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Great Planes Super Sportster EP ARF Review

The Great Planes Super Sportster EP ARF is a job done right. It flies like its glo-powered cousins, is capable of all pre-3D aerobatics, and is high quality throughout. The performance is suprisingly strong on the supplied can motor and NiCads. Well built, good looking, and with everything but a radio furnished, it is a great value at a modest price. You can look forward to a lot of good flying with this tried and true design.

Splash

Introduction


Wingspan:48"
Wing Area:383 sq. in.
Weight:3.25 lb.
Length:39"
Wing Loading:19.5 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:3 mini
Receiver:4-ch
Battery:7x2100ma. Nicad. (supplied)
Motor:550 size with 2:1 gearbox (supplied)
ESC:30 amp. (supplied)
Prop:12X10 (supplied)
Manufacturer:Great Planes
Available Online From:Tower Hobbies

The magazine ad for a Great Planes Super Sportster EP ARF caught me by surprise. There she was, an old love come back, and prettier than ever! In 1994, before my conversion to e-power, I built a glo-powered Super Sportster with an OS .25, as sweet an airplane as I ever had, and flew it blissfully for three years until it was downed by interference. I have missed that little red and silver Sportster for a long time.

Now there is a reborn Super Sportster, an ARF electric version with a beautifully built airframe and everything but the radio included. A geared 550 motor is already mounted with the required amount of side- and down-thrust, a 7 cell 2100 ma. NiCd battery is furnished together with a propeller, wheels, spinner, all necessary hardware and a pre-painted cowl and wheel paints in fiberglass, not plastic. All this for $120? It seems to good to be true!

WHO IS THE SUPER SPORTSTER FOR?

But wait a minute. This is 2005, and today people stuff their hi-tech airplanes with brushless motors and lipoly batteries. Are they really going to want this 20 plus year old design with its tin can motor, NiCd batteries and even those lowly Tamiya connectors?

I think the answer is a definite yes. The text on the box cover clearly explains who Great Planes had in mind when producing this design: “It’s a great choice for the pilot who’s mastered high-wing aileron trainers and an easy way to enjoy traditional Super Sportster performance with the clean, quiet convenience of electric power!…Changes from an easy handling ‘third plane’ to aerobat just by adjusting the throws!” That just about says it all, doesn’t it? The Super Sportster is intended to be a quick and economical way to transition from glo to e-power and from a trainer to something sporty enough to fly among glo-powered aircraft, and don’t forget the cool factor. This is a handsome plane.

A CAREFULLY PACKED AND WELL MADE AIRPLANE

Inside the colorfully printed box, the Super Sportster was packed with exceptional care. The contents were layered. Underneath a large decal sheet that served to protect them were the wings, stabilizer-elevator, and vertical fin-rudder, each in its own plastic bag. Underneath, protected by a layer of cardboard, were the fuselage, canopy, and propeller. The fuselage wes suspended between two cardboard boxes containing the smaller components. The shiny red film covering and the painted fiberglass cowl and wheel pants were absolutely blemish free. Care and high quality - that’s what we have here.

The Super Sportster’s fuselage and wings are of traditional built up balsa and ply construction; the tail surfaces are of sheet balsa with large lightening holes. The craftsmanship is excellent throughout.

A 24 page instruction manual contained step by step photo illustrated assembly instructions as well as important information about break in, safety, and flying. This is even supplemented by technical notices which can be found on the Great Planes web site at http://www.greatplanes.com.

There were many labor saving and thoughtful touches throughout:

  • The motor and gearbox were pre-mounted with the correct amount of side- and down thrust built in.
  • A block of foam kept the aileron torque rods from damaging other components.
  • Blind nuts to retain the wing mounting screws were preinstalled, and there were preinstalled tubes for pushrods and for the antenna.
  • Hinge slots were already cut for installing ailerons, elevator, and rudder.
  • A molded groove accurately aligned the wheel pants.
  • A preassembled tail wheel was included.

