We have more elaborate RC equipment, but at a much higher expense in both purchase price and fragility. It is the delightful combination of agility, stability, ease of change of propulsion components, affordability and crash tolerance that makes the Easy Star II such a magnificent RC flying machine for Jamul. If the less demanding landing conditions at Mission Bay make other airframes equally attractive, the Easy Star II is still the best build trainer ever offered, and it can equipped wit a lot more with more power and First Person View or a camera.
The propulsion doesn’t have to be perfect, or expensive, for it to be fun, and the airframe can accept a lot more shove then as spec’ed out by Multiplex. If it fits in there you can use is in motors from (35) grams to (100) grams. Somewhere around (400) watts-in is a reasonable limit.
If you are interested in First Person View there are many custom offerings for the Easy Star II in the internet.
You might as well use inexpensive servos (think five bucks for the “House Brand”) if the good HiTeks are twice as expensive, although the even better Multiplex Nanos are the easiest to install choice and well worth the extra money as the cable length for the ailerons matches the airframe.
Almost anybody can assemble an un reinforced Easy Stay II, the biggest issue is to install the wings in the fuselage and then use them to align the tail as you glue it.
My personal foam airplanes all have leading edges treated with heat shrunk on packing tape, the nose, along with the control horns, is reinforced with fiberglass. With which the airframe has an expected life of fifty flights (stock) to three hundred flights (slightly heavier and twice as long to assemble). Although magnets can help with the joiner failure of the wings out past fifty times together and apart, if the wings separate in the air, total destruction is assured. I just glue the wings to the fuselage.
Jacob had previously only flown an Easy Star (I) briefly
two years ago with Martin and I in Germany, a reinforced ruder and elevator one where radio problems caused a hard crash. Unable to get out much, he didn’t have much personal experience with them, other then watching videos. I built about a dozen Easy Star (I)s, most of them with 80 gram inrunners in the 200 to 400 watts-in range on 6X3 propellers with 3S LiPos. They howled, and moved out really good. Back then I didn’t consider the modifications for ailerons (hacked into the, back then, easily bought replacement wings) worth the effort. My four personal Easy Star (I)s lasted an average of three hundred flights per airframe. Wearing out motors, a constant theme with outrunners (think thirty to fifty flights with inexpensive outrunners) wasn’t a problem with inrunners back then.
Where to Shop
Locally in and around the City of San Diego California there are five retail (store front) hobby shops. Two Hobby People(s), Discount Hobbies and two others. They are all pleasant shopping experiences, some the same stuff, each has it’s own specialties. We had a good time checking each one out, bought some stuff to brew bier with too, and I enjoyed both the friend’s company and touring the north end of the metropolitan area back in town after most of a year in Germany.
What a relief to see a little more business and employment going on then last trip back. Just a little construction activity, although most of it is still small. None of the construction makes economic sense, why build houses when there are thousands of them empty, or a new office building, when there are millions of square feet vacant? Even worse, the builder of the two big buildings going up (both almost done) is the most difficult contractor to be an inspector to. My touring around of the retail and industrial areas on bicycle demonstrated a vacancy rate of about a third! At least I found a new small brewery going in and enjoyed the company of my mechanic friend and his other mechanic. Ah, what endless sunshine and perfect weather
Where to Fly
Southern California is now a single city from the Mexican boarder to fifty miles past Los Angles. Two hundred miles long by twenty to a hundred miles wide of solid city. 99% of it’s residents never leave town 99% of the time. Every time I fly back as I look down before landing I shudder at the realization that, in exquisite weather, that I am going to be buried alive in traffic two to six hour a day again. Most times with no outside except right at the beach.
Jamul, west of San Diego about twenty miles (about thirty miles from the open ocean), is a reservation of open space about six miles past the utterly urban Chula Vista. It’s a relief, suddenly the city ends and you are out in open rolling hills, even if you can’t leave the road. Some of it is public land, almost all of it now officially no trespassing. As you go inland from here the terrain slowly climbs, then it drops off into rock desert about fifty miles from the sea and stays that way for the next 1400 miles. Hilly and rocky, homes scattered here and there, just a few roads through the valleys, most of the area is inaccessible due to being private property or, for fear of fires, public property off limits to the public. Since the public can’t access the area, someday it will be sold off.
