Rob Stenhouse reviews the ARTF warbird
From the Mk.1b through the most prolific Mk.3 to the ‘ultimate hooked Spitfire’ that was the type 47, there’s no denying that the Supermarine Seafire deserves to be modelled far more than it is. Overshadowed by its more glamorous land-based sibling, I think it makes a nice change from the norm. Good news, then, that E-Scale has produced this ARTF version, the markings of which are based on the full-size F17 SX336 based at North Weald. That said, from a true-scale perspective the model lacks the bubble canopy and prominent cylinder head bulges above the exhaust stacks, yet as a stand-off / semi-scale rendition it does a generally decent job.
GIANT IN THE OFFICE
Distributed in the UK by J. Perkins, this 64.5” (1640mm) Seafire requires either a .75 – .91 two-stroke or .91 – 1.20 four-stroke, and is suitable for 6-channel R/C operating eight servos. The kit, complete with a set of mechanical retracts, arrives well packed and protected within a large box, the airframe being of built-up balsa and ply construction. The Oracover finish had a few wrinkles (no doubt caused by humidity changes during the model’s long journey from the factory in Vietnam), however a factory-fresh finish was soon restored with a few iron passes here and there.
A pilot figure is pre-fitted but, alas, he’s very big for what amounts to a 1/7-scale model. It’s an inconsistency that reinforces the model’s sport-scale status. The canopy is pretty well glued and screwed, so swapping him out for a figure nearer the correct size runs the risk of spoiling the model’s finish. Not worth it in my opinion, but it does beg the question why a pilot of the proper proportions couldn’t have been fitted at the factory?
Anyhow, separately bagged and labelled bundles of hardware abound, making life a little easier when identifying the specific parts needed as the build progresses. All of the aforementioned parts are eminently fit for purpose, indeed I didn’t feel the need to replace anything, although I did employ a few Z-bends rather than swing keepers and EZ links in one or two places. That, however, was purely personal preference.
The instructions are well written, easy to follow and in a logical sequence, complemented by good, clear photos of every step. So, let’s turn to the first page and get this baby built.
The assembly sequence commences with the wing, adding the control surfaces being the first task. This is easy to do thanks to accurately pre-cut hinge slots that see everything line up nicely, the hinges simply gluing in place with thin cyano. The horns are the bolt-through type, which locate via pre-drilled holes (under the covering) in the control surfaces. Aileron and flap servos mount onto blocks on the inside of their respective servo covers, although it’s worth noting that the aileron mounts needed to be sanded back a little to prevent them touching the inside of the upper surface covering. The instructions mention the provision of draw strings to ease the passage of the wing’s servo leads to the root, however, curiously, these weren’t fitted. Good quality control horns attach via 2mm linkages to all surfaces, clevises being supplied for connecting to the horns and swing-keepers for the servo ends.
The wing panels glue together over a nice, sturdy aluminium joiner tube and rear incidence dowels to produce a one-piece wing, which at this span isn’t too big to manage. A plywood retract servo mount is then glued into its allocated recess, locating the retract servo mostly within the wing’s D-box section (useful to avoid snagging in transit).
The retracts need hardwood packing blocks to be glued to their mounts before being installed, although I found that an additional 3mm packing piece was needed to ensure sufficient room in the wheel well for them to fully close and lock up. The retracts are tilted forward quite prominently to give a more scale appearance when deployed, which also positions the wheels in front of the C of G to mitigate against any potential nose–over tendencies. The retract units, although of the budget type, are sturdy enough and operate well, although the 2mm pushrods supplied to activate them are, perhaps, a little thin for the task. I managed to bend mine a couple of times when operating on the bench and catching the wheel on something. That said, they were easily straightened and, to be honest, there hasn’t been a problem when flying the model.
Each sprung oleo leg consists of a short length of 5mm piano wire at the retract end with a turned aluminium boss that fits into a 12mm long x 1mm wall thickness aluminium tube, held in place at the top with three grub screws that lock onto the piano wire. The sprung end is simple, albeit a little agricultural looking, and although they worked okay on the bench, I wasn’t convinced at all that the oleos would stand up to much.
Nicely formed ABS u/c covers add to the scale effect and look really good, but do seem quite fragile and may prove vulnerable to damage.
Moving on, the ABS radiators and gun bulge mouldings need trimming to size before being glued directly onto the covering, the instructions suggesting cyano for this job. It’s not the best method but seems to work fine in practice.
The engine mount is a two-piece, glass-filled nylon item, the T-nuts for which are pre-installed in the front engine box bulkhead. The battery is shown mounted on top of the engine box in the pictures and, indeed, this is exactly where my 5-cell Eneloop flat-pack ended up whilst pursuing the recommended C of G.
The instructions detail both 2-stroke engine and electric motor installations, the latter offering guidance on fitting a 50mm diameter outrunner. A bag of plywood parts is included to make a battery mounting tray and to facilitate the alterations needed to the bulkhead if taking the electric route. All well and good, but the instructions don’t show a 4-stroke installation. An inverted set-up seemed the most suitable, so I went with this when fitting my Saito 125 as it involves the least amount of cowl surgery.
