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Great Planes Zlin Z-526 Review

Lookin' for some awesome airshow fun every Sunday? Check out Great Planes' Zlin Z-526!

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Introduction


Wing span:58" (1470mm)
Wing area:633 sq in.
Length:52" (1320mm)
Weight:6-6 3/4 lbs.
Wing loading:22 - 24oz sq ft.
Servos:5x Futaba S3004 servos
Receiver:4 - 5+ channel
Battery:2x 3s 3200mah Electrifly
Motor:Rimfire .55 Outrunner
ESC:Electrifly Silver Series 60A
Manufacturer:Great Planes
Available From:Tower Hobbies
MSRP:$229.99

My tastes usually don't stray too far from military jets/warbirds but as of late I have found myself quite intrigued by some of the more sporty planes on the market. When I saw that Great Planes was releasing a model of the Zlin, I didn't pay too much attention until I saw the video and still photos of it on the Tower Hobbies website one evening. Between its awesome colors and its flight characteristics, something just told me I would have fun with this plane!

<font size=-2>Great Planes Zlin Z-526</font>
Great Planes Zlin Z-526

<font size=-2>All views</font>
All views

History

In order to eliminate the weak points of the design of the 326 series, the Z-326 S Special was built. The “Special” was used to test the different modifications in the formation of a new type of the Z-x26 series. During the test flights it was proved that the changes in the design were in the right direction. The new member of the Tréner family was born in 1956 with the start of the serial production of Z-526 Tréner Master. The new type won the Lockheed Trophy for the third time.

To continue the tradition, the Z-526 also had an aerobatics version, the Z-526A Akrobat. The front seat was removed, and the fuel tanks were shrunk to a capacity of two times 35 liters. Later it received a new bubble-shaped canopy, and its constant speed V-503A propeller was driven by the more powerful M-137A engine with its 132 kW (160 HP).

With the mass production of the M-137A turbo engine and the constant speed two-blade aluminum propeller, they became the standard equipment of the Zlin series. The two seater version became the Z-526F.

The aerobatic single seater version of this type was the Z-526 AF Akrobat. The competition on the aerobatics plane market becomes very tight, resulting in the dramatically increased performance of the planes. The designers in Otrokovice came to the conclusion that the Zlin airplane needed fundamental reconstruction in order to keep up with its increasing number of competitors and demands. They took the Z-526AF as the base and cut the length of the fuselage (removed the part between the leading edge and the firewall) reduced the wingspan, removed the flaps, made the wing-fuselage transition aerofoil and increased the surfaces of the ailerons. The rebuilt new model became the Z-526 AFS Akrobat Special (1971).

Due to the pressure from customers of the western countries, a Lycoming engine (146 kW) was built in the Z-526. The four cylinder boxer engine version became the Z-526L.

As the result of the modernization of the two seater versions and the extended use of the Tréner family as touring plane, the canvas covered parts were minimized. The control surfaces and the front end of the fuselage received aluminum skin. The wingspan was reduced, and she received a modified M-137AZ engine known as Z-726 Universal. She became heavier. The aerobatics performance was far from the previous models. The builders tried to match the power needs of the “universal” by employing the M-337 AK (Compressor) engine and the V-500A manual pitch-controlled propeller.

The modifications resulted in some unwanted consequences. The new propeller prevented the plane from executing an aileron roll and other high speed aerobatics figures, and the compressor has to be switched off during aerobatics. As a result, the plane’s performance was more like the original Z-26, towing, touring and basic training. It comes as no surprise that Z-726 K became the last member of the famous Tréner family.

Source: zlintrener.com

<font face='arial,helvetica' size=-2>Zlin Akrobat</font>
Zlin Akrobat

<font face='arial,helvetica' size=-2>Action shot</font>
Action shot

<font face='arial,helvetica' size=-2>Close-up</font>
Close-up

Kit Contents

The Zlin comes nicely packaged in a very colorful box. Each component is individually wrapped to ensure no damage. I found myself impressed with the color scheme and overall quality of the model. Little things like the very nicely detailed cockpit gauge cluster, robust canopy attachment mechanism and the completeness of the hardware package caught my eye. As usual, the instruction manual is top notch and provides a VERY thorough build guide for either glow or electric power systems.

<font face='arial,helvetica' size=-2>Instructions etc.</font>
Instructions etc.

