Airfield RC A6M Zero RTF
|Flying Weight:||88.18 oz (2500g)|
|Construction:||Expanded polyolefin airframe and drop tank with a clearcoated finish; plastic scale details; composite propeller blades with plastic hub and plastic screw-on spinner; polycarbonate canopy; plastic wheels with foam tires; plastic pilot figure; steel pushrods with nylon clevises and retaining clips|
|Servos:||Seven 9g; one 25g|
|Retracts:||Airfield digital direct-drive servoless with electronic sequencing|
|Transmitter:||Airfield 2.4GHz spread spectrum sport aircraft with digital trims, servo reversing, V-tail mixing and delta wing mixing|
|Receiver:||Airfield 2.4GHz spread spectrum aircraft|
|Batteries As Tested:||Gens Ace 3300mAh 4S 20C lithium polymer with "banana plug" power connector and JST-XH balancing tap; Sky Lipo 2650mAh 4S lithium polymer with "banana plug" power connector and JST-XH balancing tap|
|Motor:||Airfield 580Kv brushless outrunner|
|Propeller:||15" scale multiple-piece three-blade with scale spinner and complete spare unit; pitch not given|
|ESC:||Hobbywing Skywalker 60-amp brushless with 5A UBEC|
|Skill Level/Age:||Intermediate/Advanced; 14+|
If there's one thing model aviation tends to do, at least where I'm concerned, is to bring out an interest in the subject being modeled.
The very first review subject which I covered for RCGroups.com was in fact a Zero, an inexpensive nitro- or electric-powered balsa/ply airframe from Nitroplanes.com which I powered with a two-stroke .25. This in turn led me to researching the fascinating history of the Zero. What goes around, comes around. I'm back to review another Zero for Nitroplanes, but oh, what a Zero this is.
Get ready for the Airfield RC A6M Zero RTF, a full five-and-a-half pounds of big, bad all-EPO electric warbird. It's available in two color schemes, a relative rarity in the ARF/RTF world. Buyers can choose either the familiar aotake green land-based version or the subject of this review, the gray carrier-based version.
This is also the full-house RTF version complete with a six-channel radio, a 3300mAh 4S li-po and preinstalled electronic sequencing retracts which are worth the price of admission just by themselves. Add to that working split flaps, preinstalled control surfaces with pinned hinges, a preinstalled pilot figure, a clearcoated paint job, working wingtip nav lights and relatively easy screwdriver assembly and the result is a jaw-dropping warbird guaranteed to impress.
Used by the Imperial Japanese Navy between 1940 and 1945, the Mitsubishi A6M series was, at the time of its introduction, the most capable carrier-based fighter aircraft in the world, the longest range single-engine fighter and among the most modern of any aircraft. It was also among the most manueverable, making it a formidable dogfighter but at the expense of the armor plating and self-sealing fuel tanks found on Allied aircraft. However, as the war neared its end, other countries were developing fighters more than capable of engaging the Zero, rendering it nearly obsolete in just a few short years of production.
The all-alloy monocoque aircraft was designed in 1937 by Mitsubishi's chief designer, Jiro Horikoshi. The A5M had just entered service, but the IJN was already seeking a replacement. The A6M series would go on to become the single most produced Japanese military aircraft to date.
Code-named "Zeke" by the Allied Forces, the aircraft was officially designated as the "Type 0 Carrier Fighter," with the "Zero" designation referring to the last digit of Imperial Japanese year 2600, or 1940, its year of introduction. The "A" designated a carrier-based aircraft, the "6" meant it was the sixth model produced for the IJN and the "M" designated it as having been built by Mitsubishi.
The aircraft represented by the model, tail number AI-102, was an A6M Model 21 assigned to the IJN carrier Akagi (hence the "AI" designation) and flown by Lt. Saburo Shindo (1911-2000). On December 7, 1941, Shindo led the second wave of attacks on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Base, Hawaii. He is credited with sending the infamous "Tora! Tora! Tora!" message, indicating the attack was a success and guaranteeing the entry of the United States into the war the next day.
