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Futaba 9Z WCII
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Ergo Z230 Gasser
Millie vs CS (Part II)
Millie vs CS (Part I)
TSK & the Squirrel
TSK & the Squirrel (Part IV)

Futaba 9Z WCII
Simon Lockington

I've been keen on getting a 9Z for a while now, but I've been waiting on selling my Z230 and maintain a two heli fleet before I went out and brought one. That was the plan anyway. Then one night I was looking around the Cyberheli site and noticed that the price of the full WCII kit had been dropped to US$1200 which was a price I couldn't let go by. So ofcourse I brought it. I then decided that since I still had the Z230, maintaining a three heli fleet was a good idea :).

The radio duly arrived (after checking the FEDEX site about ten times a day to try and guess when I would have it) and I fired it up and quickly realised I was out of my league compared to my Super 8. Luckily, I was off to a funfly that weekend and would meet up with fellow 9Z users and they could get me started.

For the purposes of this article, I'm going to compare the features that I use on the 9Z with that of the Super 8. I do not claim to know everything about the 9Z (or the Super 8), but I feel I know enough to make a comparison. The biggest question I had before buying the 9Z was "what will it do that my Super 8 doesn't?", after all, the 9Z is twice the price...

Contents of the kit
Included in the kit that I ordered was, the Futaba 9Z WCII tx, a R149 PCM rx, 4 x 9252 digital servos, 1500mah rx battery, rx battery checker lead, 64k CAMPAC, heavy duty rx switch, servo extension leads, neck strap, and a nice shiny carry case. Considering the RX is worth about NZ$350, and the servos are about NZ$225 each, which adds up to approximately NZ$1250 of a NZ$2800 kit so you can quickly see that the 9Z kit can be good value for money, especially if you have a new heli to kit out!

The concept of conditions takes a little getting used to. With the 9Z, you're not limited to Normal, ID1, ID2 and Hold. Instead, you have 'conditions' which allow you to pretty much totally change the programming of the model and you use the conditions as you would the flight modes used on radios like the Super 8. You then assign conditions to be activated at different switch positions. This means that if you had a scale helicopter, you might have a condition for taking off, one for general flight, then one for landing.

13 point pitch/throttle curves
At first, I thought 13 point curves were a bit unnecessary, now I couldn't live without them! You can smooth out the curves and fine tune them to a degree that is really difficult with a 5 point system. Some people find the fact that you have to set all 13 points on the curve a pain, at first I did too, but now I'm used to it and appreciate the flexibility this setup allows.

Boy, this was a concept that took my simple brain a while to get around! While I knew the concept of ATV, I couldn't understand where AFR fit into the equation. With the 9Z, each condition has ATV and AFR settings.
Here's the Simon Lockington guide to ATV and AFR.
I set up my helis and use ATV to define the end points of the servo travel, like you do with any other system. Then I use AFR like I used to use Dual Rate and Exponential on my Super 8.
For example, I like to set my CS up so it's quite 'dumb' in the hover in that I like the sticks to be quite insensitive. In my Super 8, I used Dual Rates to cut down the amount of throw, and I used Exponential to soften the sticks around center.
Although both Dual Rate and Exponential are available seperately on the 9Z, I use AFR to produce the same effect.
However, I still use Dual Rate for the rudder of my Voyager for use in Piroetting Flips. A flick of the switch (any switch I tell it to be) and the rudder slows right down for a consistent piroette during the flip.

The ATV function also has a very useful side feature, that is servo delays. This slows down the movement of the servo. If you have fast servos like me (Futaba 9252's), they show up any movement in your fingers if you're not careful. On my CS where I like the heli quite dumb, I use 90% delay which slows the servo movement down quite a bit. This is just personal preference, but I really like it.

I do love the sliders on the sides of the of the radio, however, I only use them for one application. This is in hover mode (NORML Condition) where I use the right hand slider to adjust hover throttle. I like the fact that I can be half way through a competition maneuver and feel that the wind is a bit too strong for the headspeed I'm running, and so I can easily increase the headspeed and bring more stability to the heli. In all other conditions, the sliders are not used.

