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ParkZone F4F Wildcat BNF Review

We take a peek at ParkZone's latest warbird and find out just where the Chicago O'Hare airport got its name.

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Wing span: 38.4 in (975mm)
Length: 28.7 in (730mm)
Weight: 25.4 oz (720g)
Battery: 3S 1300mAh lipo
Motor: 480-sized 960Kv
ESC: PKZ 18A BL ESC
Distributed by: Horizon Hobby
MSRP: $189.99
 
I remember the first time I saw a ParkZone product at my local hobby shop. It was the ParkZone Slo-V.

At the time I was still very new in the hobby, and I'm sure like many of you, I was quickly learning that the aircraft I had chosen with which learn the art of flying R/C airplanes wasn't the best choice I could have made. I ended up leaving the hobby shop with a Slo-V that day, and I have fond memories of my first truly successful flights in R/C with it.

Recently I walked into that same hobby shop, and saw one of ParkZone's latest releases, the F4F Wildcat. I thought to myself that after all these years, ParkZone's philosophy hasn't changed, and how it's allowed them to establish themselves as the standard by which others are measured in BnF/PnP marketplace. It's my opinion (and I'm sure many others' as well) that for out of the box performance, ease of assembly, attention to detail and just overall enjoyment, ParkZone products are just hard to beat. With that in mind, let's take a look at ParkZone's latest offering, the F4F Wildcat.

History

ParkZone has modeled their version of the F4F after the one and only Lieutenant Commander Edward Henry "Butch" O'Hare. "Butch" was the U.S. Navy's first flying ace, and the first to receive the medal of honor in WWII. On November 23rd, 1943 while leading the Navy's first ever night time fighter operations from the deck of an aircraft carrier, Lieutenant Commander O'Hare was shot down by a group of Japanese torpedo bombers, and sadly, neither he nor his aircraft were ever found. A few years later in 1949, the Chicago Orchard Depot airport was officially renamed in his honor, and is now known as the "Chicago O'Hare International" airport.

The F4F Wildcat was developed by Grumman for carrier and land-based operations by both the U.S Navy and the British Royal Navy (known as the Martlet) in 1940. The Wildcat was the main aircraft utilized by both the Marines and Naval forces during '41 and '42 throughout the Pacific Theater of operations. Outperformed by the lighter and more nimble Japanese fighers of the day, U.S. pilots quickly learned to utilize the aircraft's ruggedness and developed tactics such as the "Thach Weave" in order to shift the odds of the battle in their favor. A total of 7,860 Wildcat variants we produced which were responsible for flying over 15,000 combat sorties and downing almost 1,500 aircraft.

More historical information on both the F4F and Lieutenant Commander O'Hare are available here.

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Kit Contents

My Wildcat showed up on the doorstep double boxed. Upon opening the inner box and reviewing the manual, everything appeared to be damage free, and all the parts listed in the manual were accounted for. Visually, the Wildcat is very nice looking, brightly colored, and comes in a very high state of pre-fabrication. All the stickers have all been pre-applied at the factory, as well as the ESC, motor, flight control servos, and in the case of the BNF version in the review, an AR500 full range receiver has been installed as well. The manual states that you can finish assembling the Wildcat in the amount of time it takes to top off the battery. Honestly, I think that it could be done even quicker than that! The foam is of the ParkZone "Z-Foam" variety, which, if you aren't familiar with it, withstands abuse well and repairs easily as seen on other planes in the ParkZone lineup (just ask anyone with a T-28 or Corsair). It's apparent that the designers at ParkZone have taken special care with the scale details on this one, too. For example, the faux tail wheel, molded in panel lines, red and white striped tail, simulated retracts in the fuselage, pre-installed pilot .... even the "Felix the Cat" and Butch O'Hare decals are in place just underneath the canopy to top it all off. Enough looking at it, lets build it already!

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Kit includes/features:

  • Pre-painted foam construction
    (wings, fuse, etc.)
  • Pre-installed 480 960kv brushless outrunner
  • 3s 11.1V 1300mah lipo
  • Pre-installed servos (4x SV80)
  • Pre-installed ESC (18A)
  • Pre-installed AR500 5 channel full range RX
  • Pre-installed and painted pilot
  • Instruction manual

Kit requirements:

  • 4+ channel DSM compatible transmitter
  • Screwdriver

Assembly

This is about the easiest build/assembly I've come across to date. I kid you not when I say the build process consists of installing 2 screws, putting on 4 small pieces of tape, installing the charged battery and hooking up a couple of servo control horns/leads. Without having to stop for photos, I would guess that one could complete the build/completion process in 15 minutes, which is less time then it took me to top off the battery with the included charger.

Fuselage

There is no real assembly to complete the fuselage as it has basically been completed at the factory with the exception of hooking up the linkages to the rudder and elevator. The fuselage is of one piece Z-Foam construction that is pre-painted in a two tone blue color, and has the panel lines molded into it. The Z-Foam doesn't dent too easily, and as mentioned earlier, is fairly resistant to damage in general. All the markings on the fuselage are pre-applied, and the canopy is secured via a 'tongue' style latch and a set of magnets. Once the canopy has been removed, one can see all the internal pre-installed components, including the two ParkZone SV80 servos, and the large amount of room for a variety of 3s sized packs. I've trial fitted the included 3s pack as well as a few others of larger capacity up to 2200mah without issue (although I never did check the CG of the larger packs). The motor is already snugly in place at the forward end of the fuselage, and even the yellow tipped 2 bladed 9x6 prop has been secured in place as well.

