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Hobbico's Nexstar Ultimate Flight Training Machine

Michael Heer, a professional flight instructor, and 2 boy scouts explore this exciting new flight package in depth, including use of the included simulator, AFS flight correction system, and removable speed flaps and antispin tips.

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Hobbico's Nexstar: Is it "The Ultimate Flight Training Machine?"

Introduction


Wingspan:68-3/4"
Wing Area:722 sq. in.
Length:56"
Weight:6.5 lb.
Wing Loading:21 oz/sq. ft.
Engine:OS .46FXi, included
Prop:11x6, 2-1/2" spinner, included
Transmitter:Futaba 4YBF, included
Receiver:receiver/AFS system combination, included
Flight Simulator:NexStar version of Realflight
Manufacturer:Hobbico
Available Online:Tower Hobbies
Note: Manufacturer has a VERY detailed site for this product.

Hobbico advertises the NexSTAR as: "The Ultimate Flight Training Machine." That is one heck of a claim. (I would use stronger language but this is a family-friendly review.) So, I wanted to examine Hobbico's claim in several steps, and reached my conclusions with the input of several test pilots.

Because this aircraft is such a new, complete design package, and stands beneath such a bold claim, it required a bit of a different type of review. I wanted to take a moment to explain the process and logic behind this review to you.... We reviewed the individual features that make this plane different from its competitors, starting with the Package Contents, and on to a more-detailed-than-normal discussion of assembly due to the unique completeness and the contention that it is such a beginner-ready aircraft (but even just a quick review of the contents shows there isn't much to do). Normally we would go on to the flight section next, but for this review I recruited some Boy Scouts who had never flown, and had them start with the RealFlight* NexSTAR Simulator that comes as part of the package, so we continued the review with coverage of their progress on the Flight Simulator and their level of confidence about flying R/C before and after their flight simulator experience. (We followed the recommendations per the instructions on use of the flight simulator program before the beginners ever got to the field with the plane.) Finally, we tackled flight. In the Flying section you'll find my opinion on the progress of the two scouts, as well as their opinion. You also get some adults input who fly gliders and tried the plane. One of my club's flight instructors supervised the students in their flight efforts, and we included his opinions on the plane. Part of the promotion for the plane is that it serves as a "second plane" as well for the new pilot once his skills improve beyond the beginner stage, so we covered that as well. We were also looking forward to testing the AFS system, and provided you video coverage so you can see for yourself.

We wanted to let you, the reader, really decide what YOU think about the plane, in case no one in your area is flying one yet. So please read the rest of the review for MY thoughts and those of the other pilots, but watch the videos and determine what you think about the plane based on what you see as well as what you read. We can tell you what we thought, but we want you to make up your own mind about whether or not the NexSTAR is the Ultimate Flight Training Machine!

Package Contents

Most reviews talk about kit contents, and focus on what ISN'T included, but that is not really appropriate for the NexStar. Not only is the plane truly complete -- with engine and radio -- but there are so many extras that it should be talked about as a package. The plane comes almost completely assembled. It comes with the .46 two cycle motor already mounted in the plane. It comes with a Futaba 4YBF, 4 channel radio system, and the radio flight package installed in the plane.

Extra Goodies!

The next feature will be reviewed after the Assembly section but before we go to the field to fly. A special mini-version of the RealFlight simulator program is included in the package and this one features the NexSTAR as the (only) plane to fly on your computer. (Great Planes makes it clear this is a mini-version of the simulator; to use all the other airplanes, add-ons and advanced features, the full version of RealFlight will need to be purchased.) A special cable is included to allow your transmitter to interface with your computer using the included (limited) RealFlight simulator program. The instructions recommend that the pilot be able to do twenty take-offs and landings before they attempt to fly the real plane. (I followed those recommendations with the Boy Scouts and report later on their level of confidence about flying an R/C plane before and after the flight simulator experience. )

These include two safety features installed on the wing:

  • "Speed Brakes Training Flaps." These are installed on the trailing edge of the wing near the fuselage and are designed to keep the plane from flying too fast and to help with avoiding stalls and helping with stability.
  • "Spincontrol Airfoil Extensions." these are installed near the outer portions of the wings and are to prevent tip-stalls and spins.

Even the wing mounting system is new and advanced. It uses a single bolt in a rubber mount. This mount will pivot and flex if there is a minor bump of the wing on landing but in a more severe impact it will allow the wing to come off completely. They sensibly call this the Pivotflex mount. It is a nice improvement over the traditional rubber bands often used to hold the wing on a trainer plane.

