Durafly Rare Bear Micro 400mm
First off, the instructions are not very good for this plane, just black and white pics, a bit of writing, and no real indication of where to install the receiver and battery, although the 500mah and 300mah packs slide in and hold well without hook and loop, or so I hope they will when I toss the plane around more. Hook and loop is virtually impossible to use on this plane anyways. The CG given in the manual does not mach the picture of the plane in the pic, and the given CG is distance from the nose, so not an easy CG to find. I did figure it out though, actually came to nose heavy, so I put a tiny amount of spongy foam to hold the battery back a bit (this would later show to be an incorrect CG of 133mm to 144mm, and should have been 123mm to 133mm.
Assembly of the plane...well it was much more difficult that it could have been with a simple receiver. I contacted HK, asking if I could pop off the molex connectors and install the JST ones used for the AS3X. They stated yes, but what I lie. I purchased Y-connectors converting two molex to one jst. This worked well for the aileron servos, but my intention was to use the jst connectors as replacement for the servos. Stupid me, not realizing the simplicity of just snipping one of the y's off, making a standard adapter cable. The initial step was removing the cowl, by slicing through it, through the decals on each side, effective making two halves to a circle. Thankfully the cowl was not glued a lot, unlike how it would be later on with the canopy glue. The halves essentially fell off, revealing skinny copper wires from the motor, soldered to the esc wires. I removed the shrink around each solder point, carefully clipped the wires at the solder joint and pulled the esc through the small opening. Next was installing the AS3X, the most difficult step being soldering the motor wires onto the motor plug prongs of the AS3X. There came to be a lot of cursing, due to using a bad soldering tip (couldn't find the new one that I know I put on the top of my shelf, away from any other junk laying about) Finally all wires were connected, gave each a light tug to make sure they would stay. I then turned on the board and radio on, which I had bound beforehand, and, even with a seemingly impossible chance to get the wires the right way, the motor spun up and i felt the air going the right way. Putting the AS3X board into the plane was not too difficult, requiring a small amount of carving to push it into the fuse. The most difficult task was the servos. I don't know why there has to be a molex 1.25, and a jst 1.0, but it is such. As stated before, stupid me decided to remove the connectors off of each servo, completely forgetting that the y connectors I bought were in fact two molex to one jst. I started with the fuse, failing miserably as the prongs from the molex are not able to fit into the jst connectors. I ended up replacing the servos in the fuse with two from the deceased Inverza 280. At a slightly bigger size, I had to carve some foam and stagger the two servos a bit, bit in the end they fit fine, and considering they are from a stunt plane twice the size, they will never have an issue with controlling the plane. The last step was plugging in the servos, and gluing in the AS3X. For whatever reason, the board wanted to sit at an angle, so I used a pair of pliers to rest on the board and push it down flat. After complete installation of electronics, the last steps were stalling the wings, which was done with some canopy glue, and the landing gear, not forced in, but secured down by a self tapping screw. Not part of the typical assembly was regluing the cowl.
Adjusting the control surfaces was easy enough, a bit of tweeking, and making sure the AS3X corrects in the proper direction. This is done by full throttle and either full down elevator with right aileron, full down with left alieron, or full up with right or left aileron, followed by turning on the plane. This results in beeps, a couple blinks, and then you can see a control surface move, whichever setting the right stick setting applies too. It takes some fumbling, and it took some time to figure out what to do, as it is not something clear in the manual (it seems Horizon wants you to fork out more cash for the programming device).
The first, and so far only, flight was short, and in -25C temperature, requiring the use of gloves, and, of course, making trimming impossible. Take off veered to the left quite a bit, much more than the Pitts, or the Sbach, but this is likely due to the fact the the Rare Bear has no steerable tailwheel, relying on enough airflow to direct the plane with the right rudder, rather than friction of wheel pulling the tail to the left. Immediately after take off the plane banked fairly hard to the right, and required constant left aileron to keep it left. The rudder also trimmed to the right a bit, likely due to the foam contracting in the antarctic temperatures. Elevator also trimmed up a bit, I feel, for the same reason, and combined with a tad tail heaviness, it wanted to pitch up. Fighting these issues, the aileron being the biggest problem, I punched full throttle and the plane screamed across the sky, right around the speed of the UMX Habu. Very impressive indeed, but with the speed came fluttering of the tail. I speculate this was due to the larger spaces of the tail control surfaces of the tail, especially the rudder. Clearly, such spaces are not needed, for the ailerons have a nice tight fit. I brought the plane back down to about mid throttle, still scooting along well. The lower speed lessened the trim issues, but the Rare Bear still wanted to pitch up. Combined with the slower speed, stalls began. Stalling was uneventful really, simply just dropping and and picking up speed a bit and no weird spins and such. I decided that it was too cold, that with 2 minutes into the flight at the cold temperature, the 500mah had a max of 3 minutes likely, and that it was just too much in need of a trim that I was unable to do at the time. I slowed down, brought it around, actually with the wind, although not a strong wind at all. It was coming in a bit fast, so I took it down to near dead stick, now not really fighting with the aileron at such a slow speed. The Rare Bear came in nicely, although a little close to the curb of the lot. Thanks to great slow speed handling, and a couple millimetres of snow, I knew it would not continue into the curb post landing. The landing would have been best landing I've done with a maiden flight, if it were not for the right gear popping out of the wing, veering to a stop leaning on the wing. No damage luckily...the only good thing about a layer of snow. The "damage" showed that barely a drop of glue was in the cutout of foam that held the plastic piece with the landing gear. Thankfully I did not do anything more than basic flight, or the mainly white gear could have popped off and fallen into a field of white snow. In all, the flight went well, and nothing was uncontrollable, but more just aggravating while attempting to do a maiden. If the weather had been -20 C, the gloves would have been off...okay maybe more like -10 for the gloves to be off, and I would have been able to trim the Rare Bear for a better flight. With the weather and surface trim against me, it did allow me to unintentionally focus on the stall characteristics, and show what my cg was at.
