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JPower Sky Surfer ARF Review

JPower, manufacturer of many popular EDFs, takes a stab at a foam airplane designed primarily for beginners.

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Introduction


Wingspan:54"
Weight:22 oz.
Length:36"
Servos:4 JPower JE0203 9 gram servos
Transmitter:JR X9503
Receiver:Spektrum AR6110
Battery:Thunder Power Pro Power 45C 3S 1750mAh
ESC:JPower 20 amp speed controller
Manufacturer:JPower
Available From:Banana Hobby
Price:$99.90 RTF, $44.90 Airframe only
Flight Duration:10-20+ minutes

Everybody has to start somewhere! Each and every person in this great hobby probably started out with a plane described as a beginner airframe. The first plane I successfully flew for more than one flight before reducing it back to kit form was a Sig Colt. I eventually logged hundreds of flights on that little Colt and it became the plane that I will credit with helping me finally earn my RC wings.


JPower, noted designer and manufacturer of many popular 64mm electric ducted fan airframes, has come up with a beginner plane to help folks teach their thumbs the skills required to fly the much faster and very popular EDFs. The JPower Sky Surfer has a lot going for it as a beginner airplane. My expectations were definitely exceeded by this snappy looking little foamy airplane! Please read on to see why.


Kit Contents

The Sky Surfer comes packed safely in a box that contains an inner foam block into which all of the components nestle. The Sky Surfer is made of EPP foam. The decals come pre-applied. All servos are pre-installed.


In The Box

  • EPP foam fuselage, with elevator and rudder servos, push rods and brushless motor pre-installed
  • EPP wing halves, with aileron servos pre-installed
  • EPP vertical and horizontal stabilizers, with pre-hinged elevator and rudder
  • Carbon wing joiner rod
  • Two control horns, one propeller, one servo Y-cable, one piece of adhesive backed hook and loop fastener
  • Four page photo-illustrated color assembly manual








Required for Completion

The RTF version of the Sky Surfer comes with everything you will need to get the plane up in the air, including a basic lipoly charger. The Airframe only version includes a a motor but will require the following to finish it:

  • Four channel radio system
  • Four 9 gram class sub micro servos
  • Speed controller rated for 3S and at least 20 amperes
  • 1300-1800mAh 3S lipoly battery

Provided for Review

  • Thunder Power ProPower 45C 3S 1750mAh lipoly battery

Assembly

The small parts count in the Sky Surfer box hints at how quickly the plane can be ready for flight. JPower includes a small, short color photo-illustrated assembly manual but in all honesty, the Sky Surfer can be easily assembled without it.


Wing


I will say up front that the wing of the Sky Surfer is very reminiscent of my Park Zone Radian's wing. The overall profile and up swept wing tips are almost identical, though the overall span of the Sky Surfers wing is definitely less than the Radian wing. The two wing halves come with JPower 9 gram servos pre-installed and connected to the ailerons. No secondary clevis retention devices are included. I like to use a small piece of heat shrink or fuel tubing to insure the clevises do not snap open in flight. The servo leads are already routed to the wing roots. All that is required to assemble the wing is to insert the carbon wing spar into the two halves as they are inserted into the wing slot in the fuselage.



Though the instructions recommend gluing the two halves together, I refrained from doing so for several reasons. One is that it is much easier to transport a plane if it breaks down into smaller pieces. The 55" wingspan of the Sky Surfer is certainly not crazy big but it is just large enough that it will not easily fit into my secondary field vehicle, an old 3 series BMW. With the wing removed, it will easily fit into either the back seat or the trunk. The second reason I refrained from gluing the wing is that I really did not expect it to be necessary, given the Sky Surfers intended design as a beginners airplane. Most beginners airplanes have a relatively mild flight envelope, which does not usually create excessive loads on the airframe. I thus installed the wings and initially anchored them in place with four pieces of Blenderm tape. This makes for easy wing removal and for easy transporting of the plane to and from the field. I flew the Sky Surfer a few times with this method of wing retention. I then decided to use some strong rare earth magnets epoxied into the wing roots as a better, stronger means of connecting the wings together.




Magnetic wing retention modification

The kit includes a short servo Y cable to connect the two aileron servos together. The aileron servo leads are long enough to reach the receiver without it however. I prefer to connect each aileron to its own channel when possible, as it makes for easier radio configuration, individual end point tuning and sub trim adjustments.

