Early season, and I was at ex-RAF Sleap on a different mission and where I had a pleasant surprise. It was my first outdoor meeting of the 2012 season and, as I limbered up with three clanking cameras, the last thing I expected to shoot was two brand new ARTF Sea Furies! They were not small fry either. The new Black Horse Sea Fury is over six feet in span, which my dodgy maths makes about 1/6-scale. Weighing in at around 7.5kgs, she requires a petrol engine in the 35 - 40cc range. Anyhow, I immediately scooted over to the sunny side of the pits and confess that I was very impressed. The overall shape appeared gratifyingly smooth and seamless, with what seemed to my untutored eyes like surprisingly faithful proportions. Truthfully, the harder I looked, the more the new Black Horse Sea Fury rang true. On a very bright spring day, even the slightly subdued gloss sheen looked appropriate to my eyes. However, being more-or-less colour blind, I could not vouch for the strict accuracy of the precise scheme colours, which might have been a bit rich. But what the heck? I thought the models looked great!

DARK HORSE
To be candid, I was a trifle surprised that these aircraft were Black Horse ARTFs from Vietnam. Over the years, I’ve championed Black Horse bargain-basement airframes, but these new scale jobs really are in a different league. To me the sleek ARTFs seemed good value for money, whilst possessing a fit-and-finish that would elude my puny bench skills. They have the look of those imported mega-expensive all-moulded jobs, but actually, to the delight of my little wooden heart, they are actually of jig-built balsa-and-ply construction. This, of course, also makes them easier to mend, modify or re-scheme. Mind you, they’re skinned in a pre-printed vinyl covering so repairs may not be quite as straightforward as they might seem. Even so, the finish is very convincing. Close up, the panel lines are a bit vivid, and you can see evidence of the screening in the graphics, but not from ten feet, or in the air. I felt this was an excellent compromise. Truthfully, the two models I examined, when observed from a ten feet circle, could have been scale comp scratch-built entrants. They even had factory fitted arrestor hooks!

PERSONAL TOUCHES
The actual model featured in the photos belongs to well known North West Warbirder, Simon Illsley. Simon has fitted a 32cc petrol engine, driving an 18 x 8” Xoar PJ W.W.II prop. This is just below the bottom of the recommended power range, however Simon has experienced no problems. He’s also modded the retracts with the addition of a Robart variable rate kit, which was a useful scale addition. This is a practical design since both the wings and tailplane halves are detachable for storage and transport. Naturally, that big trademark Sea Fury cowl comes pre-moulded and the paint is pre-matched to the vinyl covering, deftly disposing of an irksomely common ARTF shortcoming.
FLYING
In its advertising announcement, Black Horse makes mention of its properly pinned and shrouded control-surface hinge system, which eschews run-of-the-mill plastic hinges. This small bit of upgrading seems to pay dividends, indeed Simon reports that the model is a delight to fly, though on full-flap approaches (as on all similar airframes) she has to be flown positively, with intelligent use of throttle, right down to the deck. As the photos show, the Black Horse Sea Fury looks superbly aggressive in the air.

PLEASANT SURPRISE
I wasn’t expecting to see a new Sea Fury ARTF flying at Sleap. I heard about the new Black Horse range last autumn, but these examples were the first to travel past me on the conveyor belt. To say I was charmed by the model would be an understatement. The pricing looks acceptable too, with Ripmax quoting £419.99, though as always, by shopping around, you should do much better than that. In case you haven’t already noticed, it’s significant to note that the Sea Fury sits within a desirable large-scale Black Horse warbird range which includes a Fieseler Storch, a Macchi MC200, a Westland Wyvern and a Hurricane. Full marks to the company for taking a punt on at least two under-sung British legends out of its four marque premium line-up. I’d say that if you’re in the market for a practical, affordable, out-of-the-rut, piston engine warbird, complete with flaps, air up / air down retracts, and oleos, the Black Horse Sea Fury must go on to your list.

DOWNLOAD
For your convenience, I’ve tracked down the Black Horse Sea Fury Instruction Manual. It’s worth a good read in its own right, if only to marvel at how modern ARTFs realise quite complex engineering so straightforwardly. You can download a copy from the Ripmax website. Be careful though, a graze of the instruction manual is likely to be all the encouragement you need!