Review - Sig Rascal 40 ARF (kinda long)

I wanted to post a review with the highs and lows of this kit. My son wanted to start RC flying; I have some experience building and flying, but
haven't done it for quite awhile. I put together a selection of planes that he might be interested in, and he chose the Rascal 40, immediately. It obviously has terrific visual appeal. It would not have been my first choice because of the inverted engine, but I left this to him.
The ARF was ordered from one of the larger mail-order houses, and it arrived with damaged wings: one panel had the trailing edge cracked and split, and the other the same on the trailing edge, and the leading edge busted about a third span from the root. My guess is that someone crushed the box. We did not actually get started on the airplane until about nine months after we purchased it, when we discovered the damage (it wasn't that apparent on a cursory look). I called the house that sent it to us, and they would not help us out, referring us to Sig. So, I called them expecting to pay for a new wing panel or complete wing kit. To my surprise, I was quickly connected to someone in customer service, who sent out a new wing kit free of charge, cheerfully with no questions asked. Now that's great service in my book. I was extremely impressed by the degree to which Sig stands behind their products and customers. The new wings arrived in a few days, well-packed in bubble-wrap and without any damage.
The building in the kit was of high quality, and the two-tone covering done very well, with no visible flaws. All it took was a half-hour careful work with a heat gun and covering iron to get everything tight and shipshape. The hardware supplied was very complete, all usable and of good design, with the exception of the motor mount plates, which I thought were insufficiently robust (though I've seen them on other folks' Rascals). These are two hard aluminum things about 1/2" wide by 2-1/2" long, 3/32" thick, that are the intermediate pieces between the motor mount lugs and the hardwood beams glued into the fuselage. I chose to make a one-piece plate of 3/32" aluminum plate, double it at the mounting lugs, and basically fill the space between the hardwood beams. In general, it was a bit confusing that the smaller screws all seem to be metric thread, and some of the larger ones SAE. Maybe I've just been out of things too long, and I certainly didn't have a stock of metric spare parts (but now I do).
Until I received the kit, I had notions of side or upright mounting a reliable old 2-stroke .46, modifying the front end to suit this. As it turns out, the thrust line is quite high on the fuselage, meaning that you can't get a tank mounted high enough to have a proper relationship to the carburetor, unless the engine is inverted, as the ship is designed. So instead, we sprung for a new 4-stroke Enya 53, a beautiful and well-behaved engine, I must say.
The fuselage is narrow for anyone with large hands. Having the engine cowled, except at the bottom, makes it difficult to install, particularly if you're using a 4-stroke with the carburetor in the rear -- adjustments and connections are not easily made. I had suspected this would be the case, but I just worked through it, though it took a lot of time and forethought. In retrospect, it might have been better to chop away the fuselage sides below the motor mounts, and just make a fiberglass cowl. If Sig were looking to improve this model, I'd suggest that they eliminate the beam motor mounts, thicken the firewall to 1/4" for a reinf. plastic mount (it's about 3/16"), and provide a fiberglass or even plastic cowl to keep the good looks.
The landing gear mount is too wimpy for my taste --just a softwood block about 2" wide at the bottom of the fuselage. I added about 1/4" of basswood, in a U-shape extending from the former at the wing leading edge back along the bottom corners of the fuselage sides 4"; and I capped this with 3/32" ply. The ply doublers of the fuselage have some material down there to glue such a reinforcement to. For the gear itself, I tossed the 10-32 steel landing gear bolts, and substituted 1/4-20 nylon ones. Inside I provided a thick, unglued block threaded for the bolts, faced with 1/16" 3M foam tape. I put similar tape between the aluminum gear and the fuselage, and made a 3/32" washer plate beneath the gear center section, also faced with foam tape. This made a rather shock absorbing assembly that proved itself when on the second take-off, in a crosswind, the plane ran off the runway, popping the gear without damage to the fuselage.
Another modification I made was to remove some material from the fuselage formers ahead of the wing, to rotate the tank 90 degrees and get some foam around it, so as to prevent fuel foaming. It's a fairly tight fit as the kit comes. The tank is 260 cc capacity (about 10.5 oz), plenty large for any engine in the displacement range recommended. Finally, we made the tailfeathers removable, so that the model could be boxed and shipped cross-country, but this certainly is not necessary. This was easy to do with a plywood plate beneath the stabilizer, and some bolts through the solid material at the center section.
The rest of the completion and radio installation was a piece of cake. Servos installed in the plywood plate they provide, receiver and battery installed ahead of them; the plane balanced perfectly. I'm not a great fan of the nylon tube-within-tube pushrods for the elevator and aileron, but we used them because doing otherwise would involve a lot more work, and they seem to work acceptably. I used the mixing functions on our computer radio to do differential with the two aileron servos. The tailgear is very nice, a Haigh-style made with an aluminum plate. When bolted together, the wing aligned straight and true in plan, though one tip was a bit lower than the other with respect to the fuselage sides. This was shimmed out.
I did not weigh the plane, but even with five servos, a 4-stroke engine and a 1000 mAh battery, I know it is light for its size and area. The two-piece wing makes it a snap to transport in a car.
On its first flight, it seemed to have no bad habits; took off straight down the runway, would fly very slowly, controls had authority whether full or dual-rates were used. Ground handling was excellent, from what I could see. My son had a blast of course, and the experienced pilot helping us said that he couldn't imagine a better airplane for our purpose. It's large enough to see well, it flies great, and it's light, but penetrates decently too.
In conclusion, I recommend this airplane without hesitation, so long as you don't expect to build it at the flying field. Someone should be prepared to do a bit of work to improve the few shortcomings detailed above, but from what I read here and in the magazines, that sounds like it's pretty common with ARFs made by anyone. The instruction booklet was excellent, written in plain (native) English supplemented lots of photos. Now that I know what changes to make, and how to make them, I could build out another in short order.
--
Charles Wahl
<remove uppercase letters in email address>
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 3/6/2004 9:35 PM Ted shuffled out of his cave and grunted these great (and sometimes not so great) words of knowledge:
Couple of things to add to this - 1. Change out the Philips head screws used to hold the engine mount plate for socket head screws. They are metric, but your local hardware store should have them.
2. Add a remote glo igniter (about $8.00), it beats sticking your hand under there to remove a glo igniter with the engine running. Also, with an inverted engine you will need more "juice" than the "Hot Shots" provide to start the engine.
3. The Rascal 40 makes an EXCELLENT electric conversion (check the threads on RC Universe for details).

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.