Stevens Aero BuzzBomb 400 Kit Review

I added a page on my construction of the Stevens Aero BuzzBomb 400 radio control model airplane. The kit went together like all other Stevens Aero kits, that is to say just as the instructions showed.  The laser engineering employed in all of the Stevens kits comes through with the BuzzBomb.

I ran into a few challenges with the alignment of the outer wing panels as well as the placement of the landing gear. In the page I discuss fixes for these issues.

The completed BuzzBomb makes for a fun sport flyer and manages to capture the inherent stability and sound flying characteristics of the original free flight inspiration. The photo illustrated construction guide walks you through each step.  The end result is a well flying model that is different from the various ready to fly models at your local flying field.  Do give this model a try!

Front view of the completed Buzz Bomb

Front view of the completed Buzz Bomb

Buzz Bomb First Flight!

Stevens Aero Buzz Bomb now complete, ready for first flight

Stevens Aero Buzz Bomb now complete, ready for first flight

I am happy to report that I had a successful maiden flight this afternoon of my Buzz Bomb at the Stone Mountain RC Flyers club field.

Today was a first on several fronts.  This was the first time I had flown outdoors with a club in around 11 years.  Previous flying in Chicago was indoors due to the cold and windy weather.  This was also my first time with multi-cell lipo batteries.

View of the Stone Mountain RC Flyers paved runway and pilot area

View of the Stone Mountain RC Flyers paved runway and pilot area

The Stone Mountain RC Flyers have a great facility with an ample number of setup tables, covered work areas, electrical plugs and even newly installed cooling fans.  Plus, a paved runway to boot!

After an inspection by club officers, the Buzz Bomb was ready to fly.  I was a bit nervous as I set everything up.  But the wind was right down the runway and the initial take off and flight went very well.

Maiden flight of the Buzz Bomb is complete

Maiden flight of the Buzz Bomb is complete

The Buzz Bomb has a nice a positive feel, although George mentioned a bit of expo would help smooth out the flight.  I agree and will act on this when I return home after a six day United Express trip that starts tomorrow.

I also need to do something regarding the landing gear.  As the Buzz Bomb is a recreation of the 1940s classic free flight design, the landing gear in those early days of flight, for whatever reason, extended forward.  This always makes for tricky ground handling characteristics with radio control variants.  I think I will work something to make the landing gear more straight down at the attachment point, as well as to add in some toe-in to assist with straight ground tracking.

In any event, I am very pleased with today’s Buzz Bomb first flight and look forward to working out the minor kinks. I’ll provide a full update of my building experience with the Buzz Bomb in a later update to the website.

Maiden flight of Stevens Aero Buzz Bomb

Maiden flight of Stevens Aero Buzz Bomb

Modeling Tools

I’ve added a new section to the website pull-down menu bar on useful modeling tools.

I like to build RC model planes and I certainly encourage others to give this aspect of the hobby a try. With the proliferation of almost and ready to fly radio control models there is a distinct lack of kit and plans build models at your typical flying field.

Interestingly enough, with the universal use of computer aided design and laser cutting machines, there is a wide range of high quality model airplane kits available. It really is very easy these days to find and build your own kit. Stevens Aero with their step-by-step photo illustrated guides is a perfect example of this trend.

All metal "The Jigs Up" jig used to hold electrical components in place for precise soldering

All metal “The Jigs Up” jig used to hold electrical components in place for precise soldering

As you build a model airplane it is imperative that you have the right tools for the various tasks ahead. There are a range of tools needed and some modelers have more than others. But is it necessary to have at least the basics to get the job done.

A great example of this discussion involves electrical soldering. If you fly electric radio control models, at some point you will have to do some basic soldering. This can involve hooking up electrical plugs such as Dean connectors or putting gold bullet plugs to connect the motor to the electronic speed control.

While I will not go into the details of how to solder on this post, it is vital that you have the correct tools, such as a hot solder iron and fixture jig.

You can see here a neat tool that is an immeasurable assist with soldering, and that is a jig to hold the wires and connectors in place. Soldering a joint involves a rapid application of heat to the connection as solder is flowed on. There is no way to simply put the pieces in place on a table and hope the solder joint comes out well. You have to have some sort of jig to properly hold everything precisely in place.

I found this Whats Up soldering jig via a Google search, which is an great method to search for anything related to RC. A few clicks later and the device was in my workshop.

In summary, you absolutely must get the right tools to build any model airplane correctly. Tools are a perfect investment, last a lifetime and produce superior flying models.

