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Hobby-Lobby Twister Skylift RTF Tandem Helicopter Review

Michael Heer reviews the Twister SkyLift tandem rotor Chinook style helicopter and finds it a very good flyer for beginner and expert alike.

Splash

Introduction


Rotorspan:13 3/8"
Weight:14 1/8 oz.
Length:19 3/4"
Transmitter:72 MHz 4-channel
Receiver:FM on channel 42
Battery:3-cell 11.1V 800mAh
Manufacturer:Hobby Lobby
Available From:Hobby Lobby
Price:$229.00

Every Twister SkyLift comes fully assembled and factory test flown which should give you some confidence in your purchase! It has four channels and comes with its own FM radio. They advertise it as being almost able to hover by itself (the key word is "almost”), and all the pilot needs to do is trim the controls and adjust for drift and wind/fan currents. It is very easy to hover thanks to Piezo electronic gyro and the counter rotating rotors. The beginner pilot should be successful with the SkyLift.

Kit Contents

Contents:

  • Twister SkyLift Tandem rotor helicopter RTF
  • 3-cell 800mAh Lipo battery pack
  • Balance Charger
  • Piezo electronic gyro
  • 4-Channel 72 MHz FM transmitter
  • Receiver and servos installed in helicopter
  • 2 Extra sets of main rotor blades
  • Instructional training DVD
  • PC flight simulator cable
  • 8 AA batteries
  • Small screwdriver

Items I Supplied:

  • Small pieces of tape to secure the antenna

Assembly

The twin jet engines are cosmetic only and install to the fuselage with double sided tape. The tape comes cut in the shape of the mounting piece on the engine, so it was very easy to apply the tape and install the engines.

Attaching of the rotor blades to the helicopter was fortunately also a very easy process. The upper and lower blades have different lengths on the linkage balls so that they are easy to differentiate. It was a simple process to follow the instructions with illustrations and complete the process of attaching the blades. Each set of blades is held together with two small bolts that were supplied with the blades. Unfortunately, with the jet engines and blades attached, the box the SkyLift came in will no longer hold or store the copter.

Radio Installation

The SkyLift came with its own radio system completely installed. I had to confirm the frequency to avoid any conflicts with others at the flying field, install the supplied 8 AA alkaline batteries into the transmitter and unwind the receiver's antenna and let it hang down from the helicopter per the instructions.

I never have liked the look of a hanging antenna, so I carefully ran the antenna around the inside of the helicopter body and taped it in places to secure it. I was very careful not to cross over the antenna anywhere. When I was finished,I did a major range check to make sure I had no problems with my transmitter to receiver communication, and I didn't.

Completion

While attaching the blades I used the wall voltage adaptor and charger to charge up the included battery, an 11.1 volt 800mAh Lipo pack. With the voltage adaptor I can use the 12-volt charger at home with power from a wall socket, but it also has clips to allow me to recharge the battery out at the field off of my 12-volt car battery. I appreciate that flexibility and the fact that it is a balance charger, charging every cell with individual monitoring so that the pack stays balanced. The power connector cord is a JST connector, and the wire from the battery pack to the connector is rather small. I have never used a JST connector or this small of a wire with a three cell Lipoly pack, so I decided to monitor it closely in flight testing.

Before flying the Skylift I finished reading the instruction manual and watched the supplied DVD. A cable was supplied with the Skylift that would allow me to connect the transmitter to my computer via a USB connector.

Practice with a Flight Simulator

If you are new to helicopters, I strongly recommend that you practice with a flight simulator before you try flying the Skylift. If you don't have a flight simulator, a USB cable comes with the SkyLift that allows you to connect the SkyLift's transmitter to a computer via a USB port (though no software comes with the Skylift).

SkyLift Safety Features

I immediately noticed the clear LED on the top of the SkyLift just forward of the middle of the fuselage. I originally assumed this was just a light that would be on when operating, but I was wrong! It is an important safety feature: When it flashes (mine flashes blue) it means the power in the battery is low, and it is time to land!

The SkyLift is equipped with MOPS: Motor Overload Protection System. It kills the power to the motors on blade stalling tip overs. If the SkyLift tips over, the rotors don't keep thrashing and break the helicopter, but instead shut down even if the pilot forgets to kill the throttle. In the name of science I tested this system after the review videos had been completed, and it worked perfectly. Even after a bumpy rolling landing when my stabilizer bar came loose on the front mast and fell over and jammed the blade, when I went to power up the MOPS system prevented it and probably avoided a crash.

