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Banana Hobby's FreeWing Giant SBD-5 Dauntless RTF Review

As a World War II history buff, I have long wanted an R/C model of the SBD-5 Dauntless Dive Bomber, the victor of the Battle of Midway. Freewing and Banana Hobby have made that possible with this beautifully detailed plane at an affordable price!

Splash

Introduction


Wingspan:53 3/8"
Weight:61.72 oz.
Length:41"
Servos:6 9gram servos
Transmitter:Blitzworks RC 6 channel 2.4GHz transmitter
Receiver:Blitzworks RC 6 channel 2.4GHz receiver
Battery:4-cell 25C 2200 mAp
Motor:3648-600KV Brushless motor
ESC:40A ESC with LED flash controller
Propeller:3 Bladed 12 x 7
Retracts:Yes, Scale elecric retracts
Manufacturer:FreeWing in China
Available From:Banana Hobby
Price RTF:$299.90
Price ARF:$239.90

I am a World War II history buff. While I love almost all planes, I have long had a special interest in the Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless and its role in the victory at the Battle of Midway where four Japanese carriers were sunk by Dauntless Dive Bombers to the loss of one American carrier.

The Banana Hobby Blitzworks RC SBD-5 Dauntless was a must-have for me when I saw her pictures and her price. She is very nicely detailed, has working perforated split scale diving flaps, a very detailed cockpit with both a detailed pilot and a rear gunner with twin machine guns. She has scale working electronic retracts and flashing LED navigation lights in the wingtips. Based on my fondness of the plane, its features, good looks and price. I was ready to buy based upon what I saw on Banana Hobby's website. But things got even better when I got the chance to review this RTF version and became the first kid on my block to get one. As I write this introduction I have opened the box and examined the parts. Everything looks beautiful. I am excited about getting this plane assembled and flown. I truly hope she flies as good as she looks!

Kit Contents RTF

Kit Contents

  • Two wing halves (EPO Foam) with electric retracts, landing gear, aileron servos and flap servos installed
  • Three Y connectors for the wing electronics
  • Horizontal stabilizer (EPO Foam) with attached split elevators
  • Vertical Stabilizer (EPO Foam) with attached rudder
  • Fuselage (EPO Foam) with mounted motor, propeller, nose cowl, ESC, rudder and elevator servos
  • Pilot and rear gunner installed in fuselage
  • Fuselage and wing decorative scale antennas
  • Two wing rods
  • Two "Drop tanks" (EPO Foam)
  • One bomb (EPO Foam) and plastic bomb harness
  • BlitzWorks RC 6 channel transmitter on 2.4GHz
  • BlitzWorks RC 6 channel receiver on 2.4GHz & Binding plug
  • 4S 14.8 2200mAh 25C LiPo Battery pack
  • Assorted hardware

Items I supplied

  • 8 AA Batteries for the BlitzWork's transmitter
  • LiPo Balanced battery charger for the flight pack battery















SBD-5 Dauntless in History

SBD officially stands for: Scout, Bomber, Douglas. However, with a top speed of just over 250 mph the crews affectionately called her: Slow But Deadly. The SBD-5 was the fifth variation of this scout bomber made by Douglas, and approximately 2,500 planes were made in this model. Production on the SBD ended in the Summer of 1944. The Dauntless was one of the last navy planes not to have folding wings. Because of the nature of dive bombing they went with the fixed wing that had more internal strength than folding wings would have had.

Scout

The plane's first function was that of being a scout for the fleet. A number of Dauntless planes would take off and fly a specific heading on their compass in search of the enemy that was somewhere out there. When they located the enemy they would radio in the information. The carrier could launch an attack with planes held back in reserve against the enemy, and often the scouts had to return to the carrier to refuel and relaunch for their own attack.

Bomber

The Dauntless's second function was that of a bomber. Often we see the phrase; Dauntless Dive Bomber. The Dauntless was indeed used by the Navy as a Dive Bomber. In this attack method it would come in high, get close to the target, enter into a steep dive and release the bomb late in the dive when best accuracy could be assured. However, the plane was also used as a glide bomber where it dropped its bomb from basically level flight, allowing the bomb to fall forward and down to its target. At the Battle of Midway the SBDs flown by Marine pilots off of Midway, squadron VMSB-241, were not trained in dive bombing and used the technique of glide bombing without success. They were mostly shot down during their attack. The SBD could carry 2,250 pounds of external ordinance.

