E-flite Blade 400

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E-flite Blade 400
E-flite-blade-400.jpg
Manufacturer E-flite
Class 450 size electric
Build RTF
Blade size12.8" (325mm)
LevelIntermediate/Advanced
Frame
MaterialComposite
TypeMultiple piece space frame with aluminum tail boom
Servo to swash linkage2 direct links, 1 bell crank
Servo sizeE-flite DS75 digital sub-micro (4)
Rotor head
GripsComposite
Head blockComposite
LinksBall
SwashAluminum / Composite
Control120° CCPM
Tail
Tail pitch sliderDual point
Tail blade gripsComposite
Tail caseComposite
Boom strut materialCarbon fiber
Gearing
Main rotor to pinion ratio1:14
Main rotor to tail ratio1:5
Weight
Weight without battery1 lb. (453.6g)
Fully loaded weight1 lb., 5 oz. (595.3g)
Dimensions
Height9" (230mm)
Canopy width3.125" (79.4mm)
Paddle to paddle diameter12.5 in. (317.5mm)
Main rotor diameter28.2" (718mm)
Tail rotor diameter5.3" (135mm)
Length25.6" (650mm)

The E-flite Blade 400 3D was a high-specification RTF electric mini-helicopter with a composite frame, CCPM rotor head and a belt-driven tail rotor stabilized by a heading hold gyro. The model, designed by E-flite in the United States, built at its factory in China and distributed by parent company Horizon Hobby of Champaign, Illinois USA, was intended for use by intermediate to advanced pilots. Although labelled as a "400," it uses the same size (325mm) main blades and has the same total rotor diameter and approximately the same AUW as another model distributed by Horizon, the Align T-Rex 450. Unlike that model which makes extensive use of machined aluminum parts, most parts on the Blade 400 are molded of a rugged composite. The flybar, mainshaft and tail shaft are made of stainless steel; the tubular tail boom is aluminum.

It has since been discontinued in favor of the upgraded Blade 450 3D.

A noteworthy feature of the Blade 400 was the inclusion of a Spektrum DX6i 2.4GHz DSM2 six-channel computer radio with a AR6100e "Microlite" receiver. Advantages of such a system include the aforementioned 2.4GHz operation, full programmability for both rotary- and fixed-wing models and a ten-model memory. In particular, the two flight modes and adjustable five-point pitch and throttle curves make this a fully featured helicopter/airplane radio, unlike the transmitter bundled with most RTF models. The transmitter even included a countdown timer to avoid the possibility of a crash due to a discharged battery; it is factory set for 4:30 for the Blade 400 3D. This value is for aggressive, full-throttle flying; fast forward flight and hovering gives times closer to six minutes, but caution should be exercised to avoid overdischarge of the battery.

Separate manuals for the airframe, radio and gyro were included as was a 1.8A DC-powered battery charger with built-in automatic cooling fan and a series of color-coded LED charging status lights. The fan switched on when a battery's balancing lead was plugged in and switched off after the battery is charged or an error detected. A 100-240VAC/12VDC 3A power supply (part number EFLC4030) is available as an option for those wishing to operate the enclosed charger on house current. The main connections on the supplied battery and ESC are the "EC3" type common across Horizon Hobby's product lines, but can be swapped to the modeler's choice of connectors if desired. Prewired male EC3 connectors are available from E-flite should one wish to build an adapter in lieu of removing the factory male connector.

A "plug-n-play" or "PNP" version without the transmitter or receiver was available for those wishing to use an existing helicopter-compatible transmitter. An almost ready-to-fly airframe was available as well for those wishing to add their own electronics.

Buyers of the ready-to-fly model from older stock should be aware of a recall of the Spektrum DX6i transmitter; this recall affects other models with the same radio as well as stand-alone radio systems. A link to information regarding the recall may be found in the "other resources" section below.

Contents

Upgrades

The various onboard components are suitable for intermediate pilots either experienced with or are interested in learning fast forward flight and basic aerobatics; more serious 3D operation and stable overall operation can be realized with upgraded servos and gyro. According to online bulletin boards and a review in Model Aviation magazine, the servos are alleged to be something of a weak point because of their tendency to strip in extreme manuevers and minor crashes. The servos have also been criticized on those same boards for their tendency to wander from center, which in turn might make fine manuevers and hovering difficult. The gyro is suitable for all but the most extreme maneuvers, but an upgrade should be considered if extreme manuevers are planned. Factory upgrades include carbon fiber main and tail rotor blades, carbon fiber tailfins, flame-painted canopy and fins and a plain white canopy which can be customized with the modeler's choice of paint and trim. A larger, 440-size motor (EFLM1360H; the number "440" refers to the height of the motor) is now available as well for only US$3.00 more than an original 420-sized replacement (EFLH1350H); it is rated at 4200Kv as opposed to the original motor's 3800Kv (or RPM/volt) and is recommended for use in both the Blade 400 and the Align T-Rex 450 as well as in similarly sized models.

