|When I first started to get involved with helis, about ten years ago, there was one helicopter that seemed to dominate every flying field and event that I went to. It was the Thunder Tiger Raptor 50. The Raptor 50 was, and still is, an extremely capable and reliable platform. However, in recent years the Raptor has taken a back seat as newer helis have hit the market. Most noticeably was Align, with their CNC machined metal parts and 3 servo eCCPM mixing, it left the Raptor looking outdated with its plastic parts and mechanical mixing tray. The Raptor 50 has been updated a few times over the years, we had the V2 release, and the newer Raptor Titan SE added some metal parts, there have even been some aftermarket eCCPM conversion kits, but it never seemed to regain it's former glory at the flying fields.|
|Fast forward to around July 2010, and Thunder Tiger announced it's newest 50 class helicopter. This was not simply an update of the Raptor 50, but a completely new design - the Titan X50B. With it's newly redesigned rotor head with underslung flybar (Raptors always had the flybar above the main rotor), compact carbon fiber side frames, and new 3 servo eCCPM mixing, we were now presented with a high performance, extremely light alternative.|
|But Thunder Tiger didn't just stop there, moving forward again to around March 2011, Thunder Tiger announces a second Titan X50 kit that has some major upgrades - the Titan X50 with Torque Tube. It has all the great features of the first Titan X50, except now we have a torque tube driven tail, all CNC machined rotor head, carbon/aluminum compound boom, and CNC machined tail. Not only had Thunder Tiger challenged the competition, they had raised the bar in terms of quality and performance.|
|Another great thing happened last year, Hobbico became the US distributor for Thunder Tiger, so you know that you will have excellent support and parts supply. I got to witness some of the Team Thunder Tiger pilots putting the new X50 through its paces this year at IRCHA (one of them even let me hover it around a bit), and I couldn't wait to get home to start building it myself.|
|Main Blades:||Carbon 600mm|
|Main Shaft:||10mm Hardened Steel|
|Tail Drive:||Torque Tube|
|Battery:||LiFe 2100mAh 10C|
|Available From:||Tower Hobbies or LHS|
|It is important to note that this is a kit only, and you need to add your own electronics and engine. Picking the right equipment is every bit as important as picking your heli, and can make or break a great design. In my case I chose the following.|
|The engine is the new Redline .56H, the latest 50 class heli motor from Thunder Tiger. Being as this is a Thunder Tiger review, it only seemed natural to use this engine. I've used the O.S. 50 hyper in the past, and was curious to see how this new .56H from Redline performs. Thunder Tiger has been manufacturing engines since the late seventies, and although I have used their airplane engines in the past I had never used one of their heli engines. This seemed like a good time to try one!|
|I'll be using the O.S. PowerBoost 50/55 muffler, because as of the date of the review the Redline Hi-Flow 3D 56 muffler was not available. Obviously the Hi-Flow 56 is deisgned for the .56 engine, but based on some research and from talking to some of the team pilots, the O.S. muffler should do great.|
|I picked the Futaba GY701 for the gyro/governor. I'm a huge fan of Futaba gyro's, having used just about all of the latest they've had to offer. At some point I've owned the GY240, and a couple of the GY401, and currently I have the GY611 and GY520 on other helis. I've always used the Futaba GV-1 governor on my nitro helis, so picking the new GY701 with it's combined gyro and governor functionality was a no brainer.|
|For servos I went with Futaba again. I've had great success in the past with Futaba servos on my helis, and have always wanted to try their brushless versions, so I picked the BLS253 for cyclic, BLS251 for the tail, and an S3152 for the throttle. With 147oz torque and 0.10 sec/60° transit time at 6 volts, the cyclic will be quick and precise, and with the tail servo moving at 0.06 sec/60° I should have a lightning fast tail.|
|I'll picked the Hobbico LiFeSource 6.6v, 2100mAh 10C battery for the receiver. Earlier this year I converted one of my giant scale planes to use two of these batteries, and I am very happy with their performance and power.|
|Upon opening the box I was greeted by a number of neatly packed smaller boxes that fit in snugly, taking up all the room. The larger of the three boxes contained the canopy, side frames, and a number of miscellaneous components. The box next to it had more miscellaneous bagged components, and the longer of the three boxes contained blades, torque tube, and yes - you guessed it, some bags of miscellaneous components. Unlike many models, there were no sub assemblies, everything was in kit form and required assembly.|
