A Scale Heli For Your Backyard
How can you mistake one of the classic icons in modern helicopter aviation? The Hughes 300 was originally produced in 1963 and grew to become one of the most versatile helicopters of all time. It was not uncommon to see the 300 with floats hovering over a wreck site in the ocean or on a lake, or outfitted with agricultural spraying equipment flying over farms. Later editions of the 300 were used as law enforcement helicopters and beginning in 1964 the US Army contracted a version of the Hughes 300, designated TH-55A and officially named Osage, to be used as a single rotor training helicopter.
The Hughes 300 started out as a Model 269 in September 1955 and has undergone many changes and model/version updates throughout the years. In 1983 Schweizer Aircraft of Elmira, NY began production of the renamed Model 300C under license. In late 1986, Schweizer purchased all rights of the Model 269 and 300 helicopters from Macdonald Douglass. Today the Schweizer 300C, with its diverse range of accessories, is one of the most popular two-seat helicopters available to the general mass market.
The complete ready to fly package includes the LiPo battery, charger, sophisticated transmitter and even a spare set of rotor blades.
While I wish I had $275,000 to buy a 300C heli, the closest I am going to get is the Parkflyers R/C Hughes 300 heli. And after getting this heli in my hands, I am totally ok with that. When I saw the photos of the Hughes 300 on the companys website (www.parkflyers.com) I really was not sure what to make of it. I was thinking it would be another me too heli with a scale canopy. But, boy was I wrong! The first thing I noticed as I removed the heli from the box was scale details such as the custom tail fins, the Hughes 300 canopy and the functional suspension system on the landing gear.
The Hughes 300 is mechanically similar in layout and design to other 450-class helicopters. Note the scale-looking gear.
The Hughes 300 is a 400-size helicopter complete with a powerful 3600 Kv brushless power system, heading-lock gyro and a 3S LiPo battery. Four mini servos are preinstalled to control the swashplate, collective and tail rotor. The main frame is constructed of a tough but lightweight ABS plastic. The tail boom is aluminum and is covered with a white plastic sleeve to give the heli its scale appearance. The tail boom supports are carbon fiber as is the push rod connecting the rudder servo to the tail gearbox. The tail rotor is belt-driven off of an autorotation gear assembly on the main shaft. A one-way Torrington bearing in this gear allows the heli to auto-rotate if power is lost. This design keeps the tail rotor spinning to maintain yaw control during autos.
Left: The rotorhead should look familiar to any experienced heli pilot. Molded parts offer plenty of control precision for sport flying, and are much less expensive than CNC aluminum parts. Numerous ball bearings ensure minimum friction. Right: The tail rotor uses a conventional belt drive coupled with a pushrod bellcrank to activate the tail rotor.
The head on the 300 is comprised of a standard Bell-Hiller mixer, a flybar with adjustable weights and ABS paddles. The collective is controlled by a servo under the main gear assembly. A control wire is housed in the center of the main shaft and attaches to the mixer through a slot in the shaft just below the head. It is a very simple and efficient design that yields a very smooth collective response.
The left and right cyclic servos are mounted just forward of the motor on the top of the main frame. They are connected to the swashplate via ball links and a 90-degree arm to produce a slop-free control system. The receiver is mounted below the servos and the main battery is at the front of the main frame.
The shock-absorbing gear is not just for show. It is fully functional and works just like the real thing.
A unique feature on the full-scale Hughes 300 was the suspension system on the main landing gear. This design dampens the blow from harder than normal landings, protecting the main structure as well as the pilot. The Parkflyer R/C Hughes 300 contains a full functioning scale replica of the original suspension used by the Hughes Aviation. This was one feature that we tested out, sometimes unintentionally, during our flight tests. They really do help dampen a harder than planned landing.
The Hughes 300 comes with a 6-channel FM transmitter from E-Fly and under most circumstances I would comment that this transmitter is out of date since 2.4GHz is the norm now. However, this one is full of features that rival the standard transmitters that come with RTF helis of this scale. The transmitter has a dual rate switch which manages the high and low rate for channels 1, 2, and 4. On the top left of the transmitter is a switch to select the gyros mode of operation between heading lock and normal. Below that is a knob that allows you to adjust the pitch of the blades as they correspond to the throttle stick.
The right side of the transmitter has a switch for normal and 3D operation. When in normal mode the throttle and pitch curves are linear, increasing from idle at the low stick position to full throttle/pitch at the high stick position. When in 3D mode, a V curve is used with high throttle at both full and low stick positions with a collective pitch range of +10 to -10 degrees. The center stick position is approximately zero degrees of pitch with just above 1/2 throttle. The design of the Hughes 300 coupled with the additional functionality from the radio system makes this a fully aerobatic helicopter that can perform maneuvers such as inverted flight, loops and rolls, and more. While maneuvers like this are not so true to scale, if your flying skills permit, you have a more than capable helicopter.
