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The Flitework Red Bull P-38 Lightning EP RxR ARF Review

A good size standoff scale P-38 in a civilian Red Bull paint scheme with working retracts, two motors, two ESCs and seven servos deserves a close look.

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Introduction

the video below shows highlights from our first flight with the Flitework Red Bull P-38.

Flightworks P-38 Review Opening Demonstration Flight (3 min 55 sec)


Wingspan: 57.7"
Weight: 3.3lbs
Length: 42"
Servos: 7
Retracts: 3 electric
Transmitter: Tactic TTX650
Receiver: Tactic 6 channel
Battery: 3S 2200-mAh 25C LiPo
Motors: Two brushless motors
ESCs: Two brushless ESCs
Manufacturer: Flitework
Available From: Tower Hobbies
Price: $249.99 ARF

With a wingspan of almost 58 inches this is a good size plane! It is not designed to be taken apart for storage or transportation so you better have a means to transport it assembled and a place to store it. I can confirm that she fits in the back of my Prius with the back seats folded down so I was good with her size. She is stand off scale and I immediately spotted two things different from the full scale plane. The first is that the spinner and propellers on the full scale bird match the color scheme on the rest of the plane. On this model the match is not exact to put it mildly. The doors on the main retracts are two doors per wheel on the scale plane and one door per wheel on this model. If you can get past those two differences the rest of the plane looks pretty good to my eye but I am not a P-38 expert and I don't know if the Red Bull pilot wears an oxygen mask. I admittedly got past those points very easily as my main interest is how does she fly and look in the air? How aerobatic is she and what are her flight times with a 3-cell 2200 mAh battery pack? Well, that is what this review will be seeking to answer. However, before we can address those issues we need to get her assembled so lets learn just a little bit about this real plane's history and get this kit together.

Red Bulls P-38

Flitework has designed their model P-38 based on the Red Bull P-38 which is one of only four P-38s reportedly in flying condition. Red Bull's head pilot, Sigi Angerer, was looking to obtain a P-51 Mustang of which there are reportedly still over 170 in flying condition. Then he learned of a P-38 which had made an emergency landing. Red Bull obtained this crashed P-38 for their classic plane collection and has restored her to her current beautiful flying status. The prior owner was Lefty Gardner and he flew her as White Lightnin to airshows and the Reno Air Races for decades. On June 25, 2001 Ladd Gardner was flying her when there was an on board engine fire and he was forced to set her down in a field. The plane was badly damaged but repairable. For three years the Gardners tried to raise the money to restore the White Lightnin but costs were high and the funds were low. Additionally, the plane was the retirement nest egg for Ladd's parents so on 1/20/2005 the sale of White Lightnin to Red Bull was announced. The Gardner's had their retirement money and Red Bull was able to restore this beautiful P-38. The Flitework model is made of foam and is a nice stand-off version of this P-38. You can compare the Flitework paint scheme with the actual Red Bull P-38 showed in the two pictures of the actual plane posted here.

Kit Contents

Kit Contents

  • Main fuselage with front retract installed
  • Canopy with pilot figure
  • Twin booms with motors, ESCs, electric retracts and tail servos installed
  • Two wing halves with aileron servos installed
  • Horizontal stabilizer with elevator
  • Two vertical stabilizers with rudders
  • Two propeller hubs, silver propeller blades and anodized scale spinners
  • Cooling inlets
  • Carbon fiber wing joiner
  • Wiring harnesses
  • Illustrated Instruction manual
  • Elevator leveling compound
  • Assorted hardware

Additional Items Needed

  • 6-channel Transmitter
  • 6-channel receiver
  • 3s LiPo 2200 25C Electrifly battery
  • Balanced LiPo charger

Tools Needed

  • Hobby knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Dremel drill with sanding wheel
  • Spray silicon or WD-40
  • Paper towels
  • 0 and 00 Phillips screwdrivers
  • Six minute Epoxy
  • Metric ruler
  • Thread locking compound (non permanent)

Promoted Features

Manufacture's Promoted Features

  • Construction: EPO Foam
  • Wing: Two-piece with carbon fiber wing tube
  • Landing Gear: Electronic, retractable foam wheels
  • Aileron Control: Dual servo
  • Motors: Two brushless, installed
  • Electronic Speed Control: Two brushless 30A
  • Canopy: Clear with painted-on frame lines and pilot figure
  • Spinners: Two 2.4"
  • Propellers: Two 3-blade silver colored propellers

Assembly

I had a difficult time inserting the wing rod into the wing rod tubes to join the two wing halves together. I felt the wing rod was a serious concern and so I am recommend dealing with it before you do anything else in assembling the plane. My plane is not going to be taken apart once assembled so I didn't have to worry about getting the wing rod out but I did need to get it all the way installed.

