Product News

E-mail Article to a FriendPrint ArticleBookmark and Share

Apprentice S 15e from E-flite

By Hal Miller
Published: November 13, 2013
E-flite Apprentice
Product: Just another trainer? Think again. E-flite’s Apprentice S 15e is something a little different. And by that, I mean better.

The plane, based on the Apprentice 15e and styled similarly to a Cessna 172, features the company’s SAFE technology, an acronym for Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope. But what you really need to know is that it can make flying more controllable and get the pilot out of a jam just by flipping a switch. Horizon’s AS3X technology is also employed to keep the plane stable despite changing conditions.

By no means is SAFE an autopilot; the flyer is still very much in control of the plane at all times, and it’s still possible to crash. But in terms of lowering the barriers to learning how to fly radio-control aircraft, this is a significant leap forward.

Everything the pilot needs to fly is included in the box except for a screwdriver. The plane itself is constructed of tough Z-foam and has a 15-size, 840-Kv brushless outrunner motor installed. Also included is a 3200-mAh 20C LiPo battery and a LiPo balancing DC charger. The charger comes with clips and connects to a car or other large battery.

Control is courtesy of a Spektrum DX5 radio. This 2.4-GHz, 5-channel transmitter is light but very powerful. It comes with four AA batteries.

Performance: I will be the first to tell you I am not a confident flyer. I have done it, but sometimes not especially well. I was a little concerned about taking the Apprentice S 15e on, but I quickly learned it’s a very pilot-friendly plane to fly.

Assembly is very easy, and the plane is ready to fly about 30 minutes out of the box. The user has to add the landing gear, the tail and elevator, and assemble the two halves of the wing. The latter is a matter of sliding one half onto the spar connected to the other, then adding the plastic leading- and trailing-edge caps.

While putting the plane together, the user can be charging the battery, which is equipped with the standard Horizon proprietary connector. Mine charged in about the amount of time it took to put the plane together, maybe a bit longer.

After connecting the throw rods to the clevises already installed on the various control surfaces, and connecting the aileron servos to the ESC, the wing is ready to be rubber-banded on, and it’s time to go flying.

I flew the apprentice on a cool day with about a 15-mph wind that, at times, was gusting a little higher. I didn’t have a clear runway and decided to hand-launch the Apprentice. Reading the instructions, I saw that even on a takeoff like this, if I felt like the plane was in trouble, pulling up on the transmitter’s “panic” switch would bring the plane into a flyable attitude. Fortunately, the Apprentice has plenty of power and after throttling up and giving it a toss, it took to the air and gained altitude quickly.

Another switch on the radio lets the pilot choose between beginner, intermediate and advanced settings, which controls the extent to which the SAFE technology acts on the plane. I set the switch to beginner to start, which lets SAFE work to its greatest capability. As the pilot gains more experience and progresses to the higher levels, the technology plays less of a role but is still there when needed.

After getting up “three mistakes high,” I flew the plane around the park. I could see the control surfaces moving just slightly to keep the plane stable in the gusts. Despite the wind, I never felt out of control. The airplane has substantial size and can take some buffeting, and it’s really easy to fly with its large wing surface.

A few times I even let the Apprentice kind of go just so I could test the panic switch. The plane would kind of blow over, and depressing the panic switch righted it several times into a level attitude with respect to the horizon. When I took my finger off the switch, I was in complete control again.

I was having so much fun with it I didn’t want to land. I didn’t have a flat spot to land it, so I instead brought it in and flared it over some tall marsh weeds. It settled right down, none the worse for wear.

The tricycle landing gear features a controllable front wheel, making the plane very maneuverable on the ground for takeoffs and landings.

Also, the Spektrum DX5 is buddy-box capable, so even those with no experience can learn to fly pretty quickly.

Marketing: It’s easy to praise this plane. First, it’s a complete, attractive package. For everything you get, it comes at a very nice price.

Yes, the body styling does say “trainer,” but it’s a fun plane to fly. Moreover, it gets the beginning pilot over the hump of getting started. By changing the switch on the transmitter to adapt it and the plane to the pilot’s increasing experience level, the Apprentice turns into a product the pilot will keep for a while.

The instructions are minimal but complete enough to get your customer flying quickly. And thanks to the SAFE technology — which really does work — that customer will stay in the air longer.

Of course, telling your customers they will probably want to invest in another LiPo battery is a given. For those who want to try water take-offs and landings, E-flite offers a float set (No. EFLA550; $64.99 MSRP).

In addition, most of the replacement or upgrade parts that fit the 15e will also fit the S 15e, so in the event your customers crash and damage the Apprentice, they can make repairs and get back in the air quickly.

E-flite’s Apprentice S 15e is a terrific way to get into the hobby. There’s lots of value for the money, and I will say from experience, thanks to the SAFE technology, it’s certainly capable of increasing the confidence of even the most timid pilot, in almost any conditions.

Product: Apprentice S 15e
Maker: E-flite
Stock number: EFL3100
MSRP: $421.99
Availability: Horizon Hobby

• Complete package with a good radio
• SAFE works but still needs a pilot
• Users can learn incrementally