Great Planes Avistar 30cc ARF

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The Avistar

For as long as I’ve been in the this hobby, Great Planes and Hobbico have had the Avistar available in one form or another. As a .40-.46 high wing trainer-type plane, the Avistar has helped many budding pilots earn their wings! I can clearly remember flying both the original version and the Elite that was introduced just a few years ago, and I had the opportunity to review the Elite!!

Focusing back to 2017, Great Planes has released the Avistar 30cc ARF. This is one BIG airplane – but it’s supposed to fly like it’s trainer brethren, albeit with a 30-35cc gasoline engine or electric motor equivalent. I loved the looks of this plane long before it showed up on my workbench, so I’m hoping that it’ll live up to the advertising that Great Planes has pumped into its release. So you’re looking for a large trainer-type plane for your first ‘gasser’, and also a plane that can grow with you? Read on to see why the Great Planes Avistar 30cc ARF just may be your best choice!

Specifications

Price:   $449.99

Wingspan:   90.5 in   (2300 mm)

Wing Area:   1448 sq. in   (93.4 sq. dm)

Wing Loading:   26-28 oz/sq. ft    (79-85 g/sq. dm)

Weight:   16.5-17.5 lbs   (7.5-7.9 kg)

Length:   77.25 in   (1962 mm)

Requires:

4-6 Channel transmitter and receiver (Minimum)

(7) High-torque servos (5 without flaps)

(2) Standard servos

30-35cc Gas engine or Electric Equivalent

(1) Receiver battery (Gas engine setup)

(1) Ignition battery (Gas engine setup)

Note – servo extensions and Y-Harnesses will vary depending on your radio setup

First Look

The Avistar 30cc arrived in a large box with a full-color label on the cover. All the parts were bagged and taped together to prevent damage during shipping. Speaking of shipping, mine arrived strapped to a pallet on a freight truck – This was definitely a first for me!

I couldn’t fit all of the components into a single image on my bench top, so I’ll start with the fuselage and tail. I really like the color scheme – the four color Monokote trim is very eye catching, and should be easy to see in the air, and looks great! The huge front hatch makes installation of servos, radio gear, and fuel tank simple, and will make battery changes for electric flight quick and easy! The Avistar 30cc is built from laser cut lite ply and balsa, which makes for a strong, lightweight airframe.

The 90.5″ two-piece wing makes transport easier, and the aluminum wing tube is plenty strong! Assembling the Avistar 30cc at the field should be quick!

All of the pinned hinges (Robart style) are not only pre-drilled, but pre-glued as well! You should double check the installation of the hinges, but mine were all perfectly aligned and securely installed! The flaps and ailerons must be cut apart if you plan to set the Avistar up to use the flaps – if you don’t want flaps, they remain connected to the ailerons.

Out of the box, the Avistar 30cc is set up to be a tail dragger, but can be set up for tricycle gear with the purchase of the optional Nose Gear Conversion Set and Nose Gear Wheel Pant. The included wheels are a dense foam material, and the wheel pants are made from fiberglass and very well painted to match the plane. The tail wheel assembly does work well, and is ready to be installed! Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that the main landing gear is aluminum, and is very strong!

A large fuel tank is provided, along with a pair of fuel clunks and a gasoline-proof stopper, but no fuel line of any type. You will need to purchase fuel line separately. Also included are engine mount spacers – if you’re planning to use the recommended DLE 30 or 35, these will help space the engine properly. There’s a few other parts that Great Planes has included to make assembly easier as well, such as throttle and choke pushrod braces, and even a replacement cover for the tail – in case you need to cut open the covering to add tail weight. Well done, Great Planes!

Also included is a motor box (some assembly required) if you choose to go with an electric setup. The box assembles easily, if you follow the directions.

Just a few final thoughts on the first looks – The pre-painted fiberglass cowl and formed windshield are first rate, and the landing gear mounts inside the fuselage look to be well built. I also really like the giant scale control horns included with the Avistar 30cc!

Items Used for Completion

Radio equipment for the Avistar 30cc ARF will all be Futaba. I will be using my Futaba T10CAG transmitter and an R6014 14-Channel receiver.

