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OK, so it's not a quad racer but the Align T-REX 470LM Dominatoris fast, nimble and smooth flying, all of which are typical of much larger helicopters.
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Align T-REX 470LM Dominator Super Combo

New size, same great engineering and flight characteristics

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Flight video by Clark Ponthier

Stunt Pilot – Mike Basmajian (He did the cool stuff)

Posted – 6-27-2017

OK, so I could stay away from helicopters for only so long. I enjoyed flying them a couple years ago and the rotary-wing urge never really went away. By chance I noticed the relatively new Align T-REX 470LM Dominator in one of their combo kits that includes just about everything needed and my self-control was mysteriously shut off for as long as it took to order one.

The Basics

The Align T-REX 470LM Dominator isn’t just a re-scaled size in their lineup, this airframe has been designed specifically to insure Aligns’ traditional handling and durability are at the core of this helicopter. The Align T-REX 470LM Dominator is 750mm-long, 210mm-tall and 108mm-wide. The 380mm blades add up to a main rotor diameter of 850mm.

When they made out the component list for the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator combo package they included their high-voltage DS455M tail rotor servo and three DS450M swash-plate servos that screw into the mounts perfectly insuring proper geometry. The included Align 50A ESC is more than capable for this application and sends 8.4V to the servos.

The new 850mm overall rotor disc (left) gives the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator a new level of stability. The new rotorhead (right) keeps the blades under control and makes for smooth control response.
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The Align T-REX 470LM Dominator features a newly designed 470EFL rotor head that is a bit lower which brings the overall center of gravity lower in the airframe. Losing this height also reduces aerodynamic drag which makes the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator a little faster and more efficient in its use of the battery.

Going to the 380mm blades increases stability, making the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator fly like a larger heli. There also is a noticeable step up in performance as well. The larger airframe is easier to see which was a real issue for me with even the 450-size heli’s. But the new size is still easy to transport and the parts aren’t stupid expensive for when we over estimate our flying skills.

Align also increased the power by going to 6s 1800mah LiPo matched to a 1800kV motor that gives the average pilot a bunch more flight time. The hair-on-fire 3D maniacs get the head speeds they want to expand what they laughingly call a flight envelope, like they recognize limits.

The 6S battery is nicely packaged in the front of the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator on a new slide-in and lock tray. The tray has a nice lift-button that releases it for easy battery changes.

The 69mm tail rotor blades keep that tail under control when you start banging the sticks. The tail rotor is driven by a nice cogged belt rather than the shaft and gears that seemed to spit out teeth when they even saw grass. The belt system is super-efficient and even has external adjusters to keep the belt snug.

To support the new power the main shaft was upped to 6mm, with a 5mm spindle shaft. The side plates are 1.2mm thick and a 3rd main bearing block was added to substantially increase rigidity. They even added a very cool-looking external brace on either side that gives the motor area a bit more support.

The new belt-driven tail rotor (left) is very smooth running and far more forgiving than the geared torque tube. align also added the slant tooth main gear (right) for more smoothness and durability. Note the cogged belt pulley on top of the main gear.
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Instruction Manual

The only weak spot in the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator kit lies in the pages of the instruction manual. While it does guide you through the building and preparing of this nifty helicopter it has a frustrating “Where’s Waldo” kind of hide and seek structure to its pages. Modern manufacturing necessarily has an international component that requires multi-language text to service international end-users. Unfortunately, when they try to combine a few languages on each page the result is a confusing sea of verbiage of which a small part looks familiar to the user. That makes it easy to scan right by an important piece of assembly information that itself is well written.

The same can be said about the illustrations. Jamming several translations into each nicely done drawing makes them harder to understand. It can be done, but it takes more time and focus than if single-language versions were available.

Microbeast Plus in the House

Back when I started flying Align helicopters they had their own form of gyro that frustrated the masses on a good day. Many of us never opened the gyro bag in that kit. Rather, we installed a Spektrum AR7200BX that came with the BeastX gyro built in and a far easier setup and tuning procedure. The Align T-REX 470LM Dominator comes with a standalone Microbeast Plus controller that makes setting the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator up as easy as it gets. Knowing the Microbeast Plus was in the package was a deciding factor for me in purchasing this kit.

