SuperFly RC's Superfly E Review - RC Groups

SuperFly RC's Superfly E Review

Pat Mattes reviews the single-motor electric version of the exciting Superfly line of delta wings!

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Introduction


Wingspan:30"
Wing Area:350 pusher/420 puller
Weight:12-14 oz.
Wing Loading:4.5 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:Hitec HS 55
Receiver:GWS 4P
Battery:Batteries America Platinum Polymer 2LP1500
Motor/Gear Drive:GWS 350B (incl)
Prop:8x6 stock; used 9x7
ESC:GWS ICS-300
Available From:SuperFlyRC

I’ve always had an affinity toward delta-wing airplanes. They have a simple elegance in their construction -- essentially packaging fuselage, wing, and tail all into one nice, compact little unit. They make for great experimentation platforms, and can be made out of nearly anything. I have experimented with cardboard, coro-plast, foam board, and even several flat-plank balsa and built-up rib balsa style deltas. Some were more successful than others, obviously, but they were always great fun to fly.

A little about Deltas

Delta wings are not the most aerodynamically efficient flying surfaces available, but they do offer a unique property in how they handle airflow over the wing. Due to the high leading edge sweep, and the fact there is no separation between the wing and the rear stabilizer, a swirling vortex gets created on each side of the wing, a mirror image of the other side. This vortex adds energy to the airflow, which keeps the airflow attached to the wing for it’s entire journey from beginning to end, which prevents stall. If the airflow were to become detached from the wing, then it would cause the aircraft to stall. This brings two features to a delta wing’s flight characteristics. One, you can’t stall them, and two, with experience in control you can do high angle-of-attack (AOA) fly-bys and other wild maneuvers.

Meet the SuperFly-E

I had a choice of planes for an upcoming review, so it should be no surprise that I immediately picked the SuperFly-E delta plane from SuperFly RC. The SuperFly series is made from a high-density EPP foam, so it has enough rigidity to be built without using spars or a dozen rolls of tape. Despite the rigidity, it still has enough “rebound” to be indestructible.

The SuperFly series features both glow-fuel and electric powered versions. I was excited to work with the electric! But before we begin, I’ll stress that this review is NOT intended to be a replacement for the instructions, and I will not repeat them. Always follow the instructions, and then use the review for backup, clarification, or even suggested changes.

Kit Contents

There was no need to mention “all the parts were packaged well” because anything made out of EPP will never get damaged in shipping anyway! All the EPP parts are cut with a CNC foam cutter (CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control). The benefits of using a CNC cutter obviously favor the manufacturer due to elimination of the manual cutting method, but more importantly it benefits the end user from the standpoint of core accuracy and perfect symmetry. More on this later, as you’ll see from some of the pictures.

Contained in the core beds are the two wings, the elevons, and a section of flat stock from which the vertical fins are cut. Also included in the kit is an EPP block for the canopy, which can be shaped to any design you prefer. Most foam cuts cleanly with a hot wire, but EPP foam leaves “slag” on the cut surfaces. This slag tends to hold the parts together a little bit, so don’t go ripping the cores out with gorilla force. You need to use light pressure to separate the parts from the core bed, then remove the slag from them. If you’re a patient person, the slag can be picked off by hand, but the faster route is to use a flexible sanding block and remove the slag off of the wings, elevons, and vertical fin material.

The GWS-B drive provided is a great match for this size plane, and comes stock with the 8x6 prop. The instructions recommend a 9x7 GWS prop for even greater performance. The 8x6 will draw in the neighborhood of 8 amps or so, the 9x7 will increase that to 10 amps, so make sure you match your battery selection properly. If using a Lithium Polymer battery, this selection is especially important so you don’t ruin the battery. Then of course, once the battery is selected, make sure that your speed controller and propeller are properly matched as well so you don’t burn out the speed controller.

Believe it or not, this was my first LiPoly battery. I’ve had a Great Planes Triton charger for some time now, but haven’t used all the features. It’s a fantastic charger for the electric enthusiast, by the way, and it charges Nicad, NiMh, and Lithium Ion-Lithium Polymer batteries. Before now, I’ve never had a need to try the Lithium setting. I’m a long-standing holdout to the “old” technology of Nicads and NiMh, but this Lithium Poly stuff was a real eye opener for me!

Assembly materials needed for this project are Shoe Goo, duct tape (white works best), clear packing tape, paint (does NOT have to be foam safe).

