Saturday, August 19, 2017
Home » Product Reviews » E-Flite Aeronca Champ 15e

E-Flite Aeronca Champ 15e

   

On any given weekend at my local airport I can count on there being a few different types of aircraft in the pattern during the day. One of the most recognizable is the Aeronca 7AC Champion with its yellow and orange trim. Most everyone refers to this classic as a “Champ”, so I will too from here on out.

The Champ was one of general aviation’s most successful post-war aircraft. It was designed to compete with the Piper Cub which had been in the air for almost 10 years when the Champ first took to the skies in 1944. For a period of about five years, at the company’s height, Aeronca was producing 50 light aircraft per day. Well within a decade, more that 10,000 Champs had been produced.

The Champ also featured tandem seating, but while the J-3 Cub is soloed from the rear seat, the Champ’s pilot sits in front with a much better viewing experience. The overall design of the Champ was so successful that is still in production today, now by American Champion Aircraft.

One feature that set the Champ apart was its oleo landing gear. Rather than bungees to absorb landing shocks, this design used a hydraulic strut with an internal spring as the front legs of the landing gear “V” frame.

ON THE BENCH
The E-flite designers have nicely replicated the shock-absorbing landing gear and it really smoothes out the ground handling and landings. I have to admit to making engine noises while rolling this yet-to-becompleted airframe back and forth on the building table. As much as I enjoy seeing a project take shape, the truth is that I really can’t wait to get that model into the air where it belongs. As soon as the gear struts were attached to the fuselage I gave them a workout, pressing the model up and down over and over!

E-flite’s Aeronca Champ is replete with additional scale details. It is covered in UltraCote to match the classic prototype color scheme of yellow and orange, with a painted fiberglass cowl to match. The cowl also sports simulated exhausts and oil cooler. The airfoiled wing struts and nylon

line tail bracing stay faithful to the full scale’s geometry and add functional support. The spring-dampened steerable tail wheel and shock absorbing landing gear put this model into its own league and make controlling the Champs time on the ground as comfortable as when it’s in the air. The main wheels are even accented with hub caps.

Further enhancing the Champ are several other thoughtful features. Having a twopiece plug in wing makes storage much more convenient. The large hatch on the belly utilizes a spring-loaded pin for toolfree access when swapping out the battery. Assembly of the horizontal stabilizer is quick and accurate with dowels on each side that plug into the tail for gluing. The control surfaces on the wing and elevator come pre-installed and the rudder is preslotted. connection points for all hardware come pre-drilled to further ensure accuracy and speed assembly. The front windshield, skylight and four cabin windows come already trimmed to a perfect fit. As a ‘Platinum Series’ model, the Champ features many details that faithfully replicate the fullscale design and provide for rapid and enjoyable assembly of this model. Finish off with the cockpit detail and the optional pilot figure and you have a superior sportscale replica of a post-war trainer classic.

As you can see from this photo, the cowl is painted to match the covering perfectly. You can also see the detailed oleo strut used to dampen ground handling.
A simple slide release removes the hatch to gain access to the battery and servos.

AIRBORNE
The day for the maiden flight and photos saw a forecast for 15-20mph winds with stronger gusts. While I didn’t see those conditions, it was far from calm. I was confident the power-to-weight ratio, wing loading and control authority would not be the issue. My thumbs and reaction time were up for testing.

Immediately the steerable tailwheel and shock absorbing landing gear proved valuable as it taxied and bumped along the frozen, uneven field at the local school yard. Ground handling was excellent as it rolled along smoothly with the struts performing admirably. I opted for a non-scale takeoff and went to full power and the model jumped quickly into the air.

On this first windy flight, the plane looked like a cork bobbing in a rough sea as first one wing and then the other was lifted by wind gusts. As I chased the bumps with a good amount of roll input it was apparent that the model shares the full scale Champ’s proclivity for adverse yaw. This is a tendency for the nose to yaw to the outside of a turn, instead of tracking smoothly through the turn. The rising wing is generating more lift and also creating more drag which slews the nose opposite to the bank. This tendency is minimized by following the manual and programming aileron differential. This gives more travel to the aileron that is moving up and less to the aileron moving down, thus evening out the drag. Considering the relative conditions, that first flight happened on a day no responsible full scale would have opened the hangar door!

A lot of detail went into this model including
the scale-like tailwheel and flying wires.

On subsequent days with calm air I have been able to really explore the nature of the Champ, and come to appreciate why the full-scale design was so successful as a learning platform for new pilots and as a fun weekend adventurer.

