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HobbyKing DC-3/C-47 PNP Review

At last, a large-scale electric model of the airplane which single-handedly revolutionized air travel - and HobbyKing has it! RCGroups has the scoop.

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Introduction

HobbyKing DC-3/C-47 PNP

Wingspan:63" (1600mm)
Weight:60 oz (1700g)
Length:43.4" (1103mm)
Construction:Expanded polyolefin airframe with polycarbonate windows, skylight and canopy; plastic motor cowls and landing gear strut details; plastic wheels with foam tires; plastic simulated navigation and communication antennas; steel pushrods with plastic clevises and control horns; lite ply servo tray and battery tray; plywood wing spar
Graphics as Tested:Callie Graphics "Empire Airlines" for a 1600mm DC-3
Servos:Six 9g for flaps and ailerons; two 25g for rudder and elevator
Transmitter:OrangeRx T-SIX 2.4GHz computerized six-channel aircraft
Receiver:OrangeRx R615X 2.4GHz aircraft
Battery:Turnigy Nano-Tech 4000mAh 25-50C 4S lithium polymer with 4mm bullet plugs and JST-XH balance tap; converted to XT60 power connector
Motors:Two HobbyKing 2215 brushless outrunner; 960Kv
Propellers:Simulated variable pitch three-blade electric, approximate size 8x6, standard and reverse rotation
ESC:Two HobbyKing 20A brushless
Available From:Hobbyking.com
Price (USD):$257.64 - $309.17 plus shipping and applicable taxes depending on warehouse

"The wait is finally over!"

These were the words on the RCGroups banner headline announcing a significant addition to the HobbyKing lineup.

It's my pleasure to help introduce the brand new HobbyKing DC-3/C-47 PNP. This 1600mm EPO model bridges the gap between small park flyers and large kits in a popularly sized and easily transported package.

And what a package. Regardless if one chooses the DC-3 airliner version shown here or the C-47 Skytrain military version, HobbyKing has loaded this bolt-together model with such goodies as digital retracts, working nav and landing lights, four-piece split flaps, decals for different versions and counter-rotating props. The latter, while certainly not to scale, is intended to help reduce unwanted P-factor, or torque which would otherwise pull the model toward the left. The retracts themselves warrant mention since HobbyKing was able to take an off-the-shelf servoless design and seamlessly incorporate it in this model. If not for these wonderfully compact units, adding retracts to any DC-3 would be a difficult task given the fact that the retracts are located in the engine nacelles.

Regarding the decals, the DC-3 version comes with two complete sets of decals. One is an early livery for Finnair which first flew the DC-3 in 1947. The other choice is for Empire Airlines, a small regional airline which originally served the Idaho cities of Lewiston, Pocatello and Coeur d'Alene from its Boise hub starting in 1948. It later expanded to serve Washington and Oregon. The latter is the scheme I chose, but a model like this is a blank canvas.

Thanks to vendors such as Callie Graphics, virtually any airline can be replicated. In fact, this model is already proving to be a best-seller if the number of orders Callie Soden has received is any indicator. Although backlogged with orders for decal sets for this model, she was kind enough to literally drop what she was doing to send over a set of her Empire Airlines decals. The stunning results speak for themselves and are more than worth the modest purchase price which include extra details such as fuel filler caps and Hamilton Standard manufacturer's logos for the propellers. Those decals will be covered in their own mini-review.

For those wishing to do their own livery from scratch or to possibly replace a crashed model, HobbyKing also offers a bare, unpainted fuselage ready for the modeler's choice of electronics. That model may be found here.

It's my pleasure to bring you a review of this model of a Southern California - and worldwide - civil aviation icon.

Prototype

First flown in Santa Monica, California exactly thirty-two years after the Wright Brothers' first successful flight on December 17, 1935, the Douglas DC-3 (for "Douglas Commercial") is often credited with being the most significant aircraft in civil aviation history. The first flight, largely ignored by the media, is now regarded as one of the Twentieth Century's most important historical events.

Regular service began in 1936. With a cruise speed of 207 MPH (333km/h) and a range of 1500 miles (2400km), the DC-3 literally revolutionized civil and military air transport throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

The military transport version was known as the C-47 Skytrain in the US and as the C-47 Dakota in the United Kingdom.

