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Great Planes Lancair ES ARF EP Review

Jim Young finds the Great Planes Lancair ES to be an amazingly high quality product, complete with a reasonable stock power system, for under $100, that flies as great as it looks!

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Introduction


Wingspan:43"
Wing Area:237 sq. in.
Recommended Weight:26 to 32 oz.
Weight as Tested:32.8 oz.
Length:31"
Wing Loading:15.8 to 19.4 oz/sq. ft.
Wing Loading as Tested:19.9 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:4 HS-55
Battery:8x1800mAhr NiMh (included)
Motor:7.2V Speed 400 w/ 3:1 gearbox (included)
ESC:30A Brushed ESC (included)
Manufacturer:Great Planes
Available online from:Tower Hobbies

If I had enough money and time, I'd learn to fly and build my own plane. One of the most successful and sexy lines of kit built airplanes is from Lancair. These sleek composite planes set the standard for home-built performance.

Since I can't afford one of these right now, the next best thing is a model of one of these curvy birds.

Great Planes has put together a great electric powered kit of the Lancair ES, very similar to it's big brother (Lancair ES .60 ARF). Take a look at the includes list -- and to top that off they offer all this for under $100! How can you pass this up?

Kit Includes:

  • painted fiberglass fuselage, wing tips, cowl, wheel pants
  • magnet-secured pre-painted canopy (mating magnets pre-molded into the fuselage!)
  • pre-painted fixed landing gear and wheels, steerable nosewheel
  • built up wood wings, covered in MonoKote, on carbon wing tubes which may be removable!
  • Speed 400 motor and gearbox,
  • 30A ESC,
  • prop & spinner & complete hardware package
  • 8x1800mAhr NiMh battery pack.

Kit requires:

  • Transmitter
  • Receiver
  • 4 micro servos & needed extensions
  • charger
  • THAT'S IT!

A First Glance

The fuselage is fiberglass and comes painted in a striking white and metallic purple. Gold pin striping sets off the color scheme. The fiberglass work is first rate, and plywood wing root reinforcements, landing gear blocks, and firewall reinforcements are molded into the fiberglass. There is no parting line on the fuselage and I noticed no pinholes. The paint is smooth and glossy and I'd have a tough time duplicating the finish. The canopy comes painted and has four small metal pieces glued along the edges. Mating magnets molded into the fuselage hold the canopy in place. This makes changing the battery pack and radio access a snap.

The stock power system starts with a 7.2V Speed 400 motor mated to a gearbox. The motor and gearbox bolt together on each side of the firewall. The 3:1 gearbox is of good quality and features dual ball bearings on the output shaft. A brass pinion gear uses a set screw to secure it to the motor shaft. Included in the kit is a 30A brushed ESC with BEC. The ESC has an arming switch and LED indicator. Not much information is included in the manual on the capabilities of this unit. Rounding out the stock power system is an 8x1800mAhr MiMh battery pack. Both the ESC and battery pack came with Tamiya style connectors. I ended up replacing these since I did not have a mating connector for my chargers. An APC 9x6 Slow Flyer propeller and 1 1/2" spinner is included as well. Future kits may not come with this propeller. I'd rather pay a $1 more to get a known propeller.

The wings are lightly built up with a traditional D-tube construction. The wings plug into the fuselage on a carbon tube and can be made permanent or removable. All of the flight surfaces are nicely covered in white MonoKote. All of the control surfaces come hinged with clear tape on both sides of the hinge line. The tip of the fin is trimmed in purple to match the fuselage. Fiberglass wing tips are included to finish off the wings.

The rest of the kit includes several hardware bags with painted landing gear, fiberglass wheel pants, laser cut plywood radio tray, and everything else you'll need to finish the Lancair. If you stay with the stock power system, you will only need your radio with four micro servos, CA, Epoxy, and simple modeling tools.

Assembly

The assembly was straight forward, and the typical Great Planes manual walks you through every step. Even someone with minimal modeling experience should have no problem putting this model together. Overall the Lancair ES went together with no significant issues. Great Planes has done a good job with the manual and the assembly sequence, if you follow the manual you will have no problems.

I would like to see more technical information on the power system (ESC and motor) and weights of recommended components. Where I got ahead of the manual, I ended up backing up and re-doing a few things. Read and follow the manual, especially you experienced modelers! My manual came with a half sheet of minor corrections, so make sure you have them handy. The latest manual can be downloaded from the Great Planes website.

Assembly started with tightening up the covering. There were a minimum of wrinkles, partly due to the open structure of the wing. Small diameter carbon rods were glued in the wing roots for anti-rotation pins.