At Midway, the Navy's success with the Dauntless was due to multiple factors. The first of these was that the initial American attacks were made by torpedo squadrons from the carriers and other planes from Midway. These earlier failed attacks drew down the Japanese fighter cover to the deck, and the initial dive bomber attacks were unhindered by Japanese fighters. The second important factor was that at the time of the first dive bomber attacks, the Japanese carriers were still in the process of refueling their planes and there was aviation fuel and armed ordinance exposed on the carriers. In the span of six minutes, the Dauntless Dive Bombers attacked the Akagi, Sōryū and Kaga, fatally damaging these three carriers. Later in the day, the Dauntless Dive Bombers escorted and supported by Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter teammates, attacked and sank the Hiryū which had escaped the initial SBD attack by sailing into a rain squall.

The SBDs also caught the Midway bombardment group of four heavy cruisers, heavily damaging two of them. The Mikuma was so badly damaged that she had to be scuttled. At Midway, the SBDs were the right plane, arriving at the right time, with proper training and a good amount of luck and the rest was history. The SBDs sunk more Japanese ship tonnage of any allied plane in the Pacific theater.

A club member who served aboard a US carrier advises me that the Navy's Dauntless did not use external drop tanks such as they supplied with this model. At least not when on board the carrier, and I take him at his word.

Assembly

The plane was very nicely packed with foam inserts keeping the wings from touching during shipping. The plane arrived with all parts in great condition. I was very impressed with the design work that went into the packing for this plane!

The parts count is low, and FreeWing has done most of the assembly with servos and retracts already installed. This is more of a final assembly project. I was finished in one evening, even taking pictures and typing of some of this build section for the review.

The hardware package includes a screwdriver with two Phillip heads. The larger one fit the heads of all of the large screws perfectly. I had no slippage or stripping at all in installing the wing or the two stabilizers using this screwdriver. The smaller driver fit the screw for the bomb release. The cable is used for the decorative radio antenna between the radio mast at the cockpit and the top of the vertical stabilizer. I installed it for a picture but will install it more permanently at the Arizona Electric Festival at the end of this month.

Using page ten of the instructions, the length and count of the screws let me sort them all out. They supplied just enough for mounting the wing and tail stabilizers but I had two extra small ones and some extra clevises. By reading the manual first, I remembered page ten when it came to installing the wing: there was no mention of the screw size at that actual wing mounting portion of the instruction manual.

Wing

The wing comes in two halves, and they are joined together by sliding the wing sections onto two carbon composite wing rods. There are three sets of wires from each wing half with one set each for the flaps, ailerons and retracts. The wires from each half are joined together using three Y-harness that were supplied with the plane. Being careful to keep the wires free from being pinched between the wings, I brought the halves completely together and joined them using two plastic wing brackets; one in back and one for the front. With the fuselage in a cradle and upside down, I fitted the wing into the molded wing saddle, getting the servo and LED wires into the plane's cockpit/battery compartment. On page ten of the instructions I found the size of screws to use to secure the wing. They are different sizes for the front and the back. I secured the back of the wing with two PA3*42mm screws through the back plastic joining plate.

TIME OUT! I had to get the retracts down to install the front plastic joining plate and to install the screws through the front plate into the wheel wells. This required using the radio.

Binding the Receiver and lowering the Retracts.

To learn how to bind my receiver and transmitter in the RTF version they directed me to a series of videos that describe how the various radios are bound. Pick the one that matches your radio, and bind the two together. I must have a new radio as I didn't find one that matched mine, so it was trial and error with nothing marked as a bind button.

With the radio bound I was able to lower the retracts with a flip of the switch at the front top left of the transmitter after plugging the retract wires into one of the supplied Y harnesses and plugging the Y connector into channel five of the receiver.

