E-flite P-47 Thunderbolt

E-flite P-47 Thunderbolt

As a closet scale modeller and warbird fancier, a well turned-out W.W.II fighter down at the patch always impresses me. Sadly the need to earn a crust and entertain the family of a weekend usually prevails, and I never find myself able to devote the time necessary to finish such a project. I suspect most of us are in the same boat! Well, there’s a new, quick-build kid in town that may be the answer to your problem.

With the massed resources of Horizon Hobby behind them, E-flite have stepped up to the plate with a most desirable P-47 Thunderbolt. After I got a sniff that a ‘Jug’ was wending its way to deepest darkest Oxfordshire I got all goose-bumpy!

GIMME, GIMME!

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The box finally arrived, and I wasn’t disappointed. The glossy carton was clawed at with eager fingers to reveal a very accomplished set of painted polystyrene foam parts constituting a pre-joined fuselage complete with lightweight ABS cowling, a crisply moulded wing and tail, a 480-size brushed motor and gearbox, some excellent bombs and pylons, pre-bent undercarriage and a bag of sundry accessories. All the decals were already in place, being of a nice quality matt vinyl material that blends in with the olive drab and ‘light aircraft grey’ paint. Much surface detail is apparent, with moulded channels to depict panel lines, louvres etc., and a closer look reveals that the panel lines have also been airbrushed a little to pick them out. Cowl flaps and air scoops are cunningly opened out to draw air out of the fuselage when in flight, keeping the ‘electrickery’ nice and cool.

An excellent instruction manual clearly depicts each stage of construction, annotating any upgrades that are available. The first of these that I decided to include was an extra servo for rudder control. This brings the tally of waggly bits to four, so some lightweight servos were going to be necessary. A quick call to the guys at Helger Distribution had some of the new E-flite S75 jobs ordered, but the shipment didn’t arrive in time. Fortunately, however, I managed to borrow a couple from my mate Andy for the purposes of review, the remainder of the servos being made up of Hitec HS55s. The servo bays in the model are obviously designed around the S75s and there are even recesses moulded in for the servo plugs! The S75s drop straight in and are secured with a little servo tape. For the aileron servos, note that you’ll need a couple of extension leads to extend the run into the radio bay within the fuselage.

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With the wing servos in place I secured the pair of ABS panels to the wing underside using Velcro and tape. These panels serve a couple of purposes – they hide the pre-installed spars, servos and associated electrical spaghetti, and also offer a little ding resistance when the model is inevitably reunited with mother earth. As an added ‘extra’ I also added a layer of 3M Blenderm tape to the leading edge of these panels to keep the airflow from peeling them off in a screaming dive.

Supplied pre-hinged and glued in place, the ailerons are unusual in that their leading edges are un-chamfered, with a sizeable hinge gap to give room for movement – to my mind, they had ‘flutter’ written all over them. However, before I knew it the wing was complete, hooking up the ailerons using the supplied pushrods to finish. An easy task, as these are pre-bent and assembled with clevises and keepers, out of the box!

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BODY MATTERS

Turning my attention to the fuselage, the first task was to install the tail. I’ve never been keen on smothering the centre of a tailplane with glue, then trying to slide it into position. When doing so I usually transfer all the glue to my waiting fingers, only to be redistributed around the model seconds later. This time, instead, I carefully removed the fin from the fuselage with a scalpel… Well okay, I own up. I managed to snap it off whilst deciding how to go about removing it! Anyway, with the fin out of the way, placing the tailplane was a doddle, leaving the fin to be re-attached moments later. Truth is, you can’t even see the join / break / cock-up! The elevator joiner is a simple bent wire affair, and it didn’t take long to make a slot for it in the fin post before popping the elevators back on with a bit of foam-safe cyano’.

As mentioned above, the instructions detail the fitment of an optional rudder, which appeals greatly to me, so it was out with the scalpel and steel ruler for some cautious surgery. A careful sanding job produced a neat chamfer, and the addition of a few hinges had the job done. Screwing the supplied horn in place meant it was time to hook up the control surfaces. The control runs for the elevator and rudder are pre-installed, which is great, but I was concerned that the solid wire inners would bind. My doubts were soon dispelled, however, as they worked beautifully.

