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Written by Jon Barnes
Take flight day or night
Product Review
As seen in the June 2019 issue of
Model Aviation.


At a Glance

Specifications

Type: Semiscale electric

Skill level: Intermediate

Wingspan: 75.8 inches

Wing area: 1,120 square inches

Length: 66.3 inches

Weight: 10.6 pounds

Power system: Electric brushless

Radio: Six-channel minimum (seven channels required for night version)

Construction: EPO foam

Price: $499.99; night: $559.99; lighted float set: $99.99

Test-Model Details

Motor used: Potenza 70 500 Kv brushless outrunner (included)

ESC: ZTW 100-amp brushless with 15-amp SBEC; EC5 connector (included)

Battery: 4,200 to 6,200 mAh 6S 35C or higher LiPo (not included)

Propeller: 17.5 × 7 electric SR (included)

Radio system: Spektrum DX9 transmitter; Spektrum AR8010T eight-channel 2.4 GHz DSMX integrated-telemetry SRXL receiver (not included)

Ready-to-fly weight (with Admiral Pro 50C 6S 5,000 mAh LiPo battery): 10.3 pounds

Flight duration: 5 to 8 minutes

Pluses

  • Lightweight, plus-size foam composition model of the popular Van’s Aircraft RV-8 kit-based homebuilt sport airplane.
  • Cavernous battery bay will easily accept largecapacity, six-cell LiPo batteries.
  • Wing cube loading number of 7.7 gives this large model an impressively wide performance envelope.
  • The internal LED lighting strips and small external LED floodlights allow the night version of this model to be flown in any lighting conditions, even complete darkness.
  • Included Aura 8 flight controller is preprogrammed with four distinct flight modes.
  • LED lighting system can be turned on and off from a pilot’s transmitter.

Minuses

  • The wheel pants had excess flashing and slight gaps along their seams.
  • The screw heads on the included hardware fasteners could round out if subjected to excessive torque.


Bonus Video

FLEX INNOVATIONS continues to expand its portfolio of high-performance RC models with the release of a jumbo-size rendition of the Van’s Aircraft RV-8. With a wingspan that exceeds 6 feet, this EPO foam-composition model pays homage to the seldom-modeled genres of general aviation and homebuilt aircraft.

Van’s Aircraft sells the full-scale RV-8 in kit form. Flex Innovations likewise offers its approximately 1/4-scale version of the RV-8 in a Super Plug and Play (PNP) kit form. Pilots pondering the purchase of this low-wing tail-dragger have several options to consider.

A slightly more expensive night version of the RV-8 is also available. For an additional $60, pilots can get an RV-8 model that is equipped with an abundance of strategically positioned, internally mounted LED lighting strips. A pair of mini LED spotlights that are mounted on the outer edges of horizontal stabilizers illuminate the model’s entire tail section. This version theoretically eliminates the normal daylight-associated constraints that are inherent to most RC models.

Those who prefer that their models possess an even higher level of versatility might also want to look at the matching internal LED-equipped night floats. Although a fully optioned version of the RV-8 will set a pilot back $650, the float-equipped night version potentially offers an all-terrain model that can be flown from land, water, ice, and snow at virtually any hour of the day or night.

The price tag of this 1/4-scale kit becomes much more palatable considering that a full-scale RV-8 quick-build kit comes in at $37,000 (engine and propeller not included)!

As with most Flex Innovations models, the heart of this Super PNP model, at least electronically speaking, is the factory-programmed Aura 8 advanced flight controller. This compact, red box is the connection point for all of the servos and the pilot-provided receiver.

The Aura provides flight stabilization functionality and four distinct flight modes that have been tuned and configured by the world-class pilots at Flex Innovations. Veteran pilots who still hunger to go under the hood and tweak the factory settings to their own individual liking are encouraged by Flex to do so. An included USB cable and Flex’s free PC application, available from the Flex Innovations website, make this task easy.

this super pnp epo foam kit will require
01. This Super PNP EPO foam kit will require a little more assembly time than typical, mainly to mount the included brushless motor.

the potenza 70-size 500 kv brushless outrunner
02. The Potenza 70-size 500 Kv brushless outrunner motor is powered by a six-cell LiPo battery and gives the RV-8 the power to perform post-stall, propeller-hanging maneuvers.

although the included le-mounted
03. Although the included LE-mounted white landing light and wingtip-mounted red/green navigation lights are on whenever the flight battery is connected, the LED lighting system included in the night version can be switched on and off from a pilot’s transmitter.

for flight operations in reduced visibility
04. For flight operations in reduced visibility or at night, a pair of small LED floodlights mounted at the outer edges of the night version’s horizontal stabilizers nicely illuminates the entire vertical stabilizer/rudder assembly.

the optional, internally lighted floats
05. The optional, internally lighted floats are color matched and include a servo-driven, springloaded, folding water rudder.

