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FMS Kawasaki Ki-61 High Speed PNP from Diamond Hobby Review

The highly anticipated third entry into the FMS 980mm warbird series arrives at last! RCGroups.com has the scoop:

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Introduction

FMS Kawasaki Ki-61 High Speed PNP

Wingspan:39.7" (995mm)
Wing Area:234.8 sq in (15.15 sq dm)
Weight:40.91 oz (1160g)
Length:29.21" (742mm)
Construction:Expanded polyolefin airframe and drop tanks; polycarbonate canopy; plastic pilot bust and scale details; plastic wheels with rubber tires; nylon propeller with plastic spinner
Wing Loading:0.17 oz/sq in (76.5g/sq dm)
Center of Gravity:55-60mm behind the leading edge of the wing at the fueslage
Claimed Speed Range:Up to 100 MPH (160km/h)
Servos:Four FMS FMS-092 9g metal-geared digital; two FMS FMS-093 9g nylon-geared digital
Transmitter:Airtronics SD-10GS ten-channel spread spectrum aircraft
Receiver:Airtronics/Sanwa RX-861 eight-channel spread spectrum aircraft
Battery:Predator 2600mAh 4S 35C lithium polymer with JST-XH balancing plug and Deans Ultra-Plug compatible power plug
Motor:FMS PAEP 3648 outrunner; 770Kv
Propeller:FMS 10x5.7 three-blade nylon composite
ESC:FMS FMS-DT60 60A programmable brushless
Operator Skill Level/Age:Intermediate/advanced; 14+
Manufacturer:FMS Model, 3/F, Building B, 3rd Industry Zone, Matigang, Dalingshan Town, Dongguan City, PRC
Available From:Diamond Hobby LLC, 553 Capital Circle SW, Unit 4, Tallahassee, Florida 32304
Price (USD):$209.99 plus applicable tax and shipping charges

If there's one thing which the good folks at FMS have proved in less than a year, it's this:

These guys really know how to make an incredible, high-performance, all-EPO WWII warbird.

After reviewing both the FMS P-40B High Speed PNP and FMS P-47G Razorback High Speed as designed with help from Diamond Hobby of Tallahassee, Florida and RCInformer.com, I concluded that both of these blisteringly fast models were among the fastest and finest receiver-ready EPO warbirds on the market.

These models look and fly great, but they're decidedly common (albeit popular) modeling subjects.

For their third outing, FMS has gone deep into the history books for a breathtaking rendition of the rarely modeled Kawasaki Ki-61 fighter. Like the P-40 and P-47 before it, the Ki-61 denotes a real historic aircraft, namely Red 62 as flown by Japanese ace Tembico Kobayashi in 1945.

This model packs the same wallop as its hangar mates with its 770Kv outrunner, 60-amp ESC (the other two models sport a 70A unit), three-blade propeller and four-cell li-po power. This combination is more than sufficient to propel the Ki-61 to a top speed of approximately 100 MPH (160km/h). Guidance will be coming from the new Airtronics SD-10GS radio and a Sanwa RX-861 receiver from Mike Greenshields at Global Hobby Distributors in Fountain Valley, California. Big, beefy, slop-free ball links add razor-sharp control to that awesome power.

As with all FMS warbirds, very little final assembly is required. Before I begin, here's some background on the full-scale Ki-61.

Prototype

The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (飛燕, or "flying swallow") was a Japanese World War II fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force.

It was designed by famed aircraft designer Takeo Doi and his deputy, Shin Owada and built by Kawasaki Aircraft Industries, today known as Kawasaki Aerospace Company. The all-metal, semi-monocoque aircraft was initially mistaken by the Allied forces as either a Messerschmitt Bf 109 or a hitherto unknown Italian design. That latter assumption led to the Allied reporting name of "Tony" as assigned by the United States War Department. The Japanese Army designation was simply "Army Type 3 Fighter" (三式戦闘機). The initial assessment wasn't far off; the Ki-61 was in fact designed to be an improvement over the Bf 109.

The Ki-61 is unique since it was the only mass-produced Japanese fighter of the war to use a liquid-cooled inline V engine. That engine was the 1159-horsepower (865kW) Kawasaki Ha40, an inverted V-12 which was a license-built Daimler-Benz DB 601.