Fuselage

The Sky Surfer fuselage comes out of the box with absolutely nothing required to ready it for flight. The motor is pre-installed, as are the speed controller and the rudder and elevator servos. I could find no specifications for the motor and so I cannot report on its Kv or other pertinent information. The rudder and elevator servos are mounted very near the center of gravity of the plane. The clear push rod sleeves that connect the two servos to the tail surface control surfaces are factory installed into grooves that run from just below the wing saddle to the rear of the plane.



Access to the battery/radio compartment is via a large hatch located on the upper front of the fuselage. The hatch fits snugly and is retained via a tongue in the front and a pair of magnets in the rear. The hatch is painted black to mimic the wind screen and cockpit of the airplane. The 20 amp JPower speed controller is mounted to one side of the battery compartment via a piece of hook and loop material. Another piece of hook material for mounting the receiver is put in place by the factory on the other side of the battery compartment. The battery compartment is quite roomy and will accommodate batteries much larger than the 1300mAh 3S pack for which it is intended to be flown on. The kit includes a large piece of hook and loop that can be used to mount the battery to the floor of the battery compartment.



Tail

The major part of assembling the Sky Surfer involves attaching the tail surfaces to the rear of the fuselage. Though the aileron control horns are installed at the factory, the rudder and elevator control horns must be installed by the builder. I installed mine before I mounted the tail surfaces. I used five minute epoxy and mixed up enough so that I could not only apply it to the bottom of the horns but also lap some up and over the top side of them. Though most control horns come with a back plate that gets mounted on the other side of the control surface, the control horns included in the Sky Surfer kit are a one piece design. I personally prefer the two piece variety but was not overly concerned about the lack of the second piece on the Sky Surfers control horns, again convincing myself that most beginner planes have very mild flight envelopes. Quick link style connectors are already affixed to these two control horns. I applied a small dab of thread locking compound to secure the nuts holding the quick links on the horns.



The Sky Surfer tail surfaces are designed in such a way that perfect alignment during assembly is all but guaranteed. There is a very small amount of play in the tail pieces as they mount to the rear of the fuselage but I was comfortable using my calibrated eye to ensure that they were positioned squarely and symmetrically before the five minute epoxy cured. The horizontal stabilizer fits into a groove in the rear of the fuselage, with the vertical then slipping into a groove that is formed into the top of the elevator and fuselage.

Radio Installation


A four channel receiver is all that is required to satisfy the needs of the Sky Surfer. I used a Spektrum AR6110 six channel receiver. I mounted it on the interior wall inside the battery compartment, opposite the speed controller. JPower numbers the servo leads to aid in determining which servo lead belongs to each control surface and also which one is attached to the ESC (1=ailerons, 2=elevator, 3=throttle, 4=rudder).

Completion

The factory manual DOES provide recommended control throws but does NOT provide any information on the location of the proper center of gravity. I went with the recommended throws and mounted the battery so that the Sky Surfer balanced on the wing spar. Running the Sky Surfer across my hangar scales saw it weigh in at 22 ounces using the recommended JPower 1300mAh 3S battery, which is exactly what the advertised specifications list as an AUW. Using the slightly larger Thunder Power Pro Power 45C 1750mAh 3S lipo saw that weight increment by exactly one ounce, to 23 ounces. Word in the RCGroups threads on this plane is that there is a series of metal washers embedded in the nose to get the CG right when using the smallish 1300mAh JPower lipo. Though some may wish to dig them out and just fly on a larger, heavier lipo, I decided to leave mine in so that I could fly on any of several size batteries. For windier days, I like to fly on larger batteries. The increased ballast seems to make the Sky Surfer penetrate better.




It has been awhile since I have flown a pusher prop equipped airplane. I will confess that when it came time to mount the little prop to the rear of the Sky Surfer, I was left scratching my head trying to figure out which way it went? I took my best guess, powered the plane up and ran the throttle up to see if the air was blasting in the right direction. Everything seemed correct so it was off to the field to fly it. However, I was seriously under impressed with the performance of the Sky Surfer on the first flight or two. When an observant bystander suggested I turn the prop around, I was thrilled to see the Sky Surfer come roaring to life!