Just the same, with the friend and his parents now in a comfortable trailer park (what an improvement, one trailer for his parents and one for their son) on the edge of an open space preserve, it’s a five minute walk to a nice small wash with a scrub forest, Indian middens (depressions in the granite rocks where they once ground acorns, they made up half the calories of California Indians before the invaders trashed the place and the climate changed to the drier) that is just great to fly at. The last two years there was some rain, at the end of March 2013 the grass (ticks, snakes and all) is about knee high. Lots of small birds flitzing about in the brush, lots of hawks looking for the many rabbits and ground squirrels. Some insects, but few of the biting kind that can make life miserable. Just standing there, shorts and shoes, feels good, even if evenings and mornings you need a light jacket.
Slowly thoughts returned of past plans expecting to buy a travel trailer and putting it in at Jamul as a first step to getting my German wife and I back to the USA.
This is the kind of terrain I grew up in, I feel at automatically at ease (well, having taken part in many, always outnumbered, duels, at ease as I ever get) here. Yes, we get some noise from the road just on the other side, and the Boarder Patrol, both the motor vehicle sweeps and the constant overhead helicopters, is a constant presence, you can hear the commercial jets a mile high up coming in for landing at San Diego in the silence between the motor vehicles on the highway (that silence is impossible to find where 99% of the people spend 99% of their time) but nobody seems to mind if we take the dog and airplanes, step through the fence, and go fly.
We could do a lot worse, this is an very entertaining place to fly, with more variety then first meets the eye, and the weather is just great. I am a hunter, constantly surveying my surroundings and watching out for being assaulted, the educated as a biologist friend is more intensely interested in the exact ground beneath us, he has been finding remnants of stone tools here. A life time of wandering around dirt roads of Southern California, he is the only person I personally know to have found Indian artifacts.
Flying in Jamul means that most of the time the wind is swirling and tumbling, you must fly the airplane, and it is a whole lot more fun if the airplane is self righting. Be it wind or thermals, the hills are steep enough that RC airplanes (as well as the ultra light man carrying ones further overhead) get pushed around in an unpredictable manner. So, other then a few hours here and there when it is wind still (well you have to be up for the first couple of hours after dawn) it isn’t ideal for tuning a new and unknown combination.
Fortunately, other then the higher set motor they left the aerodynamics of the Easy Star II the same as the first version, there is nothing other then balance and maybe the control surface throws to tune of the airframe. Thermals, we don’t really have a suitable airplane, yet, the Easy Star II is too inefficient a glider for all but a boomer of a thermal, which, in this narrow valley, doesn’t happen. Often the thermal pushes up against the hills, but at an angle, just can’t expect to ride them on up. Slope soaring, the winds are at an angle. At least there are lots of hawks to show us where lift is. Landing is, for now, that fabled long soft grass, that when it dries abrades leading edges that weren’t taped, with rocks. We know not to expect long lives out of the airframes here.
Satisfying fun, absolutely! The best possible airplane for here is, an Easy Star II with ailerons. The reinforced Fun Jet was great too, when we get his Easy Glider fitted out right it should have some worthwhile moments too. A Fun Cub and Twin Star II would be great too, but that Easy Star is just the greatest.
Try it on a Simulator
I use Real Flight 5.5, I can’t agree that the virtual experience with the Easy Star (I) matches my expectations. At the least the virtual 6 volt Speed 400 motor being run on 11 volts puts way more power then the real world version, however, in rudder and elevator, it is about the power available for a brushless Easy Star II. My short use of the Phoenix with the Easy Star was even worse.
Both Real Flite 5.5 and Phoenix do a great job with other airplanes.
Purchase, Assembly and First Flights
After shopping around San Diego he bought a basic kit at Hobby People in El Cajon. HiTek, under their own name (Multiplex is owned by HiTek) has an identical complete setup, but for $215- plus tax verses $94- for just the kit. There was one competitor, for $140- (I think the same one a veteran motorcycle road racer flies back in Kloppenheim Germany), but we decided we needed basic quality, and stuck with Multiplex.
Unlike years gone by, there are no easily available sources of spare Multiplex parts, at least if you expect to walk into a local hobby shop and buy them over the counter. Try the Internet, cause, that being easy, and effect, Hobby Shops disappearing, are reversing themselves. A good thing that last year we both bought good, simple, affordable, Hobby People house brand 5 channel GHz radios, as they aren’t currently available. Multiplex, through Hobby People, is trying to unload some older packaged systems with either FM, or cheap GHz radios. If it was me I’d use the FM radio for a while, but throw that cheap GHz one straight in the garbage instead of using it to wreck the airplane and throw the whole package away. However, with discounts. the deals are still worthwhile. Particularly if you know you aren’t able to assemble yourself as the airplanes are often already built.
