|Wing Area:||340 square inches|
|Weight:||6-6.5 oz. (with 2S and 3S LiPo, respectively)|
|Wing Loading:||2.5-2.75 oz/sq. ft. (with 2S and 3S LiPo, respectively)|
|Servos:||Three Tower Pro 6-gram servos|
|Battery:||2S 500mAh or 3S 500mAh LiPo (10C or greater)|
|Motor:||M-A-E "Slo-Fly" 25-turn outrunner brushless motor|
|ESC:||Castle Creations Thunderbird 9 brushless speed controller|
|Manufacturer:||Model Airplane Engineering|
|Available From:||Model Airplane Engineering|
|Price:||$34.95 (kit only) to $123.95/$129.95 (receiver-ready ARF with 2S or 3S LiPo, respectively)|
Folks at my flying field tend to say that I always bring (and I quote verbatim) "the most interesting stuff" to the flight line. I've brought tiny planes with huge wasp graphics across the wing, foamies big and small, even R/C-friendly applications for my iPod Touch. have set a standard for myself, whether I wanted to or not.
The quest at the Monasterio Electric Aerospace Institute and Crash Test Facility© (motto: "Electrons Rule, Yet Gravity Always Laughs Last"©) is always on, and this time the quest led me to a few pieces of Depron foam with plenty of personality. Meet the TumbleBuddy Jr., the UFO-looking creation of Georgia-based Model Airplane Engineering.
It's always a good day when you open the front door and find a package with the words "Model Airplane" written on it. Upon opening it, here's what I found:
Needless to say, the low parts count points to an low assembly time. However, if you want to be tumbling around, you'll need a few more parts. Here's what I used:
The first order of business involves getting the business end ready for the brushless powerhouse. All that needs to be done is to put the small piece of plywood that will hold the motor into the motor stick. There's no need to glue those yet. Then, glue the motor stick to the top of the wing, and secure it with the two flat pieces of balsa.
OK, set your timers and... start! Grab the top of the fuselage, and cut a hole for the rudder servo. Glue the aforementioned top of the fuselage, and glue it to the wing. Grab the bottom of the fuselage, and glue it to the wing. Step back. Look at it. You're done.
Yes, folks, it's that easy. You now have a finished plane — sans electronics, but still something that resembles a plane.
You do need to apply some tape to hinge the rudder at the bottom of the fuselage, but the rest of the control surfaces are pre-hinged and ready for instant gratification.
This is where the real work begins — if you can call it that.
Let's start with the servos (which you should center before gluing): Grab the rudder servo, and glue it to the fuselage and wing. I used some foam-safe CA to secure them in place, then a few squirts with the hot-glue gun for a little more security. The elevon servos are even easier to install, by simply laying them flat on the wing (don't do like I did the first time around and set them upright — not a good idea).
While we're in the vicinity the control surfaces, add the plywood control horns to each of the control surfaces, and then cut some of the piano wire for the pushrods. You can attach them via z-bends on both ends, but I went the precise/lazy way and put some Du-Bro mini connectors on the servos, which made it ultimately easier to adjust.
The motor is a simple installation, and all that needs to be done is to slide the carbon-fiber motor bearing tube into the ply pieces you already installed, then use CA to set it in place. Per M-A-E's recommendation, I also put a small strip of scrap ply between the ply motor-mount pieces to prevent them from sliding up and down too much. And for an extra dose of peace of mind, I went ahead and added a small screw than went all the way into the motor bearing tube. This thing is not going anywhere any time soon.
The rest of the electronics fall into place below the wing and in a simple fashion. Both the speed controller and the battery go at the very front of the fuselage, while the receiver went as far forward as the servo wires would allow (I did have to use a small extension for the rudder servo, but that was it.)
In record time, even by my standards, I had a plane. It can be put together in a short evening without a doubt, so it's an easy project that provides a nice distraction from those other more time-intensive endeavors.
