Hacker Model Pi­la­tus Turbo

This jack-of-all-trades plane can do it all

Electric Flight - - CONTENTS - By Joel Navarro

This jack-of-all­trades plane can do it all

The search for that per­fect plane that can do it all can be an ex­haus­tive one. Can it do sport fly­ing? Can it do aerobatics? Can it fly 3D? Thanks to Hacker Model and its lat­est of­fer­ing, the Pi­la­tus Turbo, your search just got a lit­tle eas­ier. Sport­ing a 35-inch wing­span, the Pi­la­tus is a light­weight pro­file plane that is packed full of unique fea­tures. Ad­ver­tised as an in­door or out­door flier, the first thing that will catch your eye is the EPP foam air­frame that uses an X-frame style fuse­lage in which the fuse­lage pieces are criss­crossed, rather than a con­ven­tional ver­ti­cal/hor­i­zon­tal setup. Up top, the 35-inch wing car­ries a lot of wing area, which should give the Pi­la­tus nice float dur­ing flight, and has huge ailerons that can be di­aled for mild sport fly­ing or ramped up for in­sane aer­o­batic ma­neu­vers. Aimed to­ward begin­ner and in­ter­me­di­ate pi­lots, the Pi­la­tus is a plane that can grow with you as your skills im­prove. Let’s see how it flies.


The Pi­la­tus is a kit in the truest sense, and you will need to build it from top to bot­tom. Don’t let that de­ter you, though, as the Pi­la­tus is one of the easiest planes I’ve ever built. You’ll only need a bot­tle of foam-safe CA and a few hours to com­plete the build. In ad­di­tion to the text, the pho­tos in the instruction man­ual fur­ther clar­ify the build­ing process. The first thing I did af­ter crack­ing open the box was to lay out all the pieces of the plane on my work­bench, and af­ter I did that, I could al­most fig­ure out how ev­ery­thing went to­gether with­out re­fer­ring to the man­ual. All the EPP foam parts are nicely cut and slot­ted to make assem­bly as easy as putting a puz­zle to­gether. The fuse­lage went to­gether first. Its unique X-frame de­sign al­lows it to be as­sem­bled eas­ily to cre­ate a strong, sturdy struc­ture, which serves as a solid back­bone for the wing and tail sur­faces. There are a few color schemes, in­clud­ing a blue/white paint job and the par­rot scheme that you see in these pho­tos. As with most EPP foam planes, all the con­trol sur­faces use live hinges, which pro­vide solid move­ment with lit­tle slop or play. The en­tire air­frame is re­in­forced with car­bon-fiber stringers, which fit into pre­made slots in the foam sur­faces on the fuse­lage, tail sur­faces, and land­ing gear.

Mov­ing to the front end of the Pi­la­tus, the pro­vided fiber­glass mo­tor-mount disc can ac­com­mo­date dif­fer­ent mo­tor types, in­clud­ing the Rim­fire 250 out­run­ner mo­tor I used. It’s easy to glue the mo­tor mount to the front end of the fuse­lage with a few drops of CA. All the elec­tron­ics on the Pi­la­tus are ex­posed, so when it comes time to in­stall them, ev­ery­thing eas­ily falls into place. You first in­stall the rud­der and el­e­va­tor ser­vos and the re­ceiver on the fuse­lage, fol­lowed by the aileron ser­vos on the wing; you then glue the wing to the fuse­lage. The cen­ter of grav­ity (CG) is the last thing you will need to fine­tune be­fore you take flight. Place one long strip of hook-and-loop fas­tener un­der the land­ing gear, and use a pen to mark the 5mm CG range that will al­low you to make the Pi­la­tus slightly nose-heavy, neu­tral, or slightly tail-heavy.


Mak­ing final con­nec­tion tweaks to the mo­tor and in­stalling a freshly charged bat­tery pack are easy. I knew this plane would be in­sane with full throw on its con­trol sur­faces, so I set the end­points to ap­prox­i­mately a quar­ter throw with neg­a­tive 50% on the expo to slow the ser­vos down close to their cen­ter points. Be­fore the first flight, I made final CG ad­just­ments by mov­ing the bat­tery fore or aft on the hook-and-loop fas­tener I mounted to the fuse­lage and bat­tery be­low the land­ing gear. You can use this method later to fine-tune the CG to your lik­ing. With a 5mph head­wind, I took off for my first flight. With the

