TIME TO TAKE ON THE SNAKE!
If you’ve ever seen the movie Iron Eagle, there’s an incredible sequence in the movie where the lead character, Doug Masters, flies a Cessna 150 through this race they call “the snake.” This consists of him racing a guy (Knocher) on a motorcycle through a canyon. It’s a totally hokey scenario and it results in a kind of crash landing due to the guy Doug’s racing sabotaging the airplane (of course!). Though, I think Doug might have had a better chance if he wasn’t racing with full flaps down… That said, the whole flying sequence is a display of some pretty incredible flying by Art Scholl who was an amazing aerobatic pilot from back in the day. He flew for a number of movies throughout his carrier but unfortunately his carrier ended too soon while filming the spin scene for the movie Top Gun.
So, when I saw the E-Flite 2.1m Cessna 150 Aerobat, it took me back to when I watched Iron Eagle over and over as a kid (quite literally) and I knew that I wanted one. It captures everything great about the airplane and that sequence as the airplane looks great and flies aerobatics wonderfully. So, there just might be a repaint in this airplanes future… but before that, I wanted to give you guys a full review on this awesome Aerobat. The box is huge, and the airplane is big, and it’s awesome!
As noted, the airplane comes in a very sizable box that took up most of my workbench. The airplane is nicely packaged and I didn’t find any damage at all through shipping. E-flite has broken the airplane down into a small number of large components. You have the fuselage, the wings and horizontal stabilizers, the rudder surface, and then the landing gear and all the necessary hardware, carbon spars and wing struts.
The assembly is overall quite simple having you start with the landing gear. The mains simply bolt into place followed by the nose gear which comes in a pre-assembled box that simply slides into place and is held in the fuselage by two screws. It was suggested by a fellow Cessna owner to go through and loctite all of the screws in the nose gear assembly which I recommend to you guys as well. The gear is shock absorbing (nose is a nice oleo strut) which is nice, but the stock tires are quite hard and make a racket while taxiing on the runway. I ultimately replaced them with some Robart tires which is discussed a little further down. From there, the motor is installed along with the front cowl and prop. For safety, I recommend holding off installing the prop or at least connecting the motor until you have all final checks done with the airplane.
With the motor in and the gear installed, it’s on to the tail. The first step is gluing the rudder in place using some thin CA (foam safe CA isn’t necessary with EPO foam). There is a light in the rudder which upon test fitting I discovered to be too short. So to remedy this, I spliced in some extra wire to increase the length about 1″ (definitely test fit everything before gluing!). With the rudder glued on, the horizontal stabilizers are then fastened to the airplane using a couple screws. It was a tight fit, but with a little coaxing, everything fit together very well.
Lastly, to finish out the assembly, the wing struts are attached and the wings are placed on the airplane. The wing struts are setup such that they remain attached to the wings and rotate around a pivot which makes storage of the wings easy and reduces the parts you need to keep track of. When placed on the fuselage, they are just pinned in place at the fuselage which makes Assembling the airplane at the field simple. Also, the aileron and flap connectors are integrated into the wing root, so you don’t have to worry about loose wires or anything like that. The connectors engage when the wings are placed onto the airplane.
ALL TOGETHER ON THE BENCH
You really get a sense of the size of the airplane sitting on the bench with it all together; it’s big and it looks great! Assembly is really easy and straight forward and goes very quickly. E-flite has done a great job on the shape and the color scheme is nice and bright which really makes it stand out, especially in the air. For the size of the airplane it’s very light at only 7-3/4 lb without a battery. Overall, this is a very well done airplane. If I had one complaint, it would be the painted windows, but quite frankly that doesn’t bother me at all. The whole point of this airplane is to have a great sport flyer and E-flite has really succeeded in creating that. Not having the windows I’m sure helps keep the price down and makes it structurally a lot easier to deal with. If you are looking for something that does look a little better than the base silver windows, Callie-Graphics has a window set for the airplane I believe.
A LITTLE WORD ON SAFETY
One thing I want to reiterate is safety. This is a large airplane that’s a little awkward to maneuver around when it’s all together on the bench (even on my large 4’x8′ table). So, when you’re working on the airplane, with it powered on, or any airplane for that matter, I highly recommend removing the prop for safety because you don’t want to end up in Urgent Care like me… I had the airplane all together and powered on and was moving it around on the bench when the throttle accidentally got bumped. As a result, the prop struck my left hand as I was fumbling to turn it off. Thankfully, the power didn’t get bumped too high and it only took 3 stitches. It could have been far worse! A kill switch is good, but still not always 100% (had a friend get bit by an airframe with a kill switch setup a couple years ago). Better to be safe than sorry, so just a little recommendation from this guy with two thumbs!