There's not much to setting up your radio. You do need to set up the tail surfaces as a delta wing (or else get a mixer y-harness for it), and that means that when moved individually, the surfaces would move like regular ailerons and elevators. Together, however, they work in unison.
When it comes to travel rates, more is better according to the instructions. Set each control surface for as much deflection as you can, and then add a huge amount of expo (read: 70 percent or more) to tame this foam beast down.
So, in the time that it took us to build this plane, the batteries should be charged. What are we waiting for, people?
Measuring all of 22 inches in wingspan (or circumference, for that matter), there's little doubt that you'd need a big open field to fly the TumbleBuddy Jr.. A large backyard would do, and so would a soccer field or the park down the street. I take it to my club often, but it's also a fine aircraft to toss around behind the house in the evenings, too.
In the absence of landing gear, a quick toss is the de facto way to go with this plane. With a good amount of throttle, maybe two-thirds to three-quarters, give it a quick underhanded toss, and the plane will just take off without much effort. Be sure to get back to the sticks in short order.
When it comes to returning the TumbleBuddy Jr. back to you, things can get a lot more exciting. The preferred method — and certainly the most entertaining one — involves a hand-catch. Sounds fun, sounds exotic, sounds simple, and it can be all of those, but it can also be a royal challenge, especially in the wind.
The best way is to set yourself up in a harrier, preferably into the wind, then slowly bring it toward you. Once you're within reach, go out and grab it. You don't need to be an NFL-grade wide receiver for this task, but it does require some quick reflexes.
I probably have a .500 average on this plane when it comes to grabbing it in the air, but if you don't want to catch it, that's fine as well — just slowly glide it into the grass. But don't nose it in, for the balsa motor mount is as brittle as I expected it would be. It can be repaired on the field with some CA and scrap ply, but it can be prone to snapping if you miss the catch and, say, hit yourself in the shin with it (not that I would know anything about that particular maneuver).
This plane looks fun, and in the air it's equally fun.
It took me by surprise that even though the control surfaces moved roughly a country mile in each direction, it was not as twitchy as I expected it to be. Sure, the 75 percent expo does help, but since the plane flies so relatively slowly, it requires a vast amount of travel so there's no need for low rates. Keep it as recommended, and you'll be in business. (A bit of down elevator was needed for straight flight, but it was simple to trim other than that).
Needless to say, a plane with so much wing area, swinging such a big prop that’s so light only means one thing: Slow and floaty. When handled with care, it moves along rather gently, harriering its way past you at crawling speeds. You would think that it's the epitome of a calming flyer, but...
... you would be beyond mistaken. As soon as you crank up the throttle or smash on the sticks a bit, it becomes a lean, mean, aerobatic machine.
The TumbleBuddy Jr. might seem relaxing, but it is a master of deception. It’s a four-channel plane, and it can pull just about any maneuver that any other plane could — it may do them better, or it might fall awfully short, but it will attempt to, anyway. Here are some of the ones I put to the test as well as how each one of them fared.
These were some of the fun maneuvers, but in the spirit of saving the best for last, here were my three favorites. I am not a 3D pilot extraordinaire by any means, but this plane made me look better than I truly am:
So, there's an option to going with a two-cell LiPo or a three-cell LiPo. And, if the 2S option is fun, does that mean that going 3S would make this fun-and-a-half?
That might come down to personal preference.
Using a 2S battery and 10x6 prop, I had more than enough power to do everything I needed it to do. I could perform outside loops like the best of them, and I could do anything I wanted to it as well. It had plenty of thrust, and it flew nice and slow. More important, it felt floaty, and in my book, lighter is better.
Popping a 3S battery and propping down to an 8x4, you can certainly tell the difference, but it's not as drastic as one would think. The thrust is still there, and what you really get out of is a bit more punch and a touch more speed out of it. But, even with that extra power, it's not like I felt like a completely different aircraft. In fact, the thing I noticed was that it didn't feel as light as it was — a whopping .4 ounces heavier, in fact, and in a model this small and light, you can tell the difference in the air.
