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Great Planes NexSTAR EP Select RTF Review

The Hobbico NexSTAR Select EP is a complete RTF trainer package that will grow with new pilots as they gain experience!

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Introduction


Wingspan:68.5""
Wing Area:722 sq. in.
Length:56"
Weight (Advertised):7.0 to 8.5 lbs.
Wing Loading (Advertised):22 - 27 oz/sq. ft.
Weight (As Tested):7.0 lbs.
Wing Loading (As Tested):22.3 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:3 Futaba S3003 (included))
Transmitter:Futaba 6EXAP (included)
Receiver:Futaba R127DF/R136F (included)
Electronic Leveler:Futaba PA-2 Pilot Assist Link (included)
Battery:5S 3200 mAhr
Motor:RimFire 42-50-800 (included)
ESC:GP Silver SS-55D 55A/6S ESC (included)
Manufacturer:Hobbico
Manufacturer:Great Planes distributors or your local hobby shop
Retail Price:$399.99

The NexSTAR Select EP is the latest addition to Hobbico's line of complete, ready to fly packages. Hobbico has bundled almost everything you need to get in the air quickly in one box. The only thing you need to add are battery packs, charger and a screwdriver! Now that's complete! Helping me out in this review, is my son Tim who has been my field buddy since he was old enough to hold a transmitter and is now ready for a trainer of his own.

Kit Contents

To say that this is a complete package is an understatement. Not only is almost everything included, but most things are installed as well. As Tim and I started to pull things out of the box, we were amazed at the low parts count. The advertised build time of 20 minutes looked pretty reasonable.

Kit Includes:

  • Completely covered and finished airframe
  • Aluminum and wire landing gear
  • Factory installed radio system
  • Futaba 6 channel radio and charger
  • Factory installed RimFire brushless outrunner motor and 50A ESC
  • Factory installed PA-2 Pilot Assist Link electronic stabilizing system
  • Speed Brakes
  • RealFlight RC Simulator NexSTAR EP Edition with USB interface

Kit Requires:

  • 2 x 8 cell NiCad or 5S 3200 mAh LiPo battery pack
  • Suitable charger for battery packs
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Covering iron

Features and Assembly

Futaba 6EXAP Radio

Included in the purchase price of the NexSTAR is a Futaba 6EXAP 6 channel radio. A separate manual is included for the radio system, but it is not needed for the initial assembly and setup of the NexSTAR. However, it is a good idea to get to know your radio to take full advantage of all of its features.

The 6EXAP features the following:

  • 6 Channel, Dual Stick control
  • FM and PCM modulation
  • 8 cell NiCad battery
  • LCD Display
  • Digital Trims
  • Throttle Kill
  • 6 Model Memory
  • Dual Rates
  • Servo Reversing
  • End Point Adjustment
  • Exponential
  • Programmable Mixing
  • Wing Type Mixes (V-Tail, Flaperon, Elevon)

This is a very nice radio to include with a "trainer" plane. As pilots gain experience and move into more advance planes, this radio has room to grow with them. Channel 6 can be set up to control the gain of the PA-2 Pilot Assist Link system or flaps, and Channel 5 can be used for retracts on a future scale project.

The menu system is straightforward, and as an experienced modeler, I could quickly navigate through the menus. For a novice, the manual is logically laid out and should not be a problem to follow. There is a glossary of radio/programming terms in the front of the manual that fully explains the purpose of each function. Suffice it to say, this radio will cover everything typical sport flyer needs in a radio and once you outgrow your trainer it can be taken on to your next plane.

The first order of business was to charge the transmitter and receiver batteries. The receiver pack rides under the power pack and is accessed via the front hatch. The hatch is nicely built and is held securely in place with a pair of magnets. The receiver pack is easily removed from the fuselage and plugs into the supplied charger while you work on the rest of the assembly.

The airframe features built up balsa and plywood construction. The NexSTAR Select EP is not your typical slab-sided boxy trainer. From the cowl to tail, and from the wing mount to the landing gear the NexSTAR is one sexy plane with curves everywhere. The built up structure is very well designed, and I could not find a carved out block of wood anywhere. The airframe is factory covered with white Monocote and is smartly trimmed out with stripes and cockpit windows. A few bubbles and wrinkles are to be expected of any ARF, and the NexSTAR only needed a quick pass with a covering iron to smooth things out. I was impressed with the quality of the covering job, and it was solidly attached at all seams. Do be cautious around the trim colors since they appear to be either stickers or a low temp iron-on material. I started on the tail with a hot iron and one of the blue stripes started to pull away a bit before I noticed it. CA type hinges were used all around and all were securely glued in place.

