Let’s face it, the sums of building from kits versus ARTF simply do not add up! Why on earth would you buy a traditional kit for roughly the same price as you can a modern ARTF, then spend hours building it and then
even more time and money covering it? And at the end of this you will (if your building and covering is anything like mine) be left with an airframe that has been less well built and covered worse than that shiny ARTF you knew you should have bought instead.
So why would you even contemplate it? Personally, I like to build, and I adore the feeling of taking a new and unique model to the flight line sure in the knowledge that it will create lots of interest and questions from my fellow flyers. But that’s the show off in me! So for those of you out there who may want to consider a traditional kit, can this offering from Galaxy Models give you that extra touch of magic you have been missing in the ARTF world?
This once incredibly popular 50” low wing sportster is designed for .40 sized engines and standard radio gear. It is also available in a 42” wingspan for .25 – .32 engines (the Wizard) and a 75” version for .90 plus engines (the Mystic), which is the one I always wanted!
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The kit arrived in a completely uninspiring box decorated with… err, nothing! These days people buy with their eyes as much as anything else and we should at least give them something to look at and aspire to during the build. Anyway, opening the box reveals a plethora of well cut quality balsa and ply, a bag of fittings, a sturdy canopy and an ABS cowl as well as an incredibly detailed plan and a less than detailed instruction booklet. In fact a dyed in the wool plan builder could actually throw the instructions in the bin and build from the plan, whilst a fresh from ARTF bod would probably be overwhelmed by the information on the plan and struggle to see the wood from the trees.
The instruction manual is completely the opposite of the plan. There are no photos of construction and in some areas the information is vague to say the least. I find it strange in these digital days that manuals are still produced without photos. Thankfully, the Magician is not the most complicated aircraft to build and a careful study of the plan will clear up any problems. The build sequence suggested by the instructions is also incorrect as it suggests building the fuselage and then the tail feathers but being a canny builder I know that I will need the wings to check for alignment of the tail feathers and so I built these first.
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These are beautifully cut and veneered items that already have the dihedral cut into the wing root. The instructions suggest that you glue the leading and trailing edges on before joining the wings, however I always find it easier to join the wings using 30 minute epoxy ensuring the correct amount of dihedral is maintained. And once this is set I then add the leading and trailing edge stock with PVA, trimming for a perfect fit. Once dry I plane and sand them to shape before placing the wing to one side so that I can use it during the rest of the build and finish it off later.
I did deviate from the original instructions, preferring to install a servo into each panel rather than a centrally mounted servo driving torque rods. As you will see later, I am very glad I did.
The fuselage is of all balsa construction with each side re-enforced internally by the addition of ply doublers. The sides are then joined together, with lite-ply formers in between, and a balsa doubler is used for the tailplane seat. It is suggested in the manual that the slots for the tailplane are cut into the fuselage sides after they are joined, I thought this would be very difficult to do accurately and neatly once the two sides are joined, so I cut the slots slightly undersized in each fuselage side before I joined them. The boxy shape is given some curves with the addition of a virtually full length veneered foam front decking. The rear decking is of balsa sheet over ply formers and forms the trickiest part of the fuselage build. Why this is not made of veneered foam is beyond me. Anyway, take your time and remove small amounts at a time and you will get there.
The manual then suggests that you construct the fin and glue this onto the fuselage in the correct place. Again experience tells me that this would be a nightmare to cover with film and so I chose to ignore this, building the fin, but not gluing it into position until after the covering had been applied. The build of the fuselage is completed by sheeting the bottom, adding cockpit sides, a tail-wheel bracket and cowl retaining blocks. Right at the end of all this the manual directs you to fit the undercarriage to F2, which I found extremely difficult to do given the limited space available in which to get a screwdriver in. In retrospect I would fit them to F2 before joining the sides. The addition of the tank hatch sees the fuselage largely complete and ready for shaping. The fuel tank supplied does not actually fit in the tank bay, so I replaced it with a SLEC item.Article continues below…
Tailplane and fin
These are simple sheet balsa pieces, glued together and sanded to shape. I suggest that you assemble these before you start the fuselage as they will come in handy during the build. The rudder and elevator are simple flat balsa sheet affairs with the elevator halves married by a hardwood joiner.
Picking the wing back up, I placed it in position on the fuselage and carefully checked for alignment before drilling the leading edge for the location dowel. By keeping the wing aligned, precise measurements can be made to allow you to drill holes for the wing bolts into the hardwood blocks that are epoxied into the fuselage.
Once this is done the wing tips were added and the wing root was re-enforced with fibreglass bandage (supplied) and 30 minute epoxy. When set, the holes previously made can be re-drilled. Then bolt the wing back on, insert the tailplane and check for alignment to the fuselage and wing, sanding the seat as required to ensure all is square.
Let the dust fly!
Not my favourite bit this, but it is actually quite rewarding to watch the shape come to life in front of your eyes. Grab various grades of sandpaper, a razor plane and a dust mask. A quick tip – temporally tape the cowling to the fuselage and align it with the top decking. Use a pen to mark around the cowl and onto the fuselage. This will give you a shape to sand to and ensure that you do not take too much off! A good hour and a very miffed wife later (when sanding outdoors, take the washing off the line first) you have a pleasing shape ready for hinging of the control surfaces and covering.
Hinging involves bevelling the leading edges of the surfaces and cutting slots for the Mylar tape material provided. This is a fairly simple task to do but it can easily be messed up if you do not have the correct tools for the job and I would suggest you do this before covering in the interest of neatness.
