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Written by Trev   
Sunday, 15 June 2008 07:29

West Wings Orion-E Kit Review

By Trevor Barton


It was in the dark dark days of January that the urge came over me to build something.  Fresh from my experiences with my Christmas Cularis, I decided it was time to stretch myself and build right from a kit, and right from a kit I did build.

So, hot-footing it to the model shop, I slapped my £28.49 wodge on the counter ...

Give me the best model kit with real balsa bits you have for that, shopkeeper!", I demanded.

"Coming right up, sorr, right away, sorr!", his hands trembling and eyes staring greedily at the enormous pile of cash.

And this is what caught my eye.  Something that took me back to my youth, and a particular free-flight glider I flew for a while, all balsa and red tissue and dope and lots of polyhedral.  This was something similar, but radio controlled, with a wizzy electric motor on the front so no unseemly running in front of it with a tow-line.  It was the West Wings Orion-E, an electric version of their unpowered Orion.  Sixty inch span flat-bottom wing section (might even be the venerable Clark-Y), suits 400-size electric motors, rudder, elevator and speed control.

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What a beautiful kit!  Everything is CNC cut, and the wood selection was perfect, the spars straight, the strip wood straight and unwarped.  The precision, as it transpired, is perfect.  Everything slotted together just right, with a satisfying amount of force - I mean, not too loose and not too tight.  Right-angle joints, and tongue and groove naturally fell to the correct angle mainly I guess because of the CNC cutting, which ensured that all the cuts are perfectly perpendicular to the wood surface.

I started with the wings, reasoning that I might as well get the hard stuff out of the way first, and if I really screwed them up I could just quietly bin the model and not worry about the rest of it.  Well, like I said, everything is CNC cut, and they went together perfectly.  Dry assembly, a bit of pinning, and a quick dab of runny cyano on each joint to nicely soak into the grain.  The result was a nice straight wing and a very stiff and strong one too with a full D-box section at the leading edge.

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Fuselage and tail feathers next.  That was pretty straightforward, just a box section with top and bottom sheeting.  Two servos (Hitec HS82MG) under the wing with pushrods to the back end.  Power combination is a Scorpion 2212/26 from Micron with a 25A Scorpion ESC with an Aeronaut CAM 9.5x5 folding prop.  I've used Scorpion in the Cularis, and subsequently in a Junior 60, and they seem fine, I've had no problems at all with them.  I could have used a smaller ESC, the current draw is only about 12A, but they were out of stock at the time.  The motor combination gives me 150W on a 3 cell 1500mAh LiPo, which works out at 116W/lb, so the plane's no slouch on the climb.

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I decided to use a modern covering, and in fact transparent seemed the order of the day, so was persuaded to use red Profilm for the wings and horizontal tail, bright yellow opaque for the fuselage and fin, and a darker yellow-orange on he canopy at the behest of my colouring style consultant.  The covering was remarkably easy to put on, far easier than it was last time I did anything like that, in the early '80s with Solarfilm, and I had no problems with the contours of the nose section.

Radio installation was pretty straightforward.  I used a Spektrum AS6200 full-range 6 channel receiver, you really do need full range with a  glider because it's easy to spot it out with altitude or distance, and the park-type Spektrum receivers just don't reliably have the range.

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How does it fly?  Luuvvlee.  It climbs easily at 45 degrees, and has a nice light glide.  I've flown it in pretty much all conditions and it handles wind well, but it's especially nice in a light breeze on a warm day when the air is buoyant – I've had a couple of flights of nearly an hour on the one battery, and generally fly for more than half an hour on a battery with plenty left in the cell afterwards.  It's strong, too, as certified by my spiralling it into the ground trying to get twenty spins the other day, egged on by my colleagues.  Well, I got twenty turns, but instead of pulling out within a half spin as it usually does it chose that time to take a turn and a half to pull out, ending up impacting the planet.  A couple of new rubber bands and it was straight back in the air though!

To my mind it flies better than the Cularis, for some definitions of “better”.  It has two things going for it that the Cularis hasn't.  Firstly, the wing loading is much less, and so it flies much slower and thermals better.  Secondly, it has less drag, not just because it's smaller but also because it's covered in Profilm and doesn't have the bobbly surface of the Elapor on the Cularis.  Of course, the Cularis is much more versatile, but what the Orion does it does better than the Cularis, hands down.

I'd recommend the kit to anyone.  You don't need much experience to build it.  Perhaps it's not a first build for everyone, although it you're reasonably handy you should be able to get it together fairly easily.  The instructions covered everything in adequate detail although they did assume a bit of prior knowledge.  The quality was superb both in the wood selection and part cutting.  I'd have absolutely no hesitation in buying another West Wings kit based on the quality of this one.