All control surfaces require a high-torque servo, and the Futaba S3305 High-Torque MG Servo will do very nicely. Throttle and Choke operation will be done with Futaba S3001 Stadard Ball Bearing Servos.

Powering my Avistar will be the new RCGF 35cc Rear Exhaust gasoline engine (available at rcgfusa.com) and a Falcon 19×8 Beechwood Propeller (available at justmodelprops.com).

Because I had the 14 channel receiver and the 10 channel transmitter, I was able to separate all servos to individual channels. This made setup and adjustment really easy, but requires a few servo wire extensions. I ended up using two 24″ extensions in the wings for the ailerons, two 16″ extensions in the wings for the flaps,four 12″ extensions from the receiver to the wing, and four 6″ extensions from the receiver to the elevator, throttle, and choke servos.

I also used a pair of Tactic Heavy-duty switch harnesses and two Ernst Charge receptacles. These switch harnesses are very robust, and the receptacles make charging easy!

Some additional items required are for the fuel system. I added a DuBro Fill It Fueling System to make fueling easy! Large Tygon Fuel Tubing and 1/8″ I.D. Fuel line barbs were used to complete the fuel tank setup.

Some of my other favorite DuBro items to use are the 1/4″ protective foam rubber and their famous socket head servo mounting screws. I also used a full line of ZAP adhesives throughout the assembly of the Avistar 30cc.

Assembly

Though the covering on my Avistar 30cc was nearly perfect, there were a few wrinkles that needed to be ‘ironed out’. I went over all of the parts and made sure all the covering was stuck and tight.

After securing the servo extensions to the servo wires with 1/2″ heat shrink (not included, but available at your local home improvement store), the aileron servo wire was pulled through the wing using the pre-installed pull string. The Futaba S3305 servo was then secured in place using DuBro socket head servo mounting screws. The “X” servo arm was cut accordingly, and installed.

I assembled the threaded end of the aileron pushrod per the manual, and connected it to the outer-most hole of a control horn. Using the installed servo for alignment, I marked and drilled the four control horn mounting holes – THESE HOLES DO NOT GO ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE WING! They are only drilled deeply enough to allow the wood screw to go into the aileron. With the control horn installed, a solder clevis was attached to the servo arm and the pushrod length was marked.

The clevis was then soldered to the pushrod. To get a good solder joint, I roughened the end of the pushrod with some sandpaper, then cleaned it with denatured alcohol. The end of the pushrod was then heated with a propane torch before applying some flux paste to clean it. Heat was reapplied until the pushrod was hot enough to melt the solder and coat the end of the pushrod (a process called ‘tinning’). I used Oatey brand 40/60 Rosin Core Wire Solder. With the end of the pushrod tinned, I applied some flux paste to the clevis and slid it over the (still heated) tinned end of the pushrod. I then added a little more heat to heat up the clevis and melt more solder into the joint. when the joint was fully soldered, I let it cool, cleaned the pushrod, adjusted  and installed it. Though time consuming and a step above a beginner technique, it does produce a clean looking installation that is plenty strong!

Because I am setting my Avistar 30cc up with the optional flaps, the aileron servo, control horn, and pushrod assembly and installation process was repeated. The difference was in the servo arm placement and setting up the flaps on my transmitter. I chose to use a slider switch, with a slight detent at the 50% travel of the switch. Both servo extension were run through the hole in the bottom side of the wing half after I removed the covering over the hole. I also labeled the servo extensions so it would be easy to connect them to the correct channel on the receiver.

The hardwood wing dowels and wing joiner dowel were epoxied in place. the smaller wing joiner dowel was epoxied into the left wing root near the trailing edge.

 

 

Moving on to the fuselage, I started by removing the covering from the horizontal and vertical stabilizer slots and removing the wooden spacer from the tail.

The wing halves were slid onto the joiner, and the assembled wing was then attached to the fuselage with a pair of 1/4-20 nylon wing bolts. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers were slid into place and checked for alignment. Both lined up perfectly, so they were installed using some 30 minute epoxy – I made sure to add epoxy to the slot and tab at the forward end of the vertical stabilizer as well.

