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The Durafly® ™ Tundra is a great flying, surprisingly aerobatic high-winger that also makes a great FPV platform!
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HobbyKing Durafly® ™ Tundra

A versatile performer with a budget price

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Flight video by Clark Ponthier

Posted – 3-7-2017

When I decided to delve deeper into the world of FPV (first person view) fixed wing flying the search for a suitable plane began. While I would love to say that I discovered the Durafly® ™ Tundra, the truth is that I saw a fellow member of our club flying one with his FPV equipment on it. He told me how well the Durafly® ™ Tundra flies which is an important consideration for me. Then I saw the price and the Durafly® ™ Tundra was ordered.

The Basics

The Durafly® ™ Tundra has a wingspan of 1300mm (51"), is 1190mm (47") long with a flying weight of just 1150g (2.535lbs). The Durafly® ™ Tundra comes with a factory-installed 3636-950Kv brushless outrunner motor controlled by an Aerostar 40amp Brushless ESC powered by 3S 11.1V 1300 to 2200mAh LiPo batteries with a minimum 30C rating. A surprising bit of equipment is the Durafly carbon fiber 12x6” prop that comes standard on the Durafly® ™ Tundra. When I ordered the Durafly® ™ Tundra these packs were selling for just over $12 each (2-28-2017) at HobbyKing which seems like a great price I they hold up over time.

The flaps on the Durafly® ™ Tundra use “elbow” type hinges that give them a huge range of travel. The 45-degree setting is easily attained. You can also add a flap setting that is 90-degrees to the air frame. While this setting would seem like a pure air brake the flaps really do provide additional lift down to speeds so low that the Durafly® ™ Tundra simply quits flying. Fortunately, that low speed is extreme and you should be aware of the impending disaster well before it happens. In the landing flap configuration, the Durafly® ™ Tundra is steady as a rock and with 10-degrees or so of down elevator mixed in forces you to hold just a touch of up elevator to make a nice smooth landing.

The Durafly® ™ Tundra features "plug-in" servo connections (left) that eliminate that chance of forgetting something fatal. The flaps have these elbow hinges (right) that let you go to 90-degrees and more if you are gutsy enough to try it!
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Because the Durafly® ™ Tundra is a Plug and Fly (PNF) model we must come up with a 6 or more-channel transmitter and receiver. I will be using my Spektrum DX9 transmitter and an AR8000 Spektrum 8 channel receiver. I went with the bigger receiver because I intend to incorporate head tracking in the FPV system and that uses two channels in the receiver.

The landing gear features a spring system that adds a bit of “give” that smooths out inadvertent ground bumps. The large 4” wheels are made from foam which I know bothers some folks but I like them because they are very light. Also, the large diameter makes the Durafly® ™ Tundra handle grass fields very well.

Radio Gear and Wiring

One unique feature of the Durafly® ™ Tundra is the plug system at the root of the wings. The aileron and flat servos in each wing are wired to a male plug that connects to the female version when the wings are installed. I like this a lot as it not only saves time but prevents forgetting to plug in an aileron and the disaster that often follows such a bit of brain fade.

As happens all too often these days the servo cables installed at the factory are just barely long enough to get to the receiver we need to install. Here again if the manufacturer would provide another 2 or 3 inches on these cables getting them plugged into the receiver would be a ton easier.

Also, the AeroStar 40 amp ESC was totally forgotten in the instruction manual. No mention of it anywhere which is about the only downside to an otherwise very well produced manual. The video in the Resources section below shows the mystery extra, two-wire cable that looks like it needs to go someplace on the receiver. It does, in any open channel to which you can assign a (2-position if possible) switch. The ESC will only reverse the motor direction with the throttle at zero.

The battery bay (left) has no provisions for securing the batteries other than a strip of hook and loop material. I cleaned the floor of the bay well and stuff the hook and loop in two rows on the bay floor. The receiver bay (right) is small and makes it hard getting all of the wiring plugged in but it can be done.
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I should note that I filled the channels of a Spektrum AR8000, 8-chanel receiver because I needed two channels for the pan/tilt function of my FPV system which is mounted to the included FPV platform. Because this system is not going to be on the Durafly® ™ Tundra all of the time I ran a couple of extensions forward from the receiver to the battery compartment so I can plug them in when using the FPV gear. I also added a “power tap” adapter that goes between the plug on the battery and the one in the plane (from ReadyMadeRC see the Resource section below) that lets me plug the video transmitter into the tap without having to take power directly from a receiver channel or carry an extra battery pack.

FPV Canopy Tray

Another nice feature of the Durafly® ™ Tundra is the included FPV tray mentioned earlier that replaces the windshield battery access door. The FPV tray also uses a magnet to hold it in place. The FPV tray was the deciding factor in getting the Durafly® ™ Tundra for me because I was looking for a fixed wing plane I could use as a FPV “trainer”. This platform means the Durafly® ™ Tundra can be converted for FPV use without performing major surgery to mount a camera system.

The FPV tray is made from light ply and we do have to assemble it but that is not a big issue. I built my FPV tray in about 10 minutes and had my head tracking cam system installed (and working) in less than an hour. This is another reason the price of the Durafly® ™ Tundra keeps looking better and better.

