Stevens Aeromodel Lil'SQuiRT V2 Review

It looks like the Squirt, but yes, it's Lil, indeed. Stevens Aeromodel's new release combines the easy, trainer-like flight characteristics of the original Squirt, yet it comes wrapped in a three-ounce, 25" wingspan package you can fly in the smallest of places. Napo Monasterio is back with the second in a series of articles reviewing Stevens' indoor/backyard lineup.

Behold, here comes the LilSquirt, in all its 17.5-inch glory!

Introduction

A few years back, Bill Stevens of Stevens Aeromodel came up with a nifty trainer, the Squirt 400. Still a popular choice for first-time builders and beginner pilots, it's a three-channel which can be powered with the inexpensive GWS gear.

Now, in a move that resembles a scene from "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," the Squirt is back — only tiny!

It's still built to Stevens' highest standards and continues his tradition of fun indoor/backyard releases. It uses the same motor and electronics as any of the others, and it can still be flown in small yards or a gym. And it's just as fun to fly as the rest of his planes.

And, as an added bonus to pilots with little stick time, it's as durable as it gets for a balsa plane.

Behold, here comes the LilSquirt, in all its 17.5-inch glory!
Behold, here comes the LilSquirt, in all its 17.5-inch glory!
Wingspan:23.5"
Wing Area:105 sq. in.
Weight:2.5-3 oz.
Length:17.5"
Wing Loading:3.7 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:Two BMS-303 4g servos
Transmitter:Spektrum DX6
Receiver:Spektrum AR6000
Battery:Common Sense 2S 200mAh LiPo
Motor:GWS-LPS-B2C-CS motor gearbox combo with a 7x6 GWS slowfly propeller
ESC:Castle Creations 7P
Manufacturer:Stevens Aeromodel
Available From:Stevens Aeromodel
Price:$26.99 (with spindle wheels) to $36.99 (with Trexler balloon wheels)

Kit Contents

Stevens' kits usually come neatly packaged, and this was no exception. All the balsa sheets are taped to a piece of carboard, and once you rip open that plastic bag, you're in for a treat.

Here's what you'll find inside that bag full of balsa goodies:

  • Three sheets of laser-cut balsa parts
  • One sheet of laser-cut ply
  • Music wire for landing gear and pushrods
  • A bag with wooden dowels, rubber bands — and some spindle wheels if you didn't order the Trexler balloon ones

Here's what you'll need to build this kit (which is not much and you'll likely have already):

  • X-Acto knife and sharp blades
  • Thin CA with CA tips
  • Sandpaper (400-grit is what I'd suggest, and preferably in some sort of sanding block)
  • Tack cloth (or similar cloth material you can use on the balsa after sanding)
  • Clear finish — either water-based or lacquer based, usually available at your hardware store or hobby shop
  • Hinge tape (Blenderm is my hinge tape of choice)
  • So-Lite covering
  • Covering iron
  • Soldering iron and heatshrink
  • Hobby square and ruler
  • Velcro tape
  • 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), available from his site.

Assembly

Just like most of these tiny planes, the build process will go faster than you can say, "I'm done!" So, in a couple of evenings, you should be able to have the plane ready for covering and electronics. The laser-cutting is phenomenal, and all the parts interlock in such a way that you literally can't do it the wrong way. When it comes to ease of construction, this might just be the easiest plane Stevens has put out to date.

So, give all the parts a quick sanding before removing them from the balsa sheet, and let's get started!

Fuselage

The instructions are extremely self-explanatory, so I won't go into much detail about them, and I'll let the pictures and captions do the talking. A couple of things to notice, however:

On step one, it says that "F1, ply F2, F3 and F3 are marked top." That last F3 should be F4. A minor mistake, but you still have to fit that F4 somewhere, and you want to do that before you glue both fuselage halves!

