HobbyZone Champ S+ RTF Electric Airplane (694mm) w/SAFE Auto Land
So I purchased the ready-to-fly Champ S+ about 6 months ago as my very first RC plane. By almost anyoneís standardís I was a novice, having experience with two cheap, auto leveling drones and only about 30 minutes of simulator time on a RealFlite demo at the local HobbyTown. Since then, I have logged over 80 flights for 15 hours of time in the air.
I chose this airplane out of several options. I wanted an RTF plane just to get my feet wet in the hobby and because I didnít want to put up the $300 for a descent transmitter and BNF trainer. At first, I was leaning toward the original Champ, but I realized that, with it being so small, it wouldnít tolerate much wind. I also considered the Delta Ray, and, in hindís sight, probably should have gone with that plane, if for no other reason than that it comes with the DXe transmitter which, if clunky, can definitely be programmed to fly other planes. The MLP6DSM transmitter that comes with the Champ S+ is questionable as to its compatibility with other models. The Champ S+ and Delta Ray both have SAFE+ technology, but I liked the Champ S+ better than the Ray because it looked like a real airplane. Thatís how I made my choice. Iíll share a few experiences Iíve had with it which I hope will enlighten you as to whether or not to buy this plane.
Iím still not sure what happened on my very first flight, if you could call it that. The plane hardly flew at all, and my control inputs seemed futile. After encountering the hard turf three times, the prop adapter was broken, so that ended my flying for the day. My problems were probably due to an incorrect boot up process; I didnít set up the airplane on a level surface, and I didnít run up the throttle to set the auto land direction. (Iím not sure why that would have affected the flight, but its only thing I can think of.)
Happily, Horizon Hobby is greatly attune to helping you succeed, and there was a replacement prop adapter included in the box. I installed this and was ready for another flight the next day. After carefully following my boot up checklist, I launched the plane and flew around in beginner mode, holding down the auto land button to land. That feature seemed to work quite well. I really havenít used the auto land since that second flight, as landing was never an issue for me, but I can see how it could be very useful to some.
I quickly moved on to the intermediate mode and enjoyed the expanded flight envelope. With only about an hour of flight experience, I came to the [incorrect] conclusion that I was ready for aerobatics. Switching to the experienced mode, I performed a few loops and rolls with bad form. On my 11th flight, I initiated a roll, but forgot to point the nose up at the start. That, combined with being only about 2 mistakes high, resulted in a very bad crash. I smacked straight into the ground at full throttle. The damages included the following: crumpled cowl (amazingly, not a broken prop adapter!), splintered windscreen, broken vertical stabilizer, and the fuselage (the top half) severed in two just behind the wing. Much disappointed, I went about trying to fix it. The proprietor at the local HobbyTown had some very helpful tips for repairing, and by dint of CA-safe glue ($10), toothpicks, and tape, I had it all patched up a few days later. Surprisingly, it actually flew, though it would never be the same again.
One disadvantage to these SAFE+ equipped planes is that thereís more to them than meets the eye. The technology, though very helpful when in good condition, can be finicky after a crash. The AS3X wind stabilization in particular seems quite compromised after this incident. Prior to the crash, I flew in winds of 15-20 mph. Now, itís pushing the limit to fly in 8 mph.
Another caution about SAFE+ is to avoid depending too much on the auto level feature. I came to heavily rely on it and in consequence suffered a crash or two in experienced mode (which does not have auto level). One thing that helped me immensely was a tip given on one of Flite Testís Beginner Series videos. When the plane is coming toward you and a wing dips, just move the aileron stick in the direction of that wing to return to level. This eliminates the time consuming thought process of ďwhen the plane is flying away from me, I move the stick to the left to bank left, so when its flying toward me I need to move the stick to the right to bank left...Ē By then youíve already hit the ground.
About 40 flights after the memorable rolling crash, I felt ready for aerobatics again. The Champ S+ can do loops, no problem. Rolls, on the other hand, were less than satisfactory at first. In more recent times, however, with more skill and confidence, I have been able to perform not only rolls, but also Cuban 8's, Split-S's, Immelmanns, and inverted flight-type maneuvers, like two-point hesitation rolls.
Pretty much the only concerning aspect of the SAFE+ is that every once in a while, the plane will go into a holding pattern (one of its features) all by itself. This could be due to a momentary loss of connection with the transmitter, by interference, or because the way I am holding the transmitter. I personally have never used the holding pattern feature intentionally and it can be quite disorienting to have the plane start flying itself suddenly.
Iíve also had to mess with the trim a lot. Sometimes the plane will climb uncontrollably (Iíve actually performed a loop accidentally once when it was flying like this), or dive. After recent investigation, Iíve ascertained that this is also is due to the hard crash. The impact jarred loose the circuit board (in the mid fuselage) on which the rudder and elevator servos are mounted. This allows the circuit board to move slightly, and when it moves, that changes the deflection of the control surfaces. Taping down the circuit board has mostly resolved this problem. So just remember to take into account the guts of the plane when you are repairing it.
After 15 hours of flight time, I think I have just about graduated from grade one of my self taught flight school. I think the fact that I went directly from next to zero flight experience to handling a full fledged four-channel airplane speaks volumes for how good the Champ S+ is as a trainer. As grade two, I have just purchased the Spektrum DX6e transmitter and am getting into foam board builds. I also plan to use the Spektrum for Bind ní Fly planes.
So, the bottom line is, I like this airplane and I think itís the perfect choice for beginners. The advantages include: SAFE+ technology (Auto Land, Virtual Fence, Holding Pattern, auto level, and multiple flight modes), cool look (modeled after a real plane), and general ease of flying. Disadvantages include: questionable MLP6DSM transmitter, and auto level (can become a crutch and keep you from advancing).
So I hope this helps you make an informed decision about purchasing the Champ S+.