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Review: Hangar 9 Extra 330S

  • Written By: John Reid
  • Posted: 2004-11-18

The Extra 330S is Hangar 9’s newest plane in the 33% category. Designed by veteran Tournament of Champions pilot Mike McConville, it incorporates design features and enhancements that have been gleaned from his many years in competition. The Extra 330S will satisfy the needs of serious competitors, but it is also an excellent, stable-flying aircraft. It can be fine-tuned to perform precision aerobatics and tweaked to fly wild, 3D-style aerobatics as well.

 

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
The Hangar 9 Extra 330S arrives in two boxes. The larger box contains the balsa-and-ply fuselage, built-up balsa rudder, fiberglass painted cowl and wheel pants, canopy, wing tube, aluminum landing gear, decal set and a 48-page manual. The second box contains the right and left wing panels with ailerons; these parts are individually wrapped for protection. The left and right stabilizers with the elevators are also wrapped and taped down for protection during shipping. You’ll need to provide an engine, radio gear, your favorite hardware and, of course, a really cool pilot figure. Hangar 9 offers a complete, 1/3-scale hardware package (sold separately for $149.95) that’s made especially for the Extra 330S.

 

The Extra 330S is designed with the rudder and elevator servos in the tail. This is a standard setup that provides slop-free control response and permits quick and easy adjustments to the linkage.

CONSTRUCTION
As with nearly all almost-ready-to-fly (ARF) planes, I began my construction by removing the wrinkles in the covering. The Hangar 9 UltraCote did not require much shrinking, but because this is such a large airplane, you should allow yourself enough time to work over all the surfaces with a covering iron. I also gathered up all the hardware necessary for completing the plane. At the time I was building this plane, Hangar 9’s 1/3-scale hardware package wasn’t yet available, so I used high-quality Du-Bro products, all of which fit perfectly.


WING CONSTRUCTION
The manual begins with instructions for assembling the wings. You only have to hinge the ailerons and install the servos. Because this is a big plane, it requires two servos for each aileron. I selected the JR DS 8411 digital servo for all of the control surfaces because of its quick response and powerful torque. I also used a JR MatchBox on each of the ailerons, the elevator and the rudder to make it easier to synchronize the servos for each surface. Each servo required a servo extension that I attached firmly with shrink tubing; this will prevent anything from coming loose inside the wing. After I had screwed the servos in tightly, I used the methods outlined in the instructions to attach the control horns to the ailerons. Du-Bro’s heavy-duty control horns were great for this application; they make solid, reliable connections.

The Zenoah GT-80 twin-cylinder engine is ideal for powering the Extra 330S. The throttle servo is just aft of the firewall for simple throttle-linkage setup.

Detailed instructions explain how to install and hinge the ailerons; the same method is used for the elevators and rudder. The control surfaces are drilled out for Robart hinge points. I like to use Vaseline on the knuckles of the Robart hinges to prevent epoxy from seeping in during assembly. I also roughen up the hinge points with 100-grit sandpaper. It is important that the hinge pivot pins be parallel and flush with the aileron’s leading edge. Install the hinge points in the ailerons first, and allow them to dry. After the epoxy has fully cured, I work each hinge point back and forth until the hinge can move throughout its full travel without resistance. Attach the ailerons to the wings using this same method. Press the ailerons onto the wing so that there is a 1/64-inch gap between the aileron and wing’s hinge line. After the epoxy has cured, deflect the surface fully until there is full travel with little or no resistance.

The large hinge gaps on the control surfaces of the Extra 330S need to be sealed to prevent any flutter. Hangar 9 suggests that you use a strip of 3-inch-wide clear UltraCote that has been folded in half and ironed onto both sides of the hinge line (wing and aileron). This method is easy and works quite well. Sealing the aileron, elevator and rudder hinge lines is extremely important. If you fail to do this, the resulting surface flutter may very well cause a crash.

SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL:
Extra 330S

MANUFACTURER: Hangar 9TYPE: 1/3-scale aerobatic

WINGSPAN: 97 in.

WING AREA: 1,750 sq. in.

WEIGHT: 25.4 lb.

WING LOADING: 33.74 oz./sq. ft.

LENGTH: 83 in.

ENGINE REQ’D: 3.8 to 4.8ci 2-stroke gas

ENGINE USED: Zenoah GT-80

RADIO REQ’D: 4-channel w/9 servos

RADIO USED: JR 10X w/8 DS 8411, 1 537 and 4 JR MatchBox servos

PROP USED:24x10 Pro Zinger; Tru-Turn spinner

PRICE: $849.99

FEATURES: fuselage is all lite-ply and balsa construction with built-up balsa-constructed wings, elevator and rudder; painted fiberglass cowl and wheel pants, heavy-duty aluminum main gear, clear-plastic canopy hatch, metal wing tube, decal sheet and a 48-page instruction manual (including a section on flying various maneuvers) are all included.

