Parkzone F4F Wildcat - Review and Observations One Year Later
This was my third plane and first non-micro. I purchased it in June 2011 from Hobbyzone’s online store. I learned to fly it without an instructor. In fact, during my 14 month RC fixed-wing career, I have never had an instructor. While this approach has had favorable outcomes, it is not an approach I would recommend to everyone.
As of July 2012, I have 51 flights on airframe in venues ranging from small school yards to open desert, including one severe crash (discussed below). It is my go-to airplane to warm up on, to explore new flying fields, to take on road trips and to fly in challenging conditions (small fields, windy conditions). It is currently unmodified, but mods are coming in the near future.
Equipment notes, as purchased
It arrived undamaged and equipped with an AR600 receiver (I had read somewhere that earlier versions had been equipped with AR500, a receiver with a somewhat troubled reputation). The lipo battery charger for the two Parkzone 1300 mAh batteries is designed for use in a cigarette lighter. I purchased a wall charger adapter for home and office battery charging. The charger charges the battery through the balance ports. This is a slow way to charge the battery, but works fine.
Easy and no alterations or special tools were needed. I balanced the prop after I had the plane for a while. This did not make any difference in the experience of flying the plane.
Appearance, Fit & Finish
It is a typical Parkzone foamie, with evident foam cell structure visible through the paint. The holes in the fuse where the push rods exit are somewhat crudely executed. The pilot has a pleasant, happy-go-lucky expression on his face, or at least he does on the ground!
A quite adequate power system that is extremely quiet. The plane hustles when you want it to and is fast enough for any “park flyer” environment. Flight times are 6-7 minutes flying at a variety of throttle positions.
No landing gear, so hand launching is the only alternative. I also taught myself to do this while holding the plane in one hand and the transmitter in the other. ¾ throttle and throwing the plane overhand at a 15 degree angle up is my usual technique. It launches easily, without the heart-stopping torque-rolling direction change of Parkzone’s Bf-109 Messerschmitt.
General Flight Characteristics
Easy on low rates (70%) and fun on high rates. Wide flight envelope: flies great slow and fast. The muted sky blue paint job was designed to make this warbird disappear, which it can still do if your eyes are not constantly tracking it around the sky. Figuring out the orientation of the plane on overcast days can also be a challenge.
This plane is far more aerobatic than its 1:1 scale big brother. Tight loops, Cuban 8s, Figure 8s, inverted turns, rolls, spins, and hammerheads are all on the menu.
Approach and landing
This is a light plane and glides long and flat. Lower speed on the downwind leg, scrub some speed with a rudder turn, cross controlling the ailerons, straighten out and try to keep it in the air right above the ground until the plane's airspeed drops to zero. I’ve had no damage to the plane flying over grass and no-rock dirt (the desert was another story).
Durability and Repairs
This is a pretty tough little plane. The weak point is the thin plastic cowl, of which I have cracked two. One found a rock in a field and the other was shattered in a straight-in-to-the-ground crash at ¾ throttle. It can be reinforced using packing tape on the inside. I’ve tried this and it works fine. It does not stop the cowl from cracking, but will keep it from shattering into multiple pieces.
The crash was due to a couple of moments of “vapor lock” on my part while flying inverted on the planes 20th sortie and left a pretty good dent in the soccer field. I lost the prop, cowl, fuse (too much damage to the fire wall) and the cockpit/battery cover. Ordered new parts and I was back in action.
Note that the motor and ESC were not replaced. The motor works fine, but has a bit of noise when running. I have not pulled it apart to look at it. The ESC almost folded in half, but still works. No servo, receiver or battery problems. Once repaired, it flew exactly as before. Like I said, a pretty tough plane.
Like all foam planes, the Wildcat is vulnerable to ‘hangar rash’ from rough handling. Most of this is easy to repair using light-weight spackle, sand paper and paint. Speaking of paint, the cheapest way to get an exact match for the paint of any foam plane is to take a piece of it to Home Depot or other paint store and have them use their machine to match the paint. I can get a paint jar of Behr Outdoor latex paint the size of a jar of jam for about $3 US.
Conclusion and Recommendations
This is a great plane that always puts a smile on my face. I think it is a good choice as a second plane after you have mastered something like the Hobbyzone Champ and are feeling ready to move on to new challenges.
When I say mastered, I mean you have successfully explored the limits of the Champ’s airframe by doing loops, flying briefly inverted, and stall turns. Those on a budget might consider the Plug n Play version and use one of the Orange Rx receivers and some Turnigy Nanotech 1300 mAh batteries from Hobby King. I did not do this, but would consider going this route if I was going to do it again.
Another, possibly better option is to purchase this model used. Some view this plane as a transitional model and there are often examples for sale. As with many things, buying used often makes a lot of sense. I have purchased planes through RC Groups classifieds with good results.
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