When is a GeeBee not a GeeBee? When it's an R-3 Fantasy Racer. I've never had my brain strained so much as when I was doing research for this review. Here I was expecting to read something about the Granville Brother's lost design when nothing could be further from the truth.
Now I'm not about to go speculating as to whom exactly is the original designer, but it appears that the R-3 was designed by an Italian aircraft designer by the name of Mirco Pecorari. Mr. Pecorari claims that his original design was stolen and engineered into an R/C model by several manufacturers. In any case, the design is out there now and lots of companies have picked it up.
At this year's Toledo Show, I was fortunate enough to meet Gerry (pronounced 'Gary') Hinshaw (pronounced 'Hinshaw') from Giant Model Products. Gerry had several gorgeous planes on display but the one that caught my eye was the R-3 Fantasy Racer. Gerry says that GMP has the R-3 in five sizes (20cc, 30cc, 50cc, 100cc, and a soon-to-be-released 150cc). You can see the video of our conversation in this year's Toledo Coverage.
After our conversation, Gerry asked me if I would review his R-3 for RCUniverse. Well, that was a no-brainer. My plate was empty and I was in need of a good, spring project so I jumped on it. A few weeks went by and I heard that there were a few problems with shipping damage, but Gerry made a personal trip to the manufacturing plant to get that straightened out, and shortly afterward, the R-3 was on my doorstep.
Wingspan: 81 in. (2057 mm) Wing Area: 153 in² (9.9 dm²) Weight: 16 - 17lbs (7.25 - 7.7 kg) Length: 72 in (1829 mm) Engine: 50cc - 60cc Engine Used: DLE-55 Radio Used:Futaba 10CAG Servos Used: (6) Futaba S9001 Servos. Channels Used: 5 total - Elevator, Aileron, Throttle, Rudder, Flaps
Items Needed To Complete
5-channel radio with six high-torque servos, receiver
50cc - 60cc Gas Engine
Small Drill bits
Various Standard Shop Tools
Center of Gravity
5" - 6 1/4" from leading edge at fuselage.
The R-3 arrived in a HUGE white box with a simple color label describing the plane and specs. Upon opening the box it was apparent that the hold-down tapes had pulled loose in a few places, but the contents had not shifted too much nor had they been damaged.
My goodness Grandma, what BIG feet you have! One of the most striking features of the R-3 is the size of the wheel pants! They are made from fiberglass and have the wire gear already inside them. Some other nice features are the split flaps and bolt-on (removable) stabs.
A few years ago I coined the term "Builder's ARF", a play-on-words of the term "Builder's KIT" meaning you have to know what you are doing as the manual gives you very little help. I have seen some bad manuals in my day, but I can honestly say that this is one of the worst.
The manual is a CD which contains a single PDF document. The pictures are good, but it is written in broken-English or what has become known as "Chinglish" and gives little in the way of specific information (like where the CG should be). That said, the plane goes together very easily and the hardware is packaged by individual steps, so anyone who has several builds under his belt shouldn't have too much trouble figuring things out.
The manual simply says to attach the rudder control horns. After assembling them, I temporarily hinged the rudder to the fin (After enlarging the ends of the holes for the hinge knuckle) so that I could accurately align the horn with the slots in the fuselage.
I marked and drilled the holes and screwed the horn in place. Then I repeated the procedure on the opposite side.
Next I permanently attached the rudder hinges with epoxy and installed the pull-pull cables.
I was surprised to see that the plywood mounting plates in the elevators were directly behind the servo slots. At first I thought this was a screw-up until I realized that by doing it this way they was no need for any servo reversing. It's a bit unconventional, but it seems to work ok.
Now you can remove the covering, add the aluminum tube and bolt the stabs in place.
AILERONS AND FLAPS
As I did with the rudder, I aligned the aileron horns with the servos - Ditto for the flaps.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The screws provided for the flap horns are the same size as all of the others, but due to the fact that these are split flaps, the screws are too long! On each flap horn I replaced the four forward screws with #4 x 1/2" Sheet Metal screws and the two rear screws with #4 x 3/8" Sheet Metal screws.
I needed to clean out the holes a little before the wire struts would fit nicely in the wing and one strut needed to be tweaked a little to sit properly inside the fiberglass pant. Once everything fit well, the struts were secured with nylon straps and I secured the pants by adding small screws into the gear blocks.