ASSEMBLING THE SUPER SPORTSTER

The Super Sportster was quick and easy to assemble. All the hard work had already been done. As the instructions were comprehensive and clear and as this is not intended to be a beginner’s first airplane, there is no need to review here every step of the process. Instead, I offer just a few suggestions:

Installing the ailerons was the first step. The ailerons, elevator, and rudder all came taped to the pieces to which they were to be hinged. Be careful when removing the ailerons because although they were not hinged yet the torque rod was already installed in a tightly fitting hole. After removing the tape, I grasped the aileron about 3/4” from the inner end, behind where the torque rod was inserted, and carefully pulled it straight out in order to avoid splitting the wood or distorting the hole.

Slots for hinges were already cut on all the control surfaces. The hinges supplied and illustrated here differed from those shown in the instruction manual. According to the manual, you should drill a 3/32” hole 1/2” deep in each surface to allow CA to “wick” deeply when gluing the hinges, however this was not necessary since the hinges now supplied were slit down the center to allow the CA to travel.

The supplied hinges were pretty stiff. Test them and substitute a more flexible hinge if you are not satisfied. I found that they worked well, but I know that some people have not wanted to use them.

I had a problem with the ailerons that you can avoid. I hinged them with a minimal gap and set up the servo and pushrods as instructed. Unfortunately, my computer transmitter was set for maximum aileron throw, so when I turned the transmitter on to adjust the ailerons to the recommended throw, the ailerons struck against the wing’s trailing edge and caused the servo gears to strip. Prevent this by being sure to adjust the throw by starting with your transmitter set for a minimum throw and carefully increasing to the recommended dimension.

After the hinges were finished, two ply pieces were epoxied together to make a wing joiner. Take your time fitting the joiner into each wing and be prepared to sand it little by little until you have a tight fit. It is a good idea to mark which side of the joiner will go into which wing as the two wings may vary slightly in the size of the box that receives the joiner.

A feature that I particularly liked was that that the two ply center ribs extended beyond the wing’s leading edge to fit into a slot in the fuselage. This was far stronger and more precise than the dowel used in most designs. On my Sportster the fit was perfect.

When it comes to the fuselage, I didn't have to do a thing other than strip away the covering where the stabilizer and vertical fin fit. Hinging and mounting the stabilizer and fin was unproblematic.

The wire pushrods were secured to the rudder and elevator horns with wheel collars. I had some doubts about the wisdom of this bit of extra weight in the tail, but owing to the heavy motor, balancing my entirely stock Sportster required an ounce of lead in the tail, so not to worry!

An excellent spinner was included. However the self tapping screws were a tight fit into the spinner back plate. I felt it best to screw the screws into the backplate and back them out a couple of times before using them to attach the cone to the backplate. This way, if a screw was so tight that I couldn't back it out without risking stripping the slotted head, I could still remove it by grasping the head with a pair of pliers and reinsert it with, perhaps, a drop of oil.

FINISHING ASSEMBLY

There’s not much more to do. There was plenty of room for the battery and plenty of room for the radio and ESC. I adjusted the control throws according to the instruction manual’s recommendations, and set the CG in exactly the right spot. Great Planes says the Sportster should weigh 52 ounces, and that’s exactly what mine weighed.

FLYING THE SUPER SPORTSTER

“Red” Jensen, proprietor of Red’s Hangar One Hobbies in Rohnert Park, CA., is the gifted aeronaut who everyone at our field turns to for test flights. Not being willing to trust my red and yellow beauty to my own semi-skilled thumbs, I managed to tear Red away from his monster everyone-stops-and-watches-this-one turbine powered EuroSport and begged him to step down to my more ordinary wings. Like me, Red remembers the days gone by of barely flyable electric ARFs, powered with motors and batteries that came before those included with the Sportster. To tell the truth, neither of us had high expectations for high performance or satisfactory duration. Boy, were we wrong!