A major turning point in the Pacific air theater occured on July 11, 1942 with the capture of an intact A6M Model 21. The plane's oil cooler line was hit and severed by ground fire over Akutan Island, Alaska Territory several days before. Pilot Tadayoshi Koga was killed on impact during the emergency landing when the lowered landing gear caught in the soft ground, causing the aircraft to violently flip over onto its back. The plane was recovered, restored to flying condition and was used as a means to discover the Zero's weaknesses in battle. More on the "Akutan Zero" may be found here.
Few Zeroes survived the war and even fewer are in flying condition. Perhaps the most notable is the model A6M5 Zero at the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California. Captured by the US Marines with several other flyable Zeros on Saipan on August 23, 1944, this particular Zero was flown by a number of Allied test pilots, most notably Charles Lindbergh. It was returned to flying condition in 1978 and is the only flying example in the world which retains its original Nakajima Sakae 31 radial engine. More information about this historic aircraft may be found here.
My wife Lilli and I had the good fortune to visit Hawaii a few years ago and we planned from the start when on O'ahu to take the easy drive out of the Waikiki Beach area northwest to Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona memorial is one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii, but it is also one of the most solemn and moving experiences of a lifetime. The memorial is built atop the superstructure of the sunken wreck and decorum demands silence and reverence since one is literally standing atop a tomb. Even today, drops of oil and fuel continue to seep from the ship. The drops and the resulting rainbow-colored sheen atop the water are referred to as "black tears" or "tears of the Arizona." The view to the north toward the Koolau Mountain Range where the attacks began has changed little and after experiencing the memorial, it's all too easy to imagine a squadron of Zekes coming over those mountains on the way to the base. More about the tours may be found here.
Virtually everything needed to get the Zero airborne is included:
The only requirements are:
The model arrived as most mail order models do nowadays, that is, with the display box shipped within a rugged cardboard shipping box. Airfield had an interesting idea where the display box was concerned. They use a single box lid for their entire line of both their 800mm and 1400mm warbirds, with simple check marks identifying the model on both the shipping and display boxes. It's an interesting and money-saving idea which has the advantage of being able to showcase Airfield's entire warbird lineup.
I immediately noticed that the Zero was well packed, arriving with no damage other than to one of the aircraft's most recognizable features, the "stinger" beneath the rudder which was probably crushed during the packaging process.
Another thing I noticed was the overall quality of the finish. The dreaded injection marks so prevalent on some previous Dynam subjects were virtually invisible and far smaller than those on the Dynams. The EPO was densely beaded and finished with a rugged-looking clearcoat finish which was applied over the decals at the factory. This gives them the look of having been painted on. The graphics themselves look terrific, right down to an ID stencil near the tail. The bright red rising sun emblems or hinomaru were carefully applied and any areas above the panel lines were burnished into the lines, furthering the illusion of painted graphics.
The tremendous amount of preassembly which went into the model is evident by the low parts count:
Also present were the yellow-orange rank insignia stripes on the tail and the squadron identification stripes on the landing gear covers. Airfield even did a great job of duplicating the font of the tail number. The pilot bust, instrument panel decal and canopy are all installed at the factory. The pilot is similar to those on the Dynam warbirds and while he seems to be somewhat better scaled, his skin has a weird orange tinge to it much like a botched spray-on tan and he looks anything but Japanese.
It's a nice thing that the model even came with a bust, but an upgrade to a more accurate Japanese pilot would do wonders for the already good looks of this model. Further adding to the good looks was the crisply molded cowl with its equally crisp simulated engine cylinders and the nicely detailed 7.7mm machine guns just behind the cowl.
Time to get assembling and to bring all of this goodness together.
