Black Horse Twister

  • This review was first published in 2005, the kit is still available.

After grasping the basics of R/C model flight with a three- or four-channel high wing trainer most of us have a desire to further our skills with a more capable model. Natural progression from an ARTF trainer usually involves models such as the Mick Reeves Gangster, the Chris Foss Wot-4 or the Precedent Fun-Fly (which is now sadly out of production); but crucially these have to be built from kits. Many of us don’t have the time or inclination to bash balsa these days so the answer lies in a decent, suitable ARTF, something which I think the market has been lacking... until now, that is.


The Black Horse Twister ticks all the boxes. It’s an ARTF, is moderately aerobatic, has a tail-dragger configuration and has a similar motor requirement to most trainers - thus reducing further outlay. The only fly in the ointment in terms of outlay is the requirement for a second aileron servo (one per wing panel).

The genesis of this model is quite obviously the Precedent ‘Fun Fly’ - an excellent design that gained an enviable reputation for teaching the basic art of aerobatics but had to be built from die-cut balsa and liteply in the traditional manner. Rumour has it that the kit will be available again soon from the folk at SLEC, but in the meantime the Twister brings the design bang up to date in ARTF form. Right then, let’s get amongst it!

BARE BONES
So what have we got? Very tidily finished components, a bomb-proof alloy undercarriage, some rather odd-looking polythene wheel spats and a wealth of fittings - these include a solidly constructed fibreglass cowling (the paint finish of which doesn’t quite match the covering) and a bag of nuts, bolts and screws that look like they fell out of the poorest quality flat pack furniture you could possibly imagine. Sorry boys, but fasteners with the mechanical properties of mild cheddar go straight in the bin around these parts... nevertheless, at less than £100 this kit is amazing value for money.

The basic construction is excellent, with snug fitting joints throughout. All control surfaces are pre-hinged and pinned from underneath in the manner of a certain German premium ARTF - are they made in the same place, I wonder? The heat-shrink covering looks pukka - none of that nasty, brittle, sticky-backed rubbish. The colour scheme is a very tidy yellow, with red and blue trim. Even the Llewelyn-Bowens amongst us would have to concede that it don’t look half bad!
The instructions comprise a glossy, crisply printed booklet that’s written in clear English, complete with clear photos of each operation and tick-boxes to annotate progress. A very useful list of tools and materials required to finish the model are also included. First impressions are good, hinting at trouble-free assembly...

TO BUSINESS
Construction begins with joining the wing panels. A length of lightweight, box-section extruded alloy functions as the wing joiner, plugged with balsa at either end to halt glue ingress. It exhibits a number of indentations to allow the epoxy to key the panels together and fits the joiner box with just the right amount of ‘slop’ to allow glue deep into the joint, rather than the glue being wiped off, as it’s slid into position. With this in place the wing panels are then simply taped together until the joint’s set. A little trick I recommend is to wrap around the extreme wing root of each panel with masking tape before joining; it’s then easy to wipe off any excess epoxy and remove the tape to leave a very neat joint.

As mentioned previously, the ailerons are pre-installed, having been pinned in true ‘belt and braces’ fashion. The wing is configured to house a standard-sized servo in each panel, with lead-outs preinstalled to pull servo leads back to the centre section.

The servos are screwed to hardwood blocks on the underside of the hatches, making installation a simple operation. Nylon horns, plastic clevises and 2mm ‘bike spoke’ pushrods take care of waggling the ailerons. A balsa ‘cockpit’, held by a dowel and hatch latch, sits over the wing and hides the 4mm wing bolts.

A butt-ugly carbuncle of a bubble canopy is pre-attached to this, which, I have to say, completely ruins the effect. It struck me as being something of an afterthought, effectively destroying the rakish lines of the fuselage. I just couldn’t help myself… a flick of the scalpel and it was gone! Such butchery was all part of a cunning plan; I recovered the whole ‘cockpit’ with some slick-looking carbon Profilm, which looked a great deal nicer.

FUSELAGE
Work begins here with the fitting of an adjustable nylon engine mount to the firewall and the assembly of the fuel tank. The firewall is pre-drilled and captive nuts are fitted, but the engine mount supplied was far too small for my chosen motor, an Enya .40. - annoying, because the motor was within the quoted range and I’d bought it special, like! A rummage through my collection of motors produced an O.S. 32, which wouldn’t fit either! Nothing for it but to knock out the captive nuts and fit a more suitable motor mount, which wasted the whole evening by the time I’d got it all lined up. I reckon that engine fitting and alignment is one of the most important things to be sorted by any ARTF manufacturer, so this wasn’t the start I wanted. Not happy!