I just built a new Fun Cub, so we didn’t need another one, and while a Twin Star II might be a good choice, although the kit isn’t much difference in price ($94- verses $99-, plus tax) a Twin Star II in brushless is much more expensive to fit out as everything for the motors has to be paid for twice, the servos are bigger and the minimal speed is higher. The real deciding factor was Jacob’s experience watching videos where the Easy Star is the most standard. If you can only afford one airplane to do everything with, and need to keep the investment down, the Easy Star(s) (I and now the II) are always a best choice if you don’t have Mission Bay to land on.
If you have followed my reports, I’m not satisfied with just any motor/propeller combination. Fiddling with an Easy Star II means just one motor and prop to change. See my upcoming third Easy Star II article, like this one, by detailing different motor combinations you might find one in your desired direction.
In addition two new HiTek Hs-55 servos, on sale @$7- plus tax each and two extensions, that cost almost as much. We decided that the used HS-81s from his used up flying wing would function for rudder and elevator, the used speed control out of the Fun Jet and for now, the Euro12/$17- Jamara brought with me as a replacement for the worn out one in his Fun Jet would do for a start. As configured by Multiplex the Easy Star II takes two 8 gram servos in the fuselage for rudder and elevator, and two in the wings for the ailerons. Although few people will get three hundred flights on an Easy Star, I have, the control horns of 8 gram HS-55s used as ruder and elevator servos start to break at around a hundred flights, not so much from crashing as that the arm just isn’t strong enough. So, having the much stronger, if heavier and had we bought them new, more expensive, 16 gram servos for rudder end elevator suits us just fine.
However, the Easy Star II is exactly configured for Multiplex Nano servos. Where that shows up is that Nanos have exactly the right length leads to plug right into the fuselage hard mounted servo extensions. As intended the wings, with the glued in Nano servo leads, would then plug right into the extensions hard mounted to the fuselage. The HiTek HS-55s leads are just a little shorter, the extensions were not cemented in being left to hang out about one to two inches. I clearenced the servo trough for the stick out of the fuselage extensions so that when connected they tuck in.
Now some people have acquired the skill to massage the servo leads into the fuselage, some haven’t. I worked with my hands from when I was a little boy, not everybody has thousands of hours working up to things like that. For Jacob, the best solution was to leave the wings on (that joiner was a weak spot on the first version) and tape the leads flush to the wings bottom edge. Just luck, although Peter has the skill, he glued the wings of his Ersatz Easy Star together, a reasonable solution in any case as even if that mechanical joiner between the wing halves is better then before, having the wings separate in the air was a real Easy Star I killer out about fifty flights. We decided to leave the wings assembled, but not glued together, and so taped over the aileron servo extensions.
There are more parts in the Easy Star II then the first version, and we had to dig everything out of storage plus getting reacquainted after me being back in Germany for the previous year. It took a little longer to get it together then expected, about four hours. After being bundled up for the winter in Germany I sat there in the afternoon March sun with my shirt off. The first warm sun on my back in six months, the skin on my back burned.
Although all aluminum clamping “barrels” were in the parts, a control horn was missing. With the ailerons and elevator active, so the rudder servo and linkage were installed, but left unconnected.
That and things like having to scrounge up and solder up an extension 3 wire bundle, good thing I brought some spare connectors with me. Although not strictly necessary, the 2.5mm “bullets” allow easy swapping of propulsion components, that we knew were going to be part of the project.
From past experience, mount the wings, use them to align the horizontal stabilizator before you glue it up.
Here in Jamul, well away from any parts supply other then what I brought with me, with no personal Easy Star II experience, I don’t expect to produce the ultimate Easy Star II on the first try. Get it to fly first, then decide where to spend the budget on improvements. Anybody can stuff top quality components in that are over dimensioned, even more so if you have somebody else’s experience to draw on. Being almost, but not quite, broke, takes picking through carefully.
Although the fit of both my recently assembled Fun Cub and this Easy Star II were just great, both of them had slight overages and underages in the small parts hardware. When a Multiplex airframe is used up, I strip the small parts, so I have some spares.
Flights 1 and 2 Jamul California mid March 2012
Drawing 11 amps at 11 volts (on the friend’s 17 amp Castle Creations motor controller) with the (35) gram Jamara on a 4.75X4 APC prop, the airplane flew just fine for two flights that afternoon. What fun. Expected to last about thirty flights on 3S 2200 mAh the Jamara with it’s too small for the airframe propeller, provided spirited performance mounted hanging off the back of the motor mount. We made the first flight with a 3S 1100 mAh battery. Nothing but the battery more then just warm.