Wing

The wing features Hobbico's Center Core technology. This molded nylon part comes attached to one of the wing halves and incorporates several functions into one part. It has a mount for the aileron servo, it aligns the two wing halves, it guides the wing joiner rod and has a front peg and rear screw for mounting the wing to the fuselage. All that is required to join the wings is to insert the hefty steel wing rod, slide the two wing halves together and secure them with a pair of screws. The aileron servo and control rods are factory installed, and you just need to connect one of the clevises and secure it with the supplied fuel tubing keeper. Hobbico even installed a C.G. guide on the bottom of each wing to aid in balancing the model later - a nice touch.

To help limit the speed for beginners, a pair of removable speed brakes are included. These parts attach to the bottom of the wing with 6 screws. Factory drilled and marked holes make this a simple task. After they are installed, you can put away your screwdriver. These speed brakes allow the NexSTAR to safely fly at slower speeds to reduce landing approaches and prevent excessive speeds. As pilots learn and gain experience, they can be removed. Do take care to align them evenly left to right so you don't cause an unwanted yaw condition.

The NexSTAR comes with a pair of Spin Control Airfoil Extensions taped in place near each wing tip. These pieces effectively increase the wing cord and reduce the angle of attack thus helping to prevent the wing tips from stalling at slow speeds (such as during landings). They do limit the maneuverability (which is a good thing for new pilots). Again, as you gain experience they can be removed to make the roll rate more responsive.

Fuselage

Out of the box, the motor, ESC, nose gear, receiver, rudder and elevator servos, all control linkages and the PA-2 system are all installed. All of the linkages had very little slop and were well supported. With the recommended control throws setup, all control surfaces were very solid.

The wing mounting mechanism is rather unique. Hobbico calls it PivotFlex, and it allows the wing to move in the event that a wing tip touches the ground. It looks a whole lot better than a mess of rubber bands and is more convenient to boot. A single nylon bolt holds the wing in place, and the mating nut in the fuselage is mounted in a neoprene band. The system works very well, and it will allow the bolt to shear off in severe crashes and hopefully reduce the amount of damage.

The aluminum main landing gear slide and lock into slots in each side of the fuselage so no tools are required. If you experience a hard landing and bend the gear it can easily be removed for straightening by inserting a screwdriver into holes in the bottom of the fuselage.

Tail

The tail is aligned and held in place with a pair of nylon screws. The stabilizer inserts in a slot, and threaded rods embedded in the stabilizer trap it in place. The nylon screws insert from the bottom of the fuselage and have to be tightened by hand. The elevator and rudder control rods are clearly labeled, and nylon clevises snap onto the control horns.

Radio Setup

The motor battery is held in place with a pair of Velcro straps fished through the holes in the battery tray; This was about the hardest part of the assembly. We did add some Velcro to the bottom of the pack and the top of the tray to keep the battery from sliding aft in flight (which would be a very bad thing).

The manual is very well written and takes a beginner step by step through the process of centering the control surfaces, checking the control directions and setting up the radio. Before running up the motor, the manual has you double check the propeller nut. I took this time to check out the motor mount as well. There was also a service bulletin to double check some of the bolts on the motor, so you might also want to pick up some Allen wrenches and thread locker. The RimFire motor is well supported and everything on ours was tight from the factory.

The RimFire 42-50-800 motor is paired with an APC 10x5 propeller. We used a 5S 3200mAhr Kokam battery pack for power. This combination turns the prop at 14000rpm with 41A and 720W. This is well below the 55A rating for the motor and ESC. I like to see that Hobbico is not pushing the power system too hard. This gives a power loading of over 100W/lb. which should give very respectable performance. Performance with a 16 cell NiCad pack should be very similar, since the voltage is very close to a 5S LiPo pack.

The manual states that you can use a 10x7 for more power. I would not advise this until you remove the speed brakes and are comfortable flying at higher speeds.