Over 3,000 Ki-61s were produced. Initial prototypes saw action over Yokohama during the Halsey-Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942 and continued to fly combat missions throughout the war.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Kit Contents

This is a very complete package which comes with the following:

  • Assembled fuselage with servos, motor and ESC
  • Assembled wing with servos, digital retracts, signal distribution block and optional simulated drop tanks
  • Full hardware package with extra hardware
  • Fiberglass horizontal stabilizer spar
  • Three-blade propeller and spinner
  • Scale pitot tubes and machine guns
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Photo illustrated instruction manual
  • Contact cement for attaching scale details

Needed to complete the model:

  • Six-channel or greater computerized spread spectrum full-range aircraft radio system
  • Predator 2600mAh 4S 35C lithium polymer battery or equivalent; available through Diamond Hobby
  • Suitable battery charger (of course)

When I opened the shipping carton, I wasn't greeted with the box top. Instead, Diamond Hobby was kind enough to forward a spare propeller which fit nicely in a large recess beneath the factory foam shipping tray. So, the first things I saw were the prop and the bottom of the box after it had been replaced upside down within the carton. No matter.

Once free from the carton, I concluded that FMS must be very proud of this model and rightly so. First of all, it has its own box art. Previous FMS warbird models I've reviewed had box art denoting two different, unrelated models, presumably to cut costs. Not so the Tony. Except for the now-familiar winged "PNP" logo, the artwork is colorful and clean.

Things really start getting good beneath that lid. FMS does a superb job of packing their models and what emerged from the shipping tray was just plain gorgeous.

As with the P-40 and P-47, the paint job was applied over smooth EPO with clear, crisp panel lines; the Hien almost looks like a fiberglass model when viewed from a short distance. The decals were beautifully applied as well, with only a small air bubble beneath the hinomaru rising sun on the top of the right wing. The clip-on motor cowl had come loose in transit and was slightly crushed on one side, but I was able to pull it back into reasonable shape.

Scale details abounded, including a simulated radiator, simulated oil cooler, simulated synchronized machine guns and simulated exhaust pipes. Speaking of which, a nice detail was that of a simulated exhaust deflector atop the exhaust pipes on the port side. This was presumably done on the prototype to keep exhaust out of the oil cooler and what I assume to be a small, secondary pitot tube. Both pitot tubes, wingtip machine guns and a simulated communications antenna mast all waited within a small zip-lock bag for later installation.

FMS never fails to provide a hand-painted pilot bust and the Ki-61 was no exception. If I had a nit to pick, I'd say that his flesh tone is almost too pink, but again, that's just a nit. He's the same bust found on the P-40 and like that model, the bust is bolted on from underneath. As is standard practice with FMS models, a thick, transparent plastic pull tab is used to pull the canopy off of the model. The powerful magnets would otherwise result in a lot of hangar rash and finger indentations without it. It's a tad distracting on the ground, but it's invisible in flight.

What it doesn't have in comparison to the previous warbirds is working nav lights. I was a bit disappointed since they show so well on the other models.

Moving on to the rewritten manual, RCInformer did a superb job on the rewrite. A few small machine translations and misspellings were present, not to mention a couple of omissions which I'll cover later, but this is a fantastic manual overall.

I admit to being really amused by this warning on the first page:

  • Never lick or place any portion of your model in your mouth as it could cause serious injury or even death.

Important safety tip and one which no doubt pleased FMS's lawyers.

A quick check beneath the canopy revealed the massive 60A ESC which looked even more massive given the narrow confines of the fuselage. This is one big power system in a small, park flyer-sized model, but believe me, this is no park flyer. Space is at a premium, but with some work, I made everything fit well later in the assembly process.

Time to begin!

Assembly

Wing

Anyone who's done time with an FMS model is going to feel right at home and anyone new to the brand will quickly feel the same way. Assembly starts with the aileron and flap control linkages and should one wish to keep track of the build progress, check boxes are provided by each step.