Updated factory recommendations for improving the the response of various transmitter settings including updated exponential curves are available via the model's official website linked below.

The 325mm main blades are a common size and a number of companies offer upgrade blades for helicopters in this class. Align replacement wood blades for the T-Rex 450 (HS1158-T) are an excellent upgrade and are of better quality than the originals at a slightly lower price. In general, carbon blades are thinner and stiffer, offering crisper response and less drag at higher head speeds.

Should one decide to use the thinner Align blades, it is recommended that a thin plastic shim be placed between the blade and grip. This will prevent undue stress on the blade grips and the shims themselves can be easily made from an old credit card, or you can purchase ready made shims. The Blade part number is BLH4304 and the package contains 4 shims.

Hints and tips

The Twister 3D is an almost identical model available without radio gear in an almost ready to fly package; spares are almost all interchangeable. The bodies are different. The rudder control rod is different due to the rudder servo being mounted differently. The Twister has very good carbon blades included. The Keda 450 from Giant Cod is a good alternaive cheap motor. The Twister feathering shaft breaks rather than bends which loses a lot of parts. Fitting new bearings and shafts to the motor is possible. Some parts are compatible with the trex 450/ clones. Mainly the upgrades. Clone 450 blades will fit in the Blade 400/Twister Grips but will need washers to space them out as they are thinner. Good clone carbons are available ffrom Giant Cod and from HobbyKing. Good as in learning.

The covering on the main blades can become loose over time, increasing drag and reducing flight time. The covering can be reshrunk using a hairdryer or heat gun, but carefully since the material is extremely thin.

Known issues

As previously indicated, the servos are not very resilient and the gears are easily stripped in even a slight crash; they are easily and inexpensiveley replaced.

A new Blade 400 right out of the box should be assumed to have incorrect head, pitch and tail setup as well as incorrect pinion/main gear mesh. Watch for overly tight ball links and overly tight tail drive belts. There will be binding (which must be eliminated) with the default tail servo and pitch rod setup. A new Blade 400 pilot must learn how to properly setup and maintain a CP (collective pitch) heli or safety will be compromised.

The stock 420 motor recently has been flagged by many pilots as being of poor quality. Shaft bearings failing in as little as 5 flights/hovers as well as 'soft' shafts that wear and incorrectly present symptoms as bad bearings. No electrical specs other than "3800kV" are available for this motor.

The stock ESC/BEC is highly suspected of being inadequate power-wise for the Blade 400. No electrical specs other than "25A" are available for this ESC/BEC combo. Many pilots add a separate 3A or more switching BEC and disconnect the stock one to avoid potential thermal shutdown problems.

The stock 1800mAh 3 cell lipo charger has been known to cause battery problems due to incorrect balancing of the individual cells. Some battery problems (individual cell voltages no where close to being equal) are actually caused by the stock charger incorrectly charging the battery packs. An inexpensive computerized balance charger is highly recommended along with discontinued use of the stock charger.

The stock gyro is hit or miss. Approximately 1 out of 3 G110 gyros actually work quite well. Most will present the pilot with constant tail drifting which can make learning to hover very difficult. Also there is no travel adjust for the tail servo so the binding present in a stock Blade 400 must be eliminated mechanically.

The stock servos are hit or miss. They're digital, but not fast enough (pulse frame rate wise) for most gyros that offer a digital mode, so they must be used in standard or analog mode. Some report hundreds of flights with them. Others claim they fail during flight (overly tight ball link somewhere?) and the plastic gears strip during a crash (which is probably the design intent - they are cheap and replaceable). Some say they don't center well. For newbie type flying they're probably adequate (as long as all ball links are not too tight).

The stock wooden blades have been reported to be of poor quality. Many of the blades have a twist lengthwise and cause difficulties when setting blade pitch and tracking.

Many pilots report extreme amounts of vibration visibly noticeable on the horizontal stabilizer fin and support struts.

However, once the above issues are dealt with the heli actually flies very well - smooth, responsive and a whole lot of fun.

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