Finally, the PA-2 Pilot Assist Link is set up. This system basically "looks" at the horizon, and when there is no transmitter input to the ailerons or elevator it attempts to level out the plane. The main setup involves holding the plane (or a light) in different attitudes and checking for the proper control deflections. Everything on our NexSTAR was properly setup and required no tweaking. You have the option of controlling the gain of the PA-2 from the dial on the amplifier or from the 6th channel on the transmitter. I chose the latter so I could experiment with different settings in flight.

NOTE:

While the PA-2 system does a great job of leveling the NexSTAR, it is not a replacement for a qualified instructor. We highly recommend that you join a club and seek help in learning to fly the NexSTAR.

Completion

Between the two of us, we put the NexSTAR together in less than half an hour, not including reading the manual and snapping photos. The radio batteries really should be charged overnight before attempting to fly the NexSTAR, so we decided to try out the flight simulator while we waited. We installed the RealFlight simulator on our PC and the USB interface plugs into the square trainer connector on the back of the transmitter. The NexSTAR EP edition includes one flying site and the NexSTAR with and without the PA-2 system enabled. RealFlight is a top of the line program and accurately simulates the performance of the NexSTAR. Right after we received the NexSTAR, we also received 8" of snow, so we got a lot of experience with the simulator before heading to the field.

Flying

Basics

Prior to the maiden flight, Tim was able to put in a few hours on the flight simulator. This got him over the "let's see how many pieces it will break into" phase and into the ďlet's keep it in the airĒ phase. Tim has been playing around with Airhog AeroAces for a couple of years now and has had a little stick time on some of my gentler planes. At 7 years old, he now has the attention span to tackle a bigger challenge. So, with the receiver and transmitter packs fully charged, we headed out to the field.

The temperature was around freezing, and we kept the LiPo power packs in the car to keep warm while we put the wing on and performed a ground range check. With everything in order (and a final range check with the motor on) we taxied the NexSTAR out and pointed it into the wind. Throttling up, the NexSTAR accelerated and lifted off with no problem. It has plenty of power to climb out with authority, and I took a few passes to trim out the plane and play with the PA-2 settings. The speed brakes do mess with the pitch trim, and I dialed in a bit of down to get it flying straight and level. At less than half throttle (stick position), the NexSTAR cruises beautifully and with authority.

I checked the power off stall, and with full up elevator it simply mushed forward and showed absolutely no signs of stalling. I experimented with the PA-2 gain, and found the recommended setting (~35%) to be fine. With this setting the NexSTAR was rock solid in level flight and would recover fairly quickly from any attitude.

I handed the transmitter to Tim, and he had no problem keeping the NexSTAR in the air. He is still working on gentler turns, but the NexSTAR was very forgiving to his "bank and yank" style. If he got in trouble, he just let off on the sticks and let the PA-2 system sort things out. The speed brakes also helped to keep things under control if he had the nose pointed down.

After about 10 minutes of flying, the power started to drop, and I took the controls to bring it in. Even with the speed brakes, the NexSTAR has a good glide ratio, and I had no problem making it back to the field. It just needed a little flair before touchdown to grease it in. As you'll see on the videos, we let the PA-2 land the NexSTAR with very good results. We simply lined up on final, cut the throttle and watched. The PA-2 doesn't know to flair, so the landings were a little bouncy but better than most beginners could do on their own. The motor and batteries were warm, which backup the power measurements I made.

On subsequent flights, his instructor would control the throttle and rudder and Tim would control the ailerons and elevator for take offs. The instructor just kept the plane pointed down the runway, and even if Tim pulled a bit early on the elevator, the NexSTAR would wait until it was ready before lifting off. Tim flew 3 times that first outing and only once did we grab the transmitter when we felt the PA-2 did not have enough altitude to recover. While using a buddy-box would be the ideal situation for learning, the PA-2 system efficiently corrects a lot of beginner mistakes and makes passing the transmitter a suitable alternative.

Overall, the NexSTAR is one of the most flyable and stable trainers I've ever seen.

Aerobatic Performance

This is a trainer, but it is capable of basic aerobatics. Even with the speed brakes installed it would loop and roll fine. Once the speed brakes are removed performance should improve even more and basic aerobatics should be no problem. The stock power system is more than adequate, and I see no reason to change the propeller.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

The first video demonstrates the performance of the PA-2 system. With Keith Shaw at the controls, he put the NexSTAR into every attitude a new pilot could get into and then watched as the PA-2 got things back under control. It even handled the landing with only a few bounces. From our observations, the PA-2 picks the easiest way to get the plane back upright. If it is banked left or right it will roll out with ailerons. If it is inverted, it will use elevator to perform a half loop. Keep in mind that this will use up some altitude so you still need to be up one or two mistakes high. Also, if you set the gain with channel 6 on the transmitter, make sure to check it before each flight.

