Tornado 3D Red

Tornado 3D Red

The Tornado 3D Red is a great toy for the summer and great for flying in small spaces too!

Followers of my RCM&E ‘Fly Electric’ column will know that I have never been a great fan of Depron, and as a result I never really got involved in the ‘Shock Flyer’ scene. This type of model has enjoyed a fantastic run of success, with Shockies seemingly being flown in every corner of the universe! But for me their fragility was off-putting. It seems I’m not the only one who felt that way, as a new breed of balsa-built ARTF 3D models has arrived on the scene, and judging by the way they’re selling, many of those not wishing to take the Depron route are instead enjoying similar flight characteristics with larger, more resilient models.

Distributed by Overlander, Tornado is a brand now very well established in the UK and synonymous with excellent value, entry-level brushless motors, ESCs and batteries. Their latest venture is into aircraft matched to their components. The Tornado 3D RED and 3D BLUE are lightweight profile type ARTFs designed for outdoor 3D fun using low-cost brushless/Li-Po systems.

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BANG FOR BUCKS

If the rather plain white box is a little uninspiring, the contents are certainly not. All neatly bagged up, you’ll find a fully covered wing, profile fuselage unit, tailplane and elevators, rudder and ailerons – the main airframe parts. Alongside are a motor mounting kit, undercarriage with wheels and retainers, all linkages, hinges, horns and even self-adhesive Velcro strips. Literally nothing has been overlooked here and it’s refreshing to know that you won’t have to make a trip to your local model shop for those unforeseen screws and other bits and bobs further down the line.

The kit contents are comprehensive

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Inspection reveals that the build and covering quality of the components is very high, with a solid red and semi-opaque clear film used, although the canopy area is in solid grey and white. There is little doubt that the design has been inspired by the legendary Sukhoi Su-26M full-size aerobat, although the profile format means this is more apparent from the giveaway colour scheme than anything else.

The fuselage, whilst profile, is actually a framework of 3/8” (10mm) balsa strip that has been skinned with 1/16” (1.5mm) balsa sheet – this not only saves weight but also provides a central tunnel through which to thread the rudder and elevator servo extension leads. This keeps things neat. A major downfall of profile models is the sheer amount of external hardware and wiring that’s taped on, which looks messy. It’s nice to see that a bit of thinking has gone into this model to tidy everything up. There are cutaways under the wing in which to bury all the wiring and receiver so only the ESC is mounted externally – a sensible thing from a cooling point of view.

ASSEMBLY

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Whilst assembly is very straightforward and fuss-free, it’s still important to get things right, so it’s worth describing the sequence. Firstly, the wing and tail are fully covered and the balsa which will constitute the wing-to-fuselage and tail-to-fuselage joins, needs to be exposed – most of us have at some time realised to our cost, that glue doesn’t adhere very well to covering film.

The best way to bare the balsa is to slide each unit into its respective slot, draw right round the union next to the fuselage, then scalpel along the pen lines later. You can do as I did and simply scalpel round in situ and peel off the covering after removing the wing and tailplane.

The tail feathers

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There are two things to ensure here – first, the wing and tailplane must be lined up properly by measuring equal distances from rear wing corner to rear tail corner on each side. Also, it’s important not to cut deep into the balsa with the scalpel, just cut deep enough to cut the film. Sounds obvious I know but it’s so easy to leave a structural weakness by cutting too deep when removing the film.

One thing that immediately shines through is the faultless wing-to-fuselage fit, testament not only to the accuracy of the CNC-cut parts but also to the factory build quality. With the wing and tailplane re-inserted and re-aligned, securing is as easy as running thin cyano’ all round the joint and allowing it to soak into the balsa.

All the control surfaces have pre-cut slots but none of the hinges have been glued in place. One can use either slow cyano’ or 5-minute epoxy, removing any excess adhesive before it cures. You may have to elongate the corresponding slots in the wing, tailplane and fin trailing edges to ensure a good fit.

The forward fuselage has a ply plate already inserted and drilled for the undercarriage legs. You have to make sure you push the longer leg into the top hole or the model will come out positively lopsided. After checking that they are correctly located the undercarriage legs are simply secured with a pair of small tie-wraps that slot through pre-drilled holes and are pulled tight. This makes for a surprisingly secure unit. The wire tail skid is already inserted into the rear fuselage.

Undercarriage and Li-Po location

The lightweight sponge wheels are supplied with small pieces of clear tubing that hold the wheels to the correct position, collets stop them escaping. This completes the main airframe assembly. My model took no more than an hour to get to this stage.

INSTALLATION

All that remains is to install the equipment required to fly the model and this in itself has been extremely well thought out. The model has been designed for the Tornado Mini 8 or Mini 12 motors. The banjo type motor mount bolts onto the front of the motor, then screws to the front of the model.