Having seen the adverts in our fabled mag for the Galaxy kits, I have often admired the scheme that the Galaxy display team had given to their Mystic and so a quick call to Mark at Galaxy soon had some lovely decals winging their way to me (why some are not included in the kit, I do not know) and a trip to my local model shop had the required colours and a completely unnecessary (but very desired) new Irvine 46 in the bag.
Now covering has never been my strong point but after reading the recent excellent article penned by our equally fabled Mr. Whittaker, I attacked the task with renewed vigour and I am reasonably pleased with the results. So it’s not true what they say about him after all!
At this point we are left with what equates to an ARTF. Careful measuring and removing film, to facilitate gluing with epoxy, sees the tailplane and fin fitted, finishing off by fixing the control surfaces in place.
Engine and radio installation
This part really is left up to the builder and is not covered at all in the manual. There are some notes on the plan but if you are to get any servos in the fuselage at all you are left with no other option than to remove large amounts of foam from the back of the top decking. It is at this point I realized how glad I was that I had not gone down the central servo in the wing route as space is already at a premium. So I suggest that you take your time and plan the positions of your servos and the runs of your push rods carefully.
A bag of accessories is supplied, most of which are perfectly suitable for the job. But to be honest, I have moved on from these and I chose alternatives which are a bit more robust. I used a closed loop for the rudder and a flexible snake for the elevator. The ailerons are simply connected with 2mm push rods, ball links and clevises. My choice of an Irvine 46 engine was at the upper end of the suggested range and the mount required some trimming before it would fit without binding on the arms. The cowling was then slowly trimmed to give a snug fit around the engine and then drilled for the retaining screws.
For C of G reasons the 6V, 2200mah Ni-MH Rx pack was located well to the rear of the fuselage. All that was left to do was to fix the canopy in position (I prefer to paint mine) and check that all the surfaces work and in the right sense. A quick check of the C of G revealed that I was probably still a tad nose heavy but with weather reports for the next day looking good and deadlines looming it would have to do.
The next day
For once the forecasters were not a million miles away and the day dawned bright but blustery. But let’s face it, these are the type of conditions that this model is supposed to eat for breakfast. So nothing else for it but to get the range and pre-flight checks done and fire the engine up. The new Irvine fired second flick and after half a tank confidence was high enough to go for a flight.
A quick re-fuel and the Magician was lined up on the shorter of Tyldesley's two strips. A final check of the control surfaces and power was slowly applied. I was very quickly aware of how powerful the rudder was as she gently zigzagged her way down the runway (“Touch of an elephant”, were words ringing in my ear). As speed increased a quick dab of up soon had her lifting into the blue and climbing very positively. Another thing that became quickly apparent was the turn of speed that this little model has; the comments of, “Looks like a pylon racer”, were well founded. A handful of aileron trim and up elevator soon had her smoothed out and I began some simple manoeuvres to see what she handled like.
Rolls are very crisp and quite rapid given the fairly narrow width of the ailerons. Stall turns are very easy with the powerful rudder and loops track very nicely, considering that I have not laterally balanced her yet. Inverted flight, as expected, required a large amount of down elevator, confirming the forward C of G. Time to gain some height and check the stall; nose high and at a virtual standstill, the stall does eventually come and shows itself as a gentle nod and a slight drop of a wing, which might disappear when I get my finger out and laterally balance her. Add full rudder at the point of stalling and spins are easy to enter and are quite rapid on just rudder. Centre the controls and she stops within half a revolution. Knife edge, whilst not yet horizon to horizon, requires surprisingly little coupling on the elevator but opposite aileron is required to stay in the knife edge.
Just as I was really starting to enjoy myself the timer was demanding my attention, so after a check circuit I called landing. I had intentionally left the idle slightly high (it was brand new after all) but the result was that I came in a touch fast and the first contact with terra firma resulted in a re-launch. Still, no panic, just let her settle back down onto the strip and… yes, you guessed it, another re-launch! Don't panic Mr Mannering! I still had half the strip left, so this time she had to stay down! And this is exactly what she did, coming to a stop just short of the end – phew! Subsequent flights have showed the Magician to be a very capable sport model that will out-fly most of its owners and challenge the rest.
I am a big Galaxy Models fan and I have owned many models in their range. I accept the failings in their kits because I know that without exception they all fly amazingly well. And the Magician is no different. But it is 2010 guys and things have moved on, so if you want to tempt the newcomers in our hobby into a winter build then you are not going to do it with this type of kit.
The instructions are woeful. The plan has, I suspect, stayed the same since the first day of production and there has been nothing but the merest nod towards the 20th century in terms of manufacturing. Parts are CNC routed not laser cut and we really need a glass fibre cowl not ABS.
Despite all this, will it stop me from buying another Galaxy kit in the future? No, not in the slightest. I love the designs and they way they fly. If, however, you are an ARTF bod and are contemplating a traditional kit, may I suggest you try something else first? But make sure you come back to this one – it’s magic!
Wingspan – 50 inches
Length – 43 inches
Weight – 5lbs (with Irvine 0.46 and 5 servos)
Wing area – 450 sq. inches
Engine range – 0.40 – 0.45 cu. in.
Radio requirements – 4 channels – 4/5 servos
SRP – £54.95
Manufacturer – Galaxy Models, 316/318 Foxhall Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP3 8JB. Telephone: 01473 729279. Website: www.galaxymodels.co.uk