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Great Planes U-Can-Do SF ARF Review

It's been a long wait, but Great Planes has introduced a brand new version of the iconic U-Can-Do.

Splash

The new Great Planes U-Can-Do SF version sports side force generators and improved aerodynamics for even better 3D performance. This new plane now includes provisions for electric power.

Great Planes U-Can-Do SF
Wingspan59 in (1500 mm)
Length58 in (1475 mm)
Wing Area912 sq in
Weight6.5 to 7.25 lb (2950-3290 gm)
Wing Loading16-18 oz/sq ft
ServosFutaba S3152
ReceiverFutaba R617FS
Battery6S 3250 mAh 30C LiPo
MotorRimfire 5055500 Brushless
ESC90 Amp Castle Creations Talon
PropAPC 15x6 Thin Electric
Power LoadingWatts per Pound
TransmitterFutaba 8FG Super
ManufacturerGreat Planes
Available FromHobbico Dealers
Street Price$199.98

The original U-Can-Do was introduced in 2002 and was one of the first planes specifically designed for the everyday flyer to allow them to try out this new flying style called "3D". The original U-Can-Do started many pilots down the path to proficiency in sport aerobatics as well as outrageous 3D flying.

Fast forward a dozen years to 2014 and pretty much everybody knows about 3D flying. The problem is, not everybody can actually fly 3D very well. To help solve that problem, Great Planes has completely redesigned the iconic U-Can-Do for improved 3D performance and an up-to-date electric power option. The new U-Can-Do SF promisses to stay true to its original mission of training new 3D pilots while stimulating the senses with its new shape and outstanding performance.

OK, it's time to open the box and get started building this beauty.

Kit Contents

Kit Includes:

  • Balsa and Ply Fuselage with removable Canopy
  • Huge One-Piece Wing with pre-hinged Ailerons
  • Vertical Stab with pre-hinged Rudder
  • Horizontal Stab and Elevator with hinge slots
  • Fiberglass Cowl and Wheel Pants
  • Removable Side Force Generators
  • Generous Hardware Package
  • Colorful Decal Sheet
  • 32-Page Photo-Illustrated Instruction Manual

Kit Requires:

  • .80 Size Brushless Outrunner Motor
  • 60 Amp Brushless ESCs
  • 3350 mAh 6-cell Lipo Battery
  • 15x6E APC Sport Propeller
  • Minimum 4-Channel Radio
  • Five Standard Size Servos
  • Servo Reverser or Additional Elevator Channel
  • 3-24", 2-12", and 2-6" Servo Extensions
  • 30-minute Epoxy Glue
  • Thread Locking Compound
  • Assorted Drills, Knife Blades, and Screwdrivers

Recommended Parts

This is a list of the parts recommended by Great Planes for the U-Can-Do SF:

  • Rimfire .80 50-55-500 Brushless Outrunner Motor
  • Silver Series 60 Amp Brushless ESCs
  • FlightPower 3250 mAh 305C 6-cell Lipo Battery
  • 5-Futaba S3050 Digital Standard Servos
  • APC 15x6E Propeller

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Parts Supplied by Hobbico for this Review

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Rimfire 50-55-500 Outrunner Motor
Type Brushless Outrunner
Motor Diameter 50 mm
Number of cells LiPoly 5s-6s
RPM/V 500
Weight 298 grams
Max Continuous Current 52 Amps
Max Surge Current 65 Amps
Max Power (Watts) 1154 Watts
Shaft diameter 8 mm
Male Motor Connector 4 mm

Castle Creations Talon 90 Amp ESC
Type Brushless Speed Control
Number of cells 3-6 Lipo cells
Max Continuous Current 90 Amps
BEC 9 Amps Continuous
Programming Transmitter, PC, or Field Card
Dimensions (L x W x D) 438mm x 80mm x 18mm
Weight 84.5 grams

FlightPower EONX 3S 3250 mAh 30C LiPoly Batteries
Type Lithium Polymer
Number of cells 3-cells
Capacity 3250 mAh
Voltage 11.1 Volts
Weight279 grams
Dimensions (L x W x D) 135mm x 44mm x 24mm
Maximum Continuous Discharge 30C
Maximum Continuous Current 100.5 Amps

Futaba S3152 Digital Standard High-Torque Servos
Type Digital
Size Factor Standard
Bearing Ball Bearing
Operating Speed 60 0.22 sec @4.8V, 0.18 sec @ 6.0V
Torque 70 oz-in @ 4.8V, 87 oz-in @ 6.0V
Weight 41 grams
Dimensions 40mm x 20mm x 38mm
Gear Type All Nylon

Assembly

The 32-page Instruction Manual is excellent. In addition to the numerous photos, illustrations, and very helpful building tips, the manual includes a detailed section on 3D flying instructions. Intermediate pilots should have no problems with this build. The one-piece wing keeps the parts count low and makes the whole build process very straight forward.

