Hacker Model Productions – MX2 1200 mm ARF

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Introduction

When it comes to aerobatics, the MX2 needs no introduction, as it’s been wowing airshow goers for a decade now! What I can introduce is the new MX2 available from Hacker Model Production and Tower Hobbies. Tower has been carrying some of Hacker’s more popular aircraft for quite some time now, and the MX2 is one of the later additions to the lineup. With a built up EPP (Expanded Polyproylene) fuselage, the MX2 offers a more realistic look than some of the other profile aircraft. There’s some other great features, as well – Interested to find out more? Keep reading!

Specifications

Price:   $124.99

Available at:   Tower Hobbies

Wingspan:   47.2″   (1200 mm)

Length:   43.3″   (1100 mm)

Weight (w/o Battery):   33.5 oz   (950 g)

Center of Gravity:   4.1-4.5″    (105-115 mm) back from the leading edge of the wing at the fuselage

 

Required Accessories

Radio:   4-6 Channel Transmitter and Receiver

Servos:   Four 8-9 gram micro servos

Servo Extension Wires:   Two 12″ and Two 6″

Motor:   35-36-1200 kV  (.15 sized brushless outrunner)

ESC: 45-50 Amp (or as recommended by your motor selection)

Flight Battery:   3S or 4S 1600-2200 LiPo

Propeller:   11×7 Electric, or as recommended for your motor selection

Pros

EPP foam is tough yet flexible

Quality hardware used throughout

The airframe is very lightweight, yet strong

Colorful trim scheme makes the aircraft easy to see in the air

3S or 4S LiPo batteries can be used

Cons

Missing hardware (Tower offered to replace it though – see review for details)

First Look

The MX2 arrived from Tower Hobbies in a shipping box with all the required accessories. Removing the bright red cover with full-color informational decal revealed a well packed ARF. The smaller parts were all bagged, and the box had compartments to keep everything from moving around during shipping.

All of the main parts are pre-painted, leaving very little decorating left for the modeler. The EPP foam is tough, yet flexible, making the MX2 an ‘almost unbreakable’ airplane – Well, at least that’s what the box says…  Time will tell!

Although the MX2 is labeled as an ARF, there’s still plenty to do – included with the aircraft are several light ply parts that will need to be assembled – we’ll get to that soon enough. The pushrods and battery hatch retainer are pre-bent and are made of a copper-colored steel. They are more than strong enough to handle the job! A clear sheet of plastic parts are also included – the control horns, servo arm extensions, and wheel pant brackets are all on this sheet of acrylic, so don’t lose it!

There’s a lot of carbon fiber included in the MX2 – the two-piece main landing gear is formed carbon fiber, and also several flat sticks of it to strengthen key areas in the wings and tail surfaces. Now here’s something you don’t see every day – the tail wheel bracket is 3D printed!

There’s a lot of high quality hardware included in the ARF – I was missing a couple of quick connector retaining clips, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Items Used for Completion

From the ground, I’ll be using my trusty T10CAG – she’s not the newest 2.4 gHz transmitter available from Futaba, but she definitely gets the job done! In the air, a Futaba R617FS 6-Channel receiver will be commanding four Futaba S3157 digital, high speed, high torque, micro servos. With a setup like this, you can’t go wrong!

Power for the MX2 will come from a FlightPower FP25 4S 2100 mAh LiPo battery – I have a few of the FlightPower packs, and they really are great! An Electrifly Rimfire .15 Outrunner and Silver Series 45 Amp ESC round out the power end of this review.

An APC 11x7E propeller will be providing the pull. Wrapping up the accessories list are a pair of Tactic 12″ and 6″ servo extension wires. All of these products are available through Tower Hobbies!

Assembly

Prior to the MX2 assembly, I began by getting the servo arms ready for installation – a clear acrylic arm extension is glued to the servo arm included with the Futaba S3157. A small piece of the included white thread was wrapped around the combined arms and medium CA and accelerator were applied to make the two pieces into one solid servo arm.

Throughout this assembly, I will be using ZAP brand adhesives.

One of the included quick connectors was attached to the servo arm, and then attached to a servo. My MX2 ARF was missing two of the retainers that secure the quick connector to the servo arm. I contacted Tower, and they said they would absolutely replace the missing pieces. To speed up my assembly time, I opted to use a pair of DuBro quick connects I had on hand. Because the DuBro connectors are slightly heavier than the included parts, I chose to use them on the aileron servos so as to keep the extra weight closer to the center of gravity. If you look closely, you will see that the aileron servo arms are not perpendicular to the servo, rather offset a few degrees. This is done per the manual.

