|Wing Area:||606 sq. in.|
|Weight:||6 lb 12 oz|
|Wing Loading:||26 oz/sq. ft.|
|Servos:||(4) Futaba S9001 and (2) Futaba S3004|
|Receiver:||Futaba R127DF and Futaba R607FS|
|Receiver Battery:||2500 mAh NiMh|
|Flight Batteries:||Electrifly 3200 mAh 5S1P|
|ESC:||Silver Series 60 Amp HV ESC|
|Power Loading:||127.58 Watts/lb; 7.97 Watts/oz|
|Available From:||Great Planes Dealers and Fine Hobby Shops|
Reliability, sturdy construction and gentle flight characteristics make the Piper Cherokee a favorite among aircraft owners and the flight training community. The first Cherokee rolled off the assembly line in 1961 and is still in production today. There are currently close to 20,000 PA-28 Cherokees on the FAA Registry, and the FAA estimates the PA-28 fleet flew nearly 45 million hours during the years 1982-1999.
The Great Planes Cherokee sure brought back a lot of very pleasant memories for me when I saw it earlier this year. My second RC plane was a 60-sized VK Cherokee back in 1967. In 1971 I flew a 40-sized VK Cherokee Babe and fell back in love with the design. Since that time I've flown a number of different Cherokees, but none ever seemed to fly as well as my memory of those old timers. Let's see if the Great Planes version of the Cherokee can live up to my romantic performance memories of days gone by.
Recommended by Great Planes and supplied for this review:
Rimfire 42-50-800 Outrunner Motor
|Number of cells:||Li-Po 3s-5s|
|Max Surge Current:||80A|
|Male Motor Connector :||4mm|
Silver Series Brushless Controller
|Type:||Brushless Speed Controller|
|Number of cells:||Li-Po 4-12, NiCD/NiMH 14-32|
|Max Cont. Current:||60A|
|Max Surge Current:||72A|
|Battery Cut Off (V):||72%|
|Female Motor Connector :||4mm|
|Programming :||6 Programmable Functions|
Electrifly Power Series LiPoly Batteries
|Number of cells||3 & 2|
|Voltage||11.1 & 7.4|
|Weight||189 gm & 277 gm|
|Dimensions (L x W x D)||145 x 45 x 14mm & 145 x 49 x 20mm|
|Maximum continuous discharge||20C|
|Maximum continuous current||64 amps|
|Maximum output||1060 watts|
|Balance Port||Equinox Cell Balancer|
The 28-page photo-illustrated assembly manual is very good. However, new modelers or first-time builders may still need a little help from someone with some ARF building experience. The flying surfaces are all pre-hinged and pre-glued in place, and the major airframe components all bolt together. This level of pre-assembly really helps shorten the build time. Great Planes states that you can build the Cherokee in as little as 4 to 6 hours, but plan on closer to 10 to include tightening the covering, servo installation, and radio setup. Let's get started and get this puppy in the air!
The wing covering needed some minor tightening. Wing servo installation was the next order of business. I marked the front of each servo hatch cover as I removed them from the wing and noted if it was for ailerons or flaps. After removing the covering from the control horn openings, the wing servos were mounted to blocks glued to the servo hatch covers. I chose the optional Futaba S9001 coreless servos for ailerons and ball bearing Futaba S3004 servos for flaps. I needed two 9" servo extensions for the aileron servos and a Y harness for the flaps. There was a pull string taped in the wing for the aileron and flap servo leads which helped snake the servo leads through the wing ribs without incident.
The ailerons used a shorter length screw to attach the control horn than the flaps. I also had to exercise care when I drilled these screw holes because neither screw went all the way through the flight surface. The good news was that the finished model had no hardware on the top of the wing flight surfaces.
The wing halves slid together easily over the included aluminum wing joiner tube, and the anti-rotation pin aligned the halves perfectly. The kit contained an assembly addendum for the wing. The small bag with the addendum contained a nylon strap and two screws for securing the assembled wing halves.