Assembly begins easily enough with the aileron and flap linkages. Each control surface on the Zero is preinstalled with pinned hinges; no CA hinges or control surfaces hinged as an integral part of the wing or tail. Easy though it might be, the instruction sheet is not particularly helpful.
It's the first instruction sheet or book I've seen in a long time with clearly and properly translated English; only one sentence is slightly mangled. The postage stamp-sized photos are another thing altogether. The Zero requires its owner to have a few previous ARF builds under his or her belt since the photos are just this side of useless.
What makes up for that are the clearly marked and bagged hardware packages. They are a tremendous help in making the build as simple as possible.
Returning to the linkages, the servo horns must first be installed. Here's where Airfield really shines with their use of screws of slightly different lengths used to attach each horn to its backing plate. The result is as neat and as clean an installation imaginable with each screw tip barely poking above each mounting hole. There are packages for both the ailerons and the flaps and I would later discover that Airfield did a superb job of making each pushrod the proper length.
Once installed, all the horns needed were a slight reaming with an X-Acto to allow the clevis pin to pass through the center hole of each horn. Airfield even added a small piece of tubing to each clevis as a safety precaution. It's standard operating procedure in most cases, but this thoughtful touch eliminated the need for me to cut down old pieces of silicone fuel tubing.
The wing spar is next and the two halves joined together. That's a relative term since unlike a lot of other foam planes I've assembled, the wings don't key together. The somewhat cryptic step five instructs the builder to "connect the Y-cable between the main wings." Actually, there are two and both are numbered. Number one was, quite naturally, the splitter for the ailerons and number six is for the flaps.
Installing the wing to the fuselage is next. This turned out to be a real challenge between figuring out how and where to feed all of the servo leads and to try and not pinch them between the top of the wing and the bottom of the fuselage. Most of the leads fed between the one obvious hole, but not so obvious was the need to feed the gear door leads up through the hole below the ESC.
The wing is secured with four bolts and two of what are described as "Main Wing Fixed Part." These are the joiner straps which help hold the wing halves together. Something the sheet fails to mention is the orientation of the forward strap. It doubles as a bracket which allows the drop tank to be installed and removed. If the strap were installed the wrong way, the tank would face backwards.
Driving those four bolts home was easier said than done since two of the blind nuts were fouled by the cement used to assemble the fuselage at the factory. It took some work, but I finally managed to clean out the nuts, reinsert them deep in the foam below the battery hatch and successfully engage the bolts.
This proved to be the most difficult phase of the build - the rest came easy.
Step seven involves the installation of the "tail wing." This is what we know better as the horizontal stabilizer.
Like the ailerons and flaps, the twin elevators and rudder require the installation of the control horns and once more, the screws were of the proper length. The instructions don't call for the installation of the horns until step ten, but it's easier with the parts in hand and off of the airframe.
A bit of ingenious engineering went into the tail section. First, the horizontal stabilizer is installed and attached from the top with bolts similar to those used on the wing. Next comes the vertical stabilizer and rudder; these are bolted on through holes in the bottom of the fuselage.
Once more, the lack of information in the instructions left me wondering how I was going to install two pushrods in the single preinstalled ez-connector on the rudder and elevator servos. It was simpler than I thought since each ez-connector had a hole large enough to allow two pushrods to be inserted.
I wasn't going to take a chance with a cheapie little 1.5mm allen wrench to snug down these important setscrews. My Dynamite brand wrench fit perfectly with no slippage. I was tempted to use some blue threadlocker on the setscrews, but none was called for and I wanted to be able to get those screws off at a later date if necessary. I'll just make it a point to check the screws before each flight.
Back at the tail end, the rods terminate in a 90-degree bend which fit through the control horns and are held in place with clip-on nylon retainers. I opted to use the center holes of the control horns once more since the servos appeared to have plenty of throw.
