RCU Review: Thunder Tiger Mini Titan E325

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    Contributed by: Andrew Griffith | Published: November 2007 | Views: 151732 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Thunder Tiger Mini Titan E325 Review

    Review by: Andrew Griffith

    Thunder Tiger
    E325 Mini Titan ARF
    Sold in the US by:
    349 Huss Drive
    Chico, CA 95928
    Phone:(800) 705-2215

    Website: www.amainhobbies.com

    Thunder Tiger Mini Titan

    CLICK HERE to Watch

    Ease of Assembly
    Aerobatic ability

    Very stable!
    Most of work complete
    Great flight performance

    Instruction Manual
    Blades were warped
    Hardware bags not labeled

    Thunder Tiger has had the nitro powered helicopter market well covered for some time now. They have offerings in the 30, 50, and 90 size categories but until recently Thunder Tiger has been absent from the electric helicopter market.

    Thunder Tiger fans rest easy, they have introduced three helicopters to cover nearly every practical size range from the 50 size E620, the smaller and more affordable 30 size E550, and the 450 size E325 Mini Titan.

    This review will cover the E325 Mini Titan ARF available with a speed controller and motor from AMainHobbies for a very affordable price. All that's required is some basic assembly, radio installation, and final setup. These steps can easily be completed in just a few hours if you have everything you need on hand when you start.

    When you are done you will have a good looking park flyer sized helicopter that fly's very well and is a great value for the money.

    Kit Name: Thunder Tiger E325 Mini Titan
    Price: $199.99
    Main Rotor Span: 728mm (28.6")
    Flying Weight as tested: 1lb 10oz
    Blades: 325mm Thunder Tiger Wood Blades (included)
    Motor Used: Ace 3500kva (included)
    Gyro used: Futaba GY-401 w/ 9650 digital tail servo
    Radio equipment: Futaba 9CSuper, 148DP receiver, Hitec HS56HB Servos, Flight Power Lithium Polymer 2170 and 2500 3S batteries.

    • 3 Swashplate Servos
    • Gyro and Tailrotor Servo
    • 11.1V 3S LiPo Battery (2100 to 2500mah)
    • Small Phillips screwdriver
    • Doubled sided tape or sticky back velcro
    • Small ball link tool
    • Thin CA glue

    Fresh from the brown truck
    Instruction manal

    The Thunder Tiger Mini Titan arrived from AMainHobbies well packaged and free of any shipping trauma. First I unpacked the instruction manual and sat down to read it cover to cover. The instructions included with the ARF are the same manual included with the full kit. I was disappointed to see that the steps required to assemble (build really isn't an appropriate description) the ARF were not broken out from the main assembly manual.

    I realize that this is a reality of mass production but I think the ARF would benefit from an addendum outlining the required assembly steps. This would save going page by page through the instruction manual trying to figure out what needs to be done vice what is already done from the factory.

    On the other hand, the detailed instruction manual will be invaluable when the inevitable repairs are needed and I'm glad to see it included.

    The main frame comes with the attached rotor head and is fully assembled. The tail boom is separated during shipping but the tail drive system including the belt is fully assembled. I found the tail drive system a bit intriguing. The drive system is attached to the boom; you can tension and lubricate the belt then install the complete assembly into the helicopter. When bolted to the rear of the main frame the gear lash between the main and tail drive gear is automatically set. I think this will make adjustments and changing the tail boom a simple affair.

    The Mini Titan includes a small list of helpful extras. The kit comes with two small bottles of thread locker, a foam blade holder, a small assortment of Allen wrenches, and even four neon green skid stops. The skids and struts come as a single piece. The skids themselves are hollow channels that can be easily repaired by gluing a small diameter dowel or piece of carbon fiber in the channel.

    Decals sheet and parts bags
    Value added items
    Pre-soldered motor and esc

    I found that the motor and speed controller wires come pre-soldered. In my case the speed controller wires on the battery side will have to be de-soldered and setup with Deans connectors for my installation, otherwise a battery connector is provided. I would prefer to see a Deans or Astro connector for the battery since that is what most people are running these days but if you're just starting your electric collection, the provided connector will work fine. I also noticed later that the ESC line to the receiver already had a ferrite ring installed which I thought was a nice touch.

