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Cox Recon Model Airplane Review

By jodieg "Fury" from rec.models.rc.air

Fri, 26 Jan 2001


    I originally bought this plane in June or July of last year, under the impression that it was radio-controlled (I know, I know...one should ALWAYS verify such things...but I didn't). Being the novice I was, I didn't even bother to do a Web search for "Cox Recon"...which would have brought up several sites that would have pointed out that this is a free-flight plane, with a dinky radio-controlled camera rig.
    Oh, well. I bought the thing anyway *grin*. I was very disappointed when it arrived, a few weeks later, but I got past it by looking at possibilities, rather than on limitations. The kit sat on my shelf until about 2 weeks ago, when I finally decided to put the thing together, if only to get it off my shelf.
    Assembly is straightforward, with a styrofoam fuse, 2-piece main wing, vertical stab, and horizontal stab. The forward section of fuse is a 2-piece plastic shell that holds the engine mount/firewall and landing gear. The camera cage/drive/receiver assembly fits neatly into a molded fuselage cavity. All the parts fit together adequately, though on my plane the tail-end of the fuse is bent slightly to the right, and the wings' joining surfaces were pretty badly bashed at opposite corners. I left the tail as it was (it straightens out some when the stabilizers are in place) and just filled in the gaps on the wing with epoxy. It only took about 3 hours total to join the wings and tail parts, balance the wing, and add decals. I used 5-minute epoxy throughout. The wings and tail assembly are held on with rubber bands. The cowl shell screws together, with the fuselage clamped inside. Power comes from a Cox 0.049 "Sure-Start" (essentially a Babe-Bee, I think) running a 6x3 prop.
    Total weight for the plane with no fuel or the camera cage is right at one pound. Useful wing area is 294.75 square inches (just a bit over 2 square feet), giving a wing load of almost 8 ounces per square foot. The camera rig with camera and 4 "AAA" batteries adds another 8.33 ounces, giving 11.89 ounces per square foot of wing loading.
    The camera rig is cheesy. It's essentially a plastic cage that holds a Kodak "Max" disposable camera (non-flash), a small receiver/motor driver, and a gearbox that pulls on a lever to trip the camera shutter.
    You're expected to set the plane's rudder so that it flies in a big counter-clockwise circle, start the engine, turn on the receiver...and launch. The plane is supposed to fly higher and higher, then glide back down once it's out of fuel. You trigger the camera when the plane's pointed in the general direction of what you want a picture of. And you get one shot. To wind the camera, you have to pul the wing off, wind the camera manually, then put the wing back on...and then refuel, fire it up, and launch for another shot.

    The biggest gripe I have is that the radio equipment runs on a 27.145 MHz signal; if I remember correctly, isn't that a ground R/C frequency?
    Most online retailers sell the plane without a camera or engine starter kit for about $89; the camera is about $8.00 and a starter kit is about $10. Hammacher-Schlemmer sells the plane, a camera, and a starter kit for $129.00; obviously, I didn't save money by purchasing this way--with shipping, it was close to $140.00.
    Overall, I'm pleased with the plane on its own merits. The design is clean and should lend itself to some modification. I'm looking at scrapping the camera rig and adding a functional rudder and elevator to make the bird into a trainer (got to learn to fly on SOMEthing...might as well be on a plane that I can just epoxy back together on the spot ;) I'll have to get smaller servos, first; the Hitec HS-300's I have run about 1.75 ounces each, and they're too big for the amount of room in the fuselage. With those servos and the rest of the onboard radio system, the plane would be running at about the same weight as with the camera--and that's not including any linkage.
    I certainly could have gotten a much better trainer for about as much as I spent on the Recon. Kind of an expensive way to learn a lesson (by comparison, my SIG RC-52 Riser glider kit cost about $60, and that's including a power-pod kit; the glider is RC-ready and could very likely handle both an RC system -and- a modest camera rig with little difficulty).

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