|Aside from the kit itself, also included in the box are 600mm carbon fiber main blades, header tank, a glossy pre-painted fiberglass canopy, blade holder, thread lock, grease, and some allen wrenches.|
|The instruction manual is very clear and easy to follow, with the usual exploded view diagrams illustrating how everything goes together. For each step you are presented with a letter that corresponds to the parts bag you are supposed to be building from. This makes locating parts extremely easy, and all parts are also broken down into a list for each step.|
|After gathering all my tools, I set about assembling the X50. The first two assembly pages of the manual produce the yolk and flybar cage of the head. Everything went together perfectly, and I made sure to use threadlock on all the screws that went into anything metal. All of the bearings fit exactly, and there was no binding when I snugged down the screws. I couldn't help but admire the quality of the machine work on the metal parts, there were no burrs or scratch marks. The flybar already has two flat spots ground into it for the flybar control arms. I was a little worried when I saw that, as I have had issues with other helis in the past that also had flat spots that were off center to each other. Fortunately the flybar on the X50 was perfect, everything was straight which made measuring out each side of the flybar a breeze.|
|The 3D flybar paddles thread on to either end of the flybar, and are held in place with a small set screw that is inserted through the leading edge of the paddle. Using the aforementioned flat spots on the flybar, plus a digital caliper, I measure both sides of the flybar before snugging down the set screws on the flybar control arms. I made sure that the flybar paddles were lined up with both the flybar control arms and each other.|
|The main blade grips came in two parts, the grip itself plus the control arm. The control arm slipped over the root of the blade grip, and was held in place with a screw in the top and bottom. The grips contain three bearings, two standard bearings and a thrust bearing with various washers. The inner and outer race of the thrust bearing have different sized inner holes, and it is important to have the smaller hole closer to the blades (or on the outside of the assembly). The dampers that the feathering shaft ride on are made up of two parts. The outer (black) part of the damper are fairly rigid, while the red (inner) part of the damper was much softer. The inner part simply pushes into the outer part, and then slips neatly into the yolk to await the featering shaft. I greased up the thrust bearing before assembling the grips on the yolk, and made sure I used threadlock on the cap head screws that keep the grips locked on to the feathering shaft.|
|To complete the head I had to add the washout, swashplate, pushrods, and the upper main bearing block. There are six pushrods that make up the head, and the nice thing is that four of them are molded to size so you only have to make up two. This made assembly go much quicker, and guaranteed matching lengths. The main bearing block was plastic, with two aluminum posts inserted through either end. These aluminum posts would later be attached to the carbon fiber side frames using cap head screws. Everything was mounted on to the main shaft, and it was then that I found another cool feature. Instead of being held in place with a single cap head screw and lock nut (slang term - the "Jesus" bolt), Thunder Tiger had doubled up, and held the head in place with two cap head bolts for extra strength. I thought that this was a great idea!|
|Next step in the assembly was the tail gear box. This is one of the key differences that this new X50 has over the previous version. The tail on the previous X50 was driven with a belt drive (and is known as the X50B), this new version is driven with a torque tube. Power is transferred to the tail via a series of bevel gears and an aluminum tube that runs through the tail boom, riding on a central bearing. The advantage to this system is 100% power transfer and crisper rudder response. The gear box is the part that takes power from the main gear, and sends it on to the torque tube itself. The bevel gears meshed together perfectly, and all of the gears were mounted into bearings. The bearings on the vertical shaft were mounted into aluminum bearing blocks, and the plastic housing also had the same aluminum posts that were used in the head bearing block.|