Moving on to the main landing gear, I installed the axles and wheels. The axles had to be cut to the proper length, and a pair of flat spots were ground into each. with the axle cut and ground, I added a drop of ZAP Z-42 blue thread locking compound to each of the set screws and secure the wheel between the two wheel collars.

The wheel pants were then installed, and the completed landing gear was attached to the fuselage. Again, I applied a drop of blue thread locking compound on ALL of the machine screws.

It was now time to install the tail wheel. Following the instructions, I marked and drilled the location for the tail wheel assembly’s plastic bushing. The bushing was then installed with a small amount of 5-minute epoxy. I also marked and drilled the location of the tail gear wire support in the bottom of the rudder, and installed the support on the tail wheel wire. The retention bracket screw locations were then marked and drilled.

The tail wheel retention bracket was then installed, and the wire support was epoxied into the hole in the bottom of the rudder. I cut the excess tail gear wire off and tightened the set screw in the tail gear spacer.

Moving inside the fuselage, I temporarily attached the Futaba R6014 receiver and a 6 Volt NiMh receiver battery to the battery tray. With the included hook n loop strap cut to the proper lengths, I installed the battery tray in the fuselage using ZAP thick CA. I have found that thick CA works best with lite ply, because it doesn’t soak into the ply as quickly, and gives me some working time.

Once the CA had cured, and the battery tray was secure, I reinstalled the receiver and battery – both were padded with some DuBro 1/4″ protective foam rubber. The Tactic Heavy Duty switch harness and Ernst charge receptacle were then installed in the pre-cut locations.

The rudder pushrod and control horn were assemble in the same manner as was done for the ailerons, and then the pushrod was slid into its respective guide tube. This allowed me to find the control horn’s proper location. The four holes were marked and drilled, and the control horn was attached to the rudder. With the rudder pushrod in place, it allowed me to properly place the rudder servo. A solder clevis was attached to the servo arm, the pushrod was cut to length and the clevis was soldered in place (the clevis was soldered in place after removing the pushrod from the fuselage…) I decided to cut off the excess machine screws on the rudder control horn, but it’s not necessary.

The two elevator servos, control horns, and pushrods were installed in the same manner as was done for the rudder. I did have to trim the rudder servo arm to allow clearance for one of the elevator pushrods.

The RCGF 35cc Rear Exhaust engine I’m installing has the same mounting pattern as the DLE 30, making installation pretty simple. To make it even easier, the RCGF stand-offs are exactly 10mm longer than those of the DLE 30. Because of this, I will not need the included DLE spacers. I’m glad to see that Great Planes has included them, but this time, I don’t need them! The RCGF 35cc Rear Exhaust engine, like its DLE counterpart, will be mounted with the engine rotated slightly. I’m not 100% certain why Great Planes has done this, other than to perhaps keep the DLE 30’s muffler inside the cowl.

The engine stand-offs were installed, along with the included  2-56 pivot balls for the throttle and choke arms on the carburetor. I then temporarily installed the engine to mark the location of the throttle and choke pushrods. With the locations marked, I removed the engine.

The throttle and choke pushrod holes were then drilled – I have a 12″  long 3/16″ drill bit that makes it really easy to drill these holes without removing the stand-offs. I really like having this long drill bit!

The second included 12″ strap was cut to the lengths provided in the manual – one of them will secure the ignition battery and module, and the other will secure the fuel tank. After installing the longer strap for the fuel tank, the ignition battery, which was mounted on the underside of the forward battery tray, and module were installed with the shorter strap. I used more of the DuBro 1/4″ protective Foam Rubber to protect the battery and module from engine vibration. The second Tactic Heavy Duty switch and Ernst charge receptacle were installed in the cut=outs provided, and the forward battery tray was installed with four wood screws.

The exhaust gaskets, heat shield, and muffler were attached to the RCGF engine before permanently installing the engine on the stand-offs. Again, I applied a couple of drops of blue thread locking compound on the exhaust bolts and engine mounting bolts. The spark plug was then installed, and the plug cap was snapped onto the plug. a zip tie was used to tie the plug wire to one of the stand-offs.

