The Twister Sky Lift which was out just before Christmas has generally received a very warm reception. I would like to add my 2ps worth however, because the marketing aims this model right at the helicopter tyro, the rank beginner - in other words, me. It is advertised as easy to assemble and fly. Indeed, it even "Almost hovers by itself!".
I said to myself, as I often do when any new gadget is announced, "I've got to get me one of those!" and sure enough when Father Christmas arrived, he had the foresight to bring me one on Christmas day. At this stage I should admit that I am not a complete novice, I have built and flown fixed wing model aircraft, so more or less know what to expect with ARTF and RTF aircraft. The Sky Lift (aka Boeing C 47 Chinook) definitely falls into the RTF category. Everything is supplied, even tools, rubber bands, double-sided tape, Velcro, and batteries for the aircraft and transmitter.
When it comes out of the box it is not completely ready to fly, it is necessary to attach the blades, all eight of them, install the 800 mAh 3S Li-Po in the airframe and the AA batteries in the transmitter. If you have any difficulty with this at all, then a DVD is included that takes you through the process.
The next thing I did was to stand back and admire my new toy. Poised and gleaming on the carpet. The jungly camo’ job certainly looked good, but I made a mental note to change it. The green is too shiny, and the grey is a dull matt, and this looks a little odd, also the markings did not ring entirely true when compared with all the RAF Chinooks I could find on a Google image search, another mental note then.
Being a 2.4GHz man, the next thing I did was to connect the flight battery. Big Mistake, I dimly remember from my B certificate that you MUST SWITCH ON THE TRANSMITTER FIRST! Now I know why. The model started twitching and jumping with the blades starting and stopping. This apparently is known as ‘glitching’ and is a phenomenon we do not get on 2.4. The way to stop it is to switch on the transmitter allowing the reciever to be ‘captured’ by the strong local signal rather than all the interference and atmospherics all about us. Alas for me it was too late and the rear rotor main shaft and upper blades detached themselves and made for the ceiling.
Now, even with glitching, I do not believe that the main shaft can have been attached to the gear train correctly in the factory...and I find it difficult to believe that the model had been "test flown" as advertised. In order to re-attach the shaft it was necessary to remove the body shell to get at the necessary grub screws and this I did.
I checked the front rotor and found that those screws had not been tightened either. Anyway I tightened both, switched on the TX and then the receiver - all was well. I even managed to hover it a bit over the carpet in the living room. Before reassembling, I decided to do the paint job, and do a little work on the markings as well. The result can be seen in the photo.
Whilst disassembled I decided to replace the receiver with a Spektrum AR 6100 2.4GHz unit, so that I could take advantage of my computerised transmitter, the DX7. I now have a perfectly good 35Mhz TX/RX waiting to go to a good home, any offers?
On Boxing day the weather had calmed down to a gentle 5 or 6 knot steady breeze, and as I didn’t really have access to a reasonable indoor flying space I decided to fly it in my small car park at work. This was my second Big Mistake. I fired her up, took off like a rocket and within seconds the Chinook was a little speck in the sky heading downwind and getting smaller. I attempted to fly her back, but couldn’t work out which way she was going and was seconds away from losing her altogether.
Now I know what you are saying, "Stupid boy, that's not how you fly helicopters!" Well I know that NOW – it’s not a fixed wing for Pete's sake. But I wonder how many recipients of this particular toy at Christmas knew that? I have got a feeling that there might have been quite a few equally as clueless as me. The Twister Sky Lift is definitely an indoor machine for all but the more experienced of heli pilots, I feel.
Anyway I decided to ditch, cut the motors and went looking for it in the general area where I thought it had landed, which was in the centre of a new housing estate. Needless to say I couldn’t find it and to all intents and purposes that was the end of my Chinook. I went around looking for it, knocked on doors, put up posters and leafleted everywhere. It rained all that night and next day I still didn’t have my heli. In fact it was 3 days before it was returned to me by someone who had thought it was a piece of satellite fallen from the sky. There was a little cosmetic damage to the plastic and a couple of blades were broken but apart from that it seemed OK. The rain didn’t even harm it - there was still juice in the Li-Po and the receiver was still working.
Well, If there are any mistakes to be made after the purchase of your first heli, I think I made them all. Belatedly I made up my mind to do it properly. I put in several hours on the FMS sim supplied in the box, so at least I would be in with a chance of pushing the sticks in the right direction. I looked around for an indoor flying club, but there were none in our area, so I started one, affiliated to our club, the Chesil Model Flying Club. (We meet in the Weymouth Sea Cadet Hall every Wednesday if anyone is interested)
With my new found knowledge, a suitable venue and other enthusiasts around I eventually managed to give my Twister Sky Lift a decent trial and what a superb machine it is! Trimmed correctly it certainly does hover by itself. It is stable and realistic and I haven't had so much fun since I discovered girls. At our indoor club there are several Chinooks and it is certainly quite a sight to see these in the air at once! I even put lights on mine so I can see which way it is going! (and which one is mine!)
I bought a set of landing lights from Brentford RC (Brentfordrc.co.uk) for my Skylift. This consists of 2 super bright LEDs and 1 red LED. I placed the white landing lights at the front as illustrated in the review, but for scale purposes they should really be lower, just above the for'ard landing gear. The red light is mandatory for MoD aircraft, apparently. I placed mine on top next to the battery low LED. Really it should be right at the top next to the main shaft, but I didnt want the lead to get tangled with the swashplate and gears!
Fitting the lights is easy, just make a hole slightly smaller than the diameter of the LED and push it in. A drop of canopy glue helps to keep it there. The lights draw negligable current compared with the motors and servos so can easily be powered from the BEC. Just plug them into a spare channel on the RX, or use a Y lead if you do not have a spare. If you want to control them from the TX then you would have to add some sort of switching arrangement.
Brentford describe this set of lights as "Skylift Heli Lights" and this is what I bought for £9.99. They also do a set of just the 2 white lights, or 2 reds and a green.
The Sky Lift is the best Christmas present I've had for a long time, I absolutely love it. And if anyone asks me if it is a suitable acquisition for a rank beginner, my answer would be an unequivocal NO!
There's a full review of The Twister Sky Lift in the current (Feb 2008) issue of RCM&E - Ed.
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