Every so often a manufacturer will find that perfect balance between ease of assembly, good looks and great flight performance. These are often found in the "Sport-Flier" category where scale looks or extra channels become a non-factor.
Two years ago, Great Planes hit this Sweet Spot with their new Escapade 40-size ARF. So, how do you follow-up a plane that was such a hit? You introduce a bigger one!
When I was at the iHobby show in Chicago last October, I was roaming around the Great Planes booth when I looked up and saw this big, beautiful new 60-size version of their popular Escapade. "I want one of those!" I said (beating all of the other reviewers to the punch). I've never had the chance to fly the 40-size version, but my buddy has one, and he always says how much he is enjoying it! So when I saw that Great Planes had developed a 60-size, I jumped at the chance to review it!
Like its little brother, the Escapade .61 features a bolt-on tail assembly, a two-piece wing and a few added features like pre-hinged control surfaces with pre-mounted control horns. All of these add up to taking the Escapade from box to air in a very short amount of time!
Unlike the 40-size, the Escapade 61 also features an optional fiberglass cowl. So if you are so inclined, you can remove the "cheeks" that flank the engine and replace them with the cowl for an even sportier look!
4-channel radio (min) w/ Receiver and 5 Standard Servos
Two, 12" Servo Extensions
60-90 2-stroke or 91-120 4-stroke Glow Engine or RimFire? .80 Electric Motor w/ Two 3S 5000mAh 11.1V LiPo batteries and 60A ESC
Drill and Drill Bits
I have to admit that I was caught off-guard by the size of the box. This thing must be bigger than I was expecting! Upon opening the box, my suspicions were confirmed. Wow, this puppy is BIG!
All parts appeared to be in order, although I later discovered that I was missing one pushrod and clevis and at least one other RCU member confirmed that he was missing one also. However, it is worth noting that I contacted Great Planes and they sent a new pushrod and clevis out right away. They have also informed me that all future shipments will include a corrected hardware package.
Some notable features were the pre-installed control surfaces and control horns, a good, sturdy set of landing gear, fiberglass wheel pants and cowl and a pre-installed pilot figure.
Over-all, the manual was excellent. Clearly written with good, clean pictures, but I thought it could have gone into better detail on installing the cowl.
Assembly begins by adding a 12" extension to each of the aileron servos. Great Planes provides heat-shrink tubing to hold the joint together and the Escapade has strings installed in the wing with which to pull the wires through.
The aileron servos screw right to the bottom of the wing which makes for a very quick and easy installation. Since the ailerons and horns are already installed, all that's left to do is to bend and cut the pushrods to size and attach them to the servos with a nylon FasLink.
Now the two wing halves are joined onto the aluminum wing tube and a nylon strap is added to hold the two together. With that, the wing assembly is finished (and very quickly I might add).
Tail assembly starts with removing the tail post. With the post removed the stab slides easily into the rear of the fuse. The instructions say to just slide the tail wheel bracket into the rudder, but I added a little CA to the hole first for good measure.
A Little Difficulty
When it came time to install the fin, I ran into a little difficulty. I couldn't get the screws to find the holes in the bottom of the fuse. I removed the stab to try a "dry fit". With the stab gone, there was a small amount of light inside which allowed me to see that the screws needed to be moved forward by about 1/4". So I bent the forward rod slightly and placed the fin up-side down on the bottom of the fuse, inserted the bent screw into the forward hole and bent the rear screw so it matched the rear hole. Now, with the stab still removed, I was able to get the fin and screws in place.
I then removed the fin and re-installed the stab and a new problem arose. As you can see above, the fin has two steps in it; the larger step fits into the fuse and the smaller step fits the slot in the stab. Something was bottoming out and (now that the stab was blocking the light) I couldn't tell if it was the screws hitting the bottom, or the step hitting the stab - or both. A simple solution was to glue two small blocks of 1/2" balsa to the bottom of the stab. This allowed me to insert the fin into the stab before trying to align the screws.
Once the screws were in place, two lock nuts hold the assembly together. A nice little nut driver is supplied for tightening them.
Next, the tail wheel bracket is screwed to the bottom of the fuse and the wheel is attached.
With the tail assembly in place, it was time to hook up the pushrods. The first thing I noticed was that three pushrods and clevises were required but only two were supplied. Fortunately I had some long DuBro pushrods on hand so the assembly wasn't interupted. As I mentioned earlier, I contacted Great Planes about this and they did send a new pushrod and clevis out right away.
I also noticed that as I attached the rudder clevis, the rudder's control horn was never fully tightened. The horn was installed and the screws were in the backplate, but there was about 1/32" of play between the horn and the rudder. A few turns with a small screwdriver easily took care of it.
The manual has you put an L-Bend on the servo end of the pushrods, but because of the bends I added to the rear, this would have trapped them in the fuse, so I decided to bring DuBro to the rescue again by using some of their EZ Connectors.
The main gear bracket is bolted into blind nuts in the bottom of the fuse, the axles and wheels are added and the wheel pants slide on and each is secured with two screws, which also screw into blind nuts in the pants.
ENGINE AND TANK
If you are going the electric route, Great Planes supplies a motor mount. I'm going glow power, so this became a pencil holder.