Flight 3 Jamul a couple of days later
Opps, the friend hit some rocks on landing. Out of practice at flying RC, wanting to sit on a (rocky) grassy hillside with a view to fly, unable to place the landings with no rudder (even with ailerons Easy Stars slew around almost unpredictably under the swirling chaotic wind here), it’s the kind of thing we expected to happen. Good thing it’s foam, an impact resisting, reparable foam. Although the life expectancy of the wings went from about fifty flights to around a hundred by the simple expedience of adding a strip of fiberglass reinforced tape from about four inches inboard of the spar to the edge of the wing to delay the formation of a “hinge” just past the spar, with no reasonable expectations of replacement parts, that’s about all the longer we expect out of this airframe. An alternate would have been a circle of fiberglass centered at the end of the spar and the cutout for the servo that is a sever change in rigidity of the wing, where the hinge develops.
Now I can armor up a Gemini or Twin Star II to where they have a life expectancy in the hundreds of flights range, as long as they don’t bash a rock. But when it comes to landing an Easy Star II here, or a Fun Cub, I decided to accept a shorter life span from the airframes.
When we assembled it I asked about some fiberglass reinforcement. “No, I want to keep the weight down and the foam soft was the response. That bullet like nose on yours, like it could ram it through a picket fence, is too much for me”. I forgot the fiberglass anyway. Later though it will be applied, the elevator control horn tends to tear out.
That placing the landing is something that takes a lot of time and practice. He isn’t the only intermediate RC pilot that doesn’t have it, yet. Fact is that getting the landing really right may be the last thing new pilots learn. Now I like risk free landing down at Mission Bay, but we are willing to accept some damage, and ultimately a shorter life cycle, to fly here out from town with a view.
In which we way over amp an inexpensive motor with too high a kV
Flights 4 through 6 Jamul 28-29 March 2012
The scrapes were just minor, typical and what we expected in this, for now covered with long green wild grass gone to seed, with lots of hidden rocks. If you don’t tape the belly and leading edges of a foam airplane they are quickly beat up. The fuselage belly and wing leading edges were already covered with heat shrunk on clear packing tape.
A control horn, left over from a recent build of a Fun Cub kit where the flaps will not be used, was mounted, the rudder connected. By the way, trim at the rudder is almost always required for a Easy Star. The foam just isn’t either so precise or so rigid that things line up just right, no matter how careful you do the assembly. So if the fly straight position of the rudder is up to 1/8 of an inch off (2mm) odd of centered accept it as the way things are. The elevator though should be in plane with the horizontal stabilizator.
They changed the control horns, although they now are better centered and may have less tendency to tear out. The new centered control horns the contact patch is smaller, they are harder to improve with fiberglass.
The pilot wanted more authority from the ailerons, the control rods were moved from the third hole in the control arms to the fourth, the most outside one. For now the aileron travel is about the same up as down. There was no recommendation for differential in the instructions, the supplied control rods are long enough to angle the servo arms one tooth forward to give more throw up then down. Something to tune as we get more experience.
We pulled the externally mounted (hung off the back outside the motor pod) Jamara motor and fitted up a used Hobby People 40 gram cheap ($17- three years ago, $25/Euro 18- today) motor inside. The one that first broke a shaft in a Fun Jet, then provided disappointing performance in my the Fun Jet and a Mini Mag. It took a long time for the dust shields to wear in, but the bearings don’t drag all that much, the magnets can barely be felt. Efficiency has been demonstrated to be at just about the bottom end. Just the same, it has made it fifty flights after the first shaft broke, it hasn’t rusted or anything, it still performs as an electric brushless motor, therefore I have classified that not $25- (net, with tax) motor as inexpensive.
I had brought a better motor with me (a 45 gram Hype for Euro20/$27- wound about right for an 8X4 folding prop), but burned it up in the Fun Cub by overheating it.
For the first time we used the supplied folding propeller, marked as a 7X6. The blade design is about identical to current Aero-Naut construction, although it is not marked who manufactured it. Although it pulls way to may amps on the bench with the stock propeller (up to 22 at 11 volts, twelve would be about right, even more so as that is what the motor is rated for under continuous load although the current draw goes down some in the air) so much that we installed my 36 amp Castle Creations motor controller instead of the friends, knowing that he has the self control to fly part throttle and pulse the motor.
From watching dozens and dozens of beginners I only know two able to fly at part amps, Martin and Jacob. For the rest of you, don’t try it. Set things up so you can rum maximum amps continuously.