As you progress with the build, you will notice how well-reinforced the plane is, especially near the nose, cockpit and landing-gear areas. And, best of all, Bill Stevens has managed to do that without compromising the weight of the Lil'Squirt (every last gram matters here). I especially appreciated the plywood firewall, which I hope he does incorporate in other indoor models.

It's always nice to use your hobby square as you move through the build, though you'll soon realize that most pieces interlock with other pieces in such a way that the right angles are seamlessly achieved.

Tail

This is as simple as it gets here: Just pop the parts off the balsa sheet and glue them onto the fuselage.

(Well, almost that simple.)

For the vertical and horizontal stabilizers, the instructions don't mention doing a beveled edge on the trailing edges. So I didn't do it. Why? Because this is a trainer plane and you don't need insane rates, and I don't believe having that extra travel envelope will make any difference (it will likely hinder the flying characteristics!).

You do, however, need to bevel the control surfaces, and a few steady passes with a 400-grit sanding stick or block (yes, an even surface is key here!) will just do the trick.

Unlike the MudBug (which I have reviewed as well) and the DiddleBug, the horizontal stabilizer doesn't require any covering. I would recommend holding off on the gluing until you have covered it, so you're safe to go ahead and glue everything in place. However, do wait to hinge the control surfaces until you've glued the stabilizers to the fuselage.

Wing

Bill Stevens' precise engineering shines once again in here. Everything fits together perfectly, and little to no sanding is required.

The best thing to do when building your wings is to be sure that you're building a left and a right wing. Bill has made it easy here, and as long as you line everything up with the laser-etched marks, you're good to go.

As a final detail on the wings, I chose to round the leading edge — and I did the same thing with the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. Do you need to? Certainly not. Does it look better? I think it does, since it breaks up the rest of the squarish lines of the plane. Will it affect the performance of the plane? Probably not. So it's up to you — I just took some creative liberty with the build on this stage.

The covering job is as simple as it gets — just cut out two pieces of So-Lite, seal the edges and the shrink it. It didn't take me more than 10 minutes to be done with it, and I think this is the best way for someone to get acquainted with doing a covering job without being intimidated by it.

I would go into great lengths about how to do a great covering job, but I think you'll find this excellent tutorial much more helpful.

Landing gear

New pilots — and experiences pilots, too, though they just won't tell you — sometimes struggle with those less-than-stellar landings. And those less-than-stellar landings sometimes take their toll on the fuselage. However, the Lil'Squirt aims to help you with that. (The damage part, not the landings!)

With a clever yet simple set of rubber bands and wood dowels, the landing gear has a sort of "suspension system" that will absorb most of the bumpy encounters with the ground rather than give you an unpleasant "crunch" sound.

The supplied tires are plain ol' spindle wheels, but leave it to Bill Stevens to add some wheel hubs and make them look cool. That's what I used, but the kit also recommends Trexler #2 rubber tires, and those are way cooler (and a bit more forgiving when it comes to rougher landings).

Completion

There is little else to do other than to install dowels and other small details.

Speaking of dowels, here's a must-do: Be sure to put the vinyl windshield on before putting the dowels in. Otherwise, it'll be next to impossible to stick it to the fuselage without ripping it.

Radio Installation

Just about any small receiver will fit fine on the underside of the fuselage, but if you'd like to get rid of some extra wires, you could always put it underneath the wing by drilling a small hole for the wires to go in.

The battery will go up on the underside as well, and putting a piece of velcro tape along where the CG is will just do the trick for balancing your plane.

The servos can just be glued in. A couple of drops of thin CA will work just fine, but here's a trick to make adjustable pushrods — brought to you by the MudBug build:

Make your pushrods a bit longer than they're supposed to be (about 1/4" should be enough, but you can always make them longer and then trim them back — you can cut wire, but you can't add it back!) and get a piece of heatshrink. Then, cut the pushrod and "reattach" it with the heatshrink. Run some heat through it, and they'll be tight enough that you can adjust them while you center your servos and whatnot. Once you're satisfied, just drop a couple of drops of CA glue on the heatshrink, and they won't move at all. If you want to readjust them, just use a new piece of heatshrink. It's that simple!