Downloads

The second video is my son Tim on his third flight. With the help of Keith Shaw, he took off, flew for 10 minutes and then Keith brings it in. The NexSTAR makes him look good and the PA-2 kept him out of trouble most of the time.

Downloads

Is This For a Beginner?

Definitely! The NexSTAR has got to be one of the most foolproof packages available to help someone learn how to fly RC. The convenience of electric power and the completeness of this package make it an ideal training platform.

Conclusion

Hobbico has hit the mark from several angles with the NexSTAR Select EP. From ease of construction to flight performance, the NexSTAR is everything a beginning pilot could want in a trainer. The design and construction are first rate and the level of prefabrication will get you in the air now! The airframe is sturdy and should stand up well to the typical life (read abuse) of a trainer. The large size makes it easy to see and flyable in less than ideal weather.

The RimFire brushless outrunner is a perfect match to this airframe and provides ample power (comparable to .40 size glow trainers) and good duration. Flight times on the order of ten minutes will give the new pilot plenty of stick time to learn and practice. The 6 channel radio has high end features and room to grow with your next project. All components are top quality and there is nothing "toy store" about this plane. It is a serious, purpose-built RC airplane.

The PA-2 system is a great way to keep a new pilot in control and limit the number of times the instructor needs to bail him out. The PA-2, speed brakes, and leading edge extensions provide multiple levels of "training wheels" that can be removed as the new pilot learns the joys of RC flight. All of these features help to make the learning experience safe and enjoyable.

Pluses

  • Ease of Construction
  • Completeness of package
  • Quality of Components
  • Flight Qualities
  • Multiple Training Levels

Minuses

  • None

Many thanks to Keith and Tim for their help in completing this review.

Last edited by Angela H; Jan 17, 2008 at 05:29 PM..

Discussion

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Old Jan 22, 2008, 03:43 PM
Designer/Builder
Jim Young's Avatar
Brighton, MI USA
Joined Jun 2000
1,744 Posts
Hi All,

I found a mistake in my measurements and calculations. The power system only draws 31A for 542W and a power loading of 77W/lb. This is still very respectable for a trainer and it provides plenty of power.

-Jim
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Old Jan 23, 2008, 06:36 AM
Flutter-Bys are fun
Conehead's Avatar
United States, MI, Honor
Joined Dec 2005
4,982 Posts
Nice review. When I first saw this plane, I thought how cool. An electric trainer and a very neat color scheme.

Hurray for Hobbico and Futaba to now have a 6 channel radio with a trainer. The wet engine version only had 4 channels and to put flaps on it, you had to get another transmitter to do so.

I put flaps on my Nexstar and I love the way it floats down on landing. I learned to fly on my Nexstar and love the flight sim to learn on and then go to the field to fly.

This has to be a winner on all accounts. You can pick the batteries for the plane, it is a good size to see, easy to assemble from what the review says and looks like a solid preformer.

Conehead
Orrn Eldred
Honor, MI
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Latest blog entry: Maiden Flight today.
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Old Jan 23, 2008, 06:45 AM
Flutter-Bys are fun
Conehead's Avatar
United States, MI, Honor
Joined Dec 2005
4,982 Posts
Oh wow,
Your son Tim is sure lucky to have a Dad like you. An airplane to fly and test and learn on all at the same time.

Gosh, Dad's like that are really something special. Tim is one lucky son.
Conehead
Orrin Eldred
Honor, Mi.
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Latest blog entry: Maiden Flight today.
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Old Jan 23, 2008, 02:40 PM
BD Flyer's Avatar
United States, NJ, Monroe Township
Joined Aug 2006
7,093 Posts
Wow, they finally came out with a good RTF plane with quality equipment.

Great review!
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Old Jan 23, 2008, 03:36 PM
No thrust...It'll bust...
troynh's Avatar
Troy, NH
Joined Sep 2006
4,312 Posts
Jim,

Great review. It was great to see your son on the sticks as well!

