Review: Raf Blades

automan1223

Banned
Joined
Nov 3, 2003
Messages
3,760
Location
Oriental, North Carolina
Aircraft
2p Tandem Air Command "Big Red"
Total Flight Time
250
I wanted to let everyone know of my experience with RAF and their rotorblades. As you know I have maintained a web page critical of my training with Bill Ortmayer who used Raf blades on his machine. An accident occured earlier this year where the student was killed when a blade separated the rotor system. Raf has been critized every which way and while some of the experiences I have read about may have merit I will be fair and fill in some blanks. There are not many mfg's out there with an affordable and quality product for a heavy 2 pl. so I decided to give them a try.

First of all you guys might think I am crazy for buying a set of blades that have gotten a bad rap in the past. I called up RAF and spoke with a gentleman by the last name of Thornton. He was very good in answering all of my questions. I had a lot of questions. Believe me I am no pushover when it comes to straight answers. It seems that a lot of the issues that have cropped up in the past have been addressed. I was concerened because I do not have money to throw away on blades and I am also trusting my life to this company and their craftsmanship. After getting thru the ordering process and the wait time a well crated set of rotorblades arrived at my shop about 2-3 weeks after my paperwork was completed. Raf Keeps them in stock and has them all ready to go. Shipping from Canada to NC was fair. Customs proved no problem but an extra expense of 20 bucks.

I pulled them out of the crate. The blades were adequately bubble packed, ends taped, extra stuffing on the important parts. With a few late nights the blade box can be tuned up, padded and hinged and makes for a nice place to store the blades. This was a nice surprise because of my experiences in the past with damaged blades in inferior packaging.

The hub bar:

This hub bar has taken a lot of critisim for its design. It is a well engineered and thought out piece of hardware except for the fact that the single bolt holding the root of the blade to the bar is trapped inside a machined recess. Extensive searching for a thin wall socket to be able to R&R this single bolt has been fruitless. This bolt is torqued to 200 ft lbs at the factory upon final assy. You have to be a big guy with a lot of leverage to effect that kind of torque on a bolt. I am an auto tech, I know....
The hub bar must also be properly supported to prevent damage during the procedure. The bar has moly grease on all the hardware and slide points so it is not assembled dry. There are 2 trim set screws if you so desire to adjust the pitch. There is also a centering adjustment on the middle of the bar to teeter towers if you should need to adjust it. Frankly I will be making a jig and modify a socket to be able to work on the hub bar but for now I think a hands on inspection / visual inspection and if there are any needs I will send the bar back to RAF for them to mess with it. If you flap your blades to hard, have an impact with something, or just plain neglect your rotor system to the point of rust and failure then you have no one to blame but yourself if there are problems. The smaller bolts can be easily torqued with a standard torque wrench. Checking flap angle on the teeter bar in my rotor head I discovered too much teeter exceeding 40 degrees. Installing lower towers returned the total angle to 19-20 degrees. Air command says a min of 17 degrees is needed.

Blades: I carefully removed the bubble wrap socks off of each blade. I inspected every inch of the blade surface for defects and problems. Running my fingers over the top of the surface of the blades I felt about 3/4'ths of the way down a slight depression in each blade. As this concerned me I called RAF and was assured it was in the mold process. They made a special point to check every blade they had of that length and called me back and reassured me that "defect" was not a defect but a normal " extra wetting out" of the resin in the cloth during the mfg process. (AT ROC I checked 2 other new sets on other machines and the same wetting out was observed so it was not just my set) I am curious why there is xtra resin there but rather too much than not enough.....

There are 3 spots along the top of 1 blade is where they inject a balancing agent / epoxy at 3 different stations so the blades are balanced in an accurate manner with an exact process.

Set up and flight:

It took me several months to finally test flight the machine and this was the first time I was using Raf blades on it.

The blades went together without any extra effort. They strung up ok and were fitted on my machine without any fuss. After several test runs they took flight flew flawlessly.

There was no noticable stick shake and they had great responsiveness for this low time pilot. Rotor rpm was right on the money at 345-350. However By the second day about the 3rd flight, I started to notice a stick shake and got concerned. I found some bug guts stuck on the blades and while bugs dont weigh much a cleaning of the surfaces returned the operation smooth again. I was able to cruise at 70mph with little effort and my float time was good considering my total weight of about 1400lbs. fuel and pilots.

Overall for the price the quality and the flyability right out of the box I am a happy customer. I would recommend RAF blades for any machine. While they are not the top of the line product they are a great middle of the road blade and should give you good service. They came with a fair instruction sheet / manual too...


Jonathan Weis
Oriental NC
 

StanFoster

Active Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2003
Messages
16,935
Location
Paxton, Il
Aircraft
Helicycle N360SF
Total Flight Time
1250
Jon: I took RAF up on their blade exchange offer last December. I had until Dec. 31st to exchange my new blades still in the box for the newest 24th generation blades. I am very satisfied with the blades...they have all kinds of reserve momentum for landing. They fly great with my 220 pound butt and my 270 pound son.

I have had nothing but good experiences with RAF. It needs a stab however and I am extremely satisfied with my RAF equipped with a Parham stab. :)

Stan
 
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