The servo arms are shipped recessed into the wing, requiring they be raised and centered before the linkages can be installed. Four previous FMS model reviews all started the same way for me, namely by first binding the receiver, plugging it into the wing and powering it with a spare ESC and li-po.

I've pointed out that Jim Ogorek of Diamond Hobby is a dyed-in-the-wool Airtronics fan, so naturally, I'm using the new Airtronics SD-10GS transmitter and an Airtronics/Sanwa RX-861 FHSS-3 receiver, both provided by Mike Greenshields of Global Hobby Distributors.

Once the servos were raised, it was now a simple matter of attaching the control horns to the ailerons and flaps and adjusting the ball links to their proper lengths. The zip-lock bags containing the linkages were unmarked, but close examination showed them to be identical. A couple of the balls on the control horns needed to have their positions swapped, but that was a simple matter of unscrewing the balls and reattaching them on the opposite side of the horns.

I wanted to check the operation of the retracts while I was at it and they worked to perfection. Adding some visual zip were simulated oleo struts! Alas, they are but simulations, but they look great.

Fuselage

Not much to do here; the fuselage is already assembled. The wing is installed beginning with step 7. Easy enough to do; the canopy is removed, the servo leads guided up and in and the wing secured with four machine screws. Six machine screws are provided with the four long screws used to secure the wing while one of the shorter ones is used later on to secure the spinner cone.

Tail

The horizontal stabilizer is next and it benefits from the ingenious engineering used on other FMS models.

The fiberglass spar is inserted on the left half and installed on the airframe. The right half is next; it slides in place easily and the keyed elevator connectors make for perfectly aligned elevator halves.

Two screws, one per half, secure the stabilizer halves to the airframe. They screw into plastic tongues in the tail section which align with the holes in the halves themselves.

The builder is now instructed to attach the elevator control rod linkage to the already installed elevator control horn, but not the rudder. In fact, the manual seems to have skipped this step altogether. It's obvious that attaching the rudder control horn needs to be done; it's in its own bag and it attaches in the same manner as those used on the ailerons and flaps.

Once more, I used the radio to center the servos with the rudder servo needing some sub trim in order to center it. This is where I noticed something a bit disturbing.

The servos seem to have been mounted on their tray prior to the tray being installed at the factory. If one or both of those servos ever have to come out, it'll be a real bear to remove and replace them.

Making up for that fact - if only a bit - is the rudder pushrod. It's screwed into an EZ-connector at the servo arm and the tail wheel attached to the rod via its own bellcrank. Very, very nice touch and one which will allow simple fine tuning of the tail wheel's alignment. The elevator has no such provision and the ball link must be adjusted by screwing it out to meet the control horn. It's a snug fit, so needle-nosed pliers used to hold the pushrod are a big help here.

Receiver Connection

FMS has a terrific bit of electronics in their combination servo connection board and flap control. It reduces the number of servo leads within the fuselage, eliminates the need for a Y-harness and electronically slows the flap servos for more realistic and easily controlled deployment. Very cool.

There is not a lot of room in the battery hatch as I've pointed out. The ESC isn't secured and there are no instructions regarding its placement or that of the receiver. A call to Jim Ogorek cleared up my concerns.

Given the wide range of battery and receiver sizes, FMS left it up to the end user to determine what works best. The ESC can be left where it is beneath the battery or off to one side. The receiver wound up on the wooden tray immediately above the elevator and rudder servos with one aerial tucked into the empennage pointing rearward and the second partially tucked back and then taped to the floor of the hatch at a 90-degree angle.

After a bit of experimentation, I found that everything fit best when the ESC was attached either to the right or left side of the hatch with a pair of hook-and-loop squares. I later found that it allowed the battery to fit slightly better when mounted on the right side of the hatch as opposed to the left side as shown in the photos. The manual shows a Predator battery pack installed label side up, but I got better results laying the pack on its side with the power leads on the floor of the hatch.

All of this handling and measuring the CG led to a problem.

There was a soft spot of paint of which I was unaware on the right side of the fuselage above the wing fillet; I managed to rub it off as if the paint were wet, much like partially cured latex. I assume that there was a bit of mold release on the fuselage before it was painted and yup, I found it before I was able to get photos of the finished model. I called Jim once more and he told me that he didn't have a particular color they use for touch-ups.

