Parkzone Sukhoi SU-29 BNF Basic Review

Image Credit: Horizon Hobby

Review by Nicholas Turner, Staff Contributor

Equipment Used:

Parkzone Sukhoi SU-29 BNF Basic

Spektrum DX8

3s 2200mah lipo battery

Pros:

- AS3X

- High Visibility Color Scheme

- Minimum assembly required

- Flight modes

- ESC power switch

- Panic Switch

- Canopy locking mechanism

 

 

Cons:

- AS3X

- Flight Modes

- AS3X sport RX is tuned for this airframe only

- AS3X initialization time

- ESC power switch not labelled

- Hard to access elevator pushrod securing screw

- Rudder low rates are ineffective

In-Depth Review:

 

Assembly

Assembly of this plane takes minimal effort:

1. Install the landing gear per the manual

2. Install the horizontal stab halves

3. Install elevator push rod

 

I was hesitant at first with the horizontal stab installation. I really wanted to put some foam safe CA on it, but after talking to my friend who has several ParkZone aircraft that are assembled this way, I let it be. I'm an old/long time balsa nitro flyer, so I'm used to epoxying the horizontal stab in place; tape alone is not in my DNA. Tail assembly is simply slide the carbon fiber tube through the fuselage, slide the halves on, and tape the halves down. Yes, tape. So far this tape method has been holding up. The elevator halves are designed where one slides into the other at a square joiner. Then connect the elevator pushrod to the servo, having centered the servo first, adjust length of the push rod by unscrewing/screwing the clevis for the elevator as needed. All pushrods are connected to the control horn via a screw. This is nice in it allows easy removal if need be, but adds a safety check after a day's worth of flying to ensure they are not vibrating loose. I found accessibility to this little screw was difficult for the elevator and the amount of torque needed to ensure it was in place was hard to achieve with a little jeweler’s screw driver set without hurting your hands while a normal screwdriver was too big for the screw head and area under the horizontal stab. A ratcheting small screwdriver worked the best.

 

Binding

I like to program my TX first, then bind and tweak settings if needed after binding. The manual is very clear for programming the Spektrum radios and I followed the setup for the DX8. During the binding process I struggled to get a bind. My struggle was either due to having the programming already in place with the TX, ESC power switch not being labelled, and/or the time it takes the RX to initialize and dance. Let me explain the powering on/ESC arming issue. If the ESC switch is off (in the up position) when the battery is connected the ESC will make a few tones. After turning on the ESC switch, the RX becomes powered. I eventually noticed the RX's light in relation to the ESC power switch location. I pulled out my permanent marker and labeled the foam with "ON" and "OFF" respectively for the ESC arming switch. The panic switch is setup for the trainer/bind switch on the DX8. In order for me to bind to my DX8 I had to unmap the panic button on my TX, power on the RX, bind, and then remap the panic switch.

Shortly after setting up my TX a friend of a friend bought this plane and I was in communication with him about setup and binding. I recommended he not setup the TX until after binding was complete. He did so and had no issue binding.

 

Flight

NOTE: You MUST read the instructions on how to fly this plane. Any normal/conventional flying (circuits, landings, takeoffs) MUST be done in Precision Mode as this is the least intrusive mode for AS3X. Any type of speed flying needs to be done with Precision Mode. 3D mode is for slow flying and 3D stuff like hovers and harriers. Stagility Mode is the most intrusive, to the point where if the sticks aren't constantly moving, it'll right itself. I personally have not tried this mode as I don't need this mode. Reading other reviews online will have you thinking this plane is a piece of junk. But if you read carefully, I have found most of these complaints are because the pilot is using the wrong flight mode.

 

Powering on

First, place the battery in the plane as far forward as possible and secure with the hook and loop strap. Due to the ESC leads sticking up, I always pick the plane up to check the battery is touching the foam wall. Strap the battery in place, I simply cross the ends of the hook and loop strap over in an X pattern. There is not enough room in the fuse to do a tight wrap around the battery. I have tested shaking the plane violently with my X pattern and the battery does not move. With the TX on, connect the ESC to battery. Wait for the ESC to sing, after it has sung, turn on ESC switch. At this point it's VERY IMPORTANT to NOT TOUCH the plane until after the control surfaces have danced, indicating AS3X has initialized. Now place the canopy back in place and make sure it locks in.

