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120 inch Cessna 182 Tommy Composites by Corinne Pellatt

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SPECIFICATIONS

  • Scale: 1/4
  • Wingspan: 3050mm (120 in)
  • Length: 2400mm (94 in)
  • Weight: 14-18kg (31-40 pounds)
  • Engine: 50-120cc petrol engine required
  • Radio: 6-8 channels, 7-8 servos

This giant scale plane was tested and powered by 3MM-53CC, 3W-50, and 62CC petrol engine. Version 2 features scale rivets on the body, scale operable doors, 3D dashboard, scale seats, and pre-installed navigation lights et cetera, the same scale details as the larger 157 inch version. The factory had now upgraded the main landing gear, scale rivets, engine box, interior decoration, fuel tank, wheels etc.

I first became aware of the Tommy Composite Cessna 182 range at the 2011 Bowilie Scale Rally in Canberra. Steve Malcman had an 80 inch Cessna 182 and the whopping great 157 inch Cessna 182. I drooled over the 157” for quite some time, all fibreglass, lots of scale detail and all the doors open! What else could I want? So I started looking into the prospect of getting one of these beauties. I checked out Tommy’s website and eventually contacted with Austars for a quote….ouch too expensive for me, I couldn’t afford the big one.

I mulled over the situation for a while, I really wanted a composite Cessna. Great detail, easy to clean, no wrinkly covering, then I remembered I had seen a slightly smaller version on Tommy’s website 120 inches – maybe I could compromise? I went to Austars for a quote. Hurrah! I could afford this one and it was in the size range where I could use an affordable electric power system. I chose the colours and the deal was done.

After what seemed an interminable wait, the Cessna arrived in two boxes; one huge box containing the wings and fuselage, and the other box containing the cowl. It was well packed in paper and bubble wrap and, fortunately, avoided any shipping damage. The long delivery time seemed it was worth the wait. It took me quite some time before I started building it as I didn’t have room to assemble such a large aircraft until I moved house, but finally all the parts made their way onto the building bench and it was time to build. First thing to do was to polish all the parts. I am quite picky with the finish on my aircraft (it’s a girl thing) and there were some areas I just wasn’t happy with. Fortunately some judicious use of a cutting polish and Novus plastic cleaner fixed the majority of the blemishes.

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There are only very basic instructions for putting this ship together and they are from a previous version of the model. But if you have put a big plane together before it is pretty straight forward to work it out. I started with the landing gear. The mains are made of a thick aluminium strip which is bent to shape. This is then slotted into the fuselage and a wooden box glassed to the base of the interior. You then bolt through from the top and into the aluminium. The mounting box didn’t look strong enough for me so I laid pieces of a Kevlar-carbon fibre sheet over it and strengthened with West system epoxy resin and this has since held up quite well. The nose gear is a heavy duty steel and aluminium arrangement and simply bolts onto the firewall. The oleo strut is functional and seems to dampen the bumps quite well. The wheels and spats attach via a long bolt and are secured with nylock nuts.

Okay, now that it’s on its feet it’s time to do the tail. Here’s where things get a little trickier as there is no guidance on how to mount the servos. There are two aluminium plates stuck towards the rear of the cabin but the two servos didn’t fit there, so I had to make up my own mounts. The design seems to only have provision for one elevator servo but I decided to use two as redundancy is good insurance on something this size and weight. I placed both Hitec HS 5645 elevator servos on the bottom of the fuselage and the HS 645 rudder servo upside down on the top. Lucky I have little girly hands, but I hope they never need to come out again!

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The one piece tail-plane gets mounted first by sliding it into a pre-cut slot. So with all the necessary measuring and then measuring again for the sake of accuracy, I carefully epoxied it in so as not to leave any runs on the paintwork. The vertical fin comes in a couple of pieces; the main fin and a long dorsal fin. It has a LED beacon pre-installed but it was terribly faint so I removed it and installed a stronger LED that was more visible. Before fixing it in place I ground off all the paint with my rotary tool in the area to be glued to make sure I had a solid bond. I also installed chopsticks (yeah, use what you have at hand) in both the fin and the fuse as rudder posts to give the glue something more to hold on to as gluing to a flat surface just didn’t seem sufficient to me. Once that was all cured I glued on the dorsal fin with some clear epoxy.

By this stage the whole fuselage is starting to feel awfully tail heavy! Next is to mount the elevators. None of the pre-drilled holes matched up but with some cursing it all went together using Robart style hinges. The elevators have a thick aluminium rod protruding on the fuselage ends which you clamp to a control horn. Of course the control horns didn’t fit the rods or the available room in the tail cone so out with the Dremel again! The rudder mounts in the same way and again needed some persuasion to make it fit.