The first flight on the Hughes 300 was certainly interesting. There is a lesson to be learned here about ready-to-fly models, especially helicopters” preflight check! When we got to the field we had a few models to test fly and when it came time to get the 300 in the air, I did a quick check of the controls and the swashplate and tail rotor both seemed to be responding correctly so we plugged in the battery and attempted to take off. The heli spooled up and everything seemed ok but there was no lift. It was as if the collective was not responding at all. After a few minutes of checking the mechanics of the heli, we determined that all servos were operational but we were still puzzled as to what was going on. Somehow the transmitter was switched to a CCPM heli mode unbeknownst to us. The transmitter is programmable and does have an LCD screen and there is a letter that denotes what mode it is in. It needs to be on H but was somehow set to C for CCPM. It reminds me of the saying, Things are not always what they seem. Everything was working, just not correctly for the model.
Now, with that behind us, it was time to hit the air again. This time the 300 left the ground as expected and we noticed an abnormal amount of vibration. A quick look at the blades and the tracking was off by about 1/2- inch. After determining which blade needed to be corrected, I landed and made the necessary adjustments. It is important to note that even though this is a RTF helicopter, it is certainly not a micro toy grade heli made for indoor flight. It has a large rotor span and enough mass to cause damage or injury if the proper precautions are not taken prior to flight.
With the blades tracking properly and the radio properly set, it was time for a real flight. I cannot help but want to fly the 300 in a scale-like manner; it is so realistic looking in flight that I wanted my control inputs to emulate the stick and rudder commands that you would give in the full scale heli. So my take-off was very smooth and controlled and once I reached about 15 feet, I transitioned into forward flight. A couple of minor trim adjustments were needed and it was flying great. I flew some figure- 8s and laps around the pattern when I started to hear a funny squeal coming from the model. I quickly landed and after a thorough inspection I could not find anything mechanically wrong. I added a couple drops of oil to the swashplate and mixer and started another flight. The noise was gone. This model made a long trip from the factory in a lot of different weather conditions and I am not sure how long it was sitting in a warehouse, so the fact that it needed a couple of drops of oil did not concern me at all.
After a couple more flights, a friend of mine stopped by the field. He is an avid 3D pilot and was watching me fly the 300 in a scale-like manner. He turned to me and said, Boring! I laughed and asked what he meant. He took a close look at the heli and saw that it was not a fixed-pitch rotor. He said, This thing is screaming to fly upside-down. Within a second, he had the controls and really proceeded to put this little model through its paces. He was not flying any crazy or aggressive maneuvers, but he had it flying inverted, looping and rolling. I was surprised to hear him comment that he was impressed. After all, he flies some serious 3D machines and certainly to him this model must seem like a toy. He said the brushless setup had tons of power and the heli felt very solid for its size. He liked the control response and commented that it felt very smooth. When I told him that it was a RTF heli and that you could pick one up for less than $249 he was blown away. I have to admit it was strange seeing a Hughes 300 flying upside down, but impressive nonetheless.
HELICOPTER: Hughes 300
TYPE: 400-size electric heli
FLYING WEIGHT:19.9 oz. (565g)
LENGTH: 31.5 in. (800mm)
HEIGHT: 8.8 in. (225mm)
ROTOR SPAN: 24.8 in. (630mm)
ROTOR DISK AREA: 482 sq. in.
TAIL ROTOR: 6 in. (152mm)
RADIO: 6 channels; flown with the included E-Fly 6-ch FM 72Mhz transmitter, four micro servos (included), AREG202 heading lock gyro, and 6-ch receiver
POWER SYSTEM: Includes B20/10T brushless motor, 18A ESC, and 11.1V, 1300 mAh LiPo battery
DURATION: 7-10 minutes depending on flying style
MINIMAL FLYING AREA: Backyard
COMPONENTS NEEDED TO COMPLETE: Eight AA batteries for the transmitter
Parkflyers R/C has a great assortment of ready to fly models in their product line, most of them are airplanes, but they are all high quality. It was nice to see them add the Hughes 300 helicopter to their product line. Whats even nicer is to see that it is a true 400-size model with a brushless power system, computer radio, and full collective rotor mechanics. The Hughes 300 is a ready-to-fly (RTF) model which even includes a 3S LiPo battery and charger.
From the packing to the scale-like details on the model, the Parkflyer R/C Hughes 300 is an impressive heli. There are so many scale helis on the market but most of them are micro sized and made for indoor flight only. It is nice to see a 400-size scale heli with a fully functional collective control system and a computer radio all in one package. Other than the eight AA batteries for the transmitter, everything you need to get airborne is included in the box. I would not say this helicopter is for the beginner but certainly someone who has flown a collective pitch helicopter before will have no problem with the 300. It was nice to see my friend flying some advanced aerobatics with it and really showing what the 300 is capable of. For $239.95, how can you go wrong?
Parkflyers, www.parkflyers.com , (800) 470-8932