Assembly

Selecting Pusher or Puller

At this point you’re faced with the terrible dilemma of whether to build the pusher or puller version of the SuperFly-E! Both versions are equally attractive. I ended up choosing the puller (tractor) version, for no particular reason. The instructions were conveniently separated into two different sections for the two different versions, so I simply set the other aside so I couldn’t get them mixed up.

Before you begin the wing assembly, cut a slot 3” long by ½” wide on each wing half at the nose. This will leave you with a 3” x 1” slot for the motor. Scuff the shiny side of the plastic motor mounting plate prior to applying the glue to help with adhesion. The instructions have you glue the motor plate in prior to trimming, but I found it easier to trim the plate ahead of time. Shoe-Goo requires a fair amount of set up time so plan the wing assembly for the night before.

Wing Assembly

SuperFly recommends the use of Shoe-Goo or equivalent for joining EPP parts. They include tips on using this adhesive in the instructions, the most notable one being to let the glue dry for 10 minutes prior to pushing parts together. This helps the glue flash off a bit and speeds up the overall cure time.

Remember to have strips of tape ready to hold the parts together, as well as some wax paper to protect your work area. The wings joined fine placed flat on the work desk, but the strips of tape helped keep some compression on the glued joint.

While waiting for the joint to cure, I cut the template out and made two fins from the material provided. The instructions call for the vertical fins to be glued on at this point, but there are several steps after this that the fins will only be a hindrance to. My recommendation is for the fins to be added as the last step.

This was also a perfect time to trim the canopy. The canopy housed the speed controller and receiver and provided for a means to secure the battery in place and allow for easy removal. The canopy shape is not critical, however a streamlined shape will always result in better flight performance. Your battery slides under the canopy once the canopy was glued to the wing, so don’t cut more foam than you need – a snug fit is important in order for the battery to be retained through flight. The inside shaping of the canopy depends on your speed controller and receiver size, but don’t be tempted to make them a compression fit as the controller needs some air space for cooling. I opted to cut a fair amount of the inside foam away just to leave room for wire routing and such, and it certainly helped provide some breathing room for the controller. Do not glue the canopy on at this time.

Elevons

I cut the elevons to the proper length and shape. Note that hinge is on the top wing surface so place the elevon with the top of the bevel touching the trailing edge of the wing.

The elevons were joined to the wing with duct-tape, and there are options here. Duct tape was chosen for it’s aggressive adhesive, something you’re not going to find in packaging tape or masking tape. Plus it is strand-reinforced, and won’t tear even after long term use and lots of flexing. SuperFly recommends white duct tape to blend in with the white EPP, but I had gray duct tape on-hand and planned on painting the hinge line anyway.

Painting

You can paint at any time you wish, it all depends on how much of the plane you want to paint. Consider it at this point, but do it elsewhere in the sequence if it works best for you.

For painting, I chose Testors brand plastic model paint because it provides a great deal of color and coverage with a small amount of paint and adds negligible weight. It also sticks to the hinge tape wonderfully too!

Painting Cautions

A word of warning, though... If you use too much paint you’ll add weight. You can also warp the EPP if you use too much. Use only light coats and you’ll have no problems. If you do get heavy-handed with the spray bottle and the wings warp, don’t panic. It’s not catastrophic (as I found out) but you’ll have some extra work to do if they do. Just let it dry and bend them back into shape. Try THAT with a balsa craft!

Servos

NOTE: Servos can be mounted with Shoe-Goo, and if this method is chosen be sure to wrap your servos with tape as recommended in the instructions. Either mounting works fine, but if you cut holes make them smaller than the servo so there is a compression fit.

With an airplane as aerobatic as the SuperFly, you’ll want to make sure that you have a good control horn mounting system. Again, the Shoe-Goo comes to the rescue. Make sure you remove any paint to provide for better adhesion. Notice the fins are attached in these pictures? There's the benefit of reading a review -- this is where I figured out it would've been better to leave them off until near the end!

Motor

At this point you have the wings assembled, the elevons attached, a fantastic paint job applied, your servos installed and all control surfaces working properly. Not too much more and you’ll be flying!

One important item that should not be missed is the installation of a small extra section of strap lock as a “shim” for the motor. As the motor/gearbox is pulled tight with the strap locks, it will actually have a few degrees of up-thrust due to the thickness of the gearbox case. The small piece of strap lock is about the same thickness as the gearbox case, so it evens out and puts the motor at a 0-degree centerline.