THE MOTOR
Now to the business end. Before mounting the motor I strengthened the firewall using more of the Kevlar and carbon fibre sheet. Electric is my chosen power source so I mounted a Great Planes Rimfire 65cc 80-85-160 outrunner brushless motor. It needed to be positioned about 20cm forward of the fire wall so I made a wooden box to mount it to and I also used very long standoffs. This box provided a great spot to put a Jetti Spin 200 speed controller and then I mounted a Hitec 645 servo for the nose wheel steering.

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ONTO THE WINGS
The flap and aileron servos mount to servo hatches that you have to cut and shape and then re-paint. I made my own mounts from plywood, then glued and bolted the servos’ to the hatch as I want them really secure! The flaps and ailerons attach using the same Robart style hinges used on the other control surfaces. The flaps took a lot of time to get working properly as the left wing has a micro switch to operate the landing lights, so I needed to make sure the flap retracts far enough but doesn’t put too much load on the servo. I’ll talk about this later. The linkages are hidden in the wing and I used threaded rod types that you normally find on big aerobatic aircraft.

The ailerons are less problematic, however when I test fitted the right wing I found that the fibreglass surface on top of the wing was warped and with the aileron on it looked horrible. I know heat can mould fibreglass so I had a go at straightening the surface. Using my heat gun I heated up the surface, careful not to melt the paint, and then held the surface flat against my tiled kitchen floor. It worked brilliantly! Okay, finally wings done.

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NOW THE FUN BIT – THE INTERIOR
The aircraft comes with fibreglass seats, side wall mouldings, instrument panel and a false carpeted floor. Not bad really, but I wanted to have a little fun. I reprinted the interior and re carpeted the floor with a sexy grey velour. Using my vinyl cutter I created a new, more scale like instrument panel with a G1000 from cardboard and clear plastic. This 182 is a 2007 model so a glass cockpit was a must! I was able to source some fun switches from the internet which really adds to the cockpit appeal. I installed the seats on tracks made from plastic sheet. The receivers hide under a panel under the front seat and the switches and charge leads are hidden under the pilot seat. It’s quite a bit of work to get to the electronics for maintenance, but it is worth it for the aesthetics. I added seat belts and pockets to the seats with some sneaky little magazines and a case if beer of course for the passengers. I made the passenger seat removable by installing rare earth magnets. This was to make getting the flight batteries in and out an easy task, the batteries install under the instrument panel and out of view.

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Now the big worry, is it tail heavy? With a big Ultimate style spinner, 22 x 10, 3 blade propeller and two 6s 6500mAh flight batteries (to give12s) it worked out just perfectly, must be luck! Now it’s off to the field for the heavy model inspection and on the scales it came in at 22kg with batteries! Certainly not the biggest plane I have but at the time, definitely the heaviest. The inspection went well and the motor runs showed that it would have plenty of power. I taxied to the runway for the first time and tested the motor again; there was a funny sound but nothing to be concerned about, but then the familiar acrid electrical burning smell. Oh no not the motor! I quickly removed the cowl. No, motor looked fine. I ran it again, data logged it and all fine. I then tested the flaps and one didn’t work. I opened up the flap hatch to find the servo had literally burnt itself out! Maybe the flaps were too heavy for the servo or maybe I got a dodgy servo (it never centred as well as the other flap servo) but in any case the other flap servo was coming out for a replacement as well. I installed HS 7954 servos as a replacement. They are 24kg servos and should surely be enough, time will tell.

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The second attempt at a test flight went very well. It really does fly well for such a heavy model and I was quite surprised. While it doesn’t slow right down for landing, it does land at quite a manageable pace. In the air it has a great presence and tracks exceptionally well while the weight makes it nice and solid in windy conditions. More problems though. The nose wheel tyre disintegrated on the 4th flight’s landing roll causing the wheel spat to dig into the dirt and break and bending the nose strut, only 2 weeks out from the Shepparton Mammoth Scale Fly-in which I really wanted to attend with the 182! Fortunately I was able to repair the nose spat and a call to Tommy in Malaysia had a new nose strut on the way. I replaced all of the supplied wheels with metal hub Sullivan Skylite. We made it to Shepparton where you may have seen it flying last year together with its big brother 157 inch version Cessna 182. This model certainly isn’t your traditional ARF. There is quite a lot of work involved, but if you can work through the frustrations it will reward you with a very scale rendition of the trusty Cessna 182. It was definitely worth the build effort.

Kit available from Austars Model

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