|Next up was the starter shaft that also has the motor pinion and clutch bell attached to it. There were a couple of cool things I noted here. The first was the clutch bell, it really stands out with its polished aluminum finish. It also has cooling vents cut out of the top to help ventilate the clutch. The second cool thing was the fact that the starter coupler was held on to the shaft with two set screws. This was really cool, as anyone who has had a slipped starter coupler will tell you. The whole assembly rides on three bearings, and the plastic casing is held together with the same aluminum posts that we saw earlier (a common theme in this build).|
|I then got to put the previous sub assemblies into the side frames, and it was now starting to look like something. The carbon fiber side frames were extremely light, and the finish on them was excellent. I didnd't have to clean up any ragged edges, it was exactly how you would expect it to look. All of the cap head bolts now threaded into the aluminum posts that supported the sub assemblies, and they also used the included aluminum washers to help spread the load on the side frames. For no other reason than it was stated in the manual, I added the on/off switch at this point too.|
|The Redline .56H is a sharp looking engine, and if it performs as good as it looks it should be a power house. I noticed that once it was screwed on to the engine mount, that the mount doubled as a stand for the engine while it was on the workbench. The .56H has a sturdy plastic gasket that goes between the carb and the crankcase, and two long screws that hold the carb in place. The fan hub is threaded and screws straight on to the crank, I applied a healthy amount of thread lock at this point. I followed a friends suggestion and used a block of wood in the back of the crankcase so that I could really tighten down the hub. I have a piston lock tool, but I was worried about putting too much pressure on the top of the piston, the wood trick worked out great. In addition to the fan hub, a nut is also threaded on to the crank and acts like a jam nut. This jam nut was also thread locked and snugged down tight. I then bolted the clutch to the fan hub using the supplied washer and two screws.|
|Next I pulled the GY701 out of the box so that I could hook up the sensor and determine the polarity of the magnets. Two magnets are glued into the back of the fan to work the governor. One is for the governor, the second is for counter balance. I had to make sure that I got the magnets glued in correctly, and that only one registered on the sensor. The screen on the GY701 can display a percentage of how much signal it is getting from the magnet, so it is easy to figure out which way around you need to glue them in (just likqe it's GV-1 predecessor). Once I had the magnets figured out I used thirty minute epoxy to glue them into the fan. The fit was extremely tight, and only a small amount of glue was needed.|
|I also took this opportunity to give the sensor a little extra protection. From previous experience with GV-1 sensors, I had learned that a little heat shrink tubing goes a long way to ensuring long life of the sensor. I took a small piece and wrapped the sensor and the sensor bracket, and then trimmed the top where the sensor meets the magnet.|
|Once I had finished the sensor installation, I was ready to mount the engine into the side frames. With the addition of the fan shroud, which directs air from the fan over the cooling fins on the head of the engine, the installation was complete. The carbon fiber base plate was then screwed in place, and the landing skids were added.|
|The main gear has a heavy duty one way needle bearing that allows the main rotor and tail to continue turning once the engine has stopped. This allows you to perform an autorotation in the event of an engine failure. The autorotation bearing hub is attached to the main gear via four screws, and a sleeve is inserted through both the main gear and autorotation gear beneath it. The main shaft is then inserted through the top main bearing block in the side frames, and an aluminum spacer is used to put the main gears in the right place. The main gear is then secured to the main shaft with a cap head screw and lock nut. At this stage the elevator control arm is also added, which rides smoothly on bearings.|
|Just before starting the tail, I had to install the bellcranks for the aileron and pitch servos. These are located on opposite sides of the frames, but are slightly different in shape to take into account the offset of the two servo locations. They ride on bearings that sit on a threaded rod, and that rod has a specific distance that it needed to be set into the side frames. Therefore, the caliper was brought out again to make sure I had the correct distance.|