AIRCRAFT SETUP & CG
To setup the radio, the recommended control throws are shown in the beginning of the manual. I always recommend setting up multiple rates which allows you options during a maiden should any control axis be too sensitive or not enough. Then, once flown the rates can be tuned to the desired feel in the air. Ultimately through flying the airplane I found that the servos all set to 100% servo travel with some exponential worked well. The max travel results in the following:
Elevator: 1-1/8″ each way with 15% Expo
Aileron: 1-1/4″ each way with 10% expo (This is my high rate setting. I tend to switch between high and mid rate here depending on how responsive I want the roll for maneuvering. Mid rate is closer to 1″ each way.)
Rudder: 1-1/8″ with 15% expo to desensitize the steering
Flaps: 1-3/8″ mid with a 12% down elevator mix and then 2-1/2″ for full with about a 35% down elevator mix. The elevator mixes equate to about 3/16″ and 1/2″ respectively.
The CG location recommended in the manual is 95-105mm as measured from the wing root leading edge aft. With a Roaring Top 35c 5800 mah pack all the way forward in the nose, the CG is falling in at about 100mm and the airplane flies perfect there. With this airplane being as large as it is, you can fly some really large packs and get some pretty killer flight times. I fly the airplane mostly full throttle as this gives good penetration for aerobatics and have my timer set at 5-1/2 minutes. This gives about 3.8v/cell on landing, which means there’s lots of reserve if it’s needed.
SOME NOTES ON ‘SAFE SELECT’ FOR THE BIND N’ FLY
In setting up the radio for the airplane, this is the bind and fly version which features Horizon Hobbies’ SAFE Select Technology. Not only is this Cessna a fun and fully aerobatic model, it’s a great airplane to learn on and so the SAFE Select is a nice feature. Based on this, there are two distinct binding procedures whether you want SAFE select available or not. If you have no intention on using SAFE, then the bind procedure is done normally. However, to engage safe select in the receiver, then the bind procedure is started normally, but prior to selecting bind on the transmitter, the bind plug is removed from the receiver. Once powered on, the airplane gives an indication of the mode it’s in during initialization by cycling the surfaces either once for SAFE Select off, or twice for SAFE Select on.
If using SAFE Select, I highly recommend assigning it to a switch so that it can be turned on and off as desired. This can be done by cornering both sticks inwards to each other and then flipping the desired switch 5 times. Note that when you use the method where you corner the sticks, you must have your dual rate switches selected such that they are at 100% end point travel for those channels. Otherwise it won’t work. Also, the switch you want to assign to can be assigned to any switch that is assigned on channels 5-9. So, if you don’t have a switch assigned to those channels, you’ll need to assign one.
My recommendation if you’re using SAFE Select is to use it to supplement your flight training and try to avoid relying on it. Flying RC is all about muscle memory and small inputs and SAFE Select can mask the feel of the airplane a bit since it roll and pitch limits you when active. I do have a discussion on just SAFE Select in the works, it’s just taken longer than I had anticipated. So, be on the lookout for that.
FLYING THE E-FLITE CARBON Z CESSNA 150
Ok, let’s talk flying! In short, this Cessna 150 is an absolute blast to fly! The airplane has great power and vertical performance and is quite maneuverable. So, what you get is an airplane that will handle any scale aerobatics you want to throw at it including snap rolls, spins, point rolls and the like. It’ll even lightly hover if you coax it right. Landings and slow flight are a breeze, especially with the flaps down. I really enjoy shooting touch and goes to see just how slow and softly I can land the airplane. In the air, the airplane looks awesome, especially with the color scheme that’s provided, it shows up beautifully. The airplane is very forgiving and has a nice speed range which makes it ideal for learning too. The nice thing is that it would be a trainer capable of full aerobatics and so is an airplane that one could progress with well and be challenged by for a while.
One thing I noticed which was almost comedic is that the hard plastic tires that come with the airplane make a huge racket when rolling on the ground. They can make the softest of landings sound like an egregious arrival. So, to remedy that, I replaced all of the kit tires with Robart ones. Doing so alleviated all of the noise the gear were making and also gave some additional shock absorption for the landings since the Robart tires are significantly softer than the stock ones. The tires used are 3-3/4″ tires for the mains and a 3-1/4″ tire for the nose.
So there we have the E-Flite Cessna 150, what a fun airplane! I have really been enjoying the heck out of it as it’s fun to go back to a high wing airplane like this and enjoy the challenge of scale aerobatics. E-Flite has done a fantastic job on this model and has created a fun and great flying airplane that’s suitable for someone learning or even the advanced flyer. And what you get for the price is an exceptional value. You get a lot of airplane here, it’s big and it’s awesome! I really do think that this airplane will get repainted…I can’t help it, I still dig the movie Iron Eagle. I’ve had the snake Cessna 150 paint scheme in mind from the get go on this, so I think it has to happen…chapppyyyyyyy!