One thing I did appreciate out of the 3S power system is that you can have a lot more fun in the low-and-slow hovering department. With this setup, it was a hoot to do tail touches, get up close and personal with the plane and do all sorts of other crazy maneuvers while hugging the grass. The extra punch helps in that regard — and it will certainly help as well when trying to recover.
So, 2S or 3S? Again, it all depends on your style of flying, but I lean toward the two-cell option. Lighter, equally powerful, slower — and, ultimately, a bit cheaper as well. Flight times will not be all that different, anyway, as you can get a bit more than 10 minutes out of either pack.
Despite its lightness and floaty characteristics, this is still an aerobatic plane. And, while made of foam, Depron is not the most crash-resistant of materials either. Those two factors don't mix well with first-time pilots.
It is an extremely easy build and would make a perfect first kit for someone who has already logged a few hours with an aileron trainer. It would, in fact, be a good 3D trainer thanks to how easily it performs a lot of those kinds of maneuvers.
Don't get me wrong: I love a proven aerobatic machine or a sleek fighter jet or a World War I replica as much as the guy next door, but it's unusual projects that do stick with you — and folks at the field, apparently. Add to that equal doses of backyard performance and ease of building, and you might agree that we have something going here.
I would like to thank the following for making this review possible: Randy Roman at Model Airplane Engineering for providing the kit, motor, servos and props for the review; Castle Creations for providing the Thunderbird speed controller; and my friends Michael Wieczorek, Chris Giles and Bo Lovell for some amazing footage and photos.
The TumbleBuddy Jr. passes the rigorous test here at the Monasterio Electric Aerospace Institute and Crash Test Facility© (motto: "Electrons Rule, Yet Gravity Always Laughs Last"©). I made it from front door to flying field in less than 48 hours, and the fun that can be had with this unique aircraft is almost limitless. It does what every other plane does, but it does it in a completely different manner. It's a joy to fly — and the oohs and aahs will still prevail from the peanut gallery.
|Sep 04, 2009, 10:59 AM|
|Sep 04, 2009, 06:24 PM|
I'd like to express my personal thanks to Napo and Angela for their efforts in putting together this most excellent review! Also... many thanks to Ken Daughtry for the original design.
FWIW... both the plane and motor are manufactured right here in our shop. Accordingly, we provide complete support for technical assistance, repairs, and replacement parts for all of our American-made products.
Here is a LINK to an earlier Ezone review of our SLICK ... now in its 5th year of sales. You can also find links to some of our other models in the "Similar Threads" section further down this page.
Model Airplane Engineering
|Sep 04, 2009, 06:47 PM|
Napo, your reviews consistently raise the bar when it comes to pictures. It is always a treat to see what kind of photographic goodness you bring us each time. Oh, the article wasn't bad either, but I really dig the pics!
Now when are you gonna let me fly this plane? It looks like a hoot!
|Sep 05, 2009, 11:02 AM|
Love the review Napo!
I really like your subtle humor throughout the whole thing- it really makes the review fun to read. You pictures are awesome too- as always.
|Sep 09, 2009, 02:18 PM|
Napo, as usual, another great summation. I'm glad some of the time-lapse photography of the plane catch made it into the final cut. And the video was the most fun I've had filming and flying in a long time. I've got to get one of these before the JR indoor. Let's fly monday if we can.
|Sep 09, 2009, 05:57 PM|
Hey guys, thanks for the kind words. Glad y'all enjoyed it! The TB sure is a keeper. I was flying it on 2S around the backyard yesterday, in fact. With the tamer setup, I can't get enough of it on the small spaces.
Yeah Bo, we had a good time indeed. Thanks for all your help! I'll give you a holler about going to fly on Monday then.
|Sep 09, 2009, 08:51 PM|
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