Twenty-five years ago this year, Avicraft Models unveiled a kit designed by their very own Phil Newman, the Panic biplane. Revolutionary at the time, there was seemingly nothing beyond the remit of the aptly named Panic and it quickly garnered a reputation as a serious stick banger’s tool.
In no time it had made a name for itself on the show scene, with both the Avicraft and Avon display teams using it to execute all manner of silly moves. The original Panic design employed dihedral on the lower wing with ailerons and flaps on the top. This made for a very smooth flying aeroplane although later versions straightened the lower wind and incorporated coupled ailerons for both top and bottom wing. This Panic was competition-hungry and one of the most advanced aerobatic aircraft of its time, capable of mind-boggling spins, loops, rolls and freestyle aerobatics.
I entered the hobby in the early ‘90s, arguably towards the end of the Panic’s hey-day when the fun flyers were gravitating towards the Avicraft Frantic, the Limbo Dancer and, latterly, the Cougar 2000. From time to time a Panic would appear and I would stand and watch in awe as the distinctive model was thrashed around the sky with an ease and confidence that made the pilot look like he should fly in the Tournament of Champions rather than just practice for his ‘B’ certificate.
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The Panic required some considerable balsa bashing to fabricate, and with the hobby moving fully into the realm of the ARTF, in recent years it has become a rare sight at clubs and competitions. I never had the pleasure of owning one of the early kits but have long held a desire to add one to the stable. Like few other models, it really has stood the test of time and endeared itself to a generation of flyers.
The Perkins website suggested the ARTF version had been factory-built and covered according to the rigid specification clearly defined by the Newman brothers. Heck, if they chose the specification for this then I suspect they’re in need of a visit to a good optician! The gruesome technicoloured scheme adorning every part of the Panic is, in my humble opinion, terrible. I know the Panic is a hooligan’s model and there is a certain amount of nostalgia value, but the livery reminds me of the shell suits that would have been worn by Panic flyers in the early ‘80s. Mind you, Kate Moss might look odd in a multi-coloured shell suit but I bet you’d still ask her out to dinner? In this respect I guess it doesn’t really matter what colour scheme the Panic wears? After all, the ‘plane isn’t really for those who are happy with convention.
Whilst the kit was supplied with an SC .91, many of the lads that I knew who had owned a Panic had used .60 size engines up front, admittedly some with a tuned pipe. With this in mind, my first thoughts were that the motor would make the model ridiculously overpowered and, perhaps, too heavy. The instruction manual itself recommends a .60 two-stroke so the .90 probably wouldn’t have been my choice. That said, when I removed the engine from the box it seemed light, compact and quite a well engineered powerplant.
A quick thumb through the instruction manual suggested that the Panic would be quick and simple to put into the air, the intro’ offering a bit of history on the model, describing some of the famous feats of the Panic display team as well as the manoeuvres that the model was capable of.
The first stages of the build include the simple attachment of the undercarriage, tail skid and tailplane. Nothing overly complex here, although the wheel collets that came with the kit were too small for the wire undercarriage and despite sustained persuasion, replacements were required from the local model shop. The elevator is controlled by a pushrod with a metal clevis on the control surface end and a z-bent wire on the other. I decided that I needed a little more adjustment and fitted a solder threaded connector at the servo end. This way I didn’t have to be as accurate with the measurement and had the added advantage of being able to adjust both ends if need be.
The rudder servo is mounted at the rear of the fuselage (a departure from the original design) in a pre-cut bay and is connected with a pull-pull (closed loop) system that allows for plenty of throw. The rest of the R/C gear within the fuselage is positioned using the servo tray in the wing seat area, the tray being glued in place. I positioned the servos as far back in the fuselage as the tray would permit to compensate for what I expected would be a very forward C of G.
PUT THE ENGINE ‘ERE
The next task was to mount the SC .91 at the front. The engine mount is a two piece T-beam affair, although it became evident that I wouldn’t be able to get a neat fix for the .91 due to the angle at which the engine needs to sit to allow the exhaust to exit under the fuselage. As a result I had to use an alternative mount which allowed for a better fit all round.
