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While visiting the recent Toy Fair, held at the Excel Exhibition Centre, I was struck by, what appeared to be, a total lack of one particular toy that was heavily featured last year. Flights of fancy, via remote controlled helicopters and the like, were now conspicuous by their absence – but not quite. The thought had barely faded from my mind when, as chance would have it, I stumbled across the small, but welcome, Extreme Fliers stand. Set up last year by Vernon Kerswell, a student at Manchester Business School, Extreme Fliers is a company that develops and sells a range of remote controlled miniature helicopters and UFOs. Having just got back from “Toy City”, a remote area of China with more than 4,000 factories, where he had been building up business contacts and developing a prototype anti-gravity car, Vernon was at the Toy Fair to promote some of his company’s products including a remote controlled insect, a twin-rotor Chinook chopper and a Desert Apache helicopter.
It is the latter item that forms the basis for this review. The Desert Apache product consists of the helicopter unit and a remote control. The helicopter, measuring 152mm from nose to tail, is the twin-blade type. A power socket and an on/off switch are located on one side of the fuselage. Powered by six AA batteries, which you need to supply, the remote control features a throttle stick, rudder joystick and a vernier adjustment knob (for adjusting trim). An on/off power switch with power light, band selector with a choice of A, B or C and a concealed charger lead located on the left side of the remote complete the unit’s functionality options.
Connecting the remote control to the helicopter in order to recharge its battery is straightforward but perhaps a little fiddly for those of us with large fingers. A 20-30 minute session should give between 5 and 6 minutes of flight time. Making use of the helicopter’s on/off switch proved to be more difficult. Moving the switch was not the problem, it was getting it in the exact position before the helicopter would respond to the remote control. It took several attempts, at one stage I thought the unit was broken, before I was able to find the appropriate “hot spot”. Fortunately this did become easier with practice and I was able to indulge in various indoor flights without causing too much damage.
Even if the packaging and remote control had not been clearly labelled Made in China, the rather limited documentation would have given the clue that this helicopter had not been manufactured in the UK. Whoever had translated the original documentation from Chinese obviously had little understanding of the English language. Trying to make sense of the four pages of English instructions was harder than flying the helicopter. A couple of examples, chosen at random should give you an idea of the quality of the documentation. “When the controller is in electrification, the controller LED turns light, when in charge, the controller is twinkling.” Having digested that what about “When the airplane tail presents the counterclockwise rotation, you may the clockwise rotation you in the hand the remote control vernier adjustment knob until balanced.” There are instructions in Chinese but unfortunately I neither read nor speak the language.
The Desert Apache is fine for those who have an understanding of what is involved but some experimentation will be required. Hopefully future products from Extreme Fliers will undergo better quality control. Expect to pay around £26 for the Desert Apache.
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