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Old Aug 07, 2012, 02:02 PM
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Billybobjoepants's Avatar
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Seaplane kit debate

Hello, all. I'm in the market for a midsize (this means about 36"-50" to me) single-engined waterplane kit. I considered adding floats to my 50" cub, but I'm looking for something really unique, and it's time I built another plane anyway. I've narrowed down my search to 3 planes I've found, all of which are pretty similar, but none of them has a whole lot of documentation out there. They all have some positive remarks online, and youtube videos galore, but this will be the first comparison (that I've found anyway.) If anyone has had experience with any of these kits, shout out and let me know how you like em'!

They are (da-da-dumm...)

The Herr aqua star.



The alien aircraft dragon seaplane (it's worth mentioning that this plane and the aqua star were both designed by Tom Herr, but for different companies.)



And, last but not least, the house of balsa float plane .10.



All of them are thin-hulled seaplanes with tip floats and the engine mounted in a pod above the fuse. The Herr and house of balsa planes are designed for gas, but I hear that they can be converted for electric, and the dragon is electric by design- I'll build either way, but I think that for a seaplane gas would be a prudent choice. Going to the lake means I don't want to have to fly for 15 minutes and leave (with a battery that needs to be recharged) and if the engine gets wet there's no ESC to fry. I'm leaning heavily toward the Herr aqua star, because it obviously has byfar the best looks, and is supposedly very spirited with a cheap .049, whereas the house of balsa flier needs a .10. There are rumored ROW problems, but the chine rails Herr now recommends are supposed to fix this.

Other than these thoughts, I don't know yet- I would actually really like to see some really harsh arguing about them, because only in a debate will we see people really pointing out their pros and cons. If you have any other ideas of waterplanes that might fit my bill, please don't hesitate to point them out here- but I want a good old-fashioned balsa kit, not some pinko ARF. Alright, let's begin!
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Old Aug 07, 2012, 08:01 PM
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JimCasey's Avatar
Joined Jan 2005
837 Posts
I'll chime in.

I have never seen an Aqua-Sub that would ROW. Add power and the nose goes under. Longtime lurkers in this forum will attest that there are a number of participants who managed to get theirs to ROW after significant modifications and redesign. My beef is that the manufacturer threw in a note over 10 years ago showing the builder how to fab and install the strakes, but they did not debug the design before its introduction and never incorporated the fixes into a MKII kit. BTW: The thrustline is wrong as designed, too, and that's also discussed on the sheet that describes the strakes. The one I flew (after a hand-launch) did fly nicely, in a tiny-airplane sort of way.
I have only heard of one participant complaining about the HOB floatplane. Mostly rave reviews. They used to call it the CheaPass 10 and I always voiced my disdain at the clumsiness of the name. Apparently the forces of marketing and dignity have prevailed -at least in the "branding" department. It would benefit from someone who would sculpt the upper fuselage edges with a sanding block and improve its somewhat blocky appearance. Edges of the hull and the step rightly should be as sharp as possible.

I know nothing of the Dragon but it appears to be an aqua-star with the hull mods that have always been needed.

These planes are prime candidates for electrification, as an electric motor making more power than an .049 (or even a .15) sells now for less than $20. 1200 mah 3S battery packs are affordable enough for you to carry 3 or 4, so you can be charging one while you fly off the other 3 and pretty much stay aloft all afternoon. Waterproofing the ESC and other electrics with CorrosionX has pretty much been beat to death here, so that's an accepted preventive for the dreaded "seaplane Viking Funeral" . Electrics are really neat for seaplanes because they have such a reliable idle. You can switch them off, and then back on!! Dead-sticks are discretionary!
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Old Aug 07, 2012, 10:58 PM
No worries... it can be fixed.
Billybobjoepants's Avatar
Joined Jun 2012
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Thanks for the info! If I hear a similar tune from other people, it will probably be the HOB plane for me. I've seen videos of aqua stars fit with the chine rails that looked like they flew great off the water, but I don't know if so much negative wash about them is a good sign. I like their looks (and their low price, ironically much less than the Chea-Pass) but if it doesn't ROW then it's pointless to me. I saw the pamphlet about the mods, and it does not seem unreasonable, but like I said, not a great idea to get a kit so many people seem to be complaining about!

The CheaPass (I'm sorry, I think the name is funny, if not a bad seller) appears to have a much wider hull. This may explain its good water takeoffs. It also looks nice enough!

As for electrics in seaplanes, I never gave waterproofing chemicals an thought. I just though I'd seal up the motor wires real good and do a GREAT job covering. It will probably still be gas for me, but I recently (coincidentally) just discovered buying super-cheap batteries from Hobby King, something that never occured to me, even though I buy other garbage from them sometimes. Batteries are one rare thing where quality usually depends on stats, so being able to buy several high-capacity batteries for $30 might make electric a way more attractive option.
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Old Aug 08, 2012, 08:45 AM
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Sopwith Mike's Avatar
Christchurch,England
Joined Aug 2004
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You might like to look at this kit from Britflight . We have two in the Club here and they fly very well indeed off grass or water (or snow, presumably!).

If you are feeling adventurous and can build from plan, then try Ivan Pettigrew's Seagull from his plans page here..

I've also seen his fly and can vouch for it's performance.

