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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Quicktake - Parkzone Ultra Micro T-28

The 40" PZ T-28 has become a staple aileron trainer for the throw-money-at-it minded RC community.  Expensive but good, the T-28 has mostly excellent in-flight manners, as long as you keep the speed moderate and have a reasonably long strip.  I was curious to see how its baby brother stacked up, but hadn't got around to it until now.

First, I generally have a problem with Horizon RC models price points, they obviously don't care to be competitive.  Equally obviously, the market supports their value proposition: cater to mostly novice fliers who are light on time, heavy on cash, and happy to shun shopping around given snazzy marketing and a steady diet of venerable aircraft to add to a pretty interesting product line.

Although Horizon is viewed as distributing some of the higher-end Chinese products on the market today, they are still peddling low end stuff that continuously suffers from hit or miss QC.   I have found that Horizon's stuff, for all the savvy marketing, is every bit as cheaply constructed as less expensive stuff--and is probably built at the exact  same sweat shop.  American shoppers have proven happy to accept that compromise--I get that--three cheap models for the price of one high-end build.   It makes sense.  But when you add a premium price tag to the low side of the quality equation, Horizon's models are greeted with a tough, uphill battle right out of the box. The UM T-28 is no exception.

The 16.5" Trojan (I can't believe I said that) with its ancient brushed motor is well crafted, but suffers from the same delicate materials as its sibling micros--be extremely careful removing it from the well packed box--it is easy to permanently damage with mild handling. The paint job is really nice, and the plane looks handsome.  The T-28's trike landing gear works well, with a flexible, steerable nose gear.

Overall, the BNF T-28 is way too flimsy and small to sell in the $100 range (or $160 as a Dx5e RTF).  It's ability to absorb battle damage benefits from having no external servos, which are too common to Horizon Hobby frail micro designs, the UM Trojan's ailerons actuate from concealed control rods.  Compare to similarly priced, excellent 4ch performers which at least attempt to deliver serious foam builds:
39" span, brushless, 4ch.  $140 as RTF
 37", 4ch, brushed.  $89 as RTF
 34", 4ch, brushed.  $119 as RTF. 
Blows away the UM T-28 in stability and aerobatic capability.
30", 4ch, brushless, $79 (shipped) as PNP.

All of these FMS minis sell around $69 in the 
30" class, with great features. 
Note, these are all much bigger models that have true foam airfoils, many have carbon fiber and plywood reinforcement (Horizon markets as "Carbon Z"), standard size servos, and they all include a Tx/Rx.  They do not sport the T-28's (and most of the UM series') flimsy under cambered, flat foam airfoils, paper thin control surfaces, and make-shift pcb servos surface mounted with double sided tape.

On component quality, I give the PZ UM Trojan a D+, the workmanship is nice, but the Horizon Hobby overly delicate foam and tiny outdated components, like a nickel's worth of motor, is an in-your-face ripoff.  Horizon Hobby executives have to be belly laughing at the predictably sheepish acceptance of these dime store builds by their growing customer base, and even harder at the abused slaves that churn out this stuff for pennies the bank, anyway.


Due to it's size, the UM Trojan is less stable than it's big brother, you need fairly still air to fly it outside without risk (largely due to the high price tag and poor build quality).  The brushed motor has  sufficient power, but is not exceptionally spirited. The stock 120mAh battery is small for the plane, probably to keep heft down, so flying times are below average in its price category.

The plane flies well.  Control surfaces are set up for intermediate skill, with high roll rate ailerons, acceptable rudder, and slightly inadequate elevator authority as setup in the box. It executes basic aerobatics reasonably well, with some roll coupling at higher speeds and significant coupling at lower speeds.  Complete aileron rolls are strained from a lack of power and no lack of drag, even though roll responsiveness is good.   Top speed becomes drag limited fairly quickly, making smart power management a key to achieving longer flying times.  Turns below half throttle require a healthy dose of up-elevator, much like its big brother.  Stall characteristics are also similar, less than forgiving, but not uncontrollable.  Getting slow in a nose high attitude slides the nose off into a required spin-prevent almost every time.  This plane needs a little speed.  Glide range is average to slightly below, but the speed is fast-- tell tale sign of higher than ideal wing loading. 

Overall, the UM T-28 is a good low wing flier with a few rough edges around a faster than average flight envelop.  It needs a little space to stretch its antiquated brushed legs.

Z8RC PZ UM T-28 Rating: C+ for quality workmanship, dirt poor component quality and out-dated motor, terrible value compared to much better flying and larger scale competition, solid intermediate airborne behavior with good aerobatic capability and somewhat shaky stall characteristics.  It would get a B with 40%-60% lower pricing.
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