RC planes reviews – ElectraFun XP
a guest post by Tony Murano for RC-helicopters.net
Pros and Cons
- All in one kit at quite a cheap price.
- Super fast to assemble – the longest part is waiting for the battery to charge.
- Flys really really well.
- Quite quick (although can fly slow too).
- Very resistant to crash damage (make sure you prep it – see below).
- Can do some moderate aerobatics.
- Plenty of spares.
- Forgiving handling.
- Kit quality can be a bit random in my experience. The plane is built for a price and shows it.
- Avionics are rubbish – for some reason they work just fine in the EF, but moving them to any model you value will end in tears.
- The Ni Cads provided with the kit do work, they just don’t work well, or for particularly long. Fortunately, new battery packs aren’t terribly expensive
About the Plane
The EF is a three channel electric powered trainer which in Australia is distributed by Model Engines. Elsewhere it is known as the JP Electrafun XP I believe.
It is a complete RTF kit including:
- Four Channel Transmitter (27Mhz)
- Complete airframe with motor, avionics, and linkages installed
- Two wings (which are attached to the fuse by a rubber band)
- Two tail assemblies (vert stabilizer/elevator, horizontal stabilizer/rudder) with horns installed.
- Undercarriage (trailing wheel style)
- Two 8.4 v 650 mAh NiCad Battery Packs
- Peak Charger (requires 12 volt supply – either car battery or 240VAC to 12V DC converter)
- Two propellors
It is pretty good value in the sense that you do get everything you need to fly (well almost – see below for prepping the plane) however, there are some notes below about that in the “where to get it” section.
How Much and Where to get one
My own thinking here is still that if possible you should buy from a hobby shop in your own city – even if it is online. The main reason is that the quality of the kits does seem to be a bit random. For example, my kit had a dud charger, and so I was able to go straight back out to LHS and get it replaced.
Seems the price continues to come down on this. Anywhere between $130 and $150 at the time of writing seems reasonable.
There is a cautionary note here. A salesperson might try to convince you that one of the reasons the EF is such a bargain is because you can take the electronics to another plane. My own opinion is that for some reason in the EF the avionics seem to work quite well in situ, but they are rubbish and don’t seem to work at all well outside their natural environment. For example, even though it has a 4 channel receiver, I wouldn’t use it in any 4 channel model you value. My GWS Tiger Moth took at least 3 serious crashes before I gave up trying to “save money” by using the EF avionics in another plane.
When I say common I mean either I have encountered them, or someone has told me about them.
Control Surfaces Not Aligning
Before trying to fly your EF you need to make sure the control surfaces (the rudder and elevator) line up with the vertical and horizontal stabilizer. If you find that after using the trim tabs on the radio that the control surfaces still don’t line up then you will need to make some mechanical adjustment.
Put some long nose pliers onto the small upright piece of the control rod and twist to either sharpen or open the angle depending on the direction you need to adjust the control surface.
Don’t try to fly if you can’t set your control surfaces to neutral. In fact, you shouldn’t really try to fly unless you can go a little past neutral in each direction. This is because even though the model may be trim by eye, it is whether or not it flies straight that is the final arbiter on when it is in trim.
Elevator not Parallel
You may find that after putting it together that your elevator is not parallel to the wings. It seems that almost every EF has some sort of twist in the carbon fiber boom. I don’t actually know for sure, but the way it affects everyone I have heard about suggests that some of the twists are actually intentional.
If the elevator seems significantly out of alignment, then you can use something glued to the top on one side of the horizontal stabilizer mounting piece to level the horizontal stabilizer. I used some modeling plastic I had hanging around. Very thin bits of timble, cable ties – use your imagination and the contents of your kitchen drawer.
How parallel does it need to be – not perfectly, but it should not be casually observable that it is a long way out alignment with the main wing.
Sorry this isn’t a great pic because it is inside the focal length of my camera, but if you look closely at the left-hand side of the horizontal stabilizer mounting block (the white thing on the end of the black rod) you can see how I have built up one side to level out the horizontal stabilizer/rudder assembly.
Rudder not square
This problem leads on from the last. If the horizontal stabilizer mounting block is not perfectly horizontal then the vertical stabilizer rudder will also be out of alignment. Like the elevator, it doesn’t need to be perfectly square, but the closer the better.