I brought the canopy to the nearby Lowe's home improvement center where they created a color matched sample of flat indoor latex house paint for the princely sum of three dollars. Although it turned out to be lighter than the original color, it makes for an acceptable match on a warbird. Most Japanese warbirds were painted with a vastly inferior paint since they hadn't the materials for better paint. Photos of the period often show the planes with more bare aluminum than paint.

Still, I wish that I had gotten photos beforehand.

Completion

At this point, all that's left is to set up the control throws, install the prop, spinner and scale details, double-check the CG and go flying.

I set the throws to the recommended high and low rates, adding 30% expo to the ailerons and elevator and 20% expo to the rudder.

Installing the propeller is a simple matter of sliding the spinner backing plate over the motor shaft followed by the prop, spinner cone and one of the two remaining machine screws.

Installation of the machine guns, communications antenna mast and pitot tubes complete the Ki-61. There are no holes in the wings for the machine guns which are pointed on one side to allow them to penetrate the foam. I opted for some Beacon Foam-Tac instead of the supplied glue after carefully determining where the machine guns were supposed to go.

The pitot tube retainer underneath the wing is held in place by double-sided tape; it will have to be removed in order to install the tube. A #11 hobby blade made quick work of the task. There's a detail which I have to assume is a second pitot tube and which is visible in photos of the Ki-61, both models and full scale. These photos helped me to properly orient the part. So too did the flat spots caused by the mold ejection pins.

Jim Ogorek happened to mention that the Ki-61 was a major hit at the recently concluded SEFF Week electric flight festival in Americus, Georgia.

It was now my turn to find out why.

Flying

Several days of windy weather kept me grounded, but when the winds finally died down, I was off to the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club for some fun.

I wanted to get the Tony trimmed out before the video shoot, so I simply brought along the two Predator batteries from the previous reviews, the Airtronics transmitter and my camera for some beauty shots.

For some reason, FMS likes programming their ESCs for a soft start. As such, the motor starts slowly but the power jumps suddenly as throttle is applied. That tendency is visible in my video linked below. Once the motor is energized, the throttle response becomes linear. The ESC is programmable, so my suggestion would be to take the time to disable the soft start. I plan to do the same.

With its wide gear, the Tony's ground handling is excellent. The taxi ride down the runway was a pleasure. Once it was facing into the wind, it was fun time.

That oversized power combination in a relatively small airframe equals enormous, explosive power. The Ki-61 rocketed down the runway and was gracefully airborne in a couple of seconds. Most of my models always seem to need up elevator and left aileron trim during the maiden flight and this was no exception. Once trimmed, it immediately became clear that I was flying something special. Tracking was straight and true - and oh, that speed. That airspeed is definitely one's friend; it allowed the Ki-61 to blast through the light wind as if it weren't there. Elevator response was twitchy and made for a real adrenaline rush, but that would be corrected at the transmitter via an additional ten percent of expo before the video shoot. Nevertheless, my very first landing with minimal flaps was a three-point beauty.

On the day of the video shoot, I once again had the services of club videographer George Muir at the ready and once again, I was ready to tear very fast holes in the sky.

Since this was only the model's second flight, I kept it mostly straight and level both for my benefit as well as George's. I'm generally a bit leery of aerobatics with a new warbird. Gone was the twitchiness in the elevator and with the model in perfect trim, I could settle down and enjoy the flight.

Low, fast runway passes and just plain fast flight were the order of the morning. It wasn't long before I was comfortable enough to try basic aerobatics; the Ki-61 didn't disappoint. It rotated through a barrel roll and a victory roll on low rates with ease and accuracy.

Most of the model's flight was within the flight pattern, yet at no time was I bored with the performance. Half to three-quarter throttle was fine for rather fast cruising; full throttle blasts over the runway were just as fun as they could be. Down came the gear and flaps seemingly all too soon and I was rewarded once more with a landing which drew compliments from a couple of other pilots on the flight line. One of those pilots was a gentleman who'd just ordered his own Ki-61 from Diamond Hobby and was he ever impressed by what he saw.

