Originally designed and produced by the Campion Aircraft Company, the Decathlon was a high-performance variation of the Citabria. Sporting a larger engine and an inverted fuel system, the Decathlon served as an aerobatic trainer capable of +6G and -5G. With seating for two, in tandem, the Decathlon has been a great trainer for many aerobatic pilots!
Coming to fruition in 1970, the Decathlon has been around for several decades, and remains a popular aircraft that's modeled around the world - most ARF manufacturers have at least one Decathlon in their lineup!
That being said, I'd like to introduce you to the Decathlon Scout from NICESKY. Distributed through Hobbico and Tower Hobbies, the Decathlon Scout is a rugged little aerobat that comes with conventional (wheels) landing gear and floats. It also comes out of the box with a Tactic TR624 receiver, making the plane Transmitter-Ready!
Rudder, right/left: Recommended 8° (I Left at 100% - about 20°)
Items Needed To Complete:
4-Channel (Minimum) Transmitter
Battery: 2S 7.4V 600-800 mAh 25C LiPo Battery
LiPo Compatible Battery Charger
Foam Safe CA and Accelerator
The Full color box cover is nearly a piece of art you'll want to frame and hang on the wall - there are several images of the full-scale plane after which the NICESKY plane is modeled. Removing the cover, I found a Styrofoam container securely holding all of the individual parts of the plane.
I removed the parts and was amazed at the high level of pre-assembly done to the Decathlon. The fuselage was nearly ready to receive the wing and the pre-assembled landing gear, and they've even included a scale-looking antenna!
The water transfer decals are expertly pre-applied, and the battery compartment is easily accessible in the belly of the plane. A 3000kV brushless outrunner motor, 18Amp ESC, and even the prop and spinner are preinstalled!
There is an instrument panel decal in the cockpit to add to the realism of the Decathlon, and the servos, pushrods, and control horns are preinstalled. The aileron Y-Harness is secured in a slot in the wing as well!
The manual is well laid out, and I had no trouble assembling the Decathlon by the illustrations alone. There are written instructions as well, but the wording is a little off - that's pretty typical, and I'm pretty sure it's a translation issue. As I said, though, the plane can be assembled using only the images.
Also included was a single yellow sheet with a small bag of parts attached. During the assembly process at the factory, an incorrect pair of wing strut mounts were attached to the wing. I'll get into more detail on this in the assembly section.
A Change in Plans...
Assembly began with the yellow sheet I mentioned in the manual section. Unfortunately, at the factory, some planes had incorrect wing strut mounts installed in the wing. The correct parts were in a bag stapled to the yellow sheet. Following the addendum, I removed the incorrect mounts from the wing. You can see the difference in the two mounts in the third picture.
With the incorrect mount out of the way, I attached the correct piece using some FOAM SAFE CA and accelerator. With the new strut mounts in place, I was able to move on to assembling the rest of the Decathlon!
A Quick Assembly!
Assembling the Decathlon began with attaching the foam filler block to the landing gear - there was a strip of double-sided tape pre-applied to the foam, so I simply removed the backing paper and stuck the foam in place. The two holes in the foam lined up with the landing gear mounting holes. With the foam block in place, the landing gear was attached to the fuselage with two small screws. I thought it was great that NICESKY included a Philips screwdriver for assembly!
The Tactic TR624 receiver was laying loose inside the fuselage, which I didn't like - there was too much of a chance that it could interfere with the elevator and rudder servos. To remedy this situation, I removed the case from the receiver and attached the receiver to the underside of the wing. Two small pieces of transparent tape held the receiver in place nicely! Before attaching the wing to the fuselage, I linked the TR624 receiver to my Tactic TTX650 transmitter.
The two wing pins were slid into their mount in the top of the fuselage, and a single machine screw secured the trailing edge of the wing. The main wing strut was installed between the fuselage and wing mounts next.
With the main strut in place and attached to the wing, the smaller strut was attached to the wing, slid into the notch in the main strut at the fuselage, and secured with another small screw.
I attached the 'antenna' using a few drops of FOAM SAFE CA and accelerator, connected the 2S 600mAh LiPo to the ESC wiring, and installed the battery hatch. I checked the Center of Gravity (CG), which was spot on, and the Decathlon was ready for its first flight!