Production of civil DC-3s continued until 1942 with production of military versions continuing until 1945. Most were built at the Douglas plant in Santa Monica where the first flights took place; other plants were located in nearby Long Beach, California and in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Licensed versions were built in the Soviet Union as the Lisunov Li-2 and in Japan as the L2D Type 0 Transport by both Showa and Nakajima.

A variety of radial engines were used, most notably the famous Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp.

Today, a surprising number of these amazing aircraft remain in service on a daily basis, making them unique among prewar aircraft. Many have been retrofitted with turboprop engines. Flying a DC-3 remains popular with pilots even today. My brother has a commercial license and flies a Cessna Citation. He actually logged time on a DC-3 and said it was one of the most fun trips he'd ever made as a pilot.

On a side note, riders of the new Metro Expo Line in Los Angeles are riding on the old right-of-way of the Santa Monica Air Line. Donald Douglas himself rode Pacific Electric trolleys to work every day on that very line.

Contents

The DC-3/C-47 comes with the following:

  • Assembled fuselage with magnetically secured battery hatch
  • Fully wired wing halves with servos, navigational lights, retracts, ESCs and motors
  • Parallel plug-in battery harness with XT60 connectors and external BEC
  • Multiple-piece scale propellers
  • Hardware
  • Assembly manual illustrated with color photos
  • Decals to depict various individual aircraft

Needed for completion:

  • Large and small phillips screwdrivers
  • Foam glue (Beacon Foam-Tac, UHU Por or equivalent)
  • Six-channel or greater 2.4GHz computerized radio system
  • 3300 - 4000mAh 4S lithium polymer battery and charger
  • Two standard 6" servo extentions (optional, but recommended)
  • Tie wraps
  • Adhesive-backed hook-and-loop fastener (Velcro or equivalent)

My sample arrived in a very sturdy shipping carton. Good thing, too. It had been gouged down one side in shipment, but both the inner and outer boxes took the brunt of the punishment with no damage to the contents.

Initial impressions were good; all parts were securely and neatly packaged. The silver paint job was nicely applied over smoothly molded EPO, panel lines were exceptionally crisp, if scale inaccurate. Ejection marks were few on the fuselage, but the wing took the brunt of them. Underneath, there were a slew of ejection marks and some silver tape which was supposed to hide the servo wiring which, honestly, looked hastily applied.

Far better looking are the lite ply battery tray and the elevator and rudder servos:

On closer inspection, a few parts looked as if they'd been handled rather clumsily at the factory with some indentations present. For example, a small gouge atop the starboard nacelle looks as if it were there just prior to the paint job. It certainly isn't uncommon to ding an EPO model in regular use, but someone inspecting a $300 model for the first time and finding these sorts of imperfections might not be the happiest of campers.

Both sets of decals looked pretty good as well, but I'd later discover that they were brittle and difficult to apply, even with the old soapy water from a spray bottle trick. I'd discovered that when I applied the simulated deicers on the leading edges of the wings and tail; Callie hadn't yet made up a set, but she did before long and sent them my way.

Both the factory and Callie Graphics decals for the Empire Airlines scheme feature extra registration numbers and names. I followed suit with HobbyKing's photo showing their sample with registration number N62373 and the name, Coeur d'Alene Timesaver. Photos of the DC-3 in this livery are rare and at least one photo I found showed N62373 as the Boise Timesaver. That name is provided on the sheets as well, so it's basically up to the end user.

Still, the DC-3 looked terrific overall and it invoked images of countless old movies with its Art Deco-ish styling. Scale proportions are quite close based on comparison to photos of the real thing.

Assembly

Wing

I know for a fact after emails to the powers-that-be at HobbyKing that problems with documentation and some of the aforementioned quality problems are being directly addressed. Progress comes slowly in any large company, so I can almost forgive the manual.

Many steps are out of order and a few are downright missing; more on that in a moment.

The aileron and flap pushrods are first and since they're shipped with the control arms swung into the servo pockets, I did what I usually do. I bound the OrangeRx T-SIX transmitter I'd received from HobbyKing for reviews such as these to one of the two OrangeRx R615X receivers which my contacts were kind enough to forward along with a couple of big 4S batteries.

