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Electrifly's Silhouette 3D EP ARF 40" Review

With Electrifly's Silhouette ARF Pro-Formance foamie, in about 2 - 3 hours you can have an awesome 3D aircraft!

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Introduction


Wingspan:40 in. / 1015mm
Wing Area:406 sq. in. / 26.2 sq. dm.
Weight:14.5 - 16 oz. / 410 - 450g
Length:41 in. / 1040 mm
Wing Loading:5.2 - 5.7 oz/sq. ft. / 15.9 - 17.4 g/sq.dm
Servos:Futaba 3114
Transmitter:Futaba 9 cap Super
Receiver:GWS 6 Channel NARO
Battery:Electrifly 11.1 Power Series 640 mAh 20C LiPo
Motor:Rimfire 28-30-950 Brushless
ESC:12A or 35A Silver Series Brushless
Prop:11 x 3.8 slo-flyer
Manufacturer:Great Planes
Available From:Your Local Hobby Shop
MSRP:$ 59.99

Folks, in my humble opinion, Electrifly has a spot-on design with the Silhouette. I have never flown a full-airfoil-winged 3D plane that is more forgiving and that just downright makes me look good. I was absolutely amazed at how well the Silhouette flies and only wished, as I know you will too, that I had more batteries charged for more flight time.

This is not your typical ARF; it is a much larger, thicker design that does all the maneuvers flat foamies perform, but does so as a full airframe, aerodynamic winged aircraft. Made of Pro-Formance foam with a one-piece wing and huge hollow fuselage, the fully painted Silhouette is a super 3D flyer both indoors and out.

Kit Contents

My Silhouette arrived with no damage. The packaging is excellent, and it has to be: The total framed up weight of this ARF is less than a pound (total weight is 14.1 ounces/400 grams). The contents are locked in place and do not move during shipping. Given how delicate these items are, one would be very surprised to hear just how durable the Silhouette is for extreme flying.

Kit includes:

  • Silhouette airplane fully painted
  • Complete instruction manual
  • Decal sheet
  • Landing gear and hardware
  • Carbon fiber linkages with Z-bends
  • Laser cut control arms
  • Pre-hinged and beveled control surfaces
  • Complete instruction manual with photographs

Kit Requires:

  • 4 channel radio
  • Four micro servos (Futaba 3114 - .28oz (7.8g))
  • 6" Y harness
  • 2 – 150mm/6" slim wire extensions (these were too short so substitute 12”)
  • 2 – 300mm/12" slim wire extensions
  • 12A ESC (GPMM1810) (Silver Series - .49 oz. 14g) to 35A ESC (GPMM1830) (Silver Series - 1.13oz (32g))
  • 11.1 LiPo battery 640 mAh 20C (GPMP0601) (2.01oz (57g))
  • Rimfire Brushless motor (GPMG4560) (1.91oz (54g))
  • Propeller - 11 x 3.8 Slo-Flyer
  • Foam safe glue

Assembly

Figure your build time at about 2-3 hours, add a couple more hours to get the setup just right and you can go fly.

I started the build by interpreting the instructions incorrectly, and I popped the battery hatch into two pieces. To remove the hatch, SLIDE the hatch under the top of the forward cowling until you can remove the aft end, and then lift it out towards the aft portion of the fuselage.

Wing

Be very careful as you insert the wing to not distort the wind saddle. When you take your symmetry measurements, note the way the fuselage can flex on the side and how when you shift the wing the tail can move slightly in one direction or the other and get your measurements off slightly.

I had to slide the wing into the fuselage and make sure to keep the aileron lead strings clear so they could be accessed inside the fuselage later. They can be tied together. I gently slid the wing in place, making sure not to force the wing.

I found squaring the wing to be an exercise in patience. I was going back and forth until I noticed I was depressing the fuselage walls that I measured against when I moved the wing inward. In the end, I found that from the aileron tips to the tail measured 28 1/8 inches (713mm), and the distance from the wing tip at the leading edge to the fuselage to be 18 ¾ inches (476mm) and the distance along the trailing edge to be 18 5/8 inches (480mm).

I applied a light layer of thin CA to the wing/fuselage joint and then turned the Silhouette over and did the same for the bottom. Once the glue dried, I laid down another layer of Medium CA in the seam and finished the bottom wing by applying a thin stiffener strip.

