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Stevens Aeromodel MudBug Review

Four ounces of pure fun — what else could you ask for? In the world of micro planes, this one is definitely among the best. Character, quality and gentle flying are the main traits of Bill Stevens' new design. Napo Monasterio gives you the first in a series of articles reviewing Stevens' indoor/backyard lineup.

Splash

Introduction

It has the looks of a toy plane — but fear not, it is far from a toy! It weighs a mere three to four ounces AUW, and boy is it fun!

Among all of Stevens Aeromodel's indoor and backyard series planes, this may be the model with the most character. The wings have plenty of dihedral to allow for a nice, floaty, Sunday-evening flying (so much that I have dubbed it the MudBeagle!). The inflatable Trexler tires also add to the eclectic look of this original design, and the build process is easy and a blast!


Wingspan:22 in."
Wing Area:105 sq. in.
Weight:3-4 oz. AUW
Length:14 in."
Wing Loading:4.11 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:Two BMS-303.
Transmitter:Spektrum DX6
Receiver:Spektrum AR6000
Battery:Common Sense RC 2S 200mAh
Motor:GWS-LPS-B2C-CS motor gearbox combo
ESC:Castle Creations Pixie 7P
Manufacturer:Stevens Aeromodel
Available From:Stevens Aeromodel
Retail Price:$36.99

Kit Contents

I ordered my kit on a Tuesday night, and it was on my doorstep — from Colorado to Birmingham — on Friday, via USPS. Now that's fast shipping! Everything was neatly packed, and I quickly dived into the bag full of balsa goodies.

Kit contains:

  • Full-size plans (two pages, with inset instructions)
  • Three sheets with pre-cut balsa pieces and one sheet of pre-cut ply.
  • Pushrods
  • Landing gear setup
  • Trexler rubber wheels (optional, but they add all the more character to the plane)
  • Motor mount
  • Rubber bands and heatshrink

Kit requires:

  • Motor: GWS-LPS-B2C-CS motor gearbox combo — comes with two 7x6 props and spinners.
  • Receiver/ESC: Either a micro receiver and a brushed speed control (five to seven amps is more than plenty) or the recommended receiver/ESC combo from Stevens Aeromodel, the SA-SPF-5-ESC.
  • Servos: Two BMS-303 ultra-micro servos (recommended by Stevens Aeromodel) or similar.
  • Battery: 200-250mAH two-cell LiPo battery. Stevens recommends the LiPower (LP-250) that will be available from them in late September of this year.
  • Sharp X-Acto blades
  • Thin CA with applicator tips
  • 400-grit sandpaper
  • A tack cloth
  • So-Lite covering
  • Covering iron
  • Soldering iron

Assembly

The first thing I did was to make a few extra copies of the plans at full size since I am prone to gluing them together or something along those lines. I also knew I would be cutting it to make templates for the covering, too.

The only thing you need to do before getting started is to lightly sand all the pieces before taking them out of the balsa sheet. Some 400-grit sandpaper will do the trick. After that, lightly run a tack cloth through it to get rid of the the residue.

By the way, you can probably finish the kit itself (less electronics and covering) in some four hours or so. It's not a hard build, and it's one of the more enjoyable ones you'll have!

Wing

The first step — and probably the one that takes the longest — is the wing. Just follow the instructions, and be sure to make a left and a right wing! This might sound silly, but both wing frames have the same names, and you have to remember to "flip" one of them.

Tail

The next step is to prepare the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. With such small surfaces, all you need to do is to do a single 45-degree sanding on each of the stabilizers and control surfaces. Don't sand too much — this is a tiny plane!

Once you're done, set them aside, but don't hinge them yet!

Fuselage

I recommend not installing all the stabilizers/control surfaces until you're all finished with sealing and covering.

NOTE: there's a small, flat piece of balsa labeled F12 in the instructions, while the part itself is says F11, (and even if I didn't tell you, it's a very recognizable part, so you could've figured that one out yourself!) but the mislabeling issue has since been fixed in the latest runs of the plane.

The firewall is an easy install, albeit a weak one. Some people have added (or replaced it with) a small piece of plywood there (1/32"), and it might not be bad idea. Mine broke during an encounter with a rogue telephone pole. Granted, it won't break by itself, but planes tend to find obstacles by themselves, don't they?

The thrust angle is already set, so that's a nice touch. And if you added a piece of ply or two, it wouldn't add much weight or change the angle.