Out of the box, the EPP foam ‘hinges’ were a little stiff. To loosen them up, all of the control surfaces were flexed to their absolute maximum position and held in that position for two hours. Stretching the hinge material in this manner proved to be very useful in gaining maximum flexibility from the hinges!

Assembly started with the landing gear plate. A pair of blind nuts are inserted into the outer holes on one side, and two small screws were started on the opposite side. The carbon fiber landing gear legs were temporarily attached to the plate with the screws.

After verifying that the landing gear legs were mounted squarely on the plate, a 2mm pilot hole was drilled through each gear leg. The blind nuts were used as guide holes to drill in the proper location. The legs were then removed, and the pilot holes were re-drilled to 3mm. After finding the center of the other end of the gear leg, a 3mm hole was drilled for the axle.

The light ply parts for the wing’s center section were assembled (I left the top two parts off initially to have better access to get thick CA to all of the joints inside the ‘box’. With all of the inner joints well-glued, I glued the top two parts in place. I have found that I have the best results gluing light ply when I used thick CA and a small amount of CA accelerator – in this case, I used Slo-Zap and Zip Kicker.

Using thick CA and Zip Kicker, I glued the wings to the center section, making sure that the Landing gear plate was on the bottom side of the wings.

 

Following the dimensions in the manual, and using a single-edge razor blade and a straightedge, I cut slots just deep enough to insert the carbon fiber wing spar in the bottom and top of the wing. The top wing spar was inserted and glued in place first with medium CA and Zip Kicker. When the topside Spar CA had cured, the wing was flipped over.

With the bottom spar tucked into its slot, I weighed the wing down on a flat surface (my work bench) with some large LiPo battery packs. This kept the wing flat on the table, to avoid any warping.

The carbon fiber spar was then glued into the slot using medium CA and Zip Kicker. When the CA had hardened, the LiPo batteries were removed, and CA was applied to the spots under the batteries.

I cut a slot in the wing from the servo cutout to the center section – the dashed line shows the proper route for the slot to be cut.

After gluing the servo in place with some thick CA and Zip Kicker, I cut a slot for the long, plastic control horn. Thick CA was applied to the slot…

And the control horn was glued into the slot. When the CA had cured, a pushrod was inserted in the quick connector and the control horn. A control horn clevis secured the pushrod to the control horn, and the machine screw in the quick connect secured the other end. The servo and aileron were both centered before tightening the quick connect. The center section of the wing has servo plug retainer clips to keep the servo plugs easily within reach.

Though mostly pre-cut, the elevator joiner slot and control horn slot must finish being cut to remove the foam. You will end up with a pair of slots that cross on the left side elevator half.

The wooden elevator joiner was installed in its slot with thick CA and Zip Kicker.

Like the wing spars, there are an upper and lower for the horizontal stabilizer. The slots were cut and the carbon fiber spars were glued in in the same manner, but I used thin CA this time. The clear acrylic elevator control horn was glued into its slot using thick CA and Zip Kicker.

Two more carbon fiber spars were installed in the vertical stabilizer, but they were NOT glued to the bottom rudder hinge mount at this time – That will be done later, when the fin/rudder assembly are attached to the fuselage. The acrylic control horn was glued into the pre-cut slot in the rudder with thick CA and Zip Kicker.

Moving on, the cockpit insert was cut to size and the EPP foam spacers were glued to the bottom per the manual. The spacers are cut from one sheet of foam, as seen in the fourth photo above.

I trimmed the rear cockpit former to allow the insert clearance and installed the instrument panel decals. The manual says that the insert can be painted, but I chose to leave it white to avoid excess weight.

The insert was slid into place, and the front battery hatch was marked for cutting. The instructions are well laid out to show where the lines need to be drawn, but make sure you have the part facing the correct direction. Mine was backward – thankfully, I realized my mistake before I made the cuts! With the lines in the proper place, the cuts were made. As you can see in the last photo above, both cuts are beveled inward, so as to give the battery hatch support.

I marked and drilled a hole for the hatch retainer latch, and glued the two spruce hatch reinforcement sticks to the inside of the hatch. These two sticks MUST be properly installed to allow the hatch to close correctly, so follow the dimensions in the manual!

The 3D printed latch knob was pressed through the hole I previously drilled, a plastic washer was added, followed by inserting the small steel rod through the hole in the knob. a very small drop of medium CA was added to the steel rod where it met the knob to keep the rod in place.

The inner corners of the foam firewall were removed per the instructions prior to gluing the front section of the hatch to the fuselage. The battery hatch was then set in place on the fuse.