All bolts and screws are supplied, the only thing you have to take care over is that you carefully mark the mounting holes for drilling so that when secured, operating clearance exists between the motor’s rear rotating case and its cutaway home in the fuselage. There is only about a 1mm gap each side, so care is needed to get it right to ensure there’s no binding.

The motor and ESC installation

The ESC, a Tornado 20 amp unit in this case, is simply attached to the fuselage side with Velcro or double-sided adhesive tape, this is an ideal controller to use as it has no wires, just 3.5mm sockets which reduces the amount of wire to a minimum and matches the 3.5mm male connectors on the motor leads.

The Tornado 3D Red needs four micro servos and has been designed for the 5-gram HET units, they’re really cheap at £7.99 each. The servo apertures are not only provided, but also have ply end strips already glued in place so you simply drop the servo into place, and insert the self-tapping screws.

You’ll need a pair of 12” (300mm) servo extension leads for the rudder and elevator servos as these are mounted at the rear of the model in order to keep linkages as short as possible. As I mentioned, there is a clever tunnel along the centre of the fuselage for these to run in. Most extension leads are stiff enough to push through themselves but if they are stubborn, a length of piano wire bent with a hook on the end will save the day. The aileron servos are similarly screwed into their apertures, and all leads are connected to the receiver before everything is neatly tucked away in a large underwing cut-away.

If you are using a simple transmitter and 4-channel receiver for this model, you will need a short Y-lead for the aileron servos. When setting up, you’ll also need to double check the servo rotation so that one aileron moves up whilst the other moves down. However, if you have a computer Tx and a 6-8 channel receiver, it’s probably neater and easier to mix them and use an auxiliary channel – this gives the option of employing flaperon-to-elevator mixing when your flying becomes more adventurous!

CHOCKS AWAY

With the Mini 12, a 2s 1600mAh Li-Po pack and an 8.5 x 8 prop, the meter showed a 12amp current draw and the model, weighing just over 14oz (400 grams) ready to fly, felt as if it would simply accelerate vertically out of my hand if pointed up on full throttle.

She doesn’t hang around this one!

I’ve rarely seen such eagerness to go skyward, even on a 2s Li-Po. There is no doubt that the Mini 12 is, if anything, a little overpowering but you can either revel in the awesome power-to-weight ratio as I did, or go for a smaller diameter or smaller pitch prop and extend the duration whilst still having the power available.

For more sedate flying I imagine the mini 8 on a 3s Li-Po would be sufficient although I haven’t tried this set-up as the model flies well on the Mini 12. Bearing in mind that 2s Li-Pos are now ridiculously cheap (£17.99 for the pack used on the review example) and provide for 20 minute flights of varied exuberance, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Those who have seen me fly will know that I am anything but a 3D flyer, but this model makes it so easy that after a dozen flights it will make you feel like a pro! It is completely forgiving. Being able to recover from confused disorientation when you get something wrong with just a few feet to spare is handy and all the while the model tempts you to try new and more adventurous manoeuvres that you may have thought you’d never be able to master. Prop-hanging has never appealed to me but if it’s your thing, then this model will oblige without complaint.

DURABILITY

As expressed earlier, the lack of durability associated with Shock Flyers has always put me off indulging the genre. Well, there’s a little story about the Tornado 3D Red that only those attending a past Sandown show will know about. During the Overlander slot, one of these models was prop-hanging just in front of the pilot line while the other models in the slot were coming through.After several near misses, Grant Wright’s Fizza literally cut the 3D in half!

The Fizza was virtually undamaged but the 3D looked decidedly second-hand. However it only took two hours to get another one built in time for the next slot, and the remains of the damaged one were rebuilt the following evening in just an hour.

Remember that we are dealing with nice soft, porous balsa here, with significant adhesion area. If you do have a calamity with one of these 3D-ers, you will most definitely be able to repair it quickly – it will be every bit as good as it was, and not end up like unrecognisable pieces of Depron confetti.

SUMMARY

Despite my preference towards semi-scale or sport models of 400 and 600 size, this little Tornado Red 3D has provided me with so much entertainment that it is now firmly in my ‘grab and go’ squadron. You can fly it in the most confined of spaces and as long as it isn’t blowing a gale, you’re guaranteed to come back with a huge grin on your face.

Experienced fliers would have no problem flying one indoors, but it excels outdoors particularly on calm summer nights where you can tie it up in knots and still get away with anything. From the quality point of view, everything fits perfectly and the useful little details have been well thought out. For the price of £59.95 you’ll struggle to get more fun for your money.

The 3D Red could be a 3D Blue should you wish

Bear in mind that all the running gear in this model can be transferred to a multitude of other models including sport and semi-scale designs. The Mini 12 motor and Tornado 20 ESC represent a very versatile and flexible powertrain. If my Tornado 3D Red eventually gets busted up, then I’ll definitely get my hands on another, it’s not often I say that!

The Tornado 3D Red or Blue (and all associated items required to get airborne) are available from all good model shops, or by contacting Overlander direct on 01524 793328 or via www.overlander.co.uk

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