Wait... What? An ARF kit on a website about home designed and built model planes? Well... yes! (and by the way, it's not a stock Tundra)
Are we crazy?
Yes, of course we are. We are crazy about aviation, technology, engineering (and cute dogs, oh we love those). We also love to design and build our planes from zero, as we did with the Juliet and Juliet2. But this doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with trying a nice kit or ARF (Almost Ready to Fly) from time to time. In the winter of 2018 I took advantage of a very good deal at Hobbyking.com for a kit version of their Durafly Tundra. I often noticed, at the field or on the forums, how people who build their own planes from scratch or at least a kit, look with a bit of disapproval at the popular foamies or ready to fly models (and let’s not open the drones topic). Personally, I think there are benefits to be enjoyed in both philosophies, and the Durafly Tundra has for sure its perks. Let us show you why.
what the durafly tundra is
The Durafly Tundra is marketed as a versatile plane, able to satisfy both the novice and expert pilot. Of course, that is how half of the planes are marketed nowadays, but in this case the statement goes well beyond a commercial strategy. This little (wingspan is just 130cm) EPO “foam” plane looks ready for bush flying adventures, ad it is. One of the first things you note about the Tundra is the oversized… tundra wheels. These come in two flavors, the classic EPP version and the new soft foam core ones, which equip the so called “anniversary edition”. They mount on a spring-dampened metal wire landing gear which may look thin, but will actually whitstand a lot of abuse. The fuselage is beautifully shaped and decorated with a mix of paint and stickers. We chose the purple-gold combo, but there were three other liveries available. We bought the kit, which differs from the PNF version by not having the servos, motor and ESC included. The package is still comprehensive though. There are in fact floats, FPV camera (that mounts in place of the EPO canopy), a water rudder and an optional brace kit for the tail.
Assembly of the kit version
As mentioned above, the kit option gives you freedom to choose your servos, electronics and motor. You will need just those, as all the hardware needed is included in the box. The servos required, six, are the classic 9 grams servos, which are coming super cheap theese days. We installed the Turnigy TGY-50090M servos, which are the Hobbyking recomended upgrade for the stock PNF version. The assembly itself is really easy. Although at the time of our purchase the only manual available was the one for the PNF version, and as such missing al the details about motor and servos installation, there are enough pictures and info to get through even without much prior experience. The motor of choice is an hacker A30-14L, maybe a bit too big for the Tundra, but we just happened to have it available.
The Tundra in Flight
Despite the heavier motor and ESC, bigger batteries and larger propeller, I managed to balance the model without ballast. I would have expected a model forced to fly faster due to the extra weight, or being somewhat limited in the flight envelope. Well, I was wrong. It just flies beautifully. It’s possible to fly in a very relaxed fashion at half power, including takeoffs from the runway, making low passes and enjoying the great stability and precision of this plane. On low rates it really feels good from the start, predictable and forgiving on landing thanks to the great dampening offered by the landing gear. One of the main features of this model are the big barn-door style flaps. I suggest setting a mix with down elevator and the flaps as there’s quite an amount of “ballooning” when using them, even at intermediate positions. After the first flights, I moved the flaps control on a slider, instead of a three way switch. They are very effective and, depending on the excursion commanded, they change the behaviour of the plane drammatically. Just be careful when going beyond 45 degrees of flaps, as the additional drag becomes important and the plane NEEDS to be in a good descent and/or with power on to avoid stalling. Moreover, the stalls are getting proportionally worse as you increase the flaps deployment. At full flaps, be ready to face a tendency to tip-stall, sometimes quite abrupt (but still, probably my case was worse due to the extra weight).
Not a boring Plane at all
Once the flaps are mastered, it’s just pure fun. The power available will simply throw the plane in the air without take off run if you want, using full flaps down. However, with just a bit of flaps and half power, you can make very realistic and gentle departures. Turns require a bit of rudder to be coordinated, more so at low speed, but never so much that will get you in trouble if you don’t correct them. The Tundra rolls and loops with ease, will knife edge, and even hover. Of course it’s not a fully fledged aerobatic plane, but should you get bored of low passes, super steep approaches and other STOLs stuff, it can be quite agile.
Not many planes out there are so versatile and can be flown in so many ways. In my opinion every rc pilot should have a model like the Durafly Tundra. Something to bring to the field in those days when conditions are marginal knowing it can take it, but also a plane you can safely operate from locations inacessible to most of the other models. And it has proven to be a reliable workhorse, always ready for action. Follow our posts to see what kind of experiments and mods we are planning for it!
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