Why a gasoline powered helicopter?
Several reasons...first of all, gasoline is about 1/15 the price of glow fuel. Second, there's virtually no glow fuel mess to clean up after flying. Third, gasoline engines are much more reliable, idle better and last longer. I've been flying gasoline engines in my giant scale planes and love 'em!
Why the JR Ergo gasser?
It was a real coin toss between the JR, the X-Cell, and the Intrepid. Based on my research, they are all excellent machines. The X-Cell seems to require more tweaking to get it setup right, whereas the JR is pretty much a bolt-together machine. The majority of people seem to be flying either the JR or X-Cell. I finally just picked one.
The JR Z230 came packaged very well with no damage to any parts. All small parts were packed in separate plastic bags and were identified with numbers corresponding to the steps in the assembly manual. The quality of the parts is EXCELLENT! Everything fit perfectly. This is a bolt-together and fly kit. Very little alignment is necessary - just a few bearing blocks that adjust the gear lash. It took about thirty hours to assemble.
The canopy is fiberglass with a very smooth white gel coat. It's ready for paint or the supplied decals. If there is a down-side to this kit, it would have to be the supplied rotor blades. These are supplied by Horizon Hobbies - not JR - and are unfinished wood blades. To finish them, you must epoxy in the weights and cover them. I choose to not use the covering furnished, and used UltraCoat iron on covering instead. They'll be ok for initial flight testing, but I'll be ordering a set of REAL blades once the tests are completed. I think it just looks tacky to put wood blades on such a high quality machine.
Test running of the G-23 gas engine proved once again how consistent and reliable these engines are ( I've had great luck with them on my airplanes). A couple of pulls, and it was purring like a kitten!
I have a Revolution base-loaded antenna (recommended by JR) and Hitec HS-545 servos on order (HS-525 on the rudder). I'll be running a CSM heading lock gyro, and a BC6 'glitch counter/battery monitor', and Hitec Supreme receiver in this chopper. I'm also installing two 1100 mah batteries and separate switch harnesses from Cermark. My transmitter is a JR 8103.
3/14 -- Flight Testing
Well, I just got back from flying my new Ergo gasser for the first time - what a GREAT machine! The engine was extremely easy to adjust - fired right up and never missed a lick during the hour and a half of flying right out of the box. The heli is very stable and predictable. For some reason, I'm averaging one glitch per 20 minute flight - recorded by the BC6 glitch counter. I only have about six gallons of flight time total on helis (Nexus 30) so I don't speak with a great deal of experience.
I thought that with almost $2000 invested in this machine that I'd be scared half to death with it (especially with my low time), but it was very comfortable to fly - no surprises. I think the Nexus is going to be gathering dust for a while....
3/21 -- Crashed It - ALREADY!!
Well, here's how it happened...remember the glitch I mentioned above? I changed receivers to see if that would fix it. I first noticed that it took more throttle to lift off then it normally does. Then I realized that it was taking almost full power to maintain altitude. Then, I couldn't descend normally! I knew I had big problems. From about 20 feet, I tried a gradual descent but when it started to come down, even full power wouldn't keep her up...BOOM! Rotor strike! It started digging it's own grave right there in front of me! Post crash analysis revealed the problem...when I changed the receiver, I plugged the pitch servo into Aux 2 instead of Aux 1. Bummer!
Parts are on order: flybar, tail slider, landing gear, tail boom, tail fin, rotor blades (I never liked those wood blades anyway). Back to flying the good ol' reliable Nexus again for a while...
3/28 -- Back Together
The new gasser is new once again. I'm REALLY intimidated by it now!! For some reason, the crash is still very much on my mind. It is flying nicely, but I now have a new problem - for some reason, I can barely get it started. It will start for a second, then die. It does this over and over for about 100 pulls, then finally starts and seems to run fine during the flight. Next flight, I start that stuff all over again. I've adjusted needles until I'm blue in the face! I've removed and cleaned the carb several times. I'm taking it to a local flyer that has gas heli experience so we can nail this problem.
3/31 -- Problem Identified
Notice I didn't say Problem Solved? It turns out that the cause of the hard starting was the braided shielding around the spark plug wire. Disconnect the wire from ground and it starts right up and runs fine. Put it back to ground and it won't start. I even started the engine without the shield, then grounded it while the engine was running - it died immediately. The insulation is apparently inferior or too thin and the spark is jumping to the grounded shield. I called Horizon and, of course, they had "never heard of that problem". Sure. Anyway, they are sending me a new ignition coil/spark plug wire assembly. I have a feeling it'll have the same problem. Time will tell.