Flying

Considering the LilSquirt weighs a mere three ounces, I picked a calm day for the maiden flight. At least I thought I did, anyway!

Once I got to the field, it was getting a bit breezy — 3-4 mph, but that's enough to toss the plane around a bit around. But, brave as I like to think I am, I decided to take my chances and maiden this balsa piece of beauty.

Basics

The recommended throws are 3/8" each way for the rudder and 45 degrees for the elevator. I believe my travel rates were a bit more than that, especially when it came to the rudder.

I didn't pay the price, but I definitely learned my lesson.

With large throws, the plane tends to be rather twitchy (after all, it's not a wild-and-wooly 3D machine!). So after a couple of minutes, I brought it down and reduced the throws. I started with 55% on the travel rates, and by the time I finished the maiden flights, I was down to about 45% on both rudder and elevator. If you like using exponential on your radio, using that feature might work well for you.

The CG was easy to set up — I just put the battery as far forward as I could, and that made it fly great. A plane so light can be more prone to stall out when hit by a wind gust, so the more you can do to compensate for that, the better. I believe my battery was 1/4" or so farther back on the first flight, and I could start telling the difference quickly, so for the next flight I moved it forward, and it was a lot more stable.

Taking Off and Landing

One thing's clear here: There's not much point even trying to take off from grass if you're using the spindle wheels. Unless you're taking off from a green at your country club, you're going to have a hard time with a ROG. I tried, and I ended belly-up most of the time. If you're using Trexler wheels, it's likely to be much easier (the extra prop clearance will help out, too).

Pavement take-offs are really fun, though: I did them, and the LilSquirt took off in little more than 10 feet, and it was quickly up, up and away, even with the spindle wheels. So, when it comes to taking off, I've decided that a light toss is the way to go. Just throttling up halfway will be plenty for it to be airborne and on its way. It's much simpler, and you won't have to worry about finding a suitable surface to take off from.

As far as landings, they were surprisingly tricky. With a little bit of wind, the plane tends to move around quite a bit, so if you're slowing down for the landing, the plane is going to be even twitchier.

Landing on the grass will again prove to be a bit weird, almost in the way that taking off is. Even if you're set up for a perfect landing, the plane will likely go belly-up once the wheels touch down on terra firma. It's not as hard for landing on pavement, but you still need to be gentle with the controls once you're a foot or two off the ground, otherwise you could easily be landing on your wing tips.

But hey, don't be discouraged, there is good news! As many less-than-stellar landings as I had, I had no damage to the plane whatsoever whereas, with some other Stevens Aeromodel kits, I often had to unbend the landing gear or put CA back here and there. With the LilSquirt, I just picked it up and marveled at how durable it is, especially for a plane made out of 1/32" balsa sheets!

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

Don't expect to hover with this plane , and don't expect to do snap rolls either. But you didn't expect that from a three-ounce trainer, now did you?

However, it's a bit more aerobatic than some other indoor models, and it does the best loops — OK, quasi-loops! — of all the small Stevens Aeromodel planes I've reviewed so far.

But this plane is a trainer, and like any bigger trainer, it's not going to be fully acrobatic, or even close to it. And, for the sake of bringing it back to earth in one piece, it shouldn't be either.

Is This For a Beginner?

Why yes, of course! The Squirt is a trainer, and this is mini-Squirt, so it's as good of a trainer as its bigger sibling.

I love the fact that, once you get it well trimmed, it doesn't take long at all, it's just a matter of cutting back on the travel rates for the control surfaces. It's an extremely maneuverable plane, and it's extremely forgiving. As a matter of fact, it's rather self-correcting; letting go of the controls, or just making small adjustments, is all you'll need to make it get back from oh-no-I'm-going-straight-down to oh-yeah-I'm-back-flying-on-a-straight-line.

