Xcell Graphite

                X-Cell Graphite 60

X-Cell New Paint.jpg (26841 bytes)

12/29 -- Just Bought an X-Cell
I've been drooling over the X-Cells at our field for quite some time, and ran across this deal on the heli newsgroup from a fellow in Illinois. It's a slightly used X-Cell graphite 60, OS 61SXHwc, NHP 680c, 4131 servos, 2700G on tail, JR 900 piezo, and numerous upgrades - PLUS a JR 10SXII with two PCM receivers. This whole package for $1900. It's on it's way to Tucson and should be here Jan. 7th. CAN'T WAIT!!!!!!  Here's a picture of the original canopy.

1/8 -- What a Bird!
Well, it arrived right on time yesterday. It was exactly as the seller stated - like new. Both the heli and JR 10SXII transmitter are indistinguishable from new!

I flew this bird today and fell in love all over again. This thing is smooooooooth! I replaced the JR-900 gyro with my Arcamax 2700 HH. The tail locks on like glue with zero tail wag. This is a boom mounted, graphite pushrod 2700G servo setup, and is very impressive with tail response and smoothness.

The OS engine runs like a dream - great idle, smooth midrange and lots of power at full throttle. At this point, I've found no bad habits and no problems that need fixing. I am very pleased to have found such a terrific deal on the internet.

1/10 -- First Problem
Just after starting it for flight #3 today it had a rattling noise coming from the clutch area. As soon as I would bring up the RPMs, the noise went away. Went home and pulled it apart - really easy by the way - and found the clutch dampener rubbers almost deteriorated. Put new ones in (included from the guy I bought the heli from), and it purrs like a kitten again.

1/15 -- Second Problem
Ok, let's see someone figure THIS one out.  A friend of mine was doing some very gentle figure eights today with my X-Cell when, all of a sudden, the engine quit.  He was unable to auto it due to collective not responding.  Post crash findings:  both main shaft collars (Bergen type) had slid about an inch, the auto clutch was all the way unscrewed, and I'm 90% certain the receiver switch was off!  I don't remember switching it off when we reached the downed bird.  How did the engine quit?  Did the collars slip, causing a bind somewhere?  Where??  How did BOTH collars slip?  They both moved in opposite directions - toward each other!  How did the auto clutch get unscrewed?  These all seem like totally unrelated problems.

Damage:  NHP main blades, flybar, spindle, front graphite frame member, aluminum frame rail, aileron bellcrank stud, JR 4131 servo (elevator) gears stripped.  Could have been a LOT worse, but the heli was only at about 30 feet when all this happened.

1/20 -- Back In The Air!
Well, this was a no-big-deal repair. It gave me a chance to really look things over. It's flying great again and my next challenge is to try to figure out how to get the throttle curves set to give me a more consistent head speed. It's all over the map right now. That dang engine is so powerful that and slight movement of the throttle has a drastic affect on head speed.

2/1 -- Ordered a GV-1 Governor
Ok, enough is enough! Finally gave up on the throttle curves and ordered a governor. Yeah, you pros out there are probably saying that a governor isn't the cure-all, but it's worth a try. Should have it installed and ready to test this weekend.

Also, today I had kind of a milestone in my flying. I've been practicing my stationary forward flips at about 20,000' and finally got the hang of it. Today, for the first time, I took off, and almost immediately did a forward flip and kept ascending! This really got the adrenaline cooking for a while. I did about 15 of these - next trick is to do them even lower.... :)

2/4 -- Governor Installed
Boy, I sure do like how easy it is to get the engine out of this X-Cell. Actually, the whole machine is easy to work on. I don't know why some people say there's a lot to align, setup, etc.

Anyway, I installed the governor and set the radio up, then took it out back for its first test run. I have the throttle stick set so that it turns the governor on at 15% stick position, and when I increased throttle beyond the 15%, you could tell the governor took over the throttle. I kept the stick below hover position until the head speed was up, then just raised the collective. From that point on, the head speed remained constant - or very close to it. This is a very nice addition to an already high quality machine. I'll have more flight test results after I work it a bunch this weekend.

