Mini Apprentice® S RTF with SAFE® Technology Review
Review by Nicholas Turner, Staff Contributor
- Spektrum DXE - master bound to plane
- Spektrum DX8 - slave to DXE via physical buddy cord
- E-flite 3S 1300 mAh lipo
- Smaller Apprentice airframe
- Hi-visibility color scheme
- Flight modes to help learn and advance through the learning process
- A good basic TX included
- Everything to fly is included
- Flight modes that may surprise the trainer not knowledgeable about the aircraft.
I cannot speak about the build as this was not my own plane, instead it was a club member who showed up at the local club new to the hobby wanting to learn to fly. The kit is RTF (ready to fly). Inside the box you get the plane, a battery, a battery charger, DXE TX, instructions, and hardware to assemble the plane.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) club I am member of donated one of these to a charity’s silent auction event, which we inspected. Every piece is well packaged well and securely held in place inside a foam insert in the box.
Being the club trainer I was tasked with the maiden flight. Prior to the maiden flight the trainee and I did a thorough ground check which involved checking the CG, tightness of screws, control horn connections, control throws and proper movement, and a range check. When the trainee was ready he handed me the DXE and said let's maiden her.
I was surprised by the feel of the DXE, the form factor is similar to my DX8 and felt comfortable in my hands. The DXE is more form fitting than my DX6i. The DXE is a simple TX. In addition to the rudder, elevator, throttle, and rudder sticks there is a single switch for low/high rates, flight mode switch, and a trainer/bind/panic recovery button. There are trim buttons, but with AS3X trim buttons are not recommended beyond 3 clicks.
Despite not having a lot of clearance between the prop and ground she didn't nick the ground as I gently ran her up to ROG. As I started to turn left away from the trees I found myself yelling TURN TURN TURN and had full left aileron input. Confession time: I was only away of this plane's existence in Horizon Hobby's lineup. I knew nothing about the flight modes. I had taken off in flight mode 0; beginner mode. Fortunately someone more aware of the plane's technologies informed me about the flight modes, a quick switch to flight mode 2 (advanced). Now she responded the way I was expecting/hoping. The maiden flight went perfect, no trims were needed and she's a gentle flyer. As typical with a trainer type of aircraft the Mini Apprentice S glides extremely well and climbs when power is increased. With the CG checking out, a quick 2 minute maiden flight over, it was time to land. Landing the plane is a breeze, line her up straight and keep the wings level while flaring at the right time. Even on the grass, she has plenty of power to taxi back, being nose gear I held down elevator to keep the nose wheel down.
After the maiden flight we experimented with the flight modes some. I observed beginner flight mode (flight mode 0) mixes in rudder the same direction as aileron input. Intermediate flight mode (flight mode 1) removes the mixing and advanced flight mode (flight mode 2) no difference than intermediate flight mode. A quick read in the manual explains the flight modes: beginner uses SAFE and limits pitch and roll, intermediate turns SAFE off and increases the range of pitch and roll, advance turns off all limitations in pitch and roll.
Training flights 1 and 2
After my quick maiden flight I connected my DX8 to the DXE. We ground checked the DX8 slave controls, no changes were needed. This time I took off in advance flight mode, established the pattern and when the student was ready I pushed the trainer button on the DXE and he was in control. I noticed when the trainer button was pushed, the slave only flew in beginner flight mode. I tried changing the flight modes on the master to advance and pushing the trainer button, still the slave TX only had beginner flight mode. The student had absolutely zero previous r/c flight experience and did extremely well. Due to the limited pitch and roll the only times I had to release the trainer button was to get the plane out in front of us instead of over our heads/behind the flight line.
Second flight I did not have to take my finger off the trainer button until it was time to land. I was stunned, never in my 30+ years of r/c flying experienced a first time r/c flyer requiring no help. During the training flights we found a throttle setting of about 33-40% was perfect for level cruising.
In all flights I never tried or thought about aerobatics and using the panic recovery button.
The Apprentice airframe has a solid reputation in the r/c world as being a great trainer. This smaller version (Horizon Hobby calls a micro, I disagree) just builds upon the Apprentice's reputation. For a beginner the technology is great, heck the manual even has a Teach Yourself to Fly R/C pamphlet. The white airframe with bright blue highlights on the wingtips is sharp and easy to see, even against a grey sky. The grey/silver accents on the wing are really good on the clear blue sky days.
Below is just a short video of a total beginner flying the Mini Apprentice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, to catch the latest reviews, follow us on Twitter @RealRCReviews or our facebook page.