Stevens Aero Buzz Bomb Almost Complete

Nearly completed Buzz Bomb fuselage

Nearly completed Buzz Bomb fuselage

I am making significant progress on completing my Stevens Aero Buzz Bomb!

The fuselage and wing are covered as are the tail surfaces. I managed to figure out how to charge my Thunder Power lipo batteries with the wonderful Thunder Power TP610C-ACDC charger. I’ll add a separate page on this charger as it looks to be an ideal charger for small to medium size batteries.

All metal "The Jigs Up" jig used to hold electrical components in place for precise soldering

All metal “The Jigs Up” jig used to hold electrical components in place for precise soldering

I also purchased a neat jig to hold various electrical connectors in place for soldering tasks. When I first started in electric RC flight 15 years ago (with nicad batteries), I constructed a balsa wood jig using a clothes pin to hold wires and connectors in place for soldering.

A quick search on Amazon came up with the “The Jigs Up” all-metal jig device which works out perfectly. Again, more details to follow on this very useful tool.

Thunder Power TP610C-ACDC lipo charger with included balancing board

Thunder Power TP610C-ACDC lipo charger with included balancing board

I must say that Amazon is a great place to search for RC related items, from tools to servos. You get the usual Amazon fast service, as well as a chance to read the all important customer reviews.

I got my new Spektrum Dx6i transmitter up and running and binded to the receiver. With the lipo battery charged and connected to the electronic speed control, the motor ran fine and the servos worked properly.

The outrunner motor and electronic speed control (I used the ones recommended by Stevens Aero) mounted easily onto the Buzz Bomb. I plan to finish the last bits of installation tomorrow.

The kit has been a pleasure to construct with no major surprises. A full build and flight review to follow after I get her airborne!

Buzz Bomb Update

Construction is progressing well on my new Stevens Aero Buzz Bomb. All of the balsa wood aircraft structures are now complete and ready for a final sanding. Covering and installation of radio equipment and the motor will be the next building agenda items.

Buzz Bomb fuselage nearing completion

Buzz Bomb fuselage nearing completion

The kit has gone together exceptionally well to date. The only issue that I ran into regarded alignment of the wing tips. The model uses a polyhedral concept with the outer third of the wind having extra dihedral to provide lateral stability. This was a very common technique in the early days of free flight model airplane in an attempt to come up with a more inherently stable design.

Initial construction of wing center section

Initial construction of wing center section

The issue with the kit is that the wing end sections are butt-glued in place to the end of the wing inner section. The outer third of the wing is dry assembled. It is fairly easy to have a wash in or wash out twist, whereby the wing’s outer section is not aligned with the inner wing sections. This is evident when the wing is carefully laid flat on the building board.

Luckily I spotted this early on. I made a few breaks where the wing tip section was glued to the main wing, aligned back to the proper incidence (no wash out, same incidence as the main wing panel) and glued in place. The follow on installation of the upper stringers made the entire structure complete and strong.

View of photo illustrated Buzz Bomb construction manual

View of photo illustrated Buzz Bomb construction manual

Bottom line, for a three channel model such as this (i.e. no ailerons) where the wing is constructed in three segments, ensure that the completed wing is flat and at the same incidence. Note that any final adjustments on the wing’s incidence can be taken care of with final sanding as well as even installation of the heat shrink covering.

Do note the photo illustrated construction manual, a standard feature with all Stevens kits. This covers every single step with a dedicated photo and clear instructions of what needs to be done. The manual is so thorough that full size plans are not included, really quite amazing for any kit. But the unique Stevens Aero interlocking build process works out just fine.

 

Completed Buzz Bomb wing structure

Completed Buzz Bomb wing structure

Start of the Buzz Bomb!

I am happy to report that my new RC workshop is “open” and airplane construction has commenced!

Front view of an ignition engine powered Buzzard Bombshell free flight model airplane

Front view of an ignition engine powered Buzzard Bombshell free flight model airplane

For my first build I will construct the Stevens AeroModel Buzz Bomb. The Buzz Bomb is a modern retake of a free flight classic, the Buzzard Bombshell, designed by Joe Konefes in 1940.

View of my new model airplane workshop

View of my new model airplane workshop

Joe did a remarkable job creating this aircraft. Using an ignition gas engine, the first flight at the 1940 Nationals marked an impressive world record flight time of 49 minutes and 40 seconds. Remember, this was in the age before CA glue, the internet to share learning experiences, reliable glow engines, any sort of radio control system, etc.

