Unveiled at the Toledo Weak Signals show earlier last year, the ARS 300 was developed to fill the void of true 50cc aircraft. Many airplanes lately have been labeled as 50cc aircraft, but built & tested with 60-70cc engines in mind. AJ Aircraft came to the rescue with this 83" ARS 300, which will fly perfectly with that 50cc engine sitting on your shelf collecting dust.
AJ Aircraft has become known for their excellent flying Laser 230z airframes (now in 5...make that *7* sizes with their just released 115" & 123"!), and has seen many of their Laser owners do very well in IMAC and freestyle competitions last year; all despite AJ Aircraft being a company only a few years old. The new ARS 300 and pattern airframe, the Acuity, begin the expansion of their airframe offerings and the crowd has been buzzing in anticipation to find out if these new planes build and fly as good as their Laser 230z flagship. I managed to get one of the first ones off the ship, and finally got it together and in the air. Follow along as I share how sweet this new ride is!
|AJ ARS 300 Unboxing FG (20 min 35 sec)|
Even though there's no printed manual for the ARS, team member Scott did an excellent set of build videos on their youtube channel. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and these videos are worth their weight in gold; they're filled with lots of tips that you can use on any build. In addition, with the amount of work that AJ Aircraft does for you at the factory, all that's really left is installing your receiver, motor and servos! All of the hinges are pre-glued and the ailerons are even sealed for you, adding to the list of little things done to save you time on the build table. If you've assembled any larger scale ARF models, I'm confident you'll have no problems whatsoever with this ARS 300 from AJ Aircraft.
Before bolting anything together, I went over all of the covering with my heat-gun and iron to ensure everything was sealed nice and tight. This will be my first plane with SMOKE (woo-hoo!), and the last thing you want is smoke oil getting under your covering! After that, I took my thin CA with fine applicator tip and hit every joint I could reach (not a required step). Next, I put the fuse back in its plastic bag, cut the end open and taped off the motor box for paint. This is optional and personal preference, but it helps seal the area from fuel (note that it already comes protected with a coat of thinned epoxy) and simply looks better. Finally, I used some black acrylic paint and brushed it on the whole radio tray; again, just for a nicer look.
After mounting the landing gear and tailwheel to get it standing on its own legs, I drilled and cut holes to mount the ElectroDynamics switch and TaildraggerRC (TDRC) fuel dots. I was pleased when finding out the blue fuel dot matched nicely with the covering on the ARS! I used a red one on the opposite side to help differentiate fuel and smoke. I'll be using matching colored fuel line from TDRC as well. You'll notice a lot of my accessories, including orange braided snakeskin for the servo wires, aileron servo harnesses, fuel tanks and line all came from TaildraggerRC, they have a great selection at reasonable prices; I highly encourage you to check them out!
I positioned my fuel tanks back against the wing tube and marked the radio tray about half-way back. Using my Dremel, I cut 3 slots into the tray big enough for my velcro straps. After putting on a large piece of 2" velcro on the bottom of the tank and sticking it to the radio tray, I tightly wrapped each tank with their own strap. With those secured, I attached my fuel tubing and secured it to the airframe with sticky-back clips. For the vent/overflow line, I drilled a hole through 10-24 nylon bolts that were then bolted to the bottom of the plane for a clean installation.
We'll be using the engine this plane was designed for, the Desert Aircraft DA-50. A 60cc engine will also fit nicely in here and actually be a bit lighter. The stock standoffs provided with the DA-50 will give near perfect offset for your spinner. I used large fender washers on the inside of the firewall to help spread the load. Note that you'll need to trim either the triangle stock or the washers for the top 2 mounts if using large washers. After the throttle, fuel line exit holes were determined and created, and the DA-50 was mounted without issue.
While the ARS-300 hardware package comes with a 2-56 rod, ball-link and ez-connector for the throttle, the DA-50 throttle arm is tapped for 4-40. So I grabbed one of the 4-40 ball-links from the spare parts hardware provided and found a 4-40 threaded rod laying around that worked perfectly. I used one of the videos in the build series with tips from Scott to help me obtain the perfect control rod length & radio settings for the throttle.
