Pilatus Porter 3.2 Meter Modification and Photos - RC Groups
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Nov 04, 2009, 07:43 PM
Lbuff1's Avatar

Pilatus Porter 3.2 Meter Modification and Photos

I'm though I would start a thread where we can all offer idea's and comments on the Pilatus Porter from Top Models. Icare in CANADA is the supplier and offer it in three different sizes.
The plane has proven to be an excellent tow plane and a dream to fly with NO bad habits. There are a few things I would recommend to some of my friends out there who are getting this plane or thinking about it.
Right out of the box, its a home run. High quality parts and a nice covering job, There is a new version coming out now with some more scale detail and bigger side doors.

This thread will assume you know what the basic plane is, and I will talk about what we have done to get it to where we have a trouble free and very reliable tow plane.

Starting with the fuel system, go with a bigger fuel tank than what is provided. We have a 50 oz tank and get about 8 tows to 1500 feet before we need to refuel. I have a Fuel Dot for a fueling point, simple, clean and affective. Put fuel barbs on the brass tubes inside the tank, tygon, tends to get a little loose when it gets wet. Also, zip tie the lines to the brass tubes on the outside of the tank to help them stay on too.

The landing gear is very nice on this plane, however, you MUST red-locktite the aluminum spring cover to the lower landing gear fitting. This fitting has been known to unscrew in flight, its then makes the gear hang down on that side and the SPRING will be lost, It is not easy at all to get that spring.

The other landing gear issue is where it attaches to the side of the fuse. There is an eye bolt that screws into a wooden bock in the cabin, this area needs to be reinforced. I have not has a major problem, however, the guys who fly this plane are pretty god pilots and landings are typically less than 5 bounces. ( just kidding )
The best way to do this is to take a large area washer and put it over the eyebolt before attaching it. It helps to spread the load out.
On the inside, I have just added a cross support to carry the side load and help keep the gear from ever pushing through on a real bad landing.
See the pictures.

Nose access.
Getting up into the nose of this plane is tough. I have the electronic ignition box there and the throttle and choke servo up there. To get there now, I have to remove the windshield and then hold a yoga meeting to get my arm in the fuse and hand up into the nose.
I plan to add a removable hatch in the front fuse top area this winter. I will lay up a carbon fiber one over the existing area, then cut out the deck area for it to fit. I will probably hold it on with magnets or a micro piano hinge.

If I built this plane again, which I would in a heartbeat if something happens to this one, I would make the vertical fin and rudder removable. The fin comes with a thick piece of balsa which gets glues into the fin then into the fuse like a tongue. I would replace this with a Ply piece and then add two hardpoints to the fuse side. once in place, drill through and attach with small bolts.
I may modify the one I have now by cutting the rudder and fin about 1/2 way down, then make a carbon joining sleeve, like a wing rod. This would allow me to get the plane in the trailer without always hitting the rudder on the top.

Split the elevator in two. Its one piece now has two servos, you need to match the servos so it wont bind. there is no reason it cant be two pieces. It will make it more redundant and a quicker setup.

I put a DA 85 on my plane. I used a stock header and then modified it to wrap as tight as possile and exit on the centerline of the fuse in bottom, I then attached a can, Its real quiet.
To do this is pretty easy. You need a hot hot hot torch and some silver solder.

Wing struts.
Get some rubber and metal washers. They will back out if not and it will be a disaster if it happens in flight.
These are available from the local hobby shop or any industrial supply store. Mcmaster Carr, Grainger, etc

I attached the center spar in with bolts. The spar stays in all the time. Due to the new trailer being set up more efficient, I plan to look into using Pip Pins as we do on our racing sailboats. This would allow a fast assembly and disassembly at the field.

I also wired the wing servos to a deans pin connector and a mating one in the fuse root. There is no servo wires to hook up at the field. ( one of the best things I did)

Make sure the pushrods are locktited good, we had a flap one unscrew in flight. And if I remember right, we had an aileron one do it too, the plane flies fine on one aileron.

Thats about it for starters, These improvements have been figured out over a few months of continuous towing. Many different pilots have flown this plane and many more will in the future. Its a wonderful plane and its only going to get better.

Please post Idea's and mods you might have made.. Also, lets get a list of other power options going with flight reports and how it holds up with bigger motors.



**********Attention, ********An important recommendation **********

Please look!

Check this before you fly!

"I disassembled the main undercarriage legs and inspected the spring retaining collar in the shock unit. I was able to pull the collar free with my fingers!! This would lead to the leg coming out of the shock unit and a 1 wheel landing...crunch!

The fix, I silver soldered mine. *** be sure not to ruin the temper of the part with too much heat***

Hopefully that is the permanent fix."

