Pre-printed color scheme.
top to bottom contrast.
hinged and beveled control surfaces.
Minor problem with pre-assembled wheel pants
recently became convinced of the need of a small, inexpensive,
aerobatic plane with which to practice 3D style flying.
When I was asked to review the Pluma from Electri-Fly I did a
little research and surmised that it would not only cover my
need for a close in, aerobatic practice plane, but it would
satisfy my affection for biplanes in general.
The Pluma (which is Spanish for feather) is a foam, Almost
Ready to Fly (ARF) biplane, with flat sheet wings and tail, a
built up fuselage, and HUGE control surfaces. Combine the light
wing loading with a well matched power system, and the Pluma will be at home outdoors in calm winds.
Install the optional airbrakes and use the indoor power package
package, and the Pluma will be perfect in a gym or aircraft hangar.
Tower Hobbies carries the basic airframe and two combination
packages. The combination
packages include a Rimfire brushless motor,
and the appropriate speed controller. There is an indoor
or outdoor package available depending on where you intend to
fly the Pluma. This review consists of the basic airframe
equipped with the outdoor flying package.
Pluma Bipe 3D ARF Price: $49.95 (kit) $110 (Outdoor
combo) Wing Span: 830mm (32.5") Flying Weight as tested: 8.8
ounces Motor: Rim Fire 28-26-1000
Brushless ESC: GP Power Series SS-12
Brushless Battery used: GP Power Series 11.1V
640mah 20C LiPo Radio equipment: Futaba 9C,
146iP Receiver, HS-65HB Servos
Foam Safe CA Accelerator (optional)
3 Micro servos
4 Channel receiver
3 cell 11.1v Lithium Polymer Battery
Soldering iron (I'd suggest an old tip)
Wings and tail assemblies
receiving the Pluma I unpacked it and inspected the contents for
shipping damage. The airplane seemed to have made the
journey safely so I unpacked the instruction manual and read it
cover to cover. I say manual because, as usual, Great Planes
has provided excellent instructions. Some kits in the
price range might have nothing more than a 2 sheet fold out with
some diagrams and notes. The Pluma however, came with a 23
page instruction book that has detailed photographs, clear
instructions, and even side bar tips. It details nearly everything
you need to know to get the Pluma from the box in to the air.
basic kit includes everything that you need with the exception
of the electronics and a prop. They even packaged a
section of hinge tape and enough velcro to mount your battery
and speed controller.
There isn't a whole lot that isn't covered by the manual but I
will pass along a few things I learned along the way.
Built up fuselage
Foam Safe CA
first thing I learned is to take some scraps of foam and test your
CA, and if you use it, your accelerator (kicker) for compatibility
with the foam. I had obtained foam safe CA but my kicker
caused problems. Save yourself some trouble and test first!
second item of note is that the foam parts, especially the flat
wings and control surfaces are not very tough. Cover your work
area with a cloth and make sure you keep your tools and glue away
from where you will be moving the pieces about.
parts are easy to crease, or worse, if you are heavy handed.
All of the interlocking parts fit pretty well but make sure you dry
fit everything before gluing. If the parts don't go together
easily, do a little trimming. Don't force things or you will
break something or fold it in half.
last thing is that you will need a hobby knife to do a few tasks.
No matter how sharp you think it is, start with a fresh blade. An old blade will pull on the foam while cutting and make a
mess, a new blade will make nice clean cuts.
Make sure to build it straight
Carbon and heat shrink pushrods
Completed aileron pushrods.
(Note: I followed the steps in
the manual for the review but if I were to build another one I
would skip to the tail installation step before I put the wings
on. Installing the elevator and rudder servos would be a lot
easier if the wings were not installed at that point. This
is just personal preference and not a fault of the assembly
sequence in the manual.)
One of the things that stood out to
me, and sets the Pluma apart from a few of the foam biplanes I
have seen, is the use of two pushrods between the ailerons.
I highly recommend measuring the part you are going to use each time a carbon rod is called
for. There are quite a few of them and they are of similar
lengths. The 145 millimeter rods are used to make the 4
aileron pushrods. The manual shows the measurement of
2-1/8" or 156mm for the pushrods. There is an addendum on
the Pluma web page that shows the correct measurement but its
obvious that the English measurement is way too short and would
force you to cut down the rods and result in a very strange
looking aileron configuration. The metric measurement is
After you heat
shrink the Z-bends on to the push rods double check the length
and then wick just a drop of thin CA into each joint.
