RCU Review: Heli-Max AXE 400 3D RTF

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    Contributed by: Andrew Griffith | Published: March 2009 | Views: 99274 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Heli-Max AXE 400

    Review by: Andrew Griffith

    Distributed in the US by:
    Great Planes Model Distributers
    PO BOX 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021
    Phone:(800) 338-4639

    Website: www.greatplanes.com

    Heli-Max Axe 400 Broad Band

    Ready to fly in minutes.
    Attractive and tough canopy.
    RTR version includes computer 2.4Ghz radio system.
    Included servos are excellent.

    No manual for the installed gyro that was included. (Editors Note: manual is available on the Heli-Max website)

    Heli-Max has been in the model helicopter business for as long as I can remember. I learned to fly on a Concept 30 back in the 1980s and instead of training gear, I used a set of Heli-Max 30 sized floats to cushion my first few controlled crashes, I mean...landings.

    Heli-Max, normally known for accessories and smaller helicopters, have come out with a couple of larger helicopters the past year or so to compete in the popular 450 electric class, and even the 50 size nitro market. The Axe 400 is the same size, and uses the same blades as the popular Trex 450 and Thunder Tiger Mini Titan e325 helicopters.

    The Heli-Max Axe 400 appears to be marketed towards the beginner and intermediate level pilots and is available in two versions. The first is a receiver ready version, which includes servos, motor, speed controller, and a gyro. It is also available in a RTF (ready to fly) version that comes complete with a 6 channel, 2.4 Ghz FAAST Futaba computer radio system. We will be testing the the RTF setup that comes complete with a computer radio system and very respectable S3114 servos.

    Kit Name: AXE 400 RTF Mini Electric Helicopter (RTR version)
    Price: $
    Main Rotor Span:
    27.5 in (699 mm)
    Flying Weight as tested:
    23 oz (652g)
    Included 325mm wood blades
    Motor Used:
    Included Pro-Series 425 brushless out runner
    Gyro used:
    Included HM4000 heading lock gyro and S3314 servo
    Radio equipment:
    Includes Futaba 6EX FAAST and S3114 cyclic servos.

    • 3S 2500 mah LiPo Battery
    • Suitable LiPo charger
    • 8 AA batteries


    If you're a fan of my long and detailed build guide style reviews, you're going to be disappointed. The entire assembly process consisted of removing the contents from the box, installing 8 AA batteries in the transmitter, a 3 cell LiPo battery in the helicopter, and walking out side for a test flight.

    Since this is a review though I followed procedure and unpacked the two included instruction manuals and sat down to do a little bit of reading. First I read the manual for the helicopter itself. It is typical of the excellent manuals that come out of Hobbico and includes a great deal of detailed information. In truth, if you don't plan on doing anything else with the included radio, you can safely skip the 6EX manual all together. All of the programming is already completed and the AXE 400 is truly ready to fly out of the box. Everything that you need to know about the radio to fly the AXE is included in the helicopters manual.

    I had only one issue with the included instructions. There is no paper work included with the gyro. Also the gyro switch location, while labeled on the transmitter, is not shown in the otherwise detailed photographs and instructions for the helicopter on page 5. The manual for the gyro is available on the Heli-Max web site. I'm not certain it matters with this gyro, but normally heading hold gyros like to be initialized in heading hold which is the UP position of the gyro switch (Channel 5). They mention that 45 percent gain in heading hold works well on page 11 and that is exactly where I found the gain set to in the radio. (It flew well but needed a touch more gain for me)

    HM4000 gyro
    Main rotor head
    Battery tray and ESC

    The manual also includes detailed safety information, a parts break down, upgrade listing, flying and troubleshooting tips. The book also shows the proper lengths for the control linkages should you find yourself in need or replacing any.

    An examination of the airframe reveals a bit of a hybrid. The frame is a two piece molded cage that is similar in appearance to the Thunder Tiger Mini-Titan. The head features an under-slung flybar and trailing edge control arms on the main grips. This configuration is similar to most of the 400 or 450 sized helicopters on the market. The swashplate uses 120 degree CCPM for control and is equipped with three speedy S3114 micro servos.