    I am very familiar with the various offerings from Thunder Tiger and an examination of the main rotor had a few differences jump out at me immediately. The first thing I noticed is that the Mini Titan uses an under slung fly bar. Another difference that I found was the delta arms are on the leading edge of the blade grips. This means that the swash plate will move down for positive pitch and up for negative pitch unlike some other designs. Both of the larger electrics offered by Thunder Tiger use the same rotor head design as the popular 30 and 50 nitro powered Raptor series helicopters.

    Yet another difference showed up during setup when I put a pitch gauge on the main blades. Gone was the 1:1 flybar mixing ratio of the fuel powered Raptor series. If you teeter the flybar while taking a pitch reading the pitch reading changes on the Mini Titan, on the Raptor 30/50 it will stay the same. One of the ways to tune the performance of a rotor head is to use different flybar mixing ratios. Why is this important' Because if a helicopter has something other than a 1:1 mixing ratio then you need to level the flybar to get accurate pitch readings. I use a small string level from Home Depot and hang it on the flybar. Some pitch gauges include a flybar lock but most of the ones small enough to use on the Mini Titan don't have this feature so you will either have to either eye ball it or use a small bubble level like I did.

    Of similar design to the larger models are the adjustable mixing levers. The review flight was done with the balls installed on the outer holes of the mixing arms but the helicopter fly's well either way though cyclic response is clearly limited on the inner holes. If this is your first helicopter leave them where they are, it's more stable and less sensitive. If stick thrashing aerobatics are what you crave go ahead and move them to the outer holes now.

    Ready to get started
    First step complete
    Pre-assembled tail case

    After reading through the manual and flipping through the pages, I thought that it isn't until page 24 you actually have to do anything. This step consists only of taking the pre-built tail boom assembly and tensioning the bolts and thread locking the screws. The manual also says to put a drop of thin CA on the top of the boom.

    This is where I encountered my first problem with the manual. On page 5 it says the parts are packaged in bags according to assembly steps. 'Open only the bag that is needed for the current assembly step.' First, the bags aren't labeled. Page 26 calls for bag J. But only the screws are in that bag, the nuts are in a separate and also unlabeled bag. At the end of this step there are 4 washers, two screws, 3 balls and 2 ball link ends floating loose.

    Make sure you get the orientation of the motor mount and motor correct. Even when everything was assembled according to the manual, I found that the head of the motor mount to frame bolt was interfering with the wires from the motor. I took everything apart and could find no other combination of holes in the mount and the motor that lined up correctly so I was stuck with it the way it was. Electric helicopters don't suffer from the vibration associated with their larger, nitro powered brothers so chaffing the wire may not be an issue but I'll be keeping a close eye on it. (This made me nervous so I ended up slipping a piece of heavy duty heat shrink tubing as an additional layer of protection)

    On the other side of the coin, this motor mount makes motor removal for tinkering with different pinions a snap. Other than the possible wire interference issue I really like this design. The motor mount bolts are easily accessible and the nyloc nuts sit snuggly in the frame so you don't need anything but one Allen wrench to remove the motor and mount.

    The instructions indicate that a 3s pack (three cells in series) uses the 13 tooth pinion. A 15 tooth pinion is also provided if you plan on using a 2s battery. The instructions don't mention it but I used a drop of the green locktite on the shaft and then installed the pinion. I also appreciated the motor mount to pinion measurement, this allows you to install and tighten the pinion prior to installing the motor in the frames. When you bolt the motor mount in place, all you have to do is set the gear lash. This ensures that he pinion to main gear height alignment will be correct.