To check the rudder, once the wings are on look down the nose across the top of the model and see whether the indicator arrows on the wings line up with the rudder (make sure the wings are one straight!). If the rudder looks to be within a few mm square (less than 5) once you have corrected the elevator then I would suggest you don’t worry about it – that should be near enough. If not you have two choices. You can either 1) try to straighten it yourself or 2) take it back to LHS (see why buying from LHS isn’t such a bad idea) and ask them for their opinion/help correcting it. If it really isn’t straight it really is up to them to either make good the one you have or replace it with one that is straight (or at least straight enough).
If you try to straighten it yourself, pull the vertical stab/rudder assembly out of the boom and use some pliers to very carefully and slightly bend the connectors. Make sure you hold the rudder by the bottom plastic mounting while doing this. DO NOT TRY TO ADJUST THE RUDDER WHILST IT IS INSTALLED IN THE BOOM – Carbon fiber does not like to twist and could shatter.
Prepping Your Plane
Before flying your EF I would suggest the following additional preparation steps.
- Use the tail undercarriage, but don’t install the main undercarriage – the EF hand launches well, and for the moment you don’t want to worry about attempting ground landings. The tail undercarriage helps hold your horizontal stab/elevator off the ground and so is worth installing.
- Put a length of tape along the entire leading edge of the wing, folding it around the leading edge (so half the tape is above the leading edge, half below). put the tape at double thickness from about the quarter mark and three-quarter mark to the nearest wing tip. Try and make sure the tape is as smooth as possible against the wing, but it doesn’t have to be perfect so don’t stress. The purpose of this tape is to give the wing tips a little more stiffness. (see picture below)
- On the trailing edge of the wing do the same thing, except also put a double layer of packing tape of length about 20cm centered at the middle of the trailing edge (as in near the propeller). The purpose of this tape is to stop the propeller cutting the wing in the event of a crash under power, and the wing dislodging and obstructing the propeller. (see picture below)
The blue lines show a single layer of tape along leading and trailing edge. The green lines show where a second layer of tape should be applied to the wing edge in question.
Although it may not seem it at first the EF is really easy to fly, and it will come to you with time. The transmitter is set up in mode 1 for a three channel meaning throttle is up down on the RHS, the rudder is left right on the RHS and elevator is on the left-hand stick. On a mode 1 aileron plane ailerons are on the RHS, and the rudder is on the LHS.
There are plenty of sites on the internet about how to do your first flight if unassisted so do have a look around, or better yet, get someone to help you. However, I will say just these few things:
- If you can, practice on a simulator first (FMS and the Vortex extreme model) using a control layout similar to your transmitter (for example, a PlayStation style controller).
- Be patient and wait for a calm day. If it always seems to be windy go either early morning or late evening (here in Canberra early mornings are usually calm).
- Make sure you have a big area (at least a large cricket field).
- Get plenty of altitude straight from launch (so try to plan to make sure you don’t need to turn for at least 50 meters or so from when you first launch the plane).
- Plan to fly a four-sided circuit either turning all left or all right.
- Once you have the four-sided circuit down, fly a figure eight – away from yourself, turn slowly round to right, toward yourself turn slowly towards the left.
- Try and find the 3/4 throttle position – I know you have a lot on your mind but at 3/4 the plane won’t climb out of sight, nor lose altitude alarmingly – it will be one less thing to worry about.
- If you get confused about whether you need to turn left or right, just do a small rudder input, and reorient yourself based on the result. Plan your turns ahead of time so you have time to figure this out if necessary.
- When it comes time to land give yourself plenty of room for the approach – anywhere above 10 meters give the plane a *little* down elevator and cut the engine. Hold the elevator ever so slightly down (push up on the stick) and concentrate on keeping the wing tips as level as possible. For your first landing it will be easier if the plane is going away from you, so you don’t lose orientation. When you are about 50 cm from the ground if you are losing altitude too quickly then just let the elevator go to neutral – the plane will zoom a little, and probably do a small stall, but don’t worry – in this thing at this altitude it won’t do any harm. If the rate of descent seems okay then just hold the elevator until the plane kisses the deck.
You will learn more finesse with landing as you fly the plane more. The important thing – keep the wings level, and get the belly on the deck at a reasonable rate of descent before you run out of “runway”. My experience, which seems to be shared by many is that first-time pilots overshoot their landing and tend to end up in trees on the side of the oval.
Once you are more confident you will find the EF can be quite an aerobatic plane (at least, given its status as a “trainer”). More on that below.