 I then set the rear hatch retainer section in place, removed the hatch and glued the retainer section to the fuselage. Note – there is a small piece of plastic glued to the bottom side of the rear hatch piece. This plastic protects the foam from the steel hatch retainer rod.

Following the lined in the wing saddle area, I cut and removed the bottom section of fuselage. This section will get glued to the wing.

 

I drew a line 10 mm in from the flat edge of the fuselage center section retainer. This line served as a reference for gluing the retainer to the rear opening in the fuselage. The wing was the attached to the fuselage with two plastic bolts.

The fuse center section was then set in place and glued to the bottom of the wing with medium CA and Zip Kicker. I removed the small pieces of pre-cut foam from the landing gear mount slots.

A small EPP foam brace was added to the inner rear of the fuselage center section. Medium CA and Zip Kicker were used to secure it in place.

A cut was made in the foam at the rear of the horizontal stabilizer mount, and the stab/elevator assembly was slid into place.

I reattached the wing and checked the fit of the horizontal stabilizer – it was parallel to the wing, so I glued it in place using medium CA and Zip Kicker, making sure the spacing was correct.

After gluing the fin to the top of the fuselage, the lower rudder hinge section and two carbon fiber spars were glued to the lower flat area of the tail.

The tail wheel, wire, and bracket were assembled following the dimensions given in the manual. Believe it or not, the wire bend to hold the tail wheel in place was quite difficult – that wire was tough!

After cutting a slot in the fuselage and drilling a hole in the rudder for the tiller arm, the tail wheel bracket was glued in place with thick CA and Zip Kicker. Before setting the bracket in place, the tiller arm was inserted into the hole in the rudder.

The axles, wheel pant brackets, wheels, and wheel pants were attached to the landing gear legs following the dimensions and instructions in the manual. This was really simple ant took just a few minutes! The wheel pants are attached to the brackets with medium CA and Zip Kicker. I also added a drop of thick CA to the axle where it sat in a slot on the outside edge of the wheel pant, just to keep the pants in place.

The completed landing gear legs were slid through the slots in the fuselage center section and secured with machine screws and star-lock washers. I did add a drop of Z-42 blue thread locking compound to the machine screws as well. Though probably not really necessary, I poked my Phillips screwdriver through the foam and tightened the two wood screws as well.

Again using the dimensions provided in the manual, I marked and cut out the servo locations for the elevator and rudder servos. The foam cuts easily, and this was a quick task. with a 12″ extension secured to each servo, I pressed the servo nearly all the way into the foam.

I glued the servo tabs to the fuselage using thick CA and Zip Kicker. The servo extensions were routed through the fuselage through the cooling holes. With the elevator servo and elevator centered, the pushrod and clevis were installed and secured.

I removed all the motor mount parts from the light ply sheet, and verified they were all present.

The motor mount parts were assembled and glued together using thick CA and Zip Kicker. When the CA had cured, the mount was slid through the pre-cut slots in the firewall.

A light ply backing brace was slid into slots in the motor mount tabs, and glued. The mount was also glued to the foam firewall, and light ply cowl mounting plates were glued to each side of the fuselage. The Electrifly Silver Series 45 Amp ESC was secured to the lower edge of the fire wall with a small piece of adhesive-backed Velcro (not included with the ARF).

The motor mount has pre-drilled holes that matched up with the X-mount on the Electrifly Rimfire .15 brushless motor. I ran a screw into each of the four holes, followed by a drop of thin CA to harden the screw threads in the wood. To set the prop hub at the proper location, I used the four light ply ‘washers’ included with the MX2 ARF.

The motor was connected to the ESC – in order to do so, I had to replace the 4 mm (female end) bullet connectors on the ESC with 3.5 mm connectors. The 3.5 mm connectors came with the motor, so that was convenient! ***NEVER CUT THE ESC WIRES TO REMOVE CONNECTORS –  they must be removed by melting the solder and re-soldering new connectors in place.***

To improve airflow and clearance around the motor’s propeller hub, I made the front (round) hole in the cowl slightly larger. With the prop and spinner temporarily attached, I drilled the cowl mounting screw locations and installed the cowl screws. Decals still need to be added, but I found it was easier to mount the cowl without the decals in place, because I was able to see the light ply mounting plates through the plastic cowl.

Before removing the cowl, a small mark was made to note where the painted ‘panel’ line was on the fuselage. With the cowl now removed, a drop of thin CA was applied to each of the four cowl mounting screw holes. The mark previously made on the cowl helped me to install the decals properly – the panel lines could now be easily matched!