I went to trial fit the wing rod into the wing rod tubes and found I could not start it. I got out some sand paper and sanded both ends of the wing rod into tapered edges all the way around the ends. This let me start to install the rod but it was still sticking after only a couple of inches. I pulled the wing rod out and marked the middle and sprayed one half of the rod with a super slippery silicon spray. The products name tag has long ago disappeared but if I didn't have it I would have tried WD 40. The spray worked and I was able to get the rod into one wing half. I protected the wing and sprayed the exposed portion of the wing rod and was able to slid it into the wing rod tube in the second wing half. Should anyone else have a problem with their wing rod you can try my solution. Sanding the entire wing rod was a last option in my mind but I know from a previous project years ago that sanding the rod will also work. While I did my wing rod in the normal list of the assembly I recommend you at least trial fit it before doing anything else. If it is too tight, work it out before proceeding. With my solutions it wasn't so much that it was hard to get it to fit as much as it was an unexpected difficulty.

Wing

The Instruction Manual starts with the installation of power and servo wires into a wing half. The aileron wire goes all the way to the wing root and beyond but a Y-harness is connected to first one and later the second aileron (other wing half) servo wire. There is a channel for the wires that goes out to an open box in the wing in line with where one of the booms will be installed. I started with the right side wing. The power wires are a Y-harness with plugs to connect to power the ESC and a Dean's connector to connect to the flight battery. One end of harness wires 2 (elevator), 3 (throttle), 4 (rudder) and 6 (retracts) were laid into this wire channel. The wire harnesses came assembled and with numbers already marked on them. Some extra wire is placed in the open rectangular box. I laid a piece of clear 3M plastic tape over the wires in the wing channel to secure them in place. I had all of the wires in the wing inside the open space in the area where the right boom would go.

Next I took the boom for the right side and made sure the throttle wire and the power wires for the ESC were below the wing opening in the boom. I took the turbo charger cover off of the fuselage. It is held in place with a tongue in front and a magnet in back. There were three servo wires in the back of the turbo charger area and I pulled those up and out of this back area so they were out of the way of installing the wing. I slid the right boom onto the wing and over the open rectangular box where all of the connectors for the wires were located. I secured the fuselage to the wing using two plastic inserts and a 35mm screw in front and a 25mm screw in the middle of the open turbo charger section of the fuselage. These screws go into plastic mounts in the bottom section of the boom. I pulled up the power wires from the ESC and connected them to the power wires I had installed in the wing. I then connected the throttle wire from the ESC to the harness marked for it. I next connected the three servo wires I had installed in the wing to those in the boom in the back of the turbo charger section. They were marked 2 (elevator), 4 (rudder) and 6 (retracts). I tucked the excess wire into the opening in the wing and placed the turbo charger cover back in place by sliding in the foam tongue in front and then the magnet secured it in the back.

As discussed above I installed the wing rod into both halves of the wing at this point. There was enough open space at the wing root for the wires from the right wing to exit. There was a lot of wire there at this time with the extensions for the left wing and the center sections of these harnesses to connect to the receiver. At this time I installed the wires into the left wing half and secured them in place as I had the right wing as described above. I then installed the left boom section and connected the wires out in the left boom.

Center Nacelle/Cockpit

The center nacelle contains the cockpit and armament on the full size P-38. Here it contains the flight battery. The nacelle fits onto the wing from the front. All of the wire harnesses had to fit into it. I found I could easily pull some of the excess wire out to the openings under the booms by removing the turbo charger covers. It was then easier to get the remaining wire into the center nacelle. The center nacelle was secured to the wing with two wooden plates and four screws in the front plate and two screws in the back plate. It is important to line up the holes so the screws go into the plastic mounts in the bottom section of the nacelle. This turned out to be easier to do than I expected.

