- This review was first published in 2006, the kit is still available.
Way back in the early sixties a 60” span aerobatic sports model appeared on the scene that was designed by a chap called Phil Kraft, who was later to become Aerobatic World Champion and manufacturer of his own multi-channel radio gear.
The model in question was, of course, the Ugly Stik, which over the years has probably been the most built and most popular model of all time. It’s been scaled up and down to suit various engine sizes and is still readily available today, mostly in ARTF form and in its original red colour scheme, sporting Maltese crosses on wings, fuselage and fin.
I’ve built a number of Ugly Stik variations over the years, even a low wing version of my own, and all have flown beautifully. To some people this classic design must look ugly (hence the name), though personally I go along with the old saying: “It’s so ugly it’s almost beautiful!”
So now you can see how the VMAR Xtreme Stick caught my attention. Indeed, having pensioned off my Thunder Tiger Olympic, a little low wing aerobatic sports model (sadly no longer available) that had hundreds of flights over a four year period, I was looking for a replacement. With an SC 53 two-stroke lazing around with nothing to do, the scene was set – all I needed was a cheap airframe of around 60” span, i.e. something I could fly in all weathers and treat as a regular Sunday hack.
Thumbing through RCM&E (I’m not allowed to read any other magazines!) I noticed that Sussex Model Centre were advertising a new VMAR model called the Xtreme Stick, a 60” span ARTF in both high- and low-wing versions. Just what I was looking for and, what’s more, it was available in a choice of three colour schemes – red, purple and green. I’ve had enough red models in my time, so I went for a green high-wing version – at just £49.99! (£59 – 2011)
The kit arrived a couple of days after ordering and on opening the box and surveying the contents I was more than satisfied with my purchase. At last they’re using real balsa wood. VMAR models that I’ve built in the past have been assembled with a very brittle sort of light obechi, which was no bother providing you kept the model in one piece. Repairs were difficult and nine times out of ten the only answer was the dustbin!
The Xtreme Stick’s airframe has been built with laser cut balsa and the fit of interlocking parts is superb. Covering is VMAR’s ‘Polycote ECS’ (Enhanced Covering System), which was well applied, but as with all ARTFs there were one or two bubbles that needed a hot iron run over them.
All the items in the box are separately bagged and in addition to the standard hardware there’s even a little bag of spare links, nuts, bolts and a spare wing bolt – a nice touch. The undercarriage wire is of equally good quality, none of that old black wire rubbish here. Wheels are pre-fitted (with the collets in place), as are the engine mount and nose leg mount. Pushrods for elevator, rudder and engine are also installed and the rear fuselage comes ready-slotted to accept the tailplane and fin. Another nice touch is the removable hatch under the fuselage, enabling easy access to the fuel tank and engine mount for checking purposes.
Presented in full colour and very well written, the assembly and operation manual takes you through 33 individual stages and is a fine piece of work. I’m currently putting together another ARTF review model that’s nearly three times the price of the Xtreme Stick, and the instructions are miserable by comparison. So another gold star for the ‘Stik! Right, that’s the bits and documentation dealt with, let’s see how it goes together.
The first job is to join the wing panels. Trial fit the wing joiner in both panels and then, using 30-minute epoxy, fit the joiner half way into one panel. Also fit the two dowel guides, using cyano’. When this assembly has cured, use 30-minute epoxy to join the wing panels together. On my example I found that everything lined up perfectly, making a very neat and tidy joint. My one and only moan here concerns the tape supplied to cover the join. A few years ago I remember it being the same colour as the wing, therefore hiding any unsightly joint, so why on earth they now use clear tape is beyond me. A bit nit picky, but then, I’m a fussy so-and-so!
On the underside of the wing are four cut-outs in the sheeting to accommodate four servos – two for ailerons and two for flaps. At the moment I’m using only ailerons, so I mounted my two servos in the positions nearest the wing root in order to avoid the need for extension leads. At a later date I intend to fit two more servos in the outermost positions, to which aileron control will be transferred, leaving the inboard servos for flap. Clearly, each full span aileron will need to be cut in half (chord-wise) to achieve this. VMAR label this configuration ‘quad flaps’ and, as you can appreciate, used with a computer radio it can provide short take-offs, tight loops and almost VTOL performance.
TAILPLANE & FIN
As mentioned above, the fuselage comes with vertical and horizontal slots ready-cut to accept these items. Trial fit the tailplane and fin and mark the areas of covering that need to be removed to make wood-to-wood glue joints, being sure to only cut deep enough to remove the covering and not weaken the structure. Use 30-minute epoxy for a strong bond. If you’re anything like me and wind up with epoxy where it shouldn’t be, you can remove it straight away with a rag dipped in white spirit.