The main gear wheel assemblies required grinding flats on the gear wire for the wheel collar set screws. The main gear were a nice tight fit in the mounting blocks on the wing. The wheel pants were a nice touch and added a lot to the scale looks of the plane. They worked fine off short grass fields, and I'd recommend you use them if possible.
The fuselage covering required a little more tightening than the wing covering. After a few minutes work with a covering iron, the fuselage looked smooth, and I was ready to work on the tail feathers. What a pleasant surprise that the rudder and elevator assembly simply bolted to the fuselage with three 6-32 bolts. There was no complicated measuring or gluing required for this assembly! Great Planes even included some extra covering material for those folks that want to cover the screw holes. The nose wheel assembly bolted to the steering block on the firewall with four self-tapping screws. This installation has proven sturdy enough for not-so-perfect landings as well as grass field operations.
The manual called for an overall length of 4-15/16" (126mm) for the motor and mount assembly. When I tested the fit of the cowl over the 126mm assembly, I had a 1/4" space between the cowl and the back of the spinner plate. This seemed like a lot of space, and the extra hole to mount the ESC plate was farther forward than shown in the manual. Here is what mine looked like at the 126mm length.
I adjusted the motor and mount to an overall length of 4-3/4" (121mm) to get a 1/16" spinner plate spacing and an ESC mount position matching that shown in the manual.
I contacted Great Planes, and they checked two new kits and found the 4-15/16" (126mm) length to be fine on both kits. I'm sure manufacturing tolerances on various kits probably account for the difference in cowl dimensions. I suggest you test fit the mount and cowl and adjust the mount if needed to get the desired spinner plate clearance. Only AFTER you are satisfied with the fit, should you use thread lock on the mount screws.
The nose wheel assembly required a slot in the cowl for proper operation. This opening was not shown in the manual. Since there was no cooling air exit shown for the electric motor version, I enlarged the nose wheel opening to 1-1/8" deep by 1-7/8" wide. This enlarged opening allowed the cooling air that entered the front cowl vents to flow over the motor and exit out the bottom of the cowl.
I used the optional Futaba S9001 servos for the elevator and rudder. The receiver battery pack was mounted next to the receiver on the servo tray. Great Planes has included a tube for 72 MHz receiver antennas between the elevator and rudder pushrod tubes. I shortened the center tube 1/4" to get some clearance for the antenna strain relief device. I have flown the Cherokee with both the Futaba 72 MHz FM flight system and with the Futaba 2.4 GHz FASST flight system. Both systems were rock solid with the recommended electric power system. I preferred the 2.4 GHz system for Fly Ins and crowded flying sites because of the freedom from interference and no frequency pin requirements.
The recommended battery for the Cherokee consisted of a 3-cell 3200 mAh battery in series with a 2-cell 3200 mAh battery. I had trouble installing the battery assembly in the provided battery compartment. I was concerned that the batteries would hit the motor mount screws that protruded past the blind nuts in the firewall and would not fit past the servo mount tray.
I contacted Great Planes and was told that the batteries would fit and clear the motor mount screws if they were installed in the proper sequence. The factory recommended that the 2-cell battery be installed first and then the 3-cell battery. The 2-cell pack had to be slipped under the servo tray and mounted below the motor mount screws. Then the 3-cell pack had to be installed above the servo tray and above the motor mount screws. Following this sequence, the batteries fit and missed the motor mount screws. I decided to remove a small section of the servo tray which allowed the battery assembly to be installed in one piece and still miss the motor mount screws.
Pilots that fly in warmer climates may need some additional cooling for the ESC and batteries. I noticed that the batteries were getting pretty warm on our 100 degree flying days here in Texas this summer, and the Cherokee needed additional cooling airflow through the firewall and across the batteries to cope with high ambient flying temperatures. I drilled six 3/8" holes in the firewall to get additional airflow across the ESC and batteries. I then cut a 2" long by 1-1/4" wide opening in the bottom of the fuselage to allow the cooling air to exit the fuselage cavity.
After these additions, the motor, ESC and batteries were barely above ambient after each flying session. If you live in an area with 100+ degree summertime temperatures, you may want to consider these additional cooling openings.