2/8 -- Love The Governor
Well, I've put about a gallon of fuel through the heli with the governor running. What a difference!! No more endless throttle curve tweaks, and still not getting the constant head speed I wanted. The governor holds it plenty close for me. I'm running 1450 rpm in Normal flight mode and 1700 rpm in idle-up. For the price of a heading hold gyro, it's a great value.

I've also been working on my forward flips. The X-Cell is rolling a bit to the right during the flip. Not sure why at this point, but I've asked for suggestions on the H-List. We'll see what becomes of that...

2/10 -- Rolling Solved:
Well, the roll to the right has been corrected with some elevator-to-aileron mixing. Now the only problem is the pilot thing – trying to learn how to consistently coordinate the collective/and both cyclics during the flips!

2/13 -- Governor Lesson:
I learned the hard way why others have said to use the regular throttle curves to backup the governor. Here’s how all that happened…

During autos, I’d occasionally forget to flip the flight mode switch back to Normal before flipping the Auto switch off. This, of course, causes the engine to go to full throttle due to the ‘V’ curve (not good!). So, I thought, "I know, I’ll just set the idle-up curve just like my Normal curve" (bad idea).

The next day, I took her up and started doing some practice with flips. The head speed got kind of low on the inverted part of a flip, the governor automatically cut out like it’s designed to do, and the engine went to idle, just like the idle-up curve said to do. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! The dang thing started falling out of the sky like a shot duck! By some miracle, I managed to save it just before it dug it’s own grave. Whewwww!

Needless to say, I went back to the ‘V’ curve and all is well again.

2/16 -- Strange Glow Plug Problem:
I fired it up today and started spooling it up, just to have the engine quit suddenly. I started it again, and when I pulled the glow battery, it immediately quit. No problem, I thought, bad plug. I put in a brand new OS #8, fired it up, pulled the glow battery and it immediately quit. I installed another new OS #8, fired it up, pulled the battery and it hasn’t quit since. Go figure!

2/20 -- I'm GROUNDED:
Well, after burning about a gallon of fuel today, I heard a clicking noise as the blades were spooling down after a flight. Yep, a broken tooth on the main gear. BUMMER! No tail strike, no nothing. I did notice that there seemed to be evidence of more pressure on the tops of the teeth vs. the bottom. Guess the alignment wasn't all that great last time....

Boy, I sure don't like having my wings clipped!

2/27 -- Can't Keep A Good Man Down!
Put the new main gear in and found a new problem. There was a 'pulsing' sound when in FFF. Same thing with or without the governor turned on. After lots of head scratching, spitting and telling lies with other heli nuts, it turned out to be the pinion gear that drives the tail rotor. It was too tight. I loosened it just a tad and all is better now.

2/28 -- Another Slight Problem
Just when you think all is perfect....this time I heard a squealing noise when idling. Yep, bad clutch bearing. Ever try pulling the bearings from an X-Cell clutch bell? Here's what worked really well for me.

That tool that is at the left of the pic is an integrated chip puller. Just a stainless steel tool with a sharp 90 degree bend at the end. Slip the lip under one edge of the bearing on the inside, then run the clutch shaft in as shown. A few smacks with a soft-faced hammer will send the bearing out on the bench (or floor - whichever is the hardest to find!). Both bearings can be removed using this method. Now, the bad news is that new bearings are $10 EACH! Ouch!

3/6 -- Stuffed It...
So, there I was, just doing some fairly lazy stuff out in the back yard - loops, rolls and a bit of inverted .  At the top of one of the loops (a fairly low one), I decided to hold it inverted at the top for a few seconds.  As soon as I pulled negative collective to hold it up there, the engine suddenly went to idle  -- blades slowed WAY down REAL FAST!!  Yep, I didn't have it in idle-up!  There was not nearly enough time for me to realize my error, so I just fought it like crazy for a few seconds...until it was all over (literally!).  A rough calculation puts it at about $400.  Luckily, it didn't take out the graphite boom/torque tube - that thing must be TOUGH!

Of course, it was flying beautifully just before I crashed.  

3/11 -- Back Together
Well, it's good as new again. That's one of the nice things about model helicopters; when you repair them after a crash, they are just like new again - all damaged parts replaced with new.

