It’s surprising how few really good ARTF R/C Spitfires you see around. I’m never quite sure why this is. After all, as patriots I’d have though it would be a rite of passage for all budding British R/C pilots. You know, if you haven’t built and flown a Spit’ then you really ought to consider your position within the club and sort your act out… that kind of thing. The Spitfire is an iconic design, one of the greatest aircraft of all time and yet, as far as R/C subjects are concerned, it’s more often the Mustang that we see flying over UK club fields.
Perhaps there are some good reasons for the relative absence of RJ’s classic fighter? Maybe builders are put off by the thought of fitting retracts, or perhaps those inboard undercarriage legs intimidate with their potential to make the take-off and landing phase a little more involving? Could it be a result of that thin elliptical wing and the assumption that handling problems could result?
Of course, plan-built Spits’ have always been around for the traditional modellers, whilst the Mick Reeves kit is still available for those with the skill and patience required to attempt such a venture. In the ARTF market, however, the manufacturers that produce what we’d call ‘quality’ kits haven’t exactly rushed to produce a version of the famous aircraft. Yes, there have been offerings from lesser brands over the years but most are entirely forgettable. Who knows, it could be that the inertia of the U.S. market has dictated that Mustangs and Thunderbolts come off Chinese production lines, instead of Spitfires and Hurricanes? Until now, that is, for the Hangar 9 Spitfire has arrived and a very fine example it is too. For the first time a well-made, easy to fly, practical Spit’ is available to those with very average building and flying skills.
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So prefabricated are the assemblies that even dyed-in-the-wool ARTF builders will feel cheated by the modest amount of work required to get this model into the air. The retracts are fitted, the cowl and canopy are pre-painted, and you’ll find that all the painful little jobs have already been done at the factory. This one really does give a new meaning to the term quick-build.
In specification terms our review model is a 60-size, 65” span, 81/2 – 9 lb model for two- or four-stroke engines. The four-stroke range is .72 – 1.00cu. in. and I guess it is to this type of power source that most flyers will turn. After all, could you really fly a Spitfire on a two-stroke? Come along now, don’t even think about it. Okay then, in terms of the equipment you’ll need, the internal layout is traditional and employs seven servos to operate rudder, elevator, retracts and throttle with one in each wing-half for aileron, plus a centre wing servo location for flaps. The flaps, incidentally, are of the split variety driven to approx 45 degrees on the wing underside.
CONCESSIONS TO SCALE
Scale concessions are usually made where Spitfire ARTFs are concerned. Do it carefully and the model can just about stand the club flightline credibility test, get it wrong and the model is rendered instantly forgettable and the butt of flightline sniggers and finger pointing. Some manufacturers have clearly struggled to reproduce the basic shape whilst others have let themselves down with shoddy scale details, shiny surfaces, bad lettering, incorrect roundels, outlandish cowlings, ridiculous undercarriage arrangements, and so on.
Hangar 9’s attempt does make concessions that I’m sure most of you will have spotted already. Sure, the wing is thicker than scale and the undercarriage legs have been pulled apart to provide better ground handling. On the plus side, the recessed cockpit area is nicely done, and the canopy looks pretty good. The cowl shape is one of the better I’ve seen and the tail feathers look respectable, if a little over-size. She’s far too shiny of course, but overall I think this Spitfire looks trim and in fact one of the best all-rounder efforts so far.
Beauty, as we know, is skin deep, so how has the model been put together? Well, all the main structures are built using laser-cut ply and balsa, and the build quality is very fine indeed. Standard Solarfilm covers the model and my example was free from bubbles or blemishes. The cowl is a huge glass fibre item and additional detail parts are made from ply, balsa and fibreglass. I was relieved to see that the mechanical retracts are pre-fitted, which always saves a lot of work and few swear words, particularly if they’re added after the wing has been built and covered.
This Spitfire is not a workbench skill improvement opportunity, in fact it went together with greater ease and speed than any other ARTF model of this type that I’ve assembled. I’ve mentioned that the retracts are already installed but would you believe the fuel tank is assembled with fuel tubes fitted? It pressure tested perfectly, too! Niggles? Just a few minor items to mention. The motor mount bolts are of a U.S. variety so I was hard pushed to find a suitable Allen keys and eventually replaced them. I should perhaps add that this seems to be an annoyance with practically all Hangar 9 kits these days and not one I see changing anytime soon.
Now then, what else was there? Oh yes. The fit of the tailplane was so tight that it was almost damaged while attempting to slot it into place. This being the case, I was reluctantly forced to sand the aperture slightly to ease its passage.
One area that didn’t appear to have been finished properly was the balsa rim of the cockpit opening. With the vacuum moulded canopy in position the sides of the fuselage rose higher than the painted framework of the vac’ moulding and could, therefore, be seen behind the canopy glazing. The fact that the rim was also rough cut and unfinished, led me to believe that the builder was required to cut it back, which is exactly what I did. No mention in the instructions though!
FIT AND FINISH
The fuselage is cavernous so there’s plenty of room for all the gear, this positioned within laser-cut trays that are poised ready to accommodate standard servos. I fitted Futaba 148s all round with a higher torque Futaba 3010 on elevator – more because it was sitting idle on my workbench than through necessity. A Perkins SuperTec retract servo fell snug in the wing recess.