The push rods included with the kit came pre-bent with a "V" notch for final adjustments. I only needed to cut them to final length and add a "Z" bend at the servo end. The push rod wires were also coated with some sort of plastic...no more rusted push rods, a nice touch. The control horns supplied had a blade on them that I inserted into a slot I cut into the control surface. A retaining plate helped secure them. On the ailerons, the blades were trimmed down and the horns only glued in place.

A Quick Caution -- the elevator control horn mounting

On the elevator, if you follow the manual you will end up cutting almost all the way through the joiner between the two halves of the elevator to install the control horn. This greatly weakens the elevator, and it has broken loose on mine. I would suggest that you trim down the width of the blade on the control horn so there is a bit more material connecting the elevators.

Back to Assembly

The stabilizer was glued in place with epoxy and while it was setting up, to keep things moving along, the manual instructed putting together the push rods for the tail control surfaces. The push rods were traditional balsa sticks with coated music wire attached to each end. They are light, sturdy, and don't require any bracing. I had to be careful to attach the push rods at the control surfaces before gluing the horns in place.

I would recommend deviating from the construction sequence here and install the Velcro battery straps to the tray before gluing it on place. It is rather difficult to loop the straps back up through the tray once it is installed. The other option is to insert each half of the strap into a slot and try to hook them together under the tray. I also added a piece of self-adhesive Velcro to the battery pack and tray to help keep it from sliding around under the straps.

The landing gear wire came painted white. The fiberglass wheel pants got mounted in place with plastic straps CA'd around the wire. The fiberglass is a bit brittle, so I had to be careful cutting the slots. Also I paid attention to the drill bit sizes when drilling in the fuselage, so the screws didn't chip it. The steerable nose gear linkage was easy to install and the cutout in the fuselage did not require any trimming. The wheels are pretty small, if you plan on flying off of anything other than pavement or short Astro turf I would recommend leaving the gear off.

The final radio setup used "screw-lock" connectors on the servo arms. The manual outlines how long each servo arm should be and what hole to use in the control horns. This information made setting up the final control throws a snap.

The fiberglass wing tips were epoxied to the wing tips last. I would recommend protecting the adjacent covering with some masking tape in case some epoxy oozes out. The wing panels can be permanently glued to the fuselage if desired. While I can transport the Lancair intact in my vehicles, I wanted to report on how the removable panels would work.

Some 1" threaded rods were threaded onto blind nuts that came installed in the wing and some CA and kicker made them permanent. I did have to enlarge the hole in the right side of the fuselage to clear the rod. With the wings on the fuselage, a wheel collar was tightened around the rod to retain the wings. This arrangement works fine and has not come loose in the air.

My canopy fit almost perfectly out of the box. I did go around the edges with some sand paper to smooth it out. The magnets appear to be strong enough, but I have heard reports that they may not be strong enough for inverted flight if you upgrade the power system. Screws were supplied to attach the cowl, or it can be glued in place. I couldn't bring myself to spoil the clean lines of the fuselage with screws.

I tried using four dots of RC-56 canopy glue, but it broke loose after a few flights. The manual recommends silicone adhesive, not canopy glue. Guess I should've tried it! I ended up adding a small strip of clear tape on each side.

Nearly Finished

With everything in place, my Lancair weighed in at 32.8 oz. This is a bit high, but I had to use a slightly larger receiver since all my micro receivers were already in service. With that said, I had to position my receiver quite a way back in the fuselage to get the balance point back to the recommended location. If you are going to stick with the stock power system, you may want to position the radio tray back a bit so the battery can be moved back. Double sided tape was included to secure the ESC and receiver to the side of the fuselage.

I found the recommended control throws to be a good starting point.

Before final assembly, I did break-in the motor by running it in water at a low throttle setting for one minute. With a freshly charged battery pack, the stock motor spun the 9x6 propeller at 5700 rpm while drawing 8.2A at 9V. This is a meager 75W, which appears a bit low for a 2lb. airplane. Since I know many of you will try this, I plugged in a 3S pack of Kokam 15C 2000mAhr LiPo cells and got the following data: 6000 rpm, 10A at 10.3V. This upgrade gives a more respectable 103W input power and is over 3 oz. lighter than the stock pack. However, this higher input power will really beat up the stock motor. Great Planes recommends changing the prop choice to keep the motor cool and avoid overheating the stock motor with the 3S.