|I had to install the gear ends of the torque tube using a single screw and lock nut. The bearing was then slid on to the torque tube and a careful drop of C/A was used to secure the bearing in place. I highly recommend having a bottle of "uncure" just in case the bearing sticks where you don't want it to (don't ask me how I know!). I then slipped on the bearing holder, that would make sure the torque tube stayed in the center of the boom, and used an old plastic tube (from another torque tube) to push the greased up bearing holder down into the boom. Speaking of the boom, it is called a carbon/aluminum composite. It certainly looks like a carbon boom, but is very thin, light, and strong. I wasn't exactly sure where the aluminum part came in, so I asked a team Thunder Tiger pilot what the scoop was. I was told that the boom is a thin aluminum tube wrapped with carbon, and is very strong and very stiff. One thing I couldn't resist was replacing the stock tail blades with a set of KBDD tail blades that are just about the same color blue as the flybar paddles and canopy... I know what you're thinking, who color coordinates their heli? :D Apparently I do....|
|The tail hub is made up of a single piece of machined aluminum, and is a small work of art in itself. The kit provides two small washers to ensure a perfect mesh of the two bevel gears, and I ended up using them both. The tail blade grips also contain thrust bearings, which I greased up the same as the main blade grip bearings. The tail also has two standard bearings, but this time the thrust bearing sits in the middle of the two standard bearings.|
|I usually spend a good deal of effort on the tail pitch slider, to ensure that it is silky smooth. Usually I find that there is some excess flash on the modling of the parts, or that I need to grind down some links a little to get the smooth movement. The pitch slider on the X50 was a snap to put together, I didn't have to adjust anything. Once I was done I had that silky smooth movement that I work so hard for on other helis.|
|The toughest part of the build, believe it or not, was the boom supports. There are four plastic plugs that go in the end of the supports, and these are held in place by a screw that goes through the aluminum support and the plastic plug. Well, the screws were much bigger than the holes in both the aluminum support and the plastic plugs, and I was afraid with the amount of torque I was putting on the screws that they would strip. My solution was to take a small drill bit and enlargen the holes just enough to allow the screws to thread in a little easier. They self tap into the plastic plugs, and one thing is for sure - they won't come loose any time soon! It was a small inconvenience, but the only problem I came across, and so worth mentioning.|
|With the tail boom installed, the majority of the build was over. The fuel tank was also installed, as was the included header tank. Both the main tank and the header tank were already plumbed, I just needed to add a fuel filter inline between the carb and the header tank. The kit included a couple of grommets that are used in the side frames, which gave me a convenient place to run the pressure line from the muffler to the fuel tank without the worry of it chafing on anything. With assembly completed, it was time to move on to the electronics, pushrods, and programming.|
|Routing the wires has got to be the most stressful part of the build for me. I always want to make sure the wiring looks good, while at the same time making sure that nothing is rubbing where it could cause problems later on down the line. I spent some time temporarily fitting the servos in place, and figuring out where to route the wiring. The X50's frames are narrow, but it is possible to hide most of the wiring. Once I had a good idea fo what was going where, I added some protection to the servo wires in the form of some outer plastic mesh, and zip tied everything in place.|
|I mounted the GY701 controller and the receiver back to back, with self adhesive foam tape in between, and then foam taped them to the X50. A slot already existed under the tray, so I was also able to add a velcro strap around them for extra security. I mounted the gyro sensor up front too, and with the forward mounted rudder servo everything should be kept fairly grease free from the muffler. The LifeSource 2100 battery fitted perfectly in the extended battery tray. I used a strip of 3M dual lock to attach it to the tray, and added a couple of velcro strips around the battery and tray.|