Tail

The vertical stabilizers with rudder came nicely painted. There were two vertical stabilizers/rudder assemblies with both a left and a right. The registration numbers mount facing the outer side of the plane so it was easy to identify left and right pieces. There are also molded foam boxes for under the horizontal stabilizers that go on the inside. The first step in this assembly was to trim off a slight piece of the molded foam connector plug that get glues into a matching molded space at the end of the booms. I mixed up some six minute epoxy and glued the vertical stabilizers into their respective booms. I made sure they were up nice and tight to the end of the booms while the epoxy setup. When the glue had hardened I slid in the horizontal stabilizer through the slots for it in the vertical stabilizers.

The horizontal stabilizer has a top and a bottom side. The bottom has some marks from the molding process to make it easy to tell them apart. I slid the horizontal stabilizer through the slots for it in the vertical stabilizers and aligned it in the center. There are printed rectangle boxes on the top of the horizontal stabilizer marked with small molded lines with a hole through the stabilizer in the middle of the boxes. These two boxes are on the inside and next to the vertical stabilizers. Rectangular plastic inserts are pushed into these boxes. There are claws in the corners of these plates and a center screw post on the inserts and the screw post was pushed into the hole on the horizontal stabilizer and the claws into the stabilizer foam. After I had pushed both of these plastic inserts into place I turned the plane over and could see the screw posts in the foam molded boxes on the vertical stabilizer. I installed a flat plastic plate over the molded foam box and secured it in place with a supplied small thin metal screw. I repeated the process on the other vertical stab's molded foam box as shown in the pictures below and it is also shown in the manual.

Radio Installation

The seven servos had all come installed. There was the servo to steer the front wheel and two aileron servos. There were also two servos for the two rudders and two servos that work from each boom to control the elevator. There were also three retracts wired to one harness. Although the retract harness was numbered 6 I plugged it into channel 5 on my Tactic receiver to direct the retracts up and down. The aileron servo wires were on a Y-Harness with one connector as were the two elevator servo wires and the two throttle wires from the ESCs. These connectors plugged into channel 1, 2 and 3 respectively on my Tactic receiver. The two rudder servos and the front wheel steering servo were on there on harness with one connector and it plugged into channel four on my receiver. The electronics were now all connected to the receiver but the servos were not yet connected to the ailerons, elevator or rudders control surfaces.

The next step was to carefully sand the paint off the little marked spaces where the control arms for the flight surfaces are to be mounted. This was six small boxes in total with one on the bottom side of each aileron, two on the bottom side of the elevator and one on the outside of each rudder. With the paint removed I carefully looked at the supplied control horns. They had a small prong on each end and a ridge in the middle on the side that attaches to the control surface. I pushed them into their marked spaces and pulled them out. I did this in hopes of giving the epoxy more of a surface area to attach to and better secure the control horns. I installed the control rods into the control horns on the holes showed in the manual. That was the outer hole for ailerons and rudder and third from outer hole on the two elevator servos. Next, I followed the pictures in the manual in installing the control horns and the direction the clamps screws on the control arms faced. They face towards the booms on the ailerons, away from the closest rudder on the elevator and down on the rudders. I slide each control horn onto the control rod I had just installed on the servo arms.

Next, using six minute epoxy, I carefully applied a small amount of epoxy onto the control horn and into the holes the control horn had just made in the foam as well as the molded slot in the foam for the ridge on the control horn. I secured the control horns in place. After the epoxy had dried I activated the radio and made sure ten servos were in the neutral position. When I was certain I had them set up properly I tightened the clamp screws and used some non-permanent Lock Tight to secure the clamp screws in place so they wouldn't vibrate loose.

Completion

Propeller Assembly

The P-38 uses a three blade propeller that requires assembly. The blades fit into 1/2 have of the propeller hub and then are covered with the other 1/2 of the hub. This second half is secured in place with three screws. One screw goes through the mounting base of each propeller. After assembling one propeller I assembled the second propeller in the same manner.