Correct way to mount the little prop

Flying

Taking Off and Landing

The Sky Surfer power system has enough power that takeoffs are easy. Go to 3/4 power and give the Sky Surfer a firm push straight forward and you are off to the races. With a strong battery, such as the Thunder Power 45C Pro Power series lipos that I prefer to use, the Sky Surfer will climb vertically, although not in an unlimited fashion.



Landing is equally easy. Point the Sky Surfer into the wind, pull the throttle back to a click or two above full off and let her coast on in. The wide bottom surface of the fuselage will let the Sky Surfer slide across the grass nicely until it coasts to a stop. I applied some clear 3 mil adhesive backed vinyl protective film to the belly of mine to help prevent any damage from ground debris while sliding out. I was surprised to twice find that the elevator control horn had broken after sliding in on a landing. In both instances, the quick link broke free of the hole into which it was mounted, fracturing the plastic around it. Fortunately, while pre-flighting the Sky Surfer for my next launch, I noticed the elevator not responding to my control inputs. It pays to always check the basics before each flight! As an alternative to landing it on its belly, and for a little challenge, you can catch the Sky Surfer when it is time to land. The prop is safely tucked out of the way behind the cockpit and thus, there are no worries at all when attempting to pluck it out of the air at the end of a flight. And it looks pretty cool when you manage to pull it off too!



Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance


Beginner airplanes typically possess a very mild flight performance envelope (AKA as boring, to some intermediate or advanced pilots!) Well, this could not be farther from the truth when it comes to the Sky Surfer! It has ample power and the ability to do many aerobatics. Because it is a four channel ship, there is almost nothing that you cannot attempt with the Sky Surfer! Well, we will cross 3D maneuvers off of the list, as it just does not have the power required to hover.



But the sky is the limit when it comes to aerobatic maneuvers. Rolls are not necessarily blindingly fast, due to the conservative throw rates recommended. But setting it up with the recommended rates helps keep a beginner from over controlling it as he/she learns to fly. I have looped, rolled and tumbled my Sky Surfer all over the sky! And I really like flying it around inverted.


The marketing for this little foamy says you can fly it for upwards of 20 minutes at a time. Is that true or is it just hype? Please take a peek at the following Eagle Tree data logger screen capture. On this flight, I flew the Sky Surfer with a ten minute countdown timer set. The flying was a mixed assortment of some WOT passes, some climb outs with a little power off soaring and some low throttle putting around. Using my FMA charger, I put a whopping 425 mAh back into the JPower 1300mAh lipo after this flight. Could I have stayed up another ten minutes?! I would have to say YES!


In Flight data courtesy of Eagle Tree

Is This For a Beginner?

Assuredly yes. However, a little caution could be in order. The Sky Surfer does not have a wing with a notable amount of dihedral, as most beginner airplanes normally do. Without dihedral, the airframe is more prone to stay in whatever orientation the pilot places it into. Though the up swept wing tips will have the same self-righting effect as dihedral does, it occurs at a much slower rate. But the up swept wingtips also benefit the Sky Surfer in that they act to soften the stall characteristics of the airplane. A rank beginner would be best to seek out a little assistance on the first few flights. But then that is true with ANY airplane in my opinion, even those clearly intended for beginners. A little help will prevent the damage that always goes along with learning how to fly. Should the Sky Surfer suffer any damage due to botched flights, the durability of the foam should help insure that only the worst of crashes require ordering spare parts. If you insist on learning without the benefit of a seasoned pilot, the Sky Surfer just may be the plane to help you earn your wings.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery











Downloads

Conclusion

Labeled as a beginner aircraft, the Sky Surfer should indeed serve as a capable platform to introduce a new pilot to the world of electric radio controlled airplanes. Its flight envelope is impressively broad. It will putt putt putt around the sky at a very low throttle setting but throw the throttle stick forward and it will accelerate to a satisfyingly racy speed too! It is also possible use the Sky Surfer as a glider, climbing it up to a speck in the sky and then powering the motor down as one hunts for thermals. I was not able to find any lift strong enough to take it higher with the motor powered off. The AUW weight of the airplane and its wing loading may make thermalling with it a somewhat tough proposition, though I do believe it could be done given the right conditions. Exceptionally long flight times are possible when one shuts the motor off and does a little soaring, or should I say surfing, with the Sky Surfer.