The throttle servo and 7-1/2″ throttle pushrod guide tube were installed, and the ignition pickup wire was secured to a stand-off with zip ties.

The throttle pushrod was assembled according to the manual and then installed. after a quick test to make sure it would work smoothly, a second servo, guide tube and pushrod were assembled and installed for the choke. This is a relatively easy installation, but did require removal of the detent ball and spring from the choke mechanism on the engine. With the detent in place, there was too much tension on the choke to open and close it with the flexible pushrod.

Remember those DuBro 1/8″ I.D. fuel line barbs I mentioned earlier? Here’s where I used them. After cleaning and prepping the three brass fuel tubes, I soldered a barb to each tube. The three tubes were then slid through the stopper assembly, and a barb was QUICKLY soldered onto the two shorter tubes. I say quickly because if you don’t do it quickly, you’ll run the risk of damaging the rubber stopper! With the 5 barbs in place, the vent tube was bent to shape.

A pair of DuBro Large Tygon fuel lines were attached to the included fuel clunks and the two shorter fuel tubes and secured with the included small zip ties. I marked the fuel tank to correspond with the three tubes in the stopper, and installed the fuel stopper/fuel line assembly.

The assembled fuel tank was then strapped in place with a piece of DuBro 1/4″ foam rubber between the tank and the tank tray. Three more of the included small zip ties secured the three Tygon lines to the fuel tank tubes.I also added a couple of extra zip ties to keep the carburetor and vent lines in place until they went through the firewall. The vent line was run up and over a stand-off, and then secured to the firewall and run past the bottom of fuselage. To secure the vent line to the firewall, I modified a pair of coaxial cable mounts (think cable TV wiring) by removing the nail and replacing it with a screw. A zip tie keeps the vent line attached to the modified mount.

After finding a location that didn’t interfere with anything inside the fuselage, I installed the DuBro Fill It Fueling System. I really like this fueling system, because they are really easy to install and use!

After trimming the cowl to fit around the RCGF 35cc engine, I mounted the cowl per the manual. This is one of the easiest methods I’ve used to date!

In lieu of the included instrument panel decal, I decided to install one of my digital tachometers. The windshield was then taped in place, and I marked its location on the hatch.

The covering was then pierced many, many times to allow penetration of the Fromula 560 Canopy glue, which was used to glue the windshield in place. After applying the glue, I taped the windshield in place to allow the canopy glue time to dry.

While the canopy glue was drying, I installed the spinner backplate, Falcon 19×8 Beechwood propeller, and prop washer…

…Followed by the Propeller bolts, and included aluminum spinner. As always, I applied a few drops of blue thread locking compound to the propeller bolts and the center spinner retention bolt.

The Avistar 30cc is nearly done! I connected four 12″ servo extensions to the receiver for the ailerons and flaps and also marked each channel number on the extension. With the extensions numbered, it’ll make is easy to connect the flaps and ailerons correctly! I opted to leave the black plastic cabin floor out of the cabin area, because I will be using the Avistar 30cc again for another engine review very soon! With the wing attached, I checked the Center of Gravity (CG) – the CG was within the recommended limits as it was assembled! I set the high and low control throws, and the Avistar 30cc was ready to fly!

Photo Shoot

This is one good lookin’ sport trainer!

Flight Report

I din’t have to wait very long to get a nice day for the maiden flight. In fact, I had two different planes to get flown for review that day, and both went very well. The wind kicked up a bit higher than forecasted but was still easily managed. Gusting to about 10 or 12 MPH, I knew it wouldn’t be a problem. The sun was high and shining brightly without a cloud to be seen! Temperatures were hovering right around 80 degrees – it was just an all-around nice day! I met my video pilot, Jim Buzzeo, at the Willmar Area Radio Control Club’s flying field. We’re a small club, based in Willmar, Minnesota. Like most small clubs, we’re always looking for new members, and encourage spectators to stop in and watch!