Don't forget this step because the heat shrink will not provide
enough strength, and you don't want your pushrods changing
lengths in flight. Too much thin CA and it will run down
the pushrod and glue it to your finger (yes I did it).
Control surface alignment using tool provided in the kit
Tail feathers glued in
Rudder servo and pushrod
Whenever I build a kit from Great Planes I never fail to learn a
tip for my bag of tricks and the Pluma was no exception.
The aileron pushrods can be built away from the airplane using a
heat gun. However, when it comes time to assemble the
elevator and rudder pushrods and the pushrods from the servo to
drive the ailerons, a heat gun (or lighter) would melt and
destroy the foam. Great Planes describes how to use a soldering
iron to shrink the tubing and build the pushrods. I
suggest using an old tip for this as it will inevitably melt
some of the heat shrink on to your iron tip. I had a flat
tip that I have never found a use for that worked perfectly.
Plug in and center the elevator and rudder servos and assemble
one end of the push rod. I went ahead and lined up the
pushrod guides and glued them in place. This is one area
you will have to cut some foam and if you don't have a clean
blade you will make a mess. After you have the guides and
servo end of the pushrods in place, center the control surface
with the provided tool and complete the other end with your
soldering iron. Double check your length and if everything
is square, go ahead and put a drop of thin CA on all of the
carbon rod and heat shrink joints.
elected to use HS65 servos in the Pluma. This decision,
motivated solely because I had three of them on hand, cost me
two minor modifications. The first is they are slightly
bigger than the suggested Futaba 3114 micro servos so the
mounting holes needed a bit of trimming. The second became
apparent when it was time to mount the custom servo arm for the
ailerons and it was obvious the arm extension was drilled for
the Futaba servo arms. Neither presented a problem but if
you're buying servos for the Pluma, get the 3114's, they fit
perfectly and are faster than the ones I used.
Flat tip on my soldering iron to shrink pushrod tubes
12A speed controller
was asked to review my Pluma with the outdoor combination
package. The meant the business end
would be getting an Electri-Fly Rimfire brushless out runner motor.
Moving the electrons from the battery to the motor is an Electri-Fly
12 amp Silver Series speed controller. To provide power, I
was also supplied with an Electri-Fly Power Series 3 cell, 20C, 640mah LiPo
fit the motor to the firewall and check that everything is flat.
The glue they used at the factory had a bead along the firewall
that was preventing the motor mount from sitting square against
the firewall. This took me just a few moments to carefully
trim away. Make sure you remove and thread lock the
phillips head screws that hold the prop saver, you don't want
these coming loose in flight. Mount your speed controller
in the location shown but don't mount the velcro for your
battery until you check the balance. I would also
recommend that after you thread the self tapping screws into the
firewall you remove them and harden the threads with thin CA.
At this point, when I picked up the airplane it was like about
as stiff as a glass of water without the glass. I was
surprised to find out that after all of the carbon cross
braces are installed the structure is quite stiff. This
step is a bit tedious but make sure you take the time to dry fit
all of the rods and glue them one at a time while ensuring
everything stays square. The end result conjures images of
an X-Wing fighter.
When the cross braces are dry it is time to install the aileron
servo and the landing gear. The instructions indicate that you
need to attach the wheel pants to the landing gear leg but this
step has already been done at the factory. When the struts
were installed and the wheel aligned correctly, the front of the
wheel pants were canted downwards. I tried to adjust them,
but it didn't appear possible without breaking something.
The result was the wheel pants grabbing during landing and
causing a nose over. I removed the wheel pants and didn't
have any farther trouble with the landing gear. It is very
possible this was only an issue with the particular kit I
With the Pluma sitting on its landing gear the only thing left was to mount the propeller and
check the balance.
3S 640mah LiPo
Rimfire motor installation
Aileron servo installation
When you have everything completed, mark the wing as indicated
in the instructions and put some velcro on the battery.
Figure out where the battery needs to go and install it in the
front of the fuselage making sure the bulk of the weight of the
battery is even with the center line of the motor. This
will help keep the airplane from corkscrewing when doing aileron
rolls. Great Planes designers already set the plane up
with aileron differential by virtue of the provided servo arm.
instructions indicate that for indoor flight the CG should be
set at 67mm from the leading edge of the top wing, for outdoors
it should be set to 63mm. The manual also says the total
range is 44 to 85 mm, a 41mm range is huge considering the size
of the wing. I went with 67mm because I knew the farther
back it was the better it would perform 3D maneuvers .
