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Thread: ERC Piper J5, review from a newbie

  1. #1

    ERC Piper J5, review from a newbie

    Ok, so i'm definately new to the hobby. I bought the J5 because it was listed as a trainer and made of tough foam. So far my experience has been a bit of joy followed several crashes.

    The first assembly was pretty rough because i took the unassembled plane with me on vacation and there were no directions for assembly in the box (also no directions included in the second one i ordered). What others have said about the screws striping easy is very true, find a better screw driver than the included one for assembly. Other than the screws everything went together fine. I will say the tip on the assembly video about removing the fake motor on one side so you can hold the motor while your tightening down the nut that screws the prop in place certainly helped the second time around.
    My maiden flight went pretty well until i lost power. The nut wasn't tight enough on the prop and came loose. I flew it in three channel mode with a ground take off. When the plane hit the ground the cone over the prop popped off. I couldn't find the screws so i tightened down the prop again and went back to flying. The second time i have no idea what happened, i was flying for a few minutes and plane flipped over and dove straight into the ground. This time the wing and struts cracked on the right side. The piece of landing gear that gets screwed under the fuselage also cracked on both sides. I epoxyed and taped everything back up and went out again. Third flight went well, a rough landing popped the landing gear out of the fuselage. The next time out i was taking off from a picnic table and i'm guessing there might not have been enough juice in the battery because it went about 30' but never got enough lift and ended up hitting the ground with the exposed motor and prop. This cracked the motor shaft.
    That's pretty much the story with my first J5. Since i couldn't order a motor, everything was showing out of stock i ordered a whole new plane. Put it together this morning and went flying. Crashed again. This was definately my fault because it was probably too windy. A gust of wind blew the plane straight into a tree. This bent/cracked the wing and strut. Unfortunately the force deformed the wing so i can't get this one back together.
    Overall i would say i was pretty impressed that i could manage to piece back together the plane after so many crashes. When i had it flying, it seemed steady and fairly easy to control. Definitely fun while it was in the air.
    My only reservation on recommending this plane is due to the fact that so many of the crucial parts that you will need once you break something are not available for order. So far i've spent $350 and all i have is two broken planes. Since the parts i need (motor and wing) aren't available to order my only options are to bite the bullet and shell out another $150 or sit my butt back on the couch and watch tv again. I'm tired of tv. Maybe someone from hobby-lobby can help me out with this. I need a new wing and a new motor.

  2. #2

    Re: My final thoughts on the eRC J-5

    First, I had a ton of fun with the J-5 and was able to retire it in "flying shape" after 56 flights...
    With that said, I have some observations;
    I think the J-5 is in conflict with itself since it is trying to be two things
    1) a detailed, scale model
    2) and, a beginner plane

    To be a true beginner plane, the design would have to be more forgiving in the landing assembly, the fragility of the center struts and overall contain less pieces. The landing assembly alone contains 15 different pieces excluding the mounting screws. A resource for replacement parts is absolutely necessary. Selling the plane without the timely availability of replacement parts is a disservice to the consumer.

    Part of the overall landing assembly problem is with the scale detail. The springs used in the assembly do not tolerate landings on grass very well and beginners should probably not be landing on hard surfaces. The springs tend to hang up in the grass and stress (at best) the landing assembly.

    The plane is a bit unstable when flown at slow speeds. It has a tendency to drop a wing in a corner if you let the speed drop too slow (as in landing). There is not much warning before that happens. This is probably why there are other reports stating something similar to "the plane flipped over and nosed down"

    Using two push-rods for the elevator is a level of complexity that is beyond what a beginner should have to set up because they require precise levelling with each other. It must also be rechecked for level after initial servo operation.

    The battery compartment is too tight. Having to cram all the wires in next to the battery is hard on the battery wiring and may eventually lead to a short of the battery wiring. I shorted the balance wiring of a battery after about 20 flights.

    My last observation is the balance charger that came with the plane DID NOT properly BALANCE charge my batteries and should probably be avoided. It would over-charge one cell in order to obtain 8.4 volts.

    With many hard landings and a few crashes the only part I had to replace was the propeller. However, I reinforced the landing assembly, made my own center struts and enlarged the battery compartment area in order to use longer batteries and give the wiring some room.

    With all the negative comments, I have some positive. The plane is beautiful, it looks good up close or in the air. The motor is powerful and with the ailerons enabled it is quite aerobatic. The front end is durable with a metal motor mount, holder and a thick plastic cowling which protects the front end and absorbs shock well.

    I would not recommend using the "learn as you go" approach for flying this plane. You still need some prior flying experience with a simplier design (e.g., Champ) and/or some time on a simulator before attempting your first flight. The J-5 is quite responsive to stick input, powerful and in the hands of a beginner can be quite (and quickly) unforgiving.
    I'd recommend hand-launching the plane initially until you get some flying experience before trying rise off the ground launches which actually requires (in my opinion) more skill. I think there is less tendency for a beginner to "shoot the plane straight up" and stall it by using too much elevator and launching at too slow of speed.

    I've since moved on to another plane design. The J-5 made me a better flier and honed my reflexes beyond what now is required. I now have it hanging in the corner of my computer room where I can look at it with (mostly) fond memories.
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