    Motor and motor mount
    Pinion puller is useful to have
    Possible wire interference

    Setting the proper gear lash is important so take a few minutes and do it correctly. The best way I have found is to turn the main gear slowly until you find the tightest spot, which is where you want to set the backlash. Set the mesh so that the main gear turns easily but so that you can't feel a lot of slop between the gears. Take a strip of standard printer or notebook paper and cut a ¼ inch strip about three inches long. Feed the paper between the pinion and the main gear and examine it when it comes out the other side. If the paper is mangled it's too tight. If the paper is wavy the mesh needs to be closer. The paper should come out looking like an accordion with sharp edges. Tighten the screws fully and recheck with another strip of paper.

    If the gear lash is too loose you run the risk of stripping the teeth from the main gear. If the gear lash is too tight then you are robbing power from the rotor system and making your battery, ESC, and motor work harder than they need to. This will result in over heating and possibly damaging expensive components.

    Install the servos as shown. I looked in the remaining hardware and couldn't find 6 identical self tapping screws and the step in the manual didn't indicate any so I figured I was on my own for mounting screws. The screws that come with the HS56HB servos I was using were too small to capture the holes in the frame. Looking in my parts bin I found a set of hex head 8mm long self tapping screws that were thicker than the Hitec screws. These turned out to be from a Trex 450 and are available from AmainHobbies http://www.amainhobbies.com/product_info.php/cPath/2_375_376/products_id/9266 or you can find something else suitable. The Trex screws fit perfectly though.

    You are also on your own to find mounting screws for the tail rotor servo. The kit includes counter sunk screws for the servo balls but no nuts. The 9650 servo horn holes are too big for the provided screws to thread into. The balls are smaller than other kits as are the screws so I didn't have any nuts small enough to fit the screws. Making matters worse there was only a thread or two sticking out to thread something on to. I thought about replacing the ball and ball end with something larger but the diameter of the tail rotor push rod was too small for any of the ball links in my parts bin.

    After a bit of head scratching I made a nut plate out of a cut off Hitec servo arm. Then I used a Dremel and a flat grinding bit and milled down the thickness of the servo wheel to about half its original thickness. This finally worked but greatly increased the total time for what otherwise would have been a fairly quick assembly. If I had elected to use a smaller servo this probably would not have been a problem.

    Unique motor mount
    Cyclic servo installation
    Solution to servo arm quandry

    The manual made no mention of where to mount the speed controller. To counter act the weight of the rear mounted receiver and gyro/servo combo I wanted the ESC as far forward as I could get it. With the motor and battery so close to the front it was an easy decision to put the speed controller on the flat shelf in the front below the battery tray. This worked out perfectly for balance, wire routing, and cooling.

    As mentioned earlier, I had to remove the supplied connector and solder a Deans Ultra connector on the speed controller. If this is your only helicopter you could easily use the supplied battery to ESC connectors. The fact that I have seven LiPo battery packs, two other electric helicopters, a glider, and a sport plane all wired with Deans connectors forced my hand.

    It is time to take a few minutes to set up your transmitter before installing the servos. The first thing to do is to set the correct swash plate type. I'm using a Futaba 9CHP Super so for me the correct swash plate is SR-3 or three servo 120 degree CCPM. The next thing I do is setup my normal pitch curve so that the three middle pitch points are 50. This way the transmitter stick doesn't have to be perfectly centered when you level your servo arms. If you have your stick anywhere close to the middle the servos will be perfectly centered.

    You also want to inhibit or disable any pitch sliders or knobs. On a Futaba radio this means setting the HOV-PIT and HOV-THR (hover pitch and hover throttle) to INH (inhibit). These are useless if you plan on a 3D symmetrical pitch curve setup and a nuisance during CCPM set up. Also the 9C allows you to alter the top and bottom pitch points with the VR sliders on the sides, these can be effectively disabled in the High/Low Pitch menu. Set them to MAN (manual) and set the slider to NULL.

    While we are in the radio set the Throttle Hold from Inhibit to OFF and check that the status changes to ON when the switch is activated. Since we aren't concerned with setting an idle, you can leave this at 0 percent and it will hold your motor off. It's a good practice to get into the habit of turning on the transmitter and setting throttle hold to on. That way if you bump the throttle stick after the helicopter is powered on it won't come alive in your hand or on the bench or while you are carrying it out to the flight line. Trust me you will feel bad if you crash but you will feel worse if you tear up a helicopter before you even make it out to the flight line.

