|HACKER MODELS ZOOM 4U|
|Weight: 7 oz.|
|Wing area: 156 sq. in.|
|Wing loading: 6.5 oz./sq. foot|
|Servos: Three sub-micro servos|
|Transmitter: Spektrum DX6i, reviewed by yours truly here|
|Receiver: Spektrum AR6100e|
|Battery: VampowerPro 3S 450mAh 25C LiPo|
|Motor: E-Flite Park 300 brushless outrunner|
|ESC: Castle Creations Thunderbird 9|
|Manufacturer: Hacker Model|
When you think of small planes, what do you think of? Slow as molasses? Lazy Sunday flying? The same ol' same ol'? I can see where you're coming from, for a lot of the newer micro offerings these days thrive on ease of flight, not power. I do like those sort of planes, don't get me wrong. I've got a mini-hangarful of them, but every now and then I want to get low and slow and even hover with a small aircraft.
The Hacker Zoom 4U the younger sibling of the big Zoom family, made of the EPP brothers Super Zoom 4D XXL, Super Zoom 4D, Zoom Zoom 4D, Zoom Zoom and Zoom Bi looks like it could do the trick; It appears to have decent-sized ailerons, a decent-sized rudder and room for a decent-sized motor. But let's see how decent it actually is in the air.
I received my review kit straight from the manufacturer, Hacker Model. The company is based out of the Czech Republic, and the plane survived its trip across the ocean blue so it passed its first durability testing with flying colors. Upon opening the bag, here's what I encountered:
With all the above, all you're going to get out of it is a glorified free-flight glider, so you're going to need some stuff to make it R/C-compatible. Here's what I used:
There are few pieces in this kit, which points to a quick assembly, and by looking at the manual, that suspicion is confirmed.
The manual is not bad altogether; Its a nice, detailed guide with a good amount of photographs, but it's an English translation of Czech, and it's a bit clunky. Still, pictures are worth a bazillion words, and they will guide you through the build process just fine.
The first order of business is to stiffen that otherwise wobbly EPP foam, and the easy method is via the included metal rods. Ruler and hobby knife in hand, I cut some slits up and down the fuse and pushed the wires in. Then, laying the fuselage on a flat surface, I set those rods in place with some CA. Simple enough.
When attaching the motor mount, a small shim must be installed on the left side first, which I assume is to get the proper thrust angle. I attached it to the motor mount and then to the front of the plane.
Afterwards, the instructions call for the motor, speed controller and rudder and elevator servos, but in the spirit of laziness and/or procrastination, I had yet to determine what I would use. I ended up holding off on this step until I had everything with me. Besides, I wanted to make sure the center of gravity would be right on so I decided I would hold off on cutting foam until I knew where everything would go first.
Here's something you don't often see in such a small plane: pre-hinged control surfaces. You would normally see either tape, CA hinges or just plain ol' nothing, but the Zoom gets the royal treatment.
I applied the rudder hinges to the aft of the fuselage, securing them with a healthy dose of thin CA. Then I installed the elevator, which requires that you attach a small piece of wood that allows both elevator halves to move. Then I attached the important step here correct control horn, which is the one that already has a small notch carved in that will let it fit around the elevator joined. Once you've got the elevator all built up (not much work, now was it?), just zap it to the fuselage, making sure it's straight and level with the fuse. Voilΰ, you're done.
The rudder is almost as simple, getting its fair share of hinges and a control horn, but its held in place to the fuselage and the rudder with a long, pointy hinge wire. So, follow the instructions, measure when you're told to, poke away at the rudder and secure it to its partner in crime, the fuselage, at the bottom.
Two prebuilt, pre-hinged wing halves should not offer much resistance on the workbench. The main thing is making sure that they're nice and straight as well as rigid. After gluing the two halves together, it's dιjΰ vu all over again from our times in the fuselage: cut a slot, stick a long piece of metal, set the wing on a flat surface and glue the rod in there for posterity.
Now things start getting a bit complicated, but only slightly: It's time to make the ailerons functional, and so it's time to find a servo. I found a Hobbico servo that needed a good home, and it looked like it would fit the bill just fine here.
I carved a hole where the servo will fit, glued it in place, then glued the control horns just like on the elevator and rudder.
As far as the servo arms are concerned, Hacker Models comes to the rescue with a longer-than-average arm extension. It's a piece of fiberglass that gets glued on top of your servo arm and gives ample throw and then some.
The skeptic in me thought that wouldn't last long. Under normal circumstances, I would just use a 3D servo arm, but I didn't have any that would fit this Hobbico relic. My solution was to screw it into to the existing servo arms. I added a couple of drops of CA for good measure, and it looks like it's not going anywhere any time soon.
