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Multiplex ParkMaster 3D review

Napo Monasterio takes this massive foamie for a few spins — and finds out there are things such as no-wing-rock harriers and knife-edge-to-infinity-and-back flight. So, read on about this foamie from Multiplex that's unlike any other he ever has built or flown.

Splash

Introduction

Here's something else that the ParkMaster 3D does well: Inverted harriers. Personally, I can't get enough of them. In hindsight, however, you shouldn't perform them right over your photographer.
Here's something else that the ParkMaster 3D does well: Inverted harriers. Personally, I can't get enough of them. In hindsight, however, you shouldn't perform them right over your photographer.
Wingspan:39"
Wing Area:450 sq. in.
Weight:19 oz.
Length:40"
Wing Loading:6.08 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:Four Hitec HS-65HB, part of the ParkMaster 3D servo pack
Transmitter:Spektrum DX6i (reviewed here)
Receiver:Spektrum AR6100e
Battery:3S 950mAh LiPo
Motor:Himax 2816-0890 brushless motor, part of the ParkMaster 3D power pack
ESC:Multiplex MULTIcont 17-amp brushless ESC, part of the ParkMaster 3D power pack
Manufacturer:Multiplex
Available From:Any Multiplex distributors (searchable map)
Price:$131.99

Here's an R/C fact of life: If a newcomer to the hobby asks what plane might be a good beginner aircraft, someone is likely to recommend the Multiplex EasyStar within 7.3 seconds. But there's more to Multiplex than just beginner planes: On the heels of the Gemini (reviewed here by fellow author Ronnie Pope), the German company, better known for its radios, is back at it with another fun plane.

Behold, the ParkMaster 3D: It's a quasi-profile foamie (relatively flat fuselage yet airfoiled wings) that resembles its sibling Acromaster 3D, and it's made of the uber-durable Elapor foam. And we all know we could use uber-durability when we try to get low and slow.

It was designed by Martin Mueller, the aerobatic champion from Germany. I'm no aerobatic champion (and neither am I German), but that won't stop me from pushing the envelope with this plane; If it lives up to previous Multiplex releases, it should not disappoint.

Kit Contents

I'm not one for gloating over a box, but in this case I feel obliged to say that this is is the most amazing box for an ARF foamie that I have ever seen.

But once I opened it, I was amazed. The inside of the box is lined with foam, shaped to hold each part of the ParkMaster in its rightful place. Nothing shifted on its way to my home, and everything was immaculate when I took it out of the box.

Once I regained my composure, it was time to see what was in there. Here's what I encountered:

  • Elapor galore: White and smooth, it is used to make everything from the fuselage and control surfaces down to the wheels and wheel pants.
  • Bag of hardware: It contains everything you need to get the plane in the air, including pushrod connectors, screws and more.
  • Plastic parts: They're few and far between, but they range from motor mounts to control horns.
  • Fiberglass wire: This long strand of wire is used to reinforce the fuselage, wings and control surfaces.
  • Instructions: They come in all of five languages, and the big manual is also available for download here.
  • Decals: Plenty of them to go around, so you could decorate three other planes in your hangar with them.

There's more that you'll need to get this project underway, for a plane doesn't hover on foam alone. So here's your R/C grocery list:

  • Power system: I received the recommended ParkMaster 3D power pack. It includes a Himax 2816-0890 brushless motor (with a 890kV rating), a 17-amp Multiplex speed controller and a 11x5.5 APC prop. It also includes an array of screws, mounts and prop adapters, and even a servo extension for the speed controller.
  • Servos and extensions: Multiplex also provided its recommended flight pack, which consists of four Hitec HS-65HB servos as well as five servo extension wires (three six-inch ones and two 12-inch ones).
  • Battery: A three-cell LiPo in the 950mAh is recommended, so I used a variety of the ones I had on tap.
  • Receiver: I used a Spektrum AR6100e receiver (the end pins on these newer models are a huge plus), and I bound it to the Spektrum DX6i transmitter (which I have reviewed here).
  • Glue: Thin or medium CA works best, so there's no need (nor an official recommendation) to use foam-safe CA here. In fact, plain ol' medium CA is what Multiplex recommends, though you might also want to have some kicker handy.
  • Tools of the trade: Hobby knife, soldering iron, assorted screwdrivers, pliers and the like are in order, and a hex driver is included with the kit.