The pre-bent main and nose leg undercarriage wire is of good quality. I found the main u/c to be a perfect fit in its slot, simply requiring four screws and two nylon straps to secure it to the fuselage.
The nose leg is inserted into its nylon bearing and secured with the steering arm. This assembly put some doubts in my mind, primarily because both the steering arm and its operating link (‘Z’ bend) are metal. I’ve always steered clear of metal linkages in any form where R/C is concerned, but should this be a problem with modern radios? More on this subject later.
FUEL TANK & ENGINE
A normal three-pipe tank of about 8oz capacity is supplied, the front end of this fits neatly through the engine bulkhead and makes connections to the upright engine very easy. Before fitting the tank I took advantage of the removable tank bay hatch in the fuselage bottom to give the inside of the tank bay a splash of fuelproofer. At this stage I became a bit apprehensive regarding the engine and fuel tank positions. The engine mount is positioned fairly high up on the bulkhead, which brings the needle valve in line with the top of the tank. Now I’ve always understood that to get the perfect engine run, the needle valve needs to be level with the centreline of the tank, or just below. Whether other engines will like this setup is unknown, however, the SC 53 I’m using isn’t complaining.
Fitting the engine is fairly simple using VMAR’s time-honoured method of clamping the lugs with pre-drilled metal straps. Connecting the throttle rod to the engine completes the job, though I had to reposition mine very slightly to get a smooth run.
The elevator and rudder horns are neat little assemblies, comprising a bolt that passes through pre-drilled holes in the elevator and rudder, secured with plastic washers and a nut; the horn itself is then screwed onto the bolt and adjusted. This same method is used for the ailerons and flaps. The one ‘fly in the ointment’ concerns the clevises supplied; these are well-made metal items that are threaded to fit the pushrod wire, using a screw to secure the clevis to the horn – all very neat, but I found the clevises to be too tight-a fit on the horns for my liking, and opening them up a bit threw the screw holes out of line. As I said earlier maybe I’m too fussy, but I do like my servos to have the easiest time possible, and to that end I fitted my own favourite metal clevises.
Installing the servos is a piece of cake using the supplied servo tray, which is fully adjustable to fit all standard servos. There’s also a position on the tray to mount the switch inside the fuselage.
I wrapped the Rx in protective foam and mounted it with a strip of Velcro just in front of the servo tray, behind the tank. Getting the C of G in the right place meant putting the battery to the rear behind the servo tray, again using Velcro as an anchor.
With the model looking right, a light-ish wing loading, a light breeze and the engine on song I felt this first flight was going to be a doddle, but before committing the ‘Stik to the skies I taxied around for a bit to test the ground handling. This is something I normally do with a new model as it gives me some idea as to what will happen when I push the ‘noise lever’ forward.
With confidence inspired by excellent ground handling I lined her up into wind and opened the taps… she was airborne with a minimum of steering correction. A couple of clicks of up elevator trim saw her flying straight and level and all appeared to be well. Then, all of a sudden, she suffered a series of nasty glitches. Not wishing to take any chances I performed a quick circuit and landed without any problems.
Running the engine and doing more range checks didn’t seem to prove anything. By this time a few of my clubmates had gathered around with their own theories, and the consensus of opinion seemed to be the metal-to-metal steerable nose wheel link. Back in the workshop I cut the nose wheel steering arm in half and glued / bolted a piece of plastic servo arm in place. I also replaced those lovely wheels simply because they have metal hubs, so now there was no metal-to-metal contact on the model.
Back to the field for another go, and this time everything was fine. It must have been that nose wheel link or maybe the metal wheel hubs – or both. Anyway, the model flies really well, smooth and fairly fast; loops, rolls, inverted etc. are executed as if on rails! In the right hands the aerobatic potential is enormous. My favourite manoeuvre at the moment is a low, fast pass, pulling up into a vertical climb and rolling until it runs out of steam before chopping the throttle and dropping into a spin. All good clean fun. The slow speed handling is very good; she won’t drop a wing on you, making landing easy.
Name: Xtreme Stick
Model type: Aerobatic sports ARTF
Manufactured by: VMAR
UK distributor: MacGregor Industries Ltd.,
Tel. 01628 760431
RRP: £59 (Apr 2011)
Wingspan: 61'' (1549mm)
Wing area: 4.6sq. ft. (0.43sq. m)
Wing loading: 16.5oz / sq. ft. (5kg / sq. m) to 18.3oz. / sq. ft. (5.6kg / sq. m)
Fuselage length: 47'' (1194mm)
Weight: 43⁄4lb (2.1kg) to 51⁄4lb (2.4kg)
Radio: 4-channel (5 servos) or 5-channel inc. flaps (7 servos)
Control functions: Aileron, elevator, rudder, throttle, (flaps optional)
Rec’d engine: .40 – .52 two-stroke,
.48 – .56 four-stroke