COMMENTS: for a large aircraft, theExtra 330S goes together quickly. This plane is designed to be light and extremely responsive, and it fulfills both of those ambitions quite well. The Zenoah GT-80 is a perfect engine for this plane; it allows unlimited vertical performance and has more than enough power to pull the plane through any maneuver with authority.

HITS
• Excellent construction
• Well-thought-out design and assembly.
• Manual includes setup and flying tips.

MISSES
• Hatch assembly can warp if you’re not careful.

I centered the servos by connecting them to the receiver and turning on the transmitter. I then hooked up the aileron control rods to the control horns and servo arms. The wings were now finished and could be set aside; I attached them later when I was ready to adjust all the control surfaces.


RUDDER AND ELEVATOR
Install the rudder and elevator servos in the rear of the fuselage. Each of these servos also requires a servo extension and is held together with heat-shrink tubing. There is a servo for the elevator on each side and two servos (one on each side) for the large rudder. Install these control surfaces using the same method (Robart hinges and UltraCote for the hinge gap) as was used for the ailerons. After you’ve hinged the stabilizer and elevator, attach them using two stabilizer tubes. Insert two metal tubes through the aft end of the fuselage (just below the rudder fin), and then slide the stabilizers onto these tubes and secure them with 4-40 bolts screwed into each tube. This method of attachment allows easy stabilizer removal when you transport the plane to and from the field.

Attach an elevator servo to the elevator control surface on each side of the plane. I used the new, heavy-duty control-horn system from Du-Bro for the rudder; this is essentially a pull-pull system that uses solid pushrods instead of wires. I used a JR MatchBox for the two elevators and another one for the two rudder servos. It made it simple to adjust the servos to synchronize with each other, so there won’t be any excess resistance caused by the servos working against each other. With the installation of the tail feathers complete, I moved on to the fuselage.

FUSELAGE CONSTRUCTION
Install the landing gear in the belly of the fuselage. It is attached to a solidly constructed undercarriage with four 10-32x1 hex-head bolts. I made the appropriate cutouts on the wheel pants and installed them, too, along with the wheels before moving on to the tailwheel. I used screws and two springs to attach the tail bracket to the rudder control horns to move. This allows the tailwheel to move in sync with the rudder movement.

I found an appropriate spot on the side of the fuselage for the receiver switch and installed the receiver and battery pack inside the fuselage. I made 1/8-inch plywood receiver and battery trays and epoxied them in the fuselage at the recommended locations. I wrapped the battery, receiver and two JR MatchBoxes in foam and secured them with rubber bands. I also wrapped the fuel tank with foam, placed it on the floor of the tank compartment and secured it with rubber bands. I attached the rubber bands to small cup hooks screwed into the tank floor.

Attach the canopy to the hatch assembly; use four, 4-40 hex-head capscrews to secure it to the fuselage. I installed my custom-made 1/3-scale pilot figure using screws and Zap-a-Dap-a-Goo II. After that had dried completely, I sealed the canopy to the hatch assembly using RCZ56 canopy glue. Be sure to install the canopy while the hatch assembly is attached to the fuselage. I installed the canopy while the hatch was off the plane, and after everything had dried, I discovered that the hatch had warped somewhat.

Left: To prevent the fuel pick-up clunk from shifting forward in the tank, I installed a short length of brass tube in the internal fuel line.

Left: With such big control surfaces, it’s important to seal the hinge gap with a strip of covering material. Be sure to securely iron the hinge gap seal into place.

Right: My intrepid pilot, complete with his Model Airplane News baseball cap. I got this handsome guy from Vailly Aviation.

ENGINE AND COWL INSTALLATION
Hangar 9’s manual supplies step-by-step instructions to install the Zenoah GT-80 engine, and it was extremely easy to do. I bolted the engine to the firewall with the provided four 1/4-20x1/2 hex-head screws. I made a cutout for the throttle servo on top of the engine box and then screwed it into place. I connected the linkage to the carburetor from the servo arm. For safety, I installed an electronic kill switch for the engine. This switch (which is available from RCATS) allows me to designate an unused transmitter channel as a kill switch.

To complete the engine installation, I used a rotary tool to make the necessary cutouts in the cowl to accommodate the engine. Following the instructions, I also cut a large air outlet into the aft end of the cowl. I mounted the cowl using five 4-40x3/4 hex-head screws. I balanced a 24x10 Pro Zinger prop and mounted it with a Tru-Turn spinner to complete the cowl installation.


FINAL ASSEMBLY
Balancing a plane of this size requires two people—one at each end of the wing. Using our index fingers, my helper and I lifted the plane at the balance point. Because of the detailed instructions, we only had to adjust the position of the battery pack to balance the plane.