** Before attempting any aerobatics make sure you have plenty of altitudes and are clear to fly in any direction that you might find yourself in after attempting the maneuver.**
Being a rudder plane the EF won’t victory roll. Instead, the plane, once it passes a certain roll point, will stall and fall away. This is easy to do intentionally as well and is a nice way to perform an approximately 180-degree change of direction provided you have *enough altitude*. Simply push the rudder to one side until the plane stalls, then a little up elevator to restore level flight. Make sure you are at least 40 meters of the ground until you understand how much space you need to recover from the stall.
With its nice big 380 class electric engine, the EF can loop pretty easily. Get some altitude, push down the nose for a little extra speed and with full throttle pull back on the elevator. Over she goes. Note – if you are using the mildest control setting (outside hole on the control horn) you might find that this does not work and you simply stall.
From level flight, at altitude, pull up until the EF is climbing vertically and cut the engine. When the plane falls away, give some engine and use the elevator to restore level flight.
Normally rudder planes can’t roll but there are two sorts of rolls you can do. To snap roll you need a full battery, plenty of altitudes and enough space to recover afterward and reorient yourself with where the plane is.
Push down for speed. Pull up for altitude. One moment later give either full left or right rudder. Hold the controls until the plane has rolled and then reorient yourself to get control.
This isn’t a real roll, but it does look a bit like it. Set yourself up to do a loop. At the apex of the loop (when the ship is upside down) take away the elevator, and give her full rudder input. If you get the timing right the plane will flip over to be flying the right way up.
I don’t think it can be done, but others have said it can. If you want to have a go then get *plenty* of altitude. Start a loop, and at the apex give full down elevator (opposite of what you were just doing). If the loop was square the EF will “fly” (where “fly” is losing about 2 meters of altitude per second at least) upside down. However, remember that to get out of the inverted position you will probably need to finish the loop, and so you need to pull out of the inverted position nice and early to make sure you can recover.
You have had your EF for a little while now and you think you now have control mastery and are looking for other ways to push yourself and the EF.
Here are some suggestions – I can only speak to one of them. Others are stuff I have heard people talking about, or seen, but not tried myself.
Get yourself some better batteries – ones with a higher mAh will give you a longer flight duration. However, another nice simple upgrade is to purchase an 8 cell 9.6 NiMH pack, rather than a 7 cell pack. The extra poke of 1.2 volts makes a surprising difference to the flight envelope on this plane.
If you are worried about how the speed controller and engine handle the 9.6v NiMH I can only report no ill effects for my bird. She must have done 25 flights on a 9.6 v pack now (mixed with 25 flights on an 8.4 v 1100mAh NiMH pack) and well over 50 flights on the stock NiCads. There is no sign of premature wear at this stage, but of course brushed engines do wear out, and they wear out faster if they run harder. But at $5-10 for a replacement, it probably isn’t worth worrying about.
Increase Control Surfaces
The EF has quite small control surfaces. This suits its gentle handling trainer nature (although it is reasonably responsive on the closest hole setting). A change many people try is increasing the size of the control surfaces. There are tons of ways to do it. An easy way is to just use some of the steel filing pins (the sort that pushes through the hole with two spikes that then spread out to secure two pieces of paper together) and some business cards. More elaborate changes can be made using depron, or cardboard from pizza boxes – whatever.
I never tried this although I got halfway to doing it. In the end, I moved onto other planes, although I still fly and enjoy the EF. I think the EF has pretty good rudder authority but could use a slightly bigger elevator.
So, some masochists seem to like to put brushless setups into their EFs. I’ve never seen one in the flesh but plenty of people post about them online. If anyone has a suggested brushless setup perhaps they could post a comment for me.
I’ve seen people ask about this once or twice on forums. I don’t think it could be done without significantly changing the plane. One beauty of the EF is that its uncomplicated wing is tough because it is simple, and cheap to replace if the worst happens. I would think that to make this mod you would need to flatten the wing tips (to reduce the dihedral), possibly wing mount some servos, cut the foam and hinge it for the ailerons, get a Y-Cable for the wing servos, and I think after doing all that you would probably find out that you are pushing beyond the little EF receiver’s abilities, and that the plane periodically turns itself off whilst in the air.
Whatever you ended up with wouldn’t fly like an EF in my opinion. Go and buy yourself an aileron trainer plane instead.