RCU Review: Electrifly Rifle

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    Contributed by: Mathew Kirsch | Published: July 2010 | Views: 41687 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Electrifly Rifle

    Review by: Matt Kirsch
    Photos by: Papa Jeff Ring
    Flight crew: Scott Miller, Bill Stauber

    Distributed exclusively by:
    Great Planes
    Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021
    CHAMPAIGN, IL 61826


    Website: www.greatplanes.com

    Skill Level:
    Build Time:
    approx. 3 hours
    Frustration Level:
    No problem

    Click here for to learn
    "What these rating mean?".

    Looks really cool
    Goes like stink
    Rock-solid handling

    Every now and then, an R/C pilot's mind turns to thoughts of going really really really fast. For some it's a passing fancy, and for others it turns into a lifelong quest. Sometimes the results of that urge culminate in a high-dollar turbine. For others, it's a ridiculously overpowered foamie delta-winged craft.

    What if your wallet can't support a turbine, and your attitude about foam turns sour beyond coffee cups and takeout boxes? This is where the mini-hotliner enters the fray.

    Hotliners are high-performance powered sailplanes designed to fly extremely fast, but as competition-level aircraft, prices can rival that of a turbine aircraft. Mini-hotliners, aka "warmliners," are designed to feed the need for speed without eating all the cash in your bank account.

    Electrifly has put their engineering team to work once again, and the result is the appropriately-named Rifle, a compact, all-fiberglass mini-hotliner powered by their affordable Ammo motors.

    Wingspan: 31 in (785 mm)
    Wing Area: 112 in² (7.2 dm²)
    Weight: 17-18 oz (480-510 g)
    Wing Loading: 21.9-23.1 oz/ft² (67-70 g/dm²)
    Length: 24.5 in (620 mm)
    Motor: Ammo 24-33-3180
    Battery used: Electrifly 3S 11.1V 1800mAh
    ESC used: Electrifly SS25
    Radio equipment: Futaba 8FG, R617 FASST Rx, S3107 Servos

    Propeller: APC 4.75x4.75

    • Hobby saw
    • 1/16" drill bit and drill
    • #0 Phillips screwdriver
    • #1 Phillips screwdriver
    • Straightedge / ruler
    • Thin CA
    • Pliers
    • Servo tester and receiver battery (optional)

    No time for shooting off my mouth. Let's get started!
    This thing is going to be swiveling heads in no time.
    Usable packing material! Two strips of 1/8" lite ply for the scrap box.
    What kind of rifle would it be without some ammo?
    Here's the primer...
    ...and the pow(d)er!
    What's red and white and fast all over? The Electrifly Rifle, of course!

    Electrifly certainly picked a can't miss color scheme for the Rifle: White with enough red to make the plane visible in the air, plus black pinstriping to make it look good on the ground. Plus, it matches all the Electrifly accessories.

    I got a kick out of the "free" sheets of 1/8" lite ply that were used to stiffen the sides of the box during shipment. Those went right in my balsa box.

    The S3107 fits right in the elevator tray with no modifications.
    Futaba servos have an odd number of splines. If the horn won't go on straight...
    ...try flipping it 180 degrees.
    Once you know which arm you need, nip off the excess arms.
    Add the pushrod and thread it into the tube.
    One screw holds the whole works in its place. I later flipped the Z-bend for smoother operation.
    Assembly begins with the elevator servo and pushrod. While the instructions warn that it may be necessary to trim some of the mounting block to clear the servo lead, the Rifle is designed from the get-go for the Futaba S3107 servo. The '3107 case has a chamfered edge where the lead exits, allowing it to be directed straight down, straight ahead, or any angle in between. By directing the lead in the down direction, the servo popped right in.

    The instructions were a little sketchy on whether or not to use the rubber isolation mounts, or "rubber baby buggy bumpers" as I call them, to mount the servos. After trying the servo fit both ways, I decided to use the isolation mounts, as they clearly held the servo more securely than bare screws.

    A not-so-well-known fact about Futaba servos is, they have an odd number of splines on the output shaft. This means that the servo arm will mount at a perfect 90 degree angle one way, and slightly off-kilter the other way. If you discover that the servo arm isn't perfectly perpendicular to the case, take the arm off, rotate 180 degrees, and reinstall. Odds are the arm will be perfectly square to the case.

    This is the technique I used to determine which arms to cut off the stock 4-way servo arm. There was a 50/50 chance of getting it right the first time... Guess how I fared. At least it's not a complicated assembly.

    A fluorescent green addendum to the instructions greeted me when I first opened the box, instructing me to discard the stock black 1mm elevator pushrod, and use the heavier silver pushrod packed on top of the instructions. There was no black pushrod in the kit; evidently Great Planes is removing the lighter pushrod prior to shipping the kits.

