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Horizon's Miss America P51 .60 size ARF Review

Ross Culp has a wonderful time building and flying this fantastic looking sport scale race ARF. He finds her to be an awesome looker, and a great flier, doing this most famous full scale Reno racer justice.

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Introduction

Contrasting colors looks great and show up well in the sky
Contrasting colors looks great and show up well in the sky
Wingspan:65.5"
Wing Area:745 sq. in.
Weight:7lbs. 14oz.
Length:55.75"
Wing Loading:24.4 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:(5) standard (1) retract
Transmitter:XP 9303
Receiver:JR NES-549
Battery:4.8v 1400mah NiMh
Engine:Saito 100
Muffler:Keleo Creations
Manufacturer:Hangar 9
Available From:Horizon Hobbies and your local hobby store

Easily the most recognizable American WWII aircraft, the North American designed P-51D was built in 1944, and was purchased from the government in 1966. It was powered by a Packard built, Rolls Royce Merlin V-1650-7, 12 cylinder engine. The original engines produced around 1,490 horse power, but engines modified for racing produce around 3,000 horse power.

The Hangar 9 model named Miss America is a sport scale model of the P-51D unlimited class pylon racer owned and piloted by Dr. Brent Hisey of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Miss America is easily one of the most recognizable of the Reno pylon racers as it is the longest consecutive running air racer, competing since 1969. In 1994 she was the unlimited class national air racing champion.

During a qualifying heat on September 11, 2002, Miss America's engine suffered an in-flight failure. This resulted in an off field landing that caused extensive damage. A complete restoration was undertaken to have Miss America ready for the next year's race. It was quite an ambitious goal to completely restore it in just one year. In May 2003 a tornado hit Oklahoma City, causing severe damage to the hangar where work was progressing causing some damage to the fuselage. Despite the many obstacles, Miss America was reassembled and made it to the Reno races in 2003, missing only her final paint scheme.

Interested in knowing more about Miss America? There's tons of great info available on the web.

Hangar 9 has picked a beautiful airplane to model with the Miss America, and I looked forward to owning and flying one of my own!

Kit Contents

The kit is typical of Hangar 9's extremely high quality arf's. By that I mean it comes with just about everything you would need to get it in the air using your engine and radio equipment.

Required:

  • Engine, prop, etc (used the Saito 100)
  • Radio equipment, including five standard size servos, and one low profile retract servo.
  • A total of 7 aileron extensions were used -- four 18" extensions, & three 6" extensions.
  • A 3.5" P-51 style spinner (used the Dave Brown aluminum spinner (DAV7235), and adapter kit (DAV6812) for the saito 100.)

The Dave Brown spinner looks great, and is very durable. The kit included a nice hardware package with all the required nuts and bolts, an adjustable aluminum engine mount, lightweight wheels, fuel tank, and pushrods for linkages. Also included are decals to trim the model with, and an extensive instruction manual.

The instructions are the same as those included with the Hangar 9 P-51 "Marie". The instruction manual was very impressive. The assembly is broken down into 19 sections. Each section consisted of several steps. Each step had detailed written instructions, and a photograph. The only minor issue with the instructions was that the model pictured in the steps has a different covering scheme. The instructions were very easy to follow so I only hi-lighted a few areas that I may have differed slightly in technique or sequence.

Assembly

Wing

I found it easier to skip ahead a few steps and mark the location for the aileron control horns first. The ailerons are very thick. Drilling the holes for the control horns and keeping them straight so the backing plate would line up was difficult when using a hand drill. Using a drill press made it much easier. The holes were then drilled, but the control horns were not mounted yet.

The hinge slots were already cut and the CA hinges were in place. Thin CA was used to secure them.

The instructions indicated that the wing bolts were 8-32 hardware, but my kit included stronger 1/4-20 bolts and blind nuts.

Keleo Creations Scale Exhaust

I chose to use a semi-scale muffler made by Keleo Creations to give the Miss America a scale looking functional exhaust. I only had to take a few additional steps to mount the new muffler.

The Keleo Creations muffler was a great addition to the looks of the Miss America. Instead of using the plastic exhaust pieces, it now had 12 functional exhaust stacks. It looked and sounded great. It worked just as well as the stock muffler, with just a slightly different sound. As seen in the pictures, the muffler has two pressure fittings. The top fitting is the normal pressure fitting that is plumbed to the fuel tank. The bottom fitting is a fuel drain, that is fitted with a short piece of fuel tubing and an included aluminum plug. When the model is fueled, the plug is removed so the fuel tank overflow will drain out of the muffler. With this muffler priming the engine could be a bit more difficult. I had no problems when an electric starter was used. Hand starting required a small hole to be drilled in the cowl just above the carburetor intake so that a few drops of fuel could be injected to prime the engine. Either method worked very well. The only drawback to using this muffler system is that both sides of the model will get a lot of exhaust residue. It is well worth the minor inconvenience for the sound and great looks though!