    The tail is driven by a belt and the tail case has a flanged idler pulley for the belt to eliminate some of the problems found on other designs. Belt tension should be just tight enough so that the tail doesn't slip a tooth if you try to turn the tail rotor while holding the head but no tighter. This will give maximum flight time on your battery and longest belt life.

    Tail assembly
    Servo installation
    3500 KV brushless motor

    The main gear mesh on my Axe 400 was perfect. I tested the gear mesh by feeding a strip of notebook paper between the main and pinion gears. The paper came out with a nice accordion fold. You want to loosen the mesh a bit if it comes out mangled or you will rob power from the helicopter or even melt the main gear. If, on the other hand, it comes out wavy, you should tighten it up a little bit or risk stripping the main gear during hard power inputs.

    I checked over the radio programming and found everything to be set up correctly and ready to go with one exception. The idle up feature is disabled by default since the helicopter is aimed at the beginner and intermediate market. This is clearly explained in the manual and if you're an experienced pilot it takes only a few seconds to enable. Once enabled I found that idle up was set up correctly as well.

    Other than putting a few stickers on the attractive canopy, the only steps left are to install the batteries and go fly. Before we get ahead of ourselves though, lets take a closer look at the radio system that's packaged with the Axe 400 RTF.

    Electri-Fly 2200 Mah LiPo
    Ready to test out
    SMC Volts 2200Mah LiPo
    Transmitter and charger
    Battery installation
    606FS Receiver

    Most radio systems bundled with ready to fly helicopters usually aren't suitable for much else, some are barely suitable to fly the plane or helicopter they came with. Not so Futaba 6EX that comes with the AXE 400! The Ready To Fly version includes a fully functional 6 channel 2.4Ghz computer radio and 6 channel receiver. I mean, this is a real radio! It has 6 model memories, and on top of that it supports both helicopter and aircraft programming. It is also has a buddy box port that uses the Futaba small, square trainer cord.

    The included 6EX requires the use of 8 AA batteries but the fairly low power consumption of the 2.4Ghz radios means that these batteries will last for quite some time. I have well over 10 flights at this point and they are still going strong. The transmitter has an external charge port but since the radio comes with neither a transmitter NiCad or a receiver battery I find it curious that it comes with a wall wart charger. I suppose that you could purchase 8 of the rechargeable batteries available at your favorite electronics retailer and charge them through the external charge port. Check with any instructions provided with the batteries you purchase before trying to charge them in the transmitter however.

    Moving around the transmitter we see that it includes a programmable dual rate switch, a throttle hold, gyro gain, and idle up switches. It also has a throttle cut button on the face of the transmitter but those are usually used in fuel powered helicopters and airplanes. Dual rate and exponential are programmable for all three primary flight controls.

    The idle up feature is inhibited by default but can easily be enabled by the pilot when he or she feels ready for aerobatics. Here we come to one of the two limitations of the 6EX; it only allows for one idle up flight mode. When pulled back to what normally would be idle up 2 the switch is spring loaded back to the center position. This is how you initiate the trainer function of the 6EX. Many of us only use normal and 1 idle up flight mode anyhow so this should present no real problem for most beginner or intermediate pilots. The availability of a viable trainer option more than makes up for the loss of a flight mode.

    The only other small limitation with the 6EX is the lack of sub-trim for the swashplate servos. This is no problem for most people because helicopter pilots are tinkerers by nature and like to take the time to get our linkages perfect.

    I had the Electri-Fly 2200 Mah battery that is recommended in the manual for 3D flight on hand from a previous review. I installed the battery and adjusted it so that the helicopter would hang skids level with the canopy installed. Installing the canopy with the 2200Mah battery can be something of a chore so make sure you don't break anything as it's a very tight fit.

    With the helicopter balanced, I checked out the control throw in both high rate and low rate and enabled idle up 1. During pre-flight I was pleased to note that none of the ball links needed cleaning out with a reamer, nor did they feel like they were ready to pop off. I was anxious to get in to the air so I took the AXE 400 for a couple of laps around my cul-de-sac. The helicopter lifted into a stable hover and I checked out both low and high rates. I purposely didn't put a pitch gauge on the blades because I wanted to see if the stock settings were good enough to fly the helicopter in both normal and idle up modes as it came out of the box.

