Multiplex Mini-Mag

  • This review was first published in 2006 – The Mini-Mag is still available.

As someone who's picking up R/C flying again after a rather long absence, it was with some trepidation that I agreed to build and review this new electric trainer from Multiplex. I needn't have worried, though: this hobby is very different to the one I left back when Noah was a lad, and the Mini-Mag demonstrated just how much things have changed in terms of build simplicity, quality, and flying performance.

Take the use of foam, for example. Like other popular Multiplex foam models, the Mini-Mag is made from Elapor – a remarkably light and strong material with many of the properties of conventional expanded polypropylene (EPP). The people at Mulitplex, however, don't so much mould Elapor as engineer it, such is the accuracy of their kits. When I dry-built the aircraft (following the superb instruction manual), I simply couldn't believe how precisely the components fitted together.

Never having worked with this wonderstuff before, however, I was at a loss to know which glue to use for assembly. As Graham (editor) has discovered, EvoStik works a treat, but unlike most other foams Elapor can also be glued with superglue. Initially, I opted for Pink ZAP cyano', with a can of catalytic kicker for when I wanted to make it cure faster. In the event, however, I found that this was altogether too pink and zappy, and I ended up using Slow ZAP instead.

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The model goes together quite quickly once you get started. The wing, for example, attaches directly to the top of the fuselage where the fit of the two mouldings is such that it prevents the wing twisting out of alignment; a single plastic bolt is all that's required to secure things.

The ailerons are operated by two servos, which are mounted in ready-made recesses on the underside of the wing. I used Hitec's HS55BB micro servos which admittedly aren't the cheapest on the market, but they are good, with plenty of torque and rapid response.

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When it came to actually fitting the servos I discovered that the leads weren't long enough to reach through the cleverly laid-in channel to the inside of the fuselage. The answer was to fabricate a Y-lead connector from a pair of short extension leads. While this mod' isn't too difficult in itself, it does call for some judicious removal of a little Elapor from the underside of the wing, and a touch of adhesive tape to neatly tidy away all the wiring and extra connectors.

The receiver, meanwhile, fits into yet another well thought-out space just under the wing, and there's plenty of room in the fuselage to house the flight battery and ESC.
For their part, the control snakes aligned beautifully with the servo arm positions and worked smoothly first time. A little care is required, though, when using cyano' to glue the outers to the fuselage.

The standard motor supplied with this kit is a 6V Multiplex Permax Speed 400 brushed job. That said, the review model came with a more efficient BL-400 brushless in-runner, which is a straight swap if you fancy the same upgrade.
Accordingly, the BL-400 was coupled to a 6 x 4” electric prop' and a Jeti Advance 30A speed controller, all of which was powered by a 1200mAh, 11.1V, three-cell, FlightPower Evolution 20 Li-Po pack. Playing around with the position of this to try and maximise cooling without upsetting the C of G resulted in the battery being located towards the rear of the bay. Since it was a little obscured, I also fitted a tiny plastic air scoop on top of the forward hatch. This only directs a little more breeze inside, of course, but I haven't had any cooling problems with the battery so far.

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And that's it – Multiplex really has made the build that simple; even the excellent decals are easy to apply. So with the control throws set up, the Mini-Mag was ready for the off.
Come the day of the first flight, there was quite a strong breeze blowing, but I wasn't deterred – especially as I was planning to hand over responsibility for the initial sortie to my instructor at Tydlesley MFC!

Take-off from the grass strip was achieved after a very short roll out, and from the outset it was clear that the Mini-Mag was well settled in the air – remarkably so, in fact, for a model with a wingspan of just 1010mm – and had quite a lot of power in reserve. It wasn't long, then, before she was being thrown around the sky, and performing all manner of aerobatic manoeuvres with aplomb.

After a few tweaks of the computer, I got my hands on the box and found that the Mini-Mag is not only much crisper and more responsive than my larger i.c. trainer, but also blessed with a more exciting power-to-weight ratio. I could become a hooligan!

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Over the following weeks I flew the Mini-Mag in a variety of weather conditions. She gets a little twitchy on breezier days, but since she's a trainer, and beginners in the UK have to learn how to handle a little meteorological push and shove, we both simply knuckled down and got on with it.
I couldn't believe the versatility of this little 'plane: she'll cope with loops, rolls, stall turns and even inverted flight with equanimity. In quieter moments, she's also capable of prolonged gliding flight – so much so that I often had to push the nose down to make her land. And talking of landing, on the occasions when I cocked it up, the Mini-Mag sucked up the impacts, proving herself to be a very robust model who'll take any amount of abuse.

Just when I thought that we'd explored every aspect of the Mini-Mag's flight envelope, a box arrived on my doorstep containing a pair of Elapor seaplane floats which can be mounted in place of the Mini-Mag's undercarriage. The kit also includes some ancillary hardware with which to construct a water rudder, but after cocking up the assembly, I decided to do without it and mounted the floats on their own.
I have to say, I was rather apprehensive about flying the Mini-Mag over water straight off, and decided to let a more experienced flier test the effect of the floats on flight performance by taking the model down to the field and hand-launching her.

The results were rather mixed. While the model could clearly take the weight, the aerodynamics of the floats presented it with more of a challenge. If flown too slowly through a turn, for example, the weight of the floats would simply roll the aeroplane level, so it was necessary to hold in some aileron throughout the manoeuvre. On the plus side, the landing proved unproblematic and, as a result, instilled great confidence for our first aquatic adventure.

Down at the millpond, it soon became obvious why you need a water rudder when manoeuvring on the surface, especially when the Mini-Mag was being blown about by crosswinds. Resorting to using lots of power to steer her, on the other hand, exposes the model's eagerness to wheelbarrow if pushed too hard across any wake. Still, we had enough room to cope, and once we'd lined her up for take-off the model lifted off after only the shortest of runs. Again, handling in the air was improved by a touch of extra speed to offset the additional drag, while landings are made fairly straightforward by the model's lack of weight: as soon as she's on the water the extra drag of the floats slows her quite rapidly.

This float-flying is all very interesting, of course, and it's good to have the option to give it a try. I'm a field-flying sort of chap, though, and personally I feel that the encumbrance of floats only spoils an otherwise attractive little aeroplane. Mind you, I’m sure there are many who’ll disagree.

The build quality and flying performance of the Mini-Mag has really opened my eyes. Clearly, this hobby has come a very long way since I was last involved in it! The Mini-Mag's fast becoming my favourite model, and I can heartily recommend her to anybody as a fun toy and a joy to own. You can buy one at any of the Multiplex distributors throughout the UK.

Name: Mini-Mag
Aircraft type: Electric trainer
Manufactured by: Multiplex
RRP: £60 (March 2011)
UK Sales: Tel. 07921 166645
Wingspan: 1010mm
All-up weight: 580g
Rec’d radio: 3 channel / 4 channel with ailerons
Rec’d motor: Permax 400 (supplied)
Motor used: Permax BL22/18 motor and 3s Li-Po
Rec’d battery: 7-cell AA NiCad or NiMH
Optional extras: Float set (part no. 733068)

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