The build process is easy enough for anyone who knows their way around a hobby knife and glue, too. That's pretty much all you need to know (and you can get some great tips for how to cover your wings right here, and you'll quickly be on your way to flying your very own plane. And, personally, there's nothing I find more rewarding in this hobby than flying a plane I've built myself. There's a great sense of accomplishment in that, and everyone should trade the now-trendy foam for the timeless look of balsa.

And, though it looks like a flimsy set of loosely-attached pieces of wood, it's actually an extremely durable plane. If something is to happen to it, you don't need epoxy glue or tape or anything fancy: Just bring your thin CA to the field with you, and you'll be back in the air in no time!

Finally, not only does it fly slow, it can also be flown close to you, but you don't have to worry about being three-mistakes high or anything like that. When I was learning to fly, I had a problem with letting go of my plane and being high enough. I thought that the closer I kept it to me, the safer it would be. Well, as we all know, close to the ground is not close to safety, since it can all go south quicker than we can say "Watch out!" However, with the LilSquirt, you can still be relatively close to your plane, yet you'll still be at a safe altitude and distance that you won't easily hit the ground.

Flight Video

Downloads

Conclusion

Bill Stevens, unsurprisingly, has done it again: a plane with plenty of character that’s easy to build, fun to fly and easy to repair for a beginner (not that I would know, for I have yet to pop open the glue bottle at the field, but still...), and he's done it all in less than three ounces!

The LilSquirt is all of the above and then some. It might just be the perfect trainer plane. I really do like the fact that novice pilots can keep it close to them and still not worry about crashing.

Pluses:

  • Superb design and laser-cutting makes for a trouble-free build
  • Fun and forgiving, even the first-time pilot can have a blast with it
  • Small size and light weight, it can fly in small places, it can go slow — but it can still zip along!
  • Extremely durable — from the landing gear to small details such as plywood firewall and reinforced stabilizer tips

Minuses:

  • I'd like to see an option where you could buy it with a couple of pieces of covering. After all, it's such a small swatch you need to use, it would be nice for first-time builders to just get whatever piece of covering they wanted instead of having to buy a $12 roll of So-Lite.
Last edited by Angela H; Oct 24, 2007 at 11:07 AM..
Thread Tools
Oct 26, 2007, 06:25 PM
I prefer XT's
Phaeton's Avatar
Hi Spackles94,

Thanks for the review! Gives me confidence to maiden mine...

Indeed superb quality and very durable when assembled.

Looks a bit fast though?

Yvo
Oct 26, 2007, 06:41 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Yvo,

No problem!

Yeah, it's very well designed, indeed.

And yeah, it's a bit faster, especially when compared to the MudBug, which has more wing loading.

But it's not hard to fly at all. The only thing you have to be sure of is to trim the travel rates down a bit, because it's actually more responsive than you think.

I hope to fly it again tomorrow, and I hope it's not as windy as the last time. Nonetheless, it did handle wind surprisingly well!

Have you built yours yet?
Oct 26, 2007, 10:56 PM
Registered User
It's great plane. I love mine. It's the perfect step up from the aeroaces.
Oct 27, 2007, 03:44 AM
BEC
BEC
Registered User
BEC's Avatar
Interesting to see the differences. The ply in the nose is a real improvement. Not so sure about the solid stab (no covering).

I have a beta V1 Lil SQuiRT that still does duty in the cul-de-sac and other places. It even did some buddy box flight training of absolute novices (as did my Mud Bug) a few weeks ago.

What sort of tailskid is there on the V2? That area was still TBD on my V1 beta, and I've had several arrangements back there.

By the way, of the three little SA planes I have (DiddleBug, Lil' SQuiRT, MudBug), the Lil' SQuiRT is the best at cul-de-sac touch and goes.