In no time the Sportster was up and flying into Red’s usual routine of continuous rolling circles, stall turns, low passes, inverted low passes and everything in between. After a minute Red commented, “Surprisingly, it’s got an OK amount of power!” and four minutes into the flight, he said, “I can’t believe it. It’s still pulling great.” At five minutes he landed with amps to spare. It’s all on the attached video.

Red thought the Sportster flew great but could have had a little more power. Although it is capable of all the basic aerobatics, knife edge seems to be a little beyond its capabilities. But the Sportster wasn’t designed with 3D performance in mind. It provided exactly what Great Planes promised. It is, after all, a Sportster and is fully up to a Sunday flier’s demands.

I know, because I am that Sunday flier. I took the Sportster up and, in the best sense of the words, was back in 1994 with an echoe of my former capable and well behaved glow Sportster. The performance was very similar. Take off was normal for a tail dragger – a bit of right rudder and a touch of up elevator at first to prevent nose over. In general this is a smooth and stable airplane. It flies at a relatively realistic speed and has a sort of quiet competence in the air. Sure, it can be torqued into showy tight turns, quick rolls, and tight loops, but I enjoy the opposite: flying steadily through great loops that reach high into the sky and leisurely rolls that look much more like the flight path of a full scale airplane.

This plane makes no fuss about landing. Keeping on just a little power, it will descend steadily and plant itself on the ground with minimum bouncing. In brief, the Sportster flies like and looks like a “real” airplane.

At this point, with the motor still freeing up and the batteries benefiting from use and cycling, 5 1/2 minutes of aerobatic flight with at least 1/2 minute left over for emergency go-arounds is routine. I suspect that we’ll soon be up to safe 6 minute flights. Not at all bad for nicads. Replacing them with lipoly batteries with less weight and greater duration is the obvious first step toward hopping up, for those so inclined.

This is a fun flying airplane but is not for beginners. As mentioned at the beginning of this review, Great Planes characterizes it as “an easy handling third plane” and I think they have got that exactly right.

VIDEOS

Downloads

CONCLUSION

The Great Planes Super Sportster EP ARF is a job done right. It flies like its glo-powered cousins, is capable of all pre-3D aerobatics, and is high quality throughout. Well built, good looking, and with everything but a radio furnished, it is a great value at a modest price. You can look forward to a lot of good flying with this tried and true design.

Discussion

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Old Feb 18, 2005, 01:30 PM
Fun Manager
AMCross's Avatar
Villa Grove, Illinois
Joined May 2000
1,695 Posts
Sorry about the videos not working at first, folks. Apparently my last round of editorial changes were not saved properly. They work now!
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Old Feb 18, 2005, 02:42 PM
I'll try anything once!
thacherd's Avatar
Huron, South Dakota
Joined Jan 2004
1,088 Posts
Here's a link to another excellent thread discussing this model:

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=313871

It looks like an excellent plane!
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Old Mar 14, 2005, 12:41 AM
a really nice guy, really
Ralph Brekan's Avatar
Phoenix Intl, Arizona, United States
Joined Jul 2004
3,200 Posts
I like it when is it available?
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Old Sep 16, 2005, 05:22 PM
New Jersey USA
Joined Jul 2004
76 Posts
I would like to hear about brushless upgrades with li-po power
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Old Oct 08, 2006, 04:23 PM
Registered User
Joined Oct 2006
1 Posts
GP Super Sportster EP

Has anyone converted to brushless? Would like to do and wondering what size motor.
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Old Dec 24, 2006, 04:42 PM
Registered User
Sebastopol, CA, USA
Joined Dec 1996
541 Posts
I'm ready to convert

