Aero-Naut are a German model company that have been manufacturing a wide range aircraft and boat kits since the 1930s, their kits exuding quality and thoroughness, the cartoon scale Luscombe Silvaire 8 being a fine example. I say cartoon scale as, for ease of building, the model uses a square section fuselage rather than the monocoque oval construction of the full size.
The full size, incidentally, broke new ground when introduced in 1937 as it used an all metal fuselage with a fabric covered wing and no wood in its construction, with all metal sheeted wings being introduced in 1946. The aero-naut version, unlike the full size, is of all wood construction and designed for electric power with a 350-watt power train using a 3 or 4S LiPo of around 3,000 mAh. At under 2kg in weight and 1600mm wingspan it’s a very handy size for putting in the car in one piece and nipping down the field for a quick fly. Apart from the square fuselage the aero-naut version retains the profile of the full-size, including the distinctive wing shape.
LOVELY CUT WOOD
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Opening the rather attractive box reveals sheets of laser cut ply and balsa, together with a set of hardware, decals and an instruction manual, but no plan. Yes, no plan! The kit is designed to interlock together following the comprehensive English/Germany manual, which has very clear 3D drawings for each construction stage. Rather than repeat the step by step building instructions, I will instead summarise the construction and highlight any areas of note. There’s a link at the end of the review to the instruction manual, so you can follow the detailed build sequence if you wish. Following the instructions, the first thing to make is the rudder, to gently break you into the aero-naut way of doing things. Starting with one side sheet, all the ribs and the leading edge are glued into their respective slots.
The rudder horn is made up, along with the tail wheel strut and glued into position, before fitting the hinge reinforcements, opposite side sheeting and the bevelled leading edge. Finishing off with the tip and a final sand to shape, it all goes together very quickly and easily. The vertical stabiliser, elevators and horizontal stabiliser go together in a similar manner, building up into lightweight and true structures. The main wing panels follow a similar assembly sequence, with a continuous main spar and separate leading and trailing edges and wing ribs. The main spar is tapered on the underside of the outer section, so while the wing is flat on top it has dihedral on the lower surface.
A solid carbon rod is glued into the inner wing ribs to provide attachment to, and to support the weight of the fuselage. The wings are held in place with ply tabs that are secured with plastic bolts to stop the wings from sliding off and they also provide alignment. Before fitting the top sheeting, I pre-installed extension leads for the aileron servos, so it would be easy to pull the servo leads through when fitting the aileron servos. The ailerons follow similar construction to the elevators and build into strong lightweight items, with little chance of any twists or warps.
The fuselage is quite straight forward, starting with the sides, which are then glued to the ply formers. The fuselage is built using left and right-handed sides to ensure the correct motor side thrust is built in, so take care build to build a right and left side, taking note of the clearly marked part numbers. The two sides are then connected together at the front using the vertical formers and horizontal battery/radio tray, which key into the fuselage sides to ensure a true build. The box section receptacle for the wing retaining ply tabs is built in at this point, with captive nuts installed at this stage.
However, later, when I came to assemble the wings onto the fuselage this was a very tight fit and I had to sand down the ply tabs to get them to slide in. It may be better to make up some dummy wing retaining tabs from the spare ply in the kit and use these as a gauge to ensure the box is adequately sized. A brass tube is epoxied in place for the wing carbon rods. The rear end of the fuselage is then pulled together and glued to the final former. Once dry the intermediate formers are fitted. Top and bottom pre-shaped sheeting is then fitted from the canopy section rearwards; the top sheeting includes a small opening to allow air flowing over the motor, battery and ESC to escape. The front former and motor mount is made up of several pieces glued together for strength and incorporates a grilled section, which not only replicates the full size but also allows air inside for cooling. The whole section is made up of three-ply pieces and a front balsa section, which can be sanded to give a rounded profile. This is glued into position along with a couple of triangular reinforcing pieces and the remaining bottom sheeting is fitted. The canopy is then built up and checked for fit.
Once happy the retaining magnets, four on the canopy and four on the fuselage, can be glued in. This makes the canopy not only very secure but easy to remove and fit.