If those changes were all that were there it would be pretty substantial and might let the plane qualify as the ultimate flight training machine, but we have only started. The wingspan is 68 3/4 inches and that is longer then the normal trainer and adds some additional stability in flight. The fuselage is longer then average at 56 inches in length and that should add to the planes stability as well. The plane comes with an O.S. .46 FXi ball-bearing engine and that is bigger then the standard .40 engines that most ARF's use. In addition it is mounted to the fuselage using the Hobbico IsoSmooth mounting system and that is designed to absorb most of the engine's vibration. Furthermore, after a brief motor break in period a high speed needle valve extender/limiter is installed. This helps the beginner keep from running the engine to lean or to rich and that should also add to the life of the engine.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the package is the Active Flight Stabilization (AFS) Module mentioned above. This system can be adjusted for sensitivity or turned off completely. It is a type of auto-pilot that works when the pilot lets go of the transmitter control stick. Just let go of the stick and the plane rights itself to level flight. It does this by reading the sunlight and for that reason you are advised not to use it early or late in the day. The light sensor comes mounted on the bottom of the fuselage, and I was very interested in seeing how this would help the beginner...beginners often get into real trouble by over-correcting when the plane starts to get a little out of control. With the NexStar's AFS, they just let go and the plane should go back to level controlled flight and they move the stick to resume their control of the plane.

Wow, quite a package! But, as Monte Hall said on Let's Make a Deal, "Let's Sweeten the Deal!"

If the beginner pilot flies his NexSTAR at an AMA-chartered club's field with a qualified instructor as designated by the club. Hobbico will replace the plane if it is crashed beyond repair. (Just the plane, not everything in the package.) That is a heck of an offer and one that works out great for most pilots such as mine, as we will have a club instructor work with my pilots as part of this review. I always encourage new pilot's to get an expert to help them and our club follows the AMA Instructor program so that will make it easy for me. For those who insist on doing it their way and not using an instructor you are just giving up the free insurance package that Hobbico gives with the plane. (You are also missing out on a key component to becoming a successful pilot.) The package is still terrific at a street price of about $400.00 complete.

Assembly

Editor's note: Normally we would not go through 'step-by-step' of how to assemble an aircraft in a review; however, as this is truly meant to be a beginner's first aircraft, we felt it was important to let the beginner -- and instructors -- see just how easily this plane assembles and is ready to fly.

They advertise that you can do assembly in twenty minutes and I suppose that is possible as there is very little to assemble. However I was in no hurry and there was so much to look at. Besides, the battery for the transmitter and the receiver both had to charge overnight so there was no rush. The first thing I did was take all the parts out of the box and plugged the Futaba wall charger into the wall and connected it to the transmitter. When I went to connect it to the charging jack (on the on/off switch), I noticed the receiver flight pack battery was not connected to the switch, so I plugged those two together and then plugged in the second charging plug to charge the receiver/flight pack battery. With those charging, I took the instructions and disks into the family room. Included in these materials was a NexSTAR DVD disk and I viewed that on my TV/DVD player. It gave a broad overview on the plane and its features as well as assembly and how to get the plane ready for flight at the field. It repeatedly directed me to the printed instructions for more details. It did a nice job of covering the basics about the plane, the flight simulator system and encouraging every pilot to use an instructor at an AMA chartered club and flying site. One or two viewings should make the novice feel comfortable with his plane and eager to get into the assembly.

I next looked at the 28 page Instruction Manual. Step one was to plug the flight battery into the on/off switch. Step two was to charge the batteries. I was two for two before I even got to the instructions. Next came the wing assembly, using a special center core wing rib to assist in the process. This center core wing rib came already installed on the right wing panel. To assembly the two wing halves, I slid the wing rod into the right wing and slid the left wing half all the way onto the rod and into the plastic center core rib section. Using two # 4 x 3/4 inch screws, the left wing was secured to the center wing rib. The pushrods connected to the servo in the center rib section by snapping the clevises in place. The right side pushrod comes already connected so I only had to do the left aileron pushrod. The final step on the wing was mounting the two Speed Brake training flaps to the bottom trailing edge of the wings. That completed the wing assembly.

The landing gear was next and the front wheel came preinstalled. The main landing gear came as two sets of a wheel mounted to a landing gear leg; the leg slid and clicked into the fuselage. I repeated the process for the other side and the landing gear was installed in seconds. They described it as a three second process but working slowly I took about ten seconds for this step. The snap gear quick landing mounts lived up to their advertising. The nice thing was that the instructions also told how to remove the landing gear if you later need to make repairs. The instructions also described the process to bend the landing gear legs back into shape after a bad landing.

The tail feathers were also quick to mount but I did use one "trick" to get them mounted. The plane is promoted as having easy-to-align tail mounting and that was the case. The horizontal stab slid into a slot in the back of the fuselage. There were two holes in the horizontal stab and two long screws mounted in the vertical to go through those holes from above. As I lowered the vertical stab and rudder so that the long screws were going through the horizontal stabilizer, the rudder control horn stopped on the elevator. My "trick" was to push the rudder all the way to the right and pull the elevator up. This allowed the rudder control horn to get past and below the elevator as needed. Two nylon fin bolts screwed onto the wires from the bottom of the fuselage and in the process secured the vertical and horizontal stabs to the fuselage. The alignment was perfect and required no thought or measurement. The rudder and elevator were prehinged to the stabs and came with control horns already mounted. I simply connected the preinstalled control rod clevises to the control horns and the tail feathers were done.

