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Thunder Tiger Raptor 30 Radio Control Helicopter

May 02, 2015

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Thunder Tiger Raptor 30 Helicopter

Built September 2001


Airfield Models ( The American R/C Mantis Fiasco

I purchased my first R/C helicopter kit in 1981.  It was an American R/C Mantis.   This was one of the least expensive helicopter kits available at the time.  In spite of this, I really could not afford the costs of owning and maintaining a helicopter and the entire project was a fiasco.

The kit itself had many problems.  Many of the parts did not fit well.  There was so much slop in the engine mount/clutch assembly that it was next to impossible to get it all lined up right.  I spent many hours adjusting and tweaking it with my hammer trying to get it ready to fly.  I searched the internet for images of this heli so you can see what a piece of crap it was.

Unfortunately, I came up empty, so just imagine a really crappy helicopter kit....  now imagine something much worse.  Have an image in your head?  Well, you are not even close.  Ok, moving along...

Because I knew no heli pilots in my area, I had to try to fly it on my own.  I knew that it was going to be a handful and was hoping that I could just keep it well enough under control not to destroy it while I was learning to fly.  It never got off the ground.

When the Mantis was finally ready to take to the air, my brother and I drove out to the flying field.  I fueled her up, started the K & B .40 and walked a safe distance away in preparation for the first take off.  As I started advancing the throttle I made adjustments to the trim to keep the helicopter more or less in one spot on the runway.

I continued to advance the throttle, but she just sat on the ground.   Eventually, the throttle was fully advanced and she was still on the ground.

The rotor blades did not have enough pitch so I pulled back the throttle to shut off the engine in order to make adjustments.  Unfortunately, the muffler had vibrated loose and the throttle linkage jammed against the muffle with the engine wide open.  I was trying to figure out how to stop the engine before the helicopter tore itself to shreds and basically was helpless to do anything about it.

Of all the possible choices, the one I made wasn't all that swift.  In fact, my brother still gives me grief about it.   Because I had no way to shut down the engine and there was no way I was going to try to crawl underneath this little monster with the blades spinning, I attempted to use my transmitter antenna to dislodge the throttle linkage.

The antenna got sucked up into the blades and was launched about halfway across the flying field.  It wasn't a total loss because something flew that day.

Now that my helicopter was running wildly out of control and I had no control of it at all, the Mantis eventually vibrated across the runway where it tipped over and beat itself to death.

The damage wasn't really that bad, but I decided that I couldn't really afford a helicopter and I would not purchase another one until I could.  The Mantis ended up being scrapped and the salvaged parts were used in other projects.  I did not buy another helicopter until 20 years later.

Mitch Correll sent me the link below that goes to a site where you can see vintage American R/C helicopters including the Mantis.


Thunder Tiger Raptor 30

I purchased my Thunder Tiger Raptor 30 after researching almost every helicopter available that was suitable for a beginner.  There were a lot of things to consider:  Initial cost, cost of repair parts, and availability of parts among other things.

There were a lot of positive things being said about this little heli as well.  All things considered, the Thunder Tiger Raptor 30 seemed to be the best choice.

I decided that I really wanted to do things right with this helicopter because my experience with my American R/C Mantis had been a total disaster - mostly due to having insufficient finances to afford buying, owning and maintaining a decent helicopter at that time.

In addition to the Raptor kit, I laid out a small fortune in the tools and instruments used to make sure a helicopter is set up properly.  I also bought an O.S. .32 Helicopter engine and a Futaba 8UHP radio.

Building the kit was simplicity itself.  Everything fit well and the basic assembly was completed in two evenings.  I spent several more evenings adjusting linkages, making sure the engine couldn't be jammed wide open and setting up the transmitter.  I found every way possible to play with my toy without flying it just in case it did not survive initial flight testing.

The engine was broken in on a PSP manufacturing engine test stand using a 9-6 prop.  I think a test stand is essential if you spend any time at all in this hobby.  Breaking in an engine on an aircraft or in a helicopter just adds unnecessary wear and tear to the airframe.  The PSP stand is the best one I have ever seen or used.

raptor01.jpg (87230 bytes)

After the engine was broken-in and back in the Raptor, the moment of truth had arrived.   The only person I knew of in Germany who could help me was all the way across the country.  I could never go anywhere in Germany without getting lost for hours.  So I set out on my own - again.  I mounted a Roto-Pod training gear to the Raptor to prevent it from tipping over.