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POWER CHOICE

Next on the assembly agenda was motor fitment, and the last of my upgrades. As mentioned earlier the kit is supplied with a simple brushed / geared 480 set-up. On the other hand, however, E-flite suggest a few alternative options:

1. Park 400 inrunner: 4200kV motor capable of turning an 11 x 7” propeller through the kit-supplied gearbox.

2. Park 400 outrunner: a 920kV motor that is reported to turn a 10 x 8” ‘E’ prop.

3. Park 450 outrunner: 890Kv motor that gives maximum performance on a 10 x 8” ‘E’ prop.

Decisions, decisions! In the end I opted for a Vortex 28/30/1270 brushless outrunner from All Electric RC, and a Castle Creations Phoenix 35A controller (evicted from another E-flite model) driven by a FlightPower EVO 20, 2500mAh 3s1p Li-Po… In the words of a Rolls Royce salesman, power is adequate! Lithium Polymer technology has moved apace of late, with many Li-Po cells in a 4th generation state of development. FlightPower are building an enviable reputation with their new EVO 20 range of cells; at the expense of a tad more weight due to the extra density of the pack they consistently give the stated current draw at peak without sagging (a problem I’ve experienced with other cells). No such worries here, they are truly 20C!

The powertrain choice dealt with, I duly fitted the Vortex motor to the supplied plastic adapter, which was in turn attached to the (now fairly typical) stick mount. Trouble was, the stick mount was loose and not fitted in exactly the right spot. I think mine must have been a Friday afternoon job, because nobody else I’ve spoken to has had a problem here. With the motor in place the cowling wasn’t even close to alignment, so the stick got pulled out and repositioned. To make sure it cured in exactly the right spot I refitted the cowling and supported the prop driver until proceedings had set firm. If you build one of these, be aware that with a regular APC prop (in my case a 9 x 4.7”) and an outrunner motor, clearance with the cowling is down to 2 – 3mm on the starboard (right) side due to side-thrust – so make sure the cowling is adequately secured! And take care when handling the cowling as I found the paint prone to flaking off around the cooling flaps. Mind you, this little niggle did give me the excuse to indulge in a little Airfix-style weathering!

NEARLY THERE

So, what’s left to do? Well, not a lot. The canopy is already decked out with a painted pilot figure and instrument panel, and the canopy frame is also pre-painted, completing the effect. The whole shooting match forms a hatch for access to the battery and radio, secured with a moulded plastic peg and magnet. Snugly tucked away in a moulded compartment underneath this nestle the elevator and rudder servos; the apertures were sufficiently tight that only the lightest smear of UHU Por was necessary to keep them in place. A Jeti Rex 5+ receiver was mounted on a piece of adhesive-backed Velcro for ease of removal.

The final chunk of polystyrene left in the box is the belly pan. This functions as a load spreader for the wing bolt, with moulded pegs at one end and a long screw at the other, passing right through the pan and wing to ensure a secure fixing. A final touch of my own was to put a couple of layers of 3M Blenderm tape on the bottom of the belly pan. I didn’t fancy the undercarriage’s chances on our patch, so I left the wire legs and wheels off (I reckon it looks better in the air like this anyway). The only drawback, however, is that I can’t stick the lovely pylons and bombs on for fear of ripping them off on landing.

So, that’s about it for the build. A quick check of the clock showed a total assembly time of a little over four hours – how much faster do you want to build a model? This is true ‘buy today, fly tomorrow’ stuff.

JUG’S IN THE HAND

With the Li-Po pack cooked to a turn, it was off to the patch in the failing light. Clearly, since the P-47 had an AUW of 22oz and a power-to-weight ratio that a 3D flier would covet, this bird wasn’t going anywhere but up! The major benefit is that hand launching the model requires nowt more than a firm push, i.e. no sprinting across the patch with a javelin-style chuck to achieve flying speed.