Wing

The U-Can-Do SF assembly process begins with the wing. I'm not sure how they did it, but the wing came out of the box in a single piece with the ailerons pre-hinged and glued in place. What a treat! All that remained was to install the aileron servos, and their linkage. OK, so there was that little belly pan that had to be glued in place on the bottom of the wing, but the whole process still went very quickly.

The wing contained a one-piece pull string for the servo extensions. The string extended from one servo mount location to the other, so I had to fish out the string through the servo hole in the center of the wing before pulling the wire extensions through. Not a difficult process, but a good pair of forceps and a bright light made short work of the task.

The aileron linkages included some short lengths of carbon fiber tubing that slid over the pushrods and glued in place to stiffen up the assemblies.

Fuselage

The fuselage assembly was next and it started with the horizontal stab installation. The manual shows a method for squaring up the horizontal stab that employs the tips of the ailerons as reference points. I found that the ailerons were slightly different in tip width and overall length. These slight dimensional differences will not affect the wing performance, but they will make a significant difference in the horizontal stab placement. I decided to use the tried and true method of measuring from the fuselage center line at the rear of the cockpit. I attached a string to a pin and then marked the string to establish a fixed distance to even up the stab tips. This string method resulted in a straight horizontal stab with its trailing edge perpendicular to the fuselage center line.

The elevator and rudder pushrods used the same carbon fiber tubing reinforcement as the aileron pushrods. I thought the metal pushrods were pretty stiff all by themselves, but when the carbon fiber tubing was added, the pushrods were noticeably stiffer. Due to the light weight of the carbon fiber tubes, the improved structural performance was achieved with very little weight gain.

Even though the manual shows the assembly process for the electric motor mount, the mount supplied in the kit was already assembled and the blind nuts were already glued in place. I applied some thin CA to all the motor mount seams for my own peace of mind. The mounting holes and blind nuts provided in the fuselage matched up with the motor mount perfectly.

The manual shows the assembly of an ESC shelf for mounting the Great Planes Silver Series 60 Amp ESC. However, the review model was supplied with the new Castle Creations Talon 90 ESC. This ESC is very impressive and the BEC is rated for a whopping 9 Amps continuous and up to a 20 Amp load surge. The smaller footprint of the Talon allowed the unit to be mounted in the fuselage muffler tunnel so the kit ESC shelf assembly was not needed. I was able to use the included Talon ESC clip mount to secure the ESC in the tunnel. I installed the rear clip mount screws 3/4" back from the firewall.

I cut a slot 1-1/2" from the back of the muffler tunnel for the ESC power and servo leads. Using this mounting location for the ESC provided easy access to the power leads without the need for any lead extensions. I installed the larger bullet connectors provided with the ESC on the three motor leads and put a short "S" bend in each motor lead.

This muffler tunnel location should provide great cooling airflow and the ESC should run very cool.

Radio Installation

The receiver was mounted at the rear of the wing saddle on the bottom of the fuselage. I installed two small pushrod tubes at right angles for the receiver antennas. In addition, I installed two 2" servo extensions in the receiver for the aileron servos. These short extensions made installing and removing the wing much easier.

Completion

The completed U-Can-Do SF weighed 6 pounds and 11 ounces RTF. The power system needed a 6-cell Lipo battery power source. Hobbico provided two 3-cell batteries and a series power connector to complete the 6-cell system. The battery compartment was tight and I could not fit the two batteries in the compartment when I stacked them one on top of the other. I was finally able to install the batteries one in front of the other and I was surprised to find that the resulting CG was well within the recommended range.

I set the control surface throws to the recommended Low, High, and 3D amounts and set exponential to -30, -40, and -50% on my Futaba 8FG Super transmitter.

Using the recommended 15x6E APC prop resulted in a static power reading of 1140 Watts with a fully charged battery pack. That power level calculated out to a respectable 165 Watts/lb power loading.

Flying

Basics

The U-Can-Do SF is a large plane with oversized flying surfaces. It can be flown gently on the lower rates or it can be thrown around with wild abandon on the 3D rates. The choice is really up to the pilot.

Taking Off and Landing

The U-Can-Do SF tracks straight and true and takes off easily even at partial throttle settings. Jam the throttle forward and the plane leaps off the ground in less than 10 feet. I've found the U-Can-Do SF well mannered on paved runways as well as on grass strips. The thick wing airfoil allows the plane to be slowed way down for landings, but I recommend a little throttle to keep up the airspeed all the way to touchdown.

Sport Aerobatics

The U-Can-Do SF is capable of performing all standard pattern aerobatic moves. At the lower rate settings, the plane will solidly track through all the maneuvers. The U-Can-Do makes an excellent sport model at the low rate settings and would be an excellent next step model for anyone proficient with low wing tail draggers.

3D Aerobatics

Here's my disclaimer: I've been flying RC for over 40 years and dearly love precise pattern style maneuvers. Lately though, I've started to admire the freedom of the 3D style of flying. My problem has been that 3D can be a lot harder than it looks. I've gotten pretty good at harriers, elevators, and hovering, but I'm still a ways off from doing any tail touches or low level rolling circles. I'm hoping the U-Can-Do SF will help me hone my 3D skills.