 

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Power system

The 480 sized 960kv brushless outrunner has already been installed at the factory, and is paired up to an 18A ParkZone ESC located in the fuselage. Spinning the stock 9x6 prop on a freshly charged pack, the wildcat makes a good amount of power, and I'm certain handlaunches with this thing will be a no brainer.

 

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Wing

The two wing halves come pre-hinged, with the servos pre-installed and even the control linkages hooked up and in place. The wing halves are of the same Z-Foam construction that is utilized throughout the rest of the airplane, and the panel lines are molded into them as well. I started installing the right wing half by slipping the wing into place in the pre-slotted hole in the fuselage, running the servo lead through a hole in the fuselage and installing a screw which captures the wings tab inside the fuselage and secures it in place. Then I slid the wing spar in and repeated the process for the other wing half, and plugged the leads into the Y-cable protruding from the aileron port of the AR500 receiver.

 

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Tail

The brightly colored vertical stab is molded into the fuselage, so all that is required to do is install the horizontal stab halves and hook up the control rods. The completed assembly is held in place with four pieces of clear tape, which are included with the kit. To install, I simply slipped each half through the vertical stab and connected them together. I ensured each half was evenly seated in the plastic retainer before taping, as the tape will pull off the paint.

 



Radio Installation

With the BnF version of the Wildcat, an AR500 receiver is already in place just underneath the magnetic canopy within the fuselage. The bind plug is even in place, so the bind process is as simple as programming a new model in your transmitter, plugging in your 3s pack, and depressing the bind button on your radio while powering it up. Once you've established the TX and plane are communication, don't forget to remove your bind plug.

Completion

Completing the Wildcat consists of checking the CG and ensuring proper deflection and direction of travel for the control surfaces. I've set my CG to the vaues listed in the manual as well as setting the throws to the factory recommended rates. All done and ready to fly, my Wildcat weighs in at 26 ounces.

 

Flying

Basics

As with most ParkZone planes I've had the opportunity of flying, they all exhibit very docile handling characteristics and plenty of power for scale flight (and a bit beyond). The stock setup isn't going to set any speed records, but let's be honest; it's a parkflyer and it's not intended too. Overall, the Wildcat is super stable in the air and I've been quite impressed with it's broad range of flight. I'd guess the top speed is somewhere in the 45mph range, but the Wildcat can also be slowed down to just about a crawl given a little bit of head wind. Inverted flight, low passes, scale flight, whatever you throw at it, the Wildcat is just one of those planes that just does it all. While not quite as nimble as the T-28 also of ParkZone fame, it's not a far cry from it with it's gentle nature.

Takeoff

There is a certain technique that is required to hand launch an airplane with no landing gear. The ultimate goal of the individual tasked with chucking the plane skyward is to give the pilot a nice toss in which the wings stay level and the nose doesn't pitch up much at all. All types of factors play into how hard a plane can be to launch, including wing configuration, length and width of fuselage etc., but I've yet to encounter a ParkZone plane that is hard to hand launch. So when it came time to launch my Wildcat for the first time, I really didn't have any nervous jitters. The plane has been designed so that either an overhand or underhand launch stlye can be utilized. For my tastes, throwing the plane overhand feels best. For the first flight, I had my good friend Jon launch the plane for me so I could focus on flying the plane should any trims be needed or some unexpected flight condition creep up. I gave Jon the nod after selecting 3/4 throttle on my 11X transmitter, and with a nice gentle toss the Wildcat was airborne. In my subsequent flights, I've handlaunched the Wildcat by myself in the same fashion as Jon utilized for the maiden flight without any issues at all. Simply set the throttle to 3/4 and give the plane a nice gentle toss.

Landing

Landing the Wildcat is a piece of cake. I found the plane tends to slow down nicely into the wind and descends very predictably when the throttle is pulled back. I found myself having to leave the throttle on a bit longer than I expected on approach for such a light/small plane to keep the glide slope as shallow as I wanted it. As I pulled the power back, I fed in a little back stick to slow the plane and get the nose high. About 10 to 15 feet off the ground I pulled the power off completely and started to flare as the nose dropped. The Wildcat can be 'held off' for a long time, and just about all its forward speed can be bled off before you touch down. As a matter of fact, I commented at the field a few times about how full elevator deflection was utilized in the flare, and not nary a sign of tip stall or 'rolling' was encountered. I think that speaks volumes about the Wildcat's overall stability.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

The standard motor and battery system have plenty of power for some nice spirited park flying including loops, rolls, etc. I've found that the recommended aileron rates were a bit 'sluggish' for my tastes while doing rolls, but they were executed in a very scale fashion. If you more of an aerobatic pilot then a scale master, you might want to consider increasing those throws just a bit. Inverted flight is very easy to maintain, and simply requires a slight bit of 'up' elevator to keep the planes nose in line with the horizon.