    I also like to rough in the gyro gain setting. Go to the GYRO SENS menu and set the mix to ACT, switch to COND and the mode to GY (this is the appropriate setting for any heading hold style gyro). Setting the switch to COND allows you to set a gain for each flight mode. For initial setup I set Normal flight mode to AVC 50 and Idle 1 to NOR 50. This allows me to quickly flip to normal mode to get my servo centered and gyro limit set correctly. Make sure you change this back to AVC for flight testing. Also be sure you set a gain for throttle hold, I use AVC since the Mini Titan has a driven tail rotor.

    In every case I have seen when installing a speed controller with a Futaba radio I have had to reverse the direction of the throttle channel in the transmitter. Go ahead and do this now, it will save some puzzled looks later when the speed controller won't go into programming mode at full stick.

    Main rotor head
    Initial radio setup
    ESC with ferrite ring

    I like to use a regular receiver battery for setting up my servos, gyro, and programming the speed controller. So if you have one, plug in a standard receiver battery and get ready to install your CCPM servos. The single servo in the rear plugs into the elevator slot. The two opposing servos in the front plug into the aileron and pitch channels. It's non critical which one you plug into pitch and which one you plug into aileron.

    Power up your servos and find the servo arm that is closest to a perfect 90 degree angle, mark it and cut off the remaining arm or arms so they don't hit anything. Install a ball 12.5mm from center. If you are using the same servos I am the holes in the arm are small enough for the ball mounting screws to thread in to. If the holes in your servo arm are too large to grasp the screws firmly you will have to figure something out along the same lines as I did for the tail servo.

    The manual goes into great detail about setting up the servos and eCCPM including eliminating interaction. Without any tinkering with the pre-built pushrods I found the swashplate perfectly level, the washout arms level, and the upper mixing arms level with the collective stick at half. The only problem I found with the pre-built rods was with the rods going from the mixing arms to the main blade grips. With everything level the main grips were showing about -4 degrees so I knew during final setup that I would have to lengthen these rods a bit.

    While I had things powered up I went about setting up the gyro. I used the closest hole on the servo wheel which gave me just under 100 on the limit pot on the GY401. Then I moved the servo on the boom until the tail pitch slider was centered with the gyro in rate mode and the servo arm at 90 degrees to the servo. This put the servo a little farther back than I would have liked but the Mini Titan has a longer nose than some similar sized helicopters so I hoped the balance would work out. (It did)

    The receiver mounts on the shelf on the left side of the helicopter towards the rear. I used double sided foam tape on both the small shelf and the side frame and backed up the tape with a wire tie. I used a 148DP receiver because it's fairly small and light and I had one on hand. A Futaba 146iP would be perfect in this application.

    Receiver mounting
    Final component installation
    Main blade construction

    With the airframe assembly out of the way I turned my attention to the main blades. Thunder Tiger includes weighted wood blades with the Mini Titan kits. The blade roots need to be glued to the blades and you can use either epoxy or thick CA. Please don't skip this step as shedding a blade in flight is not a pretty sight.

    The top and bottom blade roots are different so separate them into a pair for each blade. Cut the covering over the bolt hole and press the root in place. Trace the outline of the root onto the covering then use a sharp hobby knife to cut the covering about 1/16th of an inch inside the line. If you use dry erase ink to mark the outlines you can wipe them off for a nice clean installation. When you cut the covering make sure you don't cut into the wood and weaken the blade. After everything is fitted properly scuff the gluing area of the blades and roots with sandpaper. I glued the roots and clamped them down to dry.

    When I was done I inspected the blades and found one was warped. I also found that the covering wasn't very tight. I waved a heat gun over the covering to shrink it down a little bit and see if I could get the warp out. I got it as tight as I could manage without melting the covering. I put the blades on my Kyosho blade balancer and they balanced with one piece of tracking tape.