Next I installed the propeller and spinner onto the motor. (This was not in the instruction manual although there are instructions on how to change the propeller on page 24 of the manual. The instructions for the propeller/spinner installation are on a slip of paper with three pictures and brief instructions.) I would add to the instructions: "The numbers on the propeller face forward." I would do this as I have seen many novices place the propeller on facing backward.

The plane was now assembled. I turned on the transmitter and then the receiver and checked the alignment of the control surfaces. No adjustment was necessary on the clevises for what appeared to be straight alignment of the control surfaces. I can't know if that will be the case on all models but it was true on mine. The plane was all but ready to fly. It was necessary to run the engine for a short period to break it in, but that we did later at the flying field.

The IsoMount Engine Mounting

Before I left the assembly process, I did want to describe the Hobbico IsoSmooth engine mounting system. The normal metal engine mounts on each side of the engine were covered with tight fitting almost clear colored plastic material. These blocks of clear plastic fit in spaces in white plastic blocks that have two bolts going through them at each end. These plastic/rubbery blocks were factory bolted into the engine mount and secured the engine in place; this mounting process absorbed much of the vibration created by the motor. This process is pictured above. I am glad the engine came already mounted on the engine mount as one of the mounting bolts (back left looking at the plane from behind) was right under the fuel connector nipple from the high speed needle valve on the back of the engine. It was nice that this assembly had already been done for us because it would be necessary to remove the needle valve to access that bolt.

Anyway, time to check out the flight simulator and then get the young pilots practicing on it.

The Flight Simulator

As mentioned above this kit included a special mini-copy of Real Flight R/C Simulator, that includes ONLY the NexStar. I already have the G2 version of Real Flight Simulator and have upgraded it with Internet downloads and I have purchased add ons one and two. (As I loaded the new version there seemed to be no recognition of my older G2 version, and it in no way interfered with later use of my G2.) After the software was loaded into the computer it instructed me to connect the included USB cable and the Futaba transmitter to the computer, and then to turn on the Futaba transmitter. I did and the program was ready to run. I made four quick flights and four successful landings. The descents seemed very good and the roll outs on landing were shorter and more scale then those on my original G2 version. With four successful flights I went into the program and activated the AFS portion of the program by clicking on a check-box. I went back and started my fifth flight. I would enter a banked turn and let go of the controls and it would go back to level flight. I let go at the top of a loop and it did an S turn to get back to level flight. I tried it again and this time it did half a roll to get back to level flight. I turned the throttle off and it self-landed. Two more flights with self correction and OK landings with my hands off the throttle. Finally on my eighth flight I was able to crash with hands off, by messing up close to the ground it could not recover in time. I switched off the AFS and completed another dozen flights involving all types of acrobatics and adding trees and wind. The simulator worked great! It was now time to get it into the hands of our student pilots.

Meet Our Pilots

Editor's notes: young pilots' names and other information printed with their parent's permission. Thanks for all your effort and input, boys! Without you, this review could not have provided the type of insight it does!

At a scout meeting I recruited Andy Law (age 15) And Ross Lender Jr. (age 16) to be my pilots. They had been scouts in my troop the last year and they have remained active in scouting. They are friends who live near each other and thus would be able to practice on the flight simulator together. They are both sophomores in high school with Andy attending Webber Institute of Science and Technology and Ross attending Amos Alonzo Stagg High. I gave the Futaba transmitter, the software, the USB cable and the Futaba wall charger to Andy to take home so that he and Ross could practice with the simulator. We hoped that, if the weather was right, in two weeks they would be ready to try and fly the NexSTAR....

Fast forward two weeks and three days.

The guys had several sessions of practice with the flight simulator. I gave them no advance instructions and they had a lot of fun and a lot of crashes the first week. The second week I sent an e-mail and simply advised they could turn off the trees and should try to land without worrying about the runway. Just cut off the throttle and let the plane glide in and flare (a little up elevator) just before touch down. They practiced a couple more times again the night before we went flying and for about one hour at my house the morning of the day we went flying. They had made about a dozen plus successful landings on their own and made a bunch more at my house. Andy looked very comfortable on the simulator. Ross seemed to over control at times using too much stick movement and that lead to crashes. This is a common mistake for the beginner to over control the plane. I pointed this out to Ross on the simulator and told him not to move the transmitter sticks so far. He listened and I saw some improvement. It was time to go to the field.

Meet the Flight Instructor

My friend Jeff Hunter was the flight instructor for this adventure. He is very experienced in the R/C hobby and is an excellent pilot, designer and builder of R/C gliders and planes. I fly several of his designs, including gliders and electrics. He also gives back to the hobby as president of the Modesto Radio Control Club whose members mostly fly gliders and electric planes, including helicopters. But here we had Jeff wearing his flight instructor hat. He is a professional instructor and many people pay him to teach them how to fly. While he charges for formal lessons he often simple invites his students to go flying with him and he ends up giving them a free lesson on those days. He has done countless hours of volunteer work with youth that show an interest in this hobby. He will invite them to come to his workshop and teach them how to cut foam and show them how to make simple but good flying R/C gliders or flying wings and help them until they leave with a completed plane that they built (with a lot of Jeff's effort) with his materials for little or no charge. When I asked Jeff to help he simply asked, "Where and when?"