One strange thing, however. When I was checking the setup after getting it back together, I noticed that the collective servo was reversed. It wasn't in the transmitter, because a previously saved setup in the transmitter's memory was also reversed! I may never figure this one out.

I'll be giving it a workout tomorrow to see if it all stays together. You never now after a major rebuild if you forgot something...

3/12 -- Thanks H-List
Thanks to two guys on the H-List, I now have the collective back to normal. Know what it was? I had the blade grips turned around the wrong way. All better now. Too windy to do much wringing it out. Maybe tomorrow....

3/13 -- Stupid!!
When flying it this morning, it didn't have a good inverted climb rate.  I landed, put the gauge on it and found that I had only +7 and -4!!!  The day before, I had +10/-10.  After lots of head scratching and spittin' on the ground, I discovered that I had one of the mixing arms on the head swung around 180 degrees!  That explains why yesterday the pitch was good (I had checked the good blade) and today I put the gauge on the other blade.  Duuuhh!  She flies smooth as glass once again.  Now, if I can just keep it in one piece before the Phoenix fun-fly next weekend. Still learning, and learning, and.....

3/29 -- Gear Rubbing on Canopy
This was a bit of a tough one to find. I was getting what appeared to be uneven gear wear on the main gear. After posting the question and a photo on the H-List, one of the guys nailed it. It was the canopy rubbing on the top of the gear. Fixed that and problem solved. By the way, the Phoenix Fun-Fly was AWESOME!!! Perfect weather, outstanding pilots and great people.

4/1 -- Strange Head Speed Problem
Something really strange happened today. I couldn’t get the idle-up head speed to its governed setting of 1700 rpm. Also, in a climb, the head speed would decay rapidly. I checked the mixture settings – right on. Changed glow plug, checked high-end pitch, turned the governor off – same problem. Everything pointed to the engine not developing full power.

I pulled the engine and found it had almost no compression – flat worn out. I pulled the backplate off the engine and noticed that the main bearing was rusted and the inner bearing race was slipping on the crankshaft (that explained the little chirp I’ve been hearing during engine shutdown). The engine was a couple of years old and was undoubtedly sitting on the shelf for quite some time in Chicago (where I bought the X-Cell). The previous owner may not have run the engine out of fuel prior to storage and may not have used after-run oil. Also, I have been running it in somewhat dusty conditions. Both were factors in this engines early demise.

4/2 -- Ordered Another Engine
I decided not to rebuild the OS engine after checking parts prices. Now, do I buy another OS or get a somewhat more expensive YS? The OS is a known good workhorse, but the YS is supposed to develop as much power, run smoother and comes with a built-in fuel pump system. Ok, I’ll get the YS.

4/8 -- Installed the Engine
The YS engine looks like a quality engine. By the way, Futaba makes this engine. The installation went well in the X-Cell. I bought the YS collet pack from Rick’s and had no problems getting things to line up. Fuel line plumbing is different with this ‘pumped’ engine than it is with a ‘conventional’ engine. First, there is no muffler pressure required. You run a line from the crankcase, through a checkvalve (included with the engine), then to the tank. From the tank, a line runs to the pump, then to the carb. Not difficult to do; just different. I also installed two lines to the tank for fueling – one for the fuel line, the other for a vent. This just keeps you from having to disconnect the lines going to the engine.

The time had come to test this new beast. I fueled it up, snapped the glow battery on and cranked it up. It started within a couple of seconds. It takes that long for the pump to get fuel to the carb. It idled nice and smooth – although a bit rich due to the recommended starting needle settings recommended by the factory. When I picked it up into a hover, it was rich at the mid-range as well. A little leaning (but still leaving it rich) resulted in a nice stable hover setting. This is where it differs from the OS. The mid-range needle on the OS never did do much. Fully closed still resulted in an overly rich hover.

I have yet to put the new YS to the real test – maybe this weekend. I’ll also be installing an air cleaner on this new engine – no more dust for this guy! I got a Vario air cleaner for $28 that looks great.

The fan-fold paper element allows tremendous surface area for virtually unrestricted airflow. It’s a bit large, and I’ll probably have to relocate my gyro from the gyro tray behind the main mast, to the radio tray up front.