The wheels were added but I noticed that spacers were needed to prevent the wheels from rubbing against the struts. I also added some scraps of plywood so that the screws which hold the forward part of the pant had something a little more substantial to grab on to.
Rather than cut the covering along the opening, I left about 3/8" all around and ironed the covering over to give it less chance of coming loose. There are two nylon wing bolts per wing to secure them and with that, the R-3 was sitting on all three wheels!
They supply two nice templates for mounting either a DA or 3W engine. The DA and DLE have the same mounting holes so I used that one. I had to add 3/8" spacers to clear the cowl.
The manual shows the throttle servo in a plywood mount that does not exist in either the plane or the included accessories. There are servo cutouts on both sides of the engine box, but they were not even close to being usable with the rear-mounted carb of the DLE-55, so I made a mount from a piece of 1/8" birch plywood. While I was at it, I also added a servo to operate the choke.
TANK AND COWL
The manual also clearly shows the tank mounted to a plywood bed over the CG, but there is nothing there, so again, I added a piece of scrap to which I attached the tank. After completion however, I realized that this prevented me from getting my hands inside to screw in the wing bolts. Since the wing bolts are not something you want to do without, I later removed the plywood bed and moved the tank forward.
The cowl went on easily enough, although I swapped out the 3mm screws for some 6-32s as they would be easier to replace should I lose one.
RADIO AND SWITCH
I mounted the battery pack and receiver just forward of the rudder servo, now all that was left was the switch - Where I encountered another small problem.
The entire outer shell of the Gee Bee is comprised of 1/16" plywood with abundant lightning holes. Whatever wasn't a hole was large enough to fit a switch, but so narrow that I was afraid that cutting a hole in it would make it too weak. Fortunately I had some 1/16" plywood scraps in my shop, so I fashioned a plate which fit inside one of the holes, glued that to a sheet of 1/8" balsa and glued the assembly in place on one side.
All that was left was to attach the canopy and add the vinyl graphics. I was a little dismayed to see that only one of the big "TEXACO" graphics was supplied. They give you a set of large, white numbers which could have been used, but I would have preferred "TEXACO" on both sides.
Finally, it came time to balance this beauty... It was then I realized that the manual left out that little piece of information, but an email to Gerry resulted in finding that it should balance 5" - 6 1/4" from the leading edge. I balanced her at 5 1/2". (Note: Have plenty of lead on hand. I used about 3 pounds)
And with that, she's ready to see the light of day!
We got a great day for the maiden and wasted no time getting her gassed up and started. I was a little apprehensive about those long wheel struts, but she taxied out very nicely without the wobble I was afraid might happen - Ditto for the takeoff run. When I opened the throttle, she rolled nicely down the runway and lifted off without any coaxing from the elevator.
I did need to add a little right and down trim, but nothing major; however I did seem to play with the rudder trim more than usual. This was because I noticed that any time I did a low, fast fly-by, she did a noticeable crab to the right. It was as if I were flying with a strong crosswind, but there was no wind at all that day.
The R3 handled well, and was able to handle basic maneuvers quite easily. For my first landing, I slowed her down and lowered the flaps. There was a typical "balloon" until she settled in, but I also noticed a tendency to get a little "floaty", so you may want to mix about 6% down elevator to your flap channel.
I was impressed with how well she handles slow speeds! Keep in mind that this is NOT a "typical" Gee Bee. Like the Gee Bee "Y", the R-3 has a much longer tail which makes it very stable when she slows down. The landing was clean and the plane showed no signs of any bad habits. She just settled in to a comfortable landing - and again, the gear held firmly in place.
The next day, we shot video and still pictures. I am very sorry to say that the video does not show a landing because we were so busy shooting that I ran her out of gas right after a low and slow picture pass and she dead-sticked in the worst possible place and attitude causing an off-field controlled crash which pranged one of the landing gear and put us out of commission for the day. And while the flight was longer than usual, it was not excessively so, so you might consider using a larger tank than what is supplied.
Check out the video to see her in action!
GMP GeeBee R-3 Fantasy Racer ARF Or, Download the Video (24meg) CLICK HERE
The R3 Fantasy Racer from GMP is a good flying plane with outstanding looks. Assembly is not difficult, but you will need to make several decisions on your own without any help from the manual - In fact, do yourself a favor, throw the manual away and use this review as your manual - You'll find it a lot less frustrating! That said, it's a stable performer that gets a "10" on the "WOW" factor!
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.