I actually ended up using the provided 2-56 rod for my choke by putting a small wheel collar on the end for easier grabbing. You'll see in the picture that I'm keeping the choke rod in place by twisting two zip-ties around the motor mount posts. The twist makes a hole that holds the choke in perfect position. Sometimes, you just have to think out of the box and use simple materials for a nice & easy solution. A little bend in the rod put the end right in the middle of the right vent inlet of the cowl...perfect!
Now that the engine was mounted, I prepped the cowl for cutting the clearance hole for the DA-50 header and spark plug. Pay special attention that your spark-plug wire has adequate clearance around the muffler before cutting the cowl to clear the spark plug housing. Mine would have been better rotated a bit to give more adjustment room on the wire, but I had cut the hole for the header before the muffler was delivered, so I made it work with what I'd done. Using the rough shape shown in Scott's video build series, I Dremeled out a shape about 2/3 the size and slowly drum-sanded out further after test mounting the cowl several times to ensure enough clearance on all sides. With this complete, I could verify the spinner gap as well as install a spare blind-nut for the bottom cowl mounting tab. A wood screw is provided for this tab mount, but I choose to use the same bolts that the other cowl bolts use.
Here's another trick I learned - use a laser pointer to get the exact location on your cowl of the needle adjustment screws! Chock the wheels so your plane won't move and then secure a laser pointer flat on the table, or a box and point it at your needle screws. Finally, I mounted the muffler and cut clearance and air-exit holes in the cowl. Now when you put the cowl on, the laser will show you exactly where to drill so you can get a screwdriver in there for motor adjustments without taking the cowl off.
My first pull-pull install many planes ago was such a pain. But since I learned the trick that the Jeskys' themselves use, it's no longer a daunting task! Since the provided wires are nylon-coated, we can simply fuse it together instead of having to pull, loop and crimp. Take about 2" through the hole and tightly twist it back on itself. Hold with a pair of vice-grips and take a lighter under it for just a second or two. You'll see the nylon quickly melt with a bunch of tiny bubbles. As soon as it does that, remove the heat fast! Let it cool and release the clamps. Done! The key here is not to hold the lighter on it too long. If it goes black, it was too long and may have burned off some of the nylon. If you're skeptical, get some nylon coated leader wire from the sporting goods store and test it out first! I slide on a piece of heat-shrink before twisting to cover the twists when I'm done. Also, start with the servo end for easier working space. Just clamp the rudder end of the wire so you don't accidentally pull the wire from the fuse. Once completed, you can use the provided wrench to tighten the wires before finally securing them in the control horns.
There is very little work to do here! Simply get your control horns glued in, servos mounted and control rods connected. You can also seal the elevator hinges if you wish. The horns for the ailerons were a little tough to get in fully, but a little sanding of the slot with a file promptly solved that issue. The outline of the horn baseplate was marked and covering carefully removed. I put on painters tape around the plate, thoroughly applied epoxy on all of the surfaces and seated them fully in the ailerons & elevators. A little clean-up of the excess with some acetone and pulling the tape off before it dries ends up with a nice and clean install.
With the major stuff completed, I could finally bolt on the stabs, wings, cowl, prop and spinner for its first full mock-up! I grabbed some Jute string, tied off a big loop and put half of it under the former by the wingtube to create a handle of sorts. Lifting the beast off the floor finally revealed its CG, which was pretty dead-nuts on with where I had guessed the battery & smoke pump would be! I moved the battery back behind the fuel tanks, lifted again and it showed tail heavy. So, my balance for maiden will be with the battery and smoke pump in front of the fuel tanks, partially in the motor box space.
Now that the CG was determined, the battery was velcroed down & strapped in, and the smoke pump was mounted to the floor and lines connected to tank & muffler. I also velcroed the receiver to the floor once all of my wires for the pump and other items were routed nicely, plugged in and verified.