Once airborne, what became immediately apparent was that the C of G, as I had interpreted it, was a country mile to the rear. She cavorted all over the sky until I found a power setting where I could feather the elevator to maintain straight and level flight. Anyone watching the old digits would tell you that I was earning my keep. Whatever, we got away with it and got a few photos in the can as well. Even in this poor state of trim it was obvious she was going to be a fabulous little model, so back at the workshop I mixed up some lead fishing shot with a little epoxy and poured it around the front radius of the cowl. Can’t get it any further forward than that!

In total she was now carrying almost 2oz of lead up front, including the original 1.4oz chunk that was still attached to the firewall. The lead simply replaced the weight of the original brushed motor and gearbox, so it wasn’t bloating the model out in any way. Re-checking the C of G now showed a more pronounced nose-down sit on the balancer, so no more excuses.

The following Sunday dawned crisp and bright and after a hurried trip to the patch with my best photographer, Andy Ellison, tucked under one arm, we were all set. A quick range check and another easy launch into the very still, cold air had the model climbing away nicely. Andy commented that the model could do with a couple of finger holds to ease launching as she’s a tubby little bird and quite difficult to get a grip of. The controls still felt a bit wild, but to be fair I had done my usual trick and gone for as much throw as I could get, which ain’t always the best idea. Flicking rate switches to induce the specified throws didn’t make an awful lot of difference – very odd – and there was still a very marked climb with power. There was one thing left to adjust – down-thrust. With a little patience I was able to shim the stick mount to give approximately 11/2°.

Subsequent flights still had me scratching my head, as sometimes adding power would bring the nose up, whilst seconds later the same application of power would have the model putting its nose down! I thoroughly inspected the stick mount, which wasn’t moving or twisting with torque, so I was even more flummoxed. Eventually the culprit came to light – a duff elevator servo (not one of the S75s, I hasten to add) that wasn’t holding centre properly. Moving the surface back and forth would produce two different neutrals! A servo was pinched from another model and the problem resolved.

Back on track and behaving herself, power is more than adequate with the Vortex motor. The model will happily stooge around on slightly less than half throttle and it’s also proved extremely quiet, being almost inaudible from the pits less than 30 yards away. The aileron response was a surprise, after my misgivings about the installation – crisp and bouncy, which gave confidence to bring the model in closer. The decision to add the optional rudder was a good one, and saved the model after ‘dopey drawers’ here forgot to hook up the ailerons on one sortie. The rudder opened up the repertoire to include stall turns, spins and lovely, lazy, slow rolls and barrel rolls. With such a powerful set-up the temptation to let the P-47 loose was always there, but I much preferred a steady rate of progress with lazy wing-overs, barrel rolls and the odd strafing run. There were no nasty surprises in the stall; in fact it was extremely docile and well behaved. She was totally predictable, with touchdown at almost walking pace. Maybe I will put those bombs back on…

The extra bit of tape protection underneath was a useful addition, stopping the polystyrene from getting clogged with soil and unsightly grass stains. I was concerned at the longevity of the pre-installed gun barrels on the wings but these have resolutely refused to be removed by tufts of grass, etc. The belly landings have started to make their presence felt, however, with a number of grooves and scratches starting to appear on the bottom of the fuselage. A layer of glass cloth would probably cure it, but this seems like an awful lot of work. Maybe the answer is a little cross-weave tape?

TO BUY?

So, the burning question. Should you go and buy one? Absolutely. It’s up near the top of the pecking order for this type of model in terms of presentation and quality, and judging by the reaction down at the patch I reckon it will go on more than a few ‘wanted’ lists. Granted, you’ll have to spend some wedge for top performance but the Vortex motor is only £29.99, and the speed controller not much more, and I’ll bet most of you have suitable Li-Pos kicking about anyway. Go on – treat yourself!

Datafile

Name – P-47B Thunderbolt

Manufactured by – E-flite

UK Distributor – Horizon Hobby UK

Street price – Around £60

Wingspan – 39"

Flying weight – 21 – 26 oz

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