One minor correction - I think the wood is 1/16, not 1/32 inch thick. Oh, and the "a few years back" is not quite three. My SQuiRT 400 (an early one) has been flying since late March of 2005.

I have a Lil' SQuiRT V2 in the kit stash and I'll get there eventually.....and someday I need to finish the 700 as well.....
Oct 27, 2007, 05:38 AM
I prefer XT's
Phaeton's Avatar
Here's mine, for inspiration

Built with what I had available:
- Hacker A10-9L (1700 kV)
- GWS prop 6x3
- Jeti Advance 8A Light ESC
- Jeti Rex MPD 4 ch rx
- Blue Arrow servo's
- PolyQuest 2s1p 300 mAh lipo's

Modifications:
- Custom battery tray
- Motormount to hold the Hacker

About 110 gram, 3.88 oz.

Tx settings (to start with - to be tuned in practice):
- Control surfaces throw reduced to 70%
- Throttle throw reduced to 70%
- 40% expo on rudder & elevator

Yvo
Last edited by Phaeton; Oct 27, 2007 at 05:58 AM. Reason: Tx settings
Oct 27, 2007, 03:55 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Yvo,

Nice job on the Lil'Squirt! So, you decided to go brushless with this one too, eh? Have you maidened it yet?

It seems like it came a bit on the heavy side — I take it the extra power from the brushless motor makes up for that, right?

Looks good!
Oct 27, 2007, 04:03 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BEC
Interesting to see the differences. The ply in the nose is a real improvement. Not so sure about the solid stab (no covering).

I have a beta V1 Lil SQuiRT that still does duty in the cul-de-sac and other places. It even did some buddy box flight training of absolute novices (as did my Mud Bug) a few weeks ago.

What sort of tailskid is there on the V2? That area was still TBD on my V1 beta, and I've had several arrangements back there.

By the way, of the three little SA planes I have (DiddleBug, Lil' SQuiRT, MudBug), the Lil' SQuiRT is the best at cul-de-sac touch and goes.

One minor correction - I think the wood is 1/16, not 1/32 inch thick. Oh, and the "a few years back" is not quite three. My SQuiRT 400 (an early one) has been flying since late March of 2005.

I have a Lil' SQuiRT V2 in the kit stash and I'll get there eventually.....and someday I need to finish the 700 as well.....
BEC,

Thanks for the correction, I'm going to see if we can get that fixed.

I have the DiddleBug on the build stash, I hope to get to build it some time, too. It looks like a gentle flier.

I think the horizontal stab not being covered is just for the sake of making it stronger and more crash-resistant. Notice the cross-grain reinforcements — those can really help with less-than-perfect landings (or unintentional landings!). Also, I think that's also one less thing for new builders to have to worry about. So, just covering the two wing halves is less intimidating than covering four parts.

I've attached a photo of the landing gear here, you can see it's the same as the MudBug and the DiddleRod and most other SA backyard fliers —*except for the 1919 Monoplane (nylon skid) and E-Spresso (wire skid).
Oct 27, 2007, 04:08 PM
I prefer XT's
Phaeton's Avatar
Thanks Yep, brushless again... Call it a bad habit

This gear was what I had available. Otherwise I would have chosen a smaller Hacker and smaller ESC, which would have saved me about 9 gram. I do have E-Tec 250 mAh lipo's, but they are only rated for 6C, too low for the Hacker. Which made the PolyQuest's the first alternative. Althoug with a weight penalty.

This setup gives me unlimited vertical (should I ever want to), so that makes up for the extra weight. I guess

It is still the same here : Lipo's are charged, tx battery is charged, flightbox is packed, camera ready (movie...), but the wind and/or rain over here doesnt permit me to fly...

But as soon as weather permits..