Ah, about as much loud, but at a little lower frequency, better initial acceleration (that bigger slower turning prop, and twice as many watts-in at about the same 2/3s efficiency, gets a much better bite on the air) and climb, it has plenty of power which has to be carefully dosed to keep from burning things up. To my surprise the previously condemned as a p.o.s. motor (still available from Hobby People) was performing fine! I flew briefly, a count of five maximum climb resulted in this always swirling air in a glide back down of about 35 (not strictly representative, that kind of test needs to be conducted in still air and at least three times to be averaged), not bad. That’s a one to seven ratio, all that should be expected from that inefficient a motor. This Easy Star II is agile, and yet stable, it is a wonderful airplane.
My, as yet unproven as I haven’t tried it in an Easy Star II, are that with an 80 gram medium performance motor (think eighty bucks retail with tax at Discount Hobbies) on that supplied folding propeller, a high performance battery and suitable motor controller that the climb to glide ratio should hit one to twelve. A great combination might hit one to fifteen.
Whereas with the Easy Star (I) with it’s ruder and elevator, after you either increased the throw on the ruder to 45 degrees or doubled it’s width, you had to anticipate the airplanes response to do some tricks playing against the wind, with ailerons you just order the airplane around where and when you want to. With the rudder connected the pilot can now point the airplane where needed on landings.
All together a much better combination with ailerons then just rudder and elevator. With modern power the estimated plus (30) grams is insignificant, most of us aren’t worried about the extra estimated forty bucks either. The better precision of the slightly more expensive HiTek servos as compared with the Hobby People house brand is evident. However, this is neither a precision aerobatics flier (the stability that makes it so relaxing to fly precludes stunt precision), nor a thermal or slope capable (not all that efficient in glide) glider.
The last flight was cut short when on application of power, it hummed. That is a result of one blade of the two blade folding propeller getting extended first, resulting for a short period (less then one second provide you move the amps stick up near half quickly) of off balance (until the second propeller blade catches up extending) vibration. What was different was a slow application of current with the airplane right near our heads verses that at launch we went straight to nearly full power, and all subsequent applications of power the airplane was far enough away that the vibration wasn’t perceived.
One thing to watch for with a new airplane is tightening the screws, again, after the first flight and then again five flights or so later. What happens is that vibration plus expansion and contraction flatten the high spots out so the screws, even though they have not rotated out, become lose. Thanks to the good quality plastic of the Easy Star II that was not an issue. That kind of quality was justification for paying more for a Multiplex (the real thing) instead of an “almost as good and cheaper” Ersatz copy.
That little rubber band that makes sure the prop folds may not last forever, but while it does, the prop folds quickly and positively. One quality issue to note, the fit between the drive in folding propeller pins and the plastic is, subjectively, perfect. And, the pins have rounded edges (so they go in easily) and at least some anti-corrosion coating. Things that aren’t expected with the cheap stuff. A clever keep the cost and complexity down cover secures the pins. Not that folding the propeller seems to make much difference in the glide or handling though. But then that is comparing a fixed five inch propeller, had we been using a fixed 8 inch propeller the difference would likely have been greater.
Like everything on the Easy Star II, they hit the quality exactly right. Having the parts in your hand is a satisfying exercise in quality fit. Yes, at the foam you need some ability to align things, the hard plastic parts are a perfect fit to the foam. Although there is no name on the propeller blades, they required no deburring. Although it seems to have a lot of pressure folding the prop, the prop quickly extends on the application of watts.
From comparisons with Martin’s Easy Glider Pro
back in Kloppenheim, Jacob would not be well served with one here, even if we up-powered his. Landing on farm fields in Germany, with the higher power of a 135 gram HiMax motor on 3S, the Easy Glider can’t thermal there, and isn’t all that much fun to fly. For Jamul the Easy Glider isn’t agile enough, they are fragile, but when there are thermals (often at some part of the day) it would be entertaining. Here in Jamul flying an Easy Glider requires self restraint about where and when to fly, they are a single purpose (thermals, forget slope soaring here) RC airframe. As a general purpose RC airplane the Easy Glider is a distant second to the Easy Star II out in Jamul.
However, originally set up for the now obsolete geared 6 Volt Speed 400, the nose of Jacob’s Easy Glider was bashed just a little in, the trail was nearly broken off. From a junked Graupner Terry a fiberglass reinforced nose with a plywood motor mount was grafted on to the Easy Glider. The gap at the horizontal stabilizator to the tail was filled with fiberglass and CA. Three layers at the motor mount and a layer down the front of the belly took, with sanding about three hours.
The Graupner Terry was half the size of the Easy Glider, so a 35 gram motor and folding prop was installed. Goal is to just get it up there, hunt thermals and slope updrafts, not make a long wing stunter out of it.
I have had the discussion before about how to improve his flying, lots of little things that bother him, it’s the same discussion I’ve had with Martin and Peter. Fly more, after a while you become one with the airplane and the kind of things they aren