<font face='arial,helvetica' size=-2>Stab and landing gear</font>
Stab and landing gear

<font face='arial,helvetica' size=-2>Decals and wing</font>
Decals and wing

 

<font face='arial,helvetica' size=-2>Wing root and mount area</font>
Wing root and mount area

<font face='arial,helvetica' size=-2>Removable canopy</font>
Removable canopy

<font face='arial,helvetica' size=-2>Cowl and mount</font>
Cowl and mount

Kit includes/features:

  • Colorful pre-covered surfaces
  • 2 sets of decals (German or US Registration)
  • Glow or Electric power ready
  • Large canopy w/ scale gauge cluster
  • Illustrated instruction manual
  • Pushrods

Kit requirements (Glow):

  • Standard build tools
  • 4 - 5 standard servos
  • 4+ channel Receiver
  • .46 - .55 2-Stroke
    xxxxxOR
    .52 - .70 4-Stroke

Kit requirements (Electric):

  • Standard build tools
  • 4 - 5 standard servos
  • 4+ channel Receiver
  • Rimfire .55 (42-60-480kv)
  • 60A ESC
  • 2x 3s 3200mah LiPos

Great Planes was kind enough to send along their recommended electric power setup for this review, including a PolyCharge 4 and Equinox balancer. The overall ease of construction with the package Great Planes has put together greatly simplifies construction. All the connectors match right up, no guessing about compatibility, no soldering, nothing. Two thumbs up from this slacker! I also like the fact that Rimfire is now using a glow designation (.55) as well as the traditional 42/60/480 electric naming convention used on all their previous electric power plants. I hope to see more of this in the future and hope other manufacturers follow suit.

 

<font face='arial,helvetica' size=-2>Charger, PS, and Balancer</font>
Charger, PS, and Balancer

<font face='arial,helvetica' size=-2>Batteries, ESC, Motor</font>
Batteries, ESC, Motor

<font face='arial,helvetica' size=-2>Futaba servos</font>
Futaba servos

Assembly

The Zlin is an ARF, and most of the grueling work has already been done at the factory. From my previous experiences with Great Planes, I had high expectations of their instruction manual and overall kit quality, and the Zlin didn't disappoint in either category. It's clear the people at Great Planes go to great lengths to ensure the construction is well thought out and clearly communicated. It's refreshing to see that this attention to detail still does exist!

Normal construction techniques are utilized during the build, and some of the tools I used over the course of it include:

dremel

  • hobbyknife
  • heat gun
  • CA glue
  • hand drill
  • pliers

Nothing you shouldn't have in the man-cave already. Enough blabbering already, and on with the build!

Wing

Wing assembly begins with building the servo tray up. I first attached the servo to the wooden blocks provided, and epoxied them onto the wing tray. I attached the extension, and routed them through the wing. Both wings had string pre-routed. Once the servo tray was secured, I attached the horns and linkages, taking time to make sure to get everything as square as possible. Once I had installed the servos and horns, it was time to decide whether to join the wing for good, or as I decided for transportation reasons, to keep them as separate halves. The completed wing halves join together with a very nicely sized aluminum spar and join to the fuselage with provided plastic wing bolts.

<font size=-2>Servo on tray</font>
Servo on tray

<font size=-2>Installed servo and hardware</font>
Installed servo and hardware

 

<font size=-2>Aileron servo lead</font>
Aileron servo lead

<font size=-2>Wing spar and anti-rotation pin</font>
Wing spar and anti-rotation pin

Fuselage

Assembling the fuselage is a relatively straightforward task. The most time consuming task for me is always getting the cowling installed. Fortunately, the electric system on the Zlin mounts up very easily, and the cowling slipped right over everything and sealed up nicely. Cooling holes are cut into the lower portion of the fuse as indicated by the instruction manual, and cooling seems to be more then adequate. Installing the elevator and rudder servos was straightforward, and I didn't deviate from the plans. At first I felt the elevator linkage assembly might be a little unstable, and I was considering replacing it, but after installing it and putting some thread lock in place, I'm pretty well convinced it isn't going anywhere. The canopy, as well as the inside of the cowling, took a bit of sanding. It's still proving to be a tight fit with everything at the recommended distances, but it does seem to be loosening over time.

