Arrows MiG-29

Arrows Hobby has raised its game with the release of this twin electric ducted fan jet. David Ashby straps in.

Despite its contemporary appearance the Mikoyan MiG-29 has been around for over 40 years, would you believe, and remains in production. It’s an air superiority fighter designed to counter the F-15 and F-16 that appeared a few years earlier in the 1970s and, in appearance, seems to borrow traits from both machines. It’s a twin jet, it’s fast, very manoeuvrable and has sold around the world, especially to former Warsaw Pact countries.

With a myriad of schemes to choose from Arrows opted for the colourful Russian Air Force 'Swifts' aerobatic team livery, one that’s nicely applied with neat masking lines. Small scale details are dotted around the airframe and, importantly, plastic parts are used in higher stress areas. The all-moving horizontal stabilisers are a case in point, where ball bearing axles rotate smoothly and accurately in moulded plastic channels to provide the necessary rigidity.

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The nose pitot screws in. Best to remove it while you fine tune your landings.

As we’ve come to expect at this price level, ball link servo push rods provide slop free connections to strong control horns. I particularly like the nose cone that’s magnetically retained - so easy to pop off for storage and transportation or replace if damaged.

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This 12-blade pair sound very fine indeed.

The undercarriage is nicely done too, sprung metal oleos all round, with wheels large enough to cope with short grass runways. Twin 64mm fans are coupled with 2840-size 2280kV brushless outrunner motors and sizeable underside cheater vents supplement the main air intakes. There’s distinct separation between the MiG-29’s engines and the model uses this space to house the twin 40A ESCs and a 5A UBEC under a long vented hatch. The UBEC provides the receiver with a separate power supply as a sensible safeguard against ESC failure. Nine 9g servos do the pushing and shoving and your receiver and LiPo battery live under a canopy hatch that’s retained by a secure sprung latch.

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A 5A UBEC supplies the receiver.

Assembly
A 2mm hex driver and some CA glue are all you need to help get it all together. The CA is suggested to retain the fins, although I much prefer UHU Por contact adhesive; it takes longer to dry but seems easier to manage.

One of my elevator servo arms hadn’t been positioned correctly, necessitating removal and re-fit. The easiest way was to gently tease a thin crosshead screwdriver through the foam above, remove and re-fit, then squeeze a little UHU in to strengthen the small hole after the task was complete. The hole is hidden by the horizontal stabiliser when centered.

Likewise, the nose leg wasn’t quite straight but was adjusted at the steering servo quick link that’s easily reached nearby.

A small extended tab on the fuselage at the tail seems the obvious marker when setting horizontal stabiliser incidence and everything has worked well from this point.

Like many ready-to-fly models this is designed for a six-channel receiver, so you’ll find that aileron and flap leads have been merged. While some may be tempted to alter the wiring by allocating a channel to each servo it’s certainly not necessary from a flying perspective.

All told, it’s a very well-engineered model that goes together easily, leaving radio set-up the lengthiest pre-flight task.

Battery & Receiver
The web is a great source of info these days; plenty of videos and forum chat is just a click away and this MiG is no exception. I’ll come to some of the points raised a little later, suffice to say that the second batch of models in the UK reflect an alteration made following feedback. Under the hatch you’ll find a compact battery bay where a foam shelf has been reduced in size to allow the battery to move further back as a way of helping users achieve the suggested C of G. If yours is an earlier version, then it’s easy to trim the shelf yourself. That shelf should still be large enough for your receiver, which is just as well as it’s going to impede the battery if placed anywhere else.

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Your Rx must live on this shelf. Six-channel units shouldn’t have a problem.

My Wattmeter recorded 1150W and 50A (25A at each ESC) using a 35C 3300mAh 6S LiPo battery; that’s the capacity (size) suggested in the manual. Around 200 watts per pound (of weight) in other words, and the sort of number you’d expect for a model of this type.

Initial Set-up
Deflections first. If 30mm suggested each way on elevator seems excessive then ignore your instincts to tone it down and go with the recommendation. Exponential isn’t mentioned in the manual and I’d suggest test flying without any. You may find it unnecessary - I certainly have. Flap deployment has no effect on pitch, so a compensatory elevator mix isn’t required. The low rates suggested for ailerons and rudder are fine to start with.

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The nose leg is nicely done although a small mod (see text) will improve its effectiveness.

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The wing tip LEDs are visible in daylight.

Now to the C of G. Arrows suggest 85 - 95mm back from the wing leading edge root, but you need to aim for at least 95mm and possibly a little further back depending on the weight of your battery. 85mm is too far forward. There’s one very good reason for that. The nose leg strut oleo spring is too springy - too soft in other words - meaning the forward C of G point Arrows suggest places too much weigh forwards during take-off, so the strut compresses, the nose drops, and the model is unlikely to unstick unless a shade of flap is deployed, there’s a decent breeze and your take off surface is very long and super smooth (think tarmac). Even if those stars align, it’s still a bit marginal.