Wing Servos

The instructions clearly show the control horn inserted into the slot provided in the wing, but the horn hit the wing on a full downward deflection. This is not a problem as the full 3D rate prescribes a 1.25 inch throw that will NOT hit the control horn. If you do want full movement beyond the 1.25 inches you will need to have longer servo arms and adjust the control horn some.

I installed the servos with hot glue to finish the wing.

Fuselage

The landing gear with a plywood insert is slipped in place. Do not glue the retainer. Use a piece of tape to hold it in place. The wheel pants slip on after the wheels and are sort of a press fit. Some CA will lock them on as indicated in the instructions. I suggest you use wheel collars to glue against. Unfortunately, these wheel pants are tender and will pop off. A little glue and they are back on, but with wheel collars, you can keep flying and not risk losing a wheel.

Tail

The rudder is already installed, and you can tell that its influence on flight will command a lot of attention. The horizontal stabilizer requires just a little finesse to install. I slipped the elevator in first, then the stabilizer.

Once it was in place, I squared the tail, and I found using two points helpful: From the edge of the cowling to the tail is 32 7/8 inches (835mm), and from the tip of the ailerons to the tail tips is 21 7/8 inches (556mm). I pinned the elevator in place so I could then use the hinge tape to mount the elevator to the stabilizer after the tail was squared.

After the control horn for the elevator is installed, I installed the servos and hooked up the linkages. The linkages are sturdy steel and carbon.

Radio Installation

As I installed the radio components, my goal was to keep the Silhouette in the proper weight range (14.5 oz (410g) to 16.0 oz (450g) without adding any extra. I was able to complete the project at just about 14.1 oz. (400g). I used the suggested components and have provided their weights for your consideration. I really felt neither the lightweight receiver nor an ESC had a whole lot to do with adding weight or causing CG problems. I am not sure it really matters where you put these items if you agree those will be micro components. The battery, on the other hand, influences the CG so place it correctly.

Depending on how you fly choose your ESC accordingly. I started with a 12 amp and later moved to a 35 amp to ensure I could pull amps when needed. At 12 amps and a fresh battery you can pull up to 15 amps over amping the 12 amp ESC. I should add the designers fly their Silhouettes with 12 amp ESC's with no problems what so ever. I just wanted to have a margin of safety. Just a personal thing.

The receiver antennae routes down through the fuselage and over the trailing edge of the wing.

I placed the Silhouette upside down on the CG machine and located the battery in order to achieve the perfect CG. Mine was best near the aft end of the opening. I had to get the battery down into the fuselage as far as possible, and I found it best to stand the battery on end with the wires on top so they wouldn't interfere with the canopy cover, and so I could access them. I flew with a 640 mAh battery. I think the Silhouette can easily handle a slightly larger battery.

Completion

I completed the Silhouette by installing the wheel pants. While you might use the wheel pant ply inserts to hold the wheel on, I suggest you use a wheel collar between the wheels and the pants to give you something to which to glue the pants, and you also then have the option of flying without the pants since the wheels will not fall off. I used epoxy to glue the wheel pants.

I believe you can get more aileron movement using a longer servo arm, but I maintained the prescribed throws for this review. Dubro provides a longer control arm that perfectly fits the Futaba 3114 servos.

Control throws are offered in three increments from low to 3D. This requires the use of triple rates. I programmed my Futaba 9 Cap Super for triple rates, and I was impressed at how much control movement the Futaba 3114 servos provided. I was very close on the 3D setting for the ailerons but just a little shy of meeting the setting parameter. This was not a problem If you need greater movement, consider longer servo arms and you will have to adjust the control horns.

Low Rate

  • Elevator 1" / 25mm / 17 degrees
  • Rudder 2-3/8" / 60mm / 24 degrees
  • Ailerons 3/4" / 19mm / 12 degrees

High Rate

  • Elevator 1-3/8 / 35mm / 24 degrees
  • Rudder 3-1/2" / 89mm / 37 degrees
  • Ailerons 1" / 25mm / 16 degrees

3D Rate (Max Throw)

  • Elevator 1-3/4" / 44mm / 31 degrees
  • Rudder 4-1/2" / 114mm / 52 degrees
  • Ailerons 1-1/4" / 32mm / 20 degrees

Flying

I can say without any hesitation the Silhouette is just plain fun to fly. It will follow your inputs, but do so with sort of a "Here, let me help you" attitude. The Silhouette flies very slowly, and with that type of flight characteristic, you can really keep up. All the maneuvers you want to do, you can do, and likely look good doing them. As I flew my maiden flight, I quickly dialed in the trims and realized that this was something special. In fact, I soon felt like I could relax, which is a good sign for any pilot.