After all, I wasn't setting my Pluma up for IMAC practice!
guidance I chose my Futaba 9C with a 146iP PCM receiver. I
fished the wire antenna inside the fuselage because I didn't
think the foam would interfere and I was planning on flying the
Pluma in close. Great Planes provides a template and
suggested control throws for three control ranges: low, high,
and 3D rates. If you're using dual rates I would set the
low rates and high rates as suggested and increase the high rate
as you gain confidence. The control surfaces are huge and
when flown with the 3D rates the Pluma can be quite a handful if you
aren't ready for it.
Since the 9C is a very versatile radio I was ready to spend a
few flights testing mixes for knife edge correction and any
other bad habits the airplane might have. It turns out
that if you build this airplane straight, you could fly it with
a basic four channel radio; none of the fancy computer radio
mixing was needed. I would suggest a radio that offers
dual rates and expo on the primary flight controls though, the
Pluma would be quite a handful on high rates with no expo.
Keep in mind when I say that I fly 3D helicopters so I'm used to
weekend finally arrived I drove to the flying field amid the air
of anticipation that surrounds any maiden flight. Unfortunately
that air was moving to the east at 12 to 15 knots. I topped off
the battery, checked the CG, and verified control throws and
directions. After waiting for a couple of hours the wind didn't
abate so I decided to go for it.
With all of
the control surfaces carefully centered the Pluma didn't need
any trim. The plane tracked well during some basic maneuvers so
I took it up a bit, pointed the nose into the wind and brought
power back and added elevator to see where the plane stalled. I
had bought the power back until the prop had stopped and it was
just floating down, wings level with about half the available
elevator. I realized I was still on low rates! I also realized
that the airplane was actually going backwards! Landing
should not present any problems.
day of testing there was very little wind and things went very
well. In no time at all I was hovering, doing torque rolls,
harriers, and flat (REALLY FLAT) spins, both upright and
inverted. I tried everything I could think of, and the Pluma
handled it with ease. Even on low rates the Pluma will fly
around knife edge all day long. Knife edge loops? It does them
so fast and tight I thought the prop was going to cut the tail
had a surprising amount of power. The suggested 10x4.7
slow flyer prop won't win any pylon races, but while hovering
there is enough power that just a blip of throttle was all it
took to get out of trouble. Control authority, as one
might imagine when 30 percent or more of the wing area is
aileron, is outstanding. Mixing in a healthy amount of
expo, especially in 3D rates, made the aircraft very
controllable. Less expo in high rates and the Pluma looked
very crisp and precise.
have a lot of gifted pilots at our field but not as many gifted camera
operators, I decided to enlist my friend Parker Gilbert to put
the Pluma through its paces while I filmed. As you can see from
the video Parker was really enjoying himself. His one comment
was that he felt I had the CG too far back. Parker flies IMAC
and since I
intended to use this plane for 3D practice, I left the CG where
it was. I've tried moving the CG both forward and back a
little but for my flying style, 67mm seems to feel best.
the ElectriFly Pluma in action!
The Pluma looks good, builds
quickly and easily, and flies extremely well. The one hour
build time may be a little optimistic but you could easily
assemble the Pluma in one evening while watching television.
CA accelerator will speed the process immensely.
The ElectriFly Pluma
definitely met my expectations as a 3D practice plane. It
is nice to have just the plane and transmitter in my Jeep so I
can grab a quick flight at lunch time or after work.
Remember that practice is the one thing that will improve your
flying more than anything else.
The Pluma can be hand launched
by advancing the power and it will fly out of your hand at just
over half throttle. It will also take off from a smooth
paved surface but flying off of grass would require hand
launching. It lands so slowly that landing in the grass is
The only issueI had with the
Pluma was with the wheel pants. Also take care when
handling the Pluma in and out of your vehicle and in the pits. My plane blew off the table and tumbled a couple
of times on the ground and caused a good bit of damage.
That was clearly my fault, but it does support the following
recommendation. The Pluma would be better suited for
intermediate pilots and up. Those that are comfortable
flying a tail dragger airplane with light wing loading and a
high power to weight ratio. I don't think this airplane is
built to take much abuse.
you're looking for a high performance, aerobatic airplane that
builds quickly and won't damage the wallet, you should give the
Pluma serious consideration. The best complement I can
give a review airplane, or any model that I own, is by answering
this: If I destroyed it would I buy another one?
With the Pluma the answer to that question is a resounding yes!
Hitec RCD USA, Inc.
12115 Paine St.
Poway CA, 92064
Web Site: www.hitecrcd.com
Product used: HS-65HB
The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.