There are download able manuals for the Microbeast Plus and they do make setting it up easy for novice users. I found a fellow on YouTube who has produced a series of 15 short, very to-the-point, step-by-step videos that cover the whole process making it even easier. See the Resources section below for a link to those videos.

The Build

The included Microbeast Plus flybarless system (left) is well-liked i this industry and by me and was no small factor in my going with the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator. the included Align servos (right) seem to be plenty strong and very quick.
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If you have built an Align kit in the past the T-REX 470LM Dominator will be very familiar. Everything fits as it should and the instruction manual, though confusing in its layout, walks you through a logical progression of steps to wind up with a completed heli.

The one thing Align does that I am not a big fan of is the pre-building of several sub-assemblies such as the main rotor head and tail rotor assembly. None of these pieces are tightened down, lubed or have thread locker on them. That means we must take them apart, clean and lube everything and then re-assemble them using thread locker. This is mentioned in the instructions in their best broken English but can be easily missed while searching for the applicable translation for the current step. I have heard of Align heli’s shedding parts during the initial run-ups or early flights because the builder missed (or disregarded) the warnings. I expect we can blame the builder for about 50% of these errors because they did not take more time to read through the instructions.

However, Align could also either build the sub-assemblies to flight-ready form or just bag the needed parts together and make a more legible instruction manual.
If you follow the manuals dimensions for adjustable links the set up later goes quickly. I used my digital calipers to set the rotor head links to the specified 36.5mm length between centers. Later when it came time to adjust the swash-plate I only needed to make a small adjustment to one of the links to get the swash-plate perfectly level according to the alignment tool I purchased when I ordered the kit.

The other sort of tough part of the assembly is getting the drive belt for the tail rotor installed with the 90-degree turn specified in the manual. I think I have it right and there appears to be no drag in the belt during operation. I guess we will see. I will order a couple spare belts the next time I am ordering parts.

I think the belt can be more easily installed with the tail boom fully inserted so you can feed the belt down it to get wrapped around its drive gear then stretched back out of the end of the tube. We might be able to see down the tub with a light held just right to see if the belt is twisted more than should be.

The Align T-REX 470LM Dominator runs on 6S battery power (left) that brings all of the kick I need and then a bunch more! The new "click-in" battery tray (right) is very nice and very secure.
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There is a belt tension adjustment built into the tail boom mount and they do say to adjust it properly but do not tell or show what the proper tension is. The manual does specify 1.5 to 2 turns of each adjusting screw (one on either side) but those screws were nearly backed all the way out in my kit so it took several turns of each screw to apply any tension to the belt. I will watch the belt closely as I begin flying the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator for odd-looking wear.

The Microbeast Plus is the real star that makes flying the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator more fun and far less of a reason for large parts orders. Besides effective, the Microbeast Plus is tiny with a near -zero weight that has no impact on how the heli flies. As flybarless systems go the Microbeast Plus has got to be right at the top of the heap in terms of effectiveness and the simplicity of setting it up.

The Microbeast Plus equipped with a satellite-type receiver rather than a full receiver is recommended for helicopters in the 450 and under size range. I am using the Spectrum DSMX® FPV Racing Serial Receiver (SPM4648) that has much larger antennas than other satellite receivers which should give me more range than I need with this size helicopter.

In the Air

The initial flights were simple hovers in my back yard, in Normal mode. I always disliked flying a helicopter in Normal mode but went brain dead when I tried to remember how to set up Idle Up. I also found that I am not real smooth on the sticks but it was the first flight in close to two years so I need to give me a break. The good news is that the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator went up, the rotor disk looked paper-thin and I got it on the ground in the grass with no issues.

Align includes a surprisingly strong 1800KV motor (left) that shoots the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator in whatever direction you choose. The motor is control by the Align ESC (right) that appears to be doing the job very well with no programming.
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The one downside was that the tail had a consistent “wag” to it. I was concerned that I had built something in the tail rotor wrong but with the help of my flying buddies, Clark and Mike, realized I had not set up the gyro function in my Spektrum DX9 transmitter. Clark and Mike dialed that in and the wag was under control.
At the field, I dedicated one more battery pack to hovering around the runway, again in normal mode. Then with the Spektrum DX9 set up with the gyro and idle up dialed in I put two more batteries through the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator but this time shifted to idle up after taking off in normal mode. The difference was remarkable.