Final Hookups

You’ll notice the relief cutouts for the battery at about the middle of the canopy. You should also note that the canopy was flipped forward and glued. It looks strange in this picture, but this actually eased my final installation and kept the wiring neat. The speed controller output connector is actually glued to the block, so once it’s in place I can just push the motor connection together.

Canopy Mounting via CG determination and Control throws

CONTROL THROWS:

The recommended control throws are 1.5” for aileron movement and 1.5” for elevator. This is rather aggressive and results in some interesting aerobatics if you’re not expecting the responsiveness. If you’re at all skittish about the first flight or don’t want to jump into 3D aerobatics right off the bat, I’d recommend toning it down to about ½ to 2/3 of that value.

I don’t think you need to be reminded to avoid gluing your receiver…

Once you glue the canopy in place, here’s the final product!

Flying

It is always important to take a few minutes at this point and make sure that everything is attached securely, and that your servos all work in the proper direction. Elevon setups can be tricky for the uninitiated, so make sure that aileron input at the transmitter stick actually gives you aileron movement, and that an up command actually gives you up elevons. Seems like a moot point, but a lot of people miss it.

The SuperFly-E does not have a fuselage by which to launch, so it took a little bit of a technique to get it airborne. There is not enough structure at the rear or the plane to hold it by and launch it that way, so don’t try. The instructions recommend a forward toss by hanging onto the leading edge and it’s really not as awkward as it sounds. Even with a bad toss, the SuperFly tends to take off with no problems.

On my very first launch I tossed it a bit too weakly, thrown off by the low weight of the plane. It doesn’t need a strong toss, but a firm toss without spinning it like a frisbee worked wonders. I threw it a little harder the next time and away she went. You’ll need to decide which hand you’re going to launch it with, and whether you want your throttle finger free or your elevon finger free. I chose to keep my fingers ready on the elevon (aileron-elevator) stick. While holding the plane with my left hand by the leading edge, I got my right hand on the controls and hit full throttle. With a firm toss forward, it took off quite nicely.

My first flight was with the controls set at about half of the recommended rate, and this made for a nice smooth flight. I used the first flight primarily just to trim it out and get a feel for how it handled. The SuperFly has a nice, authoritative feel to it. At full throttle it carries a decent speed and tracks well. Rolls are crisp and I even went for a loop right off the bat. I can't get perfectly axial rolls since the plane has reflex in the elevons for straight and level flight (which will cause a slight dive when you’re upside down). But with practice I can feed in the proper amount of down elevon when inverted and the rolls become much more axial. As far as the loop, I was surprised. Deltas aren’t known for their ability to turn sharp and retain energy through the turn, but the loop was surprisingly easy to perform. The size of the loop all depends on how hard you pull.

At low throttle I fed in some up-elevator and kept the angle-of-attack high. It’s neat to see how slow forward flight I can achieve in this attitude. And even when moving along slowly, control response remains positive. Throttle response is just as positive, a flip of the throttle and you’re off and running! Due to its lightness, the speed transition is quick. I was playing around close to the ground seeing just how low I could go, and was able to brush the grass with the tail end of the plane several times without “landing”. The ability to hit the throttle and get out of trouble quickly was very welcomed in those circumstances.

The power to weight ratio is relatively high with the SuperFly-E. I was using the 9x7 prop which puts the battery current right around 10 amps, so the approximate power rating was 70-75 watts on a 13-ounce plane. This makes for a very fun plane to fly. It won’t hover at this setting, but the motor system provides more than adequate power for making strong climbs and decent verticals. After what seemed like an eternity, I noticed the power running lower and I headed back inside to prepare for the next flight.

For the second flight I went ahead and changed the elevon throws to the recommended settings. I had been comfortable enough with the SuperFly in just one flight to give the new settings a try. With these rather generous throws I was a bit hesitant at first, but soon broke into a huge smile. I had to have a lighter touch on the transmitter, and soon adapted to the response and merrily put the SuperFly through its paces. In a blink I had it upside down, then threw it through a half-loop to be right side up again. Three rolls in rapid succession, then a half loop into an inverted pass down the field. Another set of rolls and a half loop to bring it back to me. Man, this was a lot of fun!