Sent in by Gregg (mungrelv8ute )
Last edited by Lbuff1; Dec 10, 2010 at 12:27 PM.
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Nov 04, 2009, 10:55 PM
Registered User
Ranfred Radius's Avatar
Thanks Len! I'm sure we will incorperate many of your ideas/improvements in our PC6.... If it ever gets here!
Feb 02, 2010, 08:33 AM
Registered User

Pilatus improvements

Nice post on the Pilatus.
You have covered most of the issues the Pilatus has. I will add a few things that I have run into.
I have had the landing gear shock unscrew at both ends. So out of the box I would locktite and torque both ends. Yes, the springs are not really availible.
But if you go to Ace hardware you can get the same diameter spring, but it's shorter. So just cut another piece to make up the length. Or make it a bit longer for more support if you need it.
The upper strut mount at the side of the fuse I thought was weak as well. I beefed up the inside, and glued the mount threads. So far no problem.
I did have the upper brass bushings in that mount go bad. (after one season)Results is excessive play at the top mount. That bushing is not availible around here.
I took brass tubeing and just slid one into another untill it was near the right size. Then I put the outer (largest piece) in a drill and cut it down to fit in the mounts. I am not sure this is going to last, so I am looking into finding some small bearings.
The rest of the gear seems to work fine. I did switch out the tires to some 5 3/4 inch Cub tires. Looks scale.
I would throw away all the controll rods and controll horns and install ball links. I use the Sulivan removable ball links on the elevator. They work very well.
I use a DA-85 as well. I really am not happy with the vibration factor through this plane. I have had the update performed on the 85, and took lots of care in balancing everything.
The latest issue I have come across is a crack in the side of the fuse at the leading edge of the horizontal stab. They were on both sides running down to the lightning holes on the sides of the fuse. I have never done a hard landing with this plane. But I do lots of touch and go's. This thing lands so well, how can you not?
What I did here is cut the covering away and used some light glass cloth with west systems. It is very solid now.
The last thing I have had problems with is the flap servo's. After the glider releases I like to do the straight down decent with the Pilatus useing full 90 degree flaps. This didn't last long before the servo's would not hold anymore.
I have 200 oz Airtronics. So I went with the 400 oz. They hold well.
I am not happy with the lack of support for this plane. I have writen Icare and they have no parts. I have writen Top model and have had no response.
I know I am going to need parts at some time. I am afraid I will have to make everything. That isn't very appealing to me.
I really like this plane. I fly it every chance I get. During the flying season I will fly this plane three days a week. So yes, I do use it to it's full potential.
I call Tango Hotel my trophy plane. Nice to look at, great to fly, but very high maintinence! hahaha
Tango Hotel
Feb 02, 2010, 08:52 AM
Lbuff1's Avatar
I flew the Porter 1/2 of last season for aero-tow only. Meaning I'm not flying it inverted or do snap rolls with it. It has been guestimated that we have between 600-700 tows with it and yes, there have been some SMALL issues with the plane, gear spring,bushing, gear strut attach point. I would consider this plane to be VERY LOW maintenance. Take any plane out there and fly it 700 times , full throttle and then straight down to a shot landing, load up and do it again. This does not event take into account the many different pilots who fly it and there flying technique. I think you will find this to be a workhorse who will always be at the flight line when others are licking their wounds.

Thanks for the input, its nice to see another Porter at work.

Overall, I am soooooo happy with this plane, Icare has been very good, I needed a gear part and they sent it to me right away.
Feb 02, 2010, 11:05 AM
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MadCap231ex's Avatar


I am in the process of completing a 3.2m Porter and have taken into account many of the points Len has made.

There are aspects of this plane that left me wondering what the manufacturer was thinking, namely the upper main landing gear mount.
I chose to drill out the hole to fit a threaded blind nut. I epoxied the blind nut in place with the flange facing out towards the shock mount and then added 3, 4-40 bolts to act as hold-ins. The flange of the blind nut acts as a washer for the shock mount and also distributes the loads into the hardwood frame. As Len suggested, I also added a 1/4" wood gusset to the ply former to keep the fuse from flexing repeatedly and failing.

I am a believer in adequate glue joints, especially in high stress areas, so I have added epoxy fillets over most of what I feel are poor glue joints. Yes I know this will add weight, but I think it's an ounce of prevention.

All in all my main complaint is documentation and lack of access panels to key areas (front motor area and at the tail), but that is not something I call a deal breaker.