With video in the can and with growing confidence, it was time to toss some aerobatics at the Tony.

In went the second Predator pack and off went the Ki-61 once more, this time off camera.

Now I was really having fun, adding more laser straight rolls and loops to the repertoire. Vertical performance was virtually unlimited; I brought it around for a stall turn before it nearly went out of sight. The stall was actually much more predictable than I thought it would be and it recovered beautifully once the airspeed was back up. The seemingly short rudder throw wasn't a problem.

Since the Tony looped so well, it stood to reason that Immelmann turns would be lots of fun and sure enough, they were. Nice and straight. I didn't try a Cuban Eight simply because I didn't think to do so, but I'll give one a whirl the next time I bring it out and report back in the comment section. I did think to try some inverted flight and it holds very, very well with minimal elevator input.

I tried landing without flaps to see what it would do and, well, it didn't do badly considering that it could have used some more airspeed. Chalk that up to pilot error. The extra lift provided by the flaps is a big help, but should one forget to lower them, the result should still be a smooth landing, but one which will require a bit more airspeed.

Aerobatics and Special Flight Performance

Basic four-channel aerobatics are a blast with this model. A lack of rudder throw and scale rudder area told me right off the bat that knife edge probably wasn't going to happen and I knew it wasn't worth trying.

What surprised me is just how well it tracks through both loops and rolls, which indicates how well it's laterally balanced out of the box. It rolls beautifully with no rudder input and even more so with it. As for loops, the Tony wound up at the bottom of each loop within a very short distance of where it started.

Ah, but that "special flight performance" is the raw speed. Open up the throttle and the Ki-61 will move out like a pylon racer. With the gear down and with flaps lowered to their first position, landing the model is a joy.

Is This For a Beginner?

Sorry, but no. This is by no means a trainer; it's a very fast and relatively small low-winged warbird model with no self-correcting characteristics. Things happen quickly, both in terms of speed and control response.

Flight Video and Photo Gallery

Diamond Hobby put together a video which really wrings out the Ki-61:

FMS Ki 61 980mm TONY Teaser Trailer DH (3 min 54 sec)

Here am I on only the second flight of this model:

Kawasaki Ki-61 High Speed PNP from Diamond Hobby (3 min 9 sec)

Conclusion

As I'd pointed out in my review of the P-40, FMS has gone from an off-brand manufacturer with so-so quality products to one of the finest brands of EPO electric aircraft on the market in a very short time. The FMS Kawasaki Ki-61 High Speed PNP as designed with input from Diamond Hobby and RCInformer continues the tradition. It's a high quality model with high quality components and it has the extra added attractions of excellent control and insane - but oh so fun - speed. Should one wish to fly at a more sedate clip, the Hien will gladly oblige. This is a warbird which will see a lot of flight time and I give it the most enthusiastic two-thumbs-up I can possibly muster. It's just that great a model!

My thanks go out once more to Jim Ogorek of Diamond Hobby for offering up one of the first models shipped his way. Jim is a pleasure to work with and his customer service is world class. My friend Mike Greenshields of Global Hobby Distributors is another world-class force in the R/C world and I can't adequately express my gratitude when it comes to support products such as radios, receivers and batteries. George Muir of the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club is a friend and a gentleman who cheerfully shoots video on behalf of these reviews.

Angela Haglund and Jim T. Graham are the unsung heroes here at RCGroups who edit and post all of these reviews for you, our worldwide audience. Once more, it's my pleasure to thank you for stopping by!

Pluses and Minuses

Pluses include:

  • Outstanding flight characteristics
  • Incredible power and speed
  • Excellent overall quality
  • Plenty of accurate scale detail
  • Historically accurate livery
  • Parts and support from a US-based company
  • Outstanding customer service
  • Quickly and easily assembled
  • A pilot bust is provided in a time when many manufacturers don't offer one at all
  • Excellent hardware package with spare hardware
  • Ball links are slop free and aid handling
  • Ingenious electronic module slows the flaps and eliminates a lot of Y-harnesses
  • Metal geared digital servos are a perfect match to a receiver with a high frame rate like the Sanwa RX-861
  • Tail wheel can be easily aligned independently of the rudder
  • Looks magnificent in flight
  • Beautifully proportioned and rarely modeled Japanese subject is a fun, fast departure from the usual Zero models
  • A must-have for any warbird fan

