I'm now 60 some odd flights into the lifespan of my Dynaflite Bird of Time ARF, so I think it is finally time to share my thoughts on this aircraft.
I picked up the kit about a year ago, but it languished on the pile until this spring. I finally worked up the time and energy to join S.O.A.R., a Chicagoland area R/C Sailplane club, and pulled the BoTARF off of the pile so that I would have something to fly.
To guide this bird, I was in need of a new radio, so I picked up a Futaba T6EXAP 6 Channel rig from one of the mail order houses. Being an ARF, little was needed to be done to get the bird ready to go. I needed to assemble some aluminum and plywood outboard wing blades, install incidence pins, drill holes for the wing bolts, install the front wing hold down, screw on the canopy and install a tow hook. Radio installation was fairly quick and easy as well, install the rudder servo in the pre installed tray, run the antenea down the fuselage, and install the elevator servo in the vertical fin. Installing the servo in the fin was a little bit of work, as I used a slightly bigger servo then what was recomended, and had to basically just goop it in. I had to have it really close the first time, as there was no pulling it out for adjustments, it will go to its grave in the airframe. I didn't use the receiver that came with the set as it was a single conversion receiver, so I ended up grabbing a Hitec Electron 6 off of RC groups to put in it. For the rudder, I installed a full sized servo.
First flight for the BoTARF was at one of the monthly S.O.A.R. club contests, and although I wish I could report I kicked everybody's butt with it, I had my hands full just to stay out of last place. The club is overpopulated with great pilots flying the latest and greatest molded sailplanes, and my rusty stick skills coupled with the close to 30 year old sailplane design, well, you get the idea. I knew that going into the contest, my goal for the day was to not end up in last place, and to bring the aircraft home without doing too much harm to it. Both goals were met.
After that contest, I decided that maybe I should pop in some spoilers. This actually took me more time then the original set up. I cut in a spoiler bay that spanned three rib bays, and worked servo extensions into the airframe. The spoilers are each driven by a small park flyer servo that is pulling a string that is attached to the blade. Crude set up but it works well.
Much of the time since the club contest, has been spent just out fun flying, learning how to run the sticks again, as well as some sessions spent practicing spot landing. One thing I have learned in the flying sessions, is the BoTARF likes to fly kind of fast, much quicker then the Oly II's and such that I flew back in the early 80's. Its much heavier (65 oz present AUW) then the old woodies I used to fly, and with its rather thin airfoil, it retains energy much better. The higher flying speeds gets the controls nice and responsive, if you allow it to slow down and plow around the sky, the rudder gets extremely soft in response. It is an absolute blast to work lift at low altitudes with.
The spoilers turned out to be a good investment in time to install, at our most recent club contest in August, over the course of 5 rounds, I got landing points in all 5 rounds, and topped off the day with a 100 point bullseye (although I arrived 4 minutes early for the task) I was able to make my time on three of the five flights, including one flight that I had a save from about 20 feet of altitude, three minutes into a nine minute task. I think the final result, was a 12th place out of 15 flyers, but once again, this was no reflection on how much fun I had flying that day.
I have had two problems with the BoTARF so far, in its 60 some odd flights, I have stripped out two rudder servos landing with the rudder not straight, and I had a crack materialized around the fuselage, right behind the wing.
At first, I noticed a couple small areas where it looked like the gel coat was flaking off of the fiberglass fuselage. During the August club contest, it started getting worse, and by the time of the fourth round, it was almost all of the way around the fuselage. Several of the members suggested wicking some thin CA into the crack, and then when I was home this week, I took it over to the shop and put a couple of windings of fiberglass tape around the fuselage, and will take a little time one of these days to feather the edges in, and hit it with a white spraybomb.
There has been alot of conversation on R C Groups about the durability of the BoTARF. Although I dug into my wing to put the spoilers in it, I am still not 100% certain if I have an early or late version of the wing. The early ones are prone to failure if winch launched. I have winch launched mine about 20 times now, and there is some flexing when its going up the line, but I have been very careful to be light on the pedal, and so far, everything seems to be fine. With my experience with the fuselage cracking, with no really hard landings, I don't think the fuselage will take alot of abuse. I certainly would not want to 'dork' it in trying for landing points, I generally fly it in and land it softly.
I feel for the asking price (I paid around 120 for mine with tax) that in the hands of an intermediate pilot, it will be a good value. I think the construction is a little soft to put it in the hands of a rank beginner. Overall, I am happy with my purchase!