The Flyzone, SkyFly 2 Review
After flying a couple of my nephews RC airplanes (on a buddy box), and dreaming about flying for far too long, I set out to find the perfect trainer. My goal was to first learn to fly RC the conventional way (by line of sight), then move into FPV video piloting. I had flown the GWS Beaver and Pico Stick and found that the propeller (being on the front) was easy to break. To make matters worse, my nephew (a skilled RC pilot) had these planes setup to suit his skill level and I had difficulty flying them. I am told that they are both normally quite docile airplanes. I should mention that the only perfect RC airplane trainer is a flight simulator. The ability to peck your keyboard and get a new airplane is priceless, and so is the flying experience. There is at least one completely free flight simulator, so there is no excuse for skipping this important phase of your training. The state of the art Realflight G5.5 simulator runs about $200.00. This is still cheap when compared to the cost of continually buying and repairing airplanes.
Benefits for a Novice RC Pilot
After a Long time on the simulator, and a long time talking to others and reading articles, I settled on the Flyzone SkyFly 2. This trainer had several features I considered essential in a trainer, such as:
- A price of only $110.00 shipped, I later found a second one for $99.00 shipped.
- A complete ready to fly package (after minor assembly), all you need is eight AA batteries, a place to fly and an instructor.
- A very durable design; I have hit the ground a few times and stuck it in trees twice, and not had any damage that 5 minute epoxy and shipping tape would not solve.
- A pusher prop. This kept me from replacing the propeller or motor shaft so often.
- The availability of replacement parts; you will need them.
- Three channel control: throttle, elevator and rudder. Ailerons are too unforgiving for a beginner; they can get you up-side down in a hurry. The two channel control on really low end RC planes uses the left stick for throttle; pushing forward increases altitude (by increasing thrust instead of moving the elevator), a conventional elevator increases altitude by pulling back. This backwards, and on the wrong stick altitude control does not give me the real sense of RC flying.
- A real transmitter, receiver, speed control and servos. This was a big improvement over the original SkyFly, and these components can be used in another airplane later.
- Tricycle landing gear; many in this price range are belly landers. This requires hand launching and robs you of the takeoff experience, plus many beginners crash when hand launching.
Disadvantages of the SkyFly 2
Since no trainer is perfect, I should mention the following disadvantages of the SkyFly 2, such as: The early models had a radio without any buddy box connection. This means that you have to hand the radio back and forth between the student and instructor, which increases the risk of crashing (although I managed this without incident). The later models have a Tactic radio with a wireless trainer feature. This replaces the buddy box cable, but only if your instructor has a matching Tactic radio; which is somewhat unlikely; most experienced instructors do not have park flier radios. There are also a few places where some 5 minute epoxy will improve the fly ability and reliability (such as the control horns and tail boom) but I hope to make that another article.
Ok, enough of the specs; how did this thing fly; in a word, awesome. I began with an instructor, at an AMA field; I wanted the maximum chance of success. The first lesson I did not attempt a landing, but the plane was very stable and flew predictably. During the second lesson, the instructor was lining the plane up with the runway on final approach and handing me the radio; I landed every time without any problems. The third time I showed up at the field and no instructor was available, so I decided to try it on my own; I was able to takeoff and land without any problems. I never needed another lesson (at least not with this airplane). Keep in mind that I had countless hours on the simulator, but only about 15 minutes of real flying time, on a buddy box with my nephew. Seriously, attempting RC flight without gaining the needed skills on a simulator is like pumping money into a slot machine. You might get lucky, but most people (and airplanes) only end up broke (pun intended).
The SkyFly 2 was very stable; if the term easy can be used to describe flying, then the SkyFly 2 is easy to fly. When it is properly trimmed and you let go of the controls it will return to straight and level flight. This works well if you have enough altitude and are not about to run into anything. In fact, as I gained more experience I started trying loops. This required gaining speed in a steep dive and giving it full up elevator. The plane is so stable that even in this situation it would usually rollout before it went upside down at the top of the loop. In fact, it rolled out and began right side up flight very quickly. This is a great flight characteristic for a beginner, but you will have to buy another plane when you gain enough experience and want to learn aerobatics.
Please do not attempt to fly anything of substantial value without having a more experienced RC pilot fly it first and get the trims set for you. Hopefully that experienced pilot will become your instructor, which also substantially increases your chance of success. Learning to fly RC is an incredibly rewarding achievement, but crashing (especially in the very beginning) is very discouraging, and usually more expensive than joining a club, where instructors are happy to help the newbie. The SkyFly 2 is “Park Pilot Legal”, but it flies fast enough that you will not be seen as an obstacle at a typical AMA flying field. Sometimes these fields have a separate area for park fliers, but the SkyFly 2 will usually be allowed in the main flying area. I would not recommend flying in a space as small as a soccer field, although an expert pilot probably could. If you want a backyard flier, this is not your best trainer.
There are a few things that will cause a beginner to crash
- Losing your orientation; you can’t tell which way the plane is heading; usually by flying too far away. The dark red color scheme of the SkyFly 2 makes this even worse; I painted the underside of my wing white, which helped somewhat.
- Flying too slow and stalling. You must understand the concept of stalling, get used to your airplanes stall speed and know when you are in a stall.
- Flying too low, this drastically reduces your margin for error.
- Flying in too much wind; place the plane on the ground, if the wind blows it around (even slightly) do not fly. In fact, your first flights should be in near zero wind.
- Flying with the sun in your view.
- Flying near obstacles; trees and airplanes are like magnets and steel.
I could try to briefly explain these common causes of crashing, but until you have experienced each of them on a simulator, or with an instructor, they probably will not make much sense to you. Learning to fly by reading is like reading a book about swimming and then jumping in deep water. Imagine how stressful this experience would be to a non swimmer; the stress level of your first RC flight is similar.
I may have concentrated far too much on the basics of RC flight in an article that is titled as a review, but I want to share my experiences to help others become successful in both basic RC, and first person view video flight. I believe the SkyFly 2 is an excellent (maybe even the best) trainer for a person who wishes to fly in an “AMA sized” club field. This was my first RC plane, and it helped me quickly become a competent (3 channel) pilot. Although others have successfully fitted the Skyfly and Skyfly 2 with video gear for FPV flight, I do not believe it to be an ideal platform for FPV, but hopefully that will be the subject of a future article. So, first get some serious simulator time under your belt, then find an instructor but go ahead and buy a SkyFly 2 without hesitation.
SkyFly 2 SPECIFICATIONS
- Street Price $99.00 to $129.00
- Ready to fly, with only minor assembly
- Wingspan: 42 in (1065 mm)
- Wing area: 186 in² (12 dm²)
- Weight: 19.2 oz (545 g)
- Wing loading: 14.9 oz/ft² (45 g/dm²)
- Length: 30.75 in (780 mm)
- 3 Channel control: Throttle, Elevator and Rudder
- Electronic Speed Control with Auto Cut-Off
- Rechargeable 8.4V 900mAh NiMH Battery
- 12V DC Peak Charger with AC Adapter