<font size=-2>Himax 2816-0890 (910kv)</font>
Himax 2816-0890 (910kv)
Type:Brushless outrunner
Weight:79 grams
RPM/Volt (kv):890
Recommended prop for this plane:APC 11x5.5
Maximum output (watts):200

<font size=-2> Multiplex MULTIcont brushless ESC</font>
Multiplex MULTIcont brushless ESC
Continuous current:17 amps
Voltage range:6-15V
Maximum battery:3S
BEC current:3 amps

<font size=-2>Hitec HS-65HB servos</font>
Hitec HS-65HB servos
Bearing type:Top ball bearing
Speed:0.14/0.11 sec @ 60 degrees
Torque:24.99/30.55 oz. in. (4.8v/6v)
Weight:11.2 grams
Size:0.92" x 0.45" x 0.94"

Assembly

This is a quick build, and the extremely detailed manual will make the adventure even less tedious. It will go together quickly, and you'll be in the air sooner than you expected.

A dose of rigidity

Elapor, in and of itself, is a surprisingly strong (and durable) kind of foam. It may look like it doesn't bend much, but if you're planning on knife-edging and spinning and putting the ParkMaster 3D through its namesake maneuvers, you'd better have a rigid airframe.

That’s where the coil of fiberglass wire comes into play. You need to cut it to the required lengths, and a bead of thin CA will keep them in place. Do make sure to set whatever you're reinforcing on a level surface or you may warp the elevator or the fuselage in the process.

After attaching the two plastic parts that make the motor mount, you're ready to move on.

Landing gear

All that needs to be done is to secure the Elapor wheels from moving all along the pre-bent landing gear by installing two lock washers between the wheel. It will be as secure as it gets; those lock washers are heavy-duty.

Once one wheel is installed, the landing gear is routed through the fuselage and then sandwiched in with the two provided plastic parts. After the CA has set, the landing-gear setup is glued to the fuselage. Add the other wheel, secure it and you're finished.

For a bit of foam bling-bling or fantasy-aerobatic-scale look, the kit includes some foam wheel pants. These attach to the landing-gear wire, and the instructions recommend that you don't attach them to the fuselage (but more on that later; not-so-scientific testing would prove otherwise).

Wing

Continuing our tradition of no-frills building here, the wing comes together in a relatively simple fashion. Both halves are first glued in, and this is where a combination of medium CA (applied to the center of each wing half), thin CA (applied while both wing halves are together) and kicker (for obvious reasons) come in handy.

With the wing put together, it's time to reinforce it for those G-force-pulling stunts we're all longing to perform. I installed the bottom wing spar in the same fashion as the rest of the surfaces, turned it over, and this time only needed to glue half the top wing spar.

I secured that wing half flat on the workbench and propped the other half's wing tip a mere five millimeters. What you're trying to accomplish here is an ever-so-slight amount of dihedral, and once you glue the other half of the wing spar, you will have successfully achieved that goal.

In order to attach the wing to the fuselage, I installed one aileron first, then stuck the wing through the fuselage and attached the other aileron. Once I had everything straight and righteous with the proper leeway for the ailerons to move freely, I glued away.

Tail surfaces

Once the main wing is installed, this is much of the same. With glue in one hand and the elevator/horizontal stab in the other, I glued it to the fuselage, making sure it was straight any way I installed the CA hinges on the rudder and attached it to the vertical stabilizer/fuselage. After that, you’re done and have yourself a fancy white plane.

Installing the electronics and motor

It's time to get those fancy HS-65HBs out of the plastic boxes and into their precut holes in the foam. Armed again with CA (and I would recommend testing them before setting them in place, just for good measure), I put each one where instructed. They fit perfectly, snug yet not too tight, and even the wires have their locations set out for them.