I'm ready to convert mine to lipo and brushless. Who can suggest a good setup?
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Old Sep 29, 2007, 10:28 PM
OK,so what's the speed of dark
mred3's Avatar
Glenwood,GA
Joined Aug 2006
1,071 Posts
I bought the SS and did not like the way it flew with the stock setup, so changed to brushless and LiPo battery. A new plane was flying and I loved it. It is a whole new plane with the brushless motor and am getting MUCH longer flights with the LiPo battery. It is an easy conversion and while it adds to the cost of the plane, it is worth converting to see the way it flies now. Would not change a thing now, except for the slow rolls. It's a little slow on the rolling side, but that is because I can't get any more deflection out of the ailerons. That is the only problem I have with the plane and if I could change that it would be perfect.
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Old Jun 11, 2008, 08:55 PM
a.k.a Alex Desilets
rcking323's Avatar
wakefield, RI
Joined Jun 2008
79 Posts
i actually have the mini super sportster ep, which it slightly amaller at a 39.5 inch wingspan, and at one point the motor ripped the mount off the nose in mid flight due a prior hard landing, (followed by an uncontrolled and full power 100 ft dive into the frozen ground). after this i decided to convert to glow because i dislike electrics becasue of their cost and the time it take to charge a battery. I have realized that i highly overpowered it with a .28 size mds engine, but it flies much better than expected and it can do full power dive and turns, among other high G manuvers, with no problem or damage to the plane. This is probably becasue the airframe is based of the .60 size kit, which is not as underpowered as the smaller ep versions. but now i am trying to find a way to install retracts becasue with the added weight the landing gear just bent apart when i landed, so i cut them off and now i belly land
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Old Jun 30, 2009, 11:04 AM
Registered User
p40Warhawk's Avatar
Joined Oct 2007
4 Posts
Super Sportster EP Lipo

I recently upgraded my Super Sportster EP with a new ESC and Lipo battery.

The stock 600 brushed motor and Nicd/Nimh battery work well. The plane has great handling characteristics and speed. The flight times are just short.

The stock ESC only handles NiCd and NiMh batteries. To switch to Lipo I purchased the Electrifly C55 brushed speed controller.

http://www3.towerhobbies.com/cgi-bin...?&I=LXKBF6&P=0

The ESC was complimented with the 11.1 V 2100 Electrifly 20C 3S Lipo, was the perfect weight savings and new power setup.

http://www3.towerhobbies.com/cgi-bin...?&I=LXMDN3&P=0

The stock 600HT brushed motor will overheat when using the stock 12"X10 pitch prop. After some calculations and trial and error I arrived at a JZinger wood 10"X4 Pitch propeller. This runs cooler than the stock setup and will not wear out the brushed motor.

This power setup works well with this model. The thrust is close to double the flight time is close to double and it livened up the flights dramatically. Highly recommended.
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Last edited by p40Warhawk; Jun 30, 2009 at 11:14 AM.
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Old Jul 16, 2009, 11:01 PM
Registered User
Joined Jun 2009
3 Posts
covering

I messed up the wing tip on landing and noe I need some shrinik covering. What is the color and brand. I love the plane and it flys easy. I am new to RC
with only about a year of flying
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Old Jul 23, 2009, 08:03 PM
Registered User
United States, PA, Penn
Joined Aug 2004
55 Posts
New Upgrade Combination

Hi,

I just finished a Sportster EP upgraded using a 2814-8 outrunner from available from either RCHOTDEALs.com or BP Hobbies, a 45 amp speed control and 2250 Mah 3S-11.1v battery. It swings an 11X7 APC Prop. I placed a 700 Mah flight pack battery under the floor of the battery compartment. Enlarged the wheels to 2 3/4" to fly off grass. It balanced perfectly with no added weight. It flys great! Plenty of power, takes off in less than 10 feet, cruises at less than half throttle, 8-10 minutes flight time (maybe a little longer). Great inexpensive upgrade! Give it a try!
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 07:55 PM
Registered User
p40Warhawk's Avatar
Joined Oct 2007
4 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by double2n
I messed up the wing tip on landing and noe I need some shrinik covering. What is the color and brand. I love the plane and it flys easy. I am new to RC
with only about a year of flying

Monokote True Red. I had a hard landing and punctured my wing with the wheelpant. I called the Great Planes Hotline in the manual.

Just be carefull I noticed even though I ordered True Red Monokote the color was a little darker. I ended up putting a black stripe on the bottom of the wing to patch the hole.
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