For the sealing, Stevens Aeromodel recommends Deft Clear Wood Finish lacquers (available at your local Woodcraft store, or any woodworking retailer). I laid a thin coat followed by a thicker coat (I think two thin coats should be plenty, and the model will be lighter, and every gram counts on this little tyke!). If you can't get that specific product, any lacquer sealer (and possibly even a Testors clear lacquer spray from the models area of your hobby shop) will do the trick.

Covering

OK, so you've built and sealed. Hooray, now you get to cover the plane!

Well, I'm not sure if you can call this covering. "Placing small patches of covering" might be a better description. So...

Heat up your iron to 180-200 degrees and, while it heats up, cut that extra copy of the plans (you did do that, right? :) ) and then cut the pieces of covering to shape. For the horizontal stabilizer, be sure to do the covering job on top of a flat surface, otherwise you might end up bending it, like I did the first time! Tack the covering in place in both the wings and the horizontal stabilizer, then crank up the temperature to about 250-275 degrees, and you'll be ready to shrink the covering.

Be careful with So-Lite, for it can melt (or so they tell me). Actually, it's a very forgiving covering, and you'll easily be able to shrink the wrinkles out of it easily (especially with a model such as this, with so many open surfaces).

Now that the surfaces are sealed and covered, you can go ahead and attach the horizontal stabilizer to the fuselage. Just be sure to align it correctly. Once you're done, you can do the vertical stabilizer, and a small ruler should be enough to help you get a 90-degree angle with the horizontal stabilizer. After that, you can do the hinges with some 3M Blenderm — or the tape of your choosing.

Radio Installation

The two recommended servos fit perfectly in the pre-cut holes. They're ultra-light, and they work great.

As far as the receiver, I used an Spektrum AR6000 because I have a DX6. If you have a DX7, I would suggest an AR6100 because of the smaller size and lighter weight. For the ESC, I used Castle Creations' Pixie 7P, and it works like a charm. Both are attached with Velcro in case I want to move them to other planes at some point.

Now, for you 72mHz folks... there's a better option, which Stevens Aeromodel recommends: the all-in-one receiver and ESC combo. Less wires, less weight and less clutter altogether. I put my RX inside of the fuselage and the ESC on the bottom so it would stay cool while flying.

Completion

I put some Velcro at the bottom of the fuselage in order to attach the LiPo battery, and then I ran all the wires.

Finally, I inflated the Trexler tires. I first used an air compressor, inflating them extremely carefully. Then I realized that you can use a syringe, and that way you won't run the risk of blowing them up! Once they're inflated, just tuck the "valve" inside the wheels.

Flying

For my pre-flight ritual, I set up the control throws as recommended on the instructions. You won't need a lot of throw for the controls, since this is a floater sort of plane. Don't expect it to knife-edge its way to the ends of the earth. ;)

The CG is easy to setup and adjust. The stock setup essentially leaves your plane balanced before you put your battery in, and by placing it on the front of the fuselage's bottom, you should have it almost perfect. If you need to adjust it, you can move it a bit back or forth along the strip of Velcro.

Basics

At less than four ounces, this plane is just about the most floaty one you'll have in your hangar. But wait, there's more! Rev it up a bit, and it speeds up a bit and can even climb at a whopping 30-degree angle!

The control surfaces respond very well, though I had to trim my rudder quite a bit to the right. I'm rather sure it was a build error, but either way, it still flies fine.

You'll find that low flying is a rather fun thing to do, once you have your plane well-trimmed. At 1/2-2/3 throttle, you can fly at three to four feet and still maintain altitude and make nice, coordinated turns. I presume that the fact that there is so much dihedral in the wings is the main reason why you don't need to apply much elevator while you turn.

With my Common Sense 2S 700mAh battery, flights last some 15 minutes at least if I use some throttle management. But then again, you're not buying this plane for pylon racing so you'll often be flying at half throttle.

It goes without saying that you should fly the MudBug in calm conditions. However, it's kind of fun to fly it with a 2-3 mph breeze. It tries to chug along against the wind, and it actually succeeds! That little GWS geared motor might be small, but it's more powerful than you think!

As far as how much space you need to fly it, you don't need a lot of it... once you get comfortable with the plane. I made the mistake of flying behind my house after the first flight, and all I can say is that I'm glad I had the workbench handy.

A space of 80'x80' or maybe less should be enough to have some fun with the MudBug, but as always, the more the merrier, especially when it comes to landing since that part can be a bit tricky. A small baseball diamond (Little-League size) would be more than ideal.

Overall, this is one graceful, cute plane in the air. It has a unique look that most parkflyers don't, and it's sure to get a lot of double-takes at the field.

