Blade 400

T plus 0 minutes

Five minutes ago I opened a Blade 400 box. The first thing I did was hook the charger up to my power supply and plugged balancing connector on the included 3S 1800mah 20C battery into the included charger. I checked the amperage the charger was pulling and, to my surprise, found it to be pulling 2.011 amps. Excellent. This charger is what I call an NBBC (No Brainer Balancing Charger). I'm usually fairly disappointed in the length of time it takes to charge a battery with these things, but this might prove to be a decent little charger.

The box includes the helicopter, completely built. I give it a quick look and it looks decent. The flybar paddles were aligned perfect. Once the battery charges up, I'll know more.

The box also includes 4 AA batteries for the transmitter, a 2.4 ghz Spektrum 6 channel. Hmmm. There's a foam blade holder and a strip of Velcro for the battery. That's it. Well there are instructions, but they look very detailed and I'm not sure I'm going to look at them unless I get stuck. You know that's going to be a mistake :-)

I was very pleasantly surprised to find the tail rotor control rod has ball links at both ends and seems to operate very smoothly. I've heard that the servo gears are very delicate, but work fine if you don't hit the ground. We'll see. If I blow the gears, I'm putting some 65MGs in this baby.

The gear train seems smooth but the head has a lot of drag. The belt is overly tight. We'll see if it loosens up after a couple flights. I'm also going to spray some lubricant on the belt. I've found that this helps quite a bit on the T-rex.

T plus 30 minutes

I guess while this battery charges, I'll browse through the manual...might as well.

T plus 34 minutes

I didn't get far in the manual. It finished charging right on time. I put the AA batteries in the transmitter. The transmitter looks cool and it feels good in my hands. The switch placement is very nice. The rudder d/r and hold switch are offset so you don't have to put your fingers between them. The sticks actually feel very good. Maybe not as good as a 14MZ, but on par with a lot of much more expensive radios. I noticed the loop that you clip your neckstrap into is positioned so the transmitter hangs level. Good thinking. It has a trainer plug, so you should be able to use it with your favorite simulator and a JR adapter. Overall, the transmitter "looks" good. We'll see how good the software is in a little while.

T plus 45 minutes

I couldn't resist. I had to fly it. I stuck the two sided Velcro on the battery and the "battery tray", attached the battery, turned on the transmitter and plugged the battery into the speed controller. Putting the canopy back on proved to be irritating. The trick is to put a little spit on the canopy mounting posts. If you don't, you'll probably push the grommets out of the holes in the canopy.

We set it down in a small clearing in the warehouse and the plan was to hover it for about 4 minutes. I spun it up, checked the controls and all looked well. It needed some trimming, especially the tail. In heading hold, I simply moved the trim until the slider quit drifting. Once that was done, the tail was okay. It needed a few clicks of trim on the elevator and aileron too. I plan to read up on this gyro to find out if that was the correct way to do it, but it worked.... sooo

The blades were in perfect track and it seemed pretty peppy. I stuck to the plan and just hovered around. The radio seems to be set up with no expo. I'll check that too. After about 5 minutes, I landed it and checked the battery, motor and speed controller. All were slightly warm. Perfect.

So far, I'm impressed. I think 65MG servos would make a big difference, but I'll stick with these for now.

That's not bad. From box to hover in 45 minutes and 30 of that was charging the battery. No tools and no soldering were needed. At a price just over $400, this might be a great way to get into the hobby cheap. This isn't a toy helicopter. It appears to be very repairable and, with good servos, should perform very well. 

It took 45 minutes to charge the pack back up. Next time I'll go for 7 minutes. It's raining and cold outside, so we'll just be hovering it in the warehouse. That's a good way to break in the battery anyway. Tomorrow it's going to warm up. I'm looking forward to taking it outside. I'm anxious to see how well this gyro works.

Find it in our store here.

Follow Up

You might as well remove the label from the bottom of the battery before you stick the Velcro on it. Mine ripped off the first time I removed the battery from the model. A little rubbing and some lighter fluid and it was clean as a whistle and ready for some new Velcro. Also, clean the "battery tray" on the model with some solvent and then rub it with a clean dry towel before sticking the Velcro there.