Is This For a Beginner?

While the Wildcat is docile enough for somebody with very little stick time, I wouldnt recommend it for somebody looking to get into flying for the first time. Anyone who has flown an R/C aircraft with ailerons should have no problem flying this plane in my opinion.

One of the beautiful things about this plane is the availability of parts at just about just any local hobby shop. If you've watched the review video, you'll know I had a little incident with a street sign while making some low passes for the camera. As our flying site is close to our LHS, after the incident, it was only a matter of minutes until the plane was back into the air. Here's to hoping I won't have to visit my LHS again anytime soon for Wildcat parts, but if I do, I know they have a whole slew of parts waiting for me.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

 




 




 




 




 




Conclusion

Flying the Wildcat is really just ..... fun. Parkzone has definitely designed a package that is right at home within the confines of a small baseball field, but also fits in at any larger field as well. It handles great, looks great, is easy to handlaunch, has parts readily available at just about every hobbyshop in the country and performs well on a relatively inexpensive powerplant. All in all, I've enjoyed flying the Wildcat and can't say enough about how well the plane performs for the 15 minutes (or less) it took to assemble. It's amazing how far this hobby has come!

Likes:

  • Ease of assembly
  • Flight characteristics
  • Availability of replacement parts
  • Repairs easily

Dislikes:

  • No provision for charging the battery in the house (great for field use though)

Last edited by Angela H; Dec 02, 2010 at 04:56 PM..

Discussion

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Old Dec 02, 2010, 05:17 PM
WAA-08 THANK FRANK!
JimNM's Avatar
Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States
Joined Jun 2002
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Nice work Don! I really like your video productions
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Old Dec 02, 2010, 05:18 PM
WAA-08 THANK FRANK!
JimNM's Avatar
Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States
Joined Jun 2002
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echo
echo!
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Old Dec 02, 2010, 05:54 PM
Registered User
United States, CA, Rancho Palos Verdes
Joined Sep 2010
291 Posts
Nicely done, Don. Just a terrific write up for a terrific plane. I've owned mine for a few weeks now and still day dream about ditching work early and getting in at least a few minutes of stick time.

I liked your inclusion of the historical aspects of the plane this is modeled after, Butch O'Hare (did not realize the connection with Chicago O'Hare) and the Thach Weave. If I didn't already have one of these planes, this review would have sealed the deal. Thank you.
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Old Dec 02, 2010, 06:11 PM
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Sebastopol, CA, USA
Joined Dec 1996
541 Posts
Fabulous! This review really raises the bar. Great layout, great video, super graphics, intelligent writing. Any time you want to give editing lessons, I'll sign up.
Congratulations.
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Old Dec 02, 2010, 06:27 PM
Registered Drug Free
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Joined Jan 2009
2,373 Posts
I thought the review was quite average, just look at the "dislikes" column, no mention of the tendency to pitch up at full throttle, the permanent tackiness of the paint, nor the difficulty in removing the canopy/battery hatch. I could mention a couple more negatives, but that would be picking it to bits, which is not my intention.

Mike.
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Old Dec 02, 2010, 07:12 PM
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Excellently done video!
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Old Dec 02, 2010, 07:22 PM
It's just a plane.
ZackJones's Avatar
USA, SC, Goose Creek
Joined Aug 2010
2,104 Posts
Excellent review on an excellent airplane. I absolutely love flying mine.
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Old Dec 02, 2010, 07:25 PM
Is it summer yet?
gouda's Avatar
Flight Level 46 X 92
Joined Feb 2002
2,000 Posts
I thought it was a great review and is positive enough to have me put this plane on my must have list. Well done.
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Old Dec 02, 2010, 07:50 PM
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USA, DE, Townsend
Joined Aug 2009
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One of the best reviews and video I've seen great job.
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Old Dec 02, 2010, 09:08 PM
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pda4you's Avatar
USA, TX, Trophy Club
Joined May 2002
14,479 Posts
This is such a fantastic airplane. Love mine, it is an excellent performer.

As far as the hard to remove canopy, I installed a "scale"ish antenna, using 1/16" ply painted black glued to the back of the hatch. Works great.

Mike
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Old Dec 02, 2010, 09:24 PM
Your Pilot Ryan
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United States, IN, South Bend
Joined Nov 2008
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Nice review. Man he smoked that sign didn't he.
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Old Dec 02, 2010, 09:37 PM
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wattman's Avatar
Evansville Dress Reg., Indiana, United States
Joined Jun 2004
1,076 Posts
Nice review and video of a great plane , thanks .
I also like your video style

And what an easy plane to finish assembly and fly , it looks great .
" You have to blush to even use the word assembly with the Wildcat "
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Old Dec 02, 2010, 09:42 PM
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USA, NC, Greensboro
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1,380 Posts
Very nice work Don, great review love the skit. May I ask what editing program did you use to put that together?
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Old Dec 03, 2010, 09:12 AM
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USA, PA, Harleysville
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ha.. enjoyable video, nice editing. Thanks for the review.
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