|RC Blaze Hotliner from Tower Hobbies - RCGroups.com (3 min 55 sec)|
|Wing Area:||326 sq in|
|Wing Loading:||14 oz/sq ft|
|Servos:||4 Micro 9g|
|Transmitter:||4-Channel with mixing required|
|Battery:||11.1V 1800mAh with Dean Connector|
|ESC:||Brushless 30A w/ SuperTiger battery connector|
|Available From:||Tower Hobbies Exclusively in the US|
I have two ST Models in my Hangar. I reviewed them previously and I still enjoy flying both of them. They are the (Click on them to see the reviews.) DG 1000 and the Arcus M. Both are electric sailplanes with the motors in the middle of the fuselage and the motors rise out of the fuselage on pylons between the wings. Both climb to altitude and soar very nicely in thermals or in light breeze at the slope. They like the Blaze are made with EPO foam and they have proven very durable thus far. In fact I haven't had to make any repairs to either of them. With the coming of another fall and some of our best glider flying weather of the year here in Northern Ca, my thoughts returned to sailplanes. This year I decided to go a different, faster route with the ST Model Blaze Hotliner. The assembly is described as taking twenty minutes or less (That must not include attaching the full page of decals!). I am shooting to do everything necessary in one evening as I want to get this plane in the air for some nice fall soaring. Besides, I like flying more than building! Everyone should be able to easily get the Blaze ready to fly in an evening. A transmitter with mixing for a V-tail is recommended and both the assembly and the transmitter programming for this V-tail should be easy to do in an evening.
The phrase: "Hotliner" is used by Tower Hobbies in the promotion of this plane. I associate Hotliner with extreme speed and the ability to make vertical climb outs. I believe the Blaze meets this criteria but it is at the lower end of extreme speed and some would classify her as a Warmliner. I will stick with Hotliner as she is capable of vertical or near vertical climbs with a fully charged 3-cell 1800mAh battery and at about $110.00 I consider her a bargain to let us experience this performance. She is fast in a climb and level flight and faster still in a dive with the motor off. Whether you consider her a Hotliner as I do, or a Warmliner, her performance still smells sweet to me, especially at the price.
The Blaze is not a new plane. In fact she has been out for four to five years at least, but she hasn't been formally reviewed here in RC Groups before this and if you, like me, haven't had one, The Blaze is new to us. Although she is an established plane, Tower Hobbies still sells out of her and they are the exclusive seller of the Blaze here in the United States. I waited months for them to get the Blaze back in stock for my fall soaring season. I now have my Blaze! So lets get this plane ready to fly and demonstrate what she can do both in regards to speed as well as soaring in thermals while we still have some nice flying weather here in Northern California.
Additional Items Needed
Recommended Tools for Assembly
The Blaze comes as an electric sailplane with a brushless motor, and ESC already installed in the fuselage with a folding propeller and spinner on the front. However, included in the kit is a foam nosecone and parts for any pilot who would prefer to have a pure sailplane without the electric motor. A micro servo will need to be obtained for the tow release for anyone wishing to go that route. I am going with the electric version and will only be covering the assembly with electric power in mind.
The decals can be installed at any time on this plane. If you wish to wait until the plane is assembled you may do so. I decided to install mine before assembling the Blaze as I find it easier to install the decals as much as possible, before assembling the plane. I found these decals could be lifted and re-positioned if I started off at the wrong angle or line when installing them. I have no excuse for not doing a perfect job in installing these decals except for my own lack of skill. Still I did a pretty good job for me and I like how they look and that is what is important. I may add some color to the bottom of the wing in the future with additional decals or paint. The decals on the front center section of the wing will not be installed until after I have joined the wing into one piece.
There are two servo extension wires located at the back of the fuselage.
Here I attached the two V-tail stabilizers with control surfaces to the fuselage using the servo hatch cover and the two bolts for it.