Taking Off and Landing

The MudBug will definitely ROG, but you might need to do it on the asphalt or some sort of dirt (a baseball field would be a great place for this). Personally, since I usually fly on grassy areas, I just give it a quick toss, and it's up in the air. But I've had it ROG once on grass (just be sure it's cut short, otherwise you'll be cutting the grass with the prop).

As far as landings, asphalt or dirt is a good place as well. You'll love the way the plane hops from side to side with those rubber wheels! But when it comes to grass, you'll often belly-land once you hit the ground. I've never had any damage this way, since the momentum in such a light plane is so small, but that's what's likely to happen.

Landings can also be sort of tricky, because the plane is very susceptible to wind when flying at low throttle speeds, so be sure to leave yourself some extra space and be clear of any obstacles. And yes, that's first-hand experience.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

Don't expect any. Enough said. :)

This is a gentle flier, and it does the job beautifully. I managed to perform a couple of quasi-loops, but most of the time I just ended up stalling.

But then again, if you wanted something that hovers, you probably wouldn't buy this plane in the first place!

Is This For a Beginner?

You bet! Here's why:

1. It's easy to build: There are few parts, and they're clearly marked. And most of the tools you need are tools foamie fliers will probably already have on their workbench.

2. It's easy to fly. It's a playful, slow plane that will easily self-correct and

3. It's easy to repair: And yes, I know that for a fact! All you need to take to the field is some thin CA, and you'll be in business. I even managed to repair the motor mount with some spare balsa, thin CA and a hobby knife. And that was after I almost crushed it!

4. It's affordable: At $37 for a full kit, it's a steal. And the complete motor combo is only $18, which would be the only other thing you might break or wear out, (which might happen sooner than you think).

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Conclusion

We've all got our fair share of scale planes, warbirds, flying wings and the occasional electric-ducted-fan kit., but not everybody has a balsa plane with wings like Beagle ears with such a small size that you could fly it in your backyard. And everyone needs one, right?

This kit is built to the Stevens Aeromodel standards, very high, to say the least, and it may be one of the best, most eclectic designs to come from Bill Stevens.

I highly recommend this kit, not just for its uniqueness, but also for its high-quality flying. I now take it with me to the field every time!

Pluses:

  • Great quality kit
  • Unique and unmatched character
  • Fantastic flight characteristics
  • Great value

Minuses:

  • Weak firewall
  • Weak aluminum landing gear. NOTE: One of Stevens’ builders ran a small length of 1/32" music wire down the center of the gear/axle and was very happy with the results. They plan on making this modification standard in later kit runs.

Overall, I'd have to say that this might be the perfect plane for someone who's moving from foamies to balsa. It's a really easy — but really enjoyable — first build for someone who wants to get started with kit planes.

Last edited by Angela H; Sep 02, 2007 at 08:01 PM..
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Sep 01, 2007, 10:01 PM
Gravity is a harsh mistress.
Tim Wolff's Avatar
Nicely Done! The MudBug is an excellent gym flyer too. I had the pleasure of watching Bill Stevens put one through its paces at the PERF Fly-In back in April. The Trexler wheels really finish it off.
Sep 01, 2007, 10:32 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Tim,

Thanks for the kind words. Yes, the MudBug is an excellent flyer all around. I hope to find a gym here in town where I can fly more of Steven Aeromodels' new planes. I will have more reviews of them coming soon.

Flying them outside is a hoot, though -- it's fun to hover and fight the wind, and going downwind makes this tiny plane go rather fast! And the funny thing is, this plane is much more manageable in the wind than some of my heavier, bigger and more powerful foamies.

I bet watching Bill Stevens fly his plane must have been quite the treat -- lucky you!
Sep 02, 2007, 09:10 AM
USA'd ex Brit
toesup's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spackles94
Flying them outside is a hoot, though -- it's fun to hover and fight the wind, and going downwind makes this tiny plane go rather fast! And the funny thing is, this plane is much more manageable in the wind than some of my heavier, bigger and more powerful foamies.
On the strength of your build / flight 'report', I've ordered a Mudbug... and a few other planes from the Stevens lineup
Sep 02, 2007, 09:46 AM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by toesup
On the strength of your build / flight 'report', I've ordered a Mudbug... and a few other planes from the Stevens lineup
I plead guilty to having ordered a few more, too. These little "bugs" are fun to build and fly, and really affordable, too!

And, even if you wanted to, you could easily swap everything except for the servos between all the indoor planes. The motor is extremely easy to put in and take out.