Minuses include:

  • Paint blemish on my example, possibly due to mold release
  • Minor shipping damage to the cowl on my example
  • Tight fit under the canopy
  • Still some omissions and poorly translated English in an otherwise outstanding manual
  • No working navigation lights per the previous subjects
  • Rudder and elevator servos are difficult to access
Last edited by DismayingObservation; May 06, 2015 at 12:49 PM..
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Old May 20, 2015, 06:03 PM
Rampage is offline
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As someone who's wanted a foamy Ki-61 for ages, and as someone who owns one of the coveted Kyosho nitro Ki-61s (and never flies it because it's that damn pretty)..

I need one of these...

I will have both this and the Hells' Bells when it's released.
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Old May 20, 2015, 06:09 PM
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Nice looking plane - just wondering how it would handle grass?
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Old May 20, 2015, 06:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rampage View Post
As someone who's wanted a foamy Ki-61 for ages, and as someone who owns one of the coveted Kyosho nitro Ki-61s (and never flies it because it's that damn pretty)..

I need one of these...

I will have both this and the Hells' Bells when it's released.
Yes, you do.

I was truly amazed at how well this plane flew. Interesting that you would mention the Kyosho version; it and another current balsa/ply nitro model were all I could find. This is literally one-of-one for anyone looking for an electric EPO Ki-61.

They're shipping a P-39 which should be here by Friday, but I don't know what the livery will be. The Hell's Bells livery looks fantastic from what I've seen and the odds are good that it'll be what they ship. Their container just cleared customs, so I'll assume it's in stock at Diamond right now.

Good question regarding the retracts. They seem to be well attached and the Diamond demo video shows their example being flown from grass.
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Old May 21, 2015, 09:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rampage View Post
... as someone who owns one of the coveted Kyosho nitro Ki-61s (and never flies it because it's that damn pretty)..

I need one of these...
Get it!

I also have the Kyosho one (converted to electric). Like you, I don't fly it much except at special events cause i like it so much.

I recently picked up this FMS version and I really like it, but there were a few minor things I needed to fix with mine to get it flying good. I won't accuse all kits of being this way, just how mine arrived:
  • One landing gear had tow out. Made take-offs squirrely. I needed to re-grind the gear wire a little to give it the correct tow-in.
  • Elevator servo horn was way off center from the factory. As the author eluded to, the wood tray above the servos hinders adjustment. I needed to drill a small hole in the tray so I could un-screw and re-position the servo horn.
  • Moved the rudder clevis to the inner hole go get more rudder throw.
  • Added a touch of reflex to the ailerons.

Once I made these tweaks, it became an outstanding plane to fly (do not add more elevator throw than the manual recommends, it can get you into trouble).

The flaps work really well and will slow the plane to a crawl and the drop tanks have seem to have minimal effect on speed (I usually fly with them on - adds character- and you can belly land on them).
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Old May 21, 2015, 02:05 PM
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Specs list wing loading at 17oz. / sq. in. Think they should fix this typo

Smokin Joe
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Old May 21, 2015, 02:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smokinjoe22 View Post
Specs list wing loading at 17oz. / sq. in. Think they should fix this typo

Smokin Joe
Made me look.

It's listed as 0.17 oz/sq in.
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Old May 22, 2015, 12:12 AM
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Great looking airplane and I wouldn't mind having one in my hanger. Like always I will wait a while to see what kind of bugs pop up before I run out and buy one.
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Old May 22, 2015, 01:00 AM View Post
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A moderator felt this post violated the following rule: Excessive Advertising (Spam). Show it to me anyway.
Old May 22, 2015, 03:36 AM
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Old May 22, 2015, 06:05 PM
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Beautiful model !

I believe the "secondary pitot" is actually a Venturi tube. It is used to create a vacuum which spins the gyros in the flight instruments... Such as the attitude indicator, turn and bank indicator and the directional gyro.

RF
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Old May 23, 2015, 02:16 PM
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Yes I want one.
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