House of Balsa Electric Commander

Jun 29, 2011 1 Comment by

When I think of or see an Aero Commander, I can’t help thinking of Bob Hoover. He did an incredible airshow routine with this rather large twin-piston engine corporate airplane. Deadstick loop, 8-point roll and landing, one wheel and then the other was his finale. He was also well known for his exciting display with a P-51. Mr. Hoover’s aviation career goes back to flying fighters in WW II. Check Wikipedia, Bob Hoover, to learn what this man has done in his aviation career. Truly amazing.

We have a new kit from House of Balsa that you have to build. Why an Aero Commander? Don Dombrowski, owner of House of Balsa used to own and fly the real one and felt the need to have one again. So this semi-scale model, the Electric Commander, was developed. It was designed for a pair of inexpensive electric Graupner 7302 Speed 300 brush motors and one 12 amp speed control. Of course equivalent brushless motors can be used. This requires a speed control for each motor. Controls are aileron, elevator and throttle. Rudder control could be added, if desired. There is room next to the elevator servo for an additional servo.

The kit is well designed and engineered. All the parts are laser-cut from 21 balsa sheets, 18 pieces 1/16x 3×24 inch and three pieces 3/32x 3x 24 inch, plus one 1/16-inch-thick plywood by 3x 24 inch. Wood quality was very good. Included are a number of strips for the leading and trailing edges and blocks for the nose and wingtips. All pushrod material and connectors are included. What is not included or really required is a traditional set of plans. There is nothing to build over a plan so they are not necessary. Instead of plans there is a construction manual containing 132 photos and instructions. This is supplemented with an 11×17-inch sheet of full- size details that can’t be printed on the parts. This is not a difficult build, but it is not for the beginner. Some building background would be desirable.

Construction starts with the fuselage, a box with a center floor in it. There are notches and tabs on all the parts, which make assembly foolproof, if you follow the instructions. A very handy alignment tool is included, the “Upright,” which makes it easy to hold parts square when they are being glued in place. Some parts must be assembled as instructed or there will be problems later. The aft 7 inches of the fuselage sides are notched into the front portion. Make sure when gluing these together that both sides are the same. The top edge is a straight line from the trailing edge of the wing to the stabilizer, so a straightedge would help. Cut 3/16-inch long pieces of the 1/8-inch dowel to position FD2 doublers to the fuselage sides. The top and bottom pieces are all laser-cut and key perfectly into the sides.

The 1/16-inch plywood bottom battery access hatch is rather unique. It has four ½-inch-diameter wheels that protrude through the bottom. This allows the Commander to take off from a paved surface. I’ve been doing this and find the prop clearance a little marginal. My props are getting shorter. If this is what you desire, I would increase the size of the wheel opening in the hatch and go to a 1-inch-diameter wheel. If you fly only off grass, the wheels could be omitted. It’s very easy to hand-launch.

Assemble the tail surfaces. If the rudder, R-4, is going to be functional, do not glue it in place. Cut off enough of the bottom edge to clear the fuselage and hinge it to the fin. CA hinges are included. The stabilizer includes the obvious Aero Commander dihedral. The two halves are notched together. A dihedral gauge is included that supports one tip at the correct angle. It is foolproof, and no measuring is required. The rudder is now glued to the stabilizer. There is also a gauge for positioning this at the proper angle. You are instructed to glue the stabilizer–rudder assembly in place at this time. I prefer to mount the wing first and then align the stab to the wing.

Slide the nacelles onto the wing. Align with the location marks on the wings and glue in place. The Commander may be finished in a light iron-on film or paint. I had the Krylon spray-can paint I needed on hand, so I used that. One each light coat of clear, white and yellow were applied. To save many coats of yellow I always apply white first. This kit includes very nice stick- on graphics that are thin and stay in place. Install the motors and wires. Install the electronics, and check out control directions and travel.

The E-Commander is not an indoor or park flyer. It is fast and maneuverable. It can do all the loop and roll maneuvers you tell it to do. The addition of a functional rudder would increase the aerobatic capabilities, but it is fun as built from the kit. It looks great in the air and always attracts a lot of attention. This kit is available direct only from House of Balsa. For information of price and availability, call (760) 246-6462, or go to houseofbalsa.com.

GEAR USED

Radio: Airtronics RDS-8000 transmitter, 92824 receiver, 2 Hitec HS-55 servos

Motors: 2 Graupner Speed 300, 7.2 volts, 7302 2 Graupner Spinners, 24mm for Speed 300, optional

Speed control: Hobby Lobby 12 amp Jeti JES012

Battery: Thunder Power Pro Lite V2 LiPo 1350mAh, 3S, 11.1 volts, 3-cell

Props: 2, Gunther 4.9×4.3 in. (125x110mm)

Specifications

Model: Aero Commander

Manufacturer: Direct only from House of Balsa , houseofbalsa.com, (760) 246-6462

Type: Twin electric semi-scale , wingspan 40 in.

Wing area: 187 sq. in.

Length: 27¾ in.

Weight: 18 – 20 oz.

Wing loading: 13.86 oz./ sq. ft.

Motor req’d: 2, Graupner Speed 300

Radio req’d: 3-channel, 2 servos, 1 speed control

Price: Call for current price and availability

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About the author

West Coast senior editor About me: I’ve been involved with RC aircraft since high school and have flown just about everything. I started my RC career with scratch-building, but now like many pilots I rely on ARFs to get me in the air. My main focus is on pylon racing, aerobats, combat and scale warbirds.

One Response to “House of Balsa Electric Commander”

  1. Dennis sumner says:

    I built one of the pre production prototypes and it flies great, glad to see another satisfied customer!!!

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