Floats

The Durafly® ™ Tundra comes with a good-looking set of floats and the wire landing gear needed to mount them. This is a huge plus for many of us that have access to a lake or pond. Also, as in my case, we have local clubs that have float-only fun flies on their pond or lake. Just the fact that the floats are included makes the price of the Durafly® ™ Tundra even better.

The wire4 landing gear (left) is durable and does absorb some of the more "enthusiastic" landings. The 4" tires (right) are made from foam and some pilots kick about that but practice your touch and goes and these wheels are just fine, and very light.
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In the Air

Maiden day turned out to have moderate winds which at our filed means it gets “lumpy” around 40-feet-up and higher. When I fly a new plane, particularly a relatively small and very light foamy watching for reactions to the wind is important. The Durafly® ™ Tundra flies very well but it is relatively small and very light so the wind will bounce it around some.

The Durafly® ™ Tundra has plenty of power and took off from our grass field in 15 feet or so. I had spent a good bit of time zeroing’ out the control surfaces mechanically but when the Durafly® ™ Tundra lifted off it had a pronounced left roll and down elevator feel to it. I got it up in the air without much trouble and dialed in trim changes to get it flying straight and level. Strictly by chance a new club member showed with another brand new Durafly® ™ Tundra that same day and I did the maiden on that one as well. Again, though the surfaces looked to be set very well it had that left roll, down elevator trim that I was able to get dialed out. I have no idea if this is common to this model or just a fluke but wanted you to be aware just in case.

One thing that surprised many at the field was how fast the Durafly® ™ Tundra is. This is not your grandpa’s high wing floater though it will fly slow with the standard flap settings recommended in the instruction manual. It has a quick roll rate and listens to the rudder very well which is something I like in any sized plane. I slowed the Durafly® ™ Tundra to the point of stall and it fell through evenly three times without showing a tendency to drop one wing or the other. Recovery from an upright spin is easy and relatively quick.

The flaps on the Durafly® ™ Tundra are epic. At speed I dropped the flaps to the 45-degree landing configuration and the Durafly® ™ Tundra did a nice, concentric loop. Take-offs with 45-degree flaps gets interesting quickly as the Durafly® ™ Tundra wants to go vertical and then continue over onto its back. You can hold it with down elevator but flaps at full power is a definite no-no for pilots without a bunch of aerobatic experience. Landing with the flaps down is reasonably easy providing you use only enough throttle to control the descent. The Durafly® ™ Tundra will slow sufficiently to stall so a little throttle is important.

As you might suspect, ground handling is great with the oversized tires. Our grass had not been cut the week of the maiden but that length did nothing to slow the Durafly® ™ Tundra during taxi or takeoff. The spring-loaded landing gear does a good job of smoothing out less than perfect touch-downs. I had a couple landings while flying the Durafly® ™ Tundra though my FPV goggles that were relatively hard and the gear did its job and protected the plane from damage.

The wooden FPV platform (left) comes with the Durafly® ™ Tundra and works very well. the float set (right) also comes standard with the Durafly® ™ Tundra and look to be first rate.
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FPV Flying

I installed the FPV platform that comes with the Durafly® ™ Tundra, now equipped with my RMRC-Pro700 700TVL WDR CCD (NTSC) camera and a RMRC Cricket Pro - 5.8GHz VTX with Race Band and a SMA connection video transmitter. Both products are from ReadyMadeRc.com and links are provided in the Resource section below.

Though I have FPV experience with a fixed wing plane (OK two flights…..two landings) the Durafly® ™ Tundra helped me considerably with its solid handling. The quality of the FPV equipment helps also as it provided great video in the goggles so I could stay oriented. The FPV platform that comes with the Durafly® ™ Tundra makes this conversion easy to do at the field as well as being a great base for the video equipment. The Durafly® ™ Tundra is a very good choice for getting used to FPV flying and then for learning FPV aerobatics when you are ready for that.

Conclusions

The Durafly® ™ Tundra is a nice flying high winger with a flight envelope that suits beginners as well as veterans. It has more than enough power for everything I could think of doing but maintains solid handling regardless of speed. The flaps can be a little intimidating if the pilot is not accustomed to using them but the Durafly® ™ Tundra is consistent in how it reacts to the flaps so practice will make using them easy.

The Durafly® ™ Tundra handles low to moderate wind well but we must remember the size and weight of this plane. It is not going to punch through wind like a giant scale so a little common sense is important when choosing days to fly. When the trees are waving, you might want to wait for a better day with more reasonable winds.

Video Tour

Maiden Day

The Durafly® ™ Tundra has a street price of just $196.52 (2-28-2017) which seemed like very short money for a plane with this range of capabilities. Factor in the included float set and the price gets better yet.

The Durafly® ™ Tundra might not be a pure trainer but with the help of an instructor and a buddy box even rank beginners should be able to learn on it. The power and highly effective control surfaces mean the Durafly® ™ Tundra can do many aerobatic maneuvers to hold your interest after learning to fly. Its size makes it easy to transport in todays’ smaller cars.

Resources

Durafly® ™ Tundra product page – See it!

ReadyMadeRc product page for the FPV camera used – Click Here

ReadyMadeRc product page for the video transmitter used – Click Here

Power Adapter, ReadyMadeRc.com – Click Here

Aerostar 40amp ESC/BEC – This video shows the reversing function built into the ESC that came with my Durafly® ™ Tundra.

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