Wing Assembly Continued

With the retracts down I installed the front joining clip and secured the front of the wing in place with two PA3*35mm screws. I next connected the aileron Y harness to the proper channel on the receiver as well as the flap Y-harness into channel 6. Although glue came in the kit I used some regular CA to glue the wing antenna into place on the outer front of the left wing panel bottom side.

Tail

The horizontal stabilizer with split elevators and the vertical stabilizer with rudder came fully assembled with the moving parts hinged. There was no assembly; I just needed to install them onto the fuselage.

Fuselage

The control rods for the elevator and rudder were loosened from the servo connectors to make it easier to connect them to the control surfaces. I plugged the rudder and elevator servos into the receiver and made sure the control arms were properly centered. With the fuselage in the upright position I trial fitted the horizontal stabilizer in place and then worked the split elevators back and forth to loosen up the hinges. I secured the horizontal stabilizer in place with two screws from above. Per page 10 the single PA3*50mm screw secured the front of the stabilizer and the third PA3*35 mm secured the rear of the stabilizer in place. I removed the control rod for the rudder completely from the fuselage and set it aside for later. I next connected the elevator control rod clevises to the two elevator control horns on the underside of the elevators and centered the elevators and tightened the Easy link style connector on the elevator servo control arm. This secured the two elevator control rods. The elevators were ready to work and when convinced I had them properly centered I applied a drop of fastener to the securing glue on top of the Easy link style connector.

The vertical stabilizer plugged into two mounting holes, in and in front of the horizontal stabilizer. I pushed the part all the way in and lifted and rolled the fuselage, replacing it in the cradle upside down. The back of the vertical stabilizer was secured with the fourth and final PA3*35mm screw, and the front was secured with the third and final PA3*42mm screw. Turning the fuselage back to right side up, I ran the rudder control rod back into the fuselage from the back via the tube in the vertical stabilizer. I connected the clevis on the rudder control horn and made sure the rudder and tail wheel where straight and tightened the screw to secure the control rods at the servo control arm.

Radio Installation

I secured the receiver to the side of the bottom of the cockpit just on top of the wing in about the middle of the cockpit area. This had the receiver and wires out of the way of the cockpit itself and behind the battery and ESC as well. I checked the channels for directional movement and found I needed to reverse the direction of the rudder and the ailerons. The elevator, throttle and retracts were all working perfectly. The flaps were working in the proper direction but needed some mechanical adjustment. There was easy access to adjust the flap control rods on the bottom of the wing. To get the flaps the way I wanted took a little adjustment and effort but more on that later.

Completion

I installed the bomb and bomb rack in place. The rack screws in front of the wing, and there is a magnet to help hold the bomb in place in a fitted connection. The bomb rack stays with the fuselage when the wing is off. I just pull the side pins out of the bomb to disconnect the bomb. The drop tanks were a tight fit, and they also had magnets to help hold them in place, but the instructions recommended using rubber cement or superglue (CA). I opted not to glue at this time. There is a tail hook in the upright and flying position, and I did glue that in place because it somewhat hides the screws securing the vertical stabilizer. Next I slid the main fuselage decorative antenna mast in place. It was a tight fit, so I did not glue it in place. A roll of small cable was also included to run from the antenna to the tail for the decorative radio antenna. I decided to save the installation of the antenna mast and cable for my plane's official coming out party at the Arizona Electric Festival. Then I put them in such a safe place I didn't find them until I got home and unpacked. DOH!

The instructions give the plane's Center of Gravity (C/G) as between 90-105mm from the wing's leading edge as shown in a picture on page 12. I had to add ballast to the front of the cockpit to obtain either end of this range. SOME BALLAST IS REQUIRED when using the included 25-C, 4-cell battery pack in the RTF version.