Although a computer radio is not required for this plane, having one really makes the radio setup much simpler. This is especially true if you want to use any type of computer mixing such as flaperons, rudder-to-aileron and rudder-to-elevator which, of course, I did! I set the controls to the recommended throws for both standard and 3D maneuvers. I also included exponential settings that matched the prototype model setup outlined in the instructions.

 

CONCLUSION
The Hangar 9 Extra 330S is a great-looking plane, and because of its size, it will attract a lot of attention at any flying field. Its great flight characteristics and handling performance make this an outstanding plane to own and fly. If you’ve wanted to get into 3D aerobatics or precision flying in a big way, you can’t beat the Hangar 9 Extra 330S.

 

The Zenoah GT-80 provides plenty of power for all but the most aggressive vertical maneuvers. The plane can pull itself out of a hover, but it requires a bit of patience. I’m sure if I had taken the time to properly tune the engine for my altitude and experimented with different props, I would have found its vertical performance to be even better. As it stands, I am very pleased with the power-to-weight ratio of this combination.


TAKEOFF AND LANDING Whenever I test-fly a high-performance model such as this, I triple-check every nut, bolt, control throw, hinge and the center of gravity, but I found that as usual, John Reid had done a superb job of putting this beast together. After a few taxi trips down the runway and back, I checked the wind and the pattern and rolled on the throttle. The big Extra tracked very true and stayed right on the centerline with just a little pressure on right rudder. As soon as the wheels left the ground, I knew that I would have a hard time giving the radio back to its rightful owner!

Landing this plane is simple because it’s a bit of a floater. My first approach was slightly high, so I decided to abort. I’m always careful to ease into the throttle with these big gassers, particularly when I’m low and slow. The second approach was much better, and I managed a pretty good 3-point landing. Subsequent landings proved to be equally easy. The key is to fly a shallow approach with a few clicks of throttle. When the Extra reaches the runway’s threshold, I chop the throttle to idle and carefully add up-elevator until the wheels touch down.


LOW-SPEED PERFORMANCE In my mind, there are two modes of low-speed flight for a plane like this: 3D and normal. In normal flight attitudes, this Extra gives noticeable warning before it enters a hard stall. The flight controls start to become “mushy,” and you certainly can tell that it wants some power so it can fly normally again. If the envelope is pushed and a stall is forced, the Extra will drop its nose and “porpoise” until power is added or altitude is traded for airspeed.

In 3D/High Alpha flight, the Extra maintains positive control throughout the entire flight envelope with proper use of high-rate throws and throttle management. The JR 8411 digital servos provide excellent response, and the limiting factor is definitely my own reaction time—not the servos’. Elevators are very stable, and harriers don’t even require full throw on high rates. High Alpha knife-edge, rolling harriers, waterfalls—quite simply, every 3D maneuver that I know how to do—are all easily within the capabilities of this plane. With the GT-80 and the Zinger prop, I was able to easily hover at a tick below 1/2 throttle. Torque rolls are slow and graceful, and once the sweet spot was found (for me, this was almost perfectly vertical with a hint of right rudder and a touch of up-elevator), only small corrections were required to keep going around and around. I have never professed to be a master of aerobatic or 3D flight, but this plane makes me look good!


HIGH-SPEED PERFORMANCE Although low-speed performance can be coupled with 3D aerobatics, I like to separate high-speed performance from traditional aerobatics simply because there is a whole class of large planes that is dedicated to speed but is not intended to perform aerobatics competitively.

The Zenoah GT-80 will definitely haul this plane around at a very high rate of speed, but I wouldn’t recommend flying it at full throttle unless it is in a vertical upline. As with any large plane, throttle management is critical. Never fly downlines with anything more than one or two clicks of throttle, if that. The Extra is an easy-to-fly aerobat, but you must pay constant attention to the throttle.


AEROBATICS Aerobatic performance is where the Extra lives and what it was designed to do. It is an extremely neutral-flying plane; each individual control surface has very little impact on the others. For example, in straight knife-edge flight, absolutely no roll correction is required, and I noted only a touch of coupling toward the belly. Flat turns are done almost purely with rudder, with just a hint of elevator correction needed. Point rolls are exceptional; rolls are axial. With the proper application of a little elevator and rudder at the appropriate times, even slow rolls are a cinch. One of my favorite maneuvers is a very slow flat spin, which I was able to do on low rates at idle. It is quite graceful and easy to fly away from by adding throttle while neutralizing the rudder and aileron and easing off the elevator until airspeed is gained. Snap rolls are very clean and precise, but they require a bit more finesse with the Extra than with most smaller aerobatic planes. In the flight tips section at the end of the construction manual, Mike McConville gives the best advice for snaps: start a snap roll normally, but as soon as the sticks reach the corners, neutralize the elevator to prevent losing too much airspeed and getting too “deep” into the maneuver.


For pilots who want to compete in IMAC on a serious level or for weekend warriors who want to polish their repertoire, the 33% Hangar 9 Extra 330S is the plane that can get it done with style.

—Jet Thompson

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