Jeff keeps his instructions relatively short and simple but he covers all the bases with his students. Even as a plane appears to be headed for a crash he continues to talk relatively calmly so long as the student is listening and responding. He directs the student from behind with calm spoken direction and gentle taps on their shoulders to help them remember their right from their left as the plane comes back at them. The success of this project/review didn't just depend on the quality of the NexSTAR. It very much depended on the quality of the students and the instructor. Andy and Ross had not flown before other then the simulator. When we went to the field, I had fairly good confidence in Andy based on the flight simulator experience and a little less confidence in Ross because of his initial tendency to over adjust and crash on the simulator. Fortunately, Ross was improving at the end of the session. I knew the flight instructor was good. It was time to fly.

Flying

We arrived at the flying field about noon after a half hour drive from my home. During that time the conditions had gone from almost calm to quite breezy. It was so breezy that I could not safely fly a lightweight electric I had brought with a buddy box system. Meeting us at the field was Jeff Hunter, his wife Lisa, and Dave Michelsen, a friend and fellow glider pilot. Jeff put the boys through a short but complete ground school with emphasis on the practical and on safety. He showed them how to fuel the plane without spilling or loosing any gas. How to start the engine and how to safely stop the engine. How to work as a team to control the plane at all times. He then ran the engine for a few minutes to "break it in." When that was completed there was a complete inspection of the plane and the control linkages and they made sure everything was centered and working in the correct direction. Final review was the controls on the transmitter and the boys were familiar with them from using them on the simulator. It was time for the first flight.

Jeff demonstrated how to start the plane several times in the pit and had Andy start the plane with Ross securing it on the flight line. It stalled once but warmed up nicely on the second try. Jeff did the honors of the first take-off while I recorded it with my video camera. The plane performed flawlessly! It started straight down the runway and quickly lifted off. Jeff throttled back and was climbing nicely at about half throttle. The plane had been set up with the factory adjustments on the control rods as mentioned above and only a few clicks of a trim tab were necessary to trim out the plane. I knew the controls "looked" centered but I was honestly surprised at how "right on" the controls were with the "factory settings."

Downloads

After just a minute or so of flying and talking to the students, Jeff handed the transmitter over to Andy and talked him through his first several turns. Andy was flying about 150 feet off the ground and looked like he had been doing it for years. After he had been flying for several minutes, Jeff had Andy pass off the transmitter to Ross. Ross was much smoother flying the real plane then he had been flying the NexSTAR on the flight simulator. Both boys got a second round and even I got some stick time. Jeff's wife, Lisa, and Dave Michelsen got turns with the plane as well. They are both R/C glider pilots and they haven't had a lot of stick time lately. They adapted to the NexSTAR very quickly and both of them found it very easy and enjoyable to fly.

During my two sessions with the NexSTAR I found that I could fly nice and slow but with excellent control, despite the wind and using only a quarter throttle. I had very good climb at half throttle and almost vertical climb at full throttle even with the speed flaps installed. (They give lift at speed and slow the plane down very nicely and help it smoothly descend at less than 1/4 throttle.) The plane had plenty of power and showed no bad habits. Although we had the AFS system activated at the factory settings, I didn't notice it coming into play in my normal flying but it might have helped keep the plane level in the gusty conditions. I specifically did several hard banks and let go of the stick and every time the plane quickly came back to level or almost level flight. In a couple cases after initial correction it made a large slow turn until it got completely level and that may have been because of the windy conditions. Jeff experienced the same thing, but generally it almost immediately got the plane back to level or with high throttle into an even wing climb. One of the boys admitted he had tested it as well and did so intentionally. When I wasn't video taping and watching the plane I would watch the boys hands on the transmitter. They were very smooth in making their turns and generally kept the right stick in the proper position for the smooth banked turns they were making. They also both let go or centered the stick several times and the AFS system leveled the plane for them. So it helped them whether they were even aware of it or not. I think this may have come from the experience of flying with it "on" while using the flight simulator.

I have heard some people on the Internet express concern about the AFS system and how it worked. I found it worked very well! We set it to the factory recommended settings (perhaps some are turning it up too high?) and it wasn't used to "fly" the plane, but occasionally it was used to let the plane self-correct back to level flying. Our student pilots may not have needed it, but I believe they were helped by it on several occasions based on my silent observations. The students really were doing a fine job with controlling their flights. Jeff and I both intentionally tested the AFS system in our flights. We would heavily bank the plane and let go, and the plane would self-correct to level or almost level flight. It seemed to depend on the planes heading in relationship to the wind if the AFS got the plane back to completely level flight or into almost level flight and making a large flat circle. If left on its own it would level off completely. As an aid to help the beginner pilot I found it very useful in getting the plane back to a level position.

