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A fellow called recently and the conversation went something like this . . . “Our club expert told me to buy a carbon-fiber T-Rex 600 because everyone in the club has one and it flies better than a Pantera.”
Granted, their 600-class model is pretty good, especially for 3D-maneuvers because they’re built light, so in some respects, your club expert is right. But nothing’s perfect and if there’s a problem with them . . . it’s because they're built light. Panteras, on the other hand, are built like a tank because they’re designed more along the lines of a 700 (in everything but blade and boom length). Bear this in mind; sometimes the coach calls for the halfback, sometimes the job calls for the fullback. When you’re picking your tool, remember this . . . Panteras are big, beefy, and tough!
The other really important factor is how do they compare in flight? Frankly, the their 600 is prized for being really quick on the controls because it’s been optimized for instability and lightning-fast 3D-maneuvers. Panteras, on the other hand, are famed for being mellow and laid back. Frankly, they’re rather easy to handle and beginners love them because they’re stable with nearly hands-off hovering.
Moreover, a Pantera will take you from mild to wild without holding you back (witness YouTube videos of Panteras performing 3D maneuvers), but the fact is . . . twitchy isn’t our game. Panteras are best known for being smooth, stable, and easy to fly. Ultimately, I disagreed with the club-expert because it's not a matter of which model is better. The facts are each has been optimized for a different goal - kind of like the difference between Hip Hop music and Jazz, or why a shortstop’s cleats are different from those used by a golfer. Thus, the real question isn't which model is best, but which model is best for me? Only you can answer that, not the club-expert.
For more on why a Pantera is built like a tank, let’s delve into the next section.
The Pantera is a model, which is tough and can take abuse. It’s not by accident either because we used tougher materials and a stronger foundation, plus we designed it for the real world - with real people in mind. After all, if there's one thing beginners know how to mete out . . . it’s hard knocks! Here’s why Panteras are built like a tank.
The reason Panteras are workman-like and tough is because the innovative side frames are made of the same fiber-reinforced industrial-polymer as a Glock handgun. Sure, we could have used the showy stuff but this is better because we mold it thicker where it needs to be stronger, which lets the frames flex on impact and spring back for more.
Conversely, brand-A side frames are made up of flat pieces of 1/8" inch carbon fiber sheet stock. While this material is incredibly stiff and lightweight, there’s no free lunch. Basically, it's so rigid it cracks like an egg instead of flexing during impact (recall the story of the oak and the willow in the strong wind, which we learned as children). And there’s a seldom-mentioned issue; assembling brand-A requires an expert’s touch to perfectly align the gears when setting the mesh to preclude uneven wear. Meanwhile, a Pantera is easier to build because the side frames are self-aligning and simply snap together, so there’s no getting it wrong.
Another advantage of polymer side frames relates to cost, which for most of us is an important factor because family responsibilities come ahead of fun. Sure, the club-expert may not care about costs, because for them crashing is a rare event, but consider this . . . those fancy-schmancy carbon-fiber side frames are about 130 bucks to replace, but less than $50 for a Pantera.
Ultimately, industrial plastics have tremendous advantages for most people because they’re tougher, self-aligning, and significantly less expensive. However, while a Pantera is quick and easy to assemble, there’s no truth to the story you can open the box and toss the parts in the air because they'll build themselves before they hit the workbench . . . that's just fanciful fabrication by some proud owners.
Next up is what you don’t see; the foundation.
When you look over a Pantera there are things you can’t readily see, which result in it being able to withstand substantially more abuse than the competition. For example, few realize a Pantera's main shaft bearings are 40% larger than those of the brand-A, because they’re hidden from view. Even the clutch is 37% larger (and as large as that of some 91-class birds).
Our engineers come from the school of thought there’s no such thing as too much horsepower and thus, we wondered what it would be like if we could harness a 91-class engine in a 50-class model. We performed finite element analysis and then beefed things up a little bit (where it seemed prudent). Unsurprisingly, this led to larger bearings and clutch, and yes, there was a price to be paid, but the few ounces were worth it for greater durability.
Frankly, we did it just for kicks (and because we figured some of our customers might like one too). Yet even if you never opt for the fun of building a pocket rocket with our 91-transform option, you benefit from the strong foundation because every Pantera has those humongous bearings and clutch.
Our transform-options make a Pantera uniquely versatile. Next, the hype about torque tubes is exposed.
We designed the Pantera with a cogged tail-drive belt instead of a torque-tube mostly because they’re easier to live with. Belts are a great choice because they transmit power through 90° simply with a ¼-twist. To do the same thing, a torque tube is far more complex because it requires a forward set of 90° drive bevel-gears, the torque tube itself (and bearing supports), plus another set of 90° bevel-gears (the ones in the tail gear case).
As engineers, we believe in the gospel of Murphy’s Law. We also hew to the KISS principal (Keep It Simple Stupid). Thus, fewer parts always wins and torque tubes have more parts by a factor of 3, and cost more by a factor of 4! However, the club-expert would have you believe a torque-tube (like that found in many 600-class models) is better! What’s with that? Anyway, arguments include, “Torque tubes are more precise and stronger.” We say bull . . . and here's why.
Our Bridgeport CNC mill uses cogged drive belts – exactly like the one driving the tail of a Pantera. To put this into perspective, this is a machine weighing 6000 pounds with a motion table, which with the 4th-axis is installed, weighs 400 pounds! And the repetitive movements – driven by motors and cogged drive-belts – are to a precision measured to the ten thousandths of an inch. You can take it to the bank the whole – torque-tubes are more precise argument – amounts to nothing more than a red herring . . . but there’s more to the story.