This is where the instructions should have said to check the proper operation of the radio system and to make sure that the control surfaces are aligned. When I did the check, I noticed that the ailerons were slightly off, but the problem was at the radio. Once the digital trim beeped to tell me that it was centered, so too were the ailerons. Airfield got the aileron pushrod lengths right on the money. A bit of fussing with the double pushrods for the rudder, aileron and tailwheel got them straight and true as well.
No control throw rates or distances are given, a really glaring omission for any model at this level of sophistication. That said, all surfaces appeared to have plenty of throw, especially the flaps. They're operated not by a switch but in a linear fashion via a knob. As shown in the video below which demonstrates a pre-production version of the Zero, the flap servos are digital and operate slowly should one's radio have a flap switch instead of a knob.
What I really wanted to see were the retracts.
They don't react immediately because of the control module, but they do react. First, the inner doors dropped down nice and slow. Moments later, the retracts themselves followed. Flipping the switch reversed the process, again taking a moment for the sequences to engage. That's something one should keep in mind when flying the Zero.
With the retracts lowered, it's easy to see the servos and linkages which operate the small doors:
Not only are the retracts one of the coolest sights in model aviation, the doors aid in keeping the retracts flush with the underside of the wing. I cycled the retracts several times, grinning like mad the entire time.
They were just too cool not to play with for a bit.
Another thing I'd hoped to see were the high-intensity LED nav lights on each wingtip. These plug into a control board which causes them to flash on and off together. The green starboard light came on, but the red port light didn't.
I contacted Bobby Guarisco over at Nitroplanes who put me in touch with Roland in the tech department. Roland, bless his heart, cannibalized a Zero from the bench (it may have been his personal plane) and sent me its red LED along with some of Nitroplanes' banana plug battery connectors I'd requested for use as coversion into adapters for batteries equipped with Deans Ultra-Plug connectors. The LEDs are available as service parts, but the result was the same. Once I installed the new LED which simply plugged in to an extension under the wing, both began flashing together once I powered up the model. According to my brother Bob who flies a business jet, the setup isn't entirely prototypical, especially for an early military subject, but it is a valid one. The fact is, they look great. Dynam has the right idea with their LEDs, but they're too small and dim to be seen outdoors. Airfield got it right all the way around since there won't be any problem seeing these in bright sunlight.
Assembling the multi-piece scale propeller and installing the remaining scale details complete the model.
Airfield provides not one but two complete assemblies, one without the stripes on the blade tips - at least on my example - and without the screws. The screws can easily be reused if necessary and it appears that spares are provided in the spare hardware package anyway.
No washer was provided on the prop shaft, so a quick trip to the hardware store for a 19-cent 8mm washer was in order, or so I thought. The propeller assembly is attached with the supplied nut and the spinner screwed on to complete the prop installation, but with the washer in place, the spinner wouldn't fully screw down. Off came the washer, on went the spinner and this time, it seated fully.
That propeller was now doubly attached, is on to stay and I'm out nineteen cents. That said, I'm sure I'll find a use for that washer down the line.
The final scale details are next and they complete the Zero. The Dynam models I've reviewed thus far for Nitroplanes have each come with one or two tubes of excellent contact cement and that's what I used to mount the communications antenna mast, the twin 20mm cannons and the pitot tube. Regular CA or epoxy would have worked just as well.
With the final details in place, I found myself looking at one of the most imposing looking model warbirds I'd ever seen and one of the nicest looking I've reviewed to date. Someone who really wants to make this model stand out could have a field day adding some oil streaks and weathering with an airbrush. I was content with the factory-fresh look.
The manual suggests a CG of 100mm behind the LE of the wing, but that distance might have made the model tail heavy based on online reports from other Zero owners. My guess was that it would balance at the high part of the airfoil with the big Gens Ace 3300mAh battery shipped with the model and placed all the way forward and I was right.
Getting that battery in place was another story.
That battery opening was intended for a somewhat smaller battery. Inserting the pack on its edge interfered with the locating tab on the canopy and trying to insert the battery face up was almost impossible.
