The helicopter was
supplied with no radio but with the stock motor and a Scorpion body.
Now the VE can accept standard or mini servos, and as I was hoping
to put this into a GRP body, I wanted to keep the weight down. I
opted for the SD200 servos from Ripmax as they work well in the
Eco 8, however I found that these servos were too small to fit in
the adaptor plates JR supply. The only way to resolve this was to
have some ali plates made to order, however although these work
well, there is still room for improvement. Personally like the Eco
8 for its radio installation over the VE, at least using the stock
frames, with the aftermarket 3rd party carbon upgrades available
it looks like this this would provide better options for equipment
The only retailer
that had one of the AS350 bodies was Midland Helicopters. I negotiated
a deal with Trevor and a couple of days later postie was knocking
on my door with a big box ! The quality of the kit is amazing, and
includes all the hardware including new scale undercarriage. The
instructions are in Japanese, but the pictures are clear so assembly
is straight forward.
The other refinement
was a new brushless motor and controller. After a lot of research
I opted for a Hacker C40 8L with a Hacker 40-3 OPTO controller.
I took advantage of the good exchange rate between the pound and
the dollar and ordered the items from Aircraft World in Japan (American
owned company ). The order was received in just four days ! However
this ESC has a very abrupt startup, and I opted to replace this
with a second hand Kontronics Beat ESC, which has one of the best
soft starts and spool-ups I've seen.
So now I had the
mechanics and with the long summer evenings had several opportunities
to prove them and get the trimming settings sorted. I must admit
that the high head speed is somewhat daunting ! Right now on with
I was going to base
the model on Cambridge Air supports AS355 and spent a day with them,
taking lots of research photos, however as the JR body was of a
single engined AS350 and not the twin engined AS355 I opted to look
for a suitable alternative. I liked the idea of a police helicopter
as you can detail them with lots of additional items like spot lamps
etc, so I spent three days trawling the internet for a suitable
helicopter with an easy to see paint scheme. The one I came up with
was N216LA used by the LAPD, and images were sent off to a guy called
Mike Drinkhill who paints a lot of the the models supplied by Motors
and Rotors and a quote was obtained. However as he was "op
north" and I am "dune south" we never seemed to be
able to make the arrangements to hand over the model for painting,
so the months passed
- The painting begins
I decided enough
was enough and I would make the journey "up north" to
hand over the model, so I phoned Mike, only to find that he no longer
does airbrushing due to the poor return he gets for all the time
it takes. This was a knock back as I hadn't intended to take on
the task myself as I didn't have the equipment and most of my attempts
to spray using aerosols were terrible. However Mike assured me that
using paints from any motor factor and the correct masking tape
I should be able to get a good result.
So off to Halfords
I toddled and came back with half a dozen cans of paint that closely
matched the colours I needed. I also purchased some filler and several
sheets of different grade 'Wet n Dry'. I then set about the task
of preparing the body by cleaning up the seam. This wasn't too bad,
but I was a little over zealous with the minidrill and had to apply
a little more filler than I intended. By the end of the day I had
managed to get the body in a state for the first coat of primer.
The conditions were not brilliant for spraying (warm but breezy)
but the coat went on OK. I retired to bed and left the body downstairs
for the primer to dry overnight.
The next day the
primer was rubbed down and the areas that needed attention seen
to. A little more filler here and there, a quick rub down with some
more wet n dry and on with the second coat of primer. The next day
the primer was flattened down with some 400 grade and the results
was a nice base on which to apply the paint. The first colour was
the silver, which was applied to the front section,and the rear
cabin area on the boom section of the body and tail fin. Two coats
were applied, having let the first coat dry.
Then it was on to
the masking, now the fun starts! Using 4mm 3M lining tape the design
was drawn on the rear section of the body This took several hours
and several attempts to get the curves to be as near correct as
possible, you will never get both sides exactly the same, but they
are as near as damn it as the eye can see ! The tail section was
then masked and two coats of dark blue applied, this being left
to dry whilst the first coat of dark blue was applied to the main
body. This was left for 24 hours before being flattened off and
the top coat applied.
Having masked off
the dark blue area, the light blue area was then masked and prepared
for painting. This again was left for 24 hrs for the paint to dry
before the full un-masking ceremony. The result was really good
apart from one small area where the tape had lifted, but I can live
with that. I then contacted a local company (Retail Grapixs) and
had the vinal letters cut to produce the registration mark and LAPD
logo all for £7 !!
The lettering was
laid up on the model and then the weather turned. It was so windy
that there was no way I could apply the lacquer. The next day the
wind had dropped and I was able to apply two coats of clear lacquer.
The transformation was amazing, the deep shine and the effect on
the pearecent and metallic paint really transformed the body.
Overall I am pleased
with my efforts. Yes there are one or two areas where I wish I had
a better result, but given the tools I had and the fact that this
is the first time I've done anything like this, I'm giving myself
a well deserved pat on the back !
I then fitted the
body to the mechanics and installed the lighting module. I used
2 PIC chips, one programmed as the switch, the other to sequence
the LEDs. Everything was ready for a test flight and on one calm
evening I charged the batteries and took the VE to the garden. It
was evident that something wasn't right and shortly after, whilst
spooling up the tail rotor was seen to slip and on spooling down
the tail rotor shaft came loose. Fortunately there was nothing more
than a damaged bearing, which was replaced. The reason the shaft
came out was that I had put it back in the wrong way round - a simple
enough mistake to make. I also noticed that the rudder servo had
became detached and I had to remove the body again to rectify this.
So I too the opportunity to re-do the layout and soldered the servo
extension cables rather than rely on the plugs.
A day later I had
everything ready and the weather was ideal for a second flight trial.
The heli rose into the air and I found the tail a tad twitchy, so
I landed again and made a few adjustments. As you have to remove
the complete tail box each time the body was fitted, I expected
to have to make several adjustments. Spooled up again and as the
heli got about 2 foot off the ground I found the tail didn't respond
and then all of a sudden the tail let rip and the heli dropped like
a stone with bits of fibre glass flying into the air !
On close inspection
I found that the modified ball link on the tail pitch slider had
pulled out of the plastic slider nd thus all tail control was lost.
The boom had an 8 inch split along the top and a few cracks near
the fin. Emotions ran through me, from anger to wanting to cry !!!
The body was repaired
and re-sprayed. I've also fitted an upgraded pitch slider on the
tail, made from a combination of stock VE parts and an Eco 8 ali
slider. The Aluminium upgrade part for the Eco 8 only cost £9.99
and its a simple matter of opening out the plastic ball link so
the brass sleeve from the Eco 8 part can be screwed into it.
The VE is quite a
handful to fly with its high head speed, and the additional weight
of the body, the poor old PG-03 rate gyro has its work cut out.
I was going to install a heading hold gyro but funds ran out and
I've since found myself in a position of offering the VE for sale.
The problem is that now there are loads more newer helicopters like
the T-Rex that it has effectively made the VE obsolete. I certainly
would not recover my investment in the project..