• This review of FMS's V2 P-51D was first published in 2012, a V7 version is now available.

Not without reason has it taken a few months to pen some words on this, the second generation 1450mm FMS Mustang. You see, instead of scribbling my thoughts on the model after a handful of flights, I decided to live with it for a while, then scribble an account of the ownership experience. You know the sort of thing: how convenient it is to cart around, how durable it is, how it flies, and whether I genuinely think it’s the sort of model you’re likely to enjoy. This, I hope, will prove useful to all who might be seduced by the impressive detail, finish and undoubted presence of the new P-51, and tempted to part with cash.

You’ll notice that I used the word seduce in that last sentence and I did so with good reason. To my mind, anyone who has a liking for warbirds will have only to cast an eye over these pages to understand why I use the term. Take a look at the model in the photo above during a smooth low pass, wheels tucked neatly away and yellow prop tips highlighting the arc of that evocative four blader. Convincing isn’t it? Now have a peek at the landing shot on page 120 and tell me you can’t hear the powerful V12 Packard Merlin banging and popping as she flares for a three-pointer. Mass produced re-modelled packing foam it may be, but you simply can’t deny the authenticity or appeal of this model. Granted, as P-51s go it’s not 100% accurate, yet it has more than enough Mustang credentials to pass as a convincing scale replica. In fact, let’s qualify that with a look at a few visual highlights.

Starting that the sharp end, then, there’s that four-blade paddle – albeit a little small in diameter – complete with aforementioned yellow tips and manufacturer’s markings. Behind this, panel lines, vents, Petie nose art and a set of six scale exhaust stubs on either side. Move back a little further and we find worm gear electric retracts (complete with leg fairings), functioning flaps, panel lines, canon detail and working navigation lights. To its credit FMS has also made a brave attempt at detailing the cockpit, indeed here you’ll find a 3/4–length pilot, a seat, and a passable instrument panel. Significant detail has gone into the legending and artwork, too, the whole reproduced in a pleasing satin finish and applied with a good level of accuracy – not something that can be said for all foam models.
Now, I don’t mind telling you that the bit which impressed me most was the inclusion of a retractable, steerable, tail wheel with, get this, hinged gear doors! This is a genuinely neat detail that, most importantly, has proven robust and very reliable. Finally, at the tail end you’ll find more panel lines and legending, plus balanced control surfaces. As I’m sure you’ll agree, a pretty fussy and impressive level of detail for a model of this nature, the result being that if you pop it on the ground and step back two or three feet, it looks the real deal.

PILOT’S NOTES
So, is it hard to fly? Does it have any nasty vices? Will it damage easily? These are almost certainly the questions you’ll be wanting an answer to, so I’ll attempt to do just that by talking you through a typical flight.
Take-off is a common area of concern for warbird flyers, indeed the problems often begin the moment you open the throttle. Here, a long nose and rearward undercarriage position can cause a model to peck the ground. Couple this with the common effects of propeller torque, which can pull your aircraft violently to the left as it powers away, and you’ve well and truly got your hands full. Well, in fairness, neither of these has presented any sort of problem for the FMS P-51, though I should perhaps mention that our strip is particularly well maintained and, therefore, good for models with small wheels. If brutally honest, I have a feeling the P-51 won’t fair so well in long grass, so you’ll need to consider this carefully. As for the torque reaction, this has clearly been dealt with using a significant amount of in-built side thrust, which does it’s job well. All things considered, then, take-off is a pleasant affair during which a comfortable level of control can be enjoyed.

Throttling up carefully with elevator and a little rudder applied gets her moving and, as the speed builds, easing the elevator off will see the tail lift, followed, whenever you fancy, by the main wheels. It’s a lovely way to get airborne and beautifully authentic, however you have to make this happen. The alternative is to boot open the throttle like a hooligan, whereupon she’ll simply leap into the air in a very untidy fashion. Nasty. Let’s stick to the first, authentic, scenario in which we’re now climbing away gracefully and retracting all three wheels in the process. This, you’ll find, is a delightful operation to perform and a real joy to watch. Mark my words, with a bit of warbird sympathy, this model will make you look good, a fact that’s predominantly a result of its obscenely low wing loading.
Now, with the latter in mind, if you’re used to flying i.c. powered fighters you’ll find the FMS P-51 very light in the air, almost floaty! That’s not always a good thing for a warbird and, in truth, this one’s almost too light, the result being that in winds exceeding 10mph it begins to lose its authoritative heavy-metal look and starts to take on the characteristics of an autumn leaf. So, if you want your P-51 to groove and appear solid in the air, as a warbird should, you’ll need to keep it for calmer days when it really will shine and make you smile.