One of the photos shows the wing already assembled. Weird. However, it gave me the idea to do a preliminary assembly of the two halves (which the manual later suggests), connect the various leads to the receiver and power up the wing.

The DC-3 came with quite a few numbered Y-harnesses and multiple connector harnesses with the number corresponding to the radio channel, i.e., number one for ailerons, two for elevator, three for throttle and so on. This happens to be outlined even deeper in the manual and after the wing is bolted in place. This would be OK if not for the fact that doing so is impossible. I can't fathom a mistake like this getting past any proofreaders, but common sense on the part of the builder will go a long way.

What really puzzled me was how to connect the ESC leads together with the external BEC on the parallel wiring harness to the receiver. No instructions are given, which is a tremendous oversight. The ESC leads cannot simply be plugged in since the negative lead is removed from each plug and insulated with shrink wrap tubing.

The answer came courtesy of, well, RCGroups. A poster on the DC-3/C-47 discussion thread solved the problem by plugging the Y-harness from the ESCs in the usual throttle channel and the BEC in an unused channel which, in the case of my six-channel receiver, is the binding receptacle. That meant the use of a second Y-harness which sends power to the BEC and the lights.

When everything was finally right with the world, I was rewarded with the visual punch of bright LED nav lights and landing lights, not to mention the marvelous retracts. Cycling them on the bench proved them to be smooth and dependable. The tail wheel, like those on the prototypes, doesn't retract. My example came with a wheel that slid a good quarter inch along either side of the axle. New method? Nope. I thought it was intentional until I tried to take off for the first time.

All those leads make for a real rat's nest, so I took the time to neatly bundle the leads with tie wraps shortly before the maiden flight. Here's what things looked like before I did:

Moving back to the battery harness: It's equipped with HobbyKing's terrific XT60 connectors. Most of their batteries are similarly equipped, but the Turnigy Nano-Tech 4000mAh 4S packs I received were fitted with 4mm bullet plugs. I used a Turnigy 2200 3S with an XT60 connector from the marvelous HobbyKing FlyBeam I'd reviewed in March 2014 for testing purposes.

As for the big 4S packs, HobbyKing had forwarded a few XT60 plugs for just such an occasion, so the packs were soon the recipients of connector transplants.

Even though the wing itself was temporarily assembled without glue, the snug fitting plywood spar and the interlocking tabs on each wing half make for a very sturdy assembly. The rear is held in place by a large tab; the front with a pair of machine screws. Once that wing and fuselage are joined, there's no chance of the wing coming apart.

I opted to slide the halves together and to lightly secure the tabs atop the wing with easily sliced glue bonds. These will allow me to slide the wing apart for electronic repairs and replacements if necessary.

Installing the control horns is simple enough, but the hardware is mixed together. Furthermore, only enough hardware is provided to screw down the horns with only two screws. I've installed horns in previous models with only two screws per their manuals, but really, how much can a few more screws add to the cost of an already expensive kit?

The flap hinges were rather stiff, but they loosened up after some flexing exercises as did the ailerons. The flaps themselves don't retract into the wing quite as high as I'd like, but that's how they're designed. A close look shows that they won't interfere with flight.

Now for the tail.

Fuselage/Tail

The fuselage is already assembled with the exception of the tail surfaces; these simply bolt in place.

I was very impressed to see real hinges on the elevator and rudder; they needed only a bit of flexing to loosen them up since they were painted over.

The control horns are installed with two screws each as before with two rather long screws used to attach the rudder horn. Those were the only screws left in the bag and they needed some trimming after installation.

Installing the tail section is as easy as can be. The horizontal stab/elevator goes on first and is fastened at the top with a long bolt. From there, the vertical stab/rudder goes atop the horizontal stab and is fastened from below with the remaining screws.

I centered the servos with the radio, attached the clevises and gave the tail surfaces a few test throws. There's more than enough throw thanks to the smooth operating 25g servos, so fine tuning is made simpler without the need to overdrive a servo. Fine mechanical adjustments to the rudder and tail wheel at the servo arm can be done by loosening the setscrew on the EZ-connector and adjusting the pushrods as necessary.