The composition of the foam is very, very nice and the decals are expertly applied to make the end color scheme very pleasing. The pusher prop configuration keeps the prop out of the way of ones fingers during hand launches and also protects it from damage on landing. The ample size of the battery compartment makes it possible to use the wide variety of different batteries in the 1300-2100mAh size range that most modelers are sure to already have lying around. I do think it would be a nice touch for JPower to include a spare prop or two in the box. Should you some how break the sole prop that is included, a GWS prop of similar dimension should serve as a suitable replacement. But one should of course verify that any prop chosen does not create a load that exceeds the 20 amp rating of the JPower speed controller.

The Sky Surfer is in a word, FUN! Even though I am well past the "need" for a beginner airplane, I have a ton of fun racing around the sky with it. I honestly enjoy flying it with complete reckless abandon! It is challenging but entirely possible to catch it instead of letting it slide across the ground when landing it. Wide open throttle will make the Sky Surfer jet across the sky at an impressive clip, yet it can be slowed down to almost a crawl too.

Pluses

  • Inexpensive beginner plane with a broad (and fun!) flight envelope
  • Fit and finish of foam is first rate
  • Can be built in a few hours or less
  • Notably long flight times possible with a little restraint on the throttle
  • Large battery compartment permits the use of a wide variety of different batteries

Minuses

  • Control horns made of brittle plastic that breaks easily
  • It would be nice if the box included a spare prop or two


Last edited by Angela H; Apr 14, 2010 at 09:51 AM..

Discussion

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Old Apr 14, 2010, 11:43 AM
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What kind of motor comes with this plane?
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 11:47 AM
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It's an Easy Star with ailerons.......looks exactly like an Easy Star till you get to the wing.
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 11:54 AM
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Are there replacement parts available for this plane? Or does the owner have to purchase a whole new plane if he needs say, just a new rudder?
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 11:56 AM
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It is listed as a "2620" brushless motor on the box but I have no other specific info. If I get additional info from the manufacturer, I will post it here.

Here is a Vimeo link to the video in the review:

JPower Sky Surfer (2 min 6 sec)
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Last edited by Bajora; Apr 20, 2010 at 07:16 AM. Reason: Vimeo link added
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 11:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BARNESJONR View Post
It is listed as a "2620" brushless motor on the box but I have no other specific info. If I get additional info from the manufacturer, I will post it here.
Thanks,

Is the motor available as a replacement part?
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 12:03 PM
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If the prop does break, what diameter and pitch is it so we can look up a replacement GWS prop?
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 12:08 PM
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Some spare parts are listed on the Banana Hobby web site. Go to their home page and do a search on "Surfer". Both the RTF and Airframe versions will appear in the result, as well as a list of available spare parts. I believe the prop is listed as well. I am unsure what GWS prop would be the best replacement. Some of the smaller APC E props would also propbably work. A watt meter would be indispensable in making the determination of which props would be suitable replacements.
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 02:52 PM
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its another multiplex easy star clone. disappointing to see someone else's intellectual rights and design being stolen.
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 03:37 PM
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Perfect timing for a review!! I just purchased this plane last night, of all of the ez clones, this one looks to be about the best. I own 3 ez stars and love them to death, but this one looks cool and at you can't beat the price. I'm really lookin forward to getting some airtime on this one. I think it will make a fantastic AP platform. and for those that are looking to add aileons to their ez stars, I understand that theSky surfer wings will plug right into an ez stars fuselage.
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 03:59 PM
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What's disappointing is that we can't find the easy star nowhere. Do you know where I can buy one?
Thanks.
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by kal602921 View Post
What's disappointing is that we can't find the easy star nowhere. Do you know where I can buy one?
Thanks.
http://toys.shop.ebay.com/Radio-Cont...=p3286.c0.m282
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by captaingeek View Post
its another multiplex easy star clone. disappointing to see someone else's intellectual rights and design being stolen.
I agree 100% - bogus ripoff.

FWI the prop in the picture is on backwards, even though you said this ....
"Correct way to mount the little prop"


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Old Apr 14, 2010, 06:12 PM
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Well I will tell you that YOU are definitely wrong on that one. I know because I ran it the other way and it makes NO thrust. So, if you have one, go ahead and try it the way YOU say it needs to go...then you can come back here and tell me I am right.

I would have agreed with you and in fact that is the way I tried it at first, based on my experiences with APC E props on several pusher jets. The photo does indeed show the correct way. Please don't confuse the issue with your post.
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 06:14 PM
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With all due respect, this plane is not made of EPP, like it says in your review.

Chuck
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