The first flight almost caused me a heart attack.  I advanced the throttle as slowly as I could so nothing would happen too suddenly.  While that was good in theory, what actually happened was a little bit disconcerting.  At about 1/3 throttle it leaped to about 20 feet in the air and was pitching every which way.

I managed to keep it somewhat under control, but that is as much as I can say.  I pulled the throttle back too quickly and dumped it fairly hard.  I guess having all that negative pitch wasn't really necessary.  No damage was caused, but my respect for the potential damage a helicopter can cause and the amount of ground it can cover in a short time increased enormously.

The next flight was better.  I managed to keep it in the air for a couple minutes until I dragged the tail rotor across the ground and broke the pitch change fork.  That was it for flying until a new part arrived two weeks later.  After that, I managed to hover the Raptor fairly successfully.

Overall, the Raptor experience has been a mixed bag.  On one hand, the kit was fun to build, I can keep it in the air successfully and it is not difficult to control.  On the other hand, parts keep breaking and that has become very frustrating.

I did crash it once (actually, it did not crash - it just landed really, really hard) when I got bored trying to hover and hit the throttle.  It climbed to around 300 feet very quickly and I soon realized I did not have good control.  So I lowered the throttle and it started dropping like a brick.  I advanced the throttle and managed to get her into a hover at about 50 feet of altitude.  Unfortunately, the Raptor had also blown about 75 yards down wind and I couldn't see what it was doing very well.

I managed to land it and for a second everything looked ok.   Just as I started walking over to the helicopter, it exploded sending parts everywhere.  I had no idea what happened.  I thought it was safely on the ground.

In retrospect, I think I experienced a tail-boom strike.  After landing the rotor blades oscillated up and down once or twice before contacting the tail boom.  The damage wasn't as bad as it looked.  The entire repair was under $50.   The worst part was that all the linkages were destroyed which meant that all the trim settings would be lost.  That was early in my Raptor experience and I have had no serious impacts with the ground since.

In spite of this, several parts have failed.  I have used 3-4 gallons of fuel so far and have installed the third clutch which is now broken so I am grounded again.  In fact, parts just keep breaking on my Raptor even though I have not even had a hard landing since my first crash.

Several parts in the rotor head have broken along with miscellaneous other parts and it is gotten frustrating and expensive.  In spite of this, I am going to keep at it until I decide that it is just not worth the trouble.

I originally said that I do not recommend this helicopter, but to be honest I do.  I am just frustrated with the number of times it is been grounded due to parts failing for no apparent reason.


The Present

My first real crash.  AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!

I started forward flight and was doing ok.  Nothing fancy - just a big loop around the field and then back to a hover.  I would do that twice per flight, once in each direction.  Today I was a lot lower than I had been on previous days and did not realize it.

I completely lost orientation and when I thought it was leaned forward it was actually leaned backward so my correction made the situation worse to the point where it was almost standing on it is tail at about five feet.  It fell, main blades first, right into the ground and trashed it.

I have not surveyed the damage thoroughly yet.  What is obvious is the following parts are history:

  • Main frames
  • Tail boom
  • Main Rotor Blades
  • Fly bar
  • Receiver antenna
  • Some linkages

The head looks fine for the most part, but until I pull it and look at it carefully there is no telling what might be damaged.  Before I could get to the crash site, the engine was running at a fast idle and eating up the clutch, so that may need to be replaced too.  Overall it is not as bad as it could be.  I have a new tail boom and fly bar and that is it.

I disassembled the model, cleaned all the parts and discarded everything that couldn't be used.  That was a bad move because now I don't know what I need to replace.  I think the replacement parts will cost enough that it will probably be better to just purchase a Raptor V2 instead.



Herr Pitts Special R/C Biplane
Thunder Tiger Raptor 30 V2 RC Helicopter

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Copyright 2002 Paul K. Johnson