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Thunder Tiger Raptor 50S ARF - Review

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Introduction


Thunder Tiger Raptor 50S ARF
Main Rotor Diameter:52.95" (1,345mm)
Tail Rotor Diameter:10.24" (260mm)
Gear Ratio:1:8.5:4.56
Blade Size:600mm
Length:45.47" (1,155mm)
Width:7.08" (180mm)
Height:15.74" (400mm)
Engine:TT Pro .50H
Cyclic Servos:ACE S1807MG
Tail Servo:ACE DS0606n
Gyro:TG7200 Heading Lock
RTF Weight:6.87lbs (3,120g)
Manufactured By:Thunder Tiger
Available From:Hobby Retailers
Price:$629.99

About twelve years ago I took my first heli to an actual AMA flying field for the first time. It was a small, squirrelly little thing, and so far was all I knew. I was still in the hovering stage, learning to keep it in one location, but was constantly fighting it to do so. When I arrived at the field there were several heli guys already there, and I saw that one guy was already out at the runway hovering. I was immediately blown away by how steady the helicopter was, he was just hovering over the runway, but to me he was the best pilot I had ever seen because he was able to keep his heli stationary in one spot. His heli was smooth and stable, and as you've probably guessed I later found out that it was a Thunder Tiger Raptor.

Since then, I have seen many Raptors flying, and for the first several years of my heli life the Raptor was the helicopter to have. It was reliable, flew great, and parts were readily available from hobby shops. Upgrade parts flooded the market, and there were some very cool mods and conversions floating around the internet. Thunder Tiger have released several improved and upgraded Raptors over the years, and I would be surprised if there were many pro pilots out there who hadn't flown one.

With this latest release, Thunder Tiger have gone back to basics. Aimed at new pilots, or sport pilots looking to learn a little 3D, Thunder Tiger have put together a great ARF package that includes the tried and true Raptor 50S, 90% assembled, with a Thunder Tiger Pro .50H engine. Ace servos and gyro are already installed, and with maybe an hour or so worth of work the Raptor 50 will be ready to take to the flying field.

In The Box

The Raptor arrived in a large box, large because there is basically a fully built helicopter in there! The back of the box shows everything that is included in the combo, which I have listed below. Everything was packed securely, with the helicotper zip tied to an interior carton that slides right out of the main box. The boom is seperated from the heli for shipping purposes, and is ready for final assembly.

Box Contents

  • Raptor 50S
  • Thunder Tiger Pro .50H Engine
  • High Performance Muffler
  • TG7200 Heading Lock Gyro
  • 3x S1807MG Cyclic Servos
  • DS0606n Digital Tail Servo
  • Zero Alpha II Governor
  • 600mm Wood Blades
  • Instruction Manual

As an added bonus, a Raptor blade holder was also in the box. There was a conspicuous lack of a fuel filter, and even though the Raptor has a place for it, there was no header tank included.

Also provided for the review was a 2000mAh, 4.8v receiver battery, and a Futaba R617FS receiver.

Assembly

Assembly was really a case of putting the final parts together. The main heli chassis and rotor head were already built. The servos were already in place, though the arms needed to be added, and the engine was already bolted in place along with the muffler. The gyro was also already mounted in position.

The tail section was also built, and it was simply a case of threading the tail belt through to the pulley and then sliding the boom in place. Four bolts clamp the side frames around the boom, and a small metal ring stops the boom from sliding forward. Four screws were then used to hold the boom supports in place.

I then turned my attention to the wiring. I mounted the receiver battery flat on the platform at the front, and then mounted the receiver on top of that. I carefully routed the wiring so as to avoid any binding, and secured any extensions with heat shrink tubing to prevent any accidental disconnects. The manual does a great job of explaining where to plug your servos in, it has charts for Futaba, Spektrum, Ace, and Hitec.

As mentioned, the end user (me!) has to make all of the pushrods and install them. Before attaching the servo arms, I powered up the electronics and my transmitter to make sure that everything was centered when I installed the horns. Luckily, the manual has listed the lengths of all the pushrods, and is a great starting place for setup. It also illustrates exactly where the pushrods go, and the orientation of the servo arms.

Transmitter Programming

I then turned my attention to programming my transmitter, which is a Futaba 8FGS. The manual lists all the settings that you will need, and it is up to the user to set the pitch ranges for the cyclic and collective. The Raptor 50S has one servo for aileron, one for elevator, and one that drives the pitch seesaw tray. I set my transmitter to a single servo swash type, as the helicopter does all of the mixing mechanically.