The recommended C of G location on models of this nature is often shamefully incorrect and significantly too far back. Not so here, in fact so convinced was I that the balance point would be wrong, I took the precaution of adding 50g of lead up front. In the event I needn’t have worried for it wasn’t really necessary. That said, it hasn’t done any harm either, so I’ve left it in place.

Airborne and in the circuit you’ll find the flying characteristics delightful and the power adequate. Personally, I’d have liked a bit more grunt from the set-up, if only to perform large warbird-style loops and cloud-teasing reversals. As it is, there’s enough power to pull the model over the top of a medium size loop, but no more.
On a calm day the P-51 tracks beautifully in true fighter fashion, performing lovely barrel rolls, impressive climbing turns and terrific looking low passes. She really does look a treat doing this and, if you slow her up, at no time will she try to bite. Slow speed characteristics are superb, then, the result of a stalled wing being nothing more than a half-hearted wallowing and a loss of altitude. Actually, I’ve just returned from a flying session in which I flew the model in a 10 – 15mph breeze and, with 20° of flap deployed, I had it practically hovering above the patch. As I say, much too light!

Of course, for anyone with tail-dragger experience all this makes landing a bit of a doddle. Dropping the gear has no effect on the trim and, because the model’s so lightly loaded, the flaps just aren’t necessary. I use them on calm days, not because they serve any useful purpose, but simply because they look good. A warbird coming in to land with wheels down and flaps deployed is an awe-inspiring spectacle and one you’ll thoroughly enjoy replicating with this P-51. On finals, don’t try and glide in for she’s likely to stop in the air. Instead, lose height early and come in on power keeping the tail slightly down in the three-point attitude. Do this and the P-51 will touch down beautifully under full control and without stressing the undercarriage. Drive her in hard and you’ll almost certainly damage something – probably that undercarriage which, although perfectly tough, isn’t built to be abused. Fact is, the landing stage is where you’ll need the most finesse and a good understanding of how far you can push the model’s flight envelope in pursuit of that classic three point touch-down.

I’ve been flying my P-51 using one of two 4s Li-Pos, a 4300mAh and a 4600. With these I’ve enjoyed flight times of between 8-10 minutes. That’s a proper flight in my book and makes the model a very practical alternative to flying an i.c. job, particularly when you’re short of time. Cleaning i.c. models after a day at the field is not a job I mind in the slightest, but it is a job nonetheless and must still be factored in when contemplating the time you’re able to dedicate to a flying session. Of course, it’s not an issue with the P-51 and in this respect, the model’s bailed me out on more than one occasion when a few hours is all the that day allows.

DURABILITY
Foam models such as this aren’t for the heavy handed. Due to the fiddly nature of connecting the aileron, flap, retract and navigation light wiring, this is not a model you’ll want to rig at the field. It needs to be stored and transported in one piece but, remember, at 57” span it’s not small. Moreover, it’ll scuff and dent far easier than a balsa airframe so if you’re the sort of person who lobs two or three models on top of each other in the car, this one will very quickly start to look battered and tatty. For my part it fits in the family hatch easily but is always protected by cushions or blankets. Anything else undervalues the impressive attention that’s gone into the detail and finish of the model and which really embodies its appeal.

Mechanically and electronically, it’s performed very well to date. In fairness though, it has had an easy life, suffering no high g manoeuvres, no hard landings and no hangar rash. Even so, nothing has dropped off, snapped, bent or broken and all is working exactly as it should. Even the navigation lights are visible on a dull day, Something I really didn’t expect!

LIVING IN HARMONY
So there it is. As far as I’m concerned, FMS has produced a winner and I wouldn’t be without it. As I hope I’ve pointed out, it’s not an everyday hack; the model’s too light, too vulnerable to damage and far too nice for that. No, successful ownership is a thoughtful marriage of airframe care, appreciation of the ideal weather conditions and flying characteristics and, finally, an ability to land gently and consistently. If you can tick all those boxes then I guarantee you’ll love this model and the £245 outlay will be money very well spent.

DATAFILE
Name:     P-51 Mustang
Model type:     Electric W.W.II fighter
Manufactured by:     FMS (China)
UK distributor:     CML Distribution, www.cmldistribution.co.uk
RRP:     £244.99
Wingspan:     57” (1450mm)
Wing area:     578sq. in.
All-up weight:     5 lb 1oz (2289g)
Wing loading:     20oz / sq. ft.
Functions (servos):     Aileron (2); flap (2); elevator (1);
rudder (1); throttle (via ESC); retracts (electric)
Supplied with:     Brushless outrunner; propeller;
ESC; servos; retracts; extension leads; instructions
Rec’d battery:     4s 4000mAh Li-Po