Nice stack of premium grade balsa as well as photo illustrated build instructions for the Stevens Aero Buzz Bomb

Nice stack of premium grade balsa as well as photo illustrated build instructions for the Stevens Aero Buzz Bomb

A nice aspect of these early free flight models is that they really had to have sound design and flight characteristics as there was no chance to correct a build or trim error with a radio control system. In short, these planes just had to fly right and exhibit no bad habits.

Stevens Aero adapted the basic outline, areas and moments of the original Buzzard Bombshell in their remake of the Buzz Bomb. The Buzz Bomb should fly in a close-in, slow and realistic manner. In short, an ideal first plane for my foray into larger size electric models.

Buzz Bomb fuselage 50% complete

Buzz Bomb fuselage 50% complete

So far the construction is progressing as with other Stevens Aero kits, i.e. with no problems. Every step is clearly outlined with an accompanying photo. The balsa is top quality and the laser cutting extremely accurate. The fuselage is nearing completion and the wing will be next.

Looking forward to a nice flying electric model and a “shout out” to the free flight pioneers of model airplane flight from 75 years ago.

SEFF and New Workshop

Unique direction indicator at SEFF

Unique direction indicator at SEFF

I had a chance to visit the Southeast Electric Flight Festival, held at Hodges Field in Americus, Georgia on April 13th.  SEFF is one of the country’s premier electric flight venues with a range of electric powered models on display and doing their thing in the air.

Southeast Electric Flight Festival flightline

Southeast Electric Flight Festival flightline

Due to work commitments we could only visit during the start of the Festival on April 13th, with folks arriving to set up their tents, models and flying support stations. The main body of flying started the next day and continues through the weekend.

Hodges field is a perfect location for this sort of event with huge grassy runways, plenty of flying areas, on site camping and even a pond for water flying. I look forward to a longer visit in 2017!

Workbench with pegboard

Workbench with pegboard backing

Back on the home front we are making great progress with the refinish of our basement. It is just about complete as the pictures of my new work shop will attest.

Newly installed workshop shelves

Newly installed workshop shelves

I purchased the Stevens Aero BuzzBomb 400 old timer RC model plane and will begin building soon. I also ordered a Thunder Power RC charger with lipo batteries.  I need just a few more supplies and a couple of days off from work before construction can commence.  Will keep you posted!

Completing the Carte Postale

The Stevens Aero Carte Postale wing went together without any problems. There are no surprises if you follow the instructions. The wing is dry fit then glued together as done with the fuselage. The CAD plans are used to ensure the wing is square before applying the CA glue. Mount plates are installed to allow for later installation of the fuselage cabane and wing strut braces that hold the wing in place.

Front view of the completed Carte Postale

Front view of the completed Carte Postale

The wing frame, when complete, is not a robust structure. This is all in keeping with a design philosophy of making the plane as light as possible and using the heat shrink covering to add a good amount of strength to the final assembly. So, do not be alarmed if the bare wood wing assembly seems a bit “flimsy.”

Balsa framework for the Carte Postal, ready for covering

Balsa framework for the Carte Postal, ready for covering

The tail surfaces are lightweight balsa sheet and go together without any challenges.

I used the recommended AeroLITE covering for the entire model. An interesting aspect is to cover just the upper surface of the wing. This is part of the model’s design, as this introduces a small amount of dihedral and washout as the covering shrinks.

I have never encountered this approach before. It would be just about impossible to cover the lower wing surface due to an unusual under-camber scheme with the wing ribs, I went ahead and followed this portion of the instructions and covered just the wing upper surface. If nothing else, this will save a bit of weight.

Front view of completed Carte Postal RC model aircraft

Front view of completed Carte Postal RC model aircraft

I used the graphics offered by SA. They were very easy to apply using a dry transfer scheme. The lettering adds a lot to the look of the finished model.

Stevens Aero recommends a somewhat complicated method of using small rubber band retainers and magnets glued to the struts to allow for a removable wing. I think this is a bit of overkill for a small model such as this one, and I elected to glue the wing in place.

Bottom view of Carte Postale fuselage under construction

Bottom view of Carte Postale fuselage under construction

I have followed this approach with all of my Stevens Aero models and this has worked fine. By gluing the wing in place you are assured that the incidence remains set and correct, and will not vary between flights. The models are so compact and lightweight that the glued in place wing has worked fine for me. There are no issues with damage during a hard landing as the models fly at a slow speed.

