Quite some time ago, I decided I wanted to learn to fly pattern. After I had practiced a while with a sport plane, I decided to look at getting an actual pattern plane. Well, as summers are a little on the short side in Minnesota, I didn't get a pattern plane. Winter set in, and when the temperatures were down below zero, I had no interest in going outside to fly. Toledo 2011 arrived this spring, and while visiting the Horizon Hobby booth, I was "introduced" to the Leader 480 ARF from E-flite.
The Leader 480 was designed to be a 'precision aerobatics' plane with the great styling of a classic pattern plane. When it became available from Horizon Hobby, I jumped at the chance to review it because I wanted a great looking plane that could do precision aerobatics, with great pattern plane attributes!
Wingspan: 43 in
(1090 mm) Wing Area: 414 sq in (26.7 sq
dm) Weight: 2.4 Pounds (1.1 kg)
Length: 42.4 in (1075 mm) Radio Used:Spektrum DX7 motor Used:E-flite Park 480 Brushless Outrunner Channels Used: 4 total - Elevator, Aileron, Rudder,
Needed To Complete
4-channel (minimum) Radio with Receiver and 4 Micro
The Leader 480 ARF is packed in a colorful box. The contents are all
individually bagged and taped together to prevent shifting and damage during shipping. The multi-color trim scheme used on this plane will
definitely make it easy to see when flying. The parts count is low, so I expect it to assemble
There were a few features caught my eye as I was unpacking all of the parts for the Leader 480. The large hatch makes battery changes quick, the fiberglass cowl was tough and lightweight, and the plug-in wing panels will make assembly easy at the field!
The manual is typical of any E-flite plane - First class! The written instructions and illustrations are easy to follow - to the point that a total beginner could put this plane together!
AILERON SERVO INSTALLATION
Assembly begins with hinging the ailerons. After inserting a "T" pin into each of the five CA hinges, they were installed in the wing and aileron and a few drops of thin CA applied to hold everything together.
The control horns were secured using medium CA, after the portion inserted into the aileron was trimmed to 1/4" in length. Installing the servo in the wing was next, followed by the pushrod, servo arm, and micro screw-lock connector.
ELEVATOR AND RUDDER SERVO INSTALLATION
After installing the two servos, I made the servo arms according to the assembly manual, and slid the pushrods through the micro screw-lock connectors.
NOSE GEAR INSTALLATION
The guide-tube for the steering arm was installed and a few drops of thin CA secured it at the fire wall and inside the fuselage. The pushrod was then connected to the steering arm.
I assembled the nose gear according to the manual with no trouble, slid the steering pushrod into its guide-tube, and secured the steering arm and nose gear in their mount. The pushrod was also guided through the connector on the rudder servo arm as it was slid into place.
MOTOR, ESC, COWL, AND PROP INSTALLATION
The ESC slipped into a 'pocket' between the side of the fuselage and the battery tray, and the motor wires were routed through the opening in the fire wall. The motor was then installed using the stand-offs and bolts provided with the plane's hardware package. Make sure that you use a thread locking compound to keep the motor mount bolts tight.
The receiver was installed on the inside wall of the fuselage right behind the wing tube, and the servo wires were connected to the receiver.
Using the measurements provided in the manual, I marked and drilled the mounting holes in the cowl, then secured it with the included screws.
Adding the prop and spinner completed this step.
MAIN LANDING GEAR AND WING INSTALLATION
The main landing gear was installed next. To make the gear sit flush in the mount, I rounded off the 90 degree outside corner on the mounting block using a drill bit of the same diameter as the wire gear leg. Once I was satisfied with the fit, the gear leg was secured with two nylon straps and screws.
The wheels were then installed and secured with a collar on both sides.
The aluminum wing tube was slid into one wing panel and then through the fuselage, followed by the other wing panel. Four bolts and washers (two of each per side) secured the wings to the fuselage.
TAIL ASSEMBLY AND INSTALLATION
The horizontal and vertical stabilizers were centered and marked, then removed from the fuselage for covering removal.
When I was satisfied with their fit, I used thin CA to secure both stabilizers in place. The rudder and elevator were hinged like the ailerons, and the control horns were connected to the pushrods. The 'push-on' pack plates were then added, and a few drops of thin CA were applied to make sure the control horns don't come loose in flight.
With the rudder and elevator and their respective servos in a neutral position, the micro screw-lock connectors were tightened. The battery pack was installed and secured using adhesive-backed hook-n-loop tape and a pair of hook-n-loop straps.
I installed the optional pilot in the canopy. The first step was to remove the covering from the bottom of the canopy/hatch.
The pilot bust was cut down by 1/2 ", and a balsa block was glued inside using medium CA. With the two planks glued to the bottom of the block, the pilot was secured to the hatch floor using a few more drops of medium CA.
Note- my pilot didn't fit perfectly in the opening as it was originally cut, but after opening up the hole a bit with my rotary tool and a sanding drum, the pilot fit well.
The last item to take care of was checking the balance on the plane. With the battery in place, my Leader 480 balance perfectly neutral at the recommended 3-3/8 to 3-3/4" from the leading edge of the wing at the fuselage.
Assembly is done! Let's take the plane outside, get a few pictures, and see how she flies!
I set the Leader 480 down on the edge of our nylon mat runway, and made a few right and left turns to get a feel for the ground handling of the plane. Though the nose gear moves each direction a lot, the plane felt solid on the ground, with no tendency to over-steer.
I taxied down to far end of our runway, tuned around, and advanced the throttle to full. The Leader took very little time to gain speed, and lifted off with just a touch of up elevator. As I gained altitude, it was very clear that the plane was going to be stable, and I wasn't disappointed!
Once at a safe cruising altitude, I gave the transmitter a couple of clicks of left aileron trim and three clicks of down trim to fly 'hands-off'. After a pair of circuits around the pattern, I was already feeling very comfortable with the Leader. This plane definitely grooves!
I made a few passes over the field at high and low speeds, and was impressed. High speed passes are fast enough to be fun, and low speed flight was much slower than I expected! This plane seems to just hang in the air at 1/4 to 1/3 throttle without the tendency to fall off on a wing. Stalling the Leader will produce a nose drop that can be easily overcome by adding a little throttle and up elevator.
I decided it was time to put the Leader through some aerobatics. This is definitely where she shines! Loops look really graceful at full throttle, and rolls are crisp and clean. Almost every maneuver you can think of doing, the Leader will perform, and look great doing them! With just a little more practice, I 'll be putting the final touches on my own pattern routine!
As the battery started winding down, I brought her in to land. I was very happy to see that landing the Leader was as easy as flying her slow! I simply turned onto final, pulled the throttle back about a hundred feet before the runway. She came in on the sweetest glide path, and landed right in front of me!
Unfortunately, our runway mat is a bit on the short-side, so the plane would run off into the grass at the end. I was also happy to see that the wire landing gear, fire wall, and wings could take the extra stress of a 'less than perfect' runway. The grass at our field has been known to tear up some smaller electric planes, but this was not the case with the Leader!
Check out the video to
see the Leader 480 ARF in
E-flite Leader 480 ARF Or,
Download the Video (8 meg) CLICK HERE
I'd say that over all, I'd give the leader a 9.5 out of 10 for assembly and flight. The classic pattern plane looks combined with today's technology and assembly ease make for a fantastic plane from start to finish!
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.