Another pretty cool feature of the Escapade is the option of leaving the engine cheeks or adding the fiberglass cowl. If you don't care to do the extra work involved in mounting the cowl, you can just leave the cheeks and fly it that way.
Since I am using the cowl, the cheeks had to go. In retrospect, if I had to do it all over again, I would cut the cheeks off forward of the tri stock just to give the firewall a little more support. Now the mount can be screwed into the existing blind nuts.
The power of a 95 in the same size bolt pattern as the 75AX!
A high-performance engine that's ideal for aerobats and large-scale models.
Generous thread on the extra-long, balanced crankshaft means more secure prop attachment.
Balanced cracnkshaft provides smoother running which is important on the larger single-cylinder engines as vibrations can literally shake apart the airframe.
The E-4040 Power Box? muffler that's included dampens noise while boosting power.
Stock Number: OSMG0580 Displacement: 0.949 cu in (15.55 cc) Bore: 1.091 in (27.7 mm) Stroke: 1.016 in (25.8 mm) Practical rpm range: 2,000-16,000 Power output: 2.9 hp @ 15,000 rpm Engine weight: 20 oz (567 g) Muffler weight: 6.28 oz (178 g) Includes: E-4040 Power Box silencer, O.S. #8 Glow Plug, Needle Valve Extension Recommended prop sizes: 14x8, 15x6-8, 16x6-8 19120 95AX Parts Listings
With the massive 95AX in place, I used my Great Planes Dead Center Tool to locate the holes, then I removed the mounts, drilled and tapped them and mounted the engine.
Then I installed the tank, but not before opening it up to check the plumbing. Everything was in order, but another reason for opening it was (since the tank is opaque) to see which tube was which.
The manual says to mount the engine so the thrust plate is 5 1/2" from the firewall. This worked ok, but it could have easily been 1/8" further back to give the cowl a little more wood to screw into.
With the throttle servo installed, I added the receiver and battery. The Escapade has pre-cut holes in both sides for mounting the switch and/or charging jack. I mounted the switch on the side opposite the engine exhaust, and since I would need to remove the wing for transporting, I skipped adding a charging jack.
Attaching the canopy with RC56 Canopy Glue was the final step. Now I only have to ship her down to a warmer climate and I'll get her airborne!
Our Minnesota runway was still underneath three feet of snow, but thanks to my friend Loren Pearson and his crew who drove the Escapade down to Florida for me, I was able to do the flying without needing skis! We met up at a field near Orlando and even though there was a fairly stiff wind, I took her up for the maiden flight.
All went very well, despite the alligators and cotton mouths that we had been warned about, but on the second flight, just as she took off, the engine came to a sudden stop (That's what happens when I'm too anxious to fly to bother breaking it in!) To make matters worse, a sudden gust caused a stall and she pancaked in from about 4 feet high. The main gear plate had torn off and the firewall was loosened - not really major damage, but it was done for the day.
Back at my home base near Del Rey Beach, and a little epoxy later, the Escapade was ready again - this time with a little more time on the engine and less wind! Since she had already been trimmed out, I decided to do a full-power takeoff directly into a vertical climb - WOW! I kept watching to see how far up it would go, but I finally decided to pull the power back when I could hardly see it anymore.
Ok, I know some guys like to over-power their planes, so if you're one of those guys, you'll like the 95AX. For my taste, it's way more engine that this plane needs. I think a 75AX will be killer in this airframe - lots of extra power without being overpowered and a 65AX would make it a really nice advanced trainer or aerobatic trainer.
Then I pulled back to about half throttle and started having some fun - and this plane is FUN! She tracks great, loops, rolls, hammerheads, you name it, she'll do it (outside of 3D of course), and she's very forgiving at the same time.
Landings are exactly what you'd expect. Just line her up and let her settle in. No bad habits at all!
My dad was on hand so I got him to take it around while I shot video. My dad just turned 90 and he doesn't like over-powered planes either, so just about the whole flight was shot at half throttle, but I did get him to do one full power, vertical take off! The zoom lens sort of takes away the affect of just how high it was when he pulled out, but I think you'll get the idea.
Check out the video to see her in action!
Great Planes Escapade 61 ARF Or, Download the Video (24meg) CLICK HERE
Some people prefer larger planes. They are a bit more forgiving and easier to see. If you like them big, the new Escapade 61 ARF is a great choice. She's an excellent flier at an affordable price. Depending on the engine you choose, this new 68" version of the popular Escapade can be anything from a secondary trainer to an all-out aerobat.
Construction is easy for the most part. The only tricky area (Tail assembly) I covered in the text and the hardware issue has been resolved (but if you DO get one with a missing pushrod, Great Planes will send you one ASAP).
For my taste, a 75AX would be a perfect choice for power. A 60ish engine would make it a really good advanced trainer, and if you like them over powered, drop a 95AX in the nose and hang on!
Futaba Corporation of America Distributed by:
Great Planes Model Distributors
P.O. Box 9021 Champaign, IL 61826-9021
Distributed through Great Planes Model Distributors
2904 Research Rd.
Champaign IL 61826
Phone: (217) 398-8970
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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.