Other notable design features of the RV-8 are the rows of molded-in-the-foam vortex generators along the leading edges (LEs) of the wing and horizontal stabilizers, the use of CA-style hinges on all control surfaces, and the inclusion of an external, 15-amp SBEC.

The RV-8 includes a full complement of Potenza DS-34 digital, metal-gear mini servos. Flex claims these little beasties have 69 ounce-inches of torque at 5 volts. Another really cool feature that is unique to the night version of the RV-8 is the ability to turn the lighting system on and off from the radio transmitter! Scale navigation lights and ball link-style connectors on all control surfaces round out the niceties of this plus-size model!

Assembly

Before picking up the included black and white assembly manual, pilots should visit the Flex Innovation RV-8 product webpage. Flex maintains a Wiki-style information page for each of its models, with the promise that the latest updates and addendums relevant to the model will be located here.

I found a short video that Flex had recently added that illustrated how to properly configure the endpoints of the included ZTW 100-amp ESC on one’s radio transmitter. The page also offers an in-depth explanation on how to access the fourth, slightly more-advanced flight mode that is embedded in the Aura controller. More advanced pilots might also be interested in mapping the Aura 8 master gain to a knob on the transmitter for in-flight gain adjustment.

Because most of this information is not included in the assembly manual that comes in the box, a few moments spent perusing the RV-8 Wiki page will pay off for those interested in squeezing every last ounce of performance from the RV-8. The page is also a great place to preview the variety of Flex-produced videos of the RV-8 in action.

The Flex RV-8 requires slightly more assembly than most PNP kits. Although all six servos and their control rods are preinstalled, pilots will need to mount and connect the included Potenza brushless motor and short foam cowling. A pilot should remember to bind his or her transmitter to the RV-8 before mounting the propeller, in order to verify that the motor is rotating in the correct direction.

The vertical stabilizer and rudder assembly attaches to the aft end of the fuselage using adhesive. The horizontal stabilizers/elevator assemblies attach using hardware. The two large wing panels are anchored in place with a single fastener each. This fastener features a knurled outer ring and an embedded Phillips head screw, allowing pilots to initially finger tighten the fasteners and then give them a little extra twist with a screwdriver for security.

Each wing panel has three connections (aileron, flap, and LED lighting system) that must be made after the wing is mounted to the fuselage. There is an abundance of room to work within the fuselage and all of the leads include ample length, allowing them to easily be plugged into the short, labeled servo extensions that are connected to the Aura and the provided JST-style connectors used for the LED lighting system.

When assembling the wheel pants, pilots will want to make sure to use the proper-size Phillips screwdriver. The diameter of the holes that the screws thread into is such that it is slightly difficult to drive the screws completely in. Pilots should work carefully on this part of the assembly to avoid rounding out the screw heads.

With the RV-8 fully assembled, this is indeed one large aircraft! The EPO foam wing panels are not solid foam but hollow shells that are internally reinforced with plywood and carbon fiber. It is best to pick up the airframe by its stout and sturdy aluminum landing gear, with a second supporting hand cupping the big green spinner. Gripping the model by wrapping one’s hand around the LE of the wing is not recommended.

Manufacturer/Distributor

Flex Innovations

(866) 310-3539

www.flexinnovations.com

The Aura 8 is almost 100% receiver impartial; it can "talk" to almost any brand of receiver that is currently available. There are many ways to configure and connect one’s radio system of choice. The manual covers them all in a useful amount of detail.

On previous review projects from Flex, I used a pair of Spektrum satellite receivers that were plugged directly into the Aura 8 controller. Flex, however, now recommends using a Spektrum SRXL serial protocol-equipped receiver. It is only necessary to make two connections to the receiver: the throttle lead and the serial cable connection.

I used a Spektrum AR8010T telemetry-equipped, SRXL-capable, eight-channel receiver in the RV-8. Utilizing the ability to turn the LED lighting system of the night version RV-8 on and off from the radio transmitter requires that a third connection be made to the receiver. The LED controller’s servo lead can be plugged directly into any unused channel on the receiver. Pilots will need to program/assign a two-position switch to the channel to control this feature.

Flying

Many pilots will need to disassemble this large model for transport to the flying field. Disassembly and assembly should take most people no longer than 5 or 10 minutes. Loading the flight battery into the RV-8 is easy. With the oversize canopy hatch removed, pilots can easily get their hands into the fuselage.