|When it came to the push/pull links for the servos, I took the servo horns that came with the servos and assembled the linkages without looking too closely. It was only after the fact that I noticed that the linkages weren't quite square, because the holes on the horns I had used were too close together. So I started going through some servo wheels trying to get the correct distances for the links. It was at this point that I started talking to Gary Wright, one of the Team Thunder Tiger pilots and a man with a tremendous amount of experience and expertise in this hobby. We had found that the bellcranks that the pushrods attached to were 23mm wide from ball to ball, which is what I needed on the servo wheel. The trick was getting the balls screwed into the wheel at the exact same distance while keeping them straight. Gary and I brainstormed the idea a little, and we went off to come up with an idea.|
|I designed a jig that would have given me the correct distance and kept the ball links straight, but it also required a CNC machine that I didn't have! Gary came up with an elegant and simple design, that not only kept everything straight, it also allowed you to install the links on the wheel without having to use any sub trim. You would put your wheel on the servo, attach the jig, power everything up, and then simply drill the two holes for the balls through the jig. It was a stroke of genius. Gary had the jig laser cut out of 1/16th inch plywood, and was kind enough to mail a couple of them to me. It is still possible to drill the servo wheels without the jig, but the jig sure made things a lot easier!|
|Futaba's 8FGH Super is a wonderful transmitter for heli pilots. The "H" stands for heli, and the only difference between this and it's airplane version counterpart, is that the "H" version defaults to the heli model and has a smooth throttle stick (no ratchet). It is one of the few transmitters that has extended the heli programming to include two unique items. This includes a screen specifically for adjusting all the gyros seperately on a 3 axis gyro, and a governor screen that lets you adjust RPM settings remotely for a governor such as the GY701 and GV-1. There are many great reviews on the web, via a quick google search, of the 8FG so I'm not going to cover it all here, but I did want to mention the Gyro and Governor menus.|
|The gyro menu works the same as any other gyro menu, the difference is that if you are using a 3 axis gyro (flybarless), you can adjust the gain for each of the three axis remotely. Being as I am using a flybar (for now) I won't get to use this menu to it's fullest extent, but it was too cool not to mention!|
|The governor menu is equally as cool. With the GY701 set up, I was able to go in to the governor menu on the 8FG and remotely adjust the RPM numbers for any of the flight conditions! Anyone who has programmed a GV-1 will tell you that this is an awesome feature, no more poking at the onboard controller with a tooth pick! I found out through talking with the Thunder Tiger team members, that the X50 likes a high head speed, and so I programmed 1900/2100/2250 for the head speed in normal/idle1/idle2 flight conditions.|
|The rest of the setup was your typical setup. I used a swash level tool to set the swash at the center and each of it's extremes. Pitch ranges were set with a pitch gauge, I set it up for 12.5 degrees +/-. Flight conditions were programmed, which consisted of Normal, Idle1, Idle2, and throttle hold. I also set a kill switch to shut off the engine. I followed the settings laid out in the manual for the throttle curves (in case of a governor failure), and programmed a linear pitch curve in all flight conditions. I also added about 30% expo to the aileron and elevator to smooth out the heli around mid stick when hovering.|
|There is nothing unique about starting up this helicopter, and it follows the same general starting procedure as most nitro helis out there. The first thing I did was make sure that the high speed needle on the Redline .56 was set per the instruction manual (3 turns out). I powered up the receiver and checked to make sure that all the servos were moving correctly, and that the gyro/governor was functioning properly. Once I was satisfied that everything looked good to go, I attached a glow ignitor and used my Dynatron starter to fire up the Redline. A couple of short bursts to suck fuel through the line, and it fired right up. Subsequent starts throughout the day would fire up on the first burst of the starter. Once it was started I flipped on throttle hold and carried the heli out to the flight line.|
|Lifting off with the Titan was smooth and predictable. It settled into a hover nicely, and was extremely stable in the cross wind (which we always get at this particular flying field). Transitioning from a hover into forward flight was also smooth, and vice versa when transitioning back into a hover. With a linear pitch curve and no expo I was able to maintain a consistent hovering altitude without too much pogoing. The tail held extremely well, and was very quick and precise. I could pirouette and stop instantly without a hint of bounce back, it felt very strong and fast.|
