Home RC Airplane Reviews Hobby Lobby Pilatus PC-21 Review
Hobby Lobby Pilatus PC-21 Review Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 05 July 2011 22:14

History
The Pilatus PC-21 is a single-turboprop, low wing swept monoplane advanced trainer with a stepped tandem cockpit manufactured by  Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland. The PC-21 is a completely new aircraft design. The aircraft features a tandem-seating arrangement  (student in-front/instructor behind) in a bird strike resistant glass canopy with all round vision, glass cockpit with three large colour  liquid crystal displays (LCD), head-up displays (HUD), Hands on Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) controls and Zero-zero ejection seats for  student and instructor. The Pilatus is powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68B Turboprop engine capable of propelling the plane to a max  speed of 428 mph. The PC-21 has a service ceiling of 38,000 feet and a range of 828 miles.



Intro
Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I just have a need....a need for speed. Not the kind of speed that you buy in a dark alleyway, or achieve by rolling down a hill. No, I'm talking about airplane speed. Speed that I can wrap my thumbs around and give my neck whiplash as the plane zooms by. When the Hobby Lobby Pilatus PC-21 first showed up in my email inbox and the ad contained words like "speed prop" and "red paint", I knew I had to give the Pilatus a try, I thought maybe this airplane could satiate my speed need.


   


Kit Contents
The Pilatus took nearly a week to arrive at my front door (not as speedy as I had hoped), but when it did I was excited and thankful that the box was in near perfect condition. The airplane was tightly packaged inside a custom box with everything wrapped in plastic.

   


The kit contains a fuselage, canopy, single wing, elevator, rudder, 5-bladed prop, hub, a few accessories and a very detailed manual explaining all the steps to assembling the PC-21. Everything looked great except for the gear doors for the nose gear which were banged up and detached from the body.

   


Assembly
The Hobby Lobby Pilatus comes about 95% pre-assembled which is perfect for pilots on the go or lazy people. All of the control horns are pre-installed on the ailerons, elevator and rudder. The retractable landing gear comes fully installed and attached to all of the appropriate servos. The front gear servo is beefier and able to handle the impacts of not-so-beautiful landings as well as the main gear servo which is a standard sized servo.

   

Assembly starts at the rear of the plane with the elevator and rudder. The entire plane can be assembled without using any glue since there are tape stripes already in place, but I would advise against using only tape to secure the tail fins. Foam safe CA or 5-minute epoxy are wise choices to use in place of the tape. The elevator slides into place, but it is important to hold the edges of the elevator 'out' until it is fully seated on the backside of the plane. If the edges aren't held out, it can adhere early and create quite a headache when trying to attach the elevator to the fuselage.

   

The rudder fits very tightly into the fuselage and needs a little sanding on the edges to procure a proper fit. I used foam safe CA to secure the rudder and in a few minutes the end of the plane was complete.The wings secure beautifully to the fuselage of the plane with 3 large, metal screws. Since the retracts and ailerons are already installed and attached, there is nothing to do except screw the wings in!

   

The props screw into the hub with the provided hardware and the spinner fits over the plastic disc. The setup is a little odd and only time will tell how secure it is.The nose gear doors arrived pulled away from the fuselage and needed some CA to reattach them to the body which is a touch annoying, but within 5 minutes the doors were reattached.After the Pilatus was completed I connected a receiver and battery to the wires, let the servos center, attached the clevises and the PC-21 was finished!

   


Features
The Pilatus features brilliant red paint, mechanical retracts and sleek lines. Most planes that have mechanical retracts are terribly finicky and frustrating to deal with. I was impressed with the Pilatus' retracts that needed no tweaking and no messing with to get them to work correctly. The PC-21 comes with a 760kv motor and 50 amp ESC that is capable of running on either a 3S or 4S battery.   

   


First Flight
I arrived at the field with great anticipation to fly the Hobby Lobby Pilatus. I really wanted to see how fast the plane could go, and how different it felt between a 3S and a 4S battery. I went through all of the pre-flight checks, checked the motor and found that on a 3S 2200mah battery the plane pulls 25 amps and 310 watts which is fine for normal flying, but with a 4S battery the plane pulled 43 amps and 703 watts!

With the pre-flight checks finished I tried rolling the throttle slowly and taxiing down the runway, but the steering is extremely touchy and the plane would tip forward if given too much input. After a few tips, I blasted the throttle, hit a bump and the PC-21 was airborne. The Pilatus took to the sky with little effort and needed only 3 or 4 clicks of up trim to level out. With the 3S battery it felt 'light' and actually flew quite well. It was no speed demon, but I figured it wouldn't be at only 310 watts. The Swedish airplane was very well balanced and was crisp and snappy with all of the inputs I fed into the sticks. After 5 minutes of easy flying, I brought the little red plane down and swapped out the 3S for a 4S 2200mah battery.


Then the fun began.