4/20 The Air Cleaner Works
The air cleaner has been working great. No power loss at all due to the large surface area of the paper element. It fits nicely in the X-Cell graphite frame and sure is making for a happy engine!  Click on image below for a larger view of the installed air cleaner.

air cleaner 2.jpg (41478 bytes)

I'm getting a little more comfortable with my inverted work. Still do it at one mistake high. Practice makes perfect they always say. In my case, practice makes acceptable...

6/20 - Update
Well, the X-Cell never disappoints me.  It continues to be the smoothest running ship in my fleet.  I'm not nearly as bold with it as I am the Raptor, but man is it smoooooth!  And POWERFUL!  That YS engine is broken in now with about 10 gallons through it.  I'm running 20% nitro and it climbs like a scalded ape!  Never had an engine run that smooth and consistent.

7/25 -- Engine Problem
First flight of the morning and all was well....until I flipped it inverted and the engine sagged.  I quickly flipped it upright and landed.  It seized up as soon as I got it safely on the ground.  This is the YS STII I've been bragging so much about!   A tear-down inspection revealed a completely hammered piston top and cylinder head.  Everything inside the engine looks perfect.   Wrist pin clips, wrist pin, piston skirt, liner, bearing retainers, etc. all look like new.  This engine has about 10 gallons through it and has been awesome.   Something gave way inside and hammered it to death.  Nothing got ingested as the air cleaner has been on since it was new.  Go figure!  I'll be sending it to Futaba for warranty repair.  It's about six months old - warranty is for one year.

8/4 -- Futaba Sticks it To Me
I received a estimate of repair from Futaba today - $146.75!!!!  Here's what I posted to the H-List and FAXed to Futaba:

"Many of you will remember the YS ST2 engine of mine that thrashed itself recently.  This engine has a one year warranty, or so they say.  I sent the engine to Futaba for warranty repair and just received an estimate of repair from them.  They want $146.75 to fix the defective engine!!!!!  In addition, there was absolutely no explanation as to why they are not willing to honor the warranty.  Also, they want $10 from me just to get my unrepaired engine back!!!  Not THAT'S customer service!

"On the other hand, I have always had excellent service on all OS engine repairs - even when I had no proof of purchase date.  All repairs done at no charge.

"Futaba can keep that piece of @#$% engine and, from here on out, I'll try to talk as many people into NOT buying Futaba products as I can.

Who knows what they'll do at this point.  Check back....

8/18 -- Still Waiting...
After calling Futaba on my dime, they said that they would probably fix the engine under warranty.  No other word, postcard or phone call to let me know the status of the repair.  Customer service at it's best!

8/27 -- The Engine Arrives
I just received my YS ST2 back from Futaba today.  They repaired it under warranty after all.  I'll be installing it this weekend.  Sure hope it doesn't hammer itself apart this time!

8/28 -- Custom Pushrods
I bought a 2-56 die and some #44 drill rod to try making my own pushrods.  It worked great once I used cutting fluid instead of oil when doing the threading.  Man, are they PURRRRRDY!!!  They are a little larger (stronger) then the stock rods and nice and shiny.  Really dresses up the head area.

9/10 -- Droping Stuff From my X-Cell
Yeah, you're going to think I'm crazy, but here goes...

I have attached a frame to the bottom of the X-Cell with a servo mounted to it (pic to follow as soon as I get one).  From the frame, I'll be suspending an .049 heli with a release mechanism.  The small heli will not be running!  When I get this contraption to altitude, I'll hit a switch and cut the small heli loose.  Hopefully, it'll autorotate to the ground just like it does when it's own engine runs out of fuel in a normal flight.

I'll be trying this tomorrow morning.

9/11 -- CRASHED IT!!!
No, it wasn't due to the heli drop thing - that worked fine.  Later in the morning, however, when I was flying without the drop thingy, I started getting worried about a slight 'growling' noise I was hearing when in a hard right pirouette.  I checked everything over several times and went back up.  Same thing, but it seemed to be getting worse.  All of a sudden, the tail started spinning rapidly out of control.   The heli was at about 40' and in a slight bank that became steeper and steeper until the inevitable...CRASH!!  It was in too steep of a bank and too low for an auto.