Okay, so what does the Micro Rare Bear need? Firstly, check the gear mounting area, make sure you can't yank it out with a tap from your pinky. Secondly, the tail control surfaces have too big of a gap, resulting in a flutter, or at least I hope that it is the spacing that caused a shake. I chose not to go the route of the packing tape on the area to seal off spaces, as packing tape somehow grabs our Rottweiler's hair before sticking it on. A couple dabs of canopy glue, and running a screw driver along the area to make a thin bead of glue that would dry into a continuous hinge, almost like using covering on a plane build to do the same. The canopy glue dries clear, and is not even visible at such a thin layer. Thirdly, for the battery hatch. There is a tiny dip in front of the hatch, which would be fine for sticking a finger to pry up the hatch on a larger plane, but the dip on the Rare Bear is really pointless. In order to avoid destroying the foam with a nail, I used packing tape to make a pull tab, which works well. I've read reviews of some saying the motor mount area is weak, some saying the mount itself is weak, and some saying the mount that is actually part of the motor is too weak. I plan not too crash, so hopefully I will never have this issue, but if I do, there is a more powerful motor, of perhaps better quality, that is apparently a direct fit. If I go this route, I am unsure if the AS3X can handle the amps that the motor needs. The stock motor certainly has good power.
Overall, the Rare Bear is not simple to get flying, compared the UMX planes for double the standard price of the Rare Bear. One could install a standard Orange receiver, or a gyro from HK, though I am not sure how it compares to the AS3X. This route would have resulted in flight in a couple minutes (after the glue for the wing dries), but in the need for different packs, some adapter for the esc, or changing the esc connector. I had a new AS3X board in the package still, so I figured why not. The foam on the plane is excellent quality, being of a very smooth texture, and paint that seems to be adhering well. Other than have a white nose, versus a gold nose like the real Rare Bear, prior to it's more recent livery, scale detail is excellent. The Rare Bear also has airfoil V and H stabs, made of the same foam as the rest of the plane, rather than paper thin, different feeling foam found of some of the UMX planes. The landing gear design is sprung, and will absorb force, rather than cause the plane to hop about everywhere, like the UMX Habu does.
What I would like to have seen is a better battery area, the front cowl area coming off, similar to the Pitts, allowing a battery to be placed in with velcro, and popped out. With the hatch design, the battery just sits in there in a slot, although it seems secure and will not allow the pack to slide considerably. Removal requires holding the wires and wiggling the pack out. I can't see this causing any issues, as one does not have to yank on the wires, just simple movements to move the pack back towards the opened hatch. A steerable tail wheel would have been nice, but it is not the most important thing.
Do not get this plane if you are beginner. I can't speak for the Critical Mass micro, but some reviews say it is slow. Either these reviewers are used to 150mph EDF jets, or something like the RocHobby Voodoo, or the Critical Mass is heavier and has more drag. The front end of the Rare Bear looks similar to the Critical Mass, so I assume there must be something that would make the Rare Bear faster. Myself, I like fast planes, as well as scale planes, and the Rare Bear felt more lively than the UMX Habu, bringing a scale touch. When you combine the speed, size, and colors that can cause a loss of orientation at a distance, an intermediate pilot with a trainer, a low wing trainer type and perhaps a quicker low wing under their belt would be okay with this plane. Landing/slow speed characteristics are great, but definitely not as gentle as a trainer. If you are a quick learner, it is possible to make this plane as a first low wing, as long as there is throttle control, but most should wait until they are competent with slower plane.
If you can get to this plane before the sale is gone ($30) , or it is out of stock, get it, because it comes to well under half the price of a UMX plane, and at half the price of one if you buy a receiver from HK. Even the regular price is a fair amount less than a UMX plane, although for me, living in Canada, shipping would have caused it to be the same price.