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QQ Night EXTRA 300 PNP
Light, rigid and exceptionally fun to fly
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Flight video by – Mike Basmajian and Clark Ponthier
Posted - 7-6-2017
When I received my QQ YAK 54 35CC ARF (nearing completion when this Review was written) I started noticing the attention to detail, quality materials and high-end manufacturing processes too many airframe manufacturers pass over to increase profit. Add to all this the fact that the QQ Night EXTRA 300, and other planes in the Flex Innovations line have been designed and tested by Quique Somenzini, a multi-time champion of many important contests world-wide. Quique’s years of model airplane design and development give him some of the best credentials our hobby has ever seen.
The QQ Night EXTRA 300 certainly does not look like a hair-on-fire speed machine but the thick, wide wing and huge control surfaces promise a bunch of agility. Considering everything Quique Somenzini has designed I expected the QQ Night EXTRA 300 would have a very short list of bad habits, if it had any at all. Add Flex Innovations proprietary Aura 8 flight control system that is factory-installed and fully tuned for this airframe and the list of flying pluses could be very long.
The QQ Night EXTRA 300 is 47.8'' (1215 mm) long with a wingspan of 47.8'' (1215 mm). Combine the all up weight of just 3 lb. (1360 grams) with the 572.5 sq. in (40 sq. dm.) of wing area and the remarkable slow-speed performance of the QQ Night EXTRA 300 is easier to understand.
They say the QQ Night EXTRA 300 will fly on modern 4 to 6 channel radios but a good 8 or 9 channel system allows you to access all the possible configurations. The factory installs 19g full metal gear digital servos that have plenty of fast-acting power for this application. Even the installed control horns have been massaged to access the full potential from the QQ Night EXTRA 300.
The “foamy” part of the QQ Night EXTRA 300 equation is EPO foam which is easily repaired with common adhesives and tools. However, it is what is inside the hollow foam wings that really veers off from the more commonplace design and manufacturing practices. A precision-built light plywood and carbon structure gives the QQ Night EXTRA 300 wings the toughness to stand up to full-on 3D flying. Hold a wing panel up to a strong light and you can see the unmistakable shadows of the structure that allows the QQ Night EXTRA 300 to do things that frighten more mainstream foamies.
The forward bay where the battery lives is also framed with lite plywood. This structure not only provides a solid mounting for the wide range of 3S battery mAh capacities (2200 to 3300mAh) this framework ties the firewall directly to the wing spar.
The wings feature vortex generators molded into their top and bottom surfaces to enhance handling along with SFG (side force generators) that strengthens knife edge flight performance. This airframe is so well balanced that sustained knife edge flight needs surprisingly little rudder input with virtually no coupling noticed.
Aura 8 Control System
The QQ Night EXTRA 300 comes with Flex Innovations proprietary AURA 8 Control system already installed and configured for this airframe. I must admit having mixed feelings about these “helper” systems, mostly because many try to “fix” things I wanted the plane to do. At this writing, I have several flights on the QQ Night EXTRA 300 and have found the Aura 8 Control System to be a different animal.
Because of the size of the QQ Night EXTRA 300 I could install a Spektrum satellite receiver plugged into the Aura 8 Control System without a full receiver as normally would be needed. I’m not going to profess understanding how this works and can’t swear that I was not concerned about loss of signal before making the initial flights. Now many flights later, I can say that it worked perfectly without a hint of lost signal.
The Aura 8 Control System has three states, controlled by the Gear channel on a three-way switch. The first state is the Aura 8 Control System turned off altogether and the instructions call for the initial flights to be made and the plane trimmed out that way. The second state has the Aura 8 Control System applying moderate corrections often described as “turning the wind off”. Finally, the third state is for full-on 3D flying.
What surprised me about the Aura 8 Control System is that it also acts like a dual rate in that the control surface throws are reduced in the Off and second modes and have “all you can get” throws in the third mode. Also, not all control surfaces are reduced alike. This system really is factory-tuned specifically for the different modes as they apply to the QQ Night EXTRA 300.
There is a free program you can download to tune the Aura 8 Control System further using the included cord to connect to your computer. At this point I have not altered the Aura 8 Control System as I want to get familiar with it as it comes from the factory. The “stock” tuning does seem to be very good without change but I will “explore” this system in a future article about it.
In the Air
The maiden flight went well with little trimming needed to go straight and level. This is a 3lb foamy and it responds to winds as you might expect. The wings are thick and make a bunch of lift so a cross wind tends to lift the up-wind wing. These are not serious deviations but are noticeable. The QQ Night EXTRA 300 responds to corrective stick movements nicely even though the throws appear to be dramatically reduced with the Aura 8 Control System in the “off” state.