That said, I will still have four more indoor planes completely fitted with everything except for RXs.

Glad you enjoyed the review!

So, what all did you order?
Sep 02, 2007, 12:51 PM
-Flight enthusiast_
gpeden's Avatar
Hi,

Once I install the pushrods on my Lil'Squirt and it will be ready to go. Cute little thing I'm glad that I chose this model because I like the more traditional appearance. I was torn between suffering the weight of sealing or not and chose to go with raw, sanded wood this time because I live more than a mile high in a dry climate.

The brand of the tires is Trexler, BTW I've used a syringe for inflating the ones I've had over the years, but this time around I splurged $10 for the hand pump.

I'm using the SPF-5 ESC/receiver and I have to say that I was very disappointed that the " proudly made in the USA" quality was very poor for the antenna wire. When I tried to strip the wire for soldering a micro-antenna, there was only a few strands of apparently cheap wire that broke easily. While I'm sure that the intent was to save weight, I think that a higher strand count with finer copper wire would be a good idea.

I'm hoping to use this great little model to give some of my friends a taste of R/C in local parking lots

Cheers!

Glen
Sep 02, 2007, 03:25 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Glen,

I hope to eventually build the Squirt, too. It's a great design, and yes, it does look more like a plane.

Thanks for catching that misspelling! We'll try to fix it.

I can't comment on the RX/ESC situation, since I'm a Spektrum person. Maybe someone reading this has some more insight about it?

I'm sure your friends will enjoy watching the plane zip along the parking lot — that's the great thing about these planes, you can fly them just about anywhere! Maybe you'll get a couple of folks into the hobby with it!
Sep 03, 2007, 05:04 PM
Registered User
RandyL's Avatar
Good review, I was reading along and hoping I would read about the weak landing gear tubing ( very easily fixed ) as it was the only negitive I had during the build of my Mudbug and 1919 White. You gave the review enourmous credit by mentioning the axle situtation.
I enjoy the scale features of the White but the Mudbug gets the attention at the field! Great fun...
Randy
Sep 03, 2007, 05:09 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by RandyL
Good review, I was reading along and hoping I would read about the weak landing gear tubing ( very easily fixed ) as it was the only negitive I had during the build of my Mudbug and 1919 White. You gave the review enourmous credit by mentioning the axle situtation.
I enjoy the scale features of the White but the Mudbug gets the attention at the field! Great fun...
Randy
Thanks Randy!

Yeah, mine broke, too, and I ended up replacing it with an extra piece of pushrod I had laying around from the E-Starter. Easy fix.

The White is next on my workbench, and I'll be doing a review of it. I might stop by the LHS and get a piece of CF for the landing gear, otherwise I might just use some more pushrod.

I agree — the MudBug gets a lot of attention when folks come and watch me play. It's a playful little thing!

So, what did you fix your landing gear with?

Thanks again for the kind words!

Napo

P.S.: Nice pilot on the 1919 White! Where'd you get the image from? I was hoping to print a pilot of some sort, too (though, given the eclectic nature of Bill's planes, I might go with a Snoopy one )!
Sep 03, 2007, 05:26 PM
Registered User
RandyL's Avatar
Like yourself, I used a scrap piece of music wire that fit the wheels. Only being a couple of inchs long I could not see the value in buying carbon fibre rod... I maybe added a gram??? I used a couple little pieces of .049 fuel tubing as wheel retainers. It has all worked perfectly.
You will be able to use the aluminum tubing on the White as it has music wire struts that come down from the fuse and enter the hollow part of the axle. This music wire holds the wheels on and braces the aluminum tubing axle, much like the addition that they may be including with the Mudbug now.
The White pilot happens to be me.. I shrunk me down and did a L / R print out, addred a bit of nylon string ( shredded ) for a scarf and glued it all up to some scrap cerial box cardbord. It pops on and off with a slight twist.
I still have an idea for a Mudbug pilot but have not gotten it done..

Randy
Sep 03, 2007, 06:00 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by RandyL
Like yourself, I used a scrap piece of music wire that fit the wheels. Only being a couple of inchs long I could not see the value in buying carbon fibre rod... I maybe added a gram??? I used a couple little pieces of .049 fuel tubing as wheel retainers. It has all worked perfectly.
You will be able to use the aluminum tubing on the White as it has music wire struts that come down from the fuse and enter the hollow part of the axle. This music wire holds the wheels on and braces the aluminum tubing axle, much like the addition that they may be including with the Mudbug now.
The White pilot happens to be me.. I shrunk me down and did a L / R print out, addred a bit of nylon string ( shredded ) for a scarf and glued it all up to some scrap cerial box cardbord. It pops on and off with a slight twist.
I still have an idea for a Mudbug pilot but have not gotten it done..

