All these stars are hand applied by the modeler!
|Wing Area:||735 sq. in. (4746 sq cm)|
|Weight:||9-11 lb (4.1-5 kg)|
|Wing Loading:||28-35 oz/sq. ft.|
|Engine Reqd:||.91-1.20 2-stroke
|Street Price:||$235 US|
|Available From:||Horizon Hobby|
Many of us like a model that is a bit larger than normal, but small enough to get to/from the flying field. The planes in the "90-120" range seem to fit this bill - and if they happen to have a two-piece wing - all the better. Seagull's Laser 200 ARF comes with a nice two-piece wing, can be powered by a .90 - 1.2 two stroke (or 4 stroke in that range) and is a quick build. Previous models I have built from Seagull were excellent in my opinion and this bird looks like something I would cherish. The full-scale plane was aerobatic, but not overly sensitive and good looking. It is my hopes this plane will be a 'keeper' and follow its larger brothers' characteristics. Larger planes are needed for those of us with older eyes :) This plane's yellow/blue color scheme will be very visible and against a blue sky - well downright beautiful!
The first impressions were very positive as there wasn’t any wrinkling in the covering and the only paint ‘run’ was found on the inside of one wheel pant. The fiberglass cowl was flawless, as were the wheel pants. No mention was made concerning the brand name of the covering material used but it appeared to be a Cub Yellow. The large decal sheet contained 49 blue stars that would have to be applied to the plane.
There seemed to be some discrepancy between the advertised weight range and the manual’s indication. The advertisement indicated 10-11 pound range; the manual 9-11 pounds. So it appears as if the 11 pounds is near the maximum weight, and I’ll see if I can approach the 9 pound minimum.
|Here are some weights as they came right out of the box:|
|Fuselage, With Hatch||15 oz.|
|Wing, With Aluminum joining tube||32 oz.|
|Tail Feathers||6 oz.|
|Fiberglass, Cowl and Wheel Pants||10.5 oz.|
|Landing Gear, Aluminum (2-piece)||8.5 oz.|
|Hardware Package, including engine mount/tank||17 oz.|
|Total starting weight:||5.5 lbs.|
The airframe and hardware amount to 89 ounces or about 5.5 lbs. That left the remaining weight to be less than 55 ounces in order to meet that magical 9 pound limit. First I looked at the engine requirements. Lot of choices here: the Thunder Tiger 120 weighs in at 35.5 oz.; Evolution 100 would be 23 oz.; Saito 150 would be 30 oz. and an OS 120FS would be 35.3 oz. If I were to think about a gas burner, the G-26 would consume all of that remaining 55 oz.! So that option was out. A YS 140 would be nice, but too expensive for my pocketbook.
One feature that caught my eye was the aileron ‘hatch’ found on the bottom of both wing panels. The installing of twin aileron servos always concerns me and the first impressions of their arrangement seemed well engineered. Assembly of the Laser 200 appeared to be straight forth, commencing with the wing.
Each aileron was held to the wing with four “CA” hinges, all of which were pre-cut and dry mounted. A few drops of thin CA on each hinge produced a secure and tight fitting joint. The aileron-wing gap was almost non-existent and did not require any additional covering. The servo opening in the wing was well constructed and held the servos in an excellent orientation to route the pushrods to their respective aileron. Feeding the servo lead (with a 12" extension) through the wing was easily accomplished by merely holding the wing panel upright and letting the servo lead drop through.
When it came time to install the servo pushrods I felt uncomfortable. The supplied (metric) metal pushrods had what appeared to be a relatively small diameter - so some Du-Bro 4-40 pushrods and clevis were substituted to increase my comfort level. This did NOT require enlarging the control horns to accept this heftier hardware. With this arrangement, there wasn't any slop in the linkage. I adjusted the aileron throws to agree with the manual's recommendations.
Next on the agenda was the mounting of the engine. The Thunder Tiger 120 engine was unused at the time and drafted into service without a moment of hesitation. A Du-Bro Motor Mount was obtained and then mounted. This required the removal of the supplied and mounted blind nuts. Installation of the new blind nuts was easily accomplished due mostly to the variety of open spaces behind the firewall. I had used the Du-Bro mount on a couple of other projects and noise reduction and smooth running appeared to be the by-products - so I'm happy!
The mounting of the cowl required at least two sets of hands for some reason. This cowl was painted fiberglass and was LARGE. Access to the engine, with the cowl in place, is almost possible. In fact the front end of the cowl was so large that some scrap balsa was covered in UltraCote and used as a baffle on the left side so the moving air would flow over the engine/muffler region. The muffler's two exhaust pipes just barely fit inside the cowl before an exit hole was cut. A Du-Bro Remote Safety Ignitor (#793) was installed to eliminate another hole from being drilled into the cowl.
A couple of 4-40 blind nuts were placed into position to hold the cowl tightly against the fuselage. It took over 30 minutes to secure the bottom two blind nuts only to have both of them fall out when the bolt was removed! So some dowel was inserted, glued and redrilled for a 4-40 bolt. Then the hole was tapped and soaked with thin CA. This hole was retapped so a 4-40 bolt would continue to hold the cowl.