Kelvin Cubbison of Keleo Creations is quite a craftsman. He has designs for scale exhaust systems to fit many popular kits and ARF designs. He has exhaust systems to fit the 1.50 size Hangar 9 Mustang, the .60 size Mustangs, the .60 size Warhawk, and others are in development. He seems to always be working on new projects to increase his product line, and he even does some custom work.

Factory Installed (!) Retracts

The mechanical retracts are an updated version of those installed in the earlier Hangar 9 model, "Marie". The new retracts have a stiffer strut as well as an additional set screw adjustment to take out any side to side wobble. The retracts were factory installed, as well as the required linkages. The only thing left to the builder was to glue in the plywood plate that the retract servo is attached to, and install the servo. This area required a little additional shimming under the servo mounting lugs to fit the servo I used. It was designed around the JR 703 low profile retract servo, though many others will work with minor shimming to adjust the fit. Using the supplied quick connects, the linkages were easily installed. The landing gear doors were bolted to the gear struts with the supplied 3mm x 10mm panhead screws and lock-nuts. The screw head should be on the inside of the gear door to provide additional clearance in the gear wells.

The retracts were factory installed, including the linkages. The only thing left to the builder was to install the retract servo and mounting plate.

Fuselage

Tail

The fuselage assembly was straight forward. I chose to drill the holes for the elevator joiner wire first, as outlined in section 9, so that they could be checked for straightness on a flat surface. It was easier for me to do this first than to try to align them once the stabilizer was installed.

Engine, Muffler, and Cowl

The most time consuming part of assembling the fuselage was the installation of the Saito 100 four stroke engine. The excellent instructions and pictures made this easier. Mounting the saito inverted required only slight trimming of the cowl to clear the valve covers. The stock muffler would have required additional trimming. See the sidebar for details on the after-market stock exhaust I selected to use instead.

Radio Installation

The radio installation for the fuselage was quite easy. The servos for the elevator and rudder were mounted in the tail of the fuselage with very short and direct linkages to the control horns. After adding servo extensions to the servos, heat shrink was used to ensure that they didn't come apart. The receiver was positioned in the radio tray area behind the throttle servo. It was wrapped in foam and secured with velcro straps. The 4 cell 1400mah receiver battery was located above the fuel tank, to help achieve the proper center of gravity.

Completion

After the radio equipment was installed all that remained was to set up the radio and check the CG. After flying with the recommended control surface deflections, I adjusted them slightly to suit my preferences. The roll rate was a little slower than I liked but a good starting point. Additional rudder throw was added to ease knife edge maneuvers. The elevator was more responsive than the other surfaces, but good for tight pylon style turns. I decreased the elevator throw slightly, and still had plenty of throw. Seldom, if ever, was full deflection required except when taxiing. The center of gravity was set at the suggested point 4 3/4" behind the leading edge of the wing, measured at the fuselage side. I was able to balance the Miss America there without adding any ballast.

Surface High RateLow RateExponential
Ailerons3/4" up, 5/8" down1/2" up, 7/16" down35%
Elevator1" up & down3/4" up & down45%
Rudder1 1/2" left & right1 1/4" left & right35%

Flying

What an enjoyable sport scale plane to fly!! I really enjoyed taking off and flying a low altitude slow circle then back down the runway while retracting the gear. I never got tired of watching the gear cycle up and down. Once the gear was up, full throttle was applied to climb vertically into a stall turn. When the nose rotated around, full throttle was added to pick up speed and scream down the runway. At the end of the runway, I liked to bank the model almost knife edge and pull into a really high speed turn like the full scale pylon racers. The only thing missing was a few other unlimited pylon racers behind me! When powered with a Saito 100, the Miss America was fast enough to keep things exciting. I normally flew about a 10 minute flight and had fuel left in the tank.

Aerobatics

Though the Miss America isn't intended to be a precision aerobatic airplane, it performed most typical aerobatic maneuvers very well. Just like a full scale p-51, the Miss America can perform huge loops, long slow rolls, and just about any combination maneuver like cuban eights, immelman turns, and split esses. Inverted flight was easily sustained even with the semi symmetrical airfoil, only requiring a little down elevator input to hold altitude.

Knife edge flight requires good speed and lots of rudder deflection to maintain heading. It also requires opposite aileron control to counteract the roll induced by the large rudder deflection and a small amount of up elevator control. The Miss America will hold knife edge flight very well, but won't be doing any knife edge loops.

