Century Swift 16 Improvements

The Swift 16 tail boom compared to a T-Rex 450. Did I mention the Swift is big?

The Century Swift 16 is arguably the best value in large electric RC helicopters. Capable of spinning 500-550mm main blades, it’s considerably larger and more visible than a T-Rex 500, which takes 425mm blades. Yet the Swift requires only 4S-6S LiPos, making it much cheaper to power than 600mm-sized electrics. To top it off, the kit has a street price of only $ 189 USD.

All of that value does come with a cost though. There are a number of minor design issues which you may need to work around. The purpose of this article is to describe those steps as they apply to the current Swift 16, and hope that some of this feedback makes it into the upcoming Swift NX.

Let’s start with the head. For the most part it builds easily, and is of good quality. Previous generations had a problem where the feathering shaft introduced vibrations, and needed to be sanded down, but this has been addressed in recent kits.

The washout pins (at bottom left) need to be shortened.

The main problem which remains is the length of the washout pins. Even when fully inserted into the head block, they are simply too long. You’ll quickly find that trying to set up +/- 10 degrees of pitch will cause the washout pins to touch the swashplate when cyclic is also applied. The simple solution is to grind these pins down. I took off about 2mm from each pin using a grinding bit on a rotary tool. There is room to take off a little more if you’re looking for maximum collective pitch, but make sure the pins come down at least half way into the washout base at full negative pitch.

The kit paddles are very lightweight and should probably be solid and heavier.

The included paddles are very lightweight, and many pilots choose to replace them. The Thunder Tiger "Greenies" paddles are a popular choice. Others have had good luck with solid paddles from Mikado and Century. The stock flybar is 3mm, so buy paddles appropriately.

The bottoms of the blade grips are smooth, with no recesses for the locknuts.

One improvement I’d like to see in future kits is a change to the main blade grips. Currently, you need a wrench to hold the locknut at bottom while using a hex driver from the top. I find this makes it more tedious to install blades than necessary. An easy solution, and one used on other Century helicopters, is to have a recess in the bottom of the blade grip which holds the locknut and prevents it from turning. That way you only need the hex driver, and your other hand can prevent the blade from twisting in the grip as you tighten down.

Now let’s move on to the motor mount. The current design has two holes to mount the motor, positioned front and back. This allows motors with different hole spacing to be fitted, and lets the motor move front and back to set the gear lash. The problem is that the rear hole is covered by the main gear. To install this screw, you must turn the main gear until the holes line up. That’s mildly inconvenient, but the real problem is that the screw head may not clear the gear. In my case, the main gear was unable to turn with this screw installed. Ultimately I had to grind down the cap head screw and sand the washer to get the necessary clearance.

The rear motor mounting bolt interfered with the main gear.
It was necessary to grind the bolt down.
Installing the bolt through the main gear.

A much better solution would be for Century to redesign the motor mount with the holes to the left and right of the motor. Done like this, both holes would be in front of the main gear, making installation easier and interference impossible. Most compatible motors, like the Scorpion I used, have mounting holes that would fit this design, and any motors with wider mount spacing could be turned slightly.

The white tail pulley has a slight side-to-side wiggle.

One minor issue with the tail is that the tail gear pulley moves a bit from side to side within the gear box. So far it hasn’t caused a problem, but it could be improved with a thin washer. Speaking of small parts, the Swift does not come with any spares. A few extra ball links, screws, etc. would cost almost nothing but make sure that customers don’t get stuck because one tiny part got lost or damaged.

The canopy can be cut out to accommodate the battery.

Let’s spend a moment talking about the battery. The Swift 16 suspends the battery under the frame, which puts the CG a bit lower than is desirable. It also makes changing batteries difficult. I have to lay the Swift 16 on its side, or turn it upside down to change the main pack. Additionally, the canopy is very difficult to install. Specifically, the rear attachment points are a beast to attach – I can easily spend five minutes fighting with them. A good tip is to cut the bottom of the canopy out so that it can be left on when changing batteries.

The Swift NX moves the battery under the canopy, placing it on an inclined tray. As long as the new canopy is easier to get on and off this should be a big improvement. Also, the current landing gear struts are too thin and flexible, which causes the entire heli to shake at a certain rpm during spool up and spool down. The new, thicker struts on the NX will hopefully fix this. In the mean time, many people substitute Align 600 landing gear.

The Swift 16 has an optional gyro plate which mounts on top of the boom, but no good place for the receiver. Some people mount the ESC on the side of the frames to make room for the receiver on the front tray. I mounted my receiver underneath the tail boom mount with double sided tape and a zip tie. It works but is not ideal. By comparison, the Swift NX frames have built-in mounting plates for the gyro and receiver, both behind the main shaft. This is a great change.

The optional gyro plate. This should be included standard.
The gyro plate installed.
I mounted the receiver inverted.

So, what else would I put on my wish list? I’d like to see better quality control, and a better manual. My kit was missing two ball links, had a damaged feathering spindle, and one of the pushrods was threaded wrong. It also came with black rubber bands meant for the old battery mounting tray, which can’t be used with the new one. The current manual is OK but has a few steps out of order, and mislabels a couple parts. It also shows parts which have been upgraded or changed since the original design. It would help to correct these, and would be even better to change to a step-by-step instruction format.

Another look at the receiver and gyro mounting.
My kit was missing two ball links.
The finished Swift 16, ready to fly.

While this might seem like a long list, every model has its drawbacks, and none of these should discourage you from buying a Swift. I’m very happy with mine, and looking forward to seeing the product evolve with the Swift NX. With some relatively simple changes, Century could have the best beginner through intermediate large electric heli on the market.  read more »

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