This article was originally published in RC Heli Pilot February/March 2016 issue.
Photos By Edwin Rodriguez
The Boeing AH-64 Apache is a storied machine that was first introduced into service in 1986. Originally developed by Hughes to replace the venerable AH-1 Cobra, the Apache has done all that and more. The airframe has been modified into a wide array of variants and still serves the U.S. armed forces as well as many other NATO countries to this day. As a matter of fact, one of the most recent variants, the AH-64E Guardian is designed specifically with technology in mind. Featuring more powerful engines, a more robust transmission and a host of electronic upgrades, the Guardian is also capable of controlling UAV operations while aloft. While the Apache, in its various incarnations, has been around for decades and there are plans to replace it, no definite platform has even been adopted yet, so you know it’ll be around for decades more to come. For those reasons, it is perhaps the most modeled machine in RC form where scale helis are concerned.
DISTRIBUTOR: Horizon Hobby
TYPE: Micro Scale Machine
• 4-blade rotor head ?
• Brushless main and tail motors ?
• Loads of scale detail ?
• SAFE system equipped
• Battery compartment is a very tight fit
When it comes to RC heli models, I have a soft spot for the smaller machines. They’re less expensive, easier to store and transport and they are much easier to hide from the wife! Seriously though, this new scale model from Blade looks amazing and performs just as well. While it may lack the power for hardcore smack 3D, that is not the intended purpose of the Micro AH-64 Apache from Blade. This little scale marvel rings in at $249.99 fully RTF and boasts a ton of cool electronic features with all the scale detail you could possibly cram into a 14-inch model. Backed by Horizon’s SAFE technology, newer pilots should be able to fly it with ease while seasoned pros will enjoy the relaxing scale flight of the 4-bladed machine.
IN THE AIR
We’re no stranger to the SAFE technology found in the most recent heli offerings from the Horizon camp. That being said, we were stoked to get the Apache out to see if it would be just as docile as the earlier offerings while in Stability Mode. In this mode, the roll and pitch angles are limited so that the machine behaves more like a fixed pitch model. The Micro AH-64 was easier to fly than most CP models in this mode, but the tail authority was less than superb. Even so, scale-like maneuvers and patterns were a breeze to achieve and if we over shot any turning point, simply letting go of the sticks had the SAFE system self-leveling the Apache, ready and willing to take on the next stick command. This mode will be especially beneficial for more novice pilots, so long as they have a bit of fixed pitch experience.
In Intermediate mode, the Apache is much more maneuverable as the roll and pitch limits are removed, allowing for faster forward flight and much more precise handling … perfect for training pilots. In this mode, the AS3X still smoothes flight out, but the model will no longer self-level when the cyclic stick is released, further training those scale pilots of the future in the realm of scale flights. In this mode, we were able to carve some pretty nifty high speed turns, making the Apache look as though it was hot on the tail of an enemy aircraft, especially when the dual rates were switched to high. Whether just hovering or cruising at speed, the Micro AH-64 looks menacing in flight and on the deck. The armament on the winglets and belly mounted chain gun look awesome on such a small machine. The LED lights (Nav lights on either side and a strobe up top)on the scale fuselage also up the ante on the realism scale, further enhancing the appeal of this Apache.
In Agility Mode, the Apache can really scoot in forward flight and though it isn’t really war- ranted for a scale machine, inverted flight is also possible. In high rates we were able to perform some rather tight rainbows and even got the little machine to hover inverted a few times, though careful throttle management was required for this. Remember, this isn’t a 3D powerhouse with all the weight of the scale beauty taxing the main motor. In Intermediate and Agility Modes, the tail is more locked in than in Stability Mode.
Our favorite parts of all the test flights, oddly enough, were the takeoffs and landings. As the Apache in both full scale as well as this micro iteration have tail a dragger wheel setup for gear rather than traditional skids, rolling departures and landings are not only possible, but they look amazing. A word of caution though. The SAFE system does not like the dirty swirls of ground effect, so it is wise to get on the throttle a little harder than usual when lifting off.