I installed all four and used the longer arms that came with the servos, which centered perfectly. When it came to the pushrods, I was unpleasantly surprised to see that they were exactly the right length. I'm all about perfection and precision, but the purpose of a pushrod with pushrod connectors is to have a little bit of leeway when trimming-time comes. While they fit right on, I don't have much room to play if I want to manually trim them instead of using the sub-trim. In the end, they fit just fine —and here's hoping that I don't have to readjust.

All the servo wires and their corresponding extensions were routed through the grooves until they reached their destination, the receiver. My Spektrum AR6100e tucked in nicely in a pre-carved hole, and all the extra wire secured with a small plastic tie.

The motor installation is a treat, and it probably is a prime example of German engineering on a foam-and-plastic medium. It started a bit roughly: I had to (very carefully) reverse the motor shaft. (here are some good instructions about how to do so if you don't want to use my tried-and-true hammering method.)

Once it was reversed, I attached it to the plastic mount with the two supplied screws. That gets attached to the fuselage by two regular screws and four small hex screws. The latter is one of the most ingenious things about this kit, for it allows you to change the thrust angle on your motor: If your ParkMaster 3D has a tendency to climb too much, you can loosen the top ones and tighten the bottom ones and vice versa or the same with left or right tendencies. It is, indeed, a cool feature.

After I installed the speed controller (the bullet connectors are supplied yet not installed) and routed all the wires back, I set the travel throws according to the instructions. I added about 50 percent expo on each surface, and for the low rates, I cut both the travel and the expo rates by half.

Flying

At a respectable 19 ounces, a dead-calm day is no requirement for flying this kind of plane, but it would be much appreciated nonetheless, at least for the maiden. And so I stepped out on a brisk December morning to take to the skies with it.

I must also mention that for the maiden flight (which soon turned into a maiden day, for I kept recharging batteries and taking off again and again), the plane was a tad nose-heavy. It wasn't terribly off-balance, but it was off a bit.

In order to get it balanced, I cut 2.5 inches of foam right behind the battery compartment, and that was it. In the spirit of still making the post-surgery plane look as spiffy as it was pre-surgery, but most importantly to keep the airframe rigid, I put the foam back on the front of the battery compartment. Essentially, I moved the compartment back instead of simply expanding it.

Taking off and landing

You've got two schools of thought right here: Toss or takeoff. For the former, a gentle toss will do, though throttling up while holding the plane by the canopy and letting go will also do the trick.

I much prefer a regular takeoff, but you're going to need some short grass for that. My field has a small Astroturf runway, and so I used that I kept going belly-up on the grass. I throttled up, and within about 10 feet, I was airborne and only needed a gentle pull on the elevator to rise off the ground.

For the landings, the same parameters apply: Short grass or paved surfaces are best, due to the wheel pants. The ParkMaster 3D does float nicely thanks to its light wing loading, so an otherwise short approach may just turn into an eternal glide over the runway. I usually throttled down to about 1/4 and virtually let go of the sticks until the plane set itself down.

The wheel pants kept falling off, however, so I gave them a good dose of thin CA, and they eventually set into place, but only after I glued the back of the wheel pants to the fuselage. I didn't glue it all to the fuselage, or otherwise I wouldn't get a springing action on the landing gear.

Basics

This is one of them most docile planes I've flown in a long time. It's not overly twitchy if you have plenty of aileron expo on hand, and once you get it all trimmed out (which I didn't need to for it flew straight as an arrow), it's a surprisingly gentle aircraft.

One of the things I appreciate the most about it is that it flies slow without a problem, especially after I fixed the CG. Its light wing loading is its forte, and for the 3D and sport-flyer-with-an-attitude crowd, this is a huge plus.

The motor provides plenty of power for both aerobatic and/or sport flying, and unlimited-vertical performance is certainly not out of the question. The recommended 11x5.5 E prop worked well, and I stuck with it for this review. After all, pulling 14 amps and providing a decent 145 watts of thrust (roughly 120 watts per pound) is enough juice in my book.

I also did try another propeller flavor: an 11x4.7 slow-fly prop. That increased the figures a little bit too, up to 17 amps and about 170 watts. It seemed a bit better overall, providing just a touch more grunt when it came to slow-flying close to the deck. Overall performance was similar, but I may stick with the latter one; It suits my flying style a bit better, and it provides a bit of extra power for 3D routines.

