(see more photos below)
By Mark Ronge
Even with a huge selection of electric models on the market, it’s still difficult to find one that’s docile enough for beginners and able to do tricks when the pilot is ready. Much of this is due to the general size and lighter weight of park flyers. E-flite has stepped up to the plate and developed an electric airplane capable of teaching a beginner both how to fly and their first aerobatic maneuvers. The new plane is called the Alpha Sport 450, and its available as an ARF and in Bind and Fly variations. I tested the ARF version; however, the internal components are the same as the Bind and Fly, so choose whichever version suits you best. I can confidently say that the Bind and Fly version is a very good buy, and the electronics are topnotch. The ARF version is easy enough to build for a beginner, and the excellent manual can guide anyone through that process—whether or not they’re familiar with radio control airplanes. The manual provides great tips and tricks along the way, even for those with experience in the hobby. All of the necessary hardware is included, and I didn’t have to use anything in addition to what was supplied to complete the ARF (aside from all electronics, of course). Another bonus is that the Alpha goes together very quickly. I was able to finish it in just a couple evenings, and would expect most people to share similar experiences.
The Alpha Sport ARF has much of the assembly already done for you, making this one of the easiest ARFs to put together. Anyone new to the hobby would have no problem finishing the model due to the excellent manual. Plenty of pictures, along with appropriate hints guide you along the way.
All of the hardware is included with the Alpha, so only tools and adhesives are required. All of the control surfaces are prehinged and were very solid; I pulled on them and nothing was even close to being loose. The rear stabilizer and rudder bolt right onto the fuselage. The benefit to this is ease of assembly, and also for storage reasons. This model can be unassembled and fit right into a very small space, even a small closet. The wing halves do not need to be glued together (but the manual says you may epoxy them if you wish), so taking those apart will give you even more room. Another bonus is all of the servo cutouts already have holes drilled to mount your micro servos.
You’ll need at least a 4-channel radio and 4 micro servos for the Alpha. You’ll also need to use a Y-harness for the aileron servos if you’re using only a 4-channel radio, so at least a 5-channel is preferred. An E-flite Park 450 outrunner motor or equivalent is the perfect match for this plane. The E-flite sub-micro S75 servos are a direct drop in and have plenty of power to move the control surfaces. A 3-cell 1800mAh to 2100 LiPo keeps the plane light and lowers the wing loading. I was able to balance the airplane without using any extra weights. The Park 450 installation was very easy, and the motor stand-off pieces allows the motor to be far enough forward to achieve proper CG. A 25 amp speed control is needed to finish off the electronics.
All of the electronics fit neatly into the fuselage of the Alpha Sport in their designated areas. The manual recommends what holes on the servo arm and clevis to achieve the proper control throws. This takes out a lot of the guesswork when doing the final setup on the model. I can’t stress enough how clear the manual is, and how fast this model goes together.
The Alpha Sport 450 is a great introduction to electric park flying. It can even be used as a trainer as long as you have an experienced pilot nearby to assist. After mastering the basics, you can really open her up and do some light aerobatics. The assembly goes together so quick that the pilot can focus more on flying than bench time. This is one plane that you can always throw in your car for a nice relaxing flight.
In the air
I had no difficulty with using my flying field with medium-length grass for takeoffs and landings. The front nose is steerable; however, I couldn’t get much throw out of it, but this is not much of a problem. Takeoffs were very quick and uneventful due to its large wing area. Landings also were very easy and the plane slows down perfectly to land.
By nature, the Alpha Sport 450 is a very stable bird. The wind did knock the plane around a little bit (wind was gusty, about 10mph), but it was manageable. The model is slightly pitch-sensitive, but with low rates on, you’ll hardly notice this characteristic, if at all. The model just glides across the sky with almost hands-free operation. I didn’t have to trim the model much at all to have the plane flying true.
The Alpha Sport 450 is capable of plenty of basic aerobatics. Since it has a rudder, more tricks are possible in contrast to many other small trainers with no rudder. Make sure you try the stunts up high so you can get a feeling for them. Loops are fairly tight and easy to pull off. The roll rate is on the slower side, so expect long barrel rolls, but it is still fun to pull off. Because the wings are not a symmetrical airfoil design (flat bottom), inverted flight is not recommended. The power system is pretty fast and at full throttle the plane has some get up and go. For new pilots, I recommend not going past half-throttle until you are very comfortable with the Alpha.
Glide and Stall Performance
The Alpha slows down to a very slow, gentle speed quite easily. There are no bad tendencies when stalling, it just drops its nose a tiny bit and recovers easily once up to speed. The plane is very forgiving on landing, and a new pilot will appreciate this characteristic of the Alpha. Another bonus is, due to the efficient brushless technology, long flight times are plentiful; Horizon’s claim of 15-20 minutes is right on the mark!
The Alpha Sport is the perfect introduction to electric flight. It can even be used as a trainer to a new pilot, with the help of an experienced pilot along the way. Once you’re comfortable, the Alpha can open up into a fun sporty flyer. It’ll be one plane you always bring with you to the field for stress-free flights!
· Fast assembly time
· Excellent illustrated manual
· Docile and exhilarating flight performance
· Able to be stored in small areas
Radio: Spektrum DX7 transmitter with Spektrum AR6110 (spektrumrc.com)
Servos: 4 E-flite S75 sub-micro servos (e-fliterc.com)
Power System: E-flite Park 450 brushless outrunner with E-flite 25 amp brushless speed controller (e-fliterc.com)
Battery: E-flite 1800mAh 3 cell 20C LiPo battery (e-fliterc.com)
Prop – 10×7 electric prop
Wingspan: 48.5 in. (1230mm)
Overall Length: 40 in. (1015mm)
Wing Area: 395 sq. in. (25.5 sq. dm.)
Flying Weight: 28-29 oz. (790-820g)
Motor Size: Park 450
Radio: 4 channels
Servos: 4 sub-micro servos
Speed Control: 25 amp brushless ESC
Recommended Battery: 1800-2100mAh 3S 11.1V LiPo
Approx. Flying Duration: 15-20 minutes
Approx. assembly time: 4-6 hours