Yvo
Oct 27, 2007, 04:41 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phaeton
Thanks Yep, brushless again... Call it a bad habit

This gear was what I had available. Otherwise I would have chosen a smaller Hacker and smaller ESC, which would have saved me about 9 gram. I do have E-Tec 250 mAh lipo's, but they are only rated for 6C, too low for the Hacker. Which made the PolyQuest's the first alternative. Althoug with a weight penalty.

This setup gives me unlimited vertical (should I ever want to), so that makes up for the extra weight. I guess

It is still the same here : Lipo's are charged, tx battery is charged, flightbox is packed, camera ready (movie...), but the wind and/or rain over here doesnt permit me to fly...

But as soon as weather permits..

Yvo
Hmmm... I'd like to see that movie of unlimited vertical.

What kind of wheels are you using, by the way?
Oct 27, 2007, 05:59 PM
I prefer XT's
Phaeton's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spackles94
Hmmm... I'd like to see that movie of unlimited vertical.

What kind of wheels are you using, by the way?
Ok, deal (movie)

I considered using the "wooden" stock wheels, but since I will be flying from asphalt I think they will tend to "follow" the irregularities too much. I use Hobby Lobby's smallest LYT wheels, go over cracks instead of through I hope. I've got a landing gear after all, with which I want to take-off from ground

If that doesn't work, I'll upgrade to the #2 balloons...

Yvo
Last edited by Phaeton; Oct 27, 2007 at 06:23 PM. Reason: Grammar...
Oct 27, 2007, 06:18 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phaeton
Ok, deal (movie)

I considered using the "wooden" stock wheels, but since I will be flying from asphalt I think they will tend to "follow" the irregularities too much. I use Hobby Lobby's smallest LYT wheels, less sensitive for the underground I hope. I've got a landing gear after all, with which I want to take-off from ground

If that doesn't work, I'll upgrade to the #2 balloons...

Yvo
I didn't have much problem with my stock wheels, but it all depends what sort of condition the pavement is in.

#2 Trexler wheels would look awesome in this plane, that's for sure!
Oct 27, 2007, 07:11 PM
I prefer XT's
Phaeton's Avatar
I'll probably order the Trexlers with my next Stevens Aeromodel kit But first fly these two...

Yvo
Oct 28, 2007, 02:30 AM
BEC
BEC
Registered User
BEC's Avatar
Spackles, thanks for the picture of the "tailwheel". That's a little more elegant than the end-of-Starbucks-stirrer thing I rigged on my V1 beta.

Phaeton, the little GWS wheels that come in the kit work OK on the pavement in my cul-de-sac - better than the disks that come in the DiddleBug kit. The Trexlers on the MudBug are fun but too bouncy, really, for a hard surface. They excel as grass field wheels (and my MudBug does ROG from short grass). Your use of the the smallest of the LYT series is a good choice and much quieter when rolling on the ground than the essentially rigid GWS wheels.
Oct 28, 2007, 07:45 AM
"Have Glue - Will Travel"
dawnron1's Avatar
Great review, Napo! You've got me itchin' to build one of these

Ronnie


Quick Reply
Message:

Thread Tools

Similar Threads
Category Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
SQuiRT 700 Trainer - Stevens AeroModel (sasSQuiRT?) Stevens AeroModel Sport Planes 513 Sep 27, 2012 11:05 PM
SQuiRT 400 Trainer - Aileron Wing - Stevens AeroModel Stevens AeroModel Parkflyers 32 Jan 24, 2010 09:57 PM
Lil'SQuiRT - Stevens AeroModel Stevens AeroModel Scratchbuilt Indoor and Micro Models 30 Mar 12, 2008 07:46 PM
For Sale Stevens Aero Lil' SQuiRT new and unbuilt w/electronics Snooptalian Aircraft - Electric - Airplanes (FS/W) 9 Nov 02, 2005 10:53 AM
Stevens Lil SQuiRT "beta" build BEC Scratchbuilt Indoor and Micro Models 22 Apr 14, 2005 10:44 PM