The last two flights of the first field day with the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator were devoted to flying figure 8’s in front of me to help get my fingers accustomed to guiding a helicopter through right and left-hand turns. Give the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator legitimate commands from the transmitter and it flies smooth as can be, much like to larger helicopter. The cyclic felt a bit “touchy” at first but that was due to my lack of stick time rather than something wrong with the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator. I do think that the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator has a rather large power to weight ratio that makes it respond to cyclic inputs aggressively. I expect that will calm down as my fingers gain some heli experience.

I did manage to test the theory that the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator is significantly larger than traditional 450-class helicopters and is therefore more visible. I managed to get my shiny, new Align T-REX 470LM Dominator way too far out with the nose facing me. My buddies were “coaching” me with “push the nose down” but I could still see the orientation and already was pushing the nose down but very gently. I know better than to start making big moves when orientation becomes questionable. The Align T-REX 470LM Dominator flew back to me and all was well in my maiden-day world.

The fact that the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator came home from maiden day with no damage is always a good thing but hardly unusual for Align models. Add the fact that I was able to make it through three full flights with no crashes or damage and the day is remarkable in the model helicopter world. I did tip it over on one landing with no damage. I also sucked it into the grass at the end of one flight when I forgot I was in idle up rather than normal mode and went to full down as it touched down. Again, no damage other than to my ego.

The 1.5mm-thick side plates (left) are very tough and very rigid. I used a Spektrum FPV Quad racer satellite receiver (right) to keep it simple and light. even though I have gotten way farther out then I should with a helicopter of this size the receiver stayed in touch.
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I’d love to tell you that I did the aerobatics in the accompanying video with the new Align T-REX 470LM Dominator but the reality is that my friend, Mike Basmajian, was at the sticks during the aerobatics in the accompanying video so we could show more of what the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator is capable of when not hindered by my decidedly-rusty fingers on the controls. As you can see in the video, the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator is capable of way more than I am and it is very locked in (stable) while doing it.

Conclusions

For anyone who has built and flown an Align helicopter it will come as no surprise that I like the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator kit a bunch. The quality of the components and the selection of included pieces make this “super combo” one of the few kits that is truly worthy of that description. As testament to that is the fact that I built and flew the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator without having to modify any of its parts or their fit.

I am a huge fan of the MicroBeast Plus controller because of its ease of use and wide-spread reputation for doing exactly what we expect from such a flybarless flight control system. The Microbeast Plus does its controlling in the background while you have full control of the heli. Remember to program the Gyro function in the transmitter and you can skip the small waggle I had initially.

As I wrote this portion of this Review I have just gone over the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator looking for loose nuts and bolts or adjustments that had changed but found nothing. Having gone through roughly 12 battery packs worth of flying I expected some loosening but the quality of the threaded inserts and threaded parts along with a bit of genuine Blue Loctite on each of them everything remained secure.

Video Tour

With a street price of $484.99 (6-14-2017) the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator is not cheap but there is nothing cheap in the kit. This is the “metal” version of this heli and I think it is well worth the extra cash over the plastic version. The metal version might be a tick heavier (small tick at that) but the increased durability and rigidity make that well worth the cash.

It is worth noting that showing the most interest in the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator at my flying field are current heli pilots who fly Align 550 and 700-size heli’s. The unique size of the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator along with the quality of the design and execution of the kit make this a worthy addition to any helicopter pilots hangar. The Align T-REX 470LM Dominator is a great machine for smaller flying areas but its overall size means you can fly it in the great open spaces if you can manage to keep it in the vicinity.

If you are in the market for that first heli or another one to fill a gap in your hangar’s size range the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator is well worth a hard look. This is a very capable, reasonably priced kit that brings the traditional Align quality and function. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Resources

BeastX – the makers of the Microbeast Plus

Microbeast Plus Setup Videos

Visit the Align T-REX 470LM Dominator product page - Click Here

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