The recommended electronics work fantastically — the speed controller is nice and linear, but it was the HS-65HB servos that truly made the difference, thanks to the speed and torque they provide. They are the perfect combination for the crisp performance of the ParkMaster 3D.

I would not call a foamie a precision-aerobatics sort of plane, and I usually reserve that term for balsa kits because of their rigidity and built-up lines. But this plane does come quite close to it, and it's quite precise with its maneuvers. It's amazingly crisp, and the response from the control surfaces, especially the larger-than-life ailerons, is fast and precise.

When it comes to flying time, I could usually get some 8 minutes or so with each of my 950mAh batteries. Your mileage may vary depending on your flying style. Mine is a sport-flying-with-an-attitude style, with some hovering, knife-edging and blender routines yet not with the all-out, rolling-harriers-over-the-deck characteristics of 3D flying.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

Anything you throw at this plane, it will likely do it without much complaining. It's quite rigid thanks to all the fiberglass reinforcing along the fuselage, wings and control surfaces. It's quite light, and that will help the cause. Since the rudder and ailerons are the size of some small counties, they're going to provide plenty of authority to go around — and then some.

I have been flying the life out of this plane, but it only took me about five minutes to acclimate to its flying characteristics and was ready to kick it up a notch on the air. The first few flights were a bit less aerobatic than I had hoped for since the nose-heavy ParkMaster didn't want to keep the nose pointing north too much. but after I got that straightened out, it all went much, much better.

Here's how the plane performed when put to the test:

  • Loops: Nice and clean, and the plane doesn't have any tendencies to snap out. You can make them tight and fast or long and slow, and the ParkMaster steps up to the simple challenge without any worries.
  • Rolls: The roll rates is amazing even with the slow rates. Imagine how much wilder it will be on the high rates. I considered adding a bit of aileron differential, but I ended up not doing so because the rolls tend to be quite straight.
  • Knife-edge: A friend of mine put it best when he said, "Napo, that thing looks like it has a wing for a fuselage!" It’s safe to say that there will not be much problem keeping the plane on its side. This is a lean, mean, knife-edging machine. With its massive rudder, it only takes a bit of input to keep it going straight, and subsequent inputs will allow you to get into high-alpha flight without any problem. The ParkMaster displayed only a slight amount of elevator coupling, but not enough to require any radio mixing. Without a doubt, this is the best-performing attribute of the ParkMaster 3D, and it was obvious that it would be even before I took off.
  • Hovering: If your plane is nose-heavy, the nose won't like to stay in one place at all times It was a tad tricky at first. and even afterward, it still took its fair share of effort. The plane doesn't lock it too well, and it's not the most stable when hanging by the prop. They are doable and not all that bad once you get the hang of it (pun fully intended), they just require a bit of extra finessing.
  • Harriers: Along with knife-edge flight, this is the bread and butter of the ParkMaster. I was surprised (even before I set the CG back on its rightful spot) how amazingly simple it was to lock this plane into an upright harrier. There is absolutely zero wing rock, and that's what makes harrier flight so enjoyable. It is, for lack of a more elaborate word, amazing: You can set the elevator and the throttle and just see the ParkMaster parade its way down the runway holding its nose up.
  • Inverted harriers: They are great but the nose will want to point down a bit at times, which is why you want to move the battery back. That will take care of the problem and will allow you to do some mad, rudder-scratching inverted harriers before the peanut gallery. Overall they're not as good as the upright harriers.
  • Blenders and spins: These are doable, and thanks to the fine reinforcing job, there's no noticeable flexing. Spins are clean and stay on the axis quite well, and blenders are fun.
  • Walls: The elevator has plenty of throw, and the servos are quite responsive, so they're certainly in the repertoire.

One thing that surprised me a good bit was how it handled during the less-than-desirable days of winter. My itch for flying made me venture out to the field when I should have been sitting on the couch instead, and I threw caution into the 12mph winds on more than one occasion. The gusts were brutal, and it was far from your pleasant day at the park.