I did call Great Planes technical support to find out more about the ESC. They now have an addendum to cover this ESC you can read. However, the only information they had on this unit was that is was rated at 9.6V, so I wondered if there may be some issue running with a 3S LiPo pack. They indicate that the jumper does allow use of a 3C LiPo with a matched prop such as the APC 8x8SF, so be sure to select an appropriate prop.

They didn't have any other specifications of the ESC. While the power package that comes with the Lancair is supposed to be a "turn key" solution, I think most hobbyists would like to know what it is capable of. As it is, the ESC works fine in this application. It has a safety start feature (low, high, low to arm it) and I like the additional power switch to energize the radio. I did mount it with the heat sink side toward the fuselage side, so I could monitor the LED that indicates the arming status.

Assembly took me approximately 6 hours over three nights. This is right in line with Great Plane's claims on the box. My time also included snapping photos, and replacing a stripped out aileron servo(how'd that get in the good box!).

Flying

After finishing the Lancair on a Thursday night, I took it to work on Friday with the intention of doing some taxi tests at the local soccer field parking lot. I snuck out at lunch and peaked the battery pack on the way to the field. Conditions were 40F, overcast with a 10mph wind. I did several (8 to 10) high speed taxi tests across the parking lot and back. I added in 50% expo on the rudder to make the ground handling smoother. This really helped to avoid over controlling while taxiing and bleeding off speed. I was pretty hesitant to try and take off. I did try adding in some up elevator on a few runs and it seemed like it wanted to fly. Ground handling was fine and the plane was very stable at high speed.

Throwing caution to the wind, I throttled up and held some up, and after about 100' it popped off and started to climb. I held it in a shallow climb and had to turn back down wind where it bobbed around, but didn't come close to a stall. I did a few circuits of the parking lot. It handled the wind fine, and control was very positive. I throttle back on the down wind leg, lined up on final, chopped the throttle at about 5' and set it down right in front of me, cool! With that out of the way, let's see what she can do.

Take Off and Landing

This is the first tricycle gear model I've had since my original trainer many years ago. According to GP, with the plane on the gear the wing should sit at 0 degrees incidence. Mine originally sat at -2 degrees, which may explain the relatively long take off roll. So, you may want to check this or you will need to pull some up elevator to get it off the ground. What I've found is that after about a 100' roll, I ease back on the stick and the Lancair will lift off when it is up to speed. With the stock power system the climb rate is adequate. Hold a gentle climb and keep the turns shallow while the Lancair continues to build up speed.

For landings, I found that I need to fly the Lancair down to the ground. I reduce power on the downwind leg and into the turn to final. Once it is lined up with the runway, I reduce the power to about 1/4 and use the elevator to control the descent. I found that if I cut the power while too high, it is very hard to grease the landing and I end up dropping it hard on the gear. Mental note --keep on the power until just before touch down.

Mine has been through several hard landings while getting to know it, and the gear has held up fine. I have stripped out the rudder servo, but the nose gear mount is still solid. The wheel pants have popped off a couple of times, and I've replaced the plastic straps with some fiberglass tape. It may be a good idea to leave the wheel pants off initially until you become accustomed to the ground handling. Overall the airframe has proven itself very rugged (I'd rather not say how I know).

Basics

The stock power system gives good duration. On one flight, I took off and flew for about 6 minutes, landed, and taxied back. Then I took off again and did two more landings and takeoffs with plenty of power to spare. The Lancair likes speed, but it will also slow down. When slowed down too much, the stall is straight forward. You will loose quite a bit of altitude re-gaining speed, so you want to keep on some speed during landings. One of the coolest things to do with the Lancair is shooting touch-n-go's. Just remember to keep the speed up on the approach and the climb out gentle.

Aerobatics

The Lancair is not designed to be a 3-D plane with gobs of power, but it is capable of mild aerobatics. With the stock power system, the Lancair will roll and the recommended control throws give a fairly fast roll rate. It was hard to get the balance point back to the recommended location, and inverted it needed a lot of down to maintain altitude. Loops require a bit of a dive to start them out. The rudder is quite small, but there is enough authority to kick over the tail for a reasonable stall turn.

With a 3S LiPo pack and the stock motor, the rolls improve considerably (due to a more reward C.G.) and it will loop from level flight. With this combination, basic aerobatics (Cuban-8's, stall turns, etc...) are well within the capabilities of this model. However, after a short aerobatic flight the motor came down pretty hot. If you start to experiment with the power system, keep an eye on the C.G. If the C.G. is too far back, the Lancair starts to snap out of loops at the top.

Is This For a Beginner?

The Lancair ES does not have any self-righting characteristics, and I would not recommend this plane to a beginner. It would make a good second or third low wing model for a more experienced pilot.