 

<font size=-2>Ventilation holes cut away</font>
Ventilation holes cut away

<font size=-2>Elevator/rudder servos</font>
Elevator/rudder servos

<font size=-2>Completed fuselage</font>
Completed fuselage

Landing gear

The landing gear provided for the Zlin appears to be some type of steel. The instruction manual requires flattening an area of the gear wire in order for the wheel collar’s set screw to take a good bite, but mine was already done for me. Once I had the gear wire prepared (wheels/collars attached), the wire itself attached to the wing with a nylon tab and a couple of screws - very simple, and effective. Let's see how they hold up to my less-than-graceful landings later in the review!

<font size=-2>Landing gear out of box</font>
Landing gear out of box

<font size=-2>Landing gear close-up</font>
Landing gear close-up

 

Tail

The tail feather assembly is about the same as any other tail dragger I've built. Essentially, I cut the covering away from the mated surfaces, made sure they were square (the manual has some great recommendations if you're still a little weary of this task) and glued together using 15 minute epoxy. The rudder is the trickiest bit (as the tail wheel hardware needs to be attached to it), but with the pre-bent hardware provided in the kit, messing it up is difficult: Things only fit in one direction. To attach the control surfaces I used standard thin CA glue. I aligned my control surfaces, bent them back to their mechanical limits and dribbled a few drops of CA in place. I found the thin applicators most hobby shops carry really help with the placement of the glue on the hinge during this step.

 

<font size=-2>Parts out of the box</font>
Parts out of the box

<font size=-2>Tail assembly</font>
Tail assembly

<font size=-2>H. stab, and elevator</font>
H. stab, and elevator

Power system

My Zlin is powered by a Rimfire .55 brushless outrunner motor, running on 2x 3s 3200mah 20C Electrifly LiPo packs wired in series. Power is delivered by a Silver Series 60A ESC. Both the motor and ESC come with all wires pre-soldered into place so after mounting them up it's as simple as plugging them into place. I can't tell you how much I enjoy this. (I’ve spent countless hours soldering in the garage, and honestly, it's just one of those tasks that has just become simply monotonous.) Installing the motor is as simple as mounting the motor mount backplate to the firewall with the 4 provided screws and attaching the motor to the mount with the 8 allen screws once the appropriate length is met. The Silver Series 60A ESC bolts onto a plate which has pre-installed blind nuts in it and hangs nicely in the airflow from the underside of the firewall.

I can't say enough about how easily the Rimfire motor bolted into place using the Electrifly Medium mount pictured below. I'm certain a multitude of solutions will be employed in order to facilitate the mounting hardware of each individual’s power plant, but I don't foresee any issues getting just about any of your favorite mounts to work.

 

<font size=-2>Silver Series 60A ESC</font>
Silver Series 60A ESC

<font size=-2>Rimfire .55 Brushless outrunner</font>
Rimfire .55 Brushless outrunner

<font size=-2>Electrifly BP3200 20C LiPos</font>
Electrifly BP3200 20C LiPos

<font size=-2>Group shot</font>
Group shot

Radio Installation

I mounted the receiver next to the battery pack on the plate just behind the elevator and rudder servos. The plate is preslotted so I slid some hook and loop fastener through to hold the receiver pack in place, positioning it to best align it for the flow of the wires. I needed one 6 inch extension for the ESC to help bridge the gap to the throttle port on the RX.

Completion

I installed the spinner, decals (there are 2 sets from which to choose), balanced the model, charged up the flight packs, set the throws for the control surfaces and gave the model that oh-so-glorious taxi test in front of the house in the wee hours of the morning before work. After about 15 hours or so of time in the man-cave, I had the Zlin ready for flight.

<font size=-2>Charging</font>
Charging

<font size=-2>Batteries in place</font>
Batteries in place

 

<font size=-2>Decals in place</font>
Decals in place

<font size=-2>Spinner close-up</font>
Spinner close-up

Flying

Basics

The Zlin looks great and has a decent bit of size to it so there was a bit of anxiety leading up to my first flight. But that proved to be unfounded. As soon as I had trimmed the airplane, I realized just how well behaved this plane is, and as of today I've yet to be underwhelmed by the Zlin’s capabilities.

