Home RC Airplane Reviews Pacific Aeromodels Gee Bee Model 'Y' Review
Pacific Aeromodels Gee Bee Model 'Y' Review Print E-mail
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Friday, 19 August 2011 22:57

History

The Gee Bee Model Y Senior Sportster was a sports aircraft built in the United States in the early 1930s by the Granville Brothers. Essentially an enlarged two-seat version of the single-seat Sportster, it was a low-wing strut-and-wire-braced monoplane of conventional -- if short-coupled -- design with open cockpits and fixed tailskid undercarriage. The first of the two examples constructed (registration NR11049) was built for the Granville Brothers Company itself and served as a support aircraft for the R-1 and R-2 racers and also for competition in its own right. The other Model Y (registration NR718Y) was built as an engine test bed for Lycoming. This latter aircraft was later refitted with a Wright Whirlwind of nearly double the power of its original power plant. In this form, it was flown by Florence Klingensmith at the 1933 Chicago International Races, where she won second place in the Women's Free-For-All and was killed in it while contesting the Phillips Trophy. The Gee Bee carries a crew of one and is powered by a Lycoming R-680 engine capable of producing 215 hp and giving a max speed of 160 mph.



Intro

Several months back Crazy Thumbs called me up and told me about a new RC Airplane site he had stumbled upon called Sonic Electric. The site had several foamie jets with nice metal retracts and a few other cool things on it, but what really caught his eye was the small balsa kit at the bottom of the page. The kit was a Gee Bee Model ‘Y’ produced by Pacific Aeromodels that was listed for a great price and came with a motor and 25 amp esc! We were excited about it but life got in the way and forgot about the model until this last week when Crazy again pointed me towards the little Gee Bee and said “you should buy this”. I looked at the ad, decided it was a good deal and ordered one.

   

Kit Contents

The Gee Bee arrived in about a week after ordering it online. The model was tightly packaged in two boxes and came with no damage. I knew the Gee Bee had a shorter than 40” wingspan but when I received the box I was convinced the whole model was nothing but a pile of sticks! The box was TINY. Fortunately, upon opening the box I discovered the model was mostly build, covered and ready to be assembled.

   

The kit contains the fuselage, wings, elevator, rudder, landing gear, a sonic electric motor, a 25 amp Sonic Electric ESC, a prop and miscellaneous hardware to put the model together. The Gee Bee did not come with a manual, but after writing Sonic Electric and Pacific Aeromodels I promptly received an email with a PDF of the manual.

   

Assembly

Using the PDF manual as I my guide I began following the steps to building the little Gee Bee.

The first step was to install the aileron servos. The Gee Bee includes a small string in the wing that is used to pull the aileron wires through the wing. Some trimming may be required to get the servos inside the wing and even after a good amount of trimming the servos were still a tight fit. I apparently was a bit too aggressive on one of the wings and broke the small wooden piece that holds the servo. I didn’t see my mistake until I tried to screw the servo in the wing and it just flopped around like a wet fish in a boat. To remedy my mistake I used some small, angled tweezers to press the wood back together and glued it with thin CA. Once everything was dry I was able to secure the servo.

   

After the servos were installed, step 2 was to install the landing gear. The manual calls for a 1/16” hole to be drilled in front of the landing gear slots, but I found that the sharp, self-tapping screws were plenty strong enough to bore through the wood without a pre-drilled hole. The wheel struts are held in by a thin piece of wood and some CA and although it looks wimpy, the whole unit feels strong. After the gear and wheel pants were in I checked the manual and moved towards epoxying the wings together.

   

The manual calls for 30 minute epoxy to join the wings, but if you are fast and have a lovely assistant (as I do) then you can complete the process using 5-minue epoxy. Make sure and have an extra set of hands handy to help hold the wings and clean up any epoxy that seeps through the cracks. The wings join together perfectly and unless you put the joiner in upside down, they are very easy to align.

The elevator and rudder are extremely easy to install into the plane as they only need a few drops of thin CA to stay secure on the fuselage. Pay attention when installing the elevator as the larger uncovered area is made to be installed on the bottom of the plane.