The solution was to carefully knead some of the foam in the battery compartment, following up with some sanding with an emery stick and shaving away a very small amount of the foam with an X-Acto. This allowed the battery to fit flat in the compartment, but above the floor of the compartment. Booby Guarisco informed me that removing foam to allow the 3300 to fit was intentional and that the Zeke will handle a pack as large as 4000mAh.
A double check of the model's battery requirements on Nitroplanes.com led me to discover that the Zero would fly just fine on a range of batteries, including a 2650mAh pack. Bobby Guarisco shipped several Sky Lipo brand packs to aid in future reviews and there were two of those packs in the shipment.
These were a far better fit and the CG was still right where it should have been.
I couldn't have asked for a better midsummer Sunday morning at the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club near Thermal, California. I met club videographer George Muir for this latest video adventure and the shoot started with a brief video of the retracts in action.
After popping in one of the 2650mAh packs - and after forgetting to install the drop tank, so it isn't in any of the photos - performing a range check and a final check of the control directions, I taxied out to the runway to test the ground handling before takeoff.
It handled beautifully with no tendency to dip a wing or to understeer. It simply went where I pointed it. Even the lights on the wingtips were easy to see, adding to the realism.
The only way to see whether or not it would do the same in the air was to actually fly this bird. I wasn't sure how well a five-and-a-half pound EPO warbird with a relatively slow-revving motor would fly; I thought it would be a big, lumbering beast of a model.
Boy, was I ever wrong. The Zero hurtled down the runway and practically leapt into the air. The combination of the flaps and lack of expo made for a very responsive elevator, but it didn't take long for me to get used to the model, especially once the flaps and retracts were raised.
The Zero, simply stated, is one smooth flying plane. Bigger simply flies better and the Zero responded to the Airfield transmitter with smooth, predictable and responsive moves. Since there was plenty of control throw on tap, pulling off some rolls and a nice, big, perfectly tracked loop was nearly effortless.
I thought the pale grey camo would be difficult to track, but it stood out clearly against the blue desert sky. The Zero is a stunning design and if I thought it looked great on the ground, it looked even more so in flight. Speed and responsiveness was very close to scale; my "eyeballed" and "guesstimated" speed was close to 65MPH (104.6km/h). Not too shabby for a model with a slow-revving motor.
The landing shown in the video was my first attempt to land the Zero, so it might not have been the greatest possible landing with a warbird such as this. Heavy though the model may seem, the wing loading is rather light. Attempting to flare early will simply result in the Zero becoming airborne again. The second landing, not shown in the video started off much better, but again, I flared early after the mains came down, sending it a few inches back into the air and stalling it. The Zero came down hard enough to pop loose the decorative strut cover and door on the right retract, but closer examination of the part showed it to be held on with little more than a small amount of contact cement and clear tape wrapped around the strut. It sounds cheesy, but it's an effective way to save the parts from damage in case of a "dumb thumbs" landing.
The club has one of the longest runways in the area, so I decided to take full advantage of that fact during some future practice runs of this terrific model.
That opportunity would come sonner than expected when I returned to the field at Bobby's request. He asked if I'd give that big 3300mAh pack a try and report the results here. He further explained that fitting a 4000mAh pack is possible, but it would take some serious surgery.
The results with the 3300 were actually quite nice.
Both speed and torque seemed to be greater; it was especially noticeable on takeoff since it needed a lot of right rudder to compensate. One thing was certain, though. The Zero likes big batteries and it didn't suffer in the least. I'll need to keep that in mind during future takeoffs with that pack up front.
I was determined to land this model in the proper manner, so when it came time to bring it in, I went out long once I was sure the gear were down, dialing in just a few degrees of flaps on the final.
In she came under a slight application of power, slowly losing altitude before the mains kissed the runway about two-thirds of the way down. I let the tail stay up until enough speed bled off to allow it to come down on its own.
Now that was more like it. The landing elicited a compliment from the only other flyer at the field at the time and believe me, that was good enough for me.