Randy
Very interesting! I have yet to receive my latest order from Stevens Aeromodel (that's what happens when you live on the other side of the country, I guess! ) so I have yet to see what the 1919 looks like. I agree that it might not be a worthy investment in putting the CF rod unless you have some extra one laying around or need to use it on another project.

That's really ingenious about the pilot! Good job! I will definitely be doing the scarf thing!
Sep 03, 2007, 07:19 PM
BEC
BEC
Registered User
BEC's Avatar
Mine is just about ready (finally) to maiden. It's a bit too breezy out in the cul-de-sac right now for a maiden - but perhaps shortly before sunset.

I've put a 1/32 music wire inside the aluminum tube for the gear - we'll see how that works out.

My airplane weighs 2.8 ounces without a battery, so will be 3.3 with a battery (ETec 250). That's about half an ounce heavier than either my Lil SQuiRT or DiddleBug. But with lots more wing area I don't expect that'll be a problem.
Sep 03, 2007, 08:50 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BEC
Mine is just about ready (finally) to maiden. It's a bit too breezy out in the cul-de-sac right now for a maiden - but perhaps shortly before sunset.

I've put a 1/32 music wire inside the aluminum tube for the gear - we'll see how that works out.

My airplane weighs 2.8 ounces without a battery, so will be 3.3 with a battery (ETec 250). That's about half an ounce heavier than either my Lil SQuiRT or DiddleBug. But with lots more wing area I don't expect that'll be a problem.
Cool, let us know how your maiden flight went!

That's a great idea about "reinforcing" the aluminum tube!

I need to get a scale and weigh mine. I think it came out a bit on the heavy side, but I can't tell for sure. Now that I'm going to be building more of them, I'd definitely like to know.
Sep 03, 2007, 09:30 PM
Registered User
RandyL's Avatar
Mine weighs in at 3.1 w/o the battery ( sort of piggy ) but I am not using an integrated esc reciever or anything special...just standard GWS parts and an E-tec 250.

A fellow flyer built one after seeing mine and I did the maiden on it a couple of weeks ago... It is noticably heavier, at least an ounce or more. Even had a 400 ma battery! It flew very much like mine, I was surprised how little difference there was. Then he broke the axle so we flew it with no landing gear or tires..this made it a lot lighter, still no real difference.

I notice that mine flys best on the "wing". If hand launched, it needs time to build up flying speed. If elevator is applied too much or too soon the aircraft will actually loose altitude. Elevator is almost a trim function, at least the way these two are set up.

Randy

Good luck on your maiden.
Sep 04, 2007, 12:57 AM
BEC
BEC
Registered User
BEC's Avatar
OK - my Mud Bug is officially an airplane. I got about 12 minutes on it in the cul-de-sac late this afternoon. The extra weight and drag on the same power as the DB or Lil' SQuiRT is noticeable in that it will only loop early in the charge. But it handles very nicely and will slow way way down - so the extra wing area works. I shot a few bounce-bounce-bounce and goes and did bend the axle in spite of the 1/32 music wire inside the aluminum tube. I think a .06 carbon rod would be the hot setup or maybe better fiberglass (more flexible/forgiving).

ROGs from the pavement in 10-15 feet. Once I launched it off the roof of my car (old Mazda hatchback) and it sagged a little before starting to climb. I often launch the DiddleBug off the canopy of my little pickup.

It will do a decent rudder roll (on a 45 degree downline ) and unlike the DB or LS there is no wing flutter when I do it.

Full inventory of equipment for those keeping track:

MikroDesigns SPF-5-ESC with MikroTenna (a short receiver antenna), two Cirrus CS 101 (4g) servos. Power system from SA (GWS LPS-B2C-C, GWS 7x6 RS prop, small spinner). Battery is ETec-250 that's a couple of years old (I first got 'em for my DiddleBug when it was new). I only put a couple of really light coats of sealer on this one (my other two "diddle" planes are bare wood and have held up fine). Covering is SoLite dark blue on wings, yellow on tail. I am using the No. 5 Trexlers for the mains.

I'd have flown it some more but was in a hurry to go off and put my Switchback up for the first time in a long while and I can't do that in the cul-de-sac.

By the way, I enjoyed the video and I have a couple of questions about that - mainly what settings did you use for exporting the .mov file from iMovie to get a 5+ minute video under 9 MB?


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