Since the Decathlon took approximately 30 minutes to assemble, it was ready to fly quickly - thankfully! When I had finished assembly, I had just one day of good weather before a snowstorm hit Minnesota. I coerced my buddy, Jim Buzzeo, into meeting me at the flying field so we could get the maiden flight, still pictures, and video shot for this review! When we got to the field, the wind was blowing at a steady 8-10 MPH, and the air temp was approaching 35° F. One of the best things about flying electric aircraft in these temperatures is that the plane is ready the moment the battery is plugged in!
I set the little Decathlon on the runway and taxied out to the center. I found it a little hard to steer the plane due to the tail wheel being loose on the tail wire - the hole in the wheel was too large for the wire gear. The plane would go in the direction I wanted it to, but not as well as it could have with a better fitting tail wheel. I lined the plane up on the centerline of the runway and advanced the throttle slowly. The Decathlon is a fairly short-coupled airplane, so it can be a little squirrely on the ground. This was the case with the NICESKY Decathlon - I found it much easier to get a straight take off roll by pushing the throttle stick forward quickly. With just a few feet of forward movement, the tail popped up off the ground, and the tail wheel no longer mattered. A few feet more, and the little aerobat broke free from the ground! With the throttle pushed to full, the plane had no trouble gaining airspeed and altitude!
When I had the plane close to 50 feet in the air, I checked the trim settings, and found I had to add three clicks of down elevator trim to keep it flying straight and level at half throttle. With the trim set, I once again pushed the throttle to full. The Decathlon zipped along quite quickly, but I wouldn't call it fast. The plane was easy to stay ahead of, and I never felt like it was out of control. I flew the little aerobat up a bit higher to see how she handled slow flight. Though a Decathlon looks like a Piper Cub, it certainly doesn't fly like one. I was ready for a serious stall as I pulled the throttle back, but it never got out of control. The nose dropped, along with a wingtip, but it was easy to pull out of by pushing the throttle stick forward and gently pulling back on the elevator stick.
On to aerobatics! The Decathlon stands up to its full-size counterpart nicely - loops were easy using the recommended control throws, but I felt that the roll rate was too slow. The plane rolled so slowly that I had to add down elevator while it was inverted to complete the roll. Though the manual doesn't show any kind of dual rates, I set some up anyway. In order to get the control throws set where the manual says, I had to dial the elevator back to 60%, and the ailerons were at 40% (low rates) on my Tactic TTX650. I left both the elevator and ailerons set to 100% on high rate. When I flipped the switch to high rates, the Decathlon really came alive for aerobatics. Loops got tighter and rolls were much quicker. These settings had the plane flying the way I like to perform aerobatics! I did leave the rudder set to 100% control throw on high and low rates - this allowed about a millimeter of clearance between the rudder and elevator.
I decided to bring the Decathlon around for its first landing at the six-minute mark - this would hopefully give me enough battery for a 'go-around' or two if needed. As it worked out, I didn't need to go-around. With a little speed on to ward off any early stalls, I guided the plane down to the ground. I was quite pleased at how well it landed. Now, mind you, this is NOT a cub, and it won't land as easily as one either. But, the Decathlon came in nice enough that I can say this: any intermediate pilot can easily handle this plane!
I brought the Decathlon back to the bench and removed the LiPo. With my trusty Electrifly Power Match battery tester, I checked to see how much life was remaining. The Power Match was showing 28% battery life remaining - a six-minute flight on a 2S 600mAh LiPo was just right for the little aerobat!
I know what you're all thinking - where are the floats I mentioned?!?! Well, as I said in the flight report, we had a snowstorm move in that dumped a foot of snow on Minnesota. Because of this, I will be doing a separate review on the float version of the Decathlon Scout in the spring of 2015 - so check back then to see the Scout on floats!
I've got to hand it to NICESKY and Hobbico - the Decathlon Scout is a great little airplane. She went together easily and flew very well. Add in her great looks, and you've got a definite winner! I will most certainly be flying this plane a lot more once the weather warms up!
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.