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Written by Jimbo   
Sunday, 01 March 2009 20:05

RC Lander Rafale - Build and Fly Review

RC Lander followed up their immensely popular F9F Panther with a Twin EDF version of the Dassault Rafale (English: Squall). The full size is a French twin-engined delta-wing highly agile multi-role fighter aircraft, it was produced both for land-based use with the French Air Force and for carrier-based naval operations with the French Navy. Although the full size was marketed for foreign sale no orders were ever received, luckily the model has not suffered the same fate and no wonder, its a beaut.

Packaging was very good, double boxed with all foam parts double wrapped. The foam is marketed as SEPO by the manufacturer, it is still EPS but very dense and gives a smooth finish. Happy to report that it is not prone to the 'hangar rash' woohoo !The accessories are good and the metal 'lander' fan exceptional, the resonance from the metal honestly gives a turbine sound and because its balanced in the factory super smooth .....

One of the first things that strikes you after checking the parts is the modularisation, the Rafale is built in sections with the servos, linkages and retracts assembled on a single module prior to any joining, this allows for thorough checking and less stressful assembly.

If you read my review of the Panther you may recall that I had a few problems with the front retract that ultimately led me to retro fit pneumatics, the manufacturer Tim Wan has always played a active part on the forums and has developed the retracts, my Rafale utilised a metal mounting plate for the front wheel, as the front wheel is smaller and used for steering there are more forces acting on it and my Panther suffered from collapse. Retro fitting the metal plate was easy, just cut out the original wood and epoxy the plate in. The instructions weren't too clear on how to install the steering servo but hopefully my pictures will help you. Although Lander's include a 9g servo for the retract mechanism I opted for a cheap 2.6kg metal gear servo to overcome any stiffness, I read on all the forums about how people have spent days 'working the linkage to operate with optimum smoothness' but I opted for brute force !

The mains were more straightforward to install and I opted to use standard 9g servos as the seemed (see below) to operate quite successfully. Remember though to bend the push rod assembly down to ensure they don't lock when moving. Also note that one of the servos needs to be reversed, this can be done by utilising on of the readily available reversing y leads or as I prefer by swapping the leads to the motor and servo pot (although this method is only suited to those servos where the motor is not fixed to the board).

Power for the Rafale is provided by 2 3900KV Lander metal fans. Each 72mm fan unit weighs 108g including motor which is contained in the tube, being metal the whole unit acts as a heat sink so overheating is not an issue. Each fan develops 1.2kg of thrust and pull 47A from the 4S 2500 packs. The rudder is controlled by a long metal snake that runs from the front steering servo, when the metal fans were 'test' fitted they snagged on the snake so I furrowed out some of the foam to ensure smooth travel. The EDF units are secured with double sided tape although I did drip some hot melt glue down the just to be sure......

Once the EDF units were mounted the 2 60A ESC's were connected and the system tested to ensure rotation was in the right direction, I know it sound obvious but I've been there and its not pretty..... Servo extensions were installed for the ailerons and the main fuselage was test joined. I found the rudder linkage was not aligned with the servo so ploughed another furrow to ensure smooth operation and 12 minute expoy was smeared, the fuselage joined perfectly as there are plenty of guides in the moulding.

The aileron servos were installed (again 9g micro) and test fitted to check alignment. I was a bit dubious of my hope to pull Mach 2 with butt jointed wings but after researching the interweb found it to be commonplace in small span EDF's. Nonetheless I skewered the foam with a large screwdriver to ensure the 30 minute epoxy has a good key. The wing fitted snugly into the fuselage guides and this ensured consistent dihedral across the span.

Building (well assembly) was almost complete, the canards were glued to the preformed plates, again these were a good fit and did not insist on you holding them until the glue dried, The tip armaments were glued with hot melt glue and I modified the position to provide a little wash in (always a benefit !). Fitting of the rudder and nose cone was easy and I was impressed with the tight fit of the rudder which again helped to ensure it was perpendicular to the wings.

The cockpit can complete with foam pilot or storm trooper as people have christened him. Again the manufacturer has taken on board the comments and provides a more 'realistic' pilot for the Rafale.

Receiver and battery installation is straightforward, there isn't a lot of room but the 2 number 2500mAh 4S packs and AR7000 receiver fitted snugly, I opted to use 4mm bullets to connect the batteries as it fits with my other models but on reflection deans would make more sense. Control surfaces movement was setup in accordance with the instructions and the C of G moved forward 5mm for safety on the maiden. I was hesitant in using the canards (they are mixed with the elevons) but opted to utilise them for the test flight.

And so the long wait began almost two months went by without a decent flying day, although the forecast promised the powers that be refused to play ball and the model remained 'grounded' in the hangar. Although the forecast for February 22nd was for wind (20mph gusting) it was going to be fine so the Rafale was placed in the back of the car and off I went to RAF Dishforth for the BMFA Northern Area Fly-in. The event was well attended with some 25+ keen modellers turning out, the wind however soon got up to the 20+ mph forcasted and most did not bother to get their planes out of the car. I was determined, well I say me but I had our senior test pilot Steve with me to help with the maiden and he (funnily enough) didn't seem fazed by the wind. And so she was carried to the runway for some static shots (note the attention to scale making her look identical to the real one). Unfortunately the wind was strong and she caught a gust and flipped over, although the plane is foam she survived the ground roll well only knocking off the rudder tip which was quickly cyano'd back on. After a range check we decided to dial in 5mm of reflex to assist with tracking and she was pointed into wind, full throttle was applied and everyone turned round as the turbine like roar was aurally astounding. She wanted to leap into the air immediately (not surprising as she has a 1:1 thrust ratio! )but the intrepid test pilot kept her on the deck for about 50 yards to gain a good speed, once in the air she flew straight a dart despite the wind, the ailerons were a bit too keen and now benefit from 70% rates but she flew great. The retracts were retracted but alas one of the mains wouldn't play (they have now been replaced with metal gear high torque servos which do the job. After 2 minute of cruising she was brought in for a landing which was again uneventful and all doubt that the retracts would hold up dispelled

Even though the wind continued to howl we recharged the lipos and flew again as she is quite a performer. I'm looking forward to testing her out on the club grass strips later in the year to see how the retracts hold up but so far so good....... another winner for RC Lander who I am told have just launched a F16-D & I and are developing a Hawker Hunter and MIG 15 for the Spring, its going to be a jet fest summer !!! ...... The kits are stocked by Scott at BRC Hobbies and the guys at Sussex Model Centre