Lastly, we had to try the Panic Recovery of the SAFE system. No matter what flight mode you might be in, whether you’re in high or low rates, simply pressing the button while releasing the sticks will have the Apache self-correcting into a level hover. Because of the relative heavy weight for a micro machine, this AH-64 does lose a bit of altitude while using the Panic Recovery, so be sure to keep it a bit higher than usual when training for new patterns or maneuvers.
Just as the fixed wing warbird world has seen a trend leaning towards Jugs (P-47s Thunderbolts) this past year, the scale heli modeling community has seen an influx of Apache models in that same time. Whether it’s a kit from RC Aerodyne, Vario or Unique Aircraft Models, there are a bunch of options if you’ve got a hankering for a full-on scale build. That is, if you have the wallet for it, the spare time for the build and the space available for such a large model. While the pinnacle of scale machines feature all the advancements, bells and whistles of the real AH-64 (minus the 30mm chain gun of course), such helis are not for the masses. That’s where the Micro AH-64 Apache from Blade comes in. It’s small in size, but it packs a ton of scale accessories into that small package. Not only that, but Horizon packages it all up in both RTF and BNF offerings, so you can be up in the air within minutes of opening the box! Lastly, the three flight modes (Stability, Intermediate and Agility) should help cater to both transitioning, newer pilots and those with years of stick time. Let’s take a deeper look and see what it’s all about …
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
Horizon and Blade include everything you need to get into the air quickly with the RTF Apache, minus four “AA” batteries for the DXe transmitter. They even include an AC/DC E-flite charger for the 400mAh flight pack.
With the RTF model, there really isn’t much to be done as far as setup goes. The DXe transmitter arrives fully programmed and bound to the model, so getting into the air is as easy as charging the battery and getting to it. As mentioned, the flight battery is a very, very snug fit in the nose of the fuselage, so that’s one area where you should spend a little time getting things placed. The ESC sits right beside the main motor in the back of the battery tray, so not only do you have to move the connectors aside while placing the bat- tery, you also have to be wary that no wires or the pack might rub on the motor. Not doing so could result in a damaged battery, an over-heated motor, a damaged airframe or even worse … all three! We found it easiest to place the battery with the label side up so that the balance plug sits right next to the motor on the starboard side of the cockpit. This places the discharge lead on the opposite side of the ESC so that the main wires and plug are looped on top of the battery with the canopy holding it in place, away from the motor. We also removed the warning label tag that comes wrapped around the balance lead on the E-flite LiPo so there was less material inside the battery tray.
WEIGHT: 6.7 oz. (190g)
LENGTH: 13.8 in. (350mm)
HEIGHT: 3.9 in. (100mm) WIDTH: 5.1 in. (130mm)
ROTOR SPAN: 12.5 in. (317mm)
ROTOR DISK AREA: 88.20 sq. in.
TAIL ROTOR DIAMETER: 2.6 in. (65mm)
RADIO: Spektrum DXe 2.4GHz transmitter
CYCLIC SERVOS: Spektrum Nanolite High Speed Servos
TAIL MOTOR: Brushless
GYRO: Spektrum AR6335 Nanolite
ESC: Blade dual brushless
BATTERY: E-flite 2S 400mAh 30C LiPo
MOTOR: Blade 6000Kv Brushless main motor
DURATION: 4 minutes
MINIMAL FLYING AREA: Large room
COMPONENTS NEEDED TO COMPLETE: None
Servo linkage type: Direct CCPM
Head block: Aluminum
Links: Steel with plastic ends
Control: 120 degree CCPM TAIL
Drive system: Direct Auto
Tail Case: Plastic Boom
Material: Plastic scale fuse
THE LAST WORD
Scale aficionados and those looking to get into the realm of scale models will rejoice at the performance and price point of the Blade AH-64 Apache. The brushless motors offer solid performance while the bottom line won’t break the bank. Will it win any scale competitions? Probably not, but if flying for fun is your thing (as it should be for all of us), this is one machine you shouldn’t over- look. Though the tail does wander a bit in Stability Mode, pilots with even a little FP experience should have no problem control- ling it and carving some nice, scale patterns around the yard or local gymnasium.