   

Once the tail feathers are done the servos for the rudder and elevator can be installed. Like the aileron servos some trimming may be required to get the servo in the hole. The control rods are very easy to adjust with the hardware that is supplied with the plane.

At this point the plane looked amazing and in my opinion was nearly done. All that was left was the power system.  The kit included a 25 amp ESC, brushless motor, motor mount, and propeller…basically everything needed for the power system on the plane.

I screwed the motor into the motor mount and although it was late and I was tired I worked hard to finish the whole front end of the plane. Unfortunately the plane had other ideas. No matter how hard I tried I could not get the motor mount lined up with the holes/blind nuts of the airplane’s front end. I would get one screw started only to find that the mount had shifted making impossible to thread in the remaining screws. It was late and I was frustrated so I headed to bed.

 

The next morning gave me a brighter disposition and I realized I just needed to drill out the holes on the mount to get them to line up with the plane. Surprisingly this took much bigger holes than I thought it would. Fortunately I had some washer handy that kept everything nice and snug.

After the motor was installed I screwed on the cow, spun on the prop, poked in the tail skid and the Gee Bee was done!

Features

For a smaller model the Pacific Aeromodels Gee Bee has very nice lines and features. The model is a beautiful replica of the Golden Age flyer and the contrasting red and white paint scheme is vibrant in the air. The construction feels solid, but is very lightweight which gives the Gee Bee plenty of agility and speed in the air. At the lowest settings the control surfaces all have plenty of control and the stock motor is very powerful despite its small size.

   

The best thing about the Gee Bee are the lines, she just looks beautiful! A definite head-turner at the field and the night club (doesn’t everyone take their airplanes dancing?).

First Flight

After dealing with tons of strange problems (detailed later in this review) I was finally ready to maiden the Gee Bee. A quick round of pre-flight checks revealed that all systems were a ‘go’, so I stuffed in a 3S 2200mah batter, brought the plane out to the tarmac and wound her up.

After only a short roll out, the Gee Bee sprang to the air like a grasshopper in a wild meadow. The wind was a blowing a tiny bit and it definitely affected the little plane. The plane wanted to dive ever so slightly, but after a few minutes of trimming, the Gee Bee flew straight and true. With the trims set I opened the Gee Bee up and put her through the paces. The agility of the model was surprising and it was so responsive it was almost ‘twitchy’, but this is nothing a little expo can’t fix.

The first flight went really well although I wasn’t completely comfortable with the plane after the first 5 minutes, it was definitely growing on me. The wind was a bit bothersome and it definitely tossed the plane around at times, but I was getting a handle on her. It was time to come down for the first landing and just as I ‘rounded the corner a big gust picked up and blew my approach way wide. I should’ve called the landing off, but instead powered through like a good little soldier and cut the throttle to bring her in. Regrettably, I cut the throttle too much, too soon and the plane came down in a hurry, I thought I had it under control as I pulled back on the elevator but instead the plane came smashing down into the runway.  Pieces flew everywhere and for a split second I thought I had completely shattered the plane, but upon inspection I had merely destroyed the beautiful wheel pants. Whoops.

Flight Characteristics

The Pacific Aeromodels Gee Bee is an agile flying airplane that has a strong power to weight ratio. The plane is nimble and feisty and can definitely do more tricks and maneuvers that are well beyond ‘scale’ flying. Rolls are fast and spins are scary so be sure and give yourself enough altitude to pull out of them. The stock power system performs well and keeps plenty of power in the reserve for strong climb outs and flying fast and low above the deck. Inverted flight felt a bit unstable and took a sizeable amount of down elevator to stay level. Likewise the plane loses stability when the power is cut and the wings will begin to dip and tip, looking for more airspeed.  This is no glider!

The plane may feel ‘twitchy’ to some and if this is the case dialing in some expo and reduced throws will iron out the edginess.

Takeoffs and Landings

Taking off with the little Gee Bee is a non-event given the power and feather weight of the airplane. Simply powering on towards ½ to ¾ throttle and pulling back on the elevator will bring the plane off the runway.