Because the QQ Night EXTRA 300 has such a thick wing it will never be a speed machine though I would not want to see it after it hit something at its current top speed. Where the QQ Night EXTRA 300 excels is in handling. At lower rates, it is smooth as can be. Crank up the rates and the QQ Night EXTRA 300 tears holes in the sky with the best of them.
To me it seems like the QQ Night EXTRA 300 recovers more quickly than any plane I can remember flying. Part of that is obviously its low, 3lb flying weight. There just is not the built-up energy that we see in a heavier plane. I have the QQ Night EXTRA 300 balanced right on the CG point and while that tends to make most planes feel a little dead to me, the QQ Night EXTRA 300 is responsive and agile.
Flying the Aura 8 Control System
During the second flight I switched to the Aura 8 Control System into its second, low impact mode. The QQ Night EXTRA 300 instantly locked in and though the controls felt exactly as they did in the “off” mode all the wind-generated bounce and rocking were gone. Just as important to me was that I still had full control with a slightly more active feel. The control surface throws remain as they are in the “Off” mode and continue to feel responsive. Also, there were no oscillations noted at full-throttle speeds with the Aura 8 Control System in the second, low correction mode.
I took the QQ Night EXTRA 300 higher yet as I fully expected it to go into oscillations when I put it into mode three at full throttle. Despite the higher level of corrections and full-on control throws the QQ Night EXTRA 300 remained very stable. At one point flying at full throttle into the wind I did see a hint of oscillation but it was short-lived and stopped on its own. I took that to be a warning and I will use the third mode cautiously until I fully explore it and get used to its impact on the QQ Night EXTRA 300.
In the Background
Many of the modern fight control systems (gyros to some) claim to function in the background while letting you fly the plane. While you do not see the influence of these flight controllers all the time, most get a little headstrong on landing. Specifically, they try to keep the nose level or up slightly when I want the nose a bit down on final approach. I have had to set up a flight mode with most of these controllers to force that nose down attitude.
The Aura 8 Control System in the second mode seems to let my planes sink in for a landing just like when it is turned off altogether. As I reduce throttle and airspeed bleeds off the nose drops gently and I must use a touch of elevator to flair when it gets to the runway. Pick up the throttle and the Aura 8 Control System holds the plane at that attitude. Remember, I have not done any tweaking to the Aura 8 Control System so all of this “behavior” is out of the box with the factory programming for the QQ Night EXTRA 300. I will try tweaking the Aura 8 Control System in the future (that story coming later) but I can’t imagine it needing many or substantial changes.
The QQ Night EXTRA 300 is an exceptionally capable “foamy” that surpasses every foamy-based expectation I have had. It’s not real fast but I would not want a plane like this going too fast anyway. The fun is in what the QQ Night EXTRA 300 can do at more reasonable speeds, including ridiculously slow speed. The design features truly do keep the controls alive at speeds other similarly-sized planes are falling out of the sky.
Despite its remarkable agility the QQ Night EXTRA 300 is very easy to fly. I would not be afraid to train a new pilot on this plane with a buddy box. We could literally take a brand-new pilot from their first flights to learning aerobatics with the same plane, a huge money savings for the new RC pilot.
The Aura 8 Control System is surprising in its capabilities. It certainly smooths the bumps of wind but it does not compromise any of the controls. You always feel fully in control and the QQ Night EXTRA 300 responds to stick movements naturally.
A notable characteristic of the QQ Night EXTRA 300 is how “light” it flies. I now it only weighs 3lbs. but it feels much lighter in flight. It does flat spins with such little loss of altitude I had thought about trying to land it, but came back to reality in time. Landings into a headwind can have you flying the QQ Night EXTRA 300 to the ground because it just wants to keep on flying just inches off the ground. It’s not stalling or anything like that, just flying very slowly and very low. I found myself playing with that, doing a bunch of non-contact touch and goes.
The only down side I could find with the QQ Night EXTRA 300, and I admit it is a very little downside is that the battery compartment is tight. It fits my 3300 mAh packs just fine but getting my fingers in there to secure the battery is difficult. I will look for an easier way to secure the battery but for now this works fine. It’s just a bit tight for me. Your mileage may vary, so to speak.
With a street price of $309.99 (7-5-2017) the QQ Night EXTRA 300 as it comes from the box is a great value in today’s RC world. I’ve never had a plane come out of the box with this level of performance and ease of flying. For a foamy, the QQ Night EXTRA 300 has few if any peers. The combination of engineering, obviously a bunch of testing and then solid manufacturing makes this a must have plane for anyone that enjoys aerobatics or just relaxing with a smooth-flier.
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