The the propellers mounted into the propeller hubs I installed the back plate of the spinners onto the motor propeller shafts and then the propeller hubs. Both of these were secured onto the propeller shafts with the supplied washers and nuts using a small crescent wrench to tighten them. I then installed the spinners in place with the three supplied screws per spinner.

Air Scoops

The air scoops came as two pairs attached to a center piece of foam. Using my hobby knife I carefully cut each scoop off of the center piece. This left an extended piece of foam on the mounting side of the air scoop and cutting at a angle to match the molded line on the rest of the part I cut off this extended piece of white foam. This left all of the external piece of the scoop that would be seen as properly painted silver and the scoop cut/molded to fit the space on the fuselage. I liked how they designed these. When I had four individual scoops I secured them to the fuselage with six minute epoxy glue. This assembly section was not covered in the manual but with the molded lines on the fuselage matching the scoops it was very easy.

Elevator Counter Balances

The kit includes two small foam pieces that represent the counter balances on the elevator. They came attached to a circular piece of foam. I carefully cut them off of a center circular piece and glued the ends onto the proper spaces on the top and bottom of the elevator, after first sanding those small spaces.

C/G and Proper Control Surface Movement

Per the instruction manual the recommended Center of Gravity (C/G) balance point is 75mm back from the leading edge of the wing as measured near the center nacelle. Since they recommend both the 3-cell 2200mAh battery pack and the 2500mAh battery pack I was expecting I might need to add a little weight to the nose since I am using a 2200mAh pack. But that pack installed all the way forward balanced her perfectly at 75mm back from the leading edge of the wing.

The recommended throws for the control surface are ailerons 18mm up and down, elevator 15mm up and down and rudder 20mm side to side. They did not give a recommended high and low rate setting, just the one setting per control surface. I used dual rates on my transmitter to limit my throws to those recommended. There was no mention for exponential but I used 20% on ailerons and elevator as my starting point.

Proper balance of the plane is critical for successful flight.

The foam cowls over the motors came secured in place with two screws per boom. While they were held in place they weren't as tight against the rest of the booms as I wanted so when I was sure everything was working properly I added a few spots of glue to tighten them up. If I ever need to open them I can cut the spot glue areas.

My final assembly was cutting out the balances for the top and bottom of the elevator and gluing them in place one at a time.

Tip for Installing and Removing the Battery Pack.

The battery pack goes all the way forward in the center nacelle. I have glued some Velcro inside this battery compartment with a square of matching Velcro on the battery back on the outside bottom area. To install the battery a wrap a dollar bill over the Velcro and install the battery and the dollar all the way in to the nacelle. I pull the dollar out and the Velcro touch and the battery is securely in place. After the flight I remove the battery by sliding a thin metal ruler (The type of ruler that roles up) between the battery pack's Velcro and the plane's Velcro. Or I use a blade screw driver to unfasten the Velcro and pull the battery out.

Testing the Retracts

One of the last steps in my flight preparation was testing that the retracts were working properly. The wheels all went up and down without a problem and the doors for the main wheels worked perfectly as well. The door for the nose wheel did not always close all the way when the wheel went up but I was very sure that it would close when the plane was flying. Her is a short video of the retract testing.

Testing the Flightworks P-38 Retracts (0 min 51 sec)

Flying

Basics

The plane has a steerable nose wheel and all three wheels retract and are covered with doors when the plane is in the air. The flying controls are throttle, rudder, elevator and ailerons. Turns can be made just using the ailerons but the turns look much more scale using a combination of about 25% rudder with the ailerons. I found the recommended control throws to work well. I programmed them as low rates and have more throw available especially for ailerons on the high rate setting but haven't found the need to use more than the recommended throw thus far. The videos were shot using the recommended throw. The Red Bull P-38 has a wide speed range from pretty slow to fast. She will warn you with a waddle if you try to fly her too slow so speed up a bit immediately if you see her waddling (Not tracking straight!) on you. Chris and I got flights of 6-7 minutes with flights of mixed speeds. The battery pack's cell were all about 3.78 after landing. With inexpensive 3-cell 2200mAh packs having a number of them charged and ready to go should be no problem.