The Saito’s carburettor needed to be spun round 180°, with the addition of a fairly short main needle valve extension. This makes adjustment easier and also gives the throttle arm a clearer path past the tank. I also swapped out the self-tapping screws, supplied to mount the engine, in favour of M4 caphead bolts which are far better at keeping a big four-stroke in place.
The supplied fuel tank and fittings are all fine to use, the tank being installed using a sub-former and small balsa stop-block that locates the rear of the tank.
A sturdy, painted fibreglass item, the cowl needs just the slight touch from a mini grinder to achieve a good fit. Thrust lines are built into the engine box and everything lines up correctly to centralise the supplied spinner (decent quality with a metal backplate) on the nose ring - no problems here.
Fitting the tail feathers is a breeze. Simply remove a bit of excess covering before gluing in place! Everything lined up perfectly here straight from the box, with no fettling required.
Where servos are concerned, those in the fuselage all fit in their allocated cut-outs and line up well with their respective pushrods, which run in plastic tubes through the fuselage formers and are well supported along the way. With control throws set as per the instructions and the C of G double checked, there was just one thing left to do...
My chosen day for the Seafire’s maiden flight wasn’t the best, since it coincided with our club’s new flying-only scale competition. With only an hour to go before battle was due to commence, time for that first flight was running short.
With the Saito (spinning a fantastic-looking, pre-painted Xoar W.W.II series 15 x 8” beech propeller) burbling nicely and full up elevator holding the tail down, I gently throttled up and the model accelerated down the strip. As she gathered pace I backed the elevator off and she was airborne at just over half throttle. Wheels retracted and into the first circuit, just a couple of beeps of trim were needed for straight and level flight. I don’t mind telling you, she looked fantastic!
A few circuits and a few basic rolls, loops and reversals later told me that the control throws were basically fine on high rates, if a little quick, yet much more realistic on low. I usually start with 25% expo’ on everything just in case something’s gone astray and I end up having to deal with a tail-heavy model, however that wasn’t the case with this one; it’s just perfect at the recommended throws and balance point. The timer started beeping after a conservative seven minutes and with the wheels down she settled in for a textbook approach circuit and nice, smooth, three-pointer down the centre of the strip. You couldn’t ask for more. Truly, this model is a real pussycat to handle.
DOWN AND OUT
An hour or so later I was ready for my second flight, this time as a participant in the scale comp! Here, I flew a couple of gentle circuits as a prelude to some nice, big, scale banked passes, figure eights, reversals and Derry turns, manoeuvres that seemed much more convincing and scale-like at nearer full throttle as the bank could be held in more easily, using more sky.
It wasn’t long before heckling calls started to come from the judges, demanding that classic Spitfire / Seafire manoeuvre, the victory roll, which I think I got away with quite well having not tried it before! Anyway, after a few more attack passes down the strip accompanied by some... er... personally generated machine gun and cannon sounds for added effect, it was time to land. I still hadn’t tried out the flaps and elevator compensation settings at this point so I chose not to use them. Following a good approach I think I slowed her up a little too much, resulting in a slight bounce of about a foot or so. With insufficient airspeed to flare out and a throttle response that was too little, too late, it all ended in tears, with one of the oleo legs being left behind on the grass. With this, the Seafire arrived ungraciously (fortunately, without further damage) via a belly landing. A classic rookie landing! “C’mon, that’s scale!” I shouted, but the judges weren’t having any of it and I ended up taking second place in the competition.
My earlier suspicions concerning the strength of the oleos had been justified, which is a shame as they let down what is otherwise an excellent model. I’m very lucky in that I have access to a lathe and it didn’t take long to turn up a couple of replacement oleo legs from bright mild steel, which have since proved well up to the task. Subsequent flights have highlighted that the flaps need a touch of up trim compensation rather than the down trim I suspected. This, then, suggests that the flaps are working as drag producers rather than lift producers.
This is a fantastic model and well worth the money in my view. It’s a pity about those shockingly weak oleos, which are the model’s only weakness. Ground handling is simply superb and the flight characteristics are excellent: really docile and forgiving. She’s not a trainer by any means but is a really nice, well-made semi-scale model for year-round use that any intermediate flyer could take on without any trouble at all.
Model type: Semi-scale warbird
Manufactured by: E-Scale
UK distributor: J. Perkins Distribution
Tel. 01622 854300
Wingspan: 64.5” (1640mm)
Fuselage length: 50.4” (1280mm)
Wing area: 5.3sq. ft. (0.5sq. m)
All-up weight: 8 lb 13oz (4kg)
Wing loading: 26.6oz / sq. ft. (8.1kg / sq. m)
Functions (servos): Aileron (2); elevator (1); rudder (1); flaps (2); throttle (1); retracts (1)
Rec’d engine: .75 - .91 two-stroke, .91 - 1.20 four-stroke, or equivalent brushless outrunner
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