Cardinal Trainer?

The ARC Modelfly Cessna 177 Cardinal
By Benjamin Smith-Haddon

I've built two other ARC planes in the past (Ready 2 and the Jupiter), and so enjoyed building such great quality kits that I went for the larger, prettier scale Cessna. RCM&E has already reviewed this plane (last month), so this is only to back it up, or to add my own points.

The kit has only one piece of wood, a rear stab spar; all the rest is ABS plastic or reinforced nylon. As ARC claims, all parts really are precisely cut - extremely impressed.

ARC Modelfly Cessna 177 CardinalBuilding
The main airframe can be done in a weekend. It goes together so well! As the mag review said, installing the steering mechanism for the nose wheel is a bugger! I had to enlarge the access hole in the firewall downwards, almost so that it touched the join, to ensure smooth movement of the piano wire. This was the only building problem I encountered however; I didn't experience the engine installation trouble that the mag talked about. I expect this was because I used a size down from them - an OS 52 four-stroke (underpowered according to the specs, but it's what I had!)

Actually this isn't quite true - I did have to mod the engine mount, which was too large for the engine (I glued a piece of nylon inside of one of the forks. It seems to work very well). One snag with precision cut plastic parts is that you have to use what's there. A smaller mount won't fit the firewall moulding. One of the greatest plus points re: building, are the instructions. Photos are many and beautifully clear, and the text is written in several languages, including strangely, well-translated English!

ARC Modelfly Cessna 177 Cardinal NoseThere is one area where I would deviate from them though. This is the material recommended for bonding ABS plastic parts, like the bulkheads and firewall. Epoxy or cyano is recommended. I definitely wouldn't use epoxy - it won't take to plastic like it does to balsa, even if surfaces are well roughened. I only used it for sealing the firewall, after it had been glued. Cyano is OK, but Plastiweld is what you really want. It's a clear liquid, painted on with a brush, and works like a cement - lightly dissolving the met surfaces and welding them together. There's no way that firewall is going to move! Plastiweld doesn't take to reinforced nylon however. Cyano works well here.

The fuz has a cut out designed to allow large two stroke silencers to be used. If using a four stroke, a fairing is supplied to fit over the cut out - very nice and neat. Only thing is, if you cut it away slightly to allow silencer access, it leaves a whopping great hole to fill up with oil, etc. In my case the hole was too big to fill in with epoxy, so I covered it with masking tape and epoxied over that. (Nice to see I'm one up on RCM&E - they left theirs with a thumping big hole)!

It really does come up well with all the stickers applied. Each is an extremely accurate fit. If I was 'to-the-mill' fussy I would have used the soapy water trick, but I got away without this. I was conscious of weight with my little engine so I didn't paint the model. It still went down splendidly at the flying field!

Nothing much to say here - the fuz is big so there's plenty of room for servos. Using extension leads for the aileron servos eases fitting the wing, and means that you can leave the receiver alone once in place.

ARC Modelfly Cessna 177 Cardinal Tank BayLast month RCM&E promised to write about it's suitability as a trainer in the next edition. They never did! I'm a relative beginner and a trainer is exactly what I need.

Running the engine in the workshop revealed a serious problem. The fuel tank is supported at the front through a hole in the firewall, separated and insulated by a ring of silicone. This is fine. At the back though, it's supported by a nylon saddle, and directly glued to the fuz. The saddle is an exact fit to the tank, so using foam for insulation is not an option. Therefore the vibes from the engine slosh up the fuel when half-full, causing air bubbles to shoot up the line and cutting of the engine.

This was no good so instead; I packed the void around the tank with foam, wrapped the saddle in foam, then glued the saddle plus foam aft of the tank to stop it moving backwards. This has solved the problem.

So What Did I Think?
In summary it is a fantastic trainer. Unlike your standard Tiger trainer (or similar), it is heavy (all up is 3400g), so really does hold its own in gusty weather. It is also silky smooth. Was anyone at Sandown recently? Maybe some of you saw the Multiplex Magister trainers in flight. Even flown by experts I noticed that they were jerky in flight. The Cardinal is silky smooth and very scale ARC Modelfly Cessna 177 Cardinal Aeriallike.

I was worried that the .52 four-stroke engine might struggle, so a mate at the club (much better pilot than me) took it off for its maiden flight. It needed the whole strip length to get off, and needed full up elevator. Once under way however, it climbed very well. Cruising hands off is no problem (even for me!), but need full up trim to stay level.

I have since discovered that the C of G, although correct as per instructions, is probably too far forward. The instructions state 75mm aft of the leading edge, which is 29% of the mean chord. I have moved this aft to 33% by moving the battery, so this might correct the forward balance bias - but I have yet to fly in this configuration!

My favourite way of attaching the aerial is with a brass 'S' hook is butt jointed to the fin with cyano. This is a weak joint, so when you hang it in a tree it comes loose, and you don't pull the aerial / fin to bits!

I really like using the small engine in this big plane. Sure, it won't pull long loops or do crazy aerobatics, but that's not what the Cardinal is about. With a well-balanced prop and ali spinner (I use a Top Flite magnetic balancer) it is 'whisper' quiet with a standard silencer, and gets great oohs and aahs from the crowd after low passes!

On full power it is surprisingly quick (fuz and wing are very slippery), but will crawl into landing before a stall on full up elevator. One thing though, weight and slipperiness mean no steep approaches! It takes a while to slow down. I toyed with using flaperons (it's possible to install two aileron servos, which I like), but they are only useful for slowing down a fast approach. Don't use them near stall speed, or it will tip stall, due to the ailerons being of strip type.

ARC Modelfly Cessna 177 CardinalI was concerned about the main landing gear being made from reinforced nylon instead of steel, but after several half-landing, half-fall out the skies, they show no sign of breaking.

For the absolute beginner, maybe the Cardinal is a little fast. It doesn't allow as much thinking time as some others. But it is such a sweet flyer, and near bullet proof in construction (I have never ever broken the back end of the Ready, Jupiter or this one despite ruthless provocation), that maybe with buddy box, I would say this is an excellent place for a newcomer to put his cash (£100 - £120).

Any bugbears? Well, Ripmax is the distributor, so at the moment, unless your shop has it in stock, your gonna wait a loooooong time for it to arrive. And the fuel tank support system is rubbish. But that's it. I love this plane, the best ton I have ever spent! should anyone have any comments!

The ARC Modelfly Cessna 177 Cardinal is available from:
Ripmax Stockists

Technical Details - Cessna 177 Cardinal
UK Distributor: Ripmax
Manufacturer: ARC Modelfly
Aircraft Type: Semi-Scale Powered Aerobatic Trainer
RRP £100 - £120
Wingspan 170cm
Wing Area 44 dm2
Wing Section Symmetrical Section Airfoil
Weight 3300 - 3500g (all up, dry)
Engine 60 2-stroke; 70 4-stroke
Number of Channels: 4-5 Channel Radio
Control Functions: Elevator, Aileron, Throttle, Rudder, Flaperons (optional)
Construction Plastic ARTF
Likes Dislikes
  • Good value for money
  • Hold its own in gusty weather
  • Sweet Flyer
  • Gets great oohs and aahs from the crowd
  • Fuel tank support system

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ARC Modelfly
Cessna 177
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The best 'ton' I have ever spent!
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