Downloads

After the first tank of gas had been consumed, we cleaned up the side of the plane and refilled the gas tank and set the needle valve for a leaner flight this second time around. During this tank of gas both boys nailed a couple of nice take-offs and one learned the ailerons don't help you turn when you are on the ground...left stick, left stick. The front wheel worked very nicely when using the left stick. Ground handling was excellent. Both boys took-off with a lot of throttle and started to climb...sometimes a little more steeply then they wanted. Both nosed the plane over to reduce the climb by using the elevator and then reducing throttle on at least one take-off and both just eased back on the throttle to get a nice rate of climb on another take-off. That might have been based on Jeff's instruction but I didn't think to ask. Instead of me talking more about the student's flights let me show some video of them flying. Because of the very gusty sometimes cross wind conditions actual landings at the end of the video clips were by the instructor. For practice he had them fly or try and fly a straight line over the runway.

Downloads

Over the years I have worked with a number of youth and given them a taste of R/C flying. I have used gliders and electrics in the past. I was very impressed with how easy the NexSTAR handled. I wasn't surprised with how smooth Andy was in controlling the plane as he had been smooth on the simulator. But Ross surprised me with how smooth he was with the real plane vs. how he was on the simulator. Neither of these pilot's came even close to losing control of their plane or getting the wing vertical rather then horizontal. While they may not have "needed" the AFS system, I know they both used it a couple times, but they might not even have been aware of it on a conscious level. I can tell you this...both boys want their own NexSTAR!

Flying NexStar as a Second Plane

The plane is an excellent trainer when flown at lower throttle settings. It handles well and can self-correct when you let go of the transmitter sticks. Flown at full throttle it is almost a different plane, even with the speed flap and spin control devices still on the wing. It will loop and do axial rolls. It has an abundance of power. As it turned out, I was able to observe another person's NexSTAR with the speed control flaps and spin control devices removed. This was at another field while Andy and Ross were still working on the flight simulator. It was a much faster and more aerobatic plane (quicker responding) without the speed flaps and spin control adapters on the wings. It isn't quite two planes in one, but the difference is very noticeable, and it meets its claim of being both a first and second plane for a pilot. The other NexSTAR I observed performed excellently in the hands of the first pilot who was obviously experienced. The owner who flew it on the second flight wasn't really "ready" for his second plane, and looked like he needed more time on the simulator. Fortunately, he was flying high and he let go of the stick several times and his plane was saved by the AFS system that he had left on. He would have been well served to use the low end of his throttle range. In discussing with Jeff the incident I observed, he pointed out that far too many pilots treat the throttle as an on (top of range) off (bottom of range) control and don't use it as they should. He also observed a NexStar at his local field where the beginner had removed the speed flaps because they "made the plane balloon up too much." That happens at full throttle, but the solution for the newbie should have been to fly slower and not to remove the speed flaps as Jeff and I found them very helpful with stability, especially on a blustery day. Don't remove the training aids until you have really mastered the basics of R/C flight.

Downloads

A Quick Note on The Rest of the Futaba Equipment

I almost forgot to discuss the regular functions of the Futaba radio system after discussing the AFS component of the system. This is because the system worked so well I didnít have to think about it and that is what you want with your radio system! The servos in the fuselage came installed and connected to the receiver. After assembling the tail feathers and snapping on the control rod clevises and plugging in the aileron servo, I found all controls were working in the proper direction. All surfaces were in neutral trim so I didnít need to use any servo adjustment on the transmitter. There are no computer programming functions on the transmitter but none are needed. I didnít even have to do any manual adjustments of the clevises, although I suspect that some of the planes will require some adjustment. I did a range check at home and Jeff had the boys do one at the field and it passed both of those tests. I was very pleased with the radio system.

Student's Opinions

Both boys were eager to go flying. They did their homework on the flight simulator and that greatly helped to prepare them for actually flying the plane. They first learned how easy it was to crash and then slowly how to control the plane. They had become familiar with the controls and were using the throttle control as a variable and not just as an on/off switch. They fairly well knew right from left and up from down and that familiarity is one of the big advantages of using a flight simulator. They were confident but not overly confident as we drove out to the field. I think it was some hesitation, but it could have been politeness, that had both boys offering to let the other fly first with the plane in the air. There was some definite hesitation on the first take-off and they now know to advance the throttle quickly for take-off and you can ease back if the rate of climb is greater then you want. Jeff had them rate how they did at the end of the day and both gave themselves a ten based on expectations verses how they did. They both love the plane and as mentioned above both want a NexSTAR of their own.

Jeff enjoyed working with them and found them to be good listeners who followed instructions. They became confident while remaining safety-conscious in starting the engine and in their ground procedures. They were good students and but for the gusty conditions they are ready to land and complete their solos. He agreed with their evaluations as being 10s at the field for their first time. He has volunteered to work with them more in the future and there will be further sessions with them. I gave one student a 10 and one a 9.75 with a .25 deduction for forgetting to use the left stick (rudder/wheel) to steer on the ground. It was a very successful day!

Hobbico refers to it as a complete system and that really is what should be considered by any pilot. 1) The flight simulator: gives experience with the transmitter and how controls work and lets you get familiar with the plane and the AFS system. Jeff and I have our own Great Planes flight simulators and use them fairly often with those interested in flying R/C. 2) The plane and its safety features: Everything worked as indicated! 3) Working with a flight instructor: Jeff's participation was a very important part of the success we experienced. Use of all three components was important to the success experienced by Andy and Ross.