The original Zero was designed to be a fearsome, highly maneuverable fighter and those attributes translate perfectly to the Airfield model version. The model will execute rolls, loops and pretty much any other aerobatic trick of which a warbird is capable.
Sorry, but no. Flying this plane requires experience. While it's true that most modelers getting started in the hobby have their sights set on a fast, fancy warbird, this is in no way a beginner's model given the speed, responsiveness and a lack of self-righting capability. Even with my own experience, the model's reaction during the landings was unexpected and something a beginner might not have recovered from. The added complexity of the flaps and retracts might make this a poor choice as an aileron trainer, but someone comfortable flying a fast, four-channel park flyer warbird should be able to fly it.
This is my video of the Zero in flight. Not the greatest landing in the world, but not bad for the first time.
|Airfield RC A6M Zero RTF from Nitroplanes.com (2 min 29 sec)|
Here's Nitroplanes' own unboxing, assembly and test flight of an ARF version:
|New Airfield 1400mm Zero FMS RC Airplane Flight Review (14 min 14 sec)|
I thought the retracts were deserving of their own video demostration:
|Airfield RC A6M Zero RTF from Nitroplanes.com Retracts (1 min 22 sec)|
It's big, it's bad, it's beautiful and it's one of the most impressive warbirds on the market regardless of manufacturer, price or construction. The Airfield RC A6M Zero RTF is a smooth flying, great handling warbird with multiple visual punches including the modeler's choice of finish along with the working split flaps, high intensity LED navigation lights and those incredible sequential retracts. It's absolutely worth putting on one's short list of warbirds and I give it my highest possible two-thumbs-up recommendation. I'll need to fly a few practice "sorties" to practice my landings, but in all honesty, that's going to be a very pleasant set of tasks.
Heck, if it's in the budget, please allow me to save you some time: Buy a Zero.
Thanks galore go once more to Bobby Guarisco of Nitroplanes and his faithful sidekick, Roland of The Technical Department.
How's that for a sidekick's nickname?
Seriously, I have Bobby to thank for making this model available for me to share with our readers - not to mention the "care package" of batteries and connectors shipped with it - and Roland was a pleasure to deal with regarding the inoperative LED.
Angela Haglund is our intrepid administrator who does all the final tweaks on all our reviews before you, our vast audience, get to enjoy them.
Thanks once more for visiting the biggest, best hobby forum on the internet and make sure you check in at Ezonemag.com often for the latest in electric flight products!
Pluses galore, including:
As for the minuses:
PS: Thanks for the nice comment, Tailskid.
So if you like to land with 25% of the battery capacity remaining on a 3000mAh battery, that'd be after 2250mAh have been used up.
You can either time your flights, starting with a short time and seeing how many mAh it takes to recharge the battery and adjusting the next flight time accordingly, or you can use some kind of telemetry to tell you how many mAh have been used up (or a LV alarm, but mAh is a better method).
Do you time your flights? If so how long did you stay in the air, and how much mAh did it take to recharge the 3000mAh battery? Assuming you flew with a mix of throttle, not always WOT and not tootling around the sky at 50% or less.
Enjoyed reading your article, but a bit more technical information like this would useful in deciding whether someone's existing batteries can be satisfactorily used, or will new ones need to be purchased.
United States, MO, Kingsville
Joined Nov 2001
I have been looking at a zero for a while now....been leaning heavy to the FMS plane as everyone talks good about it, and parts are everywhere. This one at about the same price I will have to watch....for me unless it is a far better plane at a far greater value...(price wise it is not) I will likely go with FMS.
But I will be watching this to see how others like it.
Still makes me wonder . Just look at the New Airfield P-51 and Corsair. There P-51 looks just like the FMS 1700mm , better scale looking then the 1400mm FMS version. Or the Corsair with the right wing dihedral and retractable tailwheel something FMS did wrong with the V3 .
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