- This review was first published in August 2005, the kit is still widely available.
The Speed Air 40 is one of a trio of ‘Air’ titled ARTF designs from the Black Horse Models stable. All three are aerobatic, differing mainly in the undercarriage arrangement. The Travel Air is a tail-dragger with the main undercart fixed in the fuselage, whilst the Super Air (reviewed by yours truly in the June ‘05 issue of RCM&E) features a swept back wing with wheels firmly fixed beneath. The Speed Air features a tricycle set-up with a steerable nose wheel and a (rarely seen) green colour scheme.
Featuring the familiar five main assemblies seen in modern ARTFs, the kit has two wing panels, fuselage, fin / rudder, and tailplane. These units are formed from laser cut parts and the covering is top class in all respects. This is an ARTF in the truest sense, the slowest part of the assembly process being that of waiting for the glue to cure! The kit also includes a very good instruction booklet, which is liberally illustrated with clear photographs. Whilst there’s some confusion in parts with regard to which model of the ‘Air’ fleet is under construction, this doesn’t detract from the clear, easily understood format.
Building begins with the wing: first, mark the wing joiner with its centre line and then test fit it prior to adding epoxy and inserting into one wing panel. Apply epoxy to the root of the second wing panel, slide it on to the joiner and push to fit, keeping it in place with two elastic bands. Easy, eh? The wing is now complete, apart from fitting the servo mount, aileron servo and two aileron pushrods, kept in place by two retainers. Set the wing aside to cure and pour yourself a cup of tea. Now’s the time to admire the colour scheme – a green / white / red / black starburst on the upper side and a striking red and white stripe pattern printed deckchair fashion on the underside. It certainly catches the eye.
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Our attention is now turned to the fuselage, with resident pilot already at his desk. Assembly here commences with the tank and its associated fittings, ensuring that the clunk is correctly positioned and the bung tight enough to prevent leaks. I’ve taken Black Horse’s advice of late and now colour code all my fuel tubing. This, of course, makes tank installation much easier, though I had to chuckle as the booklet offers the advice yet displays a photograph with three lengths of clear tubing, neatly clamped together! With the tank in place the elevator, rudder and throttle servos can be installed; simplicity itself as all the mounts are already in place, together with the pushrods.
Moving to the rear of the fuselage, work continues by removing the film covering to expose the pre-cut slots for the fin and tailplane. Test fitting the tail feathers gave me an opportunity to admire the precision of the model, as they were a perfect fit. Next job is to mark the position of the fuselage on the tailplane then remove the film accordingly to ensure a 100% wood-to-wood joint when glued in place. The operation is then repeated with the fin. Here again the instructions offer more very sound advice, the builder being advised to take measurements from top of fin to edge of tailplane and from front of wing to tailplane tip, basically to ensure that the model has all its flying surfaces in perfect alignment.
Whilst the glue’s curing, we return to the wing and install the undercarriage. We’re told to use wheel collets, though experience has shown me that collet screws can come undone very easily. I find this usually happens just after I’ve taken off, dealing me a fraught flight as I consider the ‘one wheel off my wagon’ arrival. Such landings have been described as ‘interesting’ and, in my case, normally attract a sizeable crowd. Consequently I prefer to bind the axles of the undercart leg with wire and then solder, add the wheel then add a further coil of wire, soldered in place. So far this method has kept my wheels where they should be. But ‘collet’ if you must (it is quicker), and then test fit the undercarriage legs into the wing. When satisfied, add the landing gear clamps and screw up tight. The nose wheel is then secured in similar fashion (again, I used my preferred wire / solder method here). Now, I’m not a great fan of steerable nose wheels as they tend to cause more trouble than they’re worth. In fact, I confess to contemplating gluing the nose wheel in ‘straight ahead’ mode and losing the pushrod. However, in the interests of a fair and frank review I felt obliged to give it a critical test and see how the layout operated. The design is very clever as the wire is quite thin (about 18swg), and will obviously bend under great stress (when I arrive, I normally land in style!). This arrangement will save damaging the rudder servo and keep the nose wheel leg safely in place while just bending the pushrod wire (which can be straightened out). So, I relented on the ‘fixed’ nose wheel and installed it as steerable, connecting the pushrod to the rudder servo.