Still, a pilot's got to do what a pilot's got to do, and so I flew the ParkMaster when I should have been slope-soaring. Much to my surprise, it handled quite respectably. It may not have looked pretty (scary might have been a more suitable adjective) from behind the flight line, but it was pleasantly controllable. The motor offered more than enough punch to cut through the wind, and the control surfaces were still more than responsive. I even managed to put it through its attempted aerobatic paces, get down close to the deck and fly inverted, and it impressed me so much that I had to put it into writing. It was the icing on the cake of an already versatile plane.

Is This For a Beginner?

"3D plane" and "beginner" are the R/C equivalents of oil and water. You may be able to mix them for a few seconds, but it's not going to last long (and it can be quite messy in the process).

It's much too responsive, and it's not a slow flyer by any means. It has zero self-correcting tendencies (good for aerobatics, bad for the new guy), and while surprisingly docile, it will still be hard to manage for those who have not earned their wings yet.

This would be a good third plane one you have graduated from three-channel and aileron-trainer schools. It would be a great sport flyer if you tame down the rates, and it would also make a good 3D trainer if you're ready to be addicted.

One of the best things about this plane is its durability. The much-talked-about Elapor foam is relatively indestructible (as it is touted), and in the spirit of investigative reporting, I have tested such claims.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Conclusion

From the moment you open the box you know this is a different kind of plane. The engineering on it is plain amazing (how many foamies have a built-in thrust-angle adjustment gadget, after all?). It flies like a champ. I have no qualms about it: It stands up to any transmitter-induced challenge, it handles the wind well which is a plus when it comes to foamie-flying and that it's equally bouncy is nothing to sneeze at.

Multiplex's release is a fine one, and I don't say that lightly. It has quickly risen to my must-take-to-the-field airplane fleet. I can just take this plane, and I'll be content swapping batteries one after the other . I'm impressed — with this plane and with myself, frankly, for I'm one of those must-fly-one-aircraft-after-the-other kind of guys.

The power system does not disappoint, and it works well as recommended.

A WORD OF THANKS

I would like to thank the following for making this review possible: Shawn Spiker at MultiplexUSA/Hitec for providing the plane, power system and flight pack for this review as well for his assistance in the process. The camera got passed around at the flying field, and my friends Andy Grose, Chris Giles, Jed Jacobson, Mike Wieczorek and Bob Anderson came through with some amazing photographs. For the video footage, my good friend and fellow reviewer Andy Grose gets the credit.

It would not be right if I didn't mention that the plane is not cheap, but I’d say it’s worth it overall. It's durable enough that your investment won't pulverize upon impact, and for me, I think the thought that was put into creating it as well as the way it flies do justify the price.

Pluses:

  • It's the most high-tech foamie plane I've ever seen, and it still happens to be an easy build.
  • The flight characteristics are great, and it doesn't disappoint in the air.
  • Terrific knife-edge flight keeps you on your side for as long as you want.
  • Harriers have no wing rock whatsoever (under normal flying conditions, anyway), and they're as fun as you can imagine.
  • It may not be fully indestructible, but it's extremely durable.
  • Power system (and especially servo choice) is more than adequate for this plane's performance.
  • Even the box is cool.

Minuses:

  • Center of gravity was quite off when set up stock (by a decent 2.5 inches, in fact), and it required a bit of cutting to get it back where it belonged.
  • Wheel pants have a tendency to come off if installed stock (a bit of Gorilla Glue worked well for me, though).
  • Pushrods are just the right size — which means there's little wiggle room if you want to adjust them.
  • Higher-than-average price-point for a foamie, though the clever engineering and durability factor do soften the sticker shock.

Last edited by Angela H; Jan 30, 2009 at 08:41 AM..

Discussion

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Old Feb 03, 2009, 08:41 AM
When's the next fly-in?
dee-grose's Avatar
Tanner, Alabama
Joined Oct 2003
6,340 Posts
Napo, great review (as always). That ParkMaster is a really cool plane. I couldn't believe how BIG it is. It's a huge foamie. It was fun to fly and I could see where it would make a great 3D trainer for somebody wanting to hone their aerobatic skills.