They recommend starting by loosening the screws holding on the servo arms for the servos mounted on the stabilizers. I removed the servo control arms and the attached control rods so the servo cover could be installed over the servos later in this process. Next I connected the servo wires to the servo extension leads at the back of the fuselage. I tucked the servo wires into the fuselage in front of the servos and fit first the left and then the right servo into the space molded for them in the plastic mount on the back of the fuselage.
Next I installed the V-tail servo hatch into place over the servos in the tail and secured it, the servos and the stabilizers in place with the two supplied M3.0x22 screws. I reinstalled the control rods and servo arms in place now that the hatch cover was secured over the servos. I secured the servo arms in place with the screws I had earlier removed. The instruction manual was very helpful with pictures of the parts needed for each assembly and the size and picture of the screws as well. I just followed the instructions and multiple pictures for the tail assembly.
For the wing assembly I needed to join the left and right wing sections with the supplied square carbon wing tube. I needed the two bottom wing joiners, the four wing connector screws, the top wing cover, the doubled sided tape and the aileron servo Y-harness.
I inserted the carbon wing tube into first one wing half and then the other, sliding the wings together.
I trial fit the top cover over the center section of the wing and when I saw that it fit I lifted the cover and removed the remaining paper covers off of the L shaped pieces of double sided tape that I had earlier installed in the cover. With the double sided tap exposed, I installed the cover to the center section of the wing and pressed it on the top of the wing to get the tape solidly in contact with the top foam surface it was over.
I flipped the wing over and position the two bottom plastic joining plates in position on the bottom center of the wing and secured them in place with the four supplied screws that went through holes in the wing and screwed into the top cover. The wing was now a one piece wing. I connected the Y-harness to the two aileron servo wires.
With the wing now a one piece wing I was able to install the remaining two decals near the front leading edge of the wing.
I installed my receiver into the fuselage in the wing saddle and connected the V-tail servo extension wires into it and the wire from the ESC. I bound the receiver to my transmitter and selected the V-tail option for the tail on my transmitter. I played with my transmitter and the channels I had the tailed servos plugged into until I had both elevator and rudder control working in the proper directions and the prescribed movement for rudder and elevator at about 15 degrees each. I did my initial tail servo adjustments using a four cell NiMH battery.
Next I unplugged the NiMH battery and connected the connector from the ESC into the the throttle channel on my receiver. Most of you will probably do this as your first step in the radio installation. Using the flight battery I made certain the throttle direction was correct and that the ESC armed when the flight battery was connected but didn't run the motor until the proper throttle stick movement was done to arm the motor. It worked as designed and the propeller blew the air back proving the ESC was properly connected to the motor. After testing that the ESC was working properly and properly wired to the receiver I connected the servo wires from the tail back into the receiver and made sure they were working correctly.
Next I plugged the aileron Y-harness into the receiver for aileron control. I tested to make sure the ailerons were moving in the proper direction.
I placed the wing on top of the wing saddle of the fuselage and secured the Y-harness wires into the fuselage and secured the wing to the fuselage with the two supplied wing mounting bolts. One went in the center of the wing near the leading edge of the wing and the other bolt went into the mounting hole about an inch and a half from the wing's trailing edge. I tightened the bolts. I reconnected the battery to the ESC and made sure the ailerons were moving in the proper direction and I checked to see how the motor turned the propeller. Everything was working properly.
The recommended Center of Gravity is 2.5" behind the leading edge of the wing measured at the fuselage. This was obtained by adjusting the location of the receiver and the flight battery and testing where the plane balanced with the canopy in place. I ended up with the receiver all the way back in the wing saddle. When I found the desired location for the receiver, I installed some Velcro onto the receiver to secure it in place. I installed some Velcro onto the battery packs I would be using that matched up with the Velcro already on the bottom of the fuselage. The 1800mAh battery ended up behind the cockpit area and mostly under the wing saddle to obtain proper balance. I rechecked the C/G and it was at the recommended 2.5" behind the wing's leading edge at the fuselage.