    While the instructions clearly show the elevator pushrod installed with the z-bend pushed through the servo arm from the underside, I found that this created binding in the pushrod tube. By installing the pushrod with the z-bend inserted through the top of the servo arm, the binding was eliminated.
    A kink in the pushrod just past the fin puts it at the right angle for the elevator.
    "EZ" style connector on the elevator. There's no room for a Z-bend.
    Two sheet metal screws secure the stab.
    Tight installation. Helps to have nimble fingers and a good Philips screwdriver.
    T is for T-tail.
    This is going together quick. I'm already up to mounting the horizontal stabilizer.

    It's a tight squeeze under the elevator, but if you follow the instructions to the letter, it all fits together nicely. After making the prescribed bend in the pushrod, it will guide the stab assembly into place as it slides into the EZ connector. Some old-schoolers may prefer a Z-bend but it's just not an option here due to the close quarters.

    One thing I would recommend is to pre-thread and CA-harden the holes in the fin BEFORE putting the stab in place. The screwdriver is a lot less likely to cause damage when it slips.

    Leads shortened to 1" on the ESC. Makes for an easier install in limited space.
    Everything soldered up and ready for installation.
    The power pack on its way to its final resting place.
    The first screw is the most difficult, but once one's in, the rest are easy.
    It's a "cozy" fit, but nowhere near tight.
    Motor installation is the trickiest part of assembling the Rifle. That long narrow nose is just slightly larger on the inside than the motor is on the outside, and there's just enough space for the electronics. Even though the instructions state that shortening the motor leads is an optional step, I highly recommend it. When you shorten the leads to 1" as directed, the ESC tucks nicely up in the "roof" of the nose area with no excess wire to deal with. If you've ever had to figure out how to deal with trying to coil up uncooperative wires in tight locations, you'll appreciate the foresight that Great Planes's designers put into this airframe.

    It turned out much easier than I'd been told by others who have put this plane together. Maybe I just have nimble fingers, but my reputation as a ham-fist doesn't give that theory any credence. Actually, it's the generous cooling holes that give access for easy positioning of the motor.

    Don't forget to follow the wisdom of the instructions, and check the rotation of the motor before you install it. Everything has to come back out to swap leads if the rotation turns out to be backwards. If you roll the dice on a 50/50 shot, guess what'll happen... I'm glad I checked mine, otherwise I would've ended up with a Elfir instead of a Rifle.
    Testing aileron servo fit.
    Lines indicate forward, middle, and aft CG locations, starting from the top.
    Using the inner holes on the servo arm give plenty of throw and plenty of torque.
    I think the wing preparation took a whopping 6 minutes, 14 seconds... The most time-consuming part was waiting for the thin CA to flash over after hardening the holes. Using the equipment that the plane is designed around cuts build time by orders of magnitude. It's obvious that the plane was designed around Futaba S3107 servos, for example, because the servos slip perfectly into the trays and the screw holes are already marked in the servo tray on the wing.

    Definitely exercise the hinges before hooking up the pushrods. I found the ailerons to be a bit stiff at first.

    Gluing the wing
    Aileron Servo installed
    RX installed and wired
    Motor stick
    No time for shooting off my mouth. Let's get started!
    Motor installed
    No time for shooting off my mouth. Let's get started!
    No time for shooting off my mouth. Let's get started!
    No time for shooting off my mouth. Let's get started!
    No time for shooting off my mouth. Let's get started!
    No time for shooting off my mouth. Let's get started!
    No time for shooting off my mouth. Let's get started!
    So close to done, so very very close to done...

    Small planes like this make me appreciate 2.4GHz technology even more. With the old 72MHz, 36"-ish antennas, not only would you have to figure out how to thread it through the tight fuselage, but you'd also have an unsightly white wire dangling out the rear of the plane that's longer than the plane itself!. As fast as the Rifle promises to be, it wouldn't be a good idea to do anything to reduce the range of the radio system, so it's almost mandatory to have the antenna dangling.

    The antennas on the R617FS FASST receiver from Futaba are only about 6" long, and tuck conveniently inside the Rifle's fuselage. Great Planes was even thoughtful enough to provide an antenna routing recommendation for the FASST receivers. Using short pieces of the included tubing CA'd to the side of the fuselage turned out to be a clever and convenient way to hold the antennas out of the way in the limited space.

    From a structural perspective the final step in assembly is to add the landing skids. These three fiberglass skegs are bonded to the wingtips and tail of the plane with thin CA after carefully locating the skid and scuffing the area where bonding is to take place. Two drops of thin CA and 15 seconds of breath-holding is all it takes to secure the skids firmly in place.

    Amazingly enough, the battery slides right into the nose of the Rifle with no interference at all. It's almost as if the plane was designed around this set of components (and if I were a betting man, I'd put money on that being a fact).
    The Rifle's paint scheme looks pretty visible.
    It should be easy to tell top from bottom.
    The instructions mention the Rifle's thin profile at certain angles.
    Kinda disappears from the front too!
    I knew there was a use for this strange device hanging in my basement!
    This die-cut balancing jig comes with the Rifle.
    With the battery against the motor, it balances right in the middle of the range.
    Narrow strips of vinyl tape give the jig traction.
    With all the wiring in place, it's time to close 'er up and get a look at the complete picture!