Today I played around with the radio. I like a little exponential, so I put 20% on the aileron and elevator. That helped quit a bit. The tail seemed sluggish, so I increased the travel on the rudder to it's maximum setting. That gave the tail a much better feel.

To me the headspeed in normal mode was too high, so I set my throttle curve at 0-30-40-55-100. This brought the headspeed down to a more moderate rate. I flew it for about 14 minutes with a couple brief trips to idle up. I cut the idle up throttle to 100-77-70-77-100 which gives a headspeed that is still plenty fast.

To me this machine is going to be about having fun. If I want to go out and try some insane 3D stuff, I'll get out a different machine. I'm beginning to really like it and I'm still using the stock servos and blades. Originally, I thought the radio only had 3 points for throttle and pitch. I was extremely pleased to find out it has 5 points, unlike the regular 6DX. I'll report on things again when I crash and change out the servos.

Sunday I decided to shoot some autorotations with the B400. I figured I'd strip the servo gears and get it over with. After about 30 autos, some not so pretty, it was still good as new. Overall I would say it autos about like a T-rex with light blades.

I'm still looking forward to the 65MG servos, but I'm not going to do it until these give out. When I do, I'll let you know what difference they make.

In February at our annual funfly, I shot autos with the Blade 400. The wind was blowing a little too hard so some of them ended up with the model laying on it's side quite a ways from the target. Finally, after about 30 "crashes", the servo gears gave out. I was really surprised that they lasted as long as they did. After installing 65MG servos, this model has become one of John's favorite machines. He has learned all right side up orientations with it, including nose in and low and slooooow circles in both directions. He has crashed it quite a few times and usually repairs it at the field if it needs it.

Opinion

I've read some of the forums and I have to say that I'm very disappointed in some of the board "leaders".  When the B400 comes up, some say it's no good and that you'll have to dump hundreds of dollars into it to make it fly. That's a bunch of crap. Not everyone flies alike. Not everyone has the same expectations. This model is an affordable way to get into the hobby and learn to fly. It can take you to a skill level that is beyond 50% of the pilots out there with zero upgrades. Beyond the skill level of thousands of pilots that have poured thousands of dollars into their "3D" machines. This is not a perfect "3D" machine. But then again, many of those "3D" pilots can't hover nose in. Many of them can't do a slow figure eight in both directions. These "leaders" forget that basic skills should come first, and this machine gives you the tools to learn those basic skills without breaking the bank. Once you've learned them, it is perfectly capable of flying upside down and backwards; more skills that should be learned before trying to impress anyone with your "3D" flying.

I remember going to a Houston funfly in the early 90s and watching a guy, most people have never heard of, do some of the best flying I've ever seen. By today's standards, it would still be good. No, there weren't any pirouetting flips or tick tocks, but it was clear that he had complete control of the machine. The thing he did best was a slow rolling circle at eye level. Very smooth. Very slow, Very close in. Very impressive. He was flying a cheapo plastic helicopter stock out of the box. He had mastered collective management and tail rotor control, so it didn't matter if he was flying a .32, a souped up .91 or a B400. The results would be the same.

Is the B400 as good as a T-rex 450SEV2? No, but it is a perfectly capable model at an unheard of low price.
Is it a perfect trainer? A perfect trainer would be even cheaper to buy and unbreakable. It is what it is, so right now, it's the closest thing we have. This model is going to make it possible for thousands of people to get in this great hobby and have a ton of fun. What's wrong with that?

At our funfly in mid February, I flew the Blade until it wouldn't fly anymore. Jason Krause and I did autos for dollars with it in the 15 - 20 mph wind. It wasn't exactly a precision flight demonstration, but it did prove how tough this little thing is. After about 30 "crashes" the servo gears finally gave up. So now I can put those 65MGs in it :-)

We've sold quite a few of these to local guys that want to learn how to fly helis. It's cool to watch them progress. it's also cool to watch them leave the shop with enough parts to rebuild 6 times and spend less than $100. You just can't do that with any other machine. Parts are plentiful and cheap. What are YOU waiting for?

Ron

Pictures

Head The head looks pretty good

Transmitter The transmitter...very comfortable to hold.

Switches on the radio Nice switch location

Transmitter back Transmitter back view

The gyro The gyro

Motor The motor

The tail rotor The tail rotor.