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Written by Chad Budreau.
A beginner aircraft that provides pilots room to grow.
Read the entire article in the January 2014 issue of
Model Aviation.


Two years ago I stood in a field with a model aviation instructor. He toggled a switch on his transmitter and turned to me and said, “Chad, it’s all yours.” Tethered to his transmitter was my transmitter in a typical buddy-box fashion. I was a pilot in training, and for the first time, I was in control of an airborne basic trainer.

I learned two things that afternoon. I discovered that I really enjoyed flying, and I learned to never fly without sunglasses!

After a few flying sessions with my instructor, I conducted my first solo takeoff and landing. Although I was feeling confident in my flying ability, I wasn’t confident enough to invest much money or time into the hobby. If I was going to buy an aircraft, I figured it would be easier to tell my wife that I destroyed a $50 airplane instead of a $300 model.

During the next couple years, my aviation fleet only included a small foamy and a couple of micro helicopters. I never again flew on the flying field, resolving to be a reclusive pilot and only flying in my house or backyard.

Perhaps it is poetic justice that I am writing the Horizon Hobby E-flite Apprentice S15e review. The flying experience that I described was with its predecessor, the Apprentice. Although the high-winged original Apprentice is an excellent trainer, I did not feel confident enough take steps to further improve my piloting skills.

When the Apprentice S 15e showed up on the market, because I had some experience with the original Apprentice, I felt an instant comfort level. Because I hadn’t flown for a while, I lost some of my training. The Apprentice S was touted among hobbyists as “practically able to fly itself,” So I decided to make a second, more serious attempt to pick up the hobby.

A key feature of the Apprentice S is its integrated Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope (SAFE) technology. This makes RC flight insanely easy. A sophisticated combination of sensors and software enable the aircraft to understand its position so it can correct itself, improving stability.

Coupled with AS3X stabilization, E-flite described this airplane as “… the most intelligent RC airplane ever …” As a beginner I simply had to flip a switch and allow the SAFE technology to compensate for my lack of skill.



Assembly

The packaging was nice. The Apprentice S is a true RTF model. Everything is included in the box: a DX5e transmitter, installed servos and brushless motor, a 3S LiPo battery, and a charger.

I expected to find a standard charger that could plug into an outlet. Instead, I can only charge my LiPo using a car battery. This slightly complicated the setup, but I assume that E-flite included the DC charger to keep the package price affordable.

The second minor quirk during the assembly was that I had to remove the decals and cowl to install the nose wheel. I wasn’t keen on having to strip the decals from my new, unmolested aircraft, but I sucked it up and completed the task.

When installing the nose wheel, be sure the wheel post is completely inserted. I accidently installed the wheel incorrectly the first time, requiring me to again remove the decals and cowl and try again.

Despite a few minor hiccups, assembly was a breeze. I suggest using magnetic-tipped screwdrivers for the smaller screws. The manual is easy to navigate and in less than an hour, the Apprentice S was ready.



The RTF Apprentice S requires little assembly and includes everything you need to get airborne, including the DX5e transmitter batteries.



Take care to fully insert the nose wheel post before reattaching the cowl and decals.



Activating SAFE Technology

There is no special setup required to install SAFE in the Apprentice S. SAFE is integrated throughout the aircraft with preinstalled sensors. The DX5e transmitter provides three levels of SAFE settings: beginner, intermediate, and expert.

The beginner mode fully activates SAFE. As a pilot becomes more comfortable flying, he or she can set the aircraft to intermediate mode via the transmitter. The intermediate mode keeps SAFE technology active, but at a subdued level. Eventually a pilot can graduate to expert level. In expert mode, SAFE technology is completely turned off. Throughout all modes, AS3X remains active.

A nice feature that I quickly grew to love is the panic switch. When in a dangerous situation, the panic button repositions the Apprentice S into an upright stable flying position. The reaction time between toggling the panic switch and the airplane recovering is merely a second or two. It is amazingly quick to react.



Preparing for Flight

The Apprentice S offers revolutionary flight stability technology, but E-flite is quick to indicate that a beginner pilot still needs an experienced pilot or instructor. Yes, the Apprentice S practically takes off, flies, and lands itself, but I quickly learned that there are still many safety measures, flying techniques, and maintenance tips that should be learned with an experienced pilot.