A beautiful 3" Tru-Turn spinner was installed (not included) to finish off the front end. I removed the engine so work could continue on the rest of the fuselage without having to fight the weight of the engine. The tank that was supplied appeared of good quality and I used it. Some silicon sealant was used to seal the front of the tank as it exits the firewall.
With the exhaust positioned just inside the cowl, I was concerned some fuel residue might circulate in the firewall area, so the entire firewall and tank area was given a light coat of 30-Minute Z-Poxy to prevent any future fuel soaking.
Two elevator servos were installed in the rear portion of the fuselage along with 18" extensions. After the extensions were installed it was duly noted by my better half, a "Y" connector could have been used in place of the extensions - and she was right (as usual)! The rudder servo was also installed at this time. After that was completed, the horizontal stabilizer was positioned in place and epoxied. Some Cub Yellow paint was added to the epoxy so any residue glue joint would blend in with the covering and be unnoticed. The stars were cut out of the decal sheet and positioned on both the horizontal and vertical stabs before gluing in place.
Those stars are something else! Almost 50 of 'em....and they all have to be individually cut out and placed in position. That process probably took an hour or so! Surely longer than the time necessary to assemble and mount the wheel pants. The drawing/pictures of this assembly was somewhat confusing, but after playing with the axles, wheel collars and landing gear, it all made sense.
The biggest surprise in assembling the Laser 200 was the manual. It clearly states this model is for 'advanced/intermediate' modelers, yet spends considerable attention to the gluing of CA hinges to the ailerons/elevators/rudder! Really now, are all those 'steps' necessary for the assembler? Someone putting this type of bird together should NOT have to learn how to glue hinges in place - but no harm was done. It was just my observation.
When it came to mounting the control horns on the tail feathers, a drill press was called into service and produced a set of three holes that actually lined up! The tail struts were installed without so much as a complaint as the locations were pre-drilled. Due to the flight forces on the tail feathers, it would be wise to install these struts.
The tail wheel assembly was the same as on other Seagull models. This mount relieved a great amount of stress that could have arrived from the ground and transferred to the rudder. The hatch fit the fuselage exactly as designed and was held with four bolts. Someone on the net recommended the tabs on the hatch be given another coating of epoxy, so some 30-minute Epoxy was called into service once again.
The final flurry of activity included items like mounting a Sullivan "HeadLock" (P/N/ M056) to the right landing gear, eliminating the need for cutting an additional hole in the cowl. Speaking of the cowl, a piece of balsa was used to block off the left half of the cowl, forcing the incoming air to pass over the engine and muffler. This baffle was covered in some scrap black Coverite and held in place with Pacers 'Zap-A-Dap-A-GooII'. A hole was cut in the bottom of the cowl to permit the exhaust to exit and hopefully keep enough air circulating to keep the engine running cool.
It appeared as if this plane didn’t want to fly! It took over a month of weekends to get this bird airborne – something was always stopping us from flying it. At first it was the engine – we couldn’t get the Thunder Tiger 120 to either idle slow enough, or if we got it slow enough, transition was bad. Get the transition fixed, it wouldn’t idle. New glow plug, fuel, fuel tubing and even a different prop didn’t seem to make the engine want to run like it should.
FINALLY, we got the engine tuned in, turning the APC 16-6 a solid 9800 RPM’s, idle under 2700 and great transitions. Ready to taxi out, the elevator didn’t respond! Then it would, and then it wouldn’t….so back to the shop and new on/off switch installed. Next weekend, same thing….replaced the receiver thinking the aileron connector was a bit lose. Still the same. Eliminate the ‘Y’ connector and program the Airtronics Stylus for two elevators. Good thing we did because the “Y” connector had two solder joints come ‘loose’ (AKA like they were never soldered in the first place!).
Everything was fine, beautiful weather, charged both transmitter and receiver overnight. Noontime it was a balmy 75 degrees with the wind gusting to 2 MPH, right down the runway and not a cloud in the sky. Turn on the radio and ZIP – NOTHING….flight pack was dead! What happened overnight, I don’t know but one thing I do know – it registered ZERO volts.
So off to the local hobby shop and pick up an 1100 mAh battery and fast charge it at the field. Did that twice – just to be sure. FINALLY the radio worked, engine ran fine and I said, “ What else could go wrong?” (Note to self: NEVER say that again!). I enlisted our local test pilot (Jerry Orme) for the maiden flight so I could take some pics – ‘just in case’.
The take off was very fast as the TT120 Pro sure pulled this bird around with authority. A couple of clicks and she was flying fast, straight and solid as a rock. A couple of rolls – could've rolled faster (it was set on the recommended “High” rates), inverted flight needed very little down elevator and loops were as high as you would like.
