Shuttling About

In 1999 I bought my Hirobo Shuttle Z-TS as a successor to my Century Hawk MK1. The quality of the Shuttle, particularly the canopy, was superb and it was extremely reliable. The shuttle was the machine with which I learnt basic aerobatics and inverted hovering. With such a hard life (this was before flight simulators dropped in price) it was often on the work bench being ‘maintained’.

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My old Shuttle Z-TS ready for a days flying pictured back in spring 2000

It was on one of these days that a friend at my local club had bought a second hand shuttle and wanted me to check it over. Buying second hand is fine but you really need to scrutinise the advert very carefully. Unfortunately not knowing anything about helicopters my friend had bought a lemon. I stripped it down and kept finding fault after fault. Upon removing the engine it was revealed the frames were cracked and that was where I should have left things and supplied a list of parts he would require. Unfortunately I felt so bad for him that I ‘raided’ my parts drawer which happened to include my own partly disassembled shuttle.

My own shuttle was soon rebuilt and sold a few years later as I progressed to more 3D capable machines. However it was while searching on eBay that I noticed a shuttle for sale in the location of my old home town. Closer look at the pictures and an email to the seller confirmed it was indeed my old friend selling his old shuttle. It was not in a happy state but thrown into the sale was a considerable quantity of hobby related tools and hardware. Despite the risks I decided to take the plunge and bid.

I ended up paying slightly more than I would have liked (eBay fever took over) and my parents (who still lived in the area) kindly agreed to pick the heli up for me until I could arrange to visit them. My mother described it as ‘a load of dirty junk’ but fingers crossed I was right about the gems hidden within.

Ebay Shuttle 02.11.12

eBay’s auction image: Oh dear, just what had I bought!?

My first impression was yes it was dirty. Putting the heli aside I soon uncovered the spare engine with a claimed ‘cracked cylinder’ and an inch thick layer of nuts, bolts and screws covering the floor of the original box. It cannot be under estimated just how valuable a good collection of hardware acquired over many years is in this hobby. Since by departure in 2005 I sold the lot and this new ‘hoard’ would instantly give me a head start. I set about cleaning everything. Metal parts including the engines were stripped down and cleaned using a method I came up with years ago that removes even the most stubborn of burnt on castor oil. (NEVER use castor oil in a modern RC engine despite what the manuals might say; It really has no place in the hobby now as far better synthetic lubricants are out there and these won’t burn onto the muffler/head either).

Once everything was cleaned, polished and oiled I took stock of just what I’ve bought:

  • Shuttle Z-TS
  • Spare parts
  • OS 32SX-H
  • OS 32F-H (no cracked liner that I could see so a ‘free’ engine)
  • Futaba 6ex-H transmitter, receiver and 5x standard servos
  • Futaba FF7 transmitter
  • Sullivan starter motor
  • Radio Chargers and a multi-charger
  • NHP 550 mm carbon main blades
  • Wooden 550 mm main blades
  • Flight Box with power panel
  • Selection of tools including ball link pliers, sockets and glow starters
  • Lots of hardware

The radio is fully working but on 35 MHz so I will use this for now to set up the Shuttle and my other recent eBay purchases. Once I’ve finished my PhD I’ll take the plunge and get something more modern. The starter motor like all Sullivan’s is indestructible but this one looked a mess with a covering of rust and dirt. It took a while but once cleaned and re-sprayed in black high temp paint I think it now looks the part.

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One Sullivan starter cleaned and re-sprayed to an acceptable standard

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The two engines following strip down, clean and rebuild. One OS 32SX-H and an OS 32F-H described as suffering from a cracked liner. I didn’t find any evidence of this and suspect it was inexperience combined with too lean a mixture on cheap castor based fuel.

So why had I bought this particular Shuttle? Well I guess that parts of it including the main frames were once my old shuttle. In my last post I talked about Nostalgia; well this was the closest I was going to get to re-own the helicopter I liked the most. The frames really are my old ones too as I found the same small hole I once drilled to attach a tuned pipe mount! Now I just need to track down a few parts on eBay and I’ll soon have this shuttle restored to it’s former glory.

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Everything laid out once cleaned. Not a bad hoard and more than makes up for the price paid.  Indeed I managed to sell the two 35 MHz transmitters and recoup some of the cost.

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