When it comes to attaching the wing to the fuselage, a "whoops" moment occurred: It wouldn't fit after the servo was in place. There's a bit of a notch at the bottom of the fuselage, but it still was too small. With hobby knife in hand and a desire to hack away at the foam, I took to it with a passion. After a bit of trimming, it looked like it would fit just fine and allowed for plenty of servo travel. After carefully measuring to make sure the wing was straight all around (read: I eyeballed it), a few squirts of CA had it in place.
I built the landing gear as instructed, putting on little collet-like tubes and the wheel pants and all the accessories.
ZOOM, MEET WATER;
WATER, MEET ZOOM
I received an interesting box along with my Zoom 4U: a set of floats. Floats, you say? Yes, floats, I say. They're tiny and they're light, and they look like they will fit this plane perfectly.
Unfortunately, by the time I got the plane, built it and ready to maiden, the water wasn't as balmy as I would have liked should an accident have happened. I may try them in the spring, and if I do, you will be the first to learn about it.
The bigger question is do you really want a set of floats on an extremely aerobatic plane? If sport or casual flying (the drag will be substantial) is your kind of thing, then a set of these might be the ticket for you. They are easily removable as well.
Be forewarned: A plane this small will likely be a handful on water, and you will most-definitely want to waterproof your electronics, for they are all exposed to the elements.
But fall was for naught. I believed it would weigh too much, and thought to myself... "Hey, this is going to land on grass, so what do I care?" So, what did I do with it? Read on and find out.
With all the electronics in hand the E-Flite motor, the Castle Creations speed controller, two HXT-500 servos, the AR6100e receiver and a 3S 450mhA battery to keep all of the above happy I taped them to the fuselage ever-so-slightly to make sure the center of gravity would still be within the safe parameters. A couple of adjustments later, and I was ready to cut away and put everything wherever needed. In my specific case, I put the speed controller 3.5 inches from the leading edge, the battery right up against the leading edge and the servos less than 1/4 inch from the trailing edge. The receiver was attached with some velcro right above the wing. Your mileage may vary depending on what gadgets you use, but they will likely fall within that range.
After that, it was just a matter making sure the center of gravity was in place, that the control surfaces did what they were instructed to do and that nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
It all checked out all right, so the only thing left for me to do was put it to the test and it's not like I would need a full-scale airport to fly this little foam creation.
So, it's off to the park that we go!
There were only a couple of things I needed to do before I maidened the Zoom 4U. The first one was waiting for a suitable calm day, which in the winter can be a test of one's patience. And at seven ounces, you don't want to take your chances, since your new aircraft may get tossed all over the place.
The second thing I did is to ditch the landing gear. It felt clunky, heavy and even unnecessary. I always land over the green pastures, and EPP durability is not that much of an issue. Plus, I'll be donning a fancy prop saver on the front end, so I don't have to worry about busted motor mounts or bent prop shafts.
Without landing gear, you don't have a choice; You either hand-launch or your go home. But you won't need a javelin-throw-grade toss either: I usually throttle up to about three-quarters throttle while holding the plane from the canopy, then just let it go and let the raw wattage take care of the rest. It usually flies out of my hand without much effort, and it's gentle enough that I can get to the sticks on time.
When it comes to landing, I'll go ahead and come clean early in the process: I take full advantage of the EPP durability factor and therefore fly it low, aggressive and quasi-recklessly. So, if the battery is running low and I'm in the middle of a hover, the plane just may fall out of the sky and I'll let that pass as a so-called "landing." If I have a case of the dumb-thumbs after 10 minutes of being in the air, that's a "landing" too (no one is keeping score, after all). That's how I often end up "landing," and it suits me fine and doesn't cause any damage.
But every now and then, I do try to pretend I can land, and start an approach at about a quarter throttle and just let it glide in, killing the motor right before I land. They're gentle, and the EPP fuselage makes it damage-proof.
Every now and then comes a plane that surprises me with its flying characteristics. It may be that it's tamer than I thought, faster than I expected or perhaps just a wild animal that can't be controlled no matter how hard I try. This plane surprised me in a good way.
I thought it would be slower, but it isn't. I thought it wouldn't be too aerobatic, but it is. The best way I can describe it is "3D meets pylon racing." It's a fast little machine that can get out of sight surprisingly quickly, zipping along from one end of the field to the next in record times. At the same time, it's a docile plane that can knife-edge without a problem, hold a hover without too much input, do inverted harriers in ways you might not expect it to, and do it with ease.
All in all, I'd categorize this is as a relatively gentle plane. It has no odd tendencies, and it tracks quite well without much input (trimming was minimal, in fact). It can slow down a bit for high-alpha flight, but don't expect it to be a crawler either. Powered by the E-Flite Park 300 and the APC 8x3.8 slow-fly prop, it can cover ground quickly.
I set my control surfaces to the recommended rates, and they provided plenty of movement at a decent speed. The elevator could use a bit more travel, and for that you might have to resort to a 3D servo arm and possibly even trim the rudder a tad more, just for good measure.