Since Hobbico doesn't offer an ARF version of the EP, I went and picked up the ARF fuel version and am in the middle of converting it to electric. I went with this motor and am planning on using 2ea. 4s 2250mAh in parallel. (18 oz's) Do you think a 4s 4500mAh be enough? I'm figuring an AUW of 100oz's (6.2 lbs)

-Tim
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Old Jan 23, 2008, 04:10 PM
Designer/Builder
Jim Young's Avatar
Brighton, MI USA
Joined Jun 2000
1,744 Posts
Hi Guy's

Glad you liked the review, we sure like this trainer.

Tim,

You motor is very similar to the RimFire included with the NexStar. Since the Kv is the same, I would recommend you go with a 5S pack (a 2S and a 3S in series) to get a little more speed and use the same 10x5 prop. 4500mAhr should give you plenty of duration.

-Jim
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Old Jan 23, 2008, 04:40 PM
No thrust...It'll bust...
troynh's Avatar
Troy, NH
Joined Sep 2006
4,312 Posts
Thanks Jim,

I'm using this BESC So, I might series two 3s's for a 6s then parallel another 3s to bring up the mAh. I know that I'm complicating things but I've got the smaller batteries... I may as well use them.

I'm still going to try the 4s set up with a 13x8. I'm replacing the tires with these (95mm - 3.74in.) so that I can comfortably clear the prop. Bush plane. If this setup works, I'll mount a camera on the bottom for AP.

-Tim
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Old Jan 24, 2008, 07:48 AM
Designer/Builder
Jim Young's Avatar
Brighton, MI USA
Joined Jun 2000
1,744 Posts
Hi Tim,

Sounds like the 4S pack will work with this equipment. You should be able to find a suitable prop to adequately power your model. You will just have to draw a bit more current. In general I try to keep motor currents below 40A, as loses due to wire resistance, motor resistance, connectors, etc.. become more significant. Also, radio interference can become and issue as well. Everything you have will stand up to the currents you'll need, but pay close attention to the wiring and connections, and do a proper range check.

-Jim
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Old Jan 26, 2008, 12:35 PM
RCAPA #005
MGBGTRacer's Avatar
USA, VT, Springfield
Joined Jan 2004
3,858 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by BD Flyer
Wow, they finally came out with a good RTF plane with quality equipment.

Great review!
"finally?" Geez, they've been making great ARF/RTF's for a long time. I got my first Hobbico trainer over 15 years ago and it was a great plane (pun not intended). The Superstar EP came out later, and those are really great planes as well. The NexStar series is a nice addition to the line- and bravo for doing a large EP version- although the batteries are still kind of expensive.
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Old Jan 27, 2008, 04:28 PM
Registered User
Joined Oct 2006
24 Posts
a great plane no doubt...But battries are going to cost you 180.00 each...

And I hate going home after only one flight.. So you almost have the cost
of the plane in two battries...I'll pass thank you...
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Last edited by r smith tailspin; Jan 27, 2008 at 04:36 PM.
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Old Jan 27, 2008, 04:55 PM
No thrust...It'll bust...
troynh's Avatar
Troy, NH
Joined Sep 2006
4,312 Posts
Go to http://www.hobbycity.com/hobbycity/s...5&ParentCat=85 for batteries and motors etc...

-Tim
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Old Jan 28, 2008, 05:28 AM
Designer/Builder
Jim Young's Avatar
Brighton, MI USA
Joined Jun 2000
1,744 Posts
Well, you also have the option of using NiCads and NmHd which should be able to give similar duration and much lower cost. These chemistries may also be better suited for a beginner due to their "forgiving" nature.
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Old Jan 28, 2008, 11:04 AM
Registered User
Joined Oct 2006
24 Posts
ref. troynh on hobbycity

you can also get them as unitedhobbies.com
they are in Hongkong. one of the guys I fly
with who likes little stuff (indoor size) just got
a tiny (12 gram I think) motor from them. He
says it works well and cost 12.50...
It took 3 weeks for the order to get here.
They also have big stuff. Worth a look...
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Last edited by r smith tailspin; Jan 28, 2008 at 01:23 PM.
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Old Jan 28, 2008, 12:48 PM
No thrust...It'll bust...
troynh's Avatar
Troy, NH
Joined Sep 2006
4,312 Posts
United Hobbies & Hobby City is the same place.

It's the place to shop when you're not in hurry! :-)
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