    After the receiver and servos are installed and the blades are ready you can go ahead and set up your pitch curves. The manual gives several suggestions. I set all my pitch curves up with 0 at mid which lets my helicopters hover around ¾ stick. For the review flights and all of my subsequent flying I was running -4 to +10 in normal flight mode and +- 12 degrees at full stick in idle up 1. My cyclic pitch was set to 8 degrees for aileron and elevator.

    The last step is to cut the canopy out and install the simulated carbon windshield and the decals. I prepared the canopy by cutting out the outline and several ventilation holes so that the battery, motor, and speed controller got plenty of airflow.

    Canopy ready for decals
    Ready for a test hop
    Flight Power Lipo Batteries

    For applying the decals I wash the canopy and my hands using dishwashing liquid soap. Then prepare a bowl with several drops of the dish soap and warm water. Cut out the decals and fully immerse the decal in the water. Take your finger and spread some water over where the decal will go and slide the decal in place. This will give you some time to get it positioned where you want it. Then use a paper towel wrapped around your finger and push the water out from under the decal from the center working your way to the edges. If you take your time you will end up with a perfectly smooth decal with no air bubbles.

    After this is done I like to use a heat gun to dry everything and set the adhesive but I didn't think the thin Mini Titan canopy would hold up to that so I sat it in the sun for a couple of hours. I have since flown the Mini Titan quite a bit and haven't had any of the decals peel up.

    When I was done I had a small pile of parts left over. After examining the manual I found that step 5 shows where to mount the small horizontal fin and battery tray extension. I also found some screws and nuts that I never did find a purpose for. I suppose these are spares thoughtfully provided by Thunder Tiger. If anything fly's off during my trim flights I'll know where the screws were supposed to go.

    When I felt I was ready to start test flying I went over the helicopter from nose to tail. I was looking for anything that might be loose or installed incorrectly. I like to go over all the self tapping screws to make sure everything is tight and as slop free as you can get with plastic parts. I also check all critical bolts for locktite such as the spindle bolts and randomly loosen a few screws checking for thread locker. I found everything tight and thread locker applied where it should be.

    I also took a few minutes to double check that all the controls were moving in the correct direction and not binding. When I was done I went ahead and programmed the speed controller. The included instructions are more than adequate and I had no problems. (Note that earlier I had reversed the throttle channel, this seems to be the case for most speed controllers on the market) When programming the ESC I used the following settings: standard battery protection, standard timing, no brake, quick throttle response, non governor helicopter mode.

    The last thing I did was to attach a battery, install the canopy, and check the balance point. This is pretty simple, pick up the helicopter with two fingers on the flybar, close to the rotor head, and with the blades straight out front and back. Proper balance is the key to consistent trim when transitioning between upright and inverted flight. Balance, when combined with careful flybar paddle alignment, can help you prevent pitchyness in fast forward flight even with a sensitive control setup.

    Battery Information

    I've heard lots of good things about Flight Power batteries so I contacted Flight Power USA to see about getting a few packs for this review. I spoke with Clint Aiken, the helicopter team manager for Flight Power USA, and told him what I was working on. Flight Power kindly provided 2 packs. An EVO 25 2170mah 25C 3S LiPo, and an EVO LITE 18C 2500mah 3S LiPo battery pack. Great Planes is distributing these great batteries in the United States. They are backed by Flight Power USA for technical support and warranty coverage and even 50 percent crash coverage.

    During flight testing with the Flight Power packs and two other brands, the Flight Power packs consistently ran 20 to 30 degrees cooler and the 2500 pack lasted several minutes longer than any of the 2100 mah packs I tried. RCU Author Chuck Dowd did a complete review on the Flight Power batteries.

    The 2500 EVO LITE pack weighs within a few grams of the 2170 battery but at 18C vice the 25C of the smaller battery we predicted a little less punch in flight. This was not the case at all! The 18C EVO LITE pack produced the same in flight performance but with longer flight times. If you are looking for new batteries don't hesitate to give either of these a try.

    A proper bench setup and a careful pre-flight inspection minimize surprises during your trim flights. The Mini Titan was no different and there were no surprises as the helicopter lifted smoothly into its first hover. Well there was one surprise. The warped blades that I wasn't happy with seemed to track very well.