Andy
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 08:53 AM
"Aircraftus Fragmentum"
Motor City USA
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3,475 Posts
Excellent Review. I am glad you put this up....mine arrives today. I will follow your lead.
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 09:03 AM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Birmingham, Alabama
Joined Feb 2007
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Andy: Thanks — and I appreciate you helping out with the video! Yes, it's big plane all right... If nothing else, it earns the title of ParkMaster by intimidating the other ones with its sheer size! But yeah, it's a good 3D trainer — and durable, too, eh?

kydawg1: Glad you liked the review! Good timing on the publishing, eh? Yes, please keep us posted on how your build progress and flying goes!
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 09:16 AM
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amazing it uses such a small battery for such a small plane. HOw long of flight times did you get with that?
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 09:26 AM
War Eagle!
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Birmingham, Alabama
Joined Feb 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noobflyer92
amazing it uses such a small battery for such a small plane. HOw long of flight times did you get with that?
I usually got about eight minutes or so out of each pack, but your mileage may vary. I combine some 3D with sport flying most of the time, so I'm not as abusive on the packs as I could.

I leave the abuse for the wingtips.
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 10:48 AM
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nice review Napo. Looks like it wasn't settling into the hover... did you try hovering with a rearward CofG?
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 11:53 AM
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Birmingham, Alabama
Joined Feb 2007
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Thanks Arron! Yeah, it's not the easiest plane to hover — and one thing I just may have to tinker with is carving out even more foam to set the CG even further aft. Right now it goes through the whole routine quite well as-is (harrier performance increased greatly after I moved the pack back from its recommended spot), but hovering is the only thing lacking.

That, and good flying weather and/or time to go fly.
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 12:34 PM
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Livermore, CA
Joined Sep 2004
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Great review!
I'm not much into 3D, but I liked the big Elapor foamie idea. So I picked up a couple PM wings(cheap) to use to build a parkflyer type foamie with them. Lots of wing area!
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 12:55 PM
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Napo - awesome review - this one has been "talking" to me for a while now....

Mike
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 05:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Butch777
Great review!
I'm not much into 3D, but I liked the big Elapor foamie idea. So I picked up a couple PM wings(cheap) to use to build a parkflyer type foamie with them. Lots of wing area!
Thanks Butch!

As you can see from the video, I'm not an aggressive 3D pilot either, so this is a fun plane if you're an in-between pilot like me.

The massive wing (and tall fuselage) is what makes this plane such a nice plane for slow aerobatics. Have you flown your grassroots version yet?
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by pda4you
Napo - awesome review - this one has been "talking" to me for a while now....

Mike
"Talking" to you, eh? What did you say back to it? Did you tell it "Yes, I'll buy you any day!" or did you respond "Sorry, but you look too much like my last plane."

You won't be disappointed! And thanks for the kudos.
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 07:37 PM
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Multiplex could offer a softer price point in midst of a global financial meltdown. i have The Mutiplex Fun jet and it awesome, but this one is 2 and a half times more expensive. aprox 500 bucks for a foam plane thats RTF. think i'll stay with my my balsa and glow fuel planes for another year or 2...
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 08:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spackles94
Thanks Butch!

As you can see from the video, I'm not an aggressive 3D pilot either, so this is a fun plane if you're an in-between pilot like me.

The massive wing (and tall fuselage) is what makes this plane such a nice plane for slow aerobatics. Have you flown your grassroots version yet?

I'm still in the planning stage. I got the wings and I'm going to use EPP for the fuselage. It will probably be simular to my SuperZoom. I'm still trying to figure out which motor. Butch
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 08:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GassPasser
Multiplex could offer a softer price point in midst of a global financial meltdown. i have The Mutiplex Fun jet and it awesome, but this one is 2 and a half times more expensive. aprox 500 bucks for a foam plane thats RTF. think i'll stay with my my balsa and glow fuel planes for another year or 2...
Like I said... It's not cheap. But it'll take 2.5 times the abuse -- and then some -- that other balsa planes will take. Don't get me wrong: I love my balsa planes, but there are things I wouldn't put them through that I do with this one. It'll last me 2.5 times longer, too.
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