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Written by Jay Smith Horizon Hobby E-flite Air Tractor 1.5m BNF Basic With AS3X and SAFE Select As seen in the September 2020 issue of Model Aviation. Review

THE E-FLITE AIR TRACTOR IS MY FIRST crop duster model and it is reminiscent of Dusty Crophopper in Disney’s Planes movie. The first time I saw a full-scale version dusting crops was on the way to the Southeast Electric Flight Festival (SEFF) in Georgia.

At SEFF, flying site owner Mac Hodges actually has a crop duster mounted on a pole near the flightline. I thought that one day I might need to get one and do some simulated crop dusting of my own. When Horizon Hobby released the E-flite Air Tractor, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to expand my civilian air force because I generally fly warbirds.

My model arrived expertly packed in a box that seemed as though it shouldn’t be able to contain a 59-inch wingspan airplane. After a quick inspection of all of the parts and a quick read through of the manual, it was time to jump into the assembly.

Assembly

The landing gear is the first step; however, in my manual, the main landing gear was covered, but attaching the tail wheel was omitted. Although it is mostly self-explanatory, I studied a photo on the Horizon Hobby website to be sure. The manual on the website has since been updated to include tail wheel installation.

Assembly then moves on to the horizontal stabilizer using the tail-joiner tube. That is the easy part; the horizontal stabilizer brace mounting is more challenging. The braces are secured with six 2 × 8 mm self-tapping screws, which can be difficult to completely tighten.

The wing halves capture the servo plugs for the ailerons, flaps, and lights. You slide both halves together with help from the wing tube. All of the connections are easily made with no concerns about pinching servo wires.

The Air Tractor comes without the propeller installed; this adds an element of safety because the airplane must be fully assembled and bound to the transmitter before it is installed.

I was provided with two batteries for this review: a 3S and a 4S 2,200 mAh LiPo. The model can accept either a 3S or 4S LiPo battery from 2,200 to 3,200 mAh. I was concerned whether I would be able to get the proper center of gravity (CG) of 65 mm (plus or minus 5 mm) from the front of the wing. I started with the 4S battery and found that I liked flying the model closer to the 70 mm CG setting, which was easier to achieve when I switched to the 3S battery.

SAFE Enough?

You have the option of binding with or without enabling SAFE Select. Although I don’t use SAFE Select, Jason Merkle, from Horizon Hobby, made a great point about enabling it so that he can let others fly the airplane and become comfortable with it before taking full control of the model. It could also be helpful if the aircraft becomes lost in the sun and a pilot needs a moment to recover. SAFE Select can be enabled or disabled at will.

The Air Tractor has a setup file on the Spektrum website to use with Spektrum transmitters. You can download it and load it on your transmitter. This will save a few minutes of transmitter programming, and I always check to see if one is available.

It is important to confirm that all of the surfaces are moving in the proper direction and that other features, such as throttle cut and dual rates, are working as expected. I did not have any issues and greatly appreciate that throttle cut is always set up when I download a file for a Horizon Hobby model.

here is a look at everything that comes in the box
Here is a look at everything that comes in the box. The airplane assembly goes quickly.

Flying

The Air Tractor has a large hatch that includes the canopy with a release lever on the top. This provides access to the receiver and radio gear and allows me to mount my battery without issue after adding hook-and-loop tape to the bottom of the battery. Two Velcro straps help retain the battery.

The model requires little rudder input and can be in the air with a relatively short takeoff roll, especially if you decide to use the flaps.

Trimming the model required some up-elevator to attain level flight at 1/2 throttle with flaps up. After adjusting the trim, do not touch the control sticks for 3 seconds. This allows the receiver to learn the correct settings to optimize AS3X performance.

The Air Tractor really looks the part in the air, especially when I flew it at AMA’s International Aeromodeling Center site because parts of the field are farmed and can be seen in the background.

Flying on 3S power provides a realistic flight experience, but I have a feeling that the full-scale aircraft might not have the same level of vertical performance. On 3S power, the model can climb straight up for a few hundred feet before running out of steam. When it does, kick in full rudder and the Air Tractor makes a great stall turn.

Its aerobatic performance is respectable, with the model happily doing all manner of barnstorming maneuvers. Loops from level flight can be large or small. Rolls are slightly slow on low rates but become a bit more pleasing on high rates. Knife-edge flight is easily maintained with a small amount of down-elevator to counteract the tendency to pull toward the canopy. Rudder authority is good, and the Air Tractor can be flown using only the rudder for turns.

the landing gear is easily attached with two
The landing gear is easily attached with two 3 × 8 mm screws, as long as your screwdriver will fit into the holes.
installation of the tail wheel was omitted from earlier versions
Installation of the tail wheel was omitted from earlier versions of the manual, but it has since been added.
the air tractor has a large hatch with easy access to the receiver
The Air Tractor has a large hatch with easy access to the receiver, radio gear, and battery.

Inverted flight requires a small amount of down-elevator to keep from losing altitude. Stall-testing caused the model to drop its nose slightly and keep on flying without any wing rock. With the help of AS3X, the airplane presents stable flight.

The flap-to-elevator mix that was set up in the file that I downloaded works well. The model does not balloon when using the flaps, which have a half and full setting when deployed. During my flight-testing, I found that I preferred half flaps for takeoffs and landings. On windier days, I preferred not using flaps at all because the model seems more stable on final approach. The flaps provide increased lift and drag, which tossed the model around slightly in 10-plus mph wind.

horizontal stabilizer installation is a snap
Horizontal stabilizer installation is a snap. Slide the tail joiner tube into the fuselage and slide the horizontal tail halves onto the joiner tube. The retainers will click when the tail parts lock into position.

Flying from pavement, I found that the Air Tractor bounced slightly when landing. That hasn’t had an impact on the landing gear or the airplane, but it motivates me to try to perfect my landings. I have read online that some pilots have switched out the stock tires for a low-bounce alternative.

A few people reported that they have bent the landing gear on less-than-perfect landings, but that hasn’t happened to me. Using a 2,200 mAh battery keeps the aircraft light on the wing and allows me up to 5-1/2 minutes of flying time when flying in a relaxed manner.

the wing halves capture the servo plugs for the ailerons
the wing halves capture the servo plugs for the ailerons
The wing halves capture the servo plugs for the ailerons, flaps, and lights and mate with their connections on the side of the fuselage.

Conclusion

The Horizon Hobby E-flite Air Tractor is easy to assemble and enjoyable to fly. It could be a good option for those who have graduated from a trainer and are looking to acquire their first scale or low-wing model.

When making low and slow passes, it is not hard to imagine one is crop dusting your local flying site!

when swapping out the battery it is always best to stay behind
When swapping out the battery, it is always best to stay behind the propeller and keep the transmitter within arm’s reach.
making low and slow passes with the air tractor
When making low-and-slow passes with the Air Tractor, it is not hard to imagine that one is crop dusting the local flying site!

SOURCES:

Horizon Hobby

(800) 338-4639

www.horizonhobby.com

Spektrum

(800) 338-4639

www.spektrumrc.com

SEFF

www.seffweek.com


1 comments

Great Plane.
Must change tires to Du-Bro 3" Low Bounce and tail wheel to 1".
This will help the gear not to bend.
This is the only (CON) for the Plane

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