    I spent my first three battery packs making sure the helicopter was properly trimmed, that the gyro was properly set up, and just getting the feel for the helicopter. My first impression was that even without flybar weights the Mini Titan was extremely stable in the hover. I found out pretty quickly that the cyclic was too sluggish so I knew my first tweak would be to move the washout arms to the outer most setting. (see photo at right)

    The second day out it was time for a little thrashing about. The Mini Titan handled everything that I could throw at it. Tight flips, large loops, smooth rolls, funnels, tail slides (this is how I test the gyro); even piro flips were no problem. At this point I tried some fast circuits and found the Mini Titan tracked very well both upright and inverted. It maintained this behavior even after I increased the cyclic response by moving the washout arm balls outward.

    Good pilots at our field are easier to find than a camera man so at this point I turned over my transmitter to a very accomplished pilot. Team Flight Power pilot Bobby Smith was on hand the day I was working on the Mini Titan and he agreed to do the honors for the video review flight.

    If the Mini Titan can stand up to Bobby it shouldn't give a mortal pilot any troubles. After seeing him fly your helicopter you will appreciate that in most cases it isn't our equipment holding back our flying, it's our thumbs. Bobby flew the Mini Titan exactly as I built it, with the stock motor and speed controller and a Flight Power 2500mah 3s 18C battery.

    See Bobby Smith putting the Mini Titan through its paces. (Large file)

    Click HERE for small file.

    Smile for the camera!

    The Thunder Tiger Mini Titan is a great little helicopter. For a beginner, setup with conservative throws, it would make an excellent primary trainer. It didn't exhibit any of the twitchy control response often observed in smaller helicopters. Extensive flying over several weekends didn't turn up any weak points or bad habits.

    The Mini Titan also makes a great little practice machine for intermediate and advanced pilots. With a family, a busy work schedule, school, and working on reviews, I find very little time for general flying. As a result I felt that my flying progress was becoming stagnant. One of the primary advantages of the small and quiet electric helicopters is that they can be flown in any reasonably sized park and there just happens to be a soccer field just a short drive from my house. Flying just two or three battery packs a couple times a week after work I found that my flying improved significantly.

    The stock motor and speed controller combination lets you try any maneuver the bigger helicopters are capable of. Great parts support and low cost give you the confidence that the occasional inadvertent upgrade opportunity won't put you in the dog house with the Chief of Domestic Relations.

    Speaking of upgrade opportunities. I had the opportunity to fly Bobby Smiths Mini Titan equipped with a Hacker motor and a full Gforce metal rotor head. The Hacker motor is a little power house and there was nothing that I could do that the Mini Titan couldn't do with ease, it felt like I was flying a 90. Look for an upcoming article as Gforce has agreed to supply a rotor head for RCUniverse to review and I plan on keeping the Mini Titan and upgrading the motor.

    Thunder Tiger Mini Titan ARF
    Sold by:

    349 Huss Drive
    Chico, CA 95928
    Phone:(800) 705-2215
    International: (530) 894-0797
    Website: www.amainhobbies.com

    Flight Power Batteries

    Flight Power USA Inc.
    171A Weaverville Hwy
    Asheville, NC 28804
    Phone: (919) 741-6310
    Web Site: www.flightpowerusa.com
    Product used: Flight Power EVO Lite 3S 2500Mah, Flight Power EVO 25 3S 2170Mah


    Hitec RCD USA, Inc.
    12115 Paine St.
    Poway CA, 92064
    Phone: 858.748.6948
    Web Site: http://www.hitecrcd.com
    Product used: HS-56HB Micro Servos

    Futaba Radio Equipment

    Distributed in North America by Great Planes Model Distributors
    3002 N. Apollo Drive
    Champaign, IL 61822
    Phone: (217) 398-8970
    Web Site: www.futabarc.com
    Product used: Futaba 9C Super, GY-401, S9650, R148DP

    Comments on RCU Review: Thunder Tiger Mini Titan E325

    Posted by: julways on 02/09/2008

    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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