 

Flying Day #1: Flights One and Two

Per the manual, all take offs and landings MUST be done in Precision mode. I left all rates on low. After performing the range check and preflight check, I taxied out. Immediately it became clear to me that low rate rudder was useless as the plane would not turn on the grass runway. The Academy of Model Aeronautics chartered club I fly at only has a grass runway. Once lined up on the runway I throttled up, I gradually increased throttle and used elevator to keep the tail down until the aircraft has enough speed. This plane does not lack power, take offs are easy at half throttle. I climbed her up and started to get a feel for her. On this day the winds were 10-15mph with gusts higher. So the AS3X got a workout. I didn't have to add any trim, but in the same manner AS3X does not like having more than two or three clicks of trim input as it messes up the AS3X. I left the mode in Precision Mode and flew around in low rates. Flight was decent, but just felt lacking in performance. I did flip to 3D mode, but since I was in low rates, I felt 3D mode was not as advertised. Flying circuits does not require throttle beyond fifty to 60 percent; any more than that and she'll climb on you. Snap rolls on low rates are ugly looking. Stall turns on low rates are sloppy. Aileron rolls are axial but slow. Loops are round and straight. Stalls aren't bad and there are no ugly characteristics (like a wind dip or snap).

 

Flight Three

I switched to high rates for rudder and ailerons. The plane came alive.

But I was not using elevator high rates, as these are not enabled until in 3D flight mode. Ground steering is responsive with high rates on rudder. Kick over in stall turns look great with rudder high rates, without rudder high rates the plane kind of falls over sloppily. Aileron high rates produce fast rolls, and due to the AS3X the plane tracks straight and requires very very little elevator input. Testing the panic switch (or O.S. Button) I found pressing the spring loaded button (trainer switch) on the DX8 a bit awkward.

 

Flying Day #2: Flights One through Three

This plane is a very stable plane with the AS3X sport receiver. The plane goes where you point it and is rock solid, best tight feeling knife edge I've felt on an r/c plane. High rates for ailerons and rudder are what the plane had been screaming for. I mapped the panic button to the gear switch and gave it a try. Much easier access, but you must flip the switch back to off to turn off the panic mode; otherwise the plane keeps going flat and level. Again the flights were in 10+ mph winds, so the AS3X got a good workout. Hovers were ok and harriers were not as low of a speed or high enough of an angle I would like.

 

Flying Day #3: FlightOne

No wind, only one at the field. I took off like normal, flipped to high rates on everything and started having a ball. Completely different feel on a day with no wind. Rock solid plane, tracked straight, went where I pointed. Hovers in 3D mode were easy and solid. Again, harriers were not at the angle or speed I would like to see.

 

Flights Two and Three

Winds were picking up. This time I attempted to get into a knife edge spin. Either I don't know the aircraft well enough or how to perform knife edge spins consistently because I could not get it into a knife edge spin to save my life. I was in 3D mode and it would flip over inverted every time. Contrast this to my ultra micro AS3Xxtra where I can get it to do something like a knife edge spin consistently. I believe the gains in the Sukhoi are a bit high and aggressive which interferes with some of the more advanced/precise moves. In all my flying I'm doing 5-6 minutes of flight time. The manual states to set for 5 minutes for the first few flights to get to know the plane then bump up to 6 once comfortable. I'm running 3S 2200mAh lipos and usually have to put between 40-50% back in at the next charge, if not properly put at storage charge after flying.

 

Final Thoughts

  • Is this plane for a beginner? Absolutely not. This is a high performance airframe.
  • Is this plane for someone who's been flying something like a T-28 and want to move up into the 3D world? Maybe, the SAFE and AS3X helps here, but there are cheaper/more durable airframes available I would steer you to first.
  • I'm conflicted on this plane. She flies great in Precision Mode with high rates on all surfaces, but elevator high rates are not available until you flip to 3D Mode. 3D Mode is not for general flying as the gains on the AS3X are high and will cause oscillation if flying too fast, I've seen this once as I forgot to switch back to Precision Mode.
  • Will I be getting rid of this plane? Probably not as it does fly well for the type of flying I do.
  • Thinking about dumping the stock AS3X Sport Receiver? I've read mixed results on the web, personally I won't. The stock RX is tuned from the factory for this airframe so dropping the RX in another aircraft will be risky without reprogramming. Last I checked reprogramming was only available for iOS devices. Sadly Horizon Hobby has not been paying attention to the mobile device market trend to see Android gaining consistently every year and over taking iOS. What I've read about reprogramming/adjusting the gains of the RX, there is no way to save or restore the factory default settings. My understanding is once you start making changes, there's no going back.

 

Conclusion

If you are relatively new to the hobby and moving up from a four channel advanced trainer type aircraft (ex, Piper Cub like, T-28) then you'll probably be okay having the SAFE and AS3X in this plane. If you are brand new to the hobby; not for you. If you are a hardcore 3D pilot, this plane is not for you. I feel Horizon Hobby geared this plane to the majority of the new pilots who have been flying the previously mentioned planes, have a stash of 3S 2200mAh or larger packs, and want to move up in airframes and performance. If you purchase this plane and make sure to follow the manual on how to setup and fly the plane, knowing the limitations, restrictions, and reported oddities with the RX, you'll be fine. If you buy this plane expecting to bash and huck with the top pilots from TOC or XFC, you'll be disappointed. In the end, should you purchase this plane? I'm not going to say one way or the other as it strictly depends on your skill level and expectations.