Flying

Basics

The left stick on the transmitter allows for control of the altitude and moves from back to front or bottom to top (depending on how you hold the transmitter) for takeoff and climb. The left stick controls rotational movement of the helicopter and for spin of the Skylift to the left or the right. Note in the video below, the spin is not around the middle of the copter but around the rear rotor. The right stick allows for forward or reverse flight as well as side to side flight. Combining the two movements, the helicopter can be flown 360 degrees horizontally with the right stick.

Downloads

Let's Go to the Hop!

Per the DVD's flight instructions, the novice is to spool up the rotors with the throttle so that the helicopter becomes light on its feet but stays on the ground. Apply forward direction using the right throttle and see the SkyLift roll forward on a smooth flat surface. After that, they they recommend applying more throttle with no right stick so the the helicopter lifts off the ground. Immediately reduce throttle so the helicopter settles back down. This is the hop.

In this first step I came to appreciate that the 8 wheels on the landing gear really worked, and it was possible to taxi with the helicopter. Their wide stance also gave a good base for the beginning and ending of flights without worry about the SkyLift tipping over.

Downloads

Taking Off, Hovering and Landing

After learning how to hop, I was ready to hover. I gave myself a lot of room to hover which is important because the 2-coaxial rotor systems move twice the amount of air as a single coaxial Twister helicopter moves in operation, and in a small space the air will reflect back as rolling vortices of air and buffet the helicopter in its own turbulence. Not a good thing!

Positioning the SkyLift on the floor with lots of space I spooled up the rotors and let the SkyLift lift off and climb to waist height (DVD recommends chest height). By climbing to at least waist height I got clear of the ground effect and the turbulence that might be found there. I held the helicopter in a hover by getting the correct amount of thrust with the left stick, but I did need to make some trim tab adjustments. It wanted to fly backwards and turn a bit to the left, and it took me several short hops to get those two adjustments of the trim tabs where I needed them. I landed the SkyLift and made small adjustments while the helicopter was on the ground and repeated as necessary.

Once properly trimmed, the 2 coaxial system provided a great deal of stability just as I have experienced previously with single coaxial systems. With no vertical tail rotor, there was no sideways thrust to fight and control nor was there the torque from a single set of horizontal blades. I did need to make continual small adjusting moves with the sticks to keep the Skylift in a hover over one spot (the critical word here is SMALL).

The heading of the helicopter is controlled by the left horizontal stick. The right stick controls directional drift, forward, backward or to either side. If a consistent drift in one direction was noted I used the small trim tab to adjust and correct for the drift so that I kept the SkyLift as stable as possible. Landing was accomplished by getting the helicopter in a hoover and slowly lowering the throttle so it came down slowly and touched down.

Unfortunately, I am a bit of a carrier pilot with helicopters, and I bring them down a little hard at times. The Skylift has pretty strong landing gear, and I am happy to report that my landings have not damaged it at all I am also getting smoother with my landings and have done some with forward speed that have transitioned from forward flight to forward roll and then forward takeoffs as my "touch and go’s."

Downloads

Emergency Flight Plan

The biggest mistake made by new helicopter pilots is panic reduction on the left stick, killing the lift when a problem is encountered causing the helicopter to crash. Hobby Lobby does sell a complete line of replacement parts so any damage can be repaired, but I’m sure we’d all like to avoid damage in the first place. Before I fly, I think about what I am flying and what to do in an emergency.

The SkyLift is a substantial helicopter, so my plan is to act early at the sign of a potential problem and carefully shut down. I make sure to keep the SkyLift in the middle of my flight area to avoid any possible problems indoors. Outdoors, I enjoy the wide open space.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

Coaxial helicopters are known for their stability. That is why they make such great beginner helicopters, and the Twister SkyLift is no exception. But that stability gets in the way of aerobatics. Both the US and Russia experimented with coaxial military helicopters and abandoned them because they wanted more aerobatic helicopters so that they could better attack and avoid. The special flight performance here is picking up speed and improving one's handling of the copter so that maneuvers are smoother and faster.

Battery Pack, JST Connector and Smallish Wires

The little battery plastic holder doesn't hold the battery pack tightly, and the pack can shift with a sharp move in flight or a bounce on landing. Small pieces of Velcro and ties are supplied with the SkyLift, and they can be used to better secure the battery pack to the helicopter's main frame.

With four brushed motors and the radio system all powered by the 3-cell 800mAh battery pack flying time was understandably somewhat short. I have gotten over four minutes of flight time on every flight, and I have landed before the low voltage warning light turned on at the top of the helicopter fuselage. Weight in helicopters is always a critical factor so I haven't yet experimented with a larger, heavier battery pack.

