Setting a Precedent: The Electra Fly

Precedent-Electra-Fly (13) Simple and elegant lines

Gliders aren’t really my forte.  Aside from no engine (I’m a petrol-head 😉), and as much as I like the charm of circling with the buzzards and catching that thermal, I just don’t have the patience.  Furthermore, and possibly as I also fly rotary wing, I cannot help but correct every little buffet and twitch made in flight. On a glider this is a no-no. A glider barely floats above stalling speed and every time you move the control surfaces you snap away at what little airspeed the model has and quickly loose altitude. Despite all this I keep getting the urge to try again and then this popped up on eBay.

The Precedent Electra Fly was designed in 1991 and offered an ideal introduction to both model flying and, still novel as it was at the time, electric flight.  Construction was typical Precedent (now marketed under Slec) with a lite-ply fuselage that semi-assembled quickly in your hands.  The idea was to allow absolute beginners to assemble a straight model without needing a fuselage jig.  My trusty old jig was used as an insurance, but I can confirm that all the formers lined up perfectly.

Precedent-Electra-Fly (1) Assembling the fuselage in my trusty building jig.
Precedent-Electra-Fly (4) The nose sections consist of solid balsa blocks that need to be carved to shape – been a whole since I’ve used a wood plainer on a kit. Soon had a nice pile of wood shavings built up complete with a sense of satisfaction at a job well done 😊
Precedent-Electra-Fly (5) Sanded smooth and ready for covering.

The wings were another matter.  After several decades in a box the spars had warped considerably and took a lot of painstaking steaming (and scalded fingers) above the kettle to straighten things out again.

Precedent-Electra-Fly (7) Once the spars were strighted out, the wings went togther smoothly. There is a lot of wing area to build and things are kept interesting with those novel diagonal rear ribs.
Precedent-Electra-Fly (9) Finished wings. I understand later kits came with a sheeted forward leading edge to stiffen the inboard panels as motors become ever more powerful. Mine didn’t include this upgrade so it must have been an earlier kit. I will just have to keep flights sedate to not overstress the structure.

Fully assembled this is a largish model with a wingspan of 2.2m.  I opted to reduce the dihedral from the outset to that recommended for those who can already fly.  One modification I did make was to glue the metal brace rod into one wing to eliminate any chance of it rotating in flight and altering the dihedral.  Something that I uncovered after a search of old forums be an issue with this model due to the way the wing can, if going too fast, ride up at the front over the canopy seating.

Precedent-Electra-Fly (10) Fuselage and tail surfaces covered.
Precedent-Electra-Fly (11) Keeping things square when gluing on the tail.
Precedent-Electra-Fly (14) Plenty of room. When first marketed, the Electra Fly’s front compartment would have been filled with a separate receiver battery, and the (then much larger) receiver would have been squeezed in on top of the flight pack in the aft section. There was also an option to use the elevator servo to actuate a rudimentary motor control switch. Full down elevator to turned things off and full up to switch back the motor back on. I can only image the terror this must have induced!
Precedent-Electra-Fly (12) Fully rigged and she only just fits on my bench 😬.

The standard 600 takes it aloft adequately but converting to brushless would be straightforward enough as a 3660 inrunner is the same dimension as a brushed 600 can motor.  The switch would be more for power efficiency than for any increase in power. This model was designed when electric flight was still novel and folding the wings would be a real possibility if things got too fast.  There is no reason why I couldn’t keep a brushless dialled back and just reap the increase in battery duration.  Cooling might be an issue with that fully enclosed motor block; especially as all the 3660 brushless motors I can find online seem to be fully sealed units aimed at cars and boats; brushless motors don’t work when wet.