I was worried the plane wouldn't balance the same with the bigger/heavier battery, but no new trims were needed. Just sitting on the bench everyone could tell that the 4S spun the prop faster and with a vengeance. I set the plane on the runway, gave it about 1/2 throttle and in a blink the Pilatus PC-21 was off the runway. After a few circuits it was obvious the plane had more power, but it was the full throttle passes where the PC-21 really showed its capabilities.

   


At full throttle the plane silently screams through the air like a stealth jet. It is amazing how quiet the Pilatus is...only a windy 'woosh' can be heard as she cuts through the air. With the 4S buried in the fuselage I was having a blast flying the Pilatus all over the sky. After 4 minutes I decided not to press my luck and brought the Pilatus back to the landing strip. With a long approach I was able to bring her down to the ground safely and without incident. After 4 minutes of mixed flying the battery contained around 3.80 volts per cell.

Flight Characteristics
The Hobby Lobby Pilatus is an excellent flying RC airplane that really moves with a 4S battery. On the stock setup the control surfaces have ample movement and make the Pilatus very agile. Rolls are crisp and I do not believe I ever gave the red plane full stick input for aileron rolls. For those with slower thumbs and brains I would highly recommend putting in some expo to make the plane less twitchy.

The PC-21 flies a lot like an EDF jet and should be treated as such in the air. It is important to keep the speed up in the corners otherwise the airplane will drop and potentially stall. For the most part the Pilatus likes speed and is not excessively 'floaty'. The plane will shake and tip stall if flown too slowly, so be aware of its limitations!

   
Inverted flight is easy and the airplane is well balanced so it does not need very much down elevator to stay level. With so much power pushing the Pilatus through the air it is very stable at higher speeds! It was breezy the day I maidened it and there was little to no affect on the flight characteristics.

Takeoffs & Landings
Getting the Hobby Lobby Pilatus in the air is a bit tricky due to the design of the landing gear and touchiness of the steering controls. The nose gear of the plane is sloppy which does not help the problem. On the ground, the slightest touch of steering can easily cause the plane to tip and either the edge of the wing will scrape or the prop will strike the ground. Both of these scenarios are less than favorable.For takeoffs I found that keeping the plane straight (with zero steering input) and a little up elevator will keep the nose pitched up and the prop clear of the ground. On a 4S battery the plane does not need much runway to get up in the sky which minimized the chance of tipping and prop strikes.

   

Landings are best done with a long flat approach and gentle movements on the sticks. The plane carries a lot of speed, but is prone to tip stall if going too slow. Keep the descent gradual and constant and the plane will float quickly to the ground. I have not installed flaps on the plane, but they would be a welcome addition and aid in slowing the plane down.

Is this plane for a beginner?
The Hobby Lobby Pilatus is a bit of a handful and I would not recommend it to beginners. At full throttle the plane can become a dot in the sky within a matter of seconds, way too fast for a beginner. But if you're into crashing bright red planes, then by all means get the Pilatus and record the maiden for me. :)


Landing Gear, Steering Sensitivity, Wet Paint
I have mixed feelings about the landing gear on the plane. In one way I like them because out of the box they worked perfectly. No tweaking with the servos or steering to get them to lay flush. The gear doors were detached and the string that closes them needed to be tightened but these were both minor things.

   
One thing I do not like about the gear is how sensitive it is on the ground. Any slight movement causes the plane to tip out of control. By the 7 or 8th flight I have learned to not touch the steering input at all.

   


At about the 3rd flight we discovered that 2 of the 3 wheels were not moving freely which caused the wheels to act as a brake and encumbered the plane while taxiing. We pulled off the wheels and slightly shaved down the inner workings of the struts to get things moving fluidly. This worked, but after taking the wheels off a few times they became loose and needed CA or a dab of lock-tite to secure them to the struts.
These are just little things, but it seemed to be a common theme in some of the online forums.

The Pilatus arrived in beautiful condition, but in some areas the paint was still tacky and soft. The plane is literally 'hot off the press' so be careful when first handling the PC-21.


Conclusion
The Pilatus PC-21 is a unique airplane with sleek lines and a funky design. The front landing gear is a little sloppy and there might be a little tweaking be done to make everything secure, but as far as assembly goes, the Pilatus is easier to put together than baking a chocolate cake. The option to fly on either a 3S or 4S battery opens the PC-21 to a variety of options for speed and flight time. The plane is a blast to fly at full throttle and looks great when whooshing wistfully overhead. Considering the Pilatus comes with retracts, a large ESC/Motor and the option for flaps, it is a great buy under $200!

Grade: B+


Pros

  • 5-bladed prop and fast
  • Bright Paint
  • Retracts that did not need any adjusting
  • Detailed Manual
  • Woosh


Neutrals

  • Nice option for flaps, but no hardware included


Cons

  • Paint is a bit tacky in parts
  • Easy to tip while taxiing and scuff up paint and props



Media and Flight Time!

   

   

   

   


 
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