Taking Off and Landing

This model of the P-38 does not have counter-rotating props. They both rotate to the same direction and that raises the issue of the possibility of torque roll at the time of takeoff. In a situation like this I assume that torque roll may be an issue so when I go to takeoff I want to build up speed and have air flowing nicely over the wing and the tail control surfaces to help prevent the possibility of a torque roll. I am also ready with the rudder as it may be needed even if there is no cross wind. I will wait until the plane is up to speed before using any elevator to takeoff. I will never jam the throttle forward and try to make a quick takeoff because I have seen crashes of other twin engine planes trying to do just that. This takeoff plan has the added advantage that it makes the takeoff look nice and scale when all goes well. Being prepared with a plan for a P-38 is highly recommended. Especially for the first takeoff.

The plan worked or there was no torque problem. No torque problems were experienced with any of the scale like takeoffs made to date. She has made takeoffs into a quartering cross wind and handled that without a problem as well. Landings have involved lining her up with the runway and reducing throttle. Even in a 10 mph cross or quarter cross wind, control was clearly maintained for the landings.

I stand by my recommendation to be prepared for the worse on a first flight. The Red Bull was very well behaved and this bull can go through the China shop.

Torque was briefly experienced on rapid throttle advance from from slow to fast speed while in a climb. It caused some roll movement but not even a quarter roll. My friend Chris experienced this and despite that he still commented that he thought she was the best handling plane he has helped me with for a review thus far. Chris really liked her! He also liked that she basically stayed in level flight even when the throttle was advanced to high.

When taking off in a smooth manner she behaves beautifully and we had no trouble landing her.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

She does great loops large and small into the wind. She can be pushed slightly out of a loop by a strong cross wind but pilot anticipation and correction can allow for completed pure loops even in crosswind. She does very nice Immelmans and split-S turns. Rolls are not axial because she has two motors and isn't rolling around just one motor/fuselage, but they are still very nice and fun to do. Because of the big size of the plane and the relatively small size of the battery I was surprised by how aerobatic she proved to be in test flying. To properly perform many of the aerobatics it is necessary to fly her fast to hold the desired line while she can nicely fly around the sky at slow speed and conserve the battery for longer flight time. I think this is displayed in the two demo videos above and below.

Is This For a Beginner?

No! This plane is for intermediate or better pilots. It is not a plane designed for a beginner.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

This video shows a complete six minute flight from takeoff through landing and then taxiing back in with the Flitework Red Bull P-38.

Flightworks P-38 6 Minute Demo Flight (6 min 48 sec)

Conclusion

With the exception of installing the wing rod the plane was pretty easy to assemble. The plane can be taken apart if necessary but she is designed to remain together and should be stored and transported ready to fly. I can fit her in the pack of my Prius with the rear seats folded down. As discussed above the plane is stand off scale for several reasons including the landing gear doors but in the air I forgot all about the minor discrepancies and she looked very scale to me in appearance and handling. Her silver paint job and the spinners looked very similar in color in the sun. For her price she is a well handling plane capable of easy relaxed flying or very nice higher speed aerobatics. There was no problem with torque when speed was built up slowly for taking off or in flight. If flown in a scale like fashion it is a non issue. The recommended C/G and throws for the control surfaces worked very well as can be seen in the videos.

Flight times of 6-7 minutes with some emergency spare time with mixed speed flying was better than I hoped for originally. However, if you only fly full throttle I would recommend initially limiting your flight to four minutes or less and read a voltage meter connected to the flight battery to see how much juice you used at full speed. As I have mentioned in previous reviews top speed looks and sounds faster after seeing slower speed passes. The battery was only mildly warm at the end of our flights.

Pluses & Minuses

Pluses

  • Plane was generally easy to assemble
  • Plastic mounting parts and control horns nicely designed
  • Good Size plane for the money
  • Stand off scale
  • Working retracts but with non-scale doors
  • Impressive speed range
  • Seven minutes flying time with mixed speeds
  • Flies pretty level even with increased throttle.

Minuses

  • Wing rod fit was too tight
  • Foam cowls over the motors were initially too loose
  • Plane is good size and remains assembled for storage and transport

Thanks

I want to thank Flitework Models and Tower Hobbies for supplying this plane for review. My thanks to my friend Chris for his assistance in flying the plane so I could get pictures and video. Finally, thanks to our editor for her assistance with this review.

