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Friday, February 17, 2012

Blade 400 Low Cost CNC Tail

Recently, I've noticed a lot of very inexpensive CNC helicopter heads and tails popping up online, so when my Blade 400 blew its plastic tail apart I decided to give one a try.
Overall, I have been happy with my B400.  It was reasonably priced when I bought it, and I've put a lot of flights on it.  I haven't crashed it (yet) and it flies well with the upgrades I've slapped on.  With the exception this blown tail, it still flies brand new.  

 I was very fortunate that the tail failure happened as I was landing--Booooooshhhhhh--caused by a hot bearing that failed and melted through the cheap plastic tail rotor housing, like butter.  A replacement plastic case only cost me a few bucks and was available locally, so I fixed the the tail with original parts.  But to avoid dodging another bullet, and to learn more about heli upgrades and maintenance, I ordered a metal part.

The E-Flite CNC part is expensive and 
doesn't include a shaft which was 
damaged in the blowout
Originally I was thinking about ordering E-Flite's metal tail to minimize hassle and potential flight control issues.
But after talking to local B400 gurus, they unanimously trashed E-Flite's CNC heli parts as imprecise and poorly designed.   Since I've already upgraded my B400's cheaper components and sloppy analog servos to about the limit of cost-effectiveness, I thought I would try a cheap CNC part.  If that didn't work out, I'll just buy a new and better helicopter--an Align 500-to-700--before throwing more money at the Blade.  Until then, I'll keep my upgraded B400 til I get better with bigger copters.

$12 bucks later including shipping, my generic CNC tail arrived.  Too bad I already bought Blade metal tail rotor grips for more than the cost of this entire rotor housing including it's own metal grips.  Oh well, lesson learned.

Available on ebay from $3 to $20.
Replacing the tail section was no problem; I learned the basics by replacing the plastic housing.  The only tricky part is keeping the belt's half-twist properly oriented by inserting a screwdriver to serve as a temporary rotor shaft.

The only concern I had with the CNC casing is that no thread locker was used during assembly, so I removed and replaced each bolt with Lock Tight.  I think there are 5 or 6.

Another oddity with the part I selected is that it is primarily TRexx 450 part, so although it is compatible with the B400, there is no inside flange to align with the hole in the tail boom that calibrates the position of the tail casing.  It was easy to match the previous position and belt tension, but it would be better to have confirmation.

Flight tests have been perfect so far, the tail is as precise as stock, maybe a little more so.  It is hard to tell because the gyro and rudder servo seem to be the limiting factors when it comes to locking-in the tail.

The most interesting change is the noise and friction reduction.  I had no idea that the Blade's plastic tail rotor casing whirred so loudly, and the whole rotor system spins more freely with the new tail.

Thumbs up so far for this quick and easy upgrade.  I think it was worthwhile based on the noise and friction reduction alone.  There is nothing like a machine you are used to suddenly running a whole lot quieter and smoother.
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