The tank was a curious fit in the tank bay once the throttle pushrod was in residence, with the back of the tank 1/2” lower than the bung. Fingers crossed on that one, then...
I brushed a couple of coats of fuelproofer around the tank bay and then offered up the cowl, cutting the various holes with a mixture of Perma-Grit tools in my trusty Dremel. The cowl was a reasonable fit, and the new motor mount gave the opportunity to get good alignment between cowl and fuselage. I wasn’t keen on the piano wire pushrod supplied for throttle operation - it was binding badly so I binned it in favour of a more flexible Sullivan snake.

AND THE REST
The tail surfaces were fitted next, with the wing bolted in place to ensure correct alignment. The gluing area on each tail component required the covering to be carefully removed; care’s needed here so as not to score the balsa, for fin and rudder detaching mid-flight do not a happy pilot make...
A smear of five-minute epoxy soon had the tail surfaces in place. No jigging was necessary - the first time I can ever remember this being the case. The elevator and rudder were pre-hinged and pinned as per the ailerons and waggled via wire-in-tube pushrods, with plastic clevises for adjustment. Given the straight runs down the fuselage they work quite nicely, driving some reasonable quality nylon clevises. The sturdy alloy undercarriage is attached with four machine screws, complete with locking washers etc., making for a very solidly mounted unit.

In deference to our bumpy old strip I decided to leave the spats off. They didn’t fit very well anyway, being markedly different than the nice little fibreglass numbers illustrated in the instructions. 11/2” diameter wheels are supplied, but I felt that the model would struggle to get away from our patch at this time of year so I substituted them for a pair of 2” items. So... what’s left to do? Save for the Rx, NiCad, switch and a few servos in the fuselage, she’s ready to go!

TWISTER ON HIGH
If you’ve skipped to this bit first don’t apologise. I’m just the same! So how did she perform? With the specified control throws and C of G, the first flight was a total non-event. A couple of tanks of Irvine Sport 5 fuel were put through the motor on the ground to loosen her up, then thorough range and safety checks made before setting off to the patch. With a Graupner 10 x 7” prop whizzing round and a nice rich-running two-stroke we were off, into wind and picking up speed smartly. The tail came up and away she went, sweet as you like.

A few beeps of trim here and there to achieve straight and level flight, a number of circuits to assess the C of G, control harmonisation etc., then loops, rolls, stall turns and inverted were all completed with aplomb. With the Enya .40 on song the model has adequate power, but it’s certainly no homesick angel. The latest O.S. 46 might put a smile on its face, though...

So, no surprises then - but how would the Twister be received by a relative newcomer, fresh from earning his wings on a trainer? I picked out one of our new lads who had recently progressed onto a Wot-4 from his three-channel trainer and managed to cajole him into accepting the transmitter. I fuelled her up and left him to get on with it, watching with interest from the pits. A sketchy take-off and a couple of circuits to settle in, then it was down to business! I really must stop teaching him all my tricks... he got his head around it really quickly, performing some nice, low and close figure-of-eights, wheeling hither and thither, during which time he commented, “Easy to fly... doesn’t run away with me... not twitchy... easy to land.” All I could say by way of response was, “That’ll do, thank you very much - now gizzit back!”

GUILTY!
Well, the jury’s returned a verdict. It was a hit with those that I thought might benefit most from it. It’s also a great little sport model for the more experienced pilot, with the C of G a bit further back and slightly wilder control throws for a more spirited performance. It will serve well as a winter ‘hack’ when I need something to lob in the car for a quick fly when the weather’s a bit doubtful. Don’t expect to be hovering, knife-edging, etc. Stick with bread and butter aerobatics and circuit bashing! It’s a good all-rounder, a convenient size, accepts standard inexpensive radio, flies on a plain bearing .40 very well and is nicely finished. Oh, and it’s very competitively priced, too!

DATAFILE
Name: Twister
Model type: ARTF sports aerobat
Manufactured by: Black Horse
UK distributor: Ripmax
RRP: £109.99 (Feb 2011)
Wingspan: 54''
Wing area: 557 sq. in.
Fuselage length: 43''
All-up weight: 4 lb 11oz
Wing loading: 19.5 oz / sq. ft.
Control functions: Aileron, elevator, rudder, throttle

X