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You’ll notice the drag from ordnance; it’s the reason why I rarely fit the stuff.

A 6S 3300mAh 35C LiPo is suggested but the temptation to fit a 4000mAh pack in order to extend flight endurance should be resisted unless the battery is light enough so the 95mm C of G mark can be achieved. I fly this MiG with a 6S 3300mAh battery weighing 503g (the lightest I could find) pushed back against the receiver shelf in the battery bay. So doing gets the C of G to 95mm and the model away from my club grass strip.

Leverage
Leave the ordnance off for the first flight, it adds a little drag. NATO gave MiG’s 29 the reporting name ‘Fulcrum’ and I wondered if my light battery, a hint of flap and a 7mph breeze would be enough to... ahem, lever this one off the deck.

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The ‘mains’ twist and turn, retracting forwards.

Everything was fine though. The trike undercarriage tracked well and as the model seemed to reach its maximum speed (and the end of the strip), a good pull of elevator was enough to raise the nose and get it away. I hadn’t quite yanked it off the deck but as is sometimes the case with trike EDF jets, it hadn’t revealed a desire to unstick without positive intervention.

It feels safe and predictable in the air, the sound from those twin 12-blade fans is superb and a decent turn of speed is evident. The usual jet manoeuvres are there to be enjoyed and it’s very forgiving at the slower end of the speed range.

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All control surfaces use slop-free ball link connections.

Achieving acceptable duration from an EDF jet is all about energy management and remembering to start your timer! I’d set mine at 2.5 minutes for the first flight, got carried away and landed at 3.5 mins to find 33% left in the pack. Which, although I’d flown very sedately, was far better than expected. The timer now sounds after 3 minutes for a landing 30 seconds or so later.

Landing needs some care to ensure the ground meets the main U/C legs first as three-pointers will likely result in the model’s energy compressing the nose leg strut, with the risk of the long nose pitot hitting the ground and removing the nose cone. The need for the exaggerated elevator travel becomes apparent during take-off and landing as a way of unsticking or holding the nose off the ground. So, as mentioned, don’t be tempted to reduce travel or apply too much exponential until you’ve got a feel for the thing.

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An all-moving stabiliser could have been a weak point but it’s all nicely engineered.

Go easy on flaps, too. A few millimetres will help for take-off but full flap for landing seems to induce an uncomfortable bumpy feel at the sticks. So, again, just a few millimetres is enough. I find it better to raise the nose a little and use the wing’s braking effect to slow the model for a gentle touchdown.

Strut Mod
So, let’s talk about that nose leg oleo. A range of possible improvements suggest themselves as a way of stiffening the strut’s spring in order to make take offs and landings easier.

I started by removing the top part of the nose leg wheel assembly. That’s achieved by undoing the single crosshead bolt that faces forwards halfway up the leg. The wheels and trailing links then lift away, revealing the oleo interior and the spring that can be removed using tweezers. Some replace the spring with a stiffer example, but I inserted a 7mm spacer (to compress the spring) made by cutting down a 4.7mm diameter nylon wing bolt.

To finish, I reinserted the wheel assembly, pressed down on the spring and popped the bolt back, adding a touch of thread lock to secure it. A stiffer oleo is the result.

All Told
Smooth or not-so-smooth, the ground you fly from will dictate the length of your take-off run and the amount of time you’ll devote to stiffening the nose leg oleo spring.

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Replicating the Russian Air Force Swifts aerobatic team, it’s a very pretty model.

But don’t let that put you off. This MiG-29 has plenty going for it. It’s nicely finished, the retracts are good, it sounds superb and flies well. That this isn’t a model for first-time EDF or inexperienced pilots is obvious. But it’s a straightforward and enjoyable flying proposition for those with a few electric jets under their belt.

DATAFILE
Name: MiG-29
Model type: Ready-to-fly EDF jet
Manufactured by: Arrows Hobby
UK distributor: J.Perkins Distribution
www.jperkins.com
RRP: £429.99
Wingspan: 906mm
Fuselage length: 1358mm
Wing area: 349 sq.in.
All-up weight: 2500g (5lb 8oz)
Wing loading: 36oz/sq.ft.
Power system: 2 x 64mm 12-blade fans, 2 x 2840- size 2280kV brushless outrunner motors, 2 x 40A ESCs
Connector type: XT90
Required to fly: Receiver, 1 x 6S 3300mAh LiPo
Functions (servos): Ailerons (2), elevator (2), rudders (2), nose leg steering, flaps (2), throttle (ESC), electric retracts

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