Flight Video

Here is a short video of the Lancair in action in front of my house. This is a rather tight space to fly in and I wouldn't recommend to do this on a regular basis.

Downloads

Conclusion

The Lancair ES looks great on the ground and even better in the air. The airframe is outstanding, and the fiberglass work is better than many other kits I've seen costing much more. The kit is extremely complete and you will not need to add anything other than the radio to get it in the air. In the air, the Lancair is a stable and smooth sport performer.

There is something to be said for including a totally complete power system, and the stock power system is much better than many I've seen in the past. Right out of the box it will fly this model with plenty of margin.

That said, I don't think it is up to the standards of the rest of the kit. LiPo power is here to stay, and many will see the stock power system as a throw away when purchasing this kit. If I could change anything on the Lancair, it would be to add a "stick" motor mount to accommodate the wide variety of brushless power plants available. As it is, there is already a hot thread running on power upgrades and firewall modifications for the Lancair ES.

At a street price of $100, the Lancair is an extremely good value. If you want a sexy, little scale beauty the Lancair ES is definitely worth a look. With a bit more power under the hood, it will truly be a Great Plane.

Discussion

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Old May 31, 2006, 12:49 PM
Test your skills....fly IMAC!!
sun.flyer's Avatar
Swanton, Ohio
Joined Feb 2005
7,990 Posts
Jim,

Nice job on the review of this plane. I have never ground tested my motors in water though, interesting? Did you feel the tape for the ailerons was adequate for this size of plane? Might CA be a little stronger for a 2lb. plane?

BTW - excellent disclaimer at the start of the video.

Nice work,

Tim
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Old May 31, 2006, 02:58 PM
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kevin's Avatar
ohio
Joined Aug 1999
3,636 Posts
funny disclaimer...you are much braver than I flying that close to houses..hide this video from the ama . nice review.
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Old Jun 01, 2006, 05:38 AM
Designer/Builder
Jim Young's Avatar
Brighton, MI USA
Joined Jun 2000
1,832 Posts
Hi Tim,

The tape is more than enough for this plane. GP used tape on top AND bottom and it is nicely applied. I use this same type of tape on my 120"+ span unlimited sailplanes with no problems. Go to a local sailpane contest and you'll see that this is pretty much the standard. I would actually trust this tape more than 3 to 4 CA hinges, since it is always hard to tell if you got enough CA into the hinge. Further, with the tape the entire hinge line is sealed so you make the control surfaces more effective.

Flying fields with paved runways are scarce around here, and I had trouble coordinating everyone I needed to get to one and shoot the video. I normally limit myself to park flyers (<1 lbs.) over these township owned lots. Also it was a holiday weekend and no one was home. I've talked to al of my neighbors, and they are all cool with it and don't even know I'm flying most of the time. I just don't want to give anyone any ideas that this was a recommended flying site.

As it is, the Lancair is a pretty maneuverable plane and can be kept in pretty close.

-Jim
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Old Jun 01, 2006, 06:15 AM
Test your skills....fly IMAC!!
sun.flyer's Avatar
Swanton, Ohio
Joined Feb 2005
7,990 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Young
Hi Tim,

The tape is more than enough for this plane. GP used tape on top AND bottom and it is nicely applied. I use this same type of tape on my 120"+ span unlimited sailplanes with no problems. Go to a local sailpane contest and you'll see that this is pretty much the standard. I would actually trust this tape more than 3 to 4 CA hinges, since it is always hard to tell if you got enough CA into the hinge. Further, with the tape the entire hinge line is sealed so you make the control surfaces more effective.

Flying fields with paved runways are scarce around here, and I had trouble coordinating everyone I needed to get to one and shoot the video. I normally limit myself to park flyers (<1 lbs.) over these township owned lots. Also it was a holiday weekend and no one was home. I've talked to al of my neighbors, and they are all cool with it and don't even know I'm flying most of the time. I just don't want to give anyone any ideas that this was a recommended flying site.

As it is, the Lancair is a pretty maneuverable plane and can be kept in pretty close.

-Jim
Jim thanks for the follow-up response. The plane definatley has great lines both in the air and on the ground. Enjoy!!

Tim
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Old Jun 01, 2006, 11:57 AM
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ekotil's Avatar
Athens, Texas, United States
Joined Jul 2004
1,669 Posts
Good flying and great landing!
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Old Jun 01, 2006, 12:11 PM
Trying to defy gravity...
jimsky's Avatar
USA, NY, East Northport
Joined Dec 2003
2,896 Posts
Jim,
A very nice, comprehensive review. I see you got the required hot landings down pat. I'm amazed at how well this plane flies, as your video shows.