Once all the parts had been finished sanded the airframe was ready for covering. The box shows a nice blue and silver finish and provides some decals for a fictitious registration not associated with the Silvaire. I did an internet search and found a nice red full-size Model 8, G-BRSW, nicknamed Bloody Mary. Based on this I printed off some transfers of the registration and logo; these were gold with black highlighting, and they looked great out of the printer but, unfortunately, once applied the red film overpowered the gold and the end result was a bit disappointing. But, hey, it’s only a cartoon scale model so I decided to go with it. When the model was covered, the tail surfaces, elevators, rudder and ailerons were fitted and connected up to 13-gram servos.
The servos are fitted to removable hatches that screw into position. The rudder and elevator servos are at the rear of the fuselage, giving fairly direct control runs. The main undercarriage is a simple pre-bent wire unit that slots into the fuselage and is retained by gluing in a ply retaining plate. Optional fairings are provided, and the manual recommends taping these in place; I drilled a few holes in them and stitched them to the legs with thread and used epoxy to keep it all in place before covering in heat shrink film. The non-functional wing struts are from pre-shaped hardwood and require screwed rods to be inserted in the ends and then covering. They attach to metal pins on the fuselage using standard clevises. The wing's carbon rods slide into brass tubing in the fuselage, with ply retaining tabs inserted into a box section with a retaining bolt. As I noted earlier, I had to sand down the ply tab to be able to slide it into position, but once done the wings were very easy to attach and to remove.
For power I went with a motor out of an old model, a 3516, 1130 kV motor, almost in the middle of the recommended 1000 to 1200 range, with a 40-amp speed controller and an 11" x 7" propeller, driven by the recommended 3S 3000 mAh LiPo. The speed controller was positioned under the battery tray, and hook and loop straps were fitted to the battery tray to keep the battery in place. The canopy area is very spacious so fitting and removing the battery is very easy. The receiver was fitted, and the control throws set up as per the manual, and a telemetry ammeter was fitted to monitor the fight battery. The final model came in at 1,450 grams without the battery, and 1,720 grams with a the 3000 mAh battery, well under the 1,950 grams quoted in the manual. No nose weight was required to achieve the correct balance.
UP AND AWAY
For one reason or another the publication of this review was delayed, the upside to this is that this model has done a lot of flying over the last eight months or so, from the fair days in summer right through to winter with a rain saturated runway, and in that time I’ve flown it both without and with a gyro stabiliser. Take offs need a bit or care as the rudder is quite powerful, and with the long tail wheel strut you need careful application of the rudder to keep it on the straight and narrow. Once in the air it’s a delight to fly, tracking smoothly round the sky, although turns look tidier if initiated with the rudder. Loops, rolls and stall turns are all easily accomplished, and the power set up installed gives the Silvaire a fair turn of speed; a smaller pitch propeller may be a better option as with this set up, I rarely go above half throttle. Monitoring the on-board ammeter shows typical scale speed level flight only needing around 12-15 amps and pulling up for a loop around 30 amps. I have my capacity alarm set for 2,000 mAh and this gives a flight time of around eight minutes. Landings need a bit of planning as the Silvaire doesn’t bleed off speed quickly and anybody moving from a foamie, which slows down as soon as the throttle is reduced, will find this different – seasoned IC fliers will understand. Alighting is quite straightforward and on short dry grass a smooth roll out is the normal, but in winter claggy conditions care has to be taken to stop a nose over. As winter approached and we were flying in windier conditions, the Silvaire was getting blown around a little and as I had a simple three axis gyro spare, I thought I wound give it a go. This has smoothed out the flying in blustery conditions and an added bonus is that the rudder assistance on take-off helps control any swing.
A GOOD ALL-ROUNDER
The Luscombe Silvaire is one of several aero-naut models I have built and like all its brethren the kit is well thought out, the wood parts accurately cut and with lovely instructions it's a pleasure to build. It may only be cartoon scale, but for anybody contemplating moving on from foamies, with ambitions to build a scale model, it's a good introduction to balsa bashing, flying a woody and practising scale flying. The Luscombe has become one of my go to models when I want to nip out for a quick flying session. It fits in my estate car in one piece, it’s easy to change the flight packs and it’s very enjoyable to fly. I have had more than 100 flights in all weather conditions and despite a few arrivals it is still looking well.
Name: Luscombe Silvaire 8
Model type: Cartoon scale sports/trainer
Manufactured by: Aero-Naut
Weight: 1,950 grams quoted, 1,720 grams actual
Functions: Rudder, elevator, ailerons,
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