Bench Testing 

Assembly was completed in three evenings. When the last component was screwed in place, I connected up the battery, switched on the Tx and… disaster (well, almost)! The main rotors immediately spun up and I watched in horror as the Piccolo edged off the workbench with rotor blades flailing and then fell in a heap of ball joints on the workshop floor.

Well much to my amazement nothing broke – the ball links simply un-balled themselves. The main problem was finding the rotor bearings which had been flung to opposite ends of the workshop.

The cause was interference from a nearby fluorescent lamp. I learnt some useful safety lessons:

  1. Disengage the main motor pinion before your first bench test. Do this by simply pushing the rotor head down firmly, so the silicone sleeve slides up the shaft. Check the sense of the throttle stick v. the Piccoboard, only then should you  re-engage the pinion.
  2. Always check your throttle lever is at low throttle before you switch on
  3. Always switch the Tx on first!

Setting Up

Before the first flight, take a few minutes to take stock of things and check your setup: 

  • The swashplate must follow the stick, i.e. forward on the stick and the swashplate tips forward. The instructions are a bit vague about this, if you just follow your aerodynamic instincts without taking into account gyroscopic lag, your swashplate will end up 90 degrees out of phase. Been there, done that!

  • Balance the model fore/aft by holding the rotor head with the rotors at 90 to the body. Shifting the battery pack until it balances level.
  • To start with place some balsa packing under the left skid as recommended in the instructions, this makes takeoffs much easier until you get used to the leftways drift. The model must in any case fly with a slight right-side tilt to counteract the sideways thrust of the tail rotor.

In Training Mode
Note trainer gear - carbon rod and ping balls. Canopy removed for first flights

Test flights

My living room offered a suitable space about 12 ft * 15 ft with a wooden floor, and I would not suggest anything much smaller than that. I spent the first "flights" just getting the trims and mixing right without lifting off. Gradually the model started scuttling around in ground effect, like a demented crab.

Fly, crash, re-adjust, fly etc. was the order of the day for the first several flights. However the model is remarkably tough, the main rotor just flies apart at the ball joints. Breakages are generally easily fixed with cyano. Incredible really given the amount of punishment it's received.

Gradually my flight times increased and confidence grew, and I can now fly the model quite comfortably in the living room including nose in, and slow 360-degree pirouettes in front of me.  

Some tips: 

  • During take off, get out of ground effect as quickly as you can. GE extends to about 1 ft clear air below the skids. 

  • Once in the air, adjust the trims so you can take your fingers off the sticks for a second in the hover. If the model is nicely trimmed hands off, it's a lot easier to handle.

  • A little negative exponential for pitch and roll controls seems to makes the model smoother to fly. Your mileage may vary.
  • The main shaft has a silicone tube retainer which can slip following a hard landing - the shaft should be checked after a hard landing.

Piccofly Simulator

The Piccofly simulator is a very effective training aid which I strongly recommend for rookie chopper pilots (see my review of the Piccofly sim).  With the sim I was able to practice nose-in and pirouettes without risking the model.

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