Step four instructs the assembler to attach the wing with the rather long 3x75mm machine screws; one of mine was slightly bent, but still worked fine. As I'd pointed out earlier, doing so will make it impossible to attach the myriad of Y-harnesses needed to power the wing if one hasn't already done so.

Step five is for the harnesses themselves. Easy enough, but I'd already done so including the receiver.

Actually attaching the wing to the fuselage is tricky given the mass of wiring. After my initial attachment of the wing and the fuselage servos, I decided right away that a couple of 6" standard servo extensions (Expert Electronics EXRA110 or equivalent) left plugged into the receiver would simplify removal. Six servo plugs equal a tight fit at the receiver, no fun when trying to balance the wing on one hand and plugging the servos in with the other.

I originally thought to attach the receiver to the top of the wing, but that didn't work. The final solution was to allow the receiver to dangle freely from the wiring bundle with the 6" extensions left plugged into the receiver. There's plenty of room in the fuselage which helps tremendously.

Completion

All that stands in the way of getting the DC-3 airborne are the final details such as the propellers, simulated communications antennas, simulated skylight dome and, of course, the piece de resistance.

The decals.

I used small dabs of Beacon Foam-Tac to install the antennas and dome and I installed the propellers just for show at this time. Naturally, it's very wise to do the final radio setup without the props in place on an electric model!

Decals or not, this was one good looking model plane:

Ah, but with the decals, it's utterly transformed:

This model has the very first production wing and stabilizer deicers from Callie Graphics. These are the black decals along the leading edges which, on a full-scale DC-3 or C-47, represent inflatable rubber deicers which are cycled from the cockpit, thus preventing icing of the wings and stabilizers.

Another happy first is the Railway Service decal at the tail. The factory decal was somewhat stylized, but Callie's is 100% accurate. She's also adding Hamilton Standard logos and fuel caps as part of future decal sets. I was actually able to find a number of online photos showing DC-3s being fueled, so placing the cap decals was easy.

It's amazing how well the graphics measured up size wise compared to the factory set, especially since this set was developed long before Callie had a DC-3 of her own to use for measurements. The only hitch was that the aileron stripes were too short. That's been corrected and longer stripes which may be trimmed to fit will be sent with future orders. Callie sent along a sample of the new stripes and I was able to easily replace the stripes beneath the ailerons.

And yes, I did these blindly starting from the top of the aileron:

All fixed:

I should point out that Testors Model Master Acrylic silver is a perfect match to the DC-3. I had to spray some on in order to fix a boo-boo of mine on the elevator and the result is absolutely invisible, even in direct sunlight. I discovered that a Uchida DecoColor Premium metallic silver paint marker works well on wingtips and such, but the Testors is the way to go.

A CG of 65mm behind the center of the LE midway between the nacelles and landing lights is indicated - which is right at the top of the airfoil - but no control throws are given.

The DC-3 discussion board found here gives the following settings as posted by user "TwistedGrin" on January 1, 2015:

Low Rates:

  • Aileron - Travel: 100% throw / 40% expo - 35mm up & 25mm down
  • Elevator - Travel: 60% throw / 40% expo - 22mm
  • Rudder - Travel: 60% throw / 40% expo - 35mm

High Rates:

  • Aileron - Travel: 100% throw / 35% expo - 35mm up & 25mm down
  • Elevator - Travel: 100% throw / 40% expo - 35mm
  • Rudder - Travel: 100% throw / 40% expo - 40mm

I went with a maximum of 90% throws to start; the model was reported to be quite responsive on higher rates. These rates later turned out to be a terrific starting point.

Flying

As was usually the case, the maiden flight took place at the nearby Coachella Valley Radio Control Club. The DC-3 looked stunning on the tarmac and some beauty shots were taken prior to taking to the air.

I'd mentioned the tail wheel earlier in the review and its nearly quarter-inch of lateral motion on the axle. I knew that couldn't have been correct and I was right. The model didn't want to taxi without the tail swinging wildly from side to side and threatening to ground loop. Once I did manage to get it rolling straight, it was off in only a few feet of runway and in need of only some minor trim adjustments.

What a beauty! I kept the controls at low rates for some truly scale-like flight. This model is a sport plane at heart and is perfectly capable of executing loops and rolls, but I was content flying to scale.

