR Race E or even a Dave Thacker Mini Bipe- but this airplane will be more accurate in maneuvers.

Summary- good flying little airplane- but it needs a computer radio to soften the aileron response. More graceful than wild.

Joe- that's a nice looking Blinker- I have one of those kits too. Let us know how it goes...

Sam
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