It turned out to be the top of the main gear that drives the tail rotor.  It stripped out as can be seen in the picture below -- click it for a closer look.   You'll see the top gear is 'flattened'.  It was due to too much backlash in the pinion gear.  I'll be keeping a MUCH closer eye on that from now on!  Total cost to repair - $560.

bad gear.jpg (58804 bytes)

10/20 -- Back in the Air
Boy, that was a major bunch of cash for such a small bunch of parts! J It took about eight hours to reassemble my bird and get it ready for a test flight. Tracking was dead on, trim was good, forward flight ok, but MAN, it won’t roll properly! A left roll sends the nose pitching down when inverted. Not good! Everything appears to be perfect – even when compared to a friend’s X-Cell. All the links are the proper length, nothing assembled backwards, no changes in radio setup since before the crash. What the @#$^@#$ is wong???

10/25 -- Still won’t roll right
I thought it may be the new V-blades causing the pitching problem, so I strapped on my old LeisureTech blades and flew it again – real high. Same thing – violent pitching in the left roll. Guess I’ll have to take a to Phoenix to see a MinAir rep.

10/31 -- Trip paid off
So, I took my squirrelly bird to Phoenix today to have Jason Krause (MinAir rep) take a look at it. He didn’t see anything wrong with a quick look over, so he put it in the air for a test flight. He agreed that it rolled strangely. Back on the ground within a minute he said, "Here what’s wrong." The triangular plastic bearing retainers on the rocking elevator servo were spread apart enough to allow the bearing to pop out of the retainer during the left roll. He adjusted it and it flew GREAT after that!! Sure is nice to have that bird feeling right again!

11/2 -- PERFECT once again
There’s no better feeling than having your heli fly perfectly after giving you so much grief! The rolls are like it’s on a wire once again. The YSII is running flawlessly with TONS of power. This is one nice machine.

11/5 -- Made a Graphite 'Fuel' Plate
I finally got tired of the Kalt fuel shut-offs dangling on the fuel lines making them hard to operate.  So, I bit the bullet and made a graphite plate to mount them to.  It makes fueling about 1,000 times easier.  Yes, I made a template so I can make another one next time I crash and burn!

xcell_fuel_plate.jpg (58966 bytes)

Man, I'm almost cured.  I can't keep crashing this thing every few weeks.  I can't remember the last time I crashed due to 'dumb thumbs' and this one was no exception.  I don't know what happened.  I pulled vertical, did a 180 stall-turn and the @#$ing thing kept pirouetting until it smashed into the ground.   The receiver still works fine - gyros have stripped gears but are responding properly - gyro is ok.  Maybe the tail boom slipped back a little, causing it to disengage?  Who knows?  All I know is that I can't keep going like this...

I've ordered parts ($400!), but will just get it back together and put it on the shelf until I evaluate this EXPENSIVE hobby some more.

11/20 -- Back in the Air
Well, I'm not totally cured yet.  I put the X-Cell back together and took it up for a couple of shake-down flights just to make sure everything was ok, and I LOVE it all over again....until the next crash that is!  I'm flying V-blades now.   For those of you who don't know, these are some beautiful graphite blades ($120) that put the finishing touch on any graphite heli.  They don't fly any better or worse than any other high-end blade in my opinion, but MAN, are they PRETTY!  :)

1/5/2001 -- Flying Again
Boy, it's been awhile since I messed with helicopters.  I've been flying fixed wings again - specifically a 40% Aeroworks Edge 540.  What an awesome plane!  I pulled out the X-Cell and flew it again.  Just like riding a bike - it comes back quickly.  There are some rough edges, but it feels good.  Can't seem to stay away from these danged things...

1/12/2001 -- Spoke too Soon
Well.....not quite like riding a bike.  The glow plug quit at about 100' and it caught me off guard.  I thought I had to flip the hold switch and couldn't find it quickly enough.  Just as it was about to slam into Mother Earth, I had enough sense to give it a little collective.  Destroyed V-Blades, carbon boom, carbon boom supports and a few minor things.  Total repair bill - $250.

1/16/2001 -- Back at it
Reapirs finished and away we go again.  I practiced about 50 autos today.  I'm ready for the next glow plug this time!  I'm ordering a Raptor 60 to do most, if not all, my heli flying.  The X-Cell is just too nice to splat.



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