This is a big model with a swept-back wing, yet it flies surprisingly light. In fact, it came in hot partially because I didn't wish to stall it as a DC-3 tends to do (I probably wouldn't have anyway) and partially because I'd forgotten to lower the flaps. The touchdown was gentle enough, but it didn't take long before that tail wheel caused it to go squirrelly. To paraphrase the great Los Angeles Lakers announcer Chick Hearn, no harm, no foul.

Back home, a search in the parts bin for some small wheel retaining collars turned up something better in the guise of a pair of small, thick lengths of aluminum tubing roughly the size of wheel collars. Those and the use of a couple of thin stepped washers left over from the head of my defunct Blade CP helicopter resulted in a perfectly centered tail wheel with virtually no slop. The axle simply screws in from one side and the job was done in moments with the aid of a slotted jeweler's screwdriver.

Roughly three windy weekends were to follow before I was able to get together with club videographer George Muir for the video shoot. This would also be the first time I'd gotten to try the modified tail wheel. The video shows the results, namely excellent ground handling. What is doesn't show was the many pilots who stopped by to look over the model and to compliment it. It just looks great and the Callie Graphics decals play a big role.

Even with the counter-rotating props, there was still a bit of P-factor, only from side to side as opposed as to the left. No matter; the DC-3 was airborne in moments. Up went the gear for another wonderfully scale-like cruise around the pattern.

While it isn't a rocket, nor is it a slouch. There's plenty of power on tap and the props do a nice, quiet job of pulling the DC-3 through the air. Again, more compliments as the big silver model flew by flashing sunlight as it did. Even the nav lights and landing lights showed up well against the blue desert sky.

Club president Dan Metz was next to me during the flight and did me the favor of lowering the flaps. I was groping for the switch and couldn't find it. The video shows that landing and while the flaps did a good job of slowing down the model without ballooning, it probably could have used more. That will be addressed by the time this review goes live.

Again, more compliments from the members who watched the flight and the landing. HobbyKing was kind enough to send two batteries, so it wasn't long before my Empire Airlines replica was up for another go around the pattern and an even better landing.

Aerobatics and Special Flight Performance

Based on YouTube videos, the DC-3 is in fact capable of loops and rolls. It might be fun to crank up the rates and turn this sedate airliner into a "vomit comet," but for now, I'm more than happy flying to scale. It just looks too nice in the air to fly it any other way.

Is This For a Beginner?

No. While it's a relatively stable flyer, the key word here is "relatively." This low-winged twin is by no means a trainer. Adding to that is the model's overall complexity with its multiple flaps, full four-channel control, twin motors, working retracts and such. The sketchy documentation is certainly no help to a beginner. Beginners would be well advised to get some considerable stick time before attempting to fly a DC-3.

A pilot comfortable with a four-channel trainer and/or low-winged models can step right into a DC-3.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

I had a real blast flying the DC-3 for this video, especially since the tail wheel was now working properly:

HobbyKing DC-3/C-47 1600mm PNP (2 min 30 sec)

HobbyKing produced a couple of terrific videos which really show this model well:

Hobbyking 1600mm C-47 / DC-3 PnF - Product Video (3 min 1 sec)

Product Profile - Hobbyking 1600mm C-47 / DC-3 (17 min 24 sec)

Conclusion

Whether one prefers a civilian version or military version, the HobbyKing DC-3/C-47 PNP is a great looking, great flying model.

It isn't without its flaws.

Chief among these is the documentation. It's sufficient to get the model together, but there are no instructions for control throws, BEC connection or even decal placement. The panel lines are not to scale and neither is the passenger door. I should mention that the door is a separate plastic part and if one wanted to have a bit of fun, the door could easily be hinged and stairs added to the inside.

All of that goes away when it's lined up for takeoff. It's a stunning overall rendition which flies magnificently. Two thumbs way up and I'm looking forward to logging a lot more time with this beauty.

My thanks go to HobbyKing who graciously provided the model, batteries and radio. The incomparable Callie Graphics decals were courtesy of Callie Soden, an ambassador to the hobby of model aviation if ever there were one. I'll soon be looking at the decals themselves in a separate mini-review. George Muir of the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club works tirelessly to document the history of the club and is almost always available to lend me a hand with video. Equally tireless are RCGroups.com admins Angela Haglund and Jim T. Graham. Their work is what makes all of these reviews possible.