Flight times weren't bad on the setup I chose, and they usually lingered in the eight-to-10-minute range once I factored in a good mix of sport flight and 3D madness. And, according to my watt meter, I was pulling about 9 amps and getting about 100 watts out of the Park 300 motor roughly 200 watts per pound. I'll take that any day.
Of course, aerobatics is what this plane was made for, so let's see how it performed in the gravity-defying department.
With a large rudder and an even-larger pair or ailerons, the Zoom 4U doesn't belong in the relaxed-flying category: No sirree Bob, it must be flown close to the ground and closer to its limits. And what's the point of flying EPP planes if you can't fly them like they won't break?
Here is how this little plane that could performed in a variety of maneuvers (performed by yours truly and displayed in the video and/or photos).
Despite the abuse that I subjected this plane to here at the Monasterio Electric Aerospace Institute and Crash Test Facility© (motto: "Electrons Rule, Yet Gravity Always Laughs Last"©), I'm pleased to report that it passed its test suma cum laude, in fact. Along with my good friend and fellow author Andy Grose, we took it out for a photo session, and the plane-meets-dirt scenarios were not pretty: We lost control while flying low, we lost count when doing spins, we did cartwheels with the wingtips, and the list goes on and on. It was in the name of journalistic integrity, of course and the only casualty was a slightly dislodged motor mount at one point (which took all of 17 seconds to glue back).
So yes, it's as durable as it can get, thanks to the EPP construction, low weight and the rigidity that the stiffening wires provide. That doesn't mean, however, that a first-time pilot could have a successful flight with it.
The size and the durability factor might make you think you can use this plane to get started into the hobby, but its too fast, too responsive and too aerobatic to make it a beginner's plane. It would be a good third plane after you graduate from aileron-trainer academy, and it would make a fine 3D trainer, in fact.
If you've read any of my reviews, you know that I have a soft spot for small planes. I like the fact that they don't take a lot of room in the hangar or in the trunk, and the fact that I can toss them around the backyard. Many of them, however, are not of the aerobatic variety and certainly can't hold a hover for the life of them.
A WORD OF THANKS
I would like to thank the following for making this review possible: Hacker Model for providing the Zoom 4U kit; Castle Creations for providing the Thunderbird 9 speed controller; my good friend and fellow author Andy Grose for the fantastic flight photos and part of the video footage; and fellow Alabaster R/C Association member Jeff Vloss for helping with recording more flight video as well.
The Zoom 4U, at 25 inches in wingspan and weighing barely seven ounces, is a nice departure from the rest of the fleet. It maneuvers with ease and will respond to whatever you command it to do which plenty of grace, no less.
The durability factor is nothing to complain about, either. Thanks to it, I have no reservations about flying inverted less than a foot foot over the grass for, if the unthinkable were to happen, I could just pick it up, dust off the dirt, toss it up again and repeat over and over again. It's that damage-resistant, and that makes it fun in my book.
|Mar 02, 2009, 07:31 AM|
As usual another great review, up front and honest, just what I like read. I totally agree, I enjoy small planes too. Thank you for all the hard work and info.
|Mar 02, 2009, 07:34 AM|
Great review Napo. This looks like the perfect little brother to the larger ZOOM series of planes. The larger Zooms fly great on floats, just a little slower than without them. On the 4U, that may be a good thing. You will need to treat all the electronics with CorrosionX before you venture out on the water though. There are only two types of water planes - those that have been dunked, and those that will be dunked. Keep us posted on the floats.
|Mar 02, 2009, 08:27 AM|
Speaking of the review, I just realized that the last two words on it are "Good Day!" What a sad coincidence that the man who coined that phrase, Paul Harvey, passed away over the weekend.
|Mar 02, 2009, 08:30 AM|
Thanks! Yeah, it would actually be cool to have a whole squadron of Zooms, from Baby Zoom to Papa Zoom, flying in formation.
I've seen the large Zoom (a great 3D plane) fly on floats, and it's nice and gentle. You do have a good point about using CorrosionX on it.
I may very-well try it once the weather warms up a bit... Once that happens, this thread will be the first to find out. Hopefully, I won't have to post a picture of me in a swimsuit.
|Mar 03, 2009, 11:30 AM|
Yeah, it would rock for a gym. You might need a double court or something like that, though. It scoots along.
|Mar 03, 2009, 11:31 AM|
Glad you enjoyed it!
|Mar 03, 2009, 11:38 AM|
We've been told that Hobby-Lobby will carry several Hacker Models products, but I'm not sure which ones yet. I'm going to field off an e-mail to Jason, and we'll see what he has to say.
Right now the only place that I can see that carries them is here: http://www.rmk-models.com/zoom4u.php
|Mar 03, 2009, 11:40 AM|
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