Even with a larger twin bolted on, my balance is very good and the overall weight is 30-32lbs.
This plane rocks!
Last edited by MadCap231ex; Feb 02, 2010 at 10:03 PM.
Feb 02, 2010, 10:00 PM
Registered User


It is interesting to see what everyone is saying about the Pilatus. We are all in agreement that it is a great flying airplane. It is unique to all otherís at flying fields. It towís like a John Deere! And lands slower than a LT-40!
We all agree on many weak areaís on the Pilatus. . And , we have all addressed the same issues.
We agree that the documentation isnít that clear. Even the translated version on line wasnít very clear.
I think thatís why my shock came apart. It never said anywhere that you had to tighten them. When I looked at the shock, it looked like a sealed unit, complete in it self, ready to install. My bad for assuming I guess.
I have had several 36% IMAC planes. They came ready to install everything. The directions were very clear. Great support that I never needed.
I have rung out these planes with no problems for years.
I guess what I am trying to say is, if I spend 1k or better for an aircraft, I expect the quality, design, documentation, and support to be there as well. No modifications or improvements needed.
I am not talking about adding epoxy, and support to weak areaís. Thatís a given on all ARF models these days.
I did like Matt's comment's about this. And I had thought of the blind nut for the upper strut mount as well. It's working ok at this time the way I installed it. But if it fails, the blind nut will be my plan B.
Would I recommend this plane to otherís? Absolutely! But I would fill them in before they build the plane. Write them new instructions if I have to. I think if I would have caught these issues before I flew the plane. It would have been a trouble free aircraft. It is trouble free at this time and is always ready to tow.
It was just a longer road than expected to get here.
Feb 02, 2010, 10:22 PM
Go Oregon Football!
MadCap231ex's Avatar


I find that I could do almost entirely without the instructions from WM and do just as well finishing things up. It's the little details that I think would clarify, such as proper shock assembly. The rest is pretty straight forward for those who have tackled a similar build. Without fail, break down the shock spring bodies, clean the threads and apply a liberal amount of at least blue locktite to both ends - you don't want those coming apart. I also locktited the upper shock mount as mine is a metal-to-metal connection.

For me, the initial challange was designing the motor box and modifying the cowl. That is all behind me and all I need to do is final paint and away we go.
Randy and may just run this a few time without the cowl as the plane should be ready in a couple weeks at this rate.

Feb 02, 2010, 11:00 PM
Registered User


The motor box.
I thought that was weak. The motor boxes on my IMAC planes are a part of the inner frame work and continue well into the fuse and is all tied together.
On the Pilatus they want you to build the box, no real detailed assembly into the fuse. And they don't even provide the wood to build the box.
The kit I purchased from a friend was supplied with stand offs. I used them and seem to work fine. I would rather a box, so I may change it at some point.
Feb 05, 2010, 11:41 PM
Go Oregon Football!
MadCap231ex's Avatar

Tail Wheel

Oh yeah, the only other item that just does not seem to work really well is the spring assembly tail wheel.
I modified mine slightly, but there is much room for improvement.
Feb 22, 2010, 05:08 PM
Soar Tow 2
mwgib123's Avatar


WO HO its here... I recieved my Platius and I have to say its big. I do agree with Len that there needs to be a hatch in the front to be able to get in the space. I am going to build a box and have the two sides of the box longer and continue into the next bulk head to help with vibration. I am also going to carbon fiber the fin mount just because its soft balsa and I dont trust it. I am going to solder the landing gear to a stainless plate (you can use 45% silver and it works great) then attach the plate to the sides. I am also using the da85 because of the power and weight of the engine. I will post some pics of the progress so everyone can see.

Mike Gibson
Feb 22, 2010, 09:31 PM
Registered User
Ranfred Radius's Avatar
Congrats Mike!
I'm sure most(if not all)of us who purchase these large specialty aircraft have a long record of tweaking our models here and there to make them just the way we want them! Thats probably why there are no instructions provided that hold the builder's hand through the process..

Feb 24, 2010, 12:22 AM
Go Oregon Football!
MadCap231ex's Avatar


Originally Posted by mwgib123
WO HO its here... I recieved my Platius and I have to say its big. I do agree with Len that there needs to be a hatch in the front to be able to get in the space. I am going to build a box and have the two sides of the box longer and continue into the next bulk head to help with vibration. I am also going to carbon fiber the fin mount just because its soft balsa and I dont trust it. I am going to solder the landing gear to a stainless plate (you can use 45% silver and it works great) then attach the plate to the sides. I am also using the da85 because of the power and weight of the engine. I will post some pics of the progress so everyone can see.

Mike Gibson
This is what I did...
Feb 24, 2010, 01:49 PM
Soar Tow 2
mwgib123's Avatar


wow now thats a good idea, on the bottom and out of the way, and it keeps the looks of the top side clean. thanks

I will post some pics later today.

Feb 24, 2010, 06:25 PM
Registered User
Ranfred Radius's Avatar
Our Porter is the "less" scale version with only one door on the right side of the fuz. Matt came up with a good suggestion. He is going to make an access panel in the top right behind the tow release. This will make it much easier to get to the electronics!

Feb 24, 2010, 07:51 PM
Lbuff1's Avatar
If you put the hatch on the bottom, you will not be able to access it unless you take the canister muffler off first.
I am starting the new one for a magazine article and plane to make one on top, most likely carbon fiber.


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