I’ve never fitted a separate battery pack to power a mechanical retract servo before, preferring instead to keep things simple by using a larger main pack whilst keeping an eye on the retracts to ensure they always operate smoothly. In this respect I used a 1700mAh NiCad. However, after some testing, and having added a little Volt Spy battery monitor, I could see that the retract servo was causing quite a drop in voltage when operational. So it was that I added a JR Matchbox between the retract servo and receiver. Units of this type allow for several servos to be ganged together and adjusted, whilst a battery socket also accommodates a separate pack, employed to drive the servos that are plugged into the thing. I was only using one servo of course but at least the system allowed me to power the retracts with a separate battery.
What about engine choice then? Well, the instructions show the installation of a Saito 1.00 four-stroke motor and a hole in the cowl has been cut with just that brand and size in mind. A Saito it would have to be then – not such a bad prospect now that Saito distributor MacGregor have reduced their prices across the range. I did entertain the possibility of fitting a flexible exhaust tube from the manifold just to keep the silencer inside the cowl, there’s plenty of room but a £50 quote for the work meant the cost associated with this mod’ was a little too prohibitive for me. On the plus side, however, the cowl is so large that even with a chunky Saito under the hood, only a small number of additional holes need to be cut for protuberances; another quick job then. Mind you, I did cut a hole on the underside and behind the cylinder head to improve the airflow around the engine.
The Saito 1.00 has been superb
I’ve never been a remote-glow fan, perhaps I’ve been unlucky but they always seem to malfunction for me, so I’ve adopted a long-reach glow clip to light the plug in this model. My chosen pilot figure was a 1/7th scale chap from the J. Perkins range, although I do think he looks just a little too small now he’s in place. Little touches like painting over screw heads and control horns along with the aerial and exhaust stubs shouldn’t be ignored as they make a world of difference to the overall appearance. The shiny finish is a little too factory fresh for me, so I’ll be toning this down in due course, although some folk say they like it. Odd that, as it’s not terribly authentic, is it? I ran copious amounts of fuel through the Saito prior to the first flight, some seven tanks worth, to be honest. Anyway, it was time well spent as the motor was nicely run-in and ticking over perfectly for the first flight. I certainly didn’t want to test fly both the motor and model, if you see what I mean?
REACH FOR THE SKIES?
Perhaps it’s me, but I find that the bigger the model, the greater the first flight nerves. Still, the Spit’ was ready even if I wasn’t. In many respects there’s less to say about the flying capabilities of the model than I’d have envisaged. How does she fly? Well, like a Spitfire, I guess?
Like many warbirds, she tends to track to the right on take-off, it’s nothing that a little rudder won’t hold but it could lead to problems if uncorrected. To prevent her from nosing into the ground, elevator is required to hold the tail down when she starts rolling – again a trait that I’d have expected. With application of elevator, one or two of the fighters I’ve had in the past have seemed very keen to get airborne before they’re actually moving fast enough to sustain controlled flight. This normally occurs when you hold the elevator back a little longer than you should before easing the stick forward to lift the tail off the ground. However, the Spitfire doesn’t suffer this problem, looking after its student pilots with a fair margin of leeway.
Once airborne I found the suggested rates to be a little on the tame side but they’re fine to start with and she’s perfectly flyable with these. The elevator is just right, not too powerful, although again, I think a little more movement wouldn’t come amiss, if only to give some help when landing, perhaps for that final flare. Since the centre of gravity position on a warbird (on any model come to that) is always a critical issue I’ll tell you now that Hangar 9’s suggested position is fine, although I really wouldn’t worry if the model was a little heavier at the front. Truth is, I’ve had to add a few clicks of down elevator trim and am considering altering the C of G to suit.
The landing phase is probably the trickiest part of the Spit’s flight envelope. Not difficult you understand, just a little more involving than other flight manoeuvres. That said the stall is very agreeable and she’ll only drop a wing if she’s really pushed. I found the flaps to be of little use in a strong wind, indeed this one’s a real floater, she’ll just keep on coming. Once down you’ll find the undercarriage legs sound enough for the odd arrival but don’t abuse them, or they’re certain to let go.
I don’t ever recall seeing a Hangar 9 model receive a less than glowing review and I’m not going to buck the trend here because this one is clearly a very well developed drop of aeroplane. Hangar 9 models always seem to instil confidence and all through the build and test flying I was in little doubt that the model would fly well; it hasn’t disappointed. In the air she looks wonderful, sounds wonderful and is easy to fly. It’s not for beginners of course, but if you’ve a few sport models under your belt then this Spit’ should hold no fears or surprises for you.
THREE MONTHS ON……
It’s nice to be able to re-visit a model after a few months, to read the review and see whether the assessment is still fair and accurate. Not that I’d ever commit a review to print where I thought the model retained unknown properties, but having said this I feel that some models do mature over time as their traits become slowly appreciated.
My views on the Spit’ haven’t changed though. It’s easy to fly and looks good, impressive even – it’ll halt the flight line activity when it’s airborne. Add in the sound of a nice four-stroke and you’ve got a recipe that’ll really have the adrenaline rushing and leave you on a high after every flight.
The only comment that I’ll add flying wise is that I hardly ever use the flaps, there’s normally a decent breeze to hang the model onto for landing and the comfortable wing loading means that she’ll flare nicely without stressing the undercarriage.
This Spitfire has sold well in the UK but doesn’t sell as well in the USA where Mustangs and Corsairs top out the wish lists – no great surprise there of course. Some have commented that the Hangar 9 Spitfire is too shiny – a matt finish would have been better received perhaps although once it’s in the air it’s hard to tell and I’m sure the BBMF Spitfire has a glossy sheen doesn’t it?
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