The manual states that you can use +/- 15 degrees of pitch, and while this is possible, I noticed some binding when reaching the higher pitch range. I settled on +/- 12 degree of collective pitch, with about 8 degrees cyclic pitch. There was a lot of binding in the stick corners with this setup, so I had to enable the swash ring function in my 8FGS to compensate.

Next up was setting the gyro. It was very easy to set up, all of the major settings were already selected at the factory. You can adjust the servo frequency between 760 and 1520, choose whether the servo is analog or digital, you can reverse the gyro compensation direction, and adjust the end points for the rudder travel. The latter is all I had to change. The gyro gives you two pots so that you can set the endpoints for both left and right on the rudder, avoiding any binding.

The last thing I had to set up was the governor. This can be a little tricky, and took me a couple of read throughs to understand how to set it up correctly. When the engine gets up to speed, the governor takes over control of the throttle servo and does it's best to maintain the same RPM throughout the flight. There are two modes, lock and unlock. Lock is the governed mode, and unlock turns the governor off, relying on your transmitter's throttle curves. These two modes are indicated by a large red LED mounted to the governor sensor. If it's flashing, it means the governor is on, solid red means the governor is off.

Once you have your switch assigned, there is a calibration procedure that needs to be run. This teaches the governor the end points of your throttle channel. The RPM is set via adjusting the travel adjust for your governor channel, and counting the flashes of the LED in lock mode. The minimum value is 10,500, and you add another 500 rpm for every flash of the LED. I wanted my engine rpm to run at 20,000, which is within the practical RPM range of the Thunder Tiger Pro .50H (as indicated in the manual). So starting out at 10,500, I would then need the LED to flash 19 times, adding 500 rpm each time to the total, bringing it up to 20,000 rpm. After I had figured all this out, I found that the governor was already set to that value by default.

Flying

After charging the receiver battery, I headed out to my local flying field with a flying buddy. I started out with 30% nitro, because this is what I had on hand. Later I switched to 15% nitro as it is more economical, and the TT Pro .50H performs well with it.

I checked the needle valves on the engine, per the manual, and got ready to start the engine. I left the canopy off while I was starting it, so that I could access the glow plug. The engine took a few cranks from the starter, and finally started up. I spent the first flight fine tuning the engine, and mostly hovered around with the engine running rich to help it break in. I did a couple of more flights like this, and then started to tune the engine a little more for better performance.

One thing that did happen was that my engine seemed to be having problems, and no matter what I did I could not tune it. As it turned out, the screw that holds the carburetor barrel in place had backed out under vibration, leaving the carb free to slide in and out. Luckily I didn't lose the screw, and I was able to clean it, apply some thread lock, and reinstall it. Usually I have had to do this with most glow engines, but had neglected to check this one.

With my tuning issues solved, I was ready to have some fun with the Raptor. It is a very stable heli when hovering, and the tail held good in the moderate wind. I started to fly a few laps and got very comfortable with it pretty quickly. The tail did a fine job of holding, the Ace gyro reminding me very much of the old Futaba 401 gyros I used to use. I started some backwards flight, and again the tail held great. It had been a little while since I had flown a flybar helicopter, and certainly I have done a lot of flying with flybarless setups since, so it was a bit of a wake up call to feel the difference, it's definitely a more connected feeling with the helicopter.

I tried out the governor, but wasn't satisfied with it's performance. I might have missed something during setup, but I found that the throttle curves that I had set gave me much better power, and so I ended up leaving the governor switched off.

The Raptor is a great sport flier, but it's also a great 3D flier. I switched to idle up, and flipped the Raptor upside down. It felt just as steady upside down as it did upright. I flew it around a little, and it wasn't long before I was doing pirouetting flips, funnels, and lazy tic tocs. All too soon I was almost out of gas, and had to land for refueling.

I flew it about a dozen or so times over the following weekends, and found it amusing when I would take the Raptor to the flying field and people would comment on the older design. I would then go and fly some 3D with it and those same people were impressed with how it performed.

The Raptor is also an excellent trainer, either stand alone or with the buddy box system. I had my flying buddy, Jeff, try it out. He had been throwing a micro heli against his lawn mower and garage walls for a bit, and was a little apprehensive about trying this bigger heli. After a little reassurance from me that I wouldn't let him crash it, he got on the buddy box and was hovering it around in no time. He commented on just how much more stable it was compared to the small micros he had been trying, and towards the end of the first flight he was already doing most of the hovering himself. You can see some of those results in the video below.