I stress the importance of an instructor because there are safety concerns. A new pilot may not know the importance of first activating the transmitter before turning on the aircraft, or if a new pilot accidently sustains injuries, having a second person on-site is invaluable.

The goal of SAFE technology is to groom pilots to become skilled enough to fly independently. Flying should be more than just pointing an aircraft in the right direction. Beginner pilots should work toward becoming less dependent on the SAFE technology. The best way to learn proper flight and recovery techniques is with the aid of a seasoned pilot or instructor.



Maiden Flight

I returned to the same field at which I flew the Apprentices S’s predecessor a few years earlier. This time I had SAFE technology and an instructor in tow. The skies were clear, but there were wind gusts exceeding 10 mph. The manual discourages flying with beginner SAFE mode activated in winds above 5-7 mph.

With this large, 59-inch wingspan aircraft, I assumed I was invulnerable to 10-15 mph winds, but that was not necessarily the case. Although 10-plus mph winds were not an issue in intermediate or expert mode, when the Apprentice S was in beginner mode I had some minor trouble taking off.

To take off in the wind, I had better luck to set the SAFE setting to intermediate mode. Once in the air I set SAFE mode back to beginner.

Flying in beginner mode, the Apprentice S climbed into the sky. E-flite makes it clear that the Apprentice S is not an autopiloted aircraft. Perhaps a better analogy is that the Apprentice S took me back to my first flying experience using a buddy box. It was as though my instructor took over the controls and helped me get the Apprentice S in a level position at a safe elevation.

Unlike my smaller foamy and micro helicopters, the aircraft’s size is a huge benefit for inexperienced pilots. It allowed me to easily determine the airplane’s direction and orientation, and it built my confidence knowing I was again soloing a larger aircraft.

I flew the Apprentice S into a gentle, beautiful first turn. Without SAFE mode, pulling the stick too far left or right could cause the aircraft to invert, bank too sharply and nosedive, or spin out of control. But no matter how far I pulled the stick either left or right, the airplane only made graceful, level banks.

Short of crashing into a tree or other obstacle, in beginner SAFE mode it would be difficult to crash the Apprentice S. The airplane was consistently level and flew at a nice, steady pace. Even in downward descent, the nose never dramatically dipped. It would be a challenge to lawn dart the Apprentice S.

After few turns around the flying field, I was ready to step up my game. I pulled the toggle on my DX5e to intermediate SAFE mode. I instantly found the Apprentice S in a more responsive state. The wind was no longer a factor. Intermediate SAFE mode coupled with the AS3X technology allowed me to fly the Apprentice S without any problems. The airplane was rock solid.

When I brought the Apprentice S in for a landing, I placed SAFE mode in the beginner setting. I wanted to see if the aircraft could really land itself. My instructor helped me line up my approach. As I came in for a landing, I retarded the throttle and pulled up on the nose.

The combination of too much throttle, an upward nose, full SAFE mode, and a strong wind caused me to overshoot the first few landing attempts. Each time I was easily able to recover by climbing to a safe altitude so I could circle the runway and try again to land.

After a few more failed landing attempts, I decided to let SAFE do the work for me. I aligned the Apprentice S with the runway, nearly killed the throttle, and touched nothing else. The Apprentice S came in for a great landing.



The Apprentice S performs nearly perfect landings in beginner mode, making new pilots look like seasoned veterans.



Additional Flights

I logged quite a few flights in only a couple of weeks and was enjoying the hobby! In full beginner SAFE mode, the Apprentice S would take off and land nearly perfectly. Before long, I found myself consistently using intermediate or expert mode.

E-flite did a terrific job of finding the perfect balance between beginner, intermediate, and expert SAFE modes. After a few flights, most pilots will naturally find beginner mode limiting and will intuitively graduate to the next skill setting.

I admit that panic mode saved me quite a few times. My goal was to rely less on SAFE and eventually learn how to fly or correct a dumb thumbs move without technology’s aid. It took discipline to learn to correct an error without relying on the panic button.