The completed Cherokee, RTF, weighed exactly 6 pounds and 12 ounces. I checked the center of gravity, and with the flight battery all the way forward, the CG was 1/8” behind the recommended location but well within the recommended CG range. I set the control surface throws at the recommended amounts for low rates and for maximum deflection for high rates. I programmed in 25% exponential on low rates and 30% on high rates. I then set flap points at 30 degrees and 45 degrees flap angles. In addition, I set a mix with full flap (45 degrees) with 15 degree upward aileron deflection. This is sometimes referred to as "Crow". It's used with sailplanes to slow them down for landing without tip stalling. It’s sometimes used on power planes to reduce takeoff roll distance. I've used this mix on a number of planes including warbirds and trainers with good results, so I thought I'd see what it would do on the Cherokee.
The Cherokee was a joy to fly. It was rock solid in all flight attitudes. It never felt “twitchy” or “on the edge”. The tricycle gear made takeoffs and taxiing easy. The recommended 10x5E prop seemed to rev pretty high, but it flew the Cherokee with authority through all its maneuvers. The optional 11x5.5E prop allowed the plane to maintain altitude at lower throttle settings and really added some zip to aerobatics. However, the larger prop reduced flight times by about 20%.
The Cherokee looked and felt as rock-steady as its full-size counterpart on takeoffs and landings. Without the flaps, the takeoff climb out was steady, and the landings used about half of the runway. If you choose the fixed flap option, I’d recommend that you add some drag to the main gear wheels to shorten up the landing rollout on paved runways. With partial flaps, the takeoff roll was shortened and the landing speed was reduced. Full flaps were impressive! As solid as the Cherokee flew, the flaps seemed to add to the stability while slowing the plane down.
The Cherokee felt right at home looping and rolling and stall turning. It was very steady snap rolling and flying inverted as well. Touch-n-Goes and landings were pure pleasure. The 10x5E prop was just right for beginners to try out and practice all these maneuvers. The optional 11x5.5E prop added some zip to these aerobatics and held knife edge flight much better.
Remember that "Crow" function I described earlier? Theory has it that raising the ailerons increases the washout of the wing tips and adds drag to slow down the plane. In practice, actual landings were really short and slow in the Crow configuration. The plane was so stable in Crow, that it would just bob up and down rather than stall at really slow speeds (See 1st Video). I had to try a short field takeoff in Crow mode. I gave the Cherokee full up elevator and applied full throttle. The nose wheel lifted almost before the plane began to roll and the main gear lifted off in less than 10 feet! See the 2nd video for a short field takeoff.
The Cherokee was a great flight platform to learn all about how to use flaps. I was able to dial in various amounts of flaps and see how each amount affected the flight and landing characteristics of the plane without any fear of getting in trouble. This was a much better learning tool than trying to get things right on a touchy warbird.
Yes! However, a beginner may need a little help building the Cherokee. Even a true beginner should be able to fly the Cherokee on a buddy box with the help of an instructor pilot.
Ronnie Pope's pictures from the 3DHS Fly-Low-In Event
The Great Planes Cherokee has all the great flying characteristics of its full-size namesake. It's an easy flying beginner plane with tricycle gear and forgiving manners. It's a perfect step up from the traditional high-wing trainer. With a simple change in prop, the plane becomes an aerobatic trainer or a great looking Sunday flyer that can loop and roll with the best of them. The Cherokee will make you look good without getting out of your comfort zone.
If you're looking for a scale plane that will get as many compliments for the way it flies as it does for the way it looks on the flight line, then the Great Planes Cherokees is just right for you.
How does the Great Planes Cherokee stack up against my benchmark VK Cherokees? The Great Planes Cherokee compares very well. It flies as easy as my original 60-size Cherokee and is almost as aerobatic as my Cherokee Babe. The Great Planes ARF builds a whole lot quicker and looks a lot better than either of my earlier planes. The GP Cherokee is a keeper in my book!
|Aug 29, 2008, 08:35 PM|
I have had my eye on this offering since it was first made available. The LHS has TWO of them on the shelf and I have most of the components to finish it lying around here. And then along comes this review!