Carte Postale fuselage under construction

Carte Postale fuselage under construction

I painted the cockpit, struts and wheels with acrylic paint with good results. The installation of the music wire control rods from the Parkzone servo arms to the control surfaces is a bit tricky. Carefully read the directions and think through your installation actions. I removed a bit of covering from the fuselage bottom to get a better view of the installation holes in the fuselage former. The technique of using two pieces of adjustment music wire held together with heat-shrink tubing is a superb method for any of these small models, and a method I use on my own designs.

The motor is a bit tricky to fit into the nose section. In future builds of Stevens Aero kits, I believe that I will epoxy the motor in the nose mount prior to gluing the cowl rings in place. Following this method I will be assured the motor is securely glued in place with the correct right thrust and that the gear clears the interior of the cowl.

All in all, the Carte Postale is a well thought out kit with a comprehensive set of plans, building instructions and photo illustrated construction guide. This is my fourth Stevens Aero indoor flyer built to date, and I look forward to completing other building projects from SA. They are wonderful additions to your flying fleet.

Front top view of the Carte Postale

Front top view of the Carte Postale

 

Top view showing large wing chord of the Carte Postale

Top view showing large wing chord of the Carte Postale

Carte Postale Fuselage

I am making good progress with the assembly of my Stevens Aeromodel 1926 Farman Carte Postale.

Precise laser cut balsa sheets of the Carte Postale

Precise laser cut balsa sheets of the Carte Postale

The kit is up to the usual standards of Stevens Aero. The website does an excellent job explaining what comes with the kit and listing any additional components needed to complete, such as electronics, glue and building materials. Note that all of the additional materials can be purchased from Stevens Aero.

It is also a nice feature that this line of ultra-micro indoor flyers are designed around the Parkzone electronics, to include the lightweight, miniature brick than contains the radio receiver, two servos and throttle control. With models of this small size having a standardized set of electronics helps a lot with flight success.

One of the keys to success with Stevens models is the high quality balsa employed that is accurately laser cut. The precision of the parts allows the model to be assembled with a dry fit. CA glue is then used to bond the parts when you are certain everything is in place. Stevens Aero uses some unique assembly methods with their RC models, clearly explained in their construction guide, that takes full advantage of computer drawn plans and laser cut parts.

Carte Postale fuselage under construction

Carte Postale fuselage under construction

It is crucial that you read the building instructions, with each step linked to a color photo, to ensure the parts are correctly put together. The result is a light weight and very strong model, but one built with a methodology quite different than any other RC model you have made prior. Just be sure you understand the step before applying the glue.

The fuselage just took a few hours to assemble and glue together. The build process allows for a self-jigging structure which allows for a completed fuselage without any warps. The engine mount has built in right thrust with a large enough cowl opening to insert the electric motor at a later stage.

So far so good, this is a great kit. The next step will be assembling the wing and tail surfaces!

My Next RC Building Project

My pilot training with Mesa Airlines is going very well. I just completed over three weeks of classroom instruction covering airline procedures and CRJ-900 aircraft systems. I am home now for a few weeks, awaiting my security clearance from the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA clearance is required before starting simulator training, which will be my next activity with Mesa.

Side view of the Carte Postale showing the wide wing chord of this unique aircraft

Side view of the Carte Postale showing the wide wing chord of this unique aircraft

While waiting for the go-ahead from TSA I will be carefully studying CRJ simulator profiles and procedures, as well as getting in some model building. I’ve chosen the Stevens Aeromodel Farman 1926 Carte Postale for my next building project.

Front view of the full scale 1926 Carte Postale aircraft

Front view of the full scale 1926 Carte Postale aircraft

The two seat sport flyer Carte Postale is an interesting airplane. There likely was just one variant built in 1926 by the French aircraft firm, Farman. Farman designers noticed a spare wing in storage from the large Farman Goliath airliner. Enterprising workers took this wing, sawed off the tips and mated it to an earlier design Farman David light biplane.

Side view of the Stevens Aeromodel Carte Postale indoor RC aircraft (from SA website)

Side view of the Stevens Aeromodel Carte Postale indoor RC aircraft (from SA website)

The almost comically wide chord of the Goliath’s wing provided the whimsical nickname of Carte Postale, or “Post Card.” The Carte Postale was flown locally and in the 1926 Coupe Zenith race.

I’ll start construction in a few days. The kit looks like the typical level of quality provided by Stevens Aeromodel. The outsized wing looks like it will offer smooth flight characteristics in our nearby indoor flying facility. Plus, the plane has the one thing required by all successful scale models, plenty of character!