There were a couple of things that I added to the helicopter for my own sake. I definitely would have liked to have seen a fuel filter used, so I added one. I also added the Thunder Tiger header tank to give me a more consistent fuel flow throughout the entire flight. I added a glow igniter extension, so that I didn't have to remove the canopy to start the helicopter, and finally I added an exhaust deflector. None of these things are necessary to make it fly, but it does make things a little easier.

Media Gallery

This first video is one of the many flights I've put on the Raptor, showing some sport and 3D style flying.

This second video shows my buddy Jeff learning to fly helis through the buddy box system. The Raptor is a great platform to learn with. The interesting thing that I noticed, was that even when Jeff has control of the helicopter, I'm still moving the sticks as though I have control. This was something I had never noticed before!

Conclusion

I really enjoy flying the Raptor, it harkens back to my earlier days of heli flying and holds a little nostalgia for me. To this day the Raptor is still a great flying helicopter. Parts are durable and available, and won't blow your budget when the time comes. It can take a total beginner through the learning hovering stages, right up to some 3D flying. Thunder Tiger even have a flybarless head conversion available for the Raptor, if you choose to go that route later on. They also have a nice range of scale fuselages that you can slip the Raptor into, if you choose to fly scale. Thunder Tiger have made it extremely easy to get the Raptor in the air, with most of the building done, it only took me a few hours over a couple of evenings to get it built and set up, just in time for the weekend!

Pros: Cons:
90% Assembled No fuel Filter
Good Components No Header Tank
Great For Begginers and Advanced
Add Receiver and Fly!

Last edited by CSpaced; Mar 21, 2013 at 05:13 PM..

Discussion

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Old Apr 15, 2013, 11:23 AM
Registered User
CSpaced's Avatar
Oak Ridge, NC
Joined Jun 2006
1,431 Posts
One thing that Thunder Tiger offers, that no other company offers, is their stress tech guarantee. This is a 1 year plastic parts replacement program that comes with the Raptor 50S. If any of your plastic parts break during the first year, all you have to do is send in the broken part, along with your purchase receipt to Hobby Services, and they will send you a replacement part for free! The information below only mentions the E550S, but this same guarantee also applies to the Raptor 50S.

More details below:



1-Year Plastic Parts Replacement Guarantee
Free and easy!

Hobbico is so confident of the strength and durability of the plastic parts in the Thunder Tiger Raptor E550S Sport ARF that we make this guarantee: if a covered Stress-Tech part breaks during the first year you own your heli, we'll replace it absolutely free.


Currently the Hobbico Stress-Tech guarantee for Thunder Tiger products is only available on select helicopter models. Look for the Stress-Tech logo on the product pages.

Just send:

1. The broken part;

2. The part # and description of the broken part (see parts list on this page);

3. A dated copy of your purchase receipt or invoice for the Raptor E550S Sport, and

4. Your name, phone number, shipping address and email address

To:
Hobby Services
Attn: Stress-Tech Guarantee
3002 N. Apollo Drive, Suite #1
Champaign, IL 61822


The Hobbico Stress-Tech Guarantee is available on the Thunder Tiger Raptor E550S Sport models purchased from participating Great Planes dealers and to individuals who are residents of the United States and Canada. Purchases of used, auction, auction web site and scratch & dent products do not qualify for the replacement guarantee. All requests for replacement parts must be accompanied by items numbered 1-4 above.
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Old Apr 16, 2013, 05:34 PM
MultiRotard
Sleepyc's Avatar
United States, OH, Aurora
Joined Aug 2006
978 Posts
Nice review!
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Old Apr 17, 2013, 08:33 AM
Skaluf's Avatar
Sadorus, IL
Joined Mar 2004
597 Posts
Great review Chris! One point of clarification, the Stress-Tech Guarantee is exclusive to machines distributed by Hobbico. So if you purchase a Raptor 50S from a Great Planes retailer (almost all dealers in North America are GP dealers), your machine will be covered by our Stress-tech Guarantee.

Steve
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Old Sep 20, 2013, 08:02 PM
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airborne2.4's Avatar
The Bahamas, Freeport
Joined Jul 2009
109 Posts
Would I be able to convert the raptor 50s from a flybar to flybarless with this kit? http://www.ttamerica.com/accys/ttre7271.html#
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