Basics

You can fly the Silhouette anywhere. It is tolerant of some wind and is a plane you can keep close and under control either indoors or in your local park. The Silhouette is an AMA Park Flyer Program legal aircraft.

It is light weight (less than a pound with a wing loading near 5 ounces), and it requires some care (I cradle the plane under the wing saddle), but the airframe and wings are strong in the air where they belong.

Taking Off and Landing

The Silhouette takes several feet to get off the ground. In fact, on the first takeoff roll I stopped as I thought something was wrong (see third video). I rechecked everything, and after another fifty foot or longer takeoff roll across a smooth surface it LEAPED into the air like a rocket. I believe that because this is a tail dragger if you apply too much elevator the tail pushes down on the tail skid, and there is no room for movement to rotate. That may be why it leaps off the runway or at times does not want to leave the runway. Try applying a slight bit of down elevator like you would with a tail dragger, and that will lift the tail so that when you have enough airspeed, the tail can drop to raise the plane. Otherwise, hand launching is much easier.

Landings are excellent, and little or no ground roll is needed. A smooth surface will increase the life of the Silhouette if you use the landing gear. On soft grass, remove the landing gear and hand launch.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

Boy, oh, boy, do I like this Silhouette! Even for me, a hack 3D flyer, the Silhouette makes me look good. I never noticed much if any flight configuration wing rocking. I got harriers, hovers, inverted flight, rolling harriers, knife edge, flat spins and just about anything I wanted with incredible control. I can't tell you exactly what I was saying to myself, but I can tell you that it was laced with a few descriptive expletives! I was really seeing myself doing things I have struggled with in the past.

Slow flight is a blessing if you are learning 3D. Being able to see and predict movement and provide inputs with the Silhouette makes this a joy to fly. I was not spending near as much of my flight time trying to catch up with the plane. The motor has some great resonance from the hollow fuselage, and you can clearly hear what it is doing, also a great help to new 3D pilots. The Silhouette really does not stall. I tried and the plane resisted. If it did stall, it was hard to tell.

Knife edge was really easy. In fact, you don't have to add too much rudder to hold it. Just dial in the throttle with the rudder, and you can knife edge all day. Inverted was easy, and the plane seemed well balanced for being right-side up or otherwise. I really liked practicing the hard-to-learn rolling harriers. I could slow the Silhouette down enough to provide the inputs at least through a few rolls. Hovers were a lock; Mostly controlled with the throttle, the big bird hangs on the prop steadily waiting for your next input. The rudder authority is excellent and you can turn the Silhouette on a dime. Flat spins are tight.

I flew the Silhouette outdoors, and you can too. It is not relegated to being an indoor flyer; it can actually handle some wind.

Is This For a Beginner?

This is hands-down for the beginning 3D pilot. The airframe fixes easily with foam safe glue and the aircraft is generally very durable. Keep a little hinge tape handy for repairs as well.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Conclusion

You have to have one of these! The price is right, and I think you can adapt your components to fit if you so desire.

Right On:

  • This is an ARF as advertised - not too much effort required to build
  • Pre painted
  • Wings with an airfoil
  • Landing gear
  • Slow flight
  • Excellent rudder authority
  • Easy to repair

Left Off:

  • Wheel pants
  • Battery hatch has to be taken care of
Last edited by 78dave; Sep 25, 2009 at 11:03 AM..

Discussion

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Old Sep 25, 2009, 01:19 PM
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Xpress..'s Avatar
Joined Oct 2007
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Wow, excellent review! EXACTLY what I was looking for

Now if only the LHS would ship mine

Oh, on the aileron control horns: Are the holes directly over the hinge line?
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Old Sep 25, 2009, 01:20 PM
Slow Flyer
Bombay's Avatar
Richmond, TX
Joined Apr 2008
3,235 Posts
Accurate review. My flying buddy has one. Nice plane. I am not sure it will handle a "stuff" as well as EPP, but the plane is light (if set up properly) and can probably be repaired easily with glue...if not some spare depron/foam sheeting.

One concern is the battery size/weight/mah. My buddy flew with a light 1800mah pack, but believes it is too heavy on the airframe.

What is the estimated flight times with full 3d flight?