With the recommended 15x6E prop, the U-Can-Do had adequate power for most 3D maneuvers, but I found it a little lacking in vertical performance. While I was at SEFF 2014, I checked with the factory folks and found that they were flying the demo U-Can-Do with a 16x8E APC prop. After a quick prop change, I checked my Watt meter and found that the 16x8 prop increased the static power reading to 1498 Watts. That resulted in a power loading of a whopping 215 Watts/lb.

I knew that the Rimfire 80 was only rated for 1154 Watts, but I also knew that the 1498 Watts reading would decrease once the plane was in the air. I also knew that I would not need WOT very often during a flight. OK, maybe when I was showing off the unlimited vertical performance, but not that often during a normal flight. The true measure would only come after a few flights with the new prop and a thorough checking of motor, ESC, and battery temperatures. To date, the components have only been warm at the end of every flight. I'm going to stick with the 16x8 prop on my U-Can-Do SF.

Is This For a Beginner?

No! The large control surfaces and the lack of any self righting characteristics make the U-Can-Do SF too much airplane for any beginner. However, any intermediate pilot should be able to easily sport fly the U-Can-Do SF on low rates. Once comfortable with the plane on low rates, intermediate pilots can begin to explore the wonderful world of 3D aerobatics at a safe altitude. Advanced pilots will enjoy the rock solid performance provided by the thick airfoil and the side force generators.

Flight Photo Gallery

The colorful trim scheme of the U-Can-Do SF made it easy to track through any maneuver, and the great slow flight characteristics made it easy to "pose" the plane for pictures.

Flight Video

This first video shows the maiden flight at our club field as I got used to the plane. The prop was the recommended 15x6E and the static power level was 1148 Watts.

U Can Do SF Maiden (6 min 55 sec)

The second video was shot at SEFF 2014 with the 16x8E prop and the static power level of 1498 Watts.

U Can Do SF SEFF 2014 (5 min 3 sec)

Conclusion

The new U-Can-Do SF is a much improved version of the iconic 2002 U-Can-Do airplane. This new version has numerous improvements to enhance its 3D flying characteristics and it comes ready for an electric power system. On low rates, it would make a great sport plane for anyone wanting to learn about flying precision aerobatic maneuvers. On 3D rates, the U-Can-Do SF is a forgiving platform that will allow new 3D pilots to make mistakes and still fly the plane home for another day. Seasoned pilots will enjoy the outstanding performance available from this new U-Can-Do SF.

Pluses

  • Much improved 3D performance over the original
  • 3D performance at a reasonable price point
  • Airframe is designed for electric or glow power
  • Rimfire 80 motor - plenty of power
  • One-piece wing
  • Colorful trim scheme

Minuses

  • Recommended method for stab alignment
  • Tight battery compartment

Thanks

I'd like to thank Hobbico for providing the U-Can-Do SF for this review. I'd also like to thank Mark McClelland for shooting the great still shots and the maiden flight video. In addition, I'd like to thank Steve Mills for taking time at SEFF 2014 to shoot the excellent SEFF flying video. And lastly, thanks to our editor Angela for her assistance in editing this review.

Last edited by kingsflyer; Apr 29, 2014 at 10:41 PM..

Discussion

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Old Apr 30, 2014, 11:07 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
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This Post is reserved for future updates.
McD
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Last edited by kingsflyer; May 01, 2014 at 07:14 AM.
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Old May 02, 2014, 12:48 PM
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dochoot's Avatar
United States, IN, Valparaiso
Joined Sep 2013
442 Posts
Thanks. Have been wondering about this plane.
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Old May 02, 2014, 02:37 PM
KK6MQJ
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Joined Sep 2004
13,742 Posts
Glad to see you reviewed this one Mike. I also have been watching it with interest and now I can read all about it. GOOD stuff!
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Old May 03, 2014, 09:05 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
5,136 Posts
Thanks Jon, it was a fun review. It got much better when I found out about the 16x8 prop the factory folks were using on their demo plane!

I flew the U-Can-Do SF today at our annual club Picnic and it was the hit of the event. Most everyone remembered the original plane and they were all impressed with the looks and performance of the new one. However, all their offers to buy my plane were for naught. I told them to head on down to the hobby shop and get their own, I'm keeping mine!

McD
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Old May 04, 2014, 07:19 PM
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USA, AZ, Phoenix
Joined May 2003
3,363 Posts
Review was done very nicely Mike and I agree with you that this bird is a keeper! Flew mine with an OS 65AX......also a nice combo...
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Old May 06, 2014, 12:25 PM
MN WATTS Master
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United States, MN, Mankato
Joined Jul 2003
7,385 Posts
Very nice review Mike! Glad I could help you out at SEFF and thanks for giving me a pull on the sticks. It was a fun plane to fly.

Steve
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