Stall turns required a slightly different approach also. Once the vertical lines slowed down, a slight amount of right rudder was required to keep them perfectly vertical. To keep stall turns from flopping to the belly or canopy I found it necessary to add a little more throttle than usual to provide enough rudder authority to make it rotate about the yaw axis.

Snap rolls were somewhat slow to start, but once the wing stalled, and it began to rotate, it would pick up speed quickly. Learning when to release the controls to exit on heading took some practice. By starting the snap with full deflections then releasing the elevator input, it didn't get as deeply into the snap, and was easier to control the rotation. With practice, knife edge to knife edge snaps were possible.

Taking Off and Landing

I was a little concerned about taking off of a rough runway with retractable landing gear, as it can be quite hard on the retracts. Taxiing proved challenging on the rough grass. The wheels tended to hang up in the very uneven grass, and the struts would flex back enough that the airplane would try to nose over. Once rolling, the p51 taxied fine, using full up elevator to keep the tailwheel on the ground.

Landings were much easier than I would have expected from a warbird. I flipped the retract switch on the transmitter as I flew a low slow pass down the runway to check the landing gear. Seeing the retracts lowering into place as you fly by is definitely a huge part of the fun of a semi-scale warbird. When the throttle was pulled back to idle, the Miss America slowed down very well.

I used a large diameter 15 x 8 APC prop to give it a more realistic look. The larger diameter, lower pitch prop also helped it to slow down nicely for landing. I held the mustang just about level and allowed it to bleed off speed and altitude as it settled in a predictable approach to the runway. About three feet above the ground I began a gentle flare to slow the Miss America down for an easy three point landing. The Miss America lands like a low wing sport model, with none of the bad tendencies sometimes associated with scale warbirds.

The Saito 100 always ran very reliably, and I never had an unplanned dead stick landing. I did try several dead stick landings just to get a feel for how the model would respond. The big spinning propeller generates quite a bit of drag at idle. When dead stick the Miss America glides a little better, and conserves its landing speed better. Dead stick landings were still quite predictable. By keeping the landing speeds slow, I didn't have any issues with bent struts on the retractable gear.

A few two point, or main landing gear first, landings were also made. With the increased rollout speed, the struts would sometimes bend back slightly in the rough grass causing the Miss America to start to nose over. In subsequent flights, I added a 3/32" plywood shim under the back of the retract mount to angle the gear slightly forward when extended. This solved any issues with nosing over on take off and landing. I have read that many other owners of the Miss America have further stiffened the landing gear by removing the stock struts, and drilling the retracts out to fit a larger 3/16" strut. In some cases such as an asphalt runway where ground speeds may be higher and handling more critical, this should improve handling. For my flying field and style of flying, I did not find this to be necessary.

The Miss America lands like a low wing sport model, with none of the bad tendencies sometimes associated with scale warbirds.

Is This For a Beginner?

The Miss America is not a beginners airplane. It was designed for sport pilots, with some low wing sport plane experience. The model does make a very good choice for an experienced modeler looking for their first warplane. It's handling characteristics are very docile when compared to many other models of warbirds. The Miss America has a very wide speed range, and slows down very well for landing. The retractable landing gear adds a very nice scale touch. However, the retractable gear requires your landings to be made smoothly and slowly to prevent bending struts that can cause problems with their operation. Overall, it is an excellent sport scale plane for the the average modeler.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Conclusion

The Miss America is a great sport model that I really enjoyed assembling and flying. The quality of workmanship in the kit is very impressive. The sub assemblies fit together perfectly and made the final assembly very quick and easy, taking approximately 25 hours. The finished product speaks for itself. The attractive covering scheme replicates the full scale Miss America very well, and shows up great in the air.

Discussion

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Old Nov 27, 2005, 10:30 AM
Grumpa Tom
Kmot's Avatar
United States, CA, Los Angeles
Joined Sep 2003
22,595 Posts
This is an outstanding review article. And, one of the best flight demo videos I have seen. Two thumbs up!
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Old Nov 27, 2005, 11:23 AM
Registered User
United States, NC, Mooresville
Joined Jan 2002
57 Posts
Thanks for the kind words! I'm not too good at editing video footage, and I didn't think I gave the cameraman too much to work with, so I am happy to hear others enjoyed it. It sure has been a fun airplane to fly. I really like the high speed fly by's with the gear up.

-Ross
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Old Dec 09, 2005, 05:59 PM
Registered User
Northern Ireland, UK
Joined May 2004
188 Posts
Excellent review, great piloting skills!

p
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