With the fuselage all but finished, attention turned to the wings. Unusually these require the installation of ball joint ‘cups’ in the ailerons which serve to connect the top and bottom wing control surfaces, with a tubular carbon pushrod holding the corresponding ‘balls’ at either end. The carbon tube on my model was cut to exactly the right length which made coupling the ailerons an easy task. This was the only stage of the build that I thought might be a bit tricky as incorrect alignment would, of course, have spoilt the flying performance.
The wing servos drop neatly into the lower wing and hook up to the ailerons with a threaded pushrod using a nut and metal clevis at each end. With the tank and throttle servo installed, along with the battery, receiver and switch, I checked the C of G and much to my surprise found it was only a fraction forward from the recommended point. With this, I decided to fly the model before moving the C of G further back as adjustment might not be required. My model weighed an astounding 6 lbs although the thrust from the 15 x 6” prop promised a healthy power to weight ratio.
I was a little nervous of leaving the motor running at full throttle on the tail restraint during the run-in process, just in case the power ripped the tail off, so I had a friend hold it as I ran the engine.
So, I guess you’re wondering if the powerplant renders the model ballistic to the point of it being unenjoyable or a danger to the public? Well, as you can imagine, it had a lot of power, but not to the point that the model was un-flyable. Far from it, in fact. After a blip of the throttle she leapt into the air, dropping quite comfortably into the circuit. Once airborne, all it took was a spot of trim and she was flying around like a trainer. Satisfied that everything was as it should be, it was time to start flying the model as she was intended. Yes folks, it was time to start bending those sticks! I’m pleased to report, the Panic didn’t disappoint. A true hooligan’s model, it chewed up the sky twisting itself inside out. As the name might suggest, the Panic is intended to get the adrenaline pumping and it definitely does. That’s not to say it isn’t a nice model to fly, though. If the sphincter twitches a little too severely then the Panic can potter round nicely whilst composure is regained. I set the primary controls up at 40% exponential for the first flight but increased this to 60% on the ailerons and 65% on the elevator and rudder on subsequent sorties. I also set maximum throws across all the control surfaces and didn’t feel afraid to use them.
The colour scheme and boxy appearance aside, the Panic looked great in the air and on every move some patch of the covering would glint in the sunshine. At one point after an uneventful landing I found that the aileron pushrod had unscrewed itself due to vibration from the engine. I hadn’t even noticed as I flew slow circuits for the camera. The model handled well on two ailerons (one side) but the second linkage was very close to failure. Both sides were tightened up and threadlock applied as an extra precaution; definitely an area to look at during the build process. With the linkage problem resolved the Panic had a few more sorties and with a grin permanently etched on my face, it was difficult to think of a more enjoyable way to spend 7 minutes! That’s about all the duration you get with the .91 using the 6oz fuel tank supplied. There is room for a slightly larger tank but I wanted to review the model as it came out of the box.
Towards the end of the first day it became evident that there was another issue with the ailerons. This time the carbon joiner for the top and bottom ailerons had split and a repair was required, again the effects of this could have been worse than they were. I’m not sure if these problems are inherent with the kit or if they were just isolated issues peculiar to my model? Whatever, the quality of the materials used in this kit seem generally good.
Ali Newman with the prototype Mini Panic – needless to say, it flies very well.
At the time of writing I’ve flown the Panic for many hours and with each flight I tend to push it a little harder. Despite this I’ve not yet found any nasty habits with the model, quite the opposite. The early teething problems with the ailerons seem not to have re-occurred although it does appear to have a habit of shedding bits and not necessarily when pushed hard. I’m currently awaiting another set of interplane struts as the press stud retainers failed, scattering one across the outfield of our patch.
The best thing about flying this versatile model is that it never fails to get the heart racing and put a smile on my face. It’s great fun to fly and very different. Of course, the Panic won’t be new to many of you, so the novelty factor might not be quite what it is for me. Mind you, if you did own a Panic back when beards and big sunglasses were popular, this ARTF version is sure to bring the memories flooding back.
A new version of the Panic is being developed by Ali Newman at Avicraft and we caught up with Ali and the model recently. He report that the new electric powered Mini Panic is coming on nicely and should be initially available from the shop later this year.
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