Conclusion

The plane was a snap to assemble. The control rods and clevises were all adjusted nearly perfect as they arrived from the factory. The motor break-in was quick and easy, and the motor had a large reserve of extra power -- the smart student will do most of his initial flying using only about 1/4 throttle after initial take-off and climb. The plane is good-looking on the ground and even better in the air. Despite some concerned discussion on the AFS system by some in the hobby community, I found it worked very well at getting an out-of-control plane back to level or almost level flight very quickly. (We were flying in the middle of the day as required for the system to work as it measures light.) The Great Planes RealFlight NexSTAR Edition flight simulator has only one plane and one field but it works great and is a major reason why the scouts were able to fly so well. As shown in the video, above, the NexSTAR can do acrobatics even with the speed flaps and spin control airfoil devices attached. At full throttle it is more then a beginner's trainer even with the training devices still on the plane. As mentioned above I have seen another NexSTAR flying with them removed and it is very responsive but don't go there before you are ready. There is sufficient difference between the "trainer" plane at 1/4 throttle and the "clean" version at full throttle that I feel they made good on their claim of being the beginner's first and second plane. But Jeff and I have both seen two different people who moved on to the "second" plane before they were really ready.

There was one thing I found that I disliked about the NexSTAR but most owners will never experience the problem! I removed the engine from the fuselage to examine the IsoSmooth mounting system. If you take the muffler off of the engine it is easy to access three of the four bolts that secure the motor to the mount. The fourth bolt is under the nipple for the fuel line getting gas from the needle valve to the engine. Not just under the fuel line but under the plastic nipple on the needle valve. To remove or install that bolt I had to remove the needle valve to get to the bolt. That proved to be a pain. But you don't have to remove the engine and thus you don't have to deal with this minor design flaw. If you do remove the motor, the easiest solution is to cut down the short end of an Allen wrench to remove the needle valve and its holder from the back of the engine to get access to the back left engine mounting bolt.

Jeff, the students and I concluded that when you look at all the NexSTAR gives you in the package, it truly IS the Ultimate Flight Training Machine and System...for now. Lisa and Dave enjoyed their stick time on the NexSTAR as well and Dave found flying power to be more enjoyable then he thought it would be. I think the plane is very good, but I do want to mention that our students and the instructor were an equally big part of this effort being such an enjoyable success. It was a pleasure to work with Andy, Ross and Jeff on this review. Jeff's professional instruction and the focus and practice by our students were keys to their success and should not be over-looked by anyone interested in getting into this hobby and flying a NexSTAR.

*Editor's note: Jim Bourke, owner of RCGroups.com, and RCPower, is an employee of Knife Edge, the makers of RealFlight. Jim did not have any input into this review, and did not edit it in any manner. This relationship in no way effected the review.

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Old Apr 27, 2004, 11:26 AM
Grumpa Tom
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Old Aug 09, 2004, 09:41 PM
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Joined Aug 2004
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We'll see.

After reading several reviews of the this airplane, I decided to part with the required green stuff, and bring it home to live with me. I figured that if I kept the AFS turned down to less than 30%, I could make the mistakes a new pilot (ME!) would make without my instructor having a heart attack, if I just released the controls.

However, I've read several disparaging comments in this forum that told me I over spent by over $100, and that I would have done better with a Combo package from one of the leading on-line distributors. That may be, and we'll find out when I get the airplane in the air.

Getting the airplane in the air *is* going to be difficult, however. It seems that in all the reviews that I read, no one seemed to have the slightest issue gettin the airplane together, but as a complete newbie to this, I couldn't get it. It appears that the manufacturing of the wing sections that I have is flawed. The wing sections are off center one to another by between 1 and 1.5mm, without the center wing spar, and with the 'spar' connected, I'm about 2mm off from getting it into the right place. After a call to Hobbico tech support, I was informed that I needed to remove the center spar and servo, and then ship the wings to their repair/replacement facility in Illinois. Needless to say, for an 'Almost-Ready-To-Fly, the first flight will probably be on a FedEx airplane! At least I'll have a substantial amount of time to spend with the simulator.

I was also rather disappointed in the fit and finish of the airplane, as far as the coating was concerned. There was a substantial amount of bubbles on the wings and on the fuselage. I guess this airplane was made on a Friday evening right before a three day holiday or vacation!

Still, it's the flying that counts, so after the wings come back, and I get it to the field (barring no other unforseen circumstances) I'll see if it's worth all the praise. For right now, I think it may not be, but I may change my mind.

Gary
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Old Aug 31, 2004, 05:42 PM
Noob!
Norristown, PA
Joined Aug 2004
272 Posts
Well, a couple of weeks have passed since I last posted on this.

It took me two weeks to do the turn around on the wings. Hobby Services confirmed that they were manufactured incorrectly, and replaced the wings. Hobbico tech support asked me to remove only the Center Core Rib and servo from the wings, and send them. That is what I did. I had not, at that time, installed the speed flaps.