|The Redline .56 proved to be a power house, more powerful than my old O.S. 50 hyper, and with the Titan being a little over 7lbs the Redline had no problem hauling it around with authority. I started out pretty rich on the needle setting, and even gurgling through the first half gallon I was still able to fly through my 3D aerobatics without bogging the engine down too much. I know that there is more power to be had as I slowly lean out the engine, and get it tuned in after a gallon or so. The Titan is quick and the tail is lightning quick, so much so that I found myself having to reduce the piroutte speed. Once I got the tail tamed down a little I was soon scooting around rolling and flipping about. The Titan tracks well, and feels like its on a rail in fast forward flight - no pitching tendencies at all. It was very easy to perform axial rolls, and forward and backward flips were a breeze. It seemed that no matter what orientation I put the Titan in, it behaved exactly the same. The combined gyro and governor of the GY701 worked perfectly, and as well as incredible holding power on the tail I also had a consistent head speed throughout each flight. As with any new heli, it took me a few flights to get used to the feel of the Titan, but with each flight I became more comfortable managing the power that it had.|
|The Titan X50 is a powerful high performance 3D machine. It is designed to be fast and nimble, and so I wouldn't recommend it to a beginner. That being said, if a beginner happened to end up with one it could be dialed down to be more docile for training. The drawback to a beginner will be the parts expense after frequent crashes.|
|My intermediate skills only begin to touch on the capabilities of the X50, and you can see me having some fun with it in the first video below. To truly understand what it is capable of, I've also linked a video of team Thunder Tiger's Alon Barak flying his X50 with the same engine.|
|I am very excited about the Titan X50, and each time I fly it I can feel my confidence grow as a result of it's predictability and absolute smooth and stable flight characteristics. It really was a pleasure assembling the heli, as everything went together exactly the way it should - there were no suprises that needed to be figured out. With the 2100mah LifeSource battery I can easily get flights comfortably, and the pack had plenty of juice for the brushless servos. For someone looking for a high qualtiy 3D machine backed by some of the best customer service in the business, you can't go wrong with the Titan x50.|
|CNC Metal Head & Tail||Boom Support Screws Tight|
|Extremely Light||Canopy Too Dark|
|Check out the Titan X-50 at your local hobby shop, or online at TowerHobbies.com.|
Joined Dec 2005
--They changed the high mixture needle fairly soon after they started selling them.
--Also, the 3rd needle was tuned for low nitro content fuel. Its hidden under the throttle arm. They changed the adjustment. A 1mm gap set with throttle full open, is about right at sea level. It has to be loctited since it moves very easily. I use a small amount of blue loctite on the needle, and let it dry before installing. the newer ones should be adjusted, and loctited from the factory.
Joined May 2006
Very nice review, seems like a high quality kit for a reasonable price.
I have always like the Thunder Tiger brand (for their aircraft) but never owned one of their engines. In the past I heard they were troublesome but it seems from your review that that may have changed.
I think you forgot to put a number in your conclusion for how many flights you get off the LiFe pack.
Thanks for the entertaining read.
Joined Jun 2010
if you get the X50 without engine from China it's only $403 but only in China from some dealers.
I know the X50 flies very well but I wont get it because I dont trust plastic parts mainly the clutch bearing block, main shaft bearing block, A elevator arm, Tail Rotor Control Arm and Tail Pitch Assembly... nothing new from TT always plastics parts at an high price, is there any upgrade for the X50 ? how much ?
you have the 600LE in the states for $399 with all those parts full alloy or Velocity50 V2 for $429 from Helidirect
thanks for the review.
You can buy a chinese clone with all metal parts, but I wouldn't trust most of them as far as I could throw them, and I certainly wouldn't say that they were better because they were all metal...
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