Last edited by Michael Heer; May 26, 2015 at 12:48 PM..
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Old May 26, 2015, 01:46 PM
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I say the minusses are the usual way out of scale gear with wires instead of struts and they're on the wrong sides of the wheels for the mains even. Could've been nice, but the gear on a WWII fighter as iconic as the P-38 is one of the major standouts of the design and the FMS P-39 Cobra II does it very well. Too bad that so far all P-38 ARFs fall way short on this major point.
Chris...
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Old May 26, 2015, 02:10 PM
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I've been watching this plane since it was released. The P-38 is my all time favorite warbird, and there are no good ones (HH or FMS quality) out there. The reviews on another P-38 thread are much less positive...
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Old May 26, 2015, 02:13 PM
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One positive thing I could say for the inflight pictures is that it looks really good doing those pictured rolls because the dihedral is really close to the real one.
Chris...
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Old May 26, 2015, 03:05 PM
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Looks very much like the one Venom was selling a while ago. except the prop.
Still no cross rotating.
I would change the props with Master Airscrew or FMS props that comes in pair of cross rotating.

I hope Horizon comes out with one soon.
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Old May 26, 2015, 03:30 PM
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Some minor corrections:
1) I have learned there are seven real P-38s in flying condition at least there were as of 2013.
2) I miss spelled Flitework in my videos. Sorry!
3) The props and spinner color match is much closer to the rest of the plane outside in the sun.
Mike Heer
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Old May 26, 2015, 05:45 PM
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Fix the main wheels there on wrong
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Old May 26, 2015, 06:04 PM
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Chop it, cut it, bash it
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Looks good. Nice size. I passed on the FMS because the gear. I might think about this one.
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Old May 26, 2015, 06:35 PM
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We review the products as presented to us making only changes that are required. Switching to counter rotating props is a quick switch of two wires at one ESC and new propellers and spinners or mounting the blades backwards on one propeller hub. I don't feel the need to do that as discussed in how well she handled in the review. FYI the British bought their full size P-38s without counter rotating props so either way is scale. The landing gear came already assembled as shown and installed with retracts. Owners are free to experiment there as well. I am a great believer in customizing your plane but that is not part of the review of the product as sold. As stated from the beginning this is stand-off scale in my opinion but that didn't stop me from enjoying her. Mike Heer
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Old May 26, 2015, 09:28 PM
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For that price, this plane here is a 'better' all arounder'....
(MFD Twin MotorFPV plane), and ofcourse it can be flown Line of Sight.
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2251420
can hold up to 4s-20,000mah+ and capable of 6s main flight lipo.


Its your choice!
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Old May 26, 2015, 10:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rclab1 View Post
For that price, this plane here is a 'better' all arounder'....
(MFD Twin MotorFPV plane), and ofcourse it can be flown Line of Sight.
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2251420
can hold up to 4s-20,000mah+ and capable of 6s main flight lipo.


Its your choice!
I would rather gouge my own eyes out than own that "thing" you posted a link to
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Old May 26, 2015, 10:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Heer View Post
...or mounting the blades backwards on one propeller hub.
No. If you reverse the prop on the motor without reversing the motor, it just runs crappy. The prop is designed to turn one way through the air. Reversing it without changing the rotation direction is like putting the rotor blades on a heli on the wrong way around. If you do reverse the motor, the prop becomes a pusher. If you want counter rotating props you need a left and a right hand prop and the motors need to also run in opposite directions.

That being said, it's still an easy fix. I've been wanting a P-38 and this is about the only one of a decent size that's available... might be an upcoming addition to my hangar.
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Old May 27, 2015, 12:21 AM
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I've been watching this plane since it was released.
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Old May 27, 2015, 08:04 AM
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Hey Rocketsled666; I said you had to reverse two of the wires as well between the motor and the ESC. Mike H
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Old May 27, 2015, 01:18 PM
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Nice review, Mike, as always. I've always had a soft spot for the "full scale" P-38, but was initially turned off by the Red Bull scheme. From the video it looks like a sweet flyer--might be worth some paint and an order from Callie to create a WWII Pacific scheme. I'd be tempted to paint directly over the silver, so it could be weathered just be scratching/wearing through the green . . .
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