As discussed above I had serious concerns about the small gauge of the wire and the use of the JST connectors with the battery system. After four minutes of continuous flying the battery pack gets quite warm. I just leave it in the SkyLift to cool down. Surprising to me is that the JST connectors were cool to the touch and the smallish wires were only warm. It appears they knew what they were doing despite my concerns.

Time Tests

For the review I used a fully charged battery pack and flew a low level hover for just over 6 minutes and twenty eight seconds before the Low Voltage LED started flashing blue. The battery was warm to the touch. After letting the battery cool down I recharged it and did a full flight in calm cool outdoor conditions with climbing to twenty feet and some "high speed" passes. After just over five and a half minutes the blue LED started flashing, and I landed. The battery felt a good bit warmer to the touch but not dangerously hot. My results may or may not be typical as it is only one battery and two timed tests.

Outdoor Flight

Although designed primarily for indoor flight the Twister SkyLift can be flown out of doors on calm days. Since this has a real radio system, sunlight is not a problem as it is with infrared control systems, and it has the weight and power to withstand a slight breeze. IT doesn't have the same penetrating power of a traditional helicopter so only attempt outdoor flight in relatively calm conditions.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Is This For a Beginner?

YES! This 2-coaxial flight system is very good for a beginner or an experienced pilot.

Downloads

Conclusion

With a nice open space of room, the SkyLift is a very fun helicopter to fly. I have flown it indoors and outdoors in calm conditions, and it is a joy to fly and impresses the crowd while placing a big smile on my face.

Pluses:

  • Chinook style helicopter looks impressive and realistic in the air
  • Once trimmed it hovers very well, and drift was minimal in calm conditions
  • Can fly in a slight breeze
  • Flight characteristics are consistent
  • MOPS safety system has proven to work as advertised on my SkyLift
  • Hobby Lobby carries replacement parts

Minuses:

  • Battery gets very warm with long flights
  • Battery holder didn't hold the battery just by itself but supplies to secure were included in kit.
Last edited by Angela H; Nov 23, 2008 at 08:22 PM..

Discussion

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Old Nov 26, 2008, 11:14 AM
Landin' On The Canopy BAD
F-86FLIER4LIFE's Avatar
Lee's Summit, MO
Joined Jan 2008
1,481 Posts
Sweet review, So do you think this could be upgraded to brushless?
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Old Nov 26, 2008, 11:21 AM
Air, Ground & Water
freechip's Avatar
Canada, ON, Rockland
Joined Aug 2008
24,101 Posts
look alot like The newest 2.4 Gigahertz Walkera CH 46 Tandem 4 channels radio controlled electric helicopter. It has 11.1 2200mah
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Old Nov 26, 2008, 03:50 PM
UH-60 Blackhawk Mechanic
helifrek's Avatar
United States, TN, Clarksville
Joined Feb 2004
2,901 Posts
nice review. love the scale body, I wonder what kinda weight it can lift?
where you were filming looks just like my old apartment in florida
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Old Nov 28, 2008, 07:16 AM
Electric only
rkopka's Avatar
Graz - Austria
Joined Nov 2002
287 Posts
Quote:
But that stability gets in the way of aerobatics. Both the US and Russia experimented with coaxial military helicopters and abandoned them because they wanted more aerobatic helicopters so that they could better attack and avoid.
The problem with "real" coax helis is increased mechanical complexity. And the russians build them for years now.

The stability of our cheap coax helis results from the upper rotor just being coupled with a flybar and as such counteracting every inclination of the heli. With this stabilizing system you don't even need the second rotor as seen in the very cheap helis.
Don't mix that with the two controlled swashplates of a real coax.

RK
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Old Nov 28, 2008, 12:32 PM
Registered User
comanche100's Avatar
earth
Joined Oct 2008
161 Posts
could you sen us a vide4o of it hovering as still as it can
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Old Nov 28, 2008, 05:37 PM
AMA 125691
wmcneal's Avatar
Jacksonville Florida
Joined Jul 2002
2,240 Posts
xheli.com has this on sale this weekend only for $88.

They also have the upgraded (blinged) walkera one for $219. see rcpowers.com for a review of that one.
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Old Nov 28, 2008, 05:56 PM
Registered User
rbinc's Avatar
Californication
Joined Nov 2007
1,234 Posts
I would not recommend this helicopter to anyone unless they plan on spending a lot more money and time trying to make it fly as well as it is supposed to.