The RCGF engine had been run for approximately 20 minutes prior to getting to the field, so it started easily after filling the fuel tank. We let the engine warm up to operating temperature in the pits before taxiing the plane out onto the field. Unfortunately, the wind had now switched, and was not coming straight down the runway, so we opted to use the grass runway. The nylon matting can get a little ‘slippery’ with a crosswind. The RCGF was already settling into a very nice low idle, so a little throttle had to be added to move the plane through the thick grass. With the plane lined up, and ready for take off, the throttle was advanced – the Avistar was moving quickly, and broke free of the ground just as the throttle stick was pushed past the half way point! Two things became clear right away – the RCGF 35RE is a strong engine, and the Avistar 30cc LOVES to fly!

The Avistar 30cc climbed out easily, and was at a comfortable altitude in just moments. One click of left aileron completed the trim adjustments, and the plane was handling the wind easily! Cruising speed was determined to be a click or so less than half throttle, and at that setting the RCGf 35 settled into a low growl – it was a good sound!

After a few trips back and forth across the field to familiarize ourselves with the plane, we tested the high and low speed flight characteristics. We found that, beyond 3/4 throttle, there wasn’t much speed gain, but the Avistar flies pretty quickly at even 3/4 throttle. As a sport trainer, I was hoping that the Avistar would perform well at slower speeds – the airplane did not disappoint! Even without the flaps dropped, the Avistar slowed easily and flew well at just under 1/4 throttle. The RCGF sounded like it was running just above an idle, and the plane was still flying and flying very well! Dropping the flaps slowed the plane even more, and it seemed to simply hang in the air at times.

With high and low speed testing done, we were back to just enjoying the plane. We knew how it would react in normal flight, so it was time to try some basic aerobatics. aileron rolls are easy and fairly quick on high rates, especially if you recall the Avistar having a 90.5″ wingspan! Thanks to the RCGF 35’s power, loops could be made nearly as large as we wanted. When it comes to basic sport-type aerobatics, the Avistar can handle pretty much anything an intermediate pilot can think of doing!

With all of the basic testing completed, it was time for more fun, and Jim flew the Avistar so I could shoot some photos for this review. By the time I got done shooting photos, the timer was going off at the 10 minute mark. So, I switched back to my video camera and Jim set up for the landing. Heading into the 10 MPH wind, the Avistar came down very predictably and was easy to land. She touched down ever so gently, and with that, the maiden flight was complete! This is one sweet flying plane!

With the Avistar back on the ground and the RCGF shut down, we checked the fuel – a 12 minute flight took roughly 1/2 a tank of fuel. I think with proper throttle management, a 20-minute flight could be had!

At this point, Jim had to hit the road for an evening with his kid, but I wanted to hang around for another flight or two – I had just mixed up a fresh gallon of fuel, why not use some of it? Unfortunately, I got a call that ended my day of flying early, so I had to pack up and head for home. However, I’m really digging this plane, and can’t wait to get some more stick time on it!

Check out my video to see the Great Planes Avistar 30cc ARF in action. Enjoy!

 

 Summary

Well? What else can I say about the Avistar 30cc? I’m really liking this plane! Assembly was really easy with only one minor issue – some of the threaded clevises included in the ARF had less than desirable threads, but a quick email to Great Planes had new clevises on the way to my door. The new parts arrived in a couple of days and looked much better. I really like the overall looks of the plane – it’s sleek and the color scheme is great! There’s lots of available options to keep this plane one of my favorites for many years to come – with a tricycle landing gear option, a float set, and even an optional tow hook set, the Avistar 30cc ARF will be in my hangar for many, many years to come. Well done, Great Planes, well done!  -GB

Contact Information

 www.greatplanes.com

www.rcgfusa.com

www.futabarc.com

www.justmodelprops.com

www.dubro.com

www.tacticrc.com

www.franktiano.com (ZAP Adhesives)

 

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1 Comment

  1. I have been flying my GP Avistar with a DLE 30 for a year now. On my fourth flight, one elevator threaded clevis ripped off the threaded rod. Thank fully, there was no adverse effect to flying with only 1 elevator connected and I was able to land safely. I think the clevis was good, but the threads on the rod were bad (based on my tests with another clevis and rod). I changed all the rods and went with Dubro’s Safety Lock Kwik Links for the clevises. Everyone at the field likes this plane!

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