The battery tray features four equally spaced hook-and-loop retention straps. Hitting the factory-recommended center of gravity required placing the six-cell 5,200 mAh LiPo battery toward the rear of the tray, with the rearmost pair of straps securing it in place.

There is an incredible amount of room for larger batteries in this model. Pilots who opt for the night version will have no problem placing and using a separate three-cell battery to power the lighting system. Alternatively, pilots can use the six-cell flight pack to power the lighting system. The LED controller receives its power through a JST-XHstyle balance connector.

the floatequipped, night version
06. The floatequipped, night version of the Flex RV-8 allows pilots to enjoy the thrill and serenity of flying at night off of undisturbed, mirrorlike water.

a large, removable canopy
07. A large, removable canopy hatch and abundantly sized battery bay mean that even pilots with large hands will have no problem working "under the hood."

Out of the box, the Aura 8 flight controller is configured with three flight modes. The chief difference between flight modes one and two is that the gyro is off in mode one and on in mode two. The stabilization offered by the three-axis gyro mitigates the effects caused by turbulent air, wind, and thermals. It makes the RV-8 feel and fly like an even larger airplane, which is no small accomplishment considering how large this model is!

Modes one and two utilize similar, lower rates/throws and offer a tamer experience that is perfect for inexperienced fliers and sport pilots. Roll rates are moderate in these two modes. Knife-edge flight in mode two (gyro on) can make an average sport pilot look like the sharpest tool in the shed, thanks to the manner in which the Aura 8 is factory programmed to eliminate all coupling.

As an all-around aerobatic performer, the RV-8 shines in mode two. Casual sport pilots will revel in what they can do with this model!

The third mode begins to explore the RV-8’s full potential. In this mode, the flaps are mixed to operate in conjunction with the ailerons. Flex refers to this as "live wing mode." Although this feature substantially enhances the roll rate, it does not quite give the RV-8 an insane, drill-like spinning speed.

Pilots who wish to explore pushing the RV-8 through 3D and post-stall maneuvers will definitely want to do it using mode three. The shortish tail moment and low-wing configuration of the RV-8 airframe are features that most purpose-designed 3D models avoid.

What the airframe’s dimensions and design might lack when it comes to 3D capabilities is in many ways made up for by the high-performance Potenza brushless power system. This six-cell power system produces plenty of power and helps to bridge any gaps encountered while trying to perform low airspeed maneuvers. The molded-in-the-foam vortex generators along the wing and horizontal stabilizers’ LEs also help.

Veteran pilots with more prowess than the average sport pilot will enjoy this model’s ability to perform harriers, high-alpha flight, and hovers. The extra roll authority created by the live wing mode is particularly advantageous for performing rolling circles.

It is hard to imagine a scenario where a pilot would prefer to fly in the gyro-disabled mode one. Pilots might want to sacrifice that mode by switching the Aura 8 from the Stock Flight Modes to the Expert Flight Modes. Although modes two and three will remain the same, mode one in the Expert Flight Modes gives pilots an additional high-performance flight mode that features a throttle-quadrant-driven crow mix that is active and proportional from 50% throttle down to 0%.

This allows pilots to effectively decelerate the RV-8 in downlines and on landing approaches. With the big flaps deployed to the landing position, the RV-8 will slide down the glideslope to the runway threshold in a lazy, slow fashion.

Stall speed is slow enough to almost be nonexistent! Pilots will need a deft touch on the throttle and elevator controls when landing with full flaps in case the RV-8 bounces its way back to earth. Whether performed with or without flaps, takeoffs performed with a modest amount of throttle application will see the RV-8 rotate up onto the mains within a few feet.

The typical flight durations that are achievable with this big foamie will vary from 5 to 8 minutes, depending on flying style and throttle usage. If a pilot is simply cruising in a scalelike, realistic fashion, the flight duration can potentially be pushed out beyond 10 minutes.

Conclusion

The Flex Innovations RV-8 is a big green machine that pilots with varied skill levels and flying styles can enjoy. The four included flight modes quickly configure this large model to suit a pilot’s fancy. Add in this model’s wide performance envelope, and the "RV" in RV-8 assuredly must stand for Real Versatile!

With the warmer days of spring and summer on the way in the northern hemisphere, there is something quite liberating about being able to head out in the cooler temperatures of dusk and night for a little flying action. And flying from water is even better!

flex innovations rv-8 night super pnp

Landings made with full flaps allow this big model to slip across the runway threshold at an impressively slow and steady approach speed.


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