A portion of the decal was folded over onto the inside of the cowl to keep it from coming loose, and the cowl was permanently installed. I wasn’t incredibly impressed with the included spinner, so while it would work, I decided to replace it with a DuBro 1-3/4″ Black spinner. With the back plate and APC 11×7  propeller in place, the prop nut was secured.

The spinner was installed, along with the Futaba R617FS receiver. I had to cut a hole for the receiver to fit along side the battery, but there was plenty of room! The FlightPower 4S 2100 mAh LiPo battery was secured with the included Adhesive-backed Velcro.

The final parts to be attached were the elevator and wing Side Force Generators (SFGs) and the canopy. The  SFGs were glued in place using – you guessed it – Thick CA and Zip Kicker!  After trimming the canopy to remove the excess material I attempted to attach it with the included screws to the EPP foam. I was not happy with this, because it didn’t feel anywhere near a solid enough attachment to keep the canopy in place. I glued four small light ply scraps to the inside of the cockpit, and reattached the canopy with four #4 x 1/2″ screws. Now, the canopy installation felt strong enough to survive some exciting 3D maneuvers!

Photo Shoot

 Flight Report

The fall weather had been pretty uncooperative – either the wind was blowing or it was dark, or excessively cold. Thankfully, Thanksgiving morning was beautiful! My video pilot and good friend, Jim Buzzeo, met me at the field for a little bit of Thanksgiving flying. The wind was nearly nonexistent, making the 30° temperature bearable. The sun was shining brightly, and there wasn’t much for clouds in the sky – All in all, it was a really nice day for late November in Minnesota!

With the Flight Power 4S 2100 mAh LiPo battery secured in the MX2, I turned on my Futaba transmitter and connected the battery to the ESC. The ESC was ‘armed’, and the MX2 was ready to fly. Because my Futaba transmitter has a two position switch on the top right face, I set up the MX2 for dual rates – low and crazy, per the manual. For the maiden flight take off, low rates were used to get a feel for the plane. Even on low, the plane was fairly responsive, but nothing that any intermediate pilot couldn’t handle. The power to weight ratio was great, allowing the MX2 to take off easily at half throttle.

It took nearly no time for the MX2 to ascend to an altitude of ‘two mistakes’ high, at which time we checked for any trim changes required. One click of up elevator and three clicks of right rudder were all that were needed to fly the MX2 hands-off. With the trim taken care of, it was time to have some fun!

High and low speed testing came next – the MX2 moves along very well at full throttle, but it’s still easy to handle. Slow speed flight is where this plane excels – it seems to just hang in the air at times! with the rates now set to ‘crazy’, as the manual calls them, the elevator’s large travel allows the MX2 to nearly come to a stop at a high alpha attitude. The extremely light weight and low wing loading, combined with the 4S LiPo and Rimfire .15 brushless motor, allow the  aircraft to float around easily well below the  stall speed!

When it comes to aerobatics, there’s nothing the MX2 can’t do. Thanks to the excess of power, loops can be extremely tight or as large as you want to make them – rolls happened so fast I could barely count them, and the MX2 tumbles and snaps as fast as I’ve ever seen! If you can think of a maneuver, the MX2 can easily perform it!

The other thing I want to mention is the battery life – the MX2 seemed to fly forever on the 4S 2100 mAh LiPo pack from Flight Power. I know we were somewhere close to 15 minutes on the Flight Power battery pack!

When it finally came time to land, the MX2 was about the easiest landing aerobat ever – again, the light wing loading really made the plane come in slow and gentle! I lined the MX2 up on the runway, kept just a touch of power on until the landing gear crossed over the end of the runway, and I cut the throttle – she settled in so nicely, and never even bounced! I really like this plane!

Check out the video to see the Hacker Model Production MX2 in Action!

And here’s a few more in-flight photos!

Summary

Although the MX2 from Hacker Model Products requires a little more assembly that your average ‘Foamy’ ARF, it’s not difficult. The end result is very much worth the extra effort! I really like the looks of the plane, and the carbon fiber gear are a nice touch. She flies very true, and excells brilliantly as an aerobatic aircraft – as I said earlier, if you can think of it, the MX2 can do it! The airframe is very light – the finished weight without the battery was right around 30 ounces – not bad for an airplane spanning nearly FOUR FEET!

I really like this plane, and I can see that this new MX2 from Hacker will be heading to the field with me a lot next year! Who knows – I may even fly it this winter! As always, thanks for taking a look. -GB

Contact Information

Hacker Aircraft (US) –   towerhobbies.com

Futaba –    futabarc.com

Electrifly –   electrifly.com

Tactic –    tacticrc.com

DuBro –   dubro.com

Zap Adhesives –   franktiano.com

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