I particularly like the way you modified the model to improve the cooling. That is probably something we all need to pay a little more attention to? Your photo with the caption "End of a Great Day" really captures the enjoyment of flying this plane and other general aviation aircraft. Thanks for the review Mike!
|Aug 30, 2008, 08:28 AM|
Thanks Guys. This Cherokee now has an assigned parking place in my hanger. I think I'll order another kit and keep it for a backup just in case my thumbs get dumb or the earth reaches up and grabs it during one of my low inverted passes. Like I said, this one is a keeper.
|Aug 30, 2008, 08:39 AM|
Another great review, full of incredible mesmerizing detail. Following along the step-by-step assembling process made me feel like I was alongside with you.
You always do that to me, whenever I read your reviews. What skill you have for clarification. Your photos portray the process handsomely and that last "Beauty" shot is outstanding.
Thanks Mike, well done!!!!!
|Aug 30, 2008, 08:42 AM|
Nice review Mike. I find when I buy a spare kit the original lasts a lot longer. You might want to get the little brother to this plane for indoor/low breeze days. PDA4you is reviewing the Kyosho mini Piper Cherokee coming out in September with ailerons. Enjoyed the review. Mike H
|Aug 30, 2008, 10:27 AM|
Joined May 2007
Very nice review! I also have this model and I can't say enough good things about it! It is a great plane to take out and do touch and go work along with mild acrobatics! This one has a permenant place in my hangar! My setup is quite different than the recommended/reviewed setup. I have an E-flight Power 32 brushless outrunner with a 60 amp Turnigy ESC powered by 4S 4000mah battery turning an 11 X 7 prop. After 8 minutes of flying, including touch and go work and acrobatic work, I put aproximately 2200mah back into the battery. Motor and batteries come down barely warmer than ambient temperature. I too will be ordering a spare model just in case I get stupid!
|Aug 30, 2008, 11:52 AM|
Thanks for the kind words. This GP Cherokee is a real jewel. Don, I learned my photo skills from the best - Napo and Dawnron. One of these days I may even be able to trade in my old Brownie for a real DSLR.
Mike Herr, You're right about the longivity of planes with backups. I'm still flying my 8-year old Funtana - I've got a NIB backup still waiting. I think this Cherokee is going to be so popular that it will be in the Great Planes lineup for a long time to come. However, I'm getting my backup on order so I don't have to wait for the UPS truck before I can start rebuilding. I'm looking forward to Mike L's review of Mini.
Troy, that's an interesting setup. Glad to hear it's flying well for you.
|Aug 30, 2008, 01:34 PM|
Great review!! I fellow club member has her, glow powered, and it's a floater with the flaps down. Just a word of warning to folks flying in warmer area's, cover her with a towel when just sitting at the field between flights. My friends canopy warped badly at the bottom from sitting in the sun. All that "glass" makes for nice hot house in the cockpit!!
|Aug 31, 2008, 03:45 AM|
Great review! I really appreciated the narration during the videos; sometimes it is a bit hard to tell what what the intended manuever is supposed to be, what the next one coming up is, or more importantly if there are anything that surprises the pilot.
This might just be my first step outside of the park-flyers genre if I could retrofit a more up-to-date cowl! (Never have liked the 140's nose)
|Sep 01, 2008, 01:00 PM|
Beautiful aircraft and great review. I look forward to adding this to my fleet sooner than I thought, the review was a pleasure to read and very well done.
|Sep 01, 2008, 09:21 PM|
As always, nicely done! I really like the attention to detail and how you pointed out the small yet important modifications that need to be done for the E-conversion.
Nice flying, too! I liked your "this was a bit lower than I expected" comment during your inverted pass.
It does look like a very nice plane. I've been considering eventually building a bigger plane, and this one does look like a nice option.
|Sep 03, 2008, 08:23 AM|
3rd rock from the sun--east coast
Joined Sep 2004
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