Every year there are several manufacturers who come out with new models of RC trainer aircraft. Each one is usually a derivation of whatever has come before it without much innovation to truly set it apart from the rest of the pack. Well, the new Hobbico NexSTAR Select .46 size trainer has just changed ALL of that.
This Hobbico NexSTAR Select 46 size trainer aircraft sports a plethora of unique new features and innovations that have never been seen before in this hobby on ANY trainer. There are aerodynamic features that keep the NexSTAR from stalling or spinning as well as speed brake flaps to keep airspeed down. They have included a flight simulator so you can actually fly the NexSTAR on your computer without risking your model. The plane includes fully re-chargeable batteries and a top of the line OS motor. All this plus much more will be covered in this in-depth review of this one-of-a-kind trainer.
Oh…let’s not leave out the kicker which is Hobbico’s success guarantee. I quote:
“The NexSTAR is such a great way to learn to fly that we guarantee your success! As long as you train at an AMA-chartered club with a qualified, club-designated instructor, if you crash before successfully learning to fly, we’ll repair or replace it with any Hobbico trainer of up to equal value…FREE!”
Normally I would not be inclined to review any trainer aircraft as I am well beyond that stage in my flying career however this one was SO interesting and looked too cool I just could not resist. Also my son is just starting to become interested in trying his hand at flying so the NexSTAR seemed to be just the ticket. If only I had a trainer like this available to me when I was learning a few decades ago. WOW!
Model: NexSTAR Select
Available From: Local Hobby Stores
Available Online From: Tower Hobbies
Wingspan: 68 3/4″ inches
Wingspan as measured: 68 3/4″
Length as measured: 56″
Wing Area: 722 sq./in
Weight per mfg.: 6.5lbs
Weight as tested: 6.5
Wing Loading per mfg.: 21 oz/sq ft
Wing Loading as tested: 21 oz/sq ft
Power: .46 cu in (7.5cc)
Power Installed: O.S. 46 FXi Pre-installed
Prop: Hobbico Propeller 11×5 NexSTAR Select
Radio: Futaba 4 channel system pre-installed
Transmitter: Futaba SkySport 4YBF
Receiver: Pre-installed Futaba 4ch RX with built in “AFS”
Servos: 4 Pre-installed Futaba Servos (aileron, elevator, rudder, throttle)
* OS 46 FXI Motor & Futaba Radio Pre-installed
* 20 minute assembly
* RealFlight Flight Simulator NexSTAR Edition w/USB connector
* Instructional video on DVD
* Automatic Flight Stabilization (AFS) to automatically level aircraft
* Single bolt on wing with innovative PivotFlex System
* Innovative (removable) Speed Brake Flap System
* Iso-smooth™ engine mount system
* Easy align tail mounting system
* Center-Core main rip plus steel main spar for strength
* Anti-spin/Anti-stall Spin Control Airfoil Extensions (removable)
* Snap in landing gear
* Option to add dual aileron servos and flaps after mastering trainer
* Upgrade Path to a faster & more aerobatic model
Super fast & Easy Assembly
Solid & Light construction
Very Stable & Slow stall speeds
Spin Control Extensions
Single Bolt Wing attachment
Strong & Reliable OS 46fx
RealFlight NexSTAR Edition
Hobbico’s Success Guarantee
Main wheel came loose on first flights
The Greatest Trainer Ever Built?
The Hobbico NexSTAR is perhaps the most innovative trainer model to hit the market in history. With its breakthrough features such as anti-stall/anti-spin control extensions, pivot-flex wing bolt mounting system, automatic flight stabilization (AFS) and more it is no wonder there are several patents pending on technology used in this model.
So you ask what is all the fuss about? What separates this first time trainer model from the rest of the pack? Well, I’m going to explain what the NexSTAR is all about when it comes to features and then show you how these features help the beginner.
First off I’ll go into a general light overview about the NexSTAR and then discuss later in the review more detail about each specific feature. I’ll also go over the very brief assembly process for this plane but please don’t blink or you will miss it!
The Hobbico NexSTAR is constructed of wood and is covered by heat shrink film. The trim is already applied before you take it out of the box. There isn’t a single decal that needs to be applied! Upon inspection everything appeared to be glued well and very sturdy. The NexSTAR comes ready to take on the abuse a beginning pilot might toss at it.
A Beginners Dream:
For the beginner the NexSTAR represents a practically foolproof path to becoming a successful pilot. The plane is EASILY assembled in 20 minutes or less from the time you open the box. You can charge it up and take it out to the field and be flying the NexSTAR in no time at all. Fortunately once you get to the field the NexSTAR has a wide array of features to ensure your success. (Important note: Always seek a qualified pilot before attempting to fly your NexSTAR or any trainer)
The very first step for those who have a computer though is to install the included RealFlight Flight Simulator program. Once installed a beginner can actually fly the NexSTAR before ever having put a single drop of fuel in the motor. Practicing on the simulator helps ensure faster learning and success for any beginner without risking your model. To have the exact model on the simulator which you will actually be flying at the field is a huge plus and it is all included in the NexSTAR package.