    Astute observers will probably notice that the skids are missing from the assembled plane. Honestly, I was so excited about getting the plane assembled, I plum forgot to install them! So in reality, these pics were taken out of sequence. I'll fix that when I get out to the field for the real photo shoot.

    When you get into planes this small and this quick, balance becomes absolutely CRUCIAL. GP includes a purpose-built balancing jig kit specifically for the Rifle. It's a simple matter of gluing together the die-cut aircraft ply pieces with good old fashioned medium CA. The balancing dowels need to be sharpened before they're glued in. Normally you'd spend a few minutes with a sanding block, or a rotary tool sanding drum, or even a benchtop belt sander. I used a pencil sharpener!

    After slipping the battery into the bay with no particular attention to its exact position, I checked the preliminary balance. The battery turned out to be right against the motor, and the balance was right in the middle of the recommended range.

    Young children and people with weak constitutions should look away now because I can't even THINK what was going through my head when I first saw my Rifle take flight. Fellow club members Bill Stauber and Scott Miller took the roles of launcher and test pilot, respectively. Bill has a Rifle of his own, and Scott test flew it for him, so I knew I had the right guys for the job, while I ran the video camera.

    Within seconds of launch, I'd already lost sight of the Rifle with the camera. Even when I could keep up with it, the Rifle covered so much ground in such a hurry that my camera's auto-focus kept losing it. Thankfully there's plenty of battery for several minutes of flight, so I was able to get three minutes of good footage. Even the slow fly-bys are F-A-S-T. Forget following it with the camera on a low high-speed pass, that's for sure. You'll give yourself whiplash.

    Once all the niceities were out of the way, it was my turn at the sticks. With all the problems I had keeping the camera on the plane, I was a little nervous about being able to keep up with the plane. There's something about being in control that heightens your senses, though, and I had absolutely no trouble keeping both eyes on the Rifle, and keeping the "expensive side" up.

    In a word, flying the Rifle is a thrill. It needs a good heave to get going, but once the prop gets some traction, we're off to the races. As hokey as it sounds, the Rifle tracks like a bullet. The recommended elevator and aileron throws don't seem like much, but they're plenty when your primary goal is to maintain a smooth pattern. You're not going to be doing snap rolls or rolling harriers with it.

    Landing is about the hairiest part of the entire flight, and something I truthfully have not yet mastered. My test pilot "greased" it in like he knew what he was doing, but so far I've managed to knock landing skegs off trying to come in too fast. Entirely my fault. The landing approach needs to be as long, as low, and as flat as possible to allow the sleek Rifle to bleed off as much speed as possible before touchdown.

    One thing not often mentioned in reviews like this is crowd impact. The Rifle is a crowd-pleaser, for sure. When flying in front of an audience, you are guaranteed to hear a few mumbled expletives about the speed of the little plane, along with several exclamations of "Where is it?" or, "I lost it!" You can't buy moments like that!

    As exciting as it is, this is not a plane for everyone. I say that not because there's anything bad or wrong with the Electrifly Rifle, but because it takes a good set of eyes and the utmost concentration to keep it in view, along with a steady pair of thumbs on the sticks.

    There are planes that anyone can enjoy flying, and there are planes that you need to wait for the right level of experience before you can enjoy it properly. This one falls into the latter category. I absolutely love the thoughtful engineering, the handy size, the way the Rifle handles, and the thrill of putting the spurs to it and chewing up sky, but it is definitely something you should have a few planes under your belt, including at least one fast sporty type, before you attempt. Intermediate to advanced pilots will simply plotz over the performance.

    Electrifly and Futaba
    Distributed exclusively by:
    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. BOX 9021
    CHAMPAIGN, IL 61826
    Phone: (800) 637-7660
    Sales Phone: (800)338-4639
    Website: www.electrifly.com
    email: productsupport@greatplanes.com

    Comments on RCU Review: Electrifly Rifle

    Posted by: onefastxp on 07/26/2010
    how fast do you think it is going
    Posted by: ckindt on 08/05/2010
    this is not a hotliner by any stretch of the imagination!
    Posted by: Matt Kirsch on 08/05/2010
    That's good, because I didn't call it a hotliner! :)
    Posted by: ckindt on 08/06/2010
    From your introduction: "Electrifly has put their engineering team to work once again, and the result is ... all-fiberglass mini-hotliner ..." Someone thought it was... haha.
    Posted by: markhout on 08/07/2010
    it even doesn't come close:)
    Posted by: Matt Kirsch on 08/07/2010
    You guys are absolutely ruthless! :)
    Posted by: dbgood on 08/16/2010
    I have the Rifle,i have a Het 2w-20 motor in it with a 5.25 by 6.25 and straight out level is 137mph.. I love this plane.
    Posted by: ronald6w on 08/22/2010
    Has anyone that had flown this compared it to the Realflight 5 simulation of the Rifle? This is one of the squirreliest R5 simulations. Is this true to life?? Ron
    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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