During the initial flights both Jeff and I though my plane was flying a bit tail heavy so I ended up moving the battery slightly forward. I liked the handling with the balance at the front edge of the C/G markings and that is where I now balance my Blaze with either the 1800mAh or 1300mAh battery packs.
The instruction manual only gives one recommended setting for control throws and they are as follows:
Recommended Control Throws
I adjusted the high rates on my transmitter until I had the recommended movement at full throw on the corresponding control stick. I then set low rates at 20 degrees for aileron and 10 degrees for both of the tail controls. I planned to fly on high rates but I was giving myself a less responsive setup should I desire it. Finally, since my transmitter has Exponential I set it at 20% for all three controls.
I charged my 3-cell 1800mAh battery and my Blaze was now ready to fly. I was able to do it all in one evening as desired. Decals took me an hour, basic assembly about 35 minutes with pictures, programming my transmitter 40 minutes and balancing on the C/G about 20 minutes.
The plane has four controls with Throttle, ailerons, elevator and rudder. It is capable of all basic flight maneuvers and can be turned using just ailerons and elevator or for smoother turns aileron and rudder can be used together and then just elevator later in the turn to get the plane level.
The three cell 1800mAh battery was the largest battery I could use and balance the plane without adding lead. I could also use a 3-cell 1300mAh battery positioned forward in the cockpit to get the plane to balance properly. I prefer the 1800mAh when I want to make speed runs and the 1300mAh when I want to try and thermal but she can thermal with either battery in the right conditions.
The plane has no landing gear so all flights start with a hand launch. While there is no need to throw the Blaze (that is one of their promoted features). I like to start with a forward basically level toss. It has the propeller out slightly in front of me and I can toss with the motor off and activate the motor and power out and up into a climb almost immediately. (My friend Jeff demonstrates this in my video below.) It is a safe way to start the flight and it is very comfortable for me to launch the Blaze that way. That is how I start my flights. If there is a wind I launch into it. There is a second way to launch and that is holding the plane from above and just in front of the wing. The tail is down near the ground and the motor is pointing up at about 60-70 degrees. Here I power up the motor to 75% or more and give a slight toss up moving to 75-80 degrees vertical in making the toss. As soon as I get my tossing hand back on the transmitter I power up to full throttle for a vertical climb to altitude which takes about 10 seconds and at that point I power off the motor. This underhand toss method is demonstrated in the video at the start of my review.
You can use either launch method described above and I have used both but I prefer the toss forward and then as the Blaze increases speed I convert to a vertical or near vertical climb. The choice of launch methods is up to the pilot as both work well.
Landings are made by sliding to a stop on level ground. The plane can go very fast but she also slows down very nicely as well. I like to set up for a nice long final approach when the size of the field allows it and bleed off speed and then flair just before landing. The plane reacts strongly to "ground effect" where she drops more slowly once close to the ground. I have to plan for this as she wants to stay in the air longer than most people expect. Give yourself plenty of room for your first few landings until you get used to this. Sailplane pilots are familiar to this effect but it can be pretty surprising the first time you experience it. In smaller fields I have to make a shorter final approach and so I make my downwind and cross wind approaches with plenty of air speed so I have no trouble maintaining control through those turns. When I have to I will land a little hotter but still flair at touch down and making sure the ground is level where I am landing.
Speed is the the first of this plane's special flight features. This includes near vertical extended climbs and very fast diving high speed passes with the motor off and the propeller folded back. Dives from altitude with the motor off are actually faster than dives with the motor on as the propeller is folded and not slowing here down when diving from altitude. She can do a wide number of aerobatic maneuvers with excellent loops both large and small and very nice axial rolls for a sailplane. Immelmanns, Split-Ss and Hammerhead stalls can all be performed by the Blaze. I expected that would be the case before I even got the Blaze. The bigger question to me was how would she do in thermals?