The other innovative features that shine on the NexSTAR are the anti-spin airfoil extensions that come attached to the leading edge of the wings. This clever addition helps the NexSTAR remain stable at very slow speeds and keeps the plane from stalling or spinning.
Also included are speed brakes which can later be removed as the beginning pilot progresses. These brakes help shorten the landing approaches and keep speed down while learning.
Next is the automatic flight stabilization system (AFS™) which literally levels the plane on both the pitch and roll axis when you release the sticks! This is built in already on the NexSTAR and the sensitivity can be adjusted up or down as a pilot becomes comfortable.
Last is the ability to “hop up” the NexSTAR by simply removing the airfoil extensions, speed brake flaps and optionally installing dual aileron servos and modifying the ailerons to actually have radio controlled flaps!
The manual is very complete and thorough. It contains step by step instructions on assembly, setup and flying with detailed photos. The box also includes an instructional video on DVD which you should watch before beginning the project. You may view the manual in PDF format by clicking the icon below this paragraph. There is much more to the Hobbico NexSTAR so let’s get through the super fast assembly and discuss the features in detail and then head out to the field and test fly this plane!
Assembling the wing is a 3-5 minute process. First you insert the metal wing joiner spar into one half and then take the other half and insert the tube into the opposite wing and push both halves together. Next you secure the wing with the 2 supplied sheet metal screws.
Once the halves are joined you simply take one of the aileron connectors and attach it to the other aileron horn by snapping the clevis on and the little fuel tubing retainer which goes over the clevis. The aileron servo is already mounted and connected to one control rod.
The next step is optional but recommended for novice pilots. Using 3 supplied screws you simply screw on the speed brake flaps on each half of the wing. Align the edge with the inside edge of the aileron. The airfoil extensions are already taped on in place so unless you want to remove them for your first flights (not recommended for beginners) the wing is now complete! That’s all there is to it.
The NexSTAR is now fully assembled so the flight pack and transmitter were placed on charge for 16 hours.
SETTING UP THE AUTOMATIC FLIGHT STABILIZATION (AFS)
To setup the automatic flight stabilization system you must connect the “Sensor A” wire to the other wire marked “Sensor A”. This deviates from the manuals instructions but is covered in the product improvement addendum included. The sensitivity of the AFS can be set by the dial on the receiver. You can dial it down to zero and have full control or adjust it upwards depending on how sensitive you want it to be. As you increase the setting the AFS provides more control and stability to the model. It is factory adjusted for optimal training performance so I left it alone for the first flights.
Before flying you need to test the AFS system. To do this you can either bring it outdoors or test it inside with a flashlight. If outdoors you hold the model while raising and lowering each wingtip and look to ensure that the ailerons are properly correcting the attitude of the plane to level it out. If you bank the plane left the right aileron should go up and the left one down. If you bank the plane right the right aileron should go down and the left should go up. If you point the nose down the elevator should come up and if you point the plane up to the sky the elevator should deflect downward. Instructions on how to shine a flashlight on the sensor are detailed in the manual.
The manual explains how the AFS sensor mounted on the bottom of the plane senses the contrast of sunlight. The sun should be at least 25 degrees above the horizon or it should be partially cloudy or overcast for best results with the AFS. Extremely strong sunlight or light contrast betweeen the sky and the ground may limit the ability of the AFS system. If the sun is too low on the horizon or if it is an extremely bright sunny day you should dial the AFS gain to zero or disconnect the AFS’s sensor wires.
RealFlight NexSTAR Edition
The NexSTAR Select trainer includes the “NexSTAR Edition” of the very popular Great Planes RealFlight flight simulator program. Included is the CD which contains the flight simulator software and the USB connector to connect the included transmitter. After installing the software you can literally fly the NexSTAR around the virtual landscape on your computer without fear of crashing.
The simulator can and should be used to learn how to handle the plane as well as learn how it will react once you really get it out to the field. The simulator even allows for you to dial up or down the sensitivity on the AFS so you can “feel” the plane with various AFS settings!
The instructional DVD which is included in the NexSTAR package recommends 20 successful landings and takeoffs before taking your plane out to the field for an actual flight.
I have trained many beginners and I can always tell the ones who have spent time on the simulator before grabbing the sticks for the first time at the field. If you have a computer and the time you should definitely use this tool. Not only is it helpful to learn how to fly it is FUN!
|AERODYNAMIC HELP FOR BEGINNERSAerodynamically the NexSTAR has two major features that are both innovative and are guaranteed to help ensure that a beginner will succeed.