Next, hook up the rudder and elevator pushrods then install the Rx, connect the servos, add the R/C battery pack and test the controls. Everything went remarkably well on the review model, the front wheel acting in collaboration with the rudder, and the pinned hinges of the control surfaces moving as smooth as silk.
The engine of choice was an Enya 40SS of debateable vintage, purchased at one of our popular club swapmeets. I actually believed the vendor – ‘one careful owner, never raced or rallied, lovely runner’ – when I handed over my money. It did look very clean and there was no burnt castor staining to be detected. When it comes to engine installation Black Horse have a liking for clamps and, whilst it appears a rather crude method, it’s certainly very effective. Four engine clamp bolts are fitted and tightened, holding the bearers firmly in place, after which you can secure the silencer. The throttle pushrod is fitted by first removing the throttle control arm from the engine, locating the Z-bend in its hole, then guiding the free end of the ‘rod through its pre-installed ‘outer’ and into the fuselage. The throttle arm can then be screwed back in place on the engine. Finally, one measures and bends the throttle pushrod and inserts it into the servo arm, removing any excess with wire clippers. Check the operation of the throttle and, indeed, all the other controls to make sure they’re central.
With the wing in place I checked the C of G – spot on, a convenient 100mm from the front of the wing… the Speed Air would fly as built with no added ballast – a good omen! The most trying part of any model review is the long, interminable wait for the Great British weather to provide a window of possible aerial opportunity. Any hopes of my Tournament of Champions entry, and possible fame and fortune, were blown away by the wintry northerly gales of late April. Peering through watery eyes I noted that, after ten days of northerly blasts off the Irish Sea, there was finally a lessening in the breeze… That was enough encouragement, so I set off for the field.
Compared to my normal building rate the Speed Air was assembled quickly, so I double-checked everything, to be sure, to be sure. I fuelled up with some 10% Southern Modelcraft and wound up the Enya. To my surprise the engine started at the second attempt, and only needed a couple of clicks of the carb’ needle to get it running smoothly. Doubting my good fortune, I stopped the engine with the Sanwa’s throttle cut and checked everything again! I re-started the engine, setting for a rich run, and made for the strip.
Pointing the Speed Air directly into the stiff northerly breeze, I went through my pre-flight routine, opened up the throttle and took off. A slight dip to the right was corrected and when at a safe height, I dialled in a couple of clicks of left aileron trim to ensure hands-off, straight and level flight. The Speed Air looked very stable, the Enya burbling away without breaking any speed records. Rolls were comfortable on full rates and loops were precise and circular, which made a change for me! I made a few low passes at various speeds and was pleased with the model’s predictable behaviour. I even threw in a touch-and-go to impress the pit population! Now it wasn’t a bright day, and the wind was making my eyes water (again), but there were times when the orientation of the Speed Air was difficult to make out – it’s the green colour, I’m sure, but then again maybe it was my ageing eyes! The first landing was precise, drawing a round of applause from the pits, after a fourteen-minute proving flight. The drive back to the pits apron gave me a few brief seconds to play with the steerable nose wheel and it proved very responsive, stable and direct.
The Enya is now loosening up after half a dozen flights, and a certain sprightliness is creeping into the Speed Air’s performance. The more I fly it, the better the performance gets and the landings and take-offs are precise and disciplined, thanks to the tricycle format. I look forward to developing the performance of the model as clubmates remind me that any Enya engine gets better with each run. I know Mike Hopley, one of our newer Delyn members, uses a Speed Air to practise his aerobatic routines throughout the winter, such is its good all-round, all-weather performance. Yet again, Black Horse has backed a winner – good looks and very good all-round performance. A good each-way bet as an ideal low-wing trainer with aerobatic potential.
Model type: Sport aerobatic ARTF
Manufactured by: Black Horse
UK distributor: Ripmax Ltd
RRP: £79.99 (Apr 2012)
Wingspan: 1500mm (59'')
Length: 1160mm (45 3⁄4'')
Wing area: 0.4sq.m (4.4sq. ft.)
All-up weight: 2.4kg (5 lb 5oz)
Wing loading: 5.8kg / sq. m (19oz / sq. ft.)
Control functions: Ailerons, elevator, throttle, rudder (4-ch; 4 servos)
Rec’d engine: .40 – .46 two-stroke
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