4/4 -- Back in the Air Again
Well, wrong again. Apparently the original spark plug wire insulation was defective, allowing the spark to jump through to the shield. The new part DID fix the problem -- HOWEVER, I did a range check and got 100 feet without the engine running and only 40 feet WITH it running. I wrapped the spark plug in aluminum foil and grounded the foil. Range check is now 100 feet with the engine running! I'll be replacing the foil with a braided shield or Bosch shielded plug cap. Time to burn some gasoline!
4/8 -- What oil to use?
There was a lot of discussion on the H-list lately about what type and what ratio of oil to use in the G-23 engine. Synthetic vs. petroleum-based vs. blended. Ratios varied from 20:1 up to 100:1. Bottom line? There is NO conclusive evidence out there at this time that anyone on the H-list is aware of. After all the opinions, I'm going to run Mercury Quicksilver at 25:1.
4/10 -- Twitchy Tail & Slippage
Two problems to resolve at this point. The tail twitches in a hover - maybe a 1" or 2" twitch. This almost HAS to be vibration from that gas engine. I've tuned it very carefully (and have previous gas engine experience), but she still twitches. I'm even getting an occasional twitch in forward flight - this one is more noticeable - maybe 5".
Also, when hovering, I'll put full throttle to it and get a marked increase in engine RPM - clutch slippage? Auto one-way bearing slipping?
I'm getting with another gasser pilot tomorrow to see if we can iron out these problems...
4/12 -- Twitchy Tail/Slippage Update
It was too windy to do much testing. The engine seems to be tuned properly. I have sent an e-mail to CSM requesting help.
The slipping problem became worse, AND the auto assembly locked up. I pulled the clutch and auto assy out to have a look. The auto assy looked good, except for a discoloration on part of the hub. Not sure if that is a manufacturing process that discolored it, or whether it was heating up during flight. I just greased it and reassembled the unit.
The clutch looked like it got a bit hot. There was minor discoloration at two points - I'm not surprised because it had been slipping quite a bit. The clutch measured 1.703" and the clutch lining inside the bell measured 1.738. Ron Lund at Rick's Heli thought I should bend the clutch arms out a bit and rough up the lining to remove the glaze. He thought there should be about .015 difference in diameter between the two parts.
4/18 -- Trying PCM Next
Bending the clutch arms worked fine. No more slipping clutch - wish all my problems were this easily solved! The autorotation assembly locked up five times today - Ron is sending out a new one to try.
The twitchy tail is still a minor problem, and I am still getting significant twitch in forward flight and now a 'hit' that affects all channels. I tried a 'normal' receiver antenna - same problem as the base-loaded antenna. I've ordered a PCM receiver to try to mask the problem. Some gasser pilots say to try this as a last resort.
4/20 -- Twitchy Tail Problem Solved - FINALLY!
Someone on the H-list suggested swapping out the CSM gyro with an Arcamax to see if the tail still twitches. Based on his suggestion, I pulled the Arcamax I had in my Nexus and slapped it in the Ergo. The tail was ROCK SOLID! Apparently, the CSM gyro doesn't like gassers very well.
4/28 -- Crash AFTER Landing
After flying around for about an hour, I noticed (while I was flying) that one of my transmitter sticks was coming unscrewed. No big deal, just land and tighten the stick, right? Well, as soon as I landed it, I pushed the stick over to start to tighten it when, all of a sudden, the heli responds to the stick command (duhh!) and proceeds to trash a brand new set of NHP carbon fiber blades while attempting to cultivate the soil!
Blades on order...
5/1 -- STUPID!
I picked up some wooden blades from the local shop until my glass blades arrive. You have to epoxy the lead bars in them, so I did that with 15 minute epoxy. After about an hour, I checked the epoxy and they looked set up. Anxious to check the heli out, I strapped the blades on and hovered it about a foot high in my back yard. After about 10 seconds, the machine started shaking violently - I managed to get it down and stopped without damage. Guess what? One of the lead bars was missing!!!! The epoxy wasn't set up quite enough for the 350 lb. pull that is exerted against it.
5/2 -- Back in the Air
The epoxy has set up properly and I'm back in the air with the gasser. I'm going back to the Nexus for a while while my nerves calm down a bit.
5/10 -- New Blades
Just hung a pair of LeisureTech fiberglass blades on the gasser and they seem to be really nice quality - $80. We'll see how they fly...
5/17 -- Broken Clutch
Well, I fired up today and noticed the clutch wanted to grab pretty strong at idle. Thought for a minute of flying anyway, but came to my senses and checked it out. Broken clutch. You could tell from the break line that most of the break was quite old - dark in color in contrast to the lighter color of the new break. We'll see if Horizon makes it right...
8/10 -- I Just Sold It.
Yep, sold the Ergo gasser. I just want to stick with the smaller (less intimidating) machines for a while longer. It was in perfect condition, with LeisureTech fiberglass blades - $700.
Dave Cortese, 23/12:
I have a JR Ergo 60 Sport Can I get spare parts for this heli Dave