Ballast

There are a variety of ways to add ballast to a plane. With the space at the front of this plane's cockpit I used a method that lets me easily change the weights and thereby change the plane's C/G. I added Scotch Fasteners to a variety of fishing weights that, for this project, weigh from 2-5 ounces. I glued the Scotch Fasteners in place on the backside of the lead weights. This way I could still read the number on the front of the weight. I glued the matching Scotch Fasteners to the the front and front side walls of the cockpit at the front of the battery tray. I also glued Scotch Fasteners to the battery tray and fastened Scotch Fasteners to the bottom of the battery as the full forward position of the battery gave the battery strap little to strap in. After the glue had dried I fitted my weights into place and balanced the plane. I set the C/G to the 90mm balance position which is at the front of the recommended C/G range and installed two weights at that point. The weights are held in place first with the Scotch Fasteners on them and on the back of the front wall and also secured by the flight pack battery which is secured right behind them. To balance the plane at 90mm back from the leading edge of the plane where I secured the weights required 7 ounces of ballast. It also required substantial up elevator to fly the plane. Next flight was at 5 ounces with a lot less trim of up elevator. Then I went down to 4 ounces. At 4 ounces of ballast my Dauntless required a few clicks of down trim elevator for level flight. This was the proper C/G for me and my Dauntless, and she handles the weight without any problem. She flies very nicely balanced like this as seen in my video below.

The control surface travels were given on page 8 of the instruction manual and two of them were as shown below. I think the last one is supposed to be rudder.

Recommended Control Surface Throws

  • Aileron: Up 8mm, Down 10 mm 30%, Expo
  • Elevator: Up 8mm, Down 10 mm, 35% Expo
  • Taileron: ? A new way to say rudder? Go for 100% of the side to side movement.

The standard throws I got for: aileron, elevator and rudder all worked fine.

Flap Adjustment

EPO foam is a great material for making planes but it has an area of weakness in connection with some parts. That has included the bomb doors on the B-25 and B-17 bombers and on split flaps. The foam sometimes curls a bit on the outer edges. The split flaps on the Dauntless look great when extended. Just check out on the picture below.

But mine didn't close as tight as I would like nor did they close directly where I would like. I would have wanted them to close completely as if "one" with the rest of the wing top and bottom. See the picture below.

The three pictures below were taken off of my monitor from Pete's video on the SBD-5 Dauntless. You can see the video as i posted it below. The flaps were not perfect on Pete's plane but they closed pretty darn well. If I could get that much closure I would be happy.




With a little effort I believe I improved both the function and the appearance of my diving flaps, and I am sharing what I did to improve them on my plane. The flap hinges were very stiff, and the control rods were very flexible, which is a bad combination. Fortunately, the control rods can be detached from the servo by the turn of a screw on each side under the wing. I loosened these two screws and worked all of the hinges (including the center section) on the flaps up and down to loosen the hinges and make the hinges more flexible. I closed the hinges as tightly as possible and then tightened the screws securing the control rods. Since they pull forward for closure, their flexibility only effects how far the flaps open and after working the hinges to loosen them up that worked fine both on the ground and in operation.

Making a Working Bomb Drop

I noted that there was a lot of exposed wing foam in the center of the fuselage. This is reflected in the length of the removable cockpit pictured below. Only the front where the foam is thinner is taken up by the battery compartment. Additionally, there is about an inch of space between the wing and the bottom of the cockpit for the receiver, the servo wires and for the installation of a possible bomb drop. I didn't have time to install a working bomb drop but I believe it is definitely possible with an after market servo controlled bomb drop or making my own servo controlled bomb drop. However, for now I am sticking with the decorative bomb.

Flying

Basics

The SBD-5 Dauntless has proportional control of the ailerons, elevators, rudder and throttle. Channel five controls the retracts and channel 6 operates the split flaps on a dial on the top right of the transmitter with the RTF version of the plane. Once up to a good air speed the plane handles very nicely. Remember that she is a warbird and don't try and fly her too slowly. As long as I kept up speed from 5/8s to full throttle she handled very well. I didn't try to fly her really slow.

Taking Off and Landing

On takeoffs the motor pulls the plane towards a roll to the left and this requires some right rudder or right aileron on takeoff to counter this pull. This is only necessary until the plane gets up to a good flying speed. All takeoffs should be into any existing wind. Takeoffs are not hard with the plane properly balanced on the C/G but I must be ready to apply a little right rudder.