usual corrections to main­tain level flight, the Turbo was quite re­spon­sive, even though I had a quar­ter amount of throws di­aled in. Af­ter a cou­ple of min­utes, I adapted to the model’s flight man­ner­isms and found it easy to fly. The power of the small Rim­fire 250 out­run­ner mo­tor was a per­fect match, pro­vid­ing an ex­cel­lent climb rate us­ing a 3S Lipo flight pack. Cruis­ing around and do­ing nor­mal sport fly­ing, the Pi­la­tus is just your reg­u­lar Sun­day flier, mak­ing it a per­fect plane with which to learn to fly. Once I had a hand­ful of packs of flight time, I pro­grammed medium- and high-rate servo throws onto one of the three-po­si­tion switches on my ra­dio. Eas­ing my way to high rates, I flew the medium rates first, which raised the fun factor a lot. Ex­e­cut­ing clean loops and per­form­ing rolls were now a breeze, with no ill ten­den­cies. Turn­ing things up­side down, the Pi­la­tus flew just as sta­ble in­verted as it did right side up. A lot of the credit for the plane’s steady flight goes to the X-frame fuse­lage, which cap­tures the air­flow the same way no mat­ter the at­ti­tude of the plane. Turn­ing things up to max throws was where the real fun is, and the Pi­la­tus felt at home dur­ing slow flight. With no bad habits while fly­ing slow, the Pi­la­tus delivers a solid plat­form on which to learn ba­sic to ad­vanced aerobatics and 3D fly­ing.


Sta­bil­ity: Wow! What a wake-up call when I took the Pi­la­tus for its first flight. I’m used to fly­ing planes with sen­si­tive con­trols, but even at the min­i­mum rec­om­mended throws, the Pi­la­tus re­sponded im­me­di­ately to the small­est of in­puts. Once I di­aled in 50% of neg­a­tive expo, the Pi­la­tus calmed down and was re­ally easy to fly. Track­ing: The light­weight and sturdy con­struc­tion of the Pi­la­tus work­ing in con­junc­tion with the X-frame fuse­lage pro­vided true and straight in­flight per­for­mance, which in­spired con­fi­dence at the sticks. With a few flights un­der my belt, I felt in to­tal con­trol of the Pi­la­tus, with no ill ten­den­cies. Aerobatics: Ad­ver­tised as an out­door or in­door flier, the Pi­la­tus sports large con­trol sur­faces, which give it ul­ti­mate con­trol in light to no-wind con­di­tions. The Pi­la­tus can be a sub­tle flier when the con­trol sur­faces are set to mod­er­ate throws, but when cranked up all the way, al­most ev­ery aer­o­batic maneuver is within reach. Glide and stall per­for­mance: The Pi­la­tus has bet­ter-than-av­er­age glide per­for­mance and is pos­si­bly the easiest plane to land that I have ever flown. Its large wing and tail ar­eas as well as the X-frame fuse­lage cap­ture air, al­low­ing for long stretches of glide time with the power off.


If you’re new to the hobby or can’t de­cide what plane to buy be­cause ev­ery plane flies dif­fer­ently, you should take a long hard look at the Pi­la­tus Turbo. It can be any­thing you want it to be. If you’re a first-time pilot, it makes an ex­cel­lent trainer plane. If you’re a sea­soned pilot and want to do some sport fly­ing with some aer­o­batic tricks, the Pi­la­tus has you cov­ered. If you’re an ad­vanced pilot and just want to yank on the sticks and turn the Pi­la­tus ev­ery which way to per­form 3D ma­neu­vers, the Pi­la­tus will hap­pily com­ply. Its light­weight con­struc­tion cou­pled with the X-frame fuse­lage make the Pi­la­tus a nice lit­tle plane that can grow with you as your pi­lot­ing skills im­prove.

The slow flight per­for­mance of the Pi­la­tus was ex­cep­tional, and even en­ter­ing a hover was sta­ble and easy.

The speed con­trol and bat­tery mount un­der the X-frame fuse­lage with plenty of room to spare. You can move the bat­ter fore/aft to fine-tune the cen­ter of grav­ity to your lik­ing.

The fiber­glass fire­wall is glued onto the EPO fuse­lage and pro­vides a solid plat­form for mul­ti­ple styles of mo­tor.

The rud­der and el­e­va­tor ser­vos are mounted on top of the fuse­lage and pro­vide the tail sur­faces with a solid feel and per­for­mance.

The large sur­face area of the wings pro­vide sta­ble flight and lift. The aileron ser­vos are in­cor­po­rated into the wing strut to pro­vide ex­tra sup­port. Note the car­bon-fiber stringers that add strength to the wing.

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