Once when I engaged panic mode, I heard a snap. I immediately landed and noticed a rubber band had snapped off. Panic mode is extremely quick to correct the Apprentice S’s position. The likely cause of the broken rubber band was from worn bands and not the sudden maneuvering from panic mode.

The positions of the expert SAFE mode switch and the panic mode switch are in close proximity. On a few occasions, I accidently turned on expert mode, completely killing SAFE instead of pulling the panic button.

This was the opposite of my intention, and the Apprentice S made a couple of hard landings. Luckily, the Apprentice S is built with Z-foam and can take a good beating. New pilot should dedicate time to learn how to operate the transmitter by feel.



Growing with the Apprentice S

The Apprentice S can grow with you. This high-winged trainer is not a highly aerobatic aircraft, but it can perform loops, rolls, and inverted flight. E-flite also offers floats that can convert the Apprentice S into a seaplane, offering a different flying experience.

The Apprentice S revolutionizes the instructor-and-buddy-box approach toward training and grooming new pilots. It arms a beginner pilot with the tools to learn how to become an intermediate and eventually expert pilot.

If you belong to a club that wants to teach new pilots, the Apprentice S would make a great club trainer. If you are debating purchasing an Apprentice S to teach yourself to fly, this is a no-brainer. Find a model aviation instructor, get your hands on the Apprentice S, head to a flying field, and before you know it, you’ll be in expert mode!



Thanks to the Apprentice S and its SAFE technology, the author has flown more in the past month than in the past two years.



Flight Video





—Chad Budreau
chadb@modelaircraft.org



SPECIFICATIONS

Model type: RTF electric trainer
Skill level: Beginner
Wingspan: 59 inches
Wing area: 515 square inches
Length: 42.5 inches
Weight: 49 ounces (flying weight)
Power system: E-flite 15-size brushless motor; E-flite 30-amp ESC; 11.1-volt 3S 3,200 mAh LiPo with a 2-3S LiPo balancing charger (all included)
Radio system: Five-channel Spektrum DX5e (included) or four-channel DSM2- or DSMX-compatible transmitter
Retail price: $299.99



TEST-MODEL DETAILS

Ready-to-fly weight: 49 ounces
Flight duration: 12-15 minutes



PLUSES:

• A true RTF with easy assembly.
• Rock solid and stable.
• This revolutionizes pilot training.
• Large enough to help new pilots easily gauge orientation in flight.
• The airplane can grow with the pilot and has provisions for add-on floats.



MINUSES:

• Panic and SAFE mode toggles are too close together.
• It would be nice to include an AC charger.



MANUFACTURER/DISTRIBUTOR:

E-flite/Horizon Hobby
(800) 338-4639
www.e-fliterc.com



SOURCES:

Spektrum
(800) 338-4639
www.spektrumrc.com

33 comments

Safe mode does not retard throttle. You can still reach full power in beginner mode.

I own this plane.

That is correct, the article has been updated.

so you can only charge from car battery? REally?

Yes

I went to Radio Shack and purchased a power supply so I can connect the charger to it. However, the power supply I purchased was quite expensive. If I had to do it again, I'd just buy a new, higher quality battery charger to replace the one that comes with the Apprentice.

Hi, I am a beginner and also have the apprentice s 15 e. I wondered exactly which or what battery charger you recommend , I hate that you have to use a car battery (kinda weird to me)..... I would like to know what charger to get so I can charge the battery and fly the plane lol.....also, which extra extended life battery would you recommend, thanks, Greg.

I'm not sure if the guys at E-Flite will appreciate this tip, but I had the same issue as well. I did not care for the "limited" ability to charge my aircraft battery, so what I did was go to Radio Shack, purchased a MALE (Radio Shack Model: 270-028
Catalog #: 2700028
) and a FEMALE power port, (of course this adapter will eliminate having to construct one Model: 270-040
Catalog #: 2700040
) unsoldered the battery clips off of the wires, attached the MALE plug to the wires while observing for correct polarity, attached the FEMALE port to an 18" length of wire, then soldered the battery clips on to it. I can now charge my battery with both a auto power port, as well as connecting the adapter and using a battery as well. Works out great!

