Hacker Model Pilatus Turbo
This jack-of-all-trades plane can do it all
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.
IN THE AIR
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.
GENERAL FLIGHT PERFORMANCE
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.