Adding enough throttle to get it rolling on grass gives a leisurely take off run that breaks free of the ground in around 15 paces and lets it just float off the ground. The model has smooth, gentle flying characteristics with a stall that results in nothing more than a straightahead dip of the nose and no tip of the wing. Release the right stick and it’s flying again. All other control inputs are rendered smoothly.

The scale pilot and simulated instrument panel provide a great finishing touch to an already beautiful model.

One of the best lessons to be learned in flying is coordinating all aileron inputs with rudder. You can let off the rudder once established in a bank, but if you don’t add rudder any time you touch the ailerons you will see the nose drifting.

The Champ has a playful side as well. With the recommended power system, it is a very capable high-wing aerobat. Kick hard on the rudder and the Champ establishes a nice spin that stops immediately when you neutralize the controls. Adding more power will tighten the spin even further. Roll performance, even on high rates, is leisurely and big barrel rolls look great. Gigantic loops as a thing of ease with so much power. Yet what I enjoy most about the Champ is floating around in calm skies on low-rates gracefully carving through the air as realistically as possible.

With the cowl removed, you can see the E-flite Power 15 brushless motor that powers the model as well as the four mounting blocks used to attach the cowl.

At some point, you always have to think about returning home. The effective rudder can make for a wonderful slip on approach. Keep a little power on during the final descent and then zero out the throttle once you’ve crossed the landing threshold. Depending on how much airspeed remains to bleed off, the Champ will float for a bit before settling in on the runway.

The real joy comes at touchdown. Touch and go’s and full stop landings with the sprung undercarriage are what separate this model from others. Even if you flare a little bit too high and it plops on the runway, the springs will absorb the weight of the plane without transferring a jarring impact to the airframe. Actually, the Hangar 9 Pro-lite wheels absorb the initial contact even before the struts get their chance. Once below flying speed the Champ maintains good directional control and the steerable tail wheel shines as you bring your model back to your feet.

CONCLUSION
This model belongs in each and every pilot’s hangar. The Aeronca Champ 15e shares the same gentle, honest flying characteristics that make the full-scale aircraft a classic, and comes with all necessary hardware in the box. The quality of design and manufacturing makes the assembly process a quick delight. You can open the box on Monday evening and be flying Friday afternoon… with a full night of sleep each night! In the air, the performance below half stick will let you fly gentle scale-like maneuvers around the practice area with confidence. Mid stick will deliver scale aerobatics made possible by this great design, and full stick will pull you away from any unusual attitude in a hurry. The only thing I can think to add to complete this great offering is a copy of Wolfgang Langewiesche’s timeless classic, “Stick and Rudder.” Blending his discussion of full scale flying with such a classic model is a winning combination.

SPECS
PLANE: Aeronca Champ 15e
MANUFACTURER: E-flite
DISTRIBUTOR: Horizon Hobby
TYPE: Sport scale electric classic
FOR: Intermediate pilots
WINGSPAN: 60 in.
WING AREA: 499 sq. in.
FLYING WEIGHT: 53.3 oz.
WING LOADING: 15.4 oz./sq. ft.
LENGTH: 37.6 in.
RADIO: 4 channels required; flown with Spektrum DX8 transmitter, Spektrum AR6200 receiver, 4 JR MC35 micro servos
POWER SYSTEM: E-flite Power 15 Brushless Outrunner motor, APC 11x7E prop, E-flite 40-amp Lite Pro brushless speed control, E-flite 3S 3200mAh 30C LiPo battery
FULL THROTTLE POWER: 31.84 amps, 361.7 watts, 6.79 W/oz., 108.6 W/lb
TOP RPM: 8,450
DURATION: 10 minutes of mixed flying
PRICE: $179.99
COMPONENTS NEEDED TO COMPLETE: Radio and power systems, 2 6-inch servo extensions, 1 9-inch servo extension, 1 12-inch servo extension, 2 large servo arms, 1/9 civilian pilot

SUMMARY
E-flite has modeled the Aeronca 7AC Champion with great detail so that it looks great on the ground and performs well in the air. It is a quality built ARF that is strong and true and flies with the honesty of this full-scale classic. This model is one of general aviation’s iconic stick-and-rudder trainers. E-flite’s faithful reproduction will surely get the call anytime your thumbs want to do a graceful dance.

Links

American Champion Aircraft www.amerchampionaircraft.com (262) 534-6315
APC Propellers, distributed by Landing Products www.apcprop.com (530) 661-0399
E-flite, distributed exclusively by Horizon Hobby Distributors www.e-fliterc.com (800) 338-4639
JR, distributed exclusively by Horizon Hobby Distributors www.jrradios.com (800) 338-4639
Spektrum, distributed by Horizon Hobby www.spektrumrc.com (800) 338-4639