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Align T-Rex 450 Pro
A new beginning in helicopters but the right way this time
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 9-1-2013
Yeah, I know I swore off helicopters but yet here I am. During my sabbatical from rotary-wings I noticed that the people having fun with helicopters were usually flying larger ones with a disproportionate number of those flying Align products. Looking closer at our flying field I could see that nearly all of them had equipped their copters with a Spektrum BeastX-based receiver. So after giving it some thought I ordered my Align T-Rex 450 Pro and I was back in helicopters.
The Align T-Rex 450 Pro came as a complete kit needing full assembly. I actually wanted this kind of kit so that I could get more acquainted with the innards of this ship so I would be better able to diagnose and fix it later. After a few initial glitches, several of which were self-inflicted, I was pleasantly surprised at the low number of fixes needed and the greatly expanded flying time the Align T-Rex 450 Pro was affording me over my previous experiences.
The Align T-Rex 450 Pro is a flybarless ship so the rotor head is relatively simple. I liked that the parts were all aluminum and nicely machined and finished. The 120-degree swashplate also looked very pro in terms of its fit and finish.
The T-Rex 450 Pro V2 is 635mm-long and 230mm-tall with a main rotor diameter of 710mm with 325mm main blades. The tail rotor is 158mm in diameter. It comes with a 150T main gear, 106T autorotation gear and a 15T pinion. When equipped with the 3S, 2200mAh battery it has a flying weight of about 640gg.
The Align T-Rex 450 Pro kit I bought came with the Align T-Rex 450 Pro itself, the Align 3GX Flybarless System, a 325D 3G Carbon blade set, RCE-BL35X 35A Brushless ESC, 450MX Brushless motor(3400KV), three DS410M (Metal Gear) Digital servos, and one (tail rotor) DS520 Digital servo.
I decided to try the 3GX system after seeing on forums that it had been updated and improved but I would soon swap it out the for a Spektrum AR7200BX 7CH DSMX Flybarless Control System with BeastX that was being used by so many of my fellow fliers. I had flown the Align T-Rex 450 Pro with the 3GX system for several days and it was OK but swapping it out for the Spektrum/BeastX receiver made me a less frightened pilot. Keep in mind that a lot of the issues with the 3GX system could be related directly to me and you may love it. The one thing about me of which I am absolutely certain is that I clearly do not know it all.
A very welcome feature of the Align T-Rex 450 Pro kit was the instructions that are well written and well-illustrated. The English does occasionally fall victim to the translation land mines we see so often but they are better than most and understandable. The illustrations are well done and help a bunch. The actual build of my Align T-Rex 450 Pro was completed in 2 days (had real work to do in that time also) without incident.
I was helo-savvy enough to know that a good pitch meter and a swashplate leveling tool would make my life (and the initial flights) easier so I had ordered both with the kit. Another point to consider here is that many gyros do not like trim adjustments and see them as control inputs. The closer you are to perfect in the setup the less drama there will be when your helo lifts off of the ground the first few times.
Align 3GX Flybarless System
This Align T-Rex 450 Pro came with the Align 3GX Flybarless System which includes a gyro system. When used with 7-channel radios and above you do not need a receiver because you can use 1 or 2 satellite receivers plugged directly into the Align 3GX Flybarless System module. I was using my Spektrum DX6i so had to use a simple 6-channel receiver. Not a big issue in the big scheme of things.
Programming the Align 3GX Flybarless System can be confusing if you are not familiar with this kind of electronics. Fortunately there are resources on the Internet that can help. I found a particularly good one at http://www.youtube.com/rchelpdotcom, the YouTube site for RC-Help.com an expansive web site and forum that offers lots of free help. Without this resource I would have had far more trouble getting the 3GX system operating.
After going through many test flights and getting everything else corrected I still felt as though I was fighting a somewhat unstable helicopter. Nearly everyone at my flying field (RC Wingers, Mooresville, NC) uses the Spektrum AR7200BX 7CH DSMX Flybarless Control System so I bought one for my Align T-Rex 450 Pro.
Spektrum AR7200BX 7CH DSMX Flybarless Control System
This unit is both a gyro system and receiver in one so the installation is simplified as is the wiring needed to support it. While doing the installation I added one satellite receiver just for the peace of mind that I had done everything I could to prevent brown outs or other signal losses.
Setting up the Spektrum AR7200BX 7CH DSMX Flybarless Control System is surprisingly easy due largely to the well-written, well-illustrated instruction manual that comes with the unit. Despite the extensive capabilities of the Spektrum AR7200BX 7CH DSMX Flybarless Control System I was able to complete the setup in under ½ hour. This system also has many options that can be used throughout the learning curve to increase the helicopters abilities as your skills grow.
In the Air
One of the first things I noticed about the Align T-Rex 450 Pro was how smooth it was as it spooled up. There was a hint of a shake as the rotor head accelerated due to the blades not being perfectly straight yet but that tiny shake quickly disappeared as centrifugal force corrected the blade position.
Throughout the time I have had with the Align T-Rex 450 Pro it has remained remarkably smooth at all rpm levels. I have dinged it up a few times and following replacement of the damaged parts the Align T-Rex 450 Pro returned to its silky smooth operation. This is important because vibrations impact the performance of gyros and accelerate wear of parts that could cause a failure in flight which is never a good thing with a helicopter.
I flew the Align T-Rex 450 Pro initially with the Align 3GX Flybarless System and though I was able to log dozens of flights I felt that the helicopter was not as stable as it could be. I was able to hover it pretty well and keep it within a relatively small area but that demanded LOTS of stick corrections. I was also having lots of trouble landing as I could not hit a specific area and the Align T-Rex 450 Pro was frequently tipping over in the grass. Then I changed to the Spektrum AR7200BX 7CH DSMX Flybarless Control System and flying suddenly got easier which also meant I was more fun.
Since installing the Spektrum AR7200BX 7CH DSMX Flybarless Control System I have completed several dozen flights without an incident. I was suddenly able to take off and land with far more stability and that translated into no tip overs or the damage (and parts replacement) those incidents caused.
I am also moving the Align T-Rex 450 Pro around more though I remain largely a hover pilot. I have done some pirouettes and moved the Align T-Rex 450 Pro around the space in front of me more. I am feeling more confident with forward flight and am taking baby steps there when I have favorable conditions.
The Align T-Rex 450 Pro is a very well made, well-engineered helicopter that does a lot to make flying easier for the pilot, especially those new to the hobby. The 450 size is easier to see and handles easier than smaller helicopters plus it will do all that in more wind. Plus this copter is fully 3D capable in the hands of an experienced pilot or someone learning these high-energy aerobatics.
The Align T-Rex 450 Pro is head and shoulders above many of the “bargain” models in terms of design, materials and ease of flying. Why do you think there are so many at a flying field and why the Align T-Rex 450 Pro is so frequently used as the design model for clones?
The Align T-Rex 450 Pro kit I bought sells for $599.00 (8-26-2013) but remember that it comes with nearly everything you need. You literally have to supply a radio and batteries; the rest is in the box. I liked all of the equipment that came with this helicopter including the servos which have proven to be tough, accurate and way faster than I am in need of but the speed is there for later. I did add the Spektrum AR7200BX 7CH DSMX Flybarless Control System but that was my choice.
I can say without hesitation that when I buy another helicopter, it is going to be an Align product. I am totally sold on their quality, engineering and the performance of the helicopter itself. True I am a rank beginner but I firmly believe that the quality of the Align T-Rex 450 Pro is making my progress easier, fun and is accelerating that process.