    As I lifted into the AXE's first hover I noticed two things right away. The first, the helicopter was almost perfectly trimmed out. Taking the time to balance the helicopter helps with minimizing trim. The second was that the blades were perfectly in track. This may be the first plastic head helicopter that I didn't have to fool with blade tracking on the first flight.

    The helicopter was stable but the tail seemed a bit mushy. I landed and upped the gain 5 points and that felt more locked in. I didn't have the room to fly it around backwards or try any aerobatics but the controls were sensitive at high rate and very docile at low rate; just the way I prefer them. I flew the rest of the battery doing slow circuits and figure 8's, and everything seemed to be going well. I subjected the AXE 400 to a thorough post flight inspection looking for any loose fasteners or dust that would indicate a problem. Everything looked good so the next day it was off to the field.

    I contacted my regular test pilot, Bobby Smith at RREModels and asked him if he had any battery suggestions that would be easier for getting the canopy on. He sent me a SMC Lightning Volts 2200Mah 25C LiPo to try out. It's lower profile fit well under the canopy and the battery performed very well in the helicopter.

    With the helicopter in idle up, and a little bit of tweaking on the rates to suit my flying style, I had the AXE 400 flying around very well. The gyro is a bit modest for anything fast backwards, but it holds well enough to do basic aerobatics and mild 3D such as 540 stall turns, elevator and aileron tic-tocs, loops and rolls.

    Flying in low rate the helicopter is smooth and predictable. Training with this helicopter should not present any problems or surprises. A problem I find with some cheaper helicopters is that gyro performance degrades as the battery voltage drops. With the AXE 400 I observed consistent tail rotor holding throughout the battery pack.

    Tail slides and backwards loops usually resulted in a tail blow out and when I increased the gyro gain much over 53 percent I got a pretty significant tail wag in forward flight. Backwards circuits at medium speeds are no problem, and the stock set up has plenty of control throw without bogging down the head.

    See the Heli-Max AXE 400 in action!


    If you're looking for an electric helicopter that you can unpack, install batteries, and go flying, then the AXE 400 should be given serious consideration. If you are starting out, the included radio is a definite step up above the radio systems packaged with many helicopter combo deals. The Futaba 6EX will fly any electric helicopter and also supports fixed wing programming. The 2.4Ghz FAAST system will free you from both the pin board at the local flying field, and worries about accidental shoot downs at parks or soccer fields.

    I was impressed by the fact that I didn't have hardly any tweaking to do to go from box to basic aerobatics. Most of the changes I made were to suit my personal tastes; the helicopter flew just fine right out of the box.

    Simulators have come a long way but the best way to improve your flying is to fly. While there are some upgrades available for the AXE, I would recommend buying a few batteries and passing on the metal parts.

    Even a seasoned pilot will appreciate the ability to fly a few packs at lunch time or after work. I've found this goes a long way to help keep the flying skills sharp. A small electric helicopter like the AXE 400 makes that possible in places one of my large nitro helicopter might be, shall we say, less than appreciated.

    Distributed exclusively by:

    Great Planes Model Distributers
    PO BOX 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021
    Support Phone: (800) 338-4639
    Website: www.helimax-rc.com
    email: helihotline@hobbico.com

    SMC Batteries
    Sold by:

    1260 N. Nova Road
    Daytona Beach, FL 32117 Phone: (382) 212-5100
    Web Site: www.rremodels.com
    E-mail: sales@rremodels.com
    Product used: SMC Lightning Volts 2200Mah 25C LiPo

    Comments on RCU Review: Heli-Max AXE 400 3D RTF

    Posted by: raymanh on 04/12/2009
    Posted by: Mustang Fever on 12/28/2009
    Evidently you got a good one. Mine had a bad gyro from the start, and HeliMax was unable to replace it after 30 days. As far as I'm concerned, it's junk, and Helimax is a substandard outfit. I sent it back to Tower and got a refund is the only good thing I have to say about it.
    Posted by: dragus359 on 01/04/2010
    I agree 100% with the review. It was as if he was narrating my personal experience with the Axe (although mine's blade tracking was slightly off). The heli is rock solid and needs no upgrades for the average flier. It seems to me that it only falls short with regards to the gyro's performance when it comes to more intense maneuvers; but that can be easily remedied with a better gyro - something that one should have no problems obtaining or installing.
    Page: 1
    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.

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