First are the “SpeedBrakes™” Training Flaps. These allow the plane to fly slower, reduce top speed and shorten landing approaches. With these brakes the NexSTAR bleeds off speed very quickly when the throttle is cut back. They can be removed as your pilot skills progress and your comfortable with more speed and longer landing approaches.
The second aerodynamic feature is the “SpinControl” airfoil extensions. These extensions were actually developed by NASA and help to prevent stalls and spins during landing approaches and slow speeds. These also can be removed after becoming proficient with the NexSTAR and this will increase the aerobatic performance of the plane.
PivotFlex Wing Mounting System
The wing on the NexSTAR is mounted to the fuselage with the innovative “PivotFlex™” wing mounting system. Rather than use rubber bands as most trainers have traditionally used in the past, this plane uses a single nylon wing bolt. This makes setup and tear down faster and easier. The PivotFlex™ is unique in that it allows the wing to move if it comes under sudden loads and if it is under extreme loads such as a crash it will release the wing from the airplane. This is similar to the behavior of rubber bands but without the hassle.
I love this feature. On my trainer MANY years ago I recall installing and removing rubber bands covered in exhaust oil. It was not an enjoyable part of the flying process. Thanks to the PivotFlex mounting system beginners no longer need to deal with the hassle of rubber band mounting. Just one bolt and you are ready to fly. Sweet!
The Hobbico NexSTAR shines from the moment it comes out of the box but how well does it actually fly? Does the AFS actually do what it is supposed to do? In the case of a trainer we also want to know how good is the plane at helping a complete beginner master the art of RC flight.
To examine the factors that would lead a pilot to success we must look at the following:
- Stability during takeoff
- Stability during landing
- Stability at very low airspeeds
- How easy does the aircraft recover from trouble
- Is the plane tough? Can it take the abuse?
- Is the plane easy to see and control?
Let’s get to the answers:
The NexSTAR is stable in its ground handling. It is a tri-gear configuration and the nosewheel does the steering. No bad tendencies were shown while taxiing.
Takeoffs are effortless for the experienced and confidence inspiring for the novice. Pushing the throttle forward the plane picks up speed. Minor corrections keep the plane tracking straight. Once airspeed is achieved the plane rises off the ground with just a little up elevator. With the AFS enabled the wings stay nice and steady throughout the entire takeoff maneuver. (see my video) A+
Landing the NexSTAR is about the easiest I’ve seen on almost any aircraft I’ve flown. Simply line her up with the runway and the speedbrakes quickly reduce the speed. Don’t be fooled though as this plane is light enough that it can float along slowly and has a nice glide ratio. It isn’t a flying brick by any means. The plane settles in and a little up elevator to flare the landing is all it takes. (see my video) A+
At low speed the NexSTAR simply putters along happily as can be. No tendency to snap, stall or spin at any time. The airfoil extensions really do work! Both myself and a friend of mine at the field flew this plane around low and slow for the video and flight shots. What a pleasure this was. Not only is the plane stable but the AFS inspires confidence since you can take comfort that if you lose the plane at any moment you can release the sticks and it will fly straight and level. A+
RECOVERY FROM TROUBLE
I deliberately put the NexSTAR in various attitudes and released the sticks to see if it would get out of trouble. As expected the AFS quickly reacts once you release the sticks and levels the plane. I even did this at the top of a loop while inverted and the plane leveled itself out. Again very confidence inspiring for a beginner. If only I had this one when I was learning to fly! A+
CAN IT TAKE ABUSE
On one of the first test flights a wheel came off mid-flight. We were now faced with the test of whether the NexSTAR could handle this potentially difficult situation. I am happy to report that the plane was landed without a scratch on it. You can see this 2 wheel landing in the takeoff-landing video in this review. Note: Be sure to check the wheel collars to ensure they are tight.
IS THE PLANE EASY TO SEE AND CONTROL
The model is extremely easy to control and with the AFS enabled inspires confidence in both the novice and experienced pilot. The markings on the plane make it easy to see at both close distances and further away.
What beginner will be trying to fly aerobatics? Well at some point a beginner will learn to fly, takeoff and land and then he is ready for a few more thrills. The NexSTAR is ready to deliver those thrills with the removal of the speedbrakes, spin control extensions and disabling or reducing the gain on the AFS.
The NexSTAR can do loops & rolls (see video) quite nicely. It is also capable of cuban 8’s, inverted flight, 75-80 degree knife edge attitude, immelmans and stall turns.
While the NexSTAR is certainly not a 3D machine or an advanced aerobatic machine it is ready to provide the budding pilot with the ability to learn the basic aerobatic maneuvers and then once ready he can move on to other models having successfully graduated from flight school with his Hobbico NexSTAR.