I forgot to add that I think they are on to something...although they are not the first with a 3d full-fuse, airfoiled wing. Perhaps they will expand this line to a Bipe, other 3D, sport, and maybe even warbirds.
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Last edited by Bombay; Sep 25, 2009 at 01:33 PM.
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Old Sep 25, 2009, 01:22 PM
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Xpress..'s Avatar
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^With the 640 pack, only ~4 minutes or so (well, depends on how hard you fly ). I'd probably run a 3 cell 1000 pack for longer flight times TBH.
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Old Sep 25, 2009, 02:02 PM
Dr. Dave
USA
Joined Nov 2005
1,316 Posts
I agree on the pack. Not much bigger than 1000 mAh. 900 is a good choice. The control horns are over the hinge line. If you want full deflection you will need to raise them and hot glue them in place. The plane can fly so slow I am afraid kicking them to full deflection will actually act as a break as you roll. Maybe that is good?

Bombay, I am not sure on the wrecking. I never really tanked mine. I did have some trouble with my ESC and a few times I just lost power. Depending on where this happens is correlated with the damage. I did finally crack it into two pieces, but really it fixed in about 3 minutes and I went right back to flying. Mash the nose and Pro-Formance foam and your repairs might be more extensive. But nothing here is molded or curved to any degree so fixing seems easy.
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Old Sep 25, 2009, 02:47 PM
BadPilot
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United States, IL, Downers Grove
Joined Nov 2007
1,706 Posts
Dave, Dave, Dave,

You are an extremely busy man, second review in one week.

This one just like all of your others, up front and the honest truth! That you misinterpreted the instructions demonstrated how human you are and openly show it. I will purchase one of these planes just because of your candidness of problems and informing us the readers of what we need to do to improve our builds. Great flying and when I build mine I will add a bit more power to it. Awesome review just like everyone you have completed! Ellen did a fantastic job videoing the flights.
TFS

John
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Old Sep 25, 2009, 03:08 PM
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Xpress..'s Avatar
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 78dave
I agree on the pack. Not much bigger than 1000 mAh. 900 is a good choice.
Well, mine are 61 grams with connector, which is only 5 grams heavier than the GP lipo battery

They're the Mojo 3 cell 1000 packs from DW foamies BTW
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Old Sep 25, 2009, 03:09 PM
Dr. Dave
USA
Joined Nov 2005
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John if I was in Germany I would hung you (or buy you a beer). Thanks for positive comments.

Funny on later flights the canopy cover popped off and I thought I saw where it went down. I had to brush hog my pasture/flying field and of course the next time I went flying I found it cut to pieces from the mower. I made a quick one of of some scrapes and I am good as new.
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Old Sep 25, 2009, 03:12 PM View Post
lammy1000
A moderator felt this post violated the following rule: Excessive Advertising (Over-competition). It is temporarily hidden while lammy1000 edits it. Show it to me anyway.
Old Sep 25, 2009, 03:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lammy1000
Looks like the Airfoil Z planes are superior in every way, especially in flight characteristics.
Exactly what contribution did this have to the thread? Nothing to be exact.
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Old Sep 25, 2009, 05:20 PM
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Research and compare. I own a 1st generation Airfoil Z Edge 540 that appears to fly much better than the silouette and is certainly much better engineered. I would appreciate the realities if I were considering a 40 " plane.
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Old Sep 25, 2009, 05:54 PM
Dr. Dave
USA
Joined Nov 2005
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I too have flown the Airfolz and we are talking about two different birds here. The Airfolz is a much heaver plane that does not have the slow flight characteristics. Both fly well and I say that since I have flown both. They are distinctly different though from the build through the engineering to the airfoil. Each has its place.
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Old Sep 25, 2009, 06:21 PM
Goats & Glocks Eat Anything
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Houston, in the Great State of Texas
Joined Jan 2009
459 Posts
Nice review 78Dave.

Just building mine, should fly once I get my DX6i back from Horizon.....

Did you consider doing the hatch-mod detailed on another thread? and placing the battery horz. on top of the wing? I think I will do that, do you think it's worth it?

Thanks

Andrew
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Old Sep 25, 2009, 07:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lammy1000
Research and compare. I own a 1st generation Airfoil Z Edge 540 that appears to fly much better than the silouette and is certainly much better engineered. I would appreciate the realities if I were considering a 40 " plane.
Still, the only thing you have had to say about TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PLANES is that the Airfoilz is a better aircraft.

This review was about the Great Planes Silhouette, not a thread for a die hard Airfoilz fan to come in here and bash another company.
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Old Sep 25, 2009, 08:38 PM
I can't fly, I 3D
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I agree Express, but to better your own case you should probably deter from mentioning another foamies site for batteries.
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