When I received the wings, they came back with another Center Core Rib, and a note saying that they had been tested, and everything fit. But, the wings were missing the control horns for the ailerons and the leading edge cuffs. A call to Hobbico had the tech scrambling to find me the stuff I needed. When the package arrived, I found the forward cuffs, but instead of the control horns, I now have another set of control pushrods and clevises. Fortunately, a trip to the local hobby store secured the required control horns. When I finally got the horns and installed them, and transferred the servo from the old Center Core Rib, I could not install the wings on the airplane. The hole that the 1/4-20 screw went through was about 1/8" off from there it should have been! The two center core ribs actually were different. So, I removed the new rib, and moved the wings and the servo back to the old rib, and installed that, instead.

First flight:

My instructor looked over the airplane. The nose wheel was out of alignment, which I didn't catch earlier. During the construction of the airplane, after I read elsewhere in these forums, I checked all the screws, and found that many of them were loose, one set on the tail that if flown for very long may have actually come undone. Everything has been tightened up.

The instructor suggested that I not install the speed flaps on the aircraft, so I didn't. He was unimpressed with the roll rate of the aircraft, and explained that if I got it into a situation, there wasn't enough roll authority to get it out at a low altitude. He asked me to install a straight control arm for the ailerons versus the differential arm that is stock.

Every control surface was far from setup correctly, and required almost two hours of adjustment during the build to get everything set according to the instructions. Even then, I still missed the binding control arm on the throttle. I guess that's why instructors should look things over.

The landing gear of this airplane is a large sticking point with every NexSTAR owner I've talked to. It is a poor design, and is prone to failure. On only two flights with my aircraft, both landing and take offs done by the instructor, one of the wheels had worked its way loose of the retaining mechanism. Had these been touch and goes, it is possible that I would have, or could have, lost an entire landing gear. I will probably, with help from other members of the club, remove the landing gear assembly, and design something a lot more permanent and sturdy over the winter months.

One pilot told of his landing gear box breaking on two occassions. Furthermore, when he opened it up, he found that the balsa was fuel soaked, and easily pliable. To remedy that, he suggested, as I do also, the purchase of an exhaust extender, pointed down and away from the aircraft. This has kept my plane cleaner, and I see no signs (yet) of fuel seeping into the landing gear.

I have not connected the PA-2S sensor, so I have no AFS. The airplane is stable without it and the wing extensions, although I may put them on now that I have them. The speed flaps will not go on my airplane. As validated by the simulator and others experience, when you cut the throttle, the airplane takes a large nose down attitude, and makes pitching through the flare more abrupt, and more likely to pitch up to a stall.

If Hobbico takes to heart the recommendations that I made to them in a letter, and repairs the gear box, and checks quality, then this trainer, along with the software and hardware, will be a good trainer. Right now, however, I can't recommend it to anyone.

Gary
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Old Aug 21, 2006, 08:03 AM
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Joined Aug 2006
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Yes, another "me too". At age 70, I want to do this again. I "almost" learned to fly in the middle 80's, a Goldberg Eagle II. I decided on the nextstar, and the experience has certainly not been a good one. Lots of control throws, alignments and so on had to be re-done. Very tricky was getting the throttle right, to match the requirements in the book. Then, the wing hold-down bolt binds badly when going through the wing, on it's way to the threaded part. I took it out to a local field, lots of friendly people, helpful, and highly experienced. Got to run a couple tanks through, at rich, break things in. Got her together, started up, and a zillion air bubbles could be seen in the line from the tank to the carb. More air as throttle increases. Folks out there said "not flyable" as the mix is going to change as the air bubbles change. Made sense to me. SO, what to do? Lots of suggestions, wrap tank in foam, prop maybe out of balance, etc. I email to hobbico, they had same ideas, wrapping the tank in foam seemed like a good way to go, but, looking at it, man, pushrods out, servo tray out, engine removed, etc. Just seemed like too much for me, so I shipped the whole fuselage to them. That was a week ago, heard nothing from them since.
Now, what scares me is, they ship plane back, saying nothing wrong with it. Well, let's try to think positively, maybe they will actually fix it. Who knows when that might happen.
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Old Aug 24, 2006, 02:59 PM
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Thurs. Aug 24. WOW! Shipped UPS ground on the 22, went from Chicago area to Atlanta in 2 days! Props to UPS, if nobody at hobbico did their job, Mr. Brown certainly did his. Now, out of the box with it, and a note saying... "We replaced the fuel tank and all lines. We test ran the plane with no problems, no air bubbles in the line." Uh-huh, maybe so, but the whole front of the thing is different. The engine mount "looks" entirely different, and my tediously made throttle adjustments are no more. Once again, the servo hums at full throttle. I'll work on it again, and we'll see about the bubbles. Would love to crank it up in the driveway, but, A. School is out, will draw 39 kids, and B. It's thundering to beat the band. Maybe just wait, go to the field either Sat. or Sun. for first runs. Probably take quite some time to get the throttle adjusted out, anyway, it did the last time. More when I know more.
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Old Aug 27, 2006, 04:22 PM
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Joined Aug 2006
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OK, here's the report on the returned airplane. No more bubbles, and it FLIES!. My instructor's comment was, "It's a pussycat". I was able to manage a loop, and a roll, but, I am terrible at putting the plane where I want it. When stalled, it just drops it's nose, very docile, and his landings were just beautiful. It's going to take me some time to learn, but, if the plane survives, maybe I will. I feel a lot better about the whole thing, now, of course, having had a successful day at the field. Next weekend, some more air time, and maybe I'll get better at it.

YEAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old Aug 30, 2006, 12:42 PM
Master of the Figure "9"
hogflyer's Avatar
Wichita, Kansas
Joined Dec 2005
1,684 Posts
I put a NextStar together for my son in early 2005. I got the basic plane, added my OS .46 AXI and Sky Sport radio (the older, not current version). I did not add the LE cuffs or the speed flaps.

Iíve found the plane flyís great, just like a basic trainer should. I did have to shim the right side of the engine mount 3/16Ē to keep it from pulling right on take-off and through loops. I regularly shoot touch-n-goís by cutting to idle when the plane is right across from me gliding to a smooth landing, and going to Ĺ throttle on the ensuing take-off. It does some of the nicest nose-high landings and most touch-n-goís never see the nose wheel touch the ground. While I had my son set the plane up, I made sure I did the stab alignment and expoxied the tail on as I didnít trust the plastic retaining bolts.

As far as aerobatics go, itíll do the basics. Mine is not a good roller, but loops respectable. It also requires rudder coordination and can be flown completely using the rudder (had to do that for part one flight when the retaining screw on the aileron servo horn came off and I had an instant no ailerons condition. I have since spent many a flight shooting nothing but touch-n-goís and not touching the ailerons.

Probably the most fun Iíve had is to climb it to 800í Ė 1000í just before it runs out of fuel and spend the next several minutes just gliding it back.

Iíve flown several NextStarís and found that itís very good design. Just leave off the speed flaps. And it does fly much better with the leading edge cuffs removed.

After over a 1-1/2 years of flying (probably 300+ flights) itís not oil soaked, and the landing gear is showing only a little bit of slop. Overall one of the better trainers Iíve flown, and I highly rate it as a basic trainer.
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Old Aug 31, 2006, 08:01 AM
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Hogflyer: Thank you for that. Yes, last weekend, my instructor had me fly for a while rudder-only, it did just fine at that. I have to get to a place where I can put the plane where I want it. The flight-sim is great, but I haven't found it very helpful at that part. Making approaches down the center of the runway eludes me. But, I've had only a total of 4 flights with the instructor. Maybe I'm just too dumb to get this? Or, maybe, need to be patient with myself, it's been 20 years since I did this. I've learned this: Flkying R/C is NOT like swimming and bicycling. You DO lose it.
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Old Nov 05, 2006, 08:15 AM
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Joined Aug 2006
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Been some time since I posted, lastest: Last weekeend, still on the umbillical cord, my first landing. Wasn't pretty, at all, looked much more like a carrier landing than one on a field, but, the plane stopped, standing up, with all 3 wheels on the ground, and that's a Good Landing. I have to learn how to get the nose in the air, as it's losing airspeed, and we will work on that. I suffer from FEAR when I nose up, too much will stall the thing and there will be no recovery, got to overcome that, for sure.
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Old Feb 25, 2007, 12:08 PM
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Joined Feb 2007
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Radio?

Does the radio come with the kit (399$)????(on hobbico)
is this the actual radio with which i can fly the plane?
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Old Feb 26, 2007, 09:02 PM
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Michael Heer's Avatar
Stockton, Ca. USA
Joined Apr 2001
9,432 Posts
Yes the radio comes with the plane!
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Old Dec 03, 2007, 05:06 PM
from another mother
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Plumas Lake, CA
Joined Nov 2007
454 Posts
I just bought one last week. I'll fly it around the Christmas holiday. I'll be sure to double check everything.
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Old Jan 02, 2008, 07:52 PM
No thrust...It'll bust...
troynh's Avatar
Troy, NH
Joined Sep 2006
4,356 Posts
I too just picked one up. However, I went with the ARF version for electric conversion. I should see it next week.

B2, keep us posted on your thread: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=780870

-Tim
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Old May 26, 2008, 07:24 PM
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Joined May 2007
21 Posts
Cool Plane

Hi,

I bought one two days ago. Been flying it on the simulator for about 6 months. Went to the field yesterday but was too windy. Gusting like mad. I got the engine broken in and another "experienced" pilot took it up and trimmed it.

He had me disconnect the AFS and take off the flaps. He said that it is cool to learn with them but you don't really learn the real way.

Anyway, I took it to the field today and flew despite the wind. All worked well. Two flights and only two nicked props. The "old timers" around there thought I was an experienced pilot. They couldn't believe that it was my first two solo flights.

Plane handled well and I can't wait to get it back to the park next weekend.
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