Three photo passes and then upstairs for some knife-edge. To everyone’s surprise, the Laser not only held level knife-edge, but with ¼ rudder deflection, it started climbing! I wanted to see that again so Jerry O. demonstrated how little rudder was needed to fly level. Jerry had about 4 people waiting behind him wanting a chance to test this bird. All the comments while the plane was in the pitts were positive and at least a half-dozen pilots expressed a desire to fly the Laser 200 and I was more than willing to let them have a chance to ring it out – but then Jerry O said something to the effect of, “I ain’t got it”. What we later learned was a damaged receiver took her out of the air. I found the pilot bust about 10 yards from the crash site – and tried mouth-to-mouth to no avail. We don’t know if he expired when the plane hit the ground or if HE was the cause of the crash – NTSB will be called in and I’m sure within a year or two we will know the results.
This crash really hurt – for the entire flight Jerry was commenting on how well it flew and even wanted to trade it for some plane in his hangar – but rescinded that offer after his ‘first and only’ "landing" of my first Laser 200.
Total destruction – but very high and positive comments from the test pilot convinced me to purchase another Laser 200 and try again. The previous radio failure was eventually traced back to a cracked component in the receiver. With that fixed, another model was built. Again, assembly proceeded quickly and accurately! All that was left was to give it another try and I enlisted Jonathan, my son, to do the honors this time.
Once we arrived at the field, we gave the Laser a thorough preflight check and found no problems. While taxing out, the tail wheel assembly provided precise ground control and was very responsive. There was a slight headwind, and after advancing to about half throttle, the laser gently began to lift off the ground.
Immediately after getting airborne the plane began to roll to the left, and significant right aileron trim was needed for straight and level flight. The plane’s bright yellow paint scheme was easy to see and looked sharp in the sky. After advancing the throttle to full, the Thunder Tiger 1.20 puttered and quit, and Jonathan was forced to make a dead-stick landing just past the runway. The elevator caught some brush, and after inspecting the plane again we found that the elevator servo gear had been stripped! So after a quick trip to the hobby store and a philosophical lesson on keeping the landings on the hard stuff from yours truly, the servo was fixed and ready to go. The second flight was much smoother with the ailerons trimmed out. After only a few passes, Jonathan was already getting comfortable with the plane’s flying characteristics and was commenting on how ‘honest’ this plane was flying. With the plane trimmed out, straight-and-level flight from one end of the field to the other was hands off. Knife-edge flight was rock solid, requiring very little opposite aileron to keep the plane from rolling out. The Laser’s monster rudder authority made it capable of high-alpha knife-edge flight. It was enough to start a knife-edge loop, but our engine-prop combination did not produce enough speed to climb to the top.
With the low-pitch APC prop, vertical up-lines were limited but slow 3D flight was more than capable. The engine-prop combination provided enough pull to hold a hover and torque roll, but was not enough to climb out with confidence so all hovering attempts were made above 50 feet! Loops were no problem, and were solid pulling out on the bottom. Snaps were crisp and stopped immediately when the controls were released. Aileron rolls on low rates were a bit mushy, but after switching to high rates the rolls were quick and axial. Four-point rolls were easily performed, as the plane had no problem locking in at every 90 degrees of rotation.
We experienced some more problems with the engine, and had 3 more dead-stick landings that day. The Laser’s light construction became apparent after seeing it’s gliding abilities that showed no signs of tip-stalls even at dangerously low airspeeds! After we got the engine running again, we tried some power-on stalls and had similar results. The nose would gently drop, with a wing dropping about 10 to 20 degrees. With high-rate elevator and full up, stalls would transition into an elevator, but not without some serious wing rock. We found that about ¾ elevator on high rate provided the most stable elevator/ harrier flight.
Upright and inverted spins were tight and predictable, but with our forward CG we could not get them to go flat. The plane would only rotate about ¼ rotation once the controls were neutralized. We did about a dozen touch-and-goes with no problems at all. The plane floated in on final feeling just like a trainer. It was responsive all the way to touchdown for a “greaser” every time. This plane felt like a great intermediate level plane, and should be great for a modeler seeking entry-level aerobatics and 3D when paired with a 1.20. While the Laser has Unlimited Aerobatics potential, the modeler might be wise to go for more power than a 1.20 or switch to a lower pitch prop for those long up-lines with multiple rolls and snaps. For the sport fliers out there, the Laser is more than up to the task. But like all larger aerobatic ARFs, be sure to throttle back when the nose goes down as the Laser is built light!
In conclusion, this was an easy build with few rough spots. The manual was excellent, perhaps even over-detailed. The fiberglass was top quality, and the aileron servo mounting excellent. I didn't like the supplied pushrods and chose to replace them for my comfort. As far as looks, all I can say is the plane received a LOT of attention with many complements relating to the size/cost and colorful appearance, and the test pilot said it was truly a joy to fly! The Thunder Tiger 120 was at the high end of the power range and it appeared to do an exceptional job of hauling this bird around the sky. I couldn't be happier that I chose to build the second aircraft.
So in summary…..it’s a KEEPER!!!!!
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