I had only flown for a minute or so and decided to do some “close in” work. I wasn’t used to having an aerobatic delta, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The nicest thing about the SuperFly is it’s great stability and control, plus the comfort of knowing that even if I do dash it into the ground, nothing is going to break.

Downloads

One of the unique tricks the SuperFly would do is this: With a slight breeze coming at me, I positioned the plane inverted and at a high angle-of-attack (AOA) into the wind, with a fairly low throttle setting. I then simultaneously went to full throttle and full down elevator, which would immediately flip the plane over and with the torque of the motor would yaw it 180 degrees as well. I was now headed back into the wind at a high AOA, but this time right side up. It’s hard to describe in text, and I hoped to be able to catch it on video (but was unsuccessful), but the result almost seemed like an aeronautic impossibility.

Having a “no fear” attitude is easy with the SuperFly because you don’t have to worry about hurting it. I was throwing this thing around doing things I would never otherwise try. Low altitude rolls…almost touching the grass with the wing tips… inverted flight so low the ants take cover… the ability to just fling the sticks around without looking at a repair bill if you mess up. It was great!

When you are practicing low-and-slow fly-bys, all it takes is a throttle blip and up elevator, and you can bring the nose up quickly. I had one spectacular landing that I haven’t been able to duplicate since. I was coming in for a landing, in this low-and-slow mode, and right before landing I hit the throttle and elevator. The nose kicked up higher than expected (actually the tail goes down), and I chopped throttle. The tail end was close enough to the ground at this point that I actually landed on the rear of the plane, and it slowly fell over forward onto it’s belly. Now why can’t I catch THAT on video?

One peculiarity during nose-high slow-flight that you might notice is a tendency for the nose to yaw left. This is not an indictment of the SuperFly-E, it actually happens on all airplanes at high AOA, but is more prominent on a delta. The cause is that the prop half coming over the top of the arc is catching more air than the prop half passing through the bottom of the arc. It’s not problematic, but if it happens you might scratch your head and wonder why.

And now for Extreme Flying:

Okay, more correctly extreme flying CONDITIONS. Despite the chronology of this review, which appears as though I had good flying days in succession, this wasn’t the case for all flights. At one point I had waited over two weeks to get good enough weather to take video. Frustrated that I hadn’t flown in two weeks and that the weather was still bad, I decided to go ahead anyway! There was a storm system coming in, and the weather looked nasty. The wind was rather gusty, 20 mph and higher. I fired up the SuperFly and let it go. With the varying winds and vortex producing obstacles everywhere (like my house, garage, swing set, barn, trees, etc), the “flight” was quite a ride. It wasn’t so much flying as it was just trying to counteract what the wind was trying to make it do. Any vertical maneuver that exposed the wing to the wind resulted in an immediate downwind acceleration. I put the nose down into the wind and worked my way back to where I was standing. I was able to do stationary rolls at full throttle, but again had to be careful to keep the nose into the wind. I did a few basic maneuvers, and eventually decided to land. Not so much for the plane’s sake, as much as for mine! I can’t say it was “fun”, but it certainly was an exhilarating flight. Just like the small text at the bottom of a sports car commercial: “Test performed under extreme conditions. Do not try this at home”.

Conclusion:

To sum this all up, the SuperFly-E gets a top-notch rating. It doesn’t take up much space, so it makes for a perfect parking lot flyer during lunch - just keep it in the back of your car for whatever chance you get. It features EPP foam for proven durability, and combined with a one-piece compact design makes for a plane nearly impossible to break. It has a well-matched motor/battery system that is light and offers good straight-line flight speed as well as strong vertical maneuvering. Set the control throws to a tame setting and have a very enjoyable, relaxing flight, or set them to extreme and pretend to practice for a Tournament of Champions Free Style event. The SuperFly-E is very happy to be flying on a calm summer evening, yet tackles light to moderate winds well. Use of a Lithium Polymer battery keeps the weight low and gives a good solid 7-10 minutes of flying aggressively, and nearly double that to cruise around lazily. The SuperFly-E goes together well, and stays together even better. It’s truly a well executed design that’s a heck of a lot of fun to fly.

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Jun 15, 2004, 10:42 AM
Just fly the darn wing!!!
ScYcS's Avatar
Just like the other designs from David Halko,it is a winner.

Having several of his planes, i can wholeheartly say they stand out from the crowd and are a pleasure to fly.

Totally agree with your review.

Dennis


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