The Zlin has proven to be a quite stable airframe that handles very predictably in a wide variety of flight windows. For the most part, I've been able to very quickly come up to speed with the airplane’s characteristics which I think speaks volumes for its overall stability and ease of use. I think “point and shoot” is a great way to describe the overall feel of the Zlin. Quick, easy to use, and great results are a no-brainer.

Taking Off and Landing

Rolling on the throttle smoothly lets the Zlin get up on the fixed gear relatively quickly. I get the feeling that if I really pushed it I could get the plane airborne as soon as the tail wheel lifts off the ground, but since I’ve got the luxury of a large runway, I prefer to let the plane roll out a bit (about 15-20yds) before feeding in back stick and letting the plane liftoff. The rudder surface is very large relative to the size of the plane, and as such it's VERY effective so steering the plane while the tail wheel is lifting is a non-event. The ground handling characteristics are also very good. My maiden flight was on a day with a 10 - 12mph direct crosswind, and not once did the plane exhibit any wing rock or any instabilities.

Landing

Landing the Zlin really shows how stable the plane is, and even in direct crosswind conditions, the wings stay nice and flat. This is another plane I've found benefits from a scale approach: The airframe seems to be rather clean and retains speed well. I would start slowing on the downwind leg and keep an eye on the altitude. Once I was on final, a slight amount of throttle was needed to keep the Zlin on glidepath, maybe 1/8th or just a click or two over. I would smoothly feed in backstick and fly the plane down onto the mains, then chop the throttle and watch the tail settle in. It can take a bit of practice. I've had quite a few landings that were hotter than I anticipated. The Zlin moves quicker than it looks .... trust me.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

This is the Zlin’s bread and butter, and in my opinion, it definitely lives up to its real life counterpart’s heritage. The Zlin is incredibly well-suited for what airshow style flying: lots of loops, rolls, hammerheads, inverted flight, knife edge flight, etc. The Zlin isn't lacking in the speed department either, and I found myself quite impressed. Vertical is not unlimited but is very spirited and allows for climbs which will turn the plane into a dot very quickly. Or make those loops extra big and lazy. I cant get enough of the inverted flight and the HUGE loops it's capable of doing. The rudder is very effective on this plane and makes knife edge easy on both low and high rates.

Is This For a Beginner?

The Zlin is a very agile aircraft designed for the more experienced to enjoy.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery




 




 




 




 




Downloads

Conclusion

I think the best way for me to describe the overall experience I've had with the Zlin to date is "fun". The plane is fun to look at with its vibrant colors, was fun to build and is just plain fun to fly. Great Planes has done a great job in offering a very complete package which allows the builder an option of power systems and clearly spells out the steps involved with every aspect of the build in a very concise instruction manual. I'm loving perfecting my slow rolls and knife edge flight skills with this plane, and I'm certain I'm wearing my buddies thin saying, "I want to fly it again. Anybody got a 3s 3200mah pack I can borrow?"

Likes:

  • Great looks on the ground and in the air
  • Awesome instruction manual
  • Great hardware included (both quality and completeness)
  • Just plain fun to fly!

Dislikes:

  • Fair amount of wrinkling in the sun (bring a blanket).
  • Canopy too tight a fit under cowling
  • Wings are very easy to dent if you're a heavy handed builder (like me)

Thanks

Thanks to Great Planes for supplying the plane for review. And as usual to Jon Barnes and Terry Riley for the fine media work.

Last edited by Angela H; Jan 28, 2010 at 10:26 AM..

Discussion

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Old Jan 28, 2010, 11:38 AM
wine country wing nut
BlueSkyRiderX's Avatar
United States, CA, Sonoma
Joined Mar 2005
388 Posts
Outstanding review Don. Love the formatting and image sizing.
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Last edited by BlueSkyRiderX; Jan 28, 2010 at 11:57 AM. Reason: typo
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 04:48 PM
Registered User
Kmart's Avatar
United States, CO, Boulder
Joined Sep 2008
7,433 Posts
The mix of embedded photos and attached photos is great! Maybe I'm just stunned by your great photogrophy... Anyhow, awesome review!
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 10:48 PM
Registered User
Levin, New Zealand
Joined Dec 2008
159 Posts
Sounds like my kind of plane, but how long can you fly for before you need to land and charge the batteries?
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Old Jan 29, 2010, 12:53 AM
Lipo abuser ... smoke on!
gp125racer's Avatar
Joined Feb 2005
1,917 Posts
Thanks for the comments guys. I'm getting about 5 minute flights with varied flight conditions. Im sure I could get a minute or so more if I wanted, but I think all the EDFs I fly have left me with a short attention span

Don
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Old Jan 30, 2010, 11:24 AM
Registered User
USA, NC, Hendersonville
Joined Sep 2007
71 Posts
Thanks for the review! I thought the video and music was very classy for this type of plane, a scale aerobatic.