Swashplate Function
One function I really like is the SWP function. This allows you to adjust the swashplate timing (I don't use this part), and it also allows you to add a percentage of throttle to any swashplate movement (either fore-aft, left-right). I love this feature! I use this to allow my rolls to be 'seemless' (ie the engine doesn't change note during the roll), yet when the heli is upside down (or right side up) the heli isn't screaming it's head off.

Another cool thing is the ability to customise your timers. You can have two timers for each model and one overall system timer. This way, you can have one timer counting down for the amount of time you normally get on a tank of fuel, the other could be counting up to record the actual time you got in the flight. The other thing is you can set these timers up to trigger on stick positions. I've got mine setup so as the throttle stick just leaves the bottom position, the timers start. So when the heli is sitting on the ground, the timers are inactivated.

Five Programmable Mixers per condition
The 9Z allows you to have up to five programmable mixers per condition. As you can have up to eight conditions per model, this means you can use 40 different mixers! Why you would want to I'm not sure, however, it's a big step up from the two mixers per model of the Super 8. For 'model wide' mixers such as the 140 CCPM mixer I use for the CS, four mixers are used (one for each condition). I haven't really played around with the mixers apart from one night when we were trying to get my mate's Mustang plank to have a condition for take off (flaps down, gear down etc), one for flying around (flaps up, gear up, softer controls), then one for landing (flaps down at a different rate than take off, gear down etc).

Things I don't like so much:
The battery in the 9Z is quite different from that in the Super 8 in that it's a 'modular' type battery, it's not a simple battery with a lead and plug. It has diodes inside it that prevent you discharging it with your battery management systems. You can get around this by purchasing a little adapter that disables the diode during discharging. However, I had purchased a 1450 mah battery for my Super 8 that literally allowed me to fly pretty much all weekend without a charge which I cannot use in my 9Z. The 9Z comes with a 1100mah battery that while lasts all day, you need to charge it that night for flying the next day.

While I bleated on about how I loved the timers, I must admit, they could have dealt with the overall system timer (the one that records the total amount of time the transmitter was on since the last reset) a little better. On the Super 8, the system timer was recorded in large figures on the screen so you always remembered to reset it at the start of the day. On the 9Z, it's up in the top right corner where you forget to reset it each day.

What could be added to the 9Z's successor when it comes?
Backlit LCD screen
For nightflying, I could see that could be a real help! The existing screen isn't the brightest (ofcourse you can adjust the contrast to your liking), but I reckon a backlit screen could really be the go!

Inbuilt finger/thumb warmers
Hell why not? The field get's pretty cold sometimes, and I really can't think of any additional functionality they could add to make the radio any better!

In Summary
I have ZERO regrets about buying the 9Z. It took me a good while to figure out how it works, and how to make use of it's features, but now I'm very comfortable and really enjoy the near total flexibility. I now think in terms of 'How can I achieve what I want?' with the 9Z, rather than, 'I don't think it's going to do that' which is how I felt about the Super 8.

Does it make me fly any better? No ofcourse not. What it does do though, is allow me to set the helicopters up exactly how I want them. It's hard to describe to a non-9Z or even JR 10X user, why these top of the line radios are worth the investment - they just are. There is just very little that you can't do with them.

The 9Z does require a much different train of thought than many other transmitters. It's so flexible that you literally can do pretty much what you want with it and set your helicopter up how YOU want it, not how the manufacturer has determined. The sheer flexibility can be a little intimidating at first until you understand how everything works.
There are so many functions you CAN use, however you don't have to if you don't want to. I've heard many non-9Z users complain that "it's too hard to program", "it takes too long to setup a heli on that" or "I don't want to use that function", this argument really has no merit as once you have gotten used to the way the 9Z works, you can setup a model very quickly and you can choose which functions you want to use. You do not have to use everything!

Do you NEED a 9Z? Nope, I didn't need it at all, my Super 8 is going just fine. However, the 9Z just does everything better than the Super 8. If you are serious about flying helicopters, you'll eventually find yourself wanting one of the top end radios, and when you do, you'll be hard pressed to go by the Futaba 9Z WCII.

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