Finally, my favorite part...graphics! I love customizing my planes to bring them out from the crowd. I didn't have time to make custom graphics like I did for my 93" Laser 230z, but I really liked one of the packages that Eric at B&E Graphix created. As usual, his stuff came very fast and is of excellent quality! Putting these on really gave it that final touch of awesomeness. I also used some clear Monokote to seal the landing gear mount cover and pipe tunnel exit hatch to protect them from the smoke oil.
My final AUW ended up just under 17 lbs, which is right in the 16-18 lb range given by AJ Aircraft. Scott from Team AJ told me the ARS flies best, in his opinion, at 16 lbs. This should be fairly easy to attain given that I had decided to install equipment for smoke and didn't exactly choose the lightest smoke pump available. With that said, the ARS is done...LET'S GO FLY!
|AJ Aircraft ARS 300 - FlyingGiants Review (15 min 46 sec)|
If you enjoyed the quick build, you'll surely enjoy the flying even more.
Before you start up that engine and prepare for roll-out, DON'T FORGET YOUR PRE-FLIGHT CHECKS! I nearly missed a reversed aileron that would've been disastrous had it gotten in the air!
The DA-50 although set a bit rich, revved up and had the ARS 300 in the air with authority! The large rudder had plenty of authority while gaining speed and very little was needed to counter the torque while accelerating. A couple clicks of up elevator had the ARS flying hands-off well before I had completed my first circuit. Power response was great and will only get better as then engine gets some run-time and leaned out.
The glide path of this 83" airframe was very respectable and made the first landings a breeze. A touch of up elevator on final and blips of throttle to control your descent will give you a nice and easy landing every time with the ARS 300.
The ARS 300 flew the circuit flawlessly despite the random gusty winds we had on maiden day. I ended up taming the aileron rates down for low rates after the first flight as I like my low rate rolls to take a couple of seconds for smooth IMAC style maneuvers. High-rate rolls were REALLY FAST and impressive for this size of a plane! The ARS shined through all basic aerobatics: knife-edges had no visible coupling, rolls were crisp, and stalls were very tame and predictable. The DA 50 had plenty of power for endless vertical and top-end speed was very respectable.
Turn up the rates, turn up the fun! We could tell Andrew spent the time needed to make the ARS 300 perform perfectly before releasing to the public. Anything my 3d pilot Alex and I put it through it handled and asked "What's next?"! Rifle rolls were a blur, snaps were fast and precise, high-alpha was a breeze and the DA-50 easily had enough power to pull out of a hover, even with the extra weight of my smoke setup. Alex did mention that slow high-alpha knife-edges felt like they wanted to fall out if the wings weren't perfectly vertical, but only noticed in when in very high-alpha attitude and could also be attributed to just getting used to flying this plane.
Wow! I think AJ Aircraft has another home run! The build didn't take much longer than most smaller glow/electric ARFs largely because of the work done for you at the factory, and the airframe has built-in options that give you easy setup options. The whole kit is very nicely constructed, covered and includes quality hardware that won't result in you visiting the local hobby shop spending more money for replacements. The ARS scheme is simple yet attractive with colors that you don't see too much of, and show nicely in the air. The plane fit perfectly in my Durango with the elevators still attached, which aids in field assembly time.
You'll notice below, the only items I could come up with for 'misses' are extremely minor and nit-picky! The ARS 300 is full of hits big and small! With this new expansion to AJ Aircrafts flight-line, the ARS is quickly proving that the Laser 230z was not just a lucky one-off, but the start of a great series of aircraft expertly designed with care and purpose by Andrew Jesky & his family. If you've got a 50-60cc engine gathering dust on your shelf, do yourself a favor and give it happy home in the AJ Aircraft ARS 300!
*Big thanks to AJ Aircraft, Taildragger RC, Northwest RC, and B&E Graphix for their support in this review. Also thanks to Alex Fredrickson, Jim Bodenheimer, Rodney Earp and Dane Edwards for their help with the review flights, pictures and video!Last edited by Jim T. Graham; 03-25-2017 at 12:58 PM..