Yes the battery charger only works with a car battery

My apprentice s keeps disconnecting in flite. I am following bind procedure exactly but still having problems can someone please help.

Horizon Hobby has a great support team. It sounds like there is an issue with the transmitter or receiver. Horizon can help troubleshoot or investigate further. Give them a call at 1 (877) 504-0233.

A word of caution. Flying in beginner mode severely limits your ability to make flight corrections(turns) if the plane is drifting toward obstacles(trees,lightposts,etc.) because of windy conditions. It can take a long time to make a 90 degree turn in beginner mode with a substantial tail wind....so switch to intermediate to give yourself more control if you feel comfortable with it. Or steer way clear of any obstacles while flying in beginner mode in windy conditions.

Good point Powell. The advantage of beginner mode is that it prevents pilots from making dramatic actions, but we agree - even for new pilots it may be necessary to switch to intermediate mode from time to time.

Hi, you dont have to switch off the begginer mode. When turning with the tailwind, help yourself with ruder and a power. Today I almost had collision but fortunatelly the begginer mode is set up well... I turn to intermediate only in higher altitudes. I already tried loop and flying on back (with safe disabled). But landings or when stronger wind appears are for me still matter of begginer mode..:-) Great plane, great fun...

I began assembly of my Apprentice and immediately ran into the need to remove the nose cone so I could get off the prop and cowl and install the nose wheel. But how ? The manual says to remove the nose cone "with some force" but there is no way to grab it or no crack to wedge a blade into. How do you get it off ?

Great question. We understand Horizon Hobby is looking into options to make the nose removal a little easier. For our model, we had to first peal back the decals. We then had to remove three phillips screws on the nose - two at the bottom and one at the top. After that, we were able to easily slide the nose off away from the fuselage.

I also own this plane, it's my first one to have in the air after an almost 30 year hiatus. I too had this same issue until I saw a tip from ChuckTSeeker on RCGroups.com. I'm not sure if this has been stated yet or not, but removing the spinner cone is VERY EASY! Just pinch and squeeze the two tabs between the prop and the spinner cone will almost literally pop off! To install simply do the same thing.

You're right, I didn't know how I was going to get it off. I finally found your post and tried it and it did pop right off. I don't know who the idiots are that write the manuals, but they always leave out the important info.

Like the airplane, however, I'm at a loss of what do I need to get the airplane complete, with safe device for begginers. Please let me know what does a complete RTF includes? do I need two different transmitters? what is my complete price, including shipping? Is the model available right now? RSVP F. Falmar

Hi Frank,

It's great that you are interested in flying! RTF is short for "Ready To Fly." The package includes everything you need including a transmitter (remote control) and batteries. The included plane battery charger only connects to a car battery, so you may want to invest in a small charger or converter, but it is not necessary. There is some assembly required using a screwdriver and wrench.

This is a popular aircraft and most hobby shops have this plane for sale. You can also order it from http://www.horizonhobby.com/apprentice-s-15e-rtf-with-safe-reg%3B-techno....

Good luck!

Do the wires from the receiver matter for orientation of the safe technology, the longer one seems to be in the way of the wings

I have this plane. Five of my buddies also have this plane. We all fly from my house over farm fields. This plane has got to be the best trainer for new comers to our hobby to date. The safe technology is almost fool proof. All of us have advanced beyond the beginner level, but have used it to demonstrate it's function to interested parties. We have made a number of modifications to fit our own abilities, more control, flaps (which are not needed), stronger motors (which again are not needed). The Apprentice is a fun plane to fly and can make almost any pilot look accomplished.

DEAR SIR
Can you tell me what brand and id # of servos used in the apprentice?
THANK YOU
REGARDS
BOB

I am having some electrical issues on the Apprentice. It is either the eFlite SAFE Receiver EFLR310013 or the eFlite 30 amp Pro Switch Mode BEC. At present, I can get the servos working but not get even a revolution from the motor. As I have a spare motor, even it does not go. Any thoughts?

Apparently the eFlite SAFE Receiver EFLR310013 is not in stock. Is there another that will work the same? I am still not confident to fly in experienced/advanced mode all the time.