Torque-tubes have a certain amount of play in the drive gears – both the forward set and those in the tail case – because it’s required when properly setting bevel-gear mesh. Cogged-belts have zero-play and thus, a torque tube is actually less precise because play is play – regardless of the source. And that tiny little bit of play in the gears driving a torque tube is what’s otherwise called slop! So much for the precision argument . . . next?
Somewhere along the way, torque-tube proponents usually shift to the strength argument. It even sounds reasonable – until you consider Harleys also use a cogged drive-belt. Even multi-hundred horsepower drag bikes use them! The strength argument is bull.
Alternatively, they’ll claim belts consume more horsepower (true, if you don’t properly set tension, but this is easy enough and once set you’re done). Regardless, neither torque-tubes nor cogged drive-belts are failing in the air so we feel these are both specious arguments. With respect to strength, it’s a tie but when it comes to precision, cogged drive-belts clearly win!
By now the torque-tuber (I just made that up) is sweating; let’s move in for the kill because there’s the issue of durability. Drag the tail blades of a Pantera while landing or shooting an auto, and the damage is likely just the grass stains on the plastic blades! Heck, even on asphalt the Pantera’s damage is likely limited to a set of cheap tail rotor blades because the tail drive belt is so tough (and often you can rebalance them with an X-Acto and you’re good to go). Yet consider how merely touching the grass with brand-A’s tail rotor blades during landing often results in blown forward tail drive bevel-gears (there's a reason brand-A sells these in 3-packs). Sadly, even minor repairs to the competition’s model include tail rotor blades and a set of forward drive bevel-gears! But it’s during common repairs, like a boom-strike, where cost rears its head.
You see, during a really hard landing, or crash, the main rotor blades may swing down and whack the tail boom (bending it into a u-shape). The cogged drive belt in a Pantera merely gives way whereas a torque tube is destroyed – along with boom and forward bevel-gears, of course. By the way, expect proponents of the brand-A 600 to – at some point – observe brand-A tail booms are 2-for-$13 vs. $10 for a Pantera tail boom. That’s fair enough, but there’s more to the story because of money.
Brand-A tail booms are cheaper but that’s not the whole story. When someone observes the issue of tail boom prices, ask about the price of brand-A’s forward drive bevel-gears (fair’s fair, you have to add these in because they’re fragile), plus the torque tube itself. Suddenly $10 for a Pantera tail boom feels downright cheap compared to a $40 repair, doesn’t it?
Then there’s the issue of how much of your time it takes to effect repairs because the forward drive bevel-gears of a brand-A 600 are rather inconveniently buried within the side frames. This means partially tearing the model down for a simple tail boom repair. What’s your time worth? Let’s assume your time’s worth $0 because it’s a hobby but in fact, it doesn’t take many of these repairs before most folks are fed up.
In summary, a Pantera is built like a tank because industrial plastic side frames make it tough. Heavy duty components make a Pantera durable. Thoughtful upgrades make a Pantera more versatile. Plus, Pantera’s are practical because there are fewer parts. Panteras are also easier to build and live with (and less expensive to repair). In short, Panteras are simple, tough, and fly good - they’re better for most folks.
You may wonder, “Why didn’t the club-expert mention any of this?” As usual, the answer can be found when you follow the money. Learn about paid pilots in the next section.
We're often asked, “Who’s your paid-pilot? In a world where a model's instability is touted, and where paid-pilots fly the noon-time demos at weekend events – expressly to demonstrate this fact – we have the audacity of being different. Kind of like the Marine officer who mildly observed after sex with a voluptuous blond, “Sorry Ma’am, I can’t take your money”, Audacity Models doesn’t pay pilots because of our honor. It’s a matter of credibility because whatever a Pantera owner says . . . it comes from the heart instead of the wallet.
Unfortunately, as we all know, some guys are like lemmings. If the best 3D-pilot in the world says, “Fly a Zingy 600”, all the monkey-see-monkey-do guys will fall in line and buy one. Somehow a paid shill’s words are intertwined with the notion; this is what it takes to get me the next level. We don’t really know, but it’s our view Shakespeare said it perfectly when he wrote, “To thine own self be true.”
Moreover, it’s not because we can't find pilots willing to say anything in exchange for freebies and discounts – far from it. Instead, we largely count on word-of-mouth to promote the Pantera. Anyway, while it’s meant tongue-in-check, within the Pantera decal sheet you’ll find a couple of No Sheep Zone decals for poking fun at self-important experts.
Ultimately, a Pantera is different. In the air Panteras are oriented toward smooth aerobatic maneuvers, which are flowing and graceful instead of emulating a drunken mosquito. Moreover, a Pantera is perfect for beginners because of seemingly hands off hovering stability while popular competitors, like brand-A, are actually optimized for instability. You can have one flying characteristic, or the other, but not both at the same time because the two goals are mutually exclusive. Do you want twitchy and quick, or smooth and steady – pick your poison.
As a practical matter, Panteras are tough because we make hard-nosed decisions about strength and durability. Form follows function and thus, me-too carbon fiber side frames don’t cut it in the real world where practicality is paramount. Industrial plastic side frames and a cogged tail-drive belt are better because they’re tougher and more resilient, have fewer parts for increased reliability, are easier to repair, and cost less. These are important practical design considerations because it means Panteras are easier to live with.
Finally, consider this; what actually flies on a model helicopter are the main rotor blades, which at 2000 RPM don't know (or care) whether it’s brand-A or a Pantera. Or even whether it's nitro or electric-powered – because 11° of collective pitch is 11°, and 8° of cyclic pitch is 8° . . . no matter what.
Ultimately, as with every purchase, it’s a matter of judgment. If someone poo-poos the idea of a Pantera, maybe you'd be wise to question theirs because perceptive questions affect the answers you'll get. While the club expert is certainly entitled to his opinion, he's not entitled to his own facts! The real question to ask is, “Which helicopter is better for me?”
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