Edit for pictures

Mike
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Old Aug 08, 2012, 07:02 PM
No worries... it can be fixed.
Billybobjoepants's Avatar
Joined Jun 2012
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The Britflight plane looks very nice indeed, but being in the U.S., postage may be a problem. It also appears to be slanting a little more towards the ARF area in that the fuse and wing are already assembled. However, the plan for the seagull appear to fit my more builderlike stance, and I'll have to give that a look into. Thanks!

Edit... looking at Ivan's plans page, it seems that he has quite a few nice-looking waterfowl. Not sure how I passed it up before, may be very useful indeed! Thank you.
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Old Aug 08, 2012, 09:13 PM
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Although it is a little bit bigger than you are looking for, we just announced this today.



Tom Herr
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Old Aug 08, 2012, 09:38 PM
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Joined Apr 2009
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For what it's worth...

My experience with the Aquastar has been good. I bought one a few years ago after seeing a local group of guys flying off the water. I was on a budget and wanted to get back into building a kit. This plane was also my first glow to electric conversions. It was also modified to include ailerons as well (I’m not sure if the other planes you are considering come with them). Now that I think about it I also attached the wingtip floats with screws rather than rubber bands (they interfered with the ailerons). The hull is built as designed with no chines or additional modifications.
My power setup is more than adequate but it does not exactly jump off the water. It does ROW but occasionally will stick longer than expected. A little chop or surface disturbance helps to get it airborn sooner. Some guys suggest taxiing in a large circle and crossing your own wake if the water is glassy.
ROW is definitely possible but some things to consider… Power and weight matter. The more power the more the noise is pushed down. It will often take off at throttle and stick on full. Several guys online have lengthened the engine pod support. This makes any downward push on the noise worse. Choose a power setup that does not require this modification for additional clearance. This will not be an issue with glow but use a higher kv motor and a prop under 7 inches if you go electric. Balance it a bit tail heavy will also help with water handling (true of any seaplane I think). Again it reduces the downward push on the nose. The kit is of good quality and uses traditional building techniques. Modifications like ailerons were easy because of the design and construction.
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Old Aug 09, 2012, 07:58 AM
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Have you looked at the "Free Plans" sticky on this forum? Lotsa cool stuff there....
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Old Aug 09, 2012, 12:09 PM
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Springfield, VA
Joined Feb 2000
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Well, I know you only asked for comments on the 3 shown, but have you considered the Polaris XL? Definitely different, one of the best flying models I have, and as previously noted, batteries are cheap enough you can take several with you and fly for quite a while. Easy to build and repair as well, and you can fly off grass/ground/whatever as easily as you can water...Pete M
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Old Aug 09, 2012, 08:02 PM
No worries... it can be fixed.
Billybobjoepants's Avatar
Joined Jun 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlienAircraft View Post
Although it is a little bit bigger than you are looking for, we just announced this today.
Wow, immaculate timing! If I was to build a dragon, I would probably go for the larger one, because I've got both feet in the "bigger flies better" school of philosophy. There are just convenience reasons to think about. Love your kits!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimCasey View Post
Have you looked at the "Free Plans" sticky on this forum? Lotsa cool stuff there....
I have, but I am just cheap enough that I prefer a kit to scratch-building. I may see something to sway my opinion, however.

Quote:
Originally Posted by carlcorn View Post
My experience with the Aquastar has been good.
Thanks! I'm especially interested in the aquastar, as I said, especially so now that I've heard so much wash about ROW failures! From what I've seen and heard, I think I've determined that with the recommended rails this will prove to be a non-issue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pmisuinas View Post
...have you considered the Polaris XL?
I think I've seen these kits floating around before (literally and figuratively!) and they do impress me. I never gave them much thought though. There's just something about the looks of these planes that I like, though- it seems scale (the aqua star very much so) while being convenient and a not-too-strenuous build. I will definitely think about them now, though, since I've heard a plus for them! If it flies great, the looks take a backseat, in my opinion.
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Old Aug 10, 2012, 01:04 AM
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Joined Aug 2004
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Just an opinion - my first seaplane was back in 1970, glow of course. Of the ten I've had since half were glow, the rest electric. I would never want to go back to glow power - electric is perfect for water ops. Russ Farris
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Old Aug 10, 2012, 01:25 AM
Art Schmitz
United States, TN, Crossville
Joined Jan 2012
392 Posts
....saw only one Aqua Star and it tried to nose under the water with each take off attempt. I think it got sold or traded as it never showed up again.
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Old Aug 10, 2012, 11:28 AM
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Billybobjoepants's Avatar
Joined Jun 2012
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Pook: Electric for me, it's been decided. Even old timers at the field agree- and they usually scoff at my electric fallacies.

Lind: I think that a lot of aqua stars were built either before word of the now-recommended chine rail mod took off, or the builders just never implemented them, not knowing about the rails or thinking them an unneeded complication. Either that, or they were given too much power- Herr says that even a .061 engine is a little too much. A .10 (or brushless equivalent) would actually ruin its performance. Sensitive little airplane.
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Old Aug 10, 2012, 06:55 PM
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This has been on my website for over 10 years.

http://www.smilesandwags.com/Floatsite/aquastar.html
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Old Aug 11, 2012, 08:14 AM
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Sopwith Mike's Avatar
Christchurch,England
Joined Aug 2004
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I should have mentioned the Polaris - I saw one fly at the Chilliwack pond in May and was very very impressed. You could do a lot worse, and it's soooo cheap to make!

Mike
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