I have to sneak in a quick bit of thanks to CVRC club president Dan Metz, without whom I might never have lowered the flaps!

Special thanks to you, our worldwide audience, for making RCGroups.com the largest, most popular hobby discussion site on the internet! There's a DC-3 or C-47 in your future, so please don't keep it waiting.

Pluses and Minuses

Pluses include:

  • Fantastic flight characteristics
  • Beautiful on the ground and even more so in flight
  • Pin-hinged rudder and elevator work smoothly and are a real upgrade
  • Glazed windows as opposed to black paint
  • Stock servos work smoothly and center well
  • Plenty of "wow factor" with the retracts, lights and split flaps
  • Use of a single battery saves space and weight and allows for easy setting of CG
  • Almost any airline or military scheme is possible, especially with aftermarket decals
  • A must-have for DC-3 and C-47 fans

Minuses include:

  • Bare bones, often inaccurate documentation
  • Sloppy installation of the tape which covers the servo wiring beneath the wings
  • Some dings and indentations right out of the box
  • Factory decals are thin, easily torn and difficult to apply
  • Pricey
Last edited by DismayingObservation; Mar 12, 2015 at 10:42 AM..

Discussion

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Old Mar 13, 2015, 11:48 PM
Registered User
United States, TN, Germantown
Joined Aug 2013
244 Posts
Excellent review and great flight video. I also concur that Callie's Graphics are unsurpassed in quality!!
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Old Mar 18, 2015, 10:12 AM
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United States, CA, Garden Grove
Joined Oct 2000
12,533 Posts
I used to see the real thing in operation at Mitchell Field, Milwaukee, WI. Looks like the retracts/lg worked well. Sounds of a real DC-3 droning would be good background for videos. More kudos for Callie.
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Old Mar 19, 2015, 12:14 AM
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Thanks, USC. Even coming in hot - again - the landings are remarkably easy. I haven't yet flown it since the video was shot, but I hope to do so soon with some more flap throw dialed in. I don't have video of the second battery pack being flown, but trust me when I say that the landing was better. The one on the video wasn't too bad for only my second landing if I do say so m'self.

And E-C...another Californian! I used to work near LAX and I'd occasionally drive home along Aviation Boulevard. Whenever I did, I would be just in time to see what was clearly a regularly scheduled DC-3 coming in. Too much fun. I've seen more than my share of 747s and such coming in over Aviation, but that DC-3 was something special. The retracts work beautifully on the model; this new generation of retracts is terrific! No way to do it with mechanicals without it being a heavy, complicated mess.

I agree: Kudos for Callie! Woo-hoo!
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Old Mar 19, 2015, 08:00 PM
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Callie Graphics for DC-3

Callie Graphics can make many version of decals for the airplane. It is listed under airplanes with the Hobby King DC-3.
http://www.callie-graphics.com/airplanes.php

A great looking twin with good oversize larger wheels and strong landing gear for grass flying fields.

Chris
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Old Mar 20, 2015, 01:14 PM
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Double post...see below.
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Old Mar 20, 2015, 01:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisFlysRC View Post
Callie Graphics can make many version of decals for the airplane. It is listed under airplanes with the Hobby King DC-3.
http://www.callie-graphics.com/airplanes.php

A great looking twin with good oversize larger wheels and strong landing gear for grass flying fields.

Chris
Exactly. I'd forgotten to mention in my last post that the HK video shows their examples taking off from grass.
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Old Mar 26, 2015, 06:20 PM
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Flew it today! Here's an update:

There's still some wobble in the tail wheel. It's enough to make tracking along the ground into the wind a bit of a challenge. It isn't so much lateral wobble as it is some slop at the wheel hub. I might replace the wheel and keep it centered with regular wheel retainers.

I've also reversed the flap control switch. This way, I simply have to flick it upward rather than reach up and pull it down. Much easier to engage the flaps now. I also added a few more degrees of flap, rudder and aileron after the first flight. The handling is now far better in the air with the extra bit of aileron and rudder throw. It felt as if the banking was kind of mushy in the wind.

I'll report back once I finally dial out the tail wheel issue.
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