For a sailplane to perform well in thermals she needs to give tells when lift is encountered so that that the pilot knows that lift has been encountered, and where the sailplane needs to be flown to take advantage of it. The Blaze gives good tells in strong lift and climbs well in strong lift. However, she doesn't climb very fast in weak lift and a pilot (me) might not catch a tell from weak lift. In stronger lift I found she climbed pretty well, especially when I was using a 3-cell 1300 mAh battery with its lighter weight. She also climbed a little faster with the lighter battery in weak lift. Having the proper balance of the plane for Thermal flying is critical for success. I have my plane set up for maximum level flight and minimum drop with the motor off and the propeller folded. This means that I need to hold in some down elevator for level flight when the motor is running. If you set her up for level flight with the motor running she is basically going to be slightly nose heavy and drops more with the motor off. The plane is pretty forgiving and easy to control nose heavy. Move the C/G point back slowly until she is flying as level as possible with the motor off. Stop there! She will be very difficult to impossible to control if you make her tail heavy. Tail heavy can be dangerous.
This review was done in September where we have cool mornings and a forty degree temperature change during the day, most days, with some excellent thermals mid-morning on those days. I probably flew through some smaller thermals but she gave good tells when strong thermals were found by going tail up when in the thermal. I would start to circle and she would go up. the key is to let her fly her natural speed. Don't try and fly her too fast or too slowly. She has a natural flight speed that gives maximum forward penetration per her drop when not in lift and that was where I had my best response when thermals were encountered. While she might fly right through the edge of a weak thermal she would be turned aside by a strong thermal and I knew to circle 270 degrees to get into the thermal and then try and core and stay in the thermal.
I admit that she takes more skill to thermal then some of my other sailplanes but those planes don't give me the combination of speed with their ability to thermal. While most people buy her for the speed I like the mixture available of speed and thermaling myself.
This plane is also a good plane to fly at the slope in light wind conditions or when the breeze keeps dropping off. The motor can be used to supply power and make it back up to the landing area when the lift dies. She doesn't like to fly too slowly so don't use too much elevator to try and keep her up as she can stall. Use the motor when the lift is simply too weak to sustain her in the air in weak lift conditions. With the ability to fly with either 1800 or 1300 mAh batteries I can get in a lot of flying at the slope with my batteries even without the wind. The heavier battery works best as the wind starts to build and moving it forward slightly can also help with control at the slope.
NO! This plane is for an advance intermediate pilot or better. She has no automatic recovery if one lets go of the controls and she can fly fast and goes where last directed. This plane is only for a person who knows how to fly and is sure of what they are doing.
|Ripmax - ST Model Blaze EP ARTF (3 min 9 sec)|
The decals were much easier to work with than I was expecting. Being able to re-position them during the installation process was very helpful. The assembly of the plane was quick and straight forward and quickly completed. While I can travel with the plane fully assembled in my Prius even with the wing off assembly at the field is quick involving plugging in two wires and securing the wing in place with two screws. The plane is easy to launch and fly and is fun whether I want to play with speed or slow down a bit and go thermal hunting. She is admittedly better with speed then maxing out thermals in my hands but she supplies me with fun doing both. For about $110.00 she supplies a lot of fun with her speed and aerobatics. The fact that I don't have hundreds of dollars tied up in her as I do with some of my planes also makes it easier to enjoy high speed low passes and inverted high speed low passes. (OK, those still make me a bit nervous.) She is very different in her handling and flight characteristics compared to my previous ST Models but like them she is in my opinion a very good bargain and a lot of fun to fly. I feel she gives a lot of bang for the buck and a lot of fun in the process.
My thanks to ST Models and Tower Hobbies for supplying the Blaze to RC Groups for this review. My thanks to Jeff Hunter with his assistance in getting media and sharing his opinions in flying the Blaze. Finally, thanks to our editor for her assistance with this review.Last edited by Michael Heer; Sep 29, 2015 at 10:58 AM..
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