Landings should be made with power on. This is not a plane to try and glide in for a landing. With power on and with a gradual descent the plane is not hard to land. The dive flaps actually do help to make the landing of the plane easier. All landings should be made into any existing wind.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

The plane can perform loops and rolls and handles well with throttle from 5/8s to full power. Perhaps the best looking maneuver is performed at altitude with a half roll into a dive with the dive flaps extended and throttle reduced. Start to pull out and increase throttle and close flaps and you can imagine the bravery it took for the pilots to dive their planes at enemy ships. If flown too slowly she becomes much less responsive in her handling so I keep her speed up. Flown properly she is fun to handle and I greatly enjoy watching her in the sky.

Is This For a Beginner?

NO! This plane requires the skills of an intermediate or better pilot for the takeoffs and landings as described above. In flight she handles very well but she flies more like a warbird then a trainer plane so I do not recommend her for a beginner.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery













SBD Over Pasadena

The first video is an embedded You Tube video produced by fellow E Zoner drumbum and is posted here with his gracious permission. He has added some interesting sound to this short video which was originally posted in the discussion thread for the SBD-5 Dauntless plane in the Electric Warbird Forum. To see more of his You Tube videos look him up there as dragondrummer33.

The SBD-5 Dauntless at The Arizona Electric Festival

In Arizona she attracted a lot of attention and was flown by my friend Dan so I could get some more pictures and video. As mentioned above I had taken off the antenna mast and stored it in a safe place. I finally found it when I unpacked back home. She was flown in Arizona with four ounces of ballast and handled very nicely. At four ounces there was a bit of down elevator for level flight and she is handling the weight nicely so I am keeping her as is.
















My Video: The SBD-5 Dauntless patrols the skies above Apache Junction at the Arizona Electric Festival.

Downloads

Pete's You Tube Video of the Dauntless

Pete does a very nice job with the videos of his products. The videos show the planes in action to let us know how the plane flies. Also Pete shows full flights not short three second bursts so you can really see how she handles. As seen below the Dauntless flew well in Pete's hands.

Conclusion

My plane arrived in perfect shape and was quick and easy to assemble. She looked beautiful without my adding any additional details or weathering to her. I wish I hadn't added the supplied decorative wing antenna before going to the Arizona Electric Festival as I managed to break off that antenna. DOH! My error! With the plane ballasted in the forward C/G position there was just a little left pull on take off that was easily countered with some right rudder. Having the C/G further back made the plane's pull to the left a little stronger during takeoff. I am happy with the forward to middle C/G range from 90mm -100mm back from the leading edge of the wing position. During the test flying I had a few dumb thumb moves and twice expected major damage but she took a licking and kept on ticking. I only lost the wing antenna with a bad landing. I was honestly impressed that she otherwise survived my mistakes ... twice!

The plane is affordable, sufficiently well powered, looks great and comes with retracts. Properly balanced she handles well and looks very scale in the air. I am very happy with the looks of the flaps open and have accepted the improved closed position I have been able to get with the flaps. I really liked drumbum's high speed passes with sound added. The flaps required a bit more work than I would have liked to get closed but that may have been the luck of the draw. She can do a very nice dive and the flaps deployed look great in a dive. When I get a little more practice in with her I might be tempted to modify her to have a dropping bomb. I was surprised that I easily get five minute plus flights with only a 2200 mAh battery. I am happy with my present setup with 4 ounces of ballast and won't be making any major changes. Those that have seen her in the air also liked what they saw. For more speed I can switch to a two blade prop but I like the looks of the three blade prop that comes with the plane.

Pluses

  • Well packaged and arrived in great shape
  • Lots of nice scale details, looks great
  • Low part count and quick assembly
  • 4-cell 2200 battery pack works well to power the plane
  • There is limited room for a larger battery I recommend 4-cell 2500 as the plane needs more forward weight anyway
  • Wing is pretty easy to attach at the field with three sets of wires, the LEDs and just four screws
  • The split diving flaps look great when deployed
  • The plane is tough as she took some abuse and weathered it well in this review
  • Properly set up the plane is a sweet flyer

Minuses

  • The split flaps needed some work and TLC to get closed as much as possible
  • I managed to break off the decorative wing antenna
  • The Dauntless does not come with a working bomb drop

Thanks

My thanks to my friends Dick Andersen and Dan for their help with the media for this review and to our editor for her help with the review as well.