 

Landings can be a tad more difficult. As shown in the video below, my first landing was ROUGH and it destroyed the wheel pants in the process. I could lie and say that the wind caused the minor crash or that the sun was in my eyes and while these are legitimate excuses the real reason I banged the runway was pilot error plain and simple. I came in with way too steep of an angle and smashed the ground in the process.

I have found landing the Gee Bee with the some power is the best way to bring her in. The plane does stall and when the power is off she sinks like a rock with lead boots. A flatter approach with a gradual decrease in power will bring the RC airplane down in a more controlled manner.

Is This Plane For a Beginner?

The Gee Bee is a full 4-channel plane that is not too complicated to fly but it would be a handful for a beginner. The agility, size and durability are issues that might give the newbie some grief. This could definitely be a 2nd or more likely, a 3rd plane.

Issues, problems and more issues

The build of the Gee Bee was fairly straight forward but it did not come without its issues which were not only a fault of the plane but also the builder (me). As stated in the Assembly section of this review, the motor mount did not line up properly and required a fair amount of drilling to secure it to the wooden mount of the airplane. I was a little too aggressive on one of the ailerons servo holes and broke the wood that holds the servo, this was my mistake but the wood does feel very thin on all of the servo mounts.

After everything was all together I discovered one of the wing servos was jittering and carrying on, after some fuming and frustration I determined that the cause was not actually the servo but a bad “y” connector! Ack! Once all the jitters were fixed I set the plane on the ground and wound her up to a watt meter to see what she pulled. Things went well and I found the plane pulled 18 amps and 230 watts on a 3S 30C 2200mah battery. After the watt test the plane started acting funky and began ‘shutting down’ even though there was fresh battery connected and there were no loose connections! After much more testing and searching I determined that the ESC was dead or dying. Great.

I stuck in a fresh ESC which instantly brought the plane back to life and everything was fine before I noticed the elevator was jittering with a vengeance! At this point I was nearly defeated and just to laugh. I pulled the servo out, made sure it wasn’t another faulty extension, did a bunch of testing and determined that the servo was indeed ‘shot’. So much for the new Hobby King Brand servo! I guess you don’t know unless you try them out.

After all the problems were sorted, the plane was finally built and has flown wonderfully since. I guess when it rains, it pours.

Good Service
Having never heard or dealt with Sonic Electric or Pacific Aeromodels I was a little hesitant as to what my experience would be. Shipping was fast and the airplane came undamaged. After not finding a manual in the box I contacted both the distributor and manufacturer and received an email from both of them within a day. Sweet! When I destroyed the wheel pants I emailed Sonic Electric and they said they didn’t carry the pants, but I should try contacting Pacific Aeromodels. One day after emailing Pacific Aeromodels they responded by telling me they did indeed have wheel pants in stock and I could purchase them by phone for $8. Awesome! Both companies have been outstanding, my only gripe is there are several things on Pacific Aeromodels’ website that are listed, but not actually in stock. Too bad because I like the red and white Gee Bee, but I really want the yellow and black version, it looks like a Bumble Bee!

Conclusion

The Pacific Aeromodels Gee Bee ‘Y’ is a fun little flyer that is a delight to push through the air. The plane is an excellent performer both in aerobatics and power. The Gee Bee is a one of kind plane that has beautiful rounded lines and brilliant colors. The plane is a great deal since it can be found for a little over $100 with an included motor and ESC. Not a bad price for such a unique flyer, one that is easy to throw in the trunk and go. Head over to Sonic Electric to check out the small Gee Bee as well as the BIG Gee Bees they have for sale.

GRADE: B+

Pros

  • Inexpensive Price Point
  • Vibrant Colors and precise covering
  • Good power
  • Snappy and Agile
  • Not at all affiliated with the Bee Gee’s
  • Detailed Manual

Neutrals

  • No Pilot

Cons

  • Wheel pants are a tad flimsy, thin, and prone to SHATTERING if you land like I do :)

 

 Media and FLIGHT Time!

   

   

   

   

   

   

   



 
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