Thermal load on the LIPO and 3-in-1 is insane. When the LED flashes indicating low-voltage (time to land), the LIPO is too hot to handle and the smell of very hot electronics is sickening. And this is after no more than 5 minutes. No surprise, you will get shorter flight times after every charge.

3-in-1s are failing all over, mine included. Mine was much fun in that only the upper rotor circuit blew, but it failed in WOT only, regardless of stick. Helicopter came crashing down on its side and broke all rotors, landing gear, etc. And all I was doing was hovering it on maybe its 10 flight.

Uses two servos for both swash cyclics with pushrods and bellcranks. Conceptually okay, but the rotor towers flex so much that swashes are constantly assymetrical to each other, which results in erratic and sloppy cyclic; doesn't always go where you point it with the same input as last time.

The fuselage looks good, so I am rebuilding mine with seperates rather than a 3-in-1, which will double the cost of the helicopter.

They have a long ways to go to make this perform as it should. I spent around $240 (with just an FM radio) and would never do it again unless this helicopter is almost entirely re-engineered.

Regards
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Old Nov 28, 2008, 06:11 PM
Registered User
rbinc's Avatar
Californication
Joined Nov 2007
1,234 Posts
No offense, Michael, but this is NOT a helicopter for a beginner, the battery (if you actually got over 6 minutes before LV) is extremely hot after flight and this will NOT fly in a "slight" breeze unless you define slight as no more than making cigarette smoke waft.

I believe your intentions are well, but your review is pretty close in line with HL's marketing and this is a disaster for anyone not willing to spend money and time to make it fly as it should. Especially for the substantial cost of the kit. I look forward to a long-term review of your experience with the Skylift, but until then, this is nothing but a poorly engineered gimmick. "Begineers" are much better served with a single coaxial to learn with rather than an overheating heavy contraption such as this.

Regards
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Old Nov 29, 2008, 06:53 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Stockton, Ca. USA
Joined Apr 2001
9,458 Posts
Dear Rbinc:
I don't doubt your stements about heat as I suspected that there might be a heating problem when I first viewed the system. As I specifically discussed in my review. However, I have not experienced the heat that you have described in non stop operation for the length of the charge. Mine gets warm but not as hot as you describe. If I had experienced such a heating problem I would not recommend the helicopter for a beginner. That said, I had a person who never flew anything RC fly the Skylift yesterday and control is good enough for a beginner to fly as long as they keep it to small movements with the transmitter. I will post updates as to my battery life and heating situation as I fly this copter more. Mike H.
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Old Nov 30, 2008, 02:40 PM
Doing it in the Lateral Axis
modfly's Avatar
USA, OH, Akron
Joined Dec 2006
15,360 Posts
The motors look like 180's..Quad 180's off a single 800mah lipo?
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Old Nov 30, 2008, 09:04 PM
Registered User
AndrewBurns's Avatar
Joined Jul 2008
659 Posts
I find it strange they only give you a single 3S 800 mAh pack. My twister blackhawk which has essentially the same internals but only one set of rotors came with a 2S 800 mAh pack. And yes you're right it uses 2 180 size brushed motors for each rotor pair, so while my heli had a 2S 800 mAh pack for 2 motors this heli somehow has a 3S 800 mAh pack for twice as many?
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Old Dec 01, 2008, 01:05 PM
Registered User
rbinc's Avatar
Californication
Joined Nov 2007
1,234 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by AndrewBurns
I find it strange they only give you a single 3S 800 mAh pack. My twister blackhawk which has essentially the same internals but only one set of rotors came with a 2S 800 mAh pack. And yes you're right it uses 2 180 size brushed motors for each rotor pair, so while my heli had a 2S 800 mAh pack for 2 motors this heli somehow has a 3S 800 mAh pack for twice as many?
Yep. And Twister thinks they are fooling people by printing "High Rate Discharge" on the LIPO. After 6 minutes, you can't even handle the pack and the smell is sickening. Horribly undersized battery for the load. This should come with at least an 1800 3S. But then the 3-in-1s would fail even faster.

Regards
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Old Dec 01, 2008, 01:12 PM
Resident Skeptican
Barak1001's Avatar
USA, AL, Hanceville
Joined May 2008
4,323 Posts
One of these days I'll get around to doing a brushless conversion of Ernie's Skylift.

I'm thinking that a 3s 20c 1500mah would power it just fine with brushless motors.
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Old Dec 01, 2008, 07:59 PM
Registered User
Joined Aug 2008
4 Posts
good review and how do you get a picture on your account?
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