Last edited by Angela H; Jan 31, 2013 at 02:10 PM..

Discussion

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Old Feb 21, 2013, 02:12 PM
Registered User
Springfield, VA
Joined Feb 2000
1,078 Posts
Nice review. However, given there are different ways to add ballast, it would be much more useful to state your final CG location (as a distance from leading edge) than to say 4 oz was my final weight. Pete M
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 02:14 PM
Field of Dreams Flyer
Mikemynameis's Avatar
San Pedro,Ca
Joined Sep 2004
7,890 Posts
Doing the flap mod so the flaps and dive flap cant be used different ways
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 02:51 PM
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Prescott, Arizona
Joined Feb 2010
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Might not need ballast with a 4s 3300.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 03:30 PM
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Drttrack97's Avatar
United States, NY, Hyde Park
Joined Aug 2012
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I love this plane but want to hear more about it before I pull the trigger
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 03:36 PM
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MRGTX's Avatar
United States, CT
Joined Aug 2005
1,920 Posts
Thorough, well written, enjoyble review as always!

I want one of these! Possibly my next plane.....
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 03:59 PM
Field of Dreams Flyer
Mikemynameis's Avatar
San Pedro,Ca
Joined Sep 2004
7,890 Posts
Another thread on the plane right here
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1724521
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Old Feb 22, 2013, 10:26 AM
BadPilot
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United States, IL, Downers Grove
Joined Nov 2007
1,705 Posts
Michael,

Loved the sound effect added in of a real plane!!!! Wonderful review, great work!!

John
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Old Feb 22, 2013, 04:01 PM
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United States, NV, Pahrump
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Enjoyed the review
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Old Feb 24, 2013, 10:03 AM
Serenity Now!
jbrundt's Avatar
O'Fallon, MO, USA
Joined Jan 2001
1,315 Posts
Good review....

one nit: the "decorative wing antenna" is actually a pitot tube used for the airspeed indicator on the full size plane.
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Old Feb 24, 2013, 10:21 AM
Addicted To Flying Foam
kman24's Avatar
United States, NE, Bennington
Joined Jan 2010
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Awesome review Sorry for the off topic, but how come these reviews don't show their content on the mobile version of RCG?

Kman
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Old Feb 24, 2013, 10:23 AM
Turn up the G's !!!!
dskalski's Avatar
United States, VA, Virginia Beach
Joined Jul 2010
605 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by pmisuinas View Post
Nice review. However, given there are different ways to add ballast, it would be much more useful to state your final CG location (as a distance from leading edge) than to say 4 oz was my final weight. Pete M
CG is based on calculations of the wing and distance from the tail and all the good stuff. So, the CG doesn't move. If you move the balance point forward or back the CG point doesn't move with the balance point, you are just making it nose heavy or tail heavy. So saying he added 4oz of lead for correct balance is in fact correct.
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Old Feb 24, 2013, 03:10 PM
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USA, AZ, Phoenix
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Once again Mike you did a great job with the review!
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Old Feb 24, 2013, 03:13 PM
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Springfield, VA
Joined Feb 2000
1,078 Posts
Look up the definition of center of gravity--it most definitely does move with the addition of weight. By definition the balance point is in the same plane as the CG. The trick is to get the balance point where you want the CG to be. So what is needed is a reference point (like XX mm back from leading edge) so you can get the balance point and CG there. Saying 4oz gets the correct CG works only if your model is exactly the same as the test model and you put the 4 oz in exactly the same place and the same way. Looking at how Michael did it, seems it may be possible to put weight in the cowl. Since it would be farther forward, you would not need 4 oz to get the same balance point/CG--it would be less.

But saying the CG doesn't move is just wrong. Where you want it may not move, but the actual CG is going to change every time the amount of weight in the nose or tail changes...Pete M
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Old Feb 24, 2013, 03:33 PM
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United States, FL, Sarasota
Joined Dec 2010
320 Posts
Great job with the review. It's amazing what these foamies are starting to look like. When I saw the first picture, I thought it was a giant scale gasser! Amazing scale detail and I bet this will be a good seller since there aren't any or many dauntless foamies for sale.
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