My build is lighter than stock with a 3S 2200 pack and a Nippy 1812/100. With 180 watts of power, 1:1 thrust to weight ratio and a pitch speed of 62mph it flies like a warbird.

This is one fine looking plane and some real value even if you upgrade the stock power plant.

Jimsky
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Old Jun 01, 2006, 12:41 PM
Designer/Builder
Jim Young's Avatar
Brighton, MI USA
Joined Jun 2000
1,832 Posts
Hi Guys,

I've had a lot of experience with the Lancair, and like Jimsky says you need to bring it in on the hot side. Once you plant it down, it will stay down so you don't need to worry about bouncing it. The worst thing you can do is try to float it in, as you'll end up dropping hard on the L.G. And as you can see the roll out on ashphalt is only about 100' so it's not like it needs a lot of room to land. So, shoot for the end of the runway, use elevator to control the decent, and flair 1' to 2' before touchdown, then get off the elevator so the nose wheel will bite.

The biggest problem I have with the stock setup is getting the CG back far enough, and this does affect how it tracks through rolls while inverted. Mine is still a bit nose heavy and the battery pack sits up against the servos. So, I do recommend moving the servo tray back about 1/2" to give more adjustment room. With a 3S Lipo, the balance is not a problem.

-Jim
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Old Jun 03, 2006, 02:13 PM
Hold my beer and watch this!
Jeremy Z's Avatar
Northern IL
Joined Oct 2005
2,380 Posts
Nice work with the review, nice-looking plane! It is pretty hard to find a sleek passenger plane capable of clean basic aerobatics these days. They either have to be warbirds or Extra/Yak/Cap type stunt planes. I wish there were more planes like this out there.

There is really no excuse for not including a better stock power system. It doesn't have to be brushless, but a 7.2 V 480 motor with a 2:1 gearbox would probably do wonders for it, no? 3S LiPos are getting pretty cheap these days too...

Jim - one suggestion for your next review: Have your wife (or whoever shot the video) get some closer video footage. I really like that you can see how fast the Lancair is going in relation to its surroundings, but a nice close panning shot now & then would sure be nice.

I've finally gotten my wife to get in close enough, and I realize something is missing. It's all about a good balance.

Nice job!
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Old Jun 03, 2006, 06:48 PM
Designer/Builder
Jim Young's Avatar
Brighton, MI USA
Joined Jun 2000
1,832 Posts
Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for the feedback, it's nice to know how I'm doing. Normally I shoot the video and zoom in closer, but it was hard enough to get my wife out to do this! You should here the real sound track! If I can get some better footage I'll update the article.

GP did a fantastic job on the airframe, and that alone would bargan at the same price.

-Jim
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Old Sep 05, 2006, 05:34 PM
Registered User
Joined Aug 2006
5 Posts
Jim,

Great review. I found the tech notice on the GP web site concerning the use of a Lipo battey. When you tested the lipo, were flying the reccomended 8X8 APC E Prop? I'm thinking about trying this set-up.
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Old Sep 06, 2006, 05:23 AM
Designer/Builder
Jim Young's Avatar
Brighton, MI USA
Joined Jun 2000
1,832 Posts
When I tested the LiPo battery pack, I used the stock prop. There is a pretty active thread in the scale forum, someone there may have more experience with the setup you want to try.

-Jim
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Old Sep 26, 2006, 07:33 PM
Registered User
Canada
Joined Dec 2005
201 Posts
Great Plane

I bought this Lancair on saturday and finally got to fly it after work today, -what a beauty to see this thing fly, I'm using the stock prop 9x6 with a 3C 2100mah, GP is right it does fly "smooth" landed twice, both were smooth but the front L.G. screws broke out of place anyone with ideas on making the mount more secure , I was thinking of beefing up the the area with more fibre glass
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Old Sep 27, 2006, 05:27 AM
Designer/Builder
Jim Young's Avatar
Brighton, MI USA
Joined Jun 2000
1,832 Posts
Hi Johnny,

Did you harden the screw holes with thin CA? You might try some bolts and larger washers it's pulled apart. Also, check in the "scale" forum, there is an active thread there and I'm sure someone has dealt with this.

-JIm
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Old Sep 27, 2006, 11:39 AM
Registered User
Canada
Joined Dec 2005
201 Posts
Jim, No I didnt use CA glue but I have doubts about that, cause the area around the the screws are cracked... after one of my smoothest landings! the plane flies almost too well so its gotta be be a lil more stronger in that area, I'll look into it

Johnny
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