Hi, I purchased an Apprentice S 15e RTF from my local hobby shop and my instructor flew it without any issue during the maiden flight. However, when he flew it the second time with a newly charged battery, it took off smoothly but lost the signal and control when negotiating a left turn. The plane crashed and almost evrything were smashed, even the shaft of the motor was sheared off. I have checked the receiver and transmitter after the crash, all control seemed to be working and they also ok with the ground range check.
I went down to the hobby shop and bought a BNF Apprentice S 15e and the previous transmitter bind perfectly with the new plane. No issue whatsoever with several flights.
Today, I checked the previous receiver with the transmitter again. When I turn on the ESC switch there a along tone followed by 3 beeps but no lights on the receiver, I turned on the transmitter but no light on the receiver also. It does not bind with the transmitter nor is there any blinking light. I tried repeating the process standing 5 feet away but the issue remainbed the same.
Is the receiver faulty causing the crash ?
Kindly advise, thanks,

Just purchased the apprentice from a local hobby shop. Did a fair amount of research and was convinced this plane would be perfect as I am a novice. Anyhow, the first three flights went without any trouble and the plane performed great. On the 4th or 5th flight I crashed about 5-7 seconds after take off. The plane went left and I lost control/signal. I thought it was my error and pieced the plane back together. On the subsequent flight I asked my friend to fly since he has many years of experience. We double checked all the systems and put in a full battery. Once again he lost control/signal after about 10 seconds and the plane crashed damaging the entire plane. I am very disappointed given that I have only had the plane for 1 week and it is literally trashed. The plane was never flown in any other mode other than beginner. My experience is exactly similar to what was said by "ebnen" in an earlier post. I have made an inquiry to Horizon Hobby. I'd like to know how they have dealt with any similar complaints.

Hey man,

I had a few good flights on my apprentice....over 20 minutes with the aftermarket Turnigy battery! Then I randomly lost all power, but luckily was able to bring it down without wrecking it.......wasn't sure what had happened.....checked the battery, it was fine....all my connections were good.....so I threw in another battery and took off again....this time I was about 5 minutes into the flight and the same thing happened....except this time I had ZERO control over it.....and it just flew away....then hit a powerline and death spiraled into the field.....has atleast 40 dollars of damage (if the motor isn't trashed).....I called the support line and the tech is sending me a free receiver and body for the plane.....I still don't have a warm and fuzzy about it though....... Pretty upset.....if it happens again, I am sending the whole plane back and getting a refund....

Fortunately I have not experienced these issues. I was talking to a seasoned pilot who happens to fly an Apprentice S. He discovered that after binding, some of the Apprentice S aircraft need to be taken to full throttle and then to idle. Might be worth a shot.

Just had a very similar issue. Apprentice S 15e now irretrievable in fairly tall tree. Loss of control in left turn on second flight.

It looks like the same problems with my plane....
I was flying with windy conditions and in beginners mode. the plane went well and suddenly it looks like I lost contact.... The plane starts to climb and it goes into the clouds and after I give full aileron down, i never see it fall back to the ground... I hit the throttle to power down and after 5 minutes I conclude my plane was missing..... never find it back.....

Kindly advise too.... Thanks in advanced.
Roland

I have not experienced this with any of my flights. I still continue to fly the Apprentice S without any trouble. I suggest you contact Horizon Hobby Customer Service at 1 (888) 959-2307. Please share any feedback you receive, I'm sure others would like to know.

I have now learned to fly this great plane and have been informed by the club I am a member of that I can not take the A Test on this plane unless I replace the reciver with one with no safe mode. Is this correct as I understood that when on advanced mode their is no electronic help other than the panic switch.

Please help

Cliff

Hi Cliff,

Correct, expert/advanced mode essentially shuts off SAFE (except for the panic button). You still have a featured called AS3X. AS3X is a featured that is becoming more common on many aircraft (even aerobatic) to help stabilize flight. AS3X is not the same as SAFE mode. http://www.spektrumrc.com/technology/as3x.aspx.

Can you add flaps to this and still maintain both the SAFE feature and the Panic Button? Has anyone on the thread done it.

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