When I first saw this plane on the Web, I thought it had a one piece wing and passed it by. I will have to reconsider it now. I'm going to larger electrics and this one is a beauty!!!
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Old Jan 30, 2010, 03:18 PM
Registered User
New Hampshire U.S.A.
Joined Dec 2008
3 Posts
Zlin

My son just bought a Zlin from a auction.The person who sold this plane should hang his head low for not reporting all hiden damage! What I would like is to know if anybody knows who made the Mazda Zlin 50 I need to get it back to stock .This is a park flyer,color is black on yellow.Any help would be nice.

Thanks Whitey39
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Old Jan 31, 2010, 11:18 AM
The Animal
redding ca.
Joined Aug 2008
39 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by whitey39 View Post
My son just bought a Zlin from a auction.The person who sold this plane should hang his head low for not reporting all hiden damage! What I would like is to know if anybody knows who made the Mazda Zlin 50 I need to get it back to stock .This is a park flyer,color is black on yellow.Any help would be nice.

Thanks Whitey39
nitro models
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Old Feb 01, 2010, 12:07 AM
BadPilot
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United States, IL, Custer Park
Joined Nov 2007
1,706 Posts
Don,
Great review!!! Not just because GREAT is part of the plane manufacturer name but you have turned reviewing into an art. If anyone checking out this thread, takes a minute to look closely at the photos you would notice what I am writing about. Superior graphics and knowledge of this ACFT too. Really nice work.

John
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Old Feb 01, 2010, 08:04 AM
Registered User
USA, NC, Hendersonville
Joined Sep 2007
71 Posts
I ordered one yesterday. I noticed that the wings are foam core sheeted.

The wings on my GP Shoestring are foam core sheeted and are REALLY NICE!
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Old Feb 07, 2010, 02:18 PM
Registered User
USA, NC, Hendersonville
Joined Sep 2007
71 Posts
I received my Zlin a few days ago and I'm sorry to report that the covering job on the wings and fuselage was so loose and wrinkled that I've decided to return it.

I used to build a lot of kits and consider my ability to apply Monokote and Ultracote to be above average.

I spent about an hour with a monokote iron covered with a Monokote Hot Sock and a heat gun and a soft cloth trying to get the many wrinkles out of the wing halves and fuse. These coverings will only shrink so much and the wrinkle were smaller but still there.

Applying heat to the multi layered sections was bringing up bubbles in the top layer of covering.

I have the GP Shoestring and I had the 70" Revolver. The wings on these GP ARFS are works of art!

I like the Zlin but I'm not taking a chance on a replacement, I'm exchanging for another Revolver.
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Old Feb 07, 2010, 07:24 PM
Lipo abuser ... smoke on!
gp125racer's Avatar
Joined Feb 2005
1,917 Posts
Too bad too hear that. While mine did/does have a few wrinkles in it, it doesn't sound any where near as severe as yours. I just flew mine again today and love it. If you're purchasing it locally, maybe the retailer would let you inspect the box contents before you took it home??

Don
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Old Mar 31, 2010, 11:06 AM
Registered User
Joined May 2004
9 Posts
I wonder what the chances of Great planes putting out a larger version like they did of the revolver?
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Old Mar 31, 2010, 02:27 PM
Lipo abuser ... smoke on!
gp125racer's Avatar
Joined Feb 2005
1,917 Posts
I haven't the slightest clue if they have anything in the works or not, but that would be awesome!

Don
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Old Dec 15, 2010, 03:01 AM
Registered User
United States, FL, Jacksonville
Joined Sep 2010
9 Posts
I just ordered mine the other day and I just noticed that the SS60 ESC doesn't have a built in BEC. So I reread your build and you never mentioned this. I was just wondering if you wired your BEC directly to your 3200's or did you put in an extra battery for the receiver?
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