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Great Planes Curtis Hawk P-6E .91-1.20 ARF Review, Jointly with RC Report Magazine!

Dick Pettit reviews the gorgeous new Curtis Hawk P6E..."a Last of Its Breed Bipe and a First-Of-Its-Kind ARF". He finds her to be surprisingly light, amazingly well constructed, and nothing short of a joy to fly. "I have to admit that I have never assembled any other kit as fast with absolutely no problems with parts fit or applicability. Each and every part fits perfectly and every part is suitable for use on a plane of this size and type." (Thanks to RC Report for sharing this project with us!)

Splash

Introduction


SPECS:AdvertisedMeasured
Wingspan, Top:76"76.125"
Wingspan, Bottom:63"63"
Wing Area, Top, Sq. In.:852886
Wing Area, Bottom, Sq. In.:589634.5
Wing Area, Total, Sq. In.:14411520.5
Wing Loading:22-26 oz/sq. ft.20.83 oz/sq ft.
Weight:14-16 lb13lb 12 oz.
Length:59.75"60.5"
Recommended Equipment:
Servos:5 hi-torque standard, w/ extensions
Transmitter:4+ channel
Engine:.91-1.08 2-stroke
.91-1.20 4-stroke
Tested Equipment:
Servos:4 Hitec HS-475BB servos
1 Hitec HS 325 servo
Transmitter:Futaba 7C PCM
Flight Pack:1650mah 5-c NiMH
Engine:OS 1.20 Surpass III 4-stroke
Prop:APC 18x6 Wide
APC 17x6 Standard
Spinner:Tru-Turn Prop Hub & Adapter
Fueling:DuBro Fill-It Fueler System
Manufacturer:Great Planes
Available Online From:Tower Hobbies

A Brief History of the Hawk...

  • "Deliveries of the P-6E began in December 1931.
  • The company designation for the P-6E version of the Hawk was Model 35.
  • Structural refinements had brought the empty weight of the P-6E down to 2715 lbs.
  • Gross weight was 3436 lbs.
  • Maximum speed was 193 mph at sea level.
  • Initial climb rate was 2480 ft/min.
  • Service ceiling was 23,900 feet and range was 244 miles."

“The P-6E was quite a good-looking airplane, and became the most famous of the Hawk line of biplane fighters. It is perhaps the best-known of all the "between wars" Army pursuits. In a flyoff against the contemporary Boeing P-12B, the P-6E was faster, but the P-12B was more maneuverable. The good speed of the P-6E was counterbalanced by some unsatisfactory handling characteristics which made it sluggish in response to controls. The 700 hp Conqueror engine was exceptionally powerful for its day, but it had many minor and some major faults which needed to be corrected.”

“P-6Es served from 1932 onward with the 1st and 8th Pursuit Group, flown by the 17th, 94th, and 33rd Squadrons based at Selfridge Field, Michigan and at Langley Field, Virginia. They were kept in service until 1937. The shapely wheel spats for which the P-6E is best remembered today were often replaced in service with a set of open-sided wheel fairings, especially in later years. In Army service, the P-6Es were involved in numerous accidents which claimed no less than 27 of the 46 examples built. The Army's P-6Es rapidly became obsolete as the 1930s wore on. Instead of being given expensive overhauls when they were called for, the P-6Es were allowed to deteriorate and wear out in service. One by one, they either wore out or were scrapped, or else they crashed. However, at least one survived into 1942.

Here's a quote from the Great Planes web site describing their 1/5 scale model of the beautiful Curtis P-6E Hawk:

"Last of the Breed" Bipe (and a first-of-its-kind ARF!) “By the time the P-6E was introduced, the era of flamboyant trim schemes and fabric-covered wood biplanes was already giving way to the mass-produced, all-aluminum monoplanes of the future. Today, only a single P-6E remains. And in all of R/C, there’s only one way to enjoy its graceful lines and brilliant colors — this one-of-a-kind ARF from Great Planes.”

The 76” wingspan model made its first public debut at the 2005 AMA Nationals and I thought it was an entry in Scale R/C competition. Little did I know it was a prototype model of an ARF -- the Hawk now available in ARF form from Great Planes. I put my order in for this particular model early, even before it was listed as being available for sale and it’s a good thing I did, since it was practically sold out when the first shipment arrived at Great Planes. But, one fine day, the airplane truck stopped at the shop and dropped off a very large shipping box, inside of which was the Curtis P-6E Hawk and just about everything else needed to put it together.

Here’s what I found:

Kit Contents

Kit Contents:

  • Upper and lower wing panels, fuselage & tail surfaces all covered in Top Flite Monokote,
  • painted fiberglass cowl,
  • cockpit,
  • painted pilot figure(!),
  • fin fairing and landing gear fairings,
  • wheels, axles,
  • all necessary control linkages with 4-40 hardware,
  • fuel tank with internal plumbing,
  • all the needed nuts, screws and bolts,
  • self-stick graphics sheet,
  • 34 page illustrated instruction manual.

Items needed to complete:

  • Engine,
  • prop,
  • spinner hub,
  • fuel tubing,
  • 4 channel (minimum) radio system with 4 standard size (54 oz-in or more) servos, 1 standard servo (throttle),
  • basic hobby tools

FIRST GLANCE

After opening the huge (53” by 17” by 15”) kit box, I found a plethora (ya like that word, eh?) of beautifully covered and painted parts. There were no visible wrinkles or bubbles in the Monokote covering, although it will be perfectly normal if several may show up later on as the plane is heated and cooled in the workshop. I rate the covering job to be well above average. The paint job on the cowl and those beautiful wheel fairings with integral wheel pants is absolutely beautiful also. I followed the parts listing in the manual and really did check each and every part off the list as I removed it from the box. Well, maybe not all those tiny washers and screws, but it looked like everything was there.



The paint job on the cowl and those beautiful wheel fairings with integral wheel pants is absolutely beautiful also.

...Something I immediately noticed was the weight of the parts, or should I say the lack of weight...total weight of all the parts...is 9.78 lbs....



As I continued to read the manual, I glanced at the box label to find several differences in the Hawk’s specifications. They are not all glaring differences, like the fuselage being listed as ¼” longer on the box. However, the weight is listed as 12 to 14 pounds on the box and 14 to 16 pounds on the manual’s cover. I consider that to be a significant difference. You can see in the specs to the right that my kit ended up in the lower weight listed on the box. Terrific!

Something I immediately noticed was the weight of the parts, or should I say the lack of weight. I usually weigh all the parts found in any ARF kit to predict what the total weight of the plane will be. As an example the huge round fuselage weighs only 2.5 pounds, the upper wing panels, both of them, weigh a little over a pound and a half and the stab and elevator halves weigh 5.4 ounces. The total weight of all the parts in the box is 9.78 pounds, adding 31 ounces for the OS 1.20 Surpass and maybe 2.5 pounds for radio equipment with onboard glow driver, we’re looking at a finished weight in the 14 pound range. That’s something to look forward to...and I was thrilled to achieve Let’s get started, eh?

Assembly Process

(It’s 3:30 PM on Thursday afternoon, just as a time reference)

First on the list is to run a covering iron all over the parts to shrink the wrinkles and bubbles away, but since none were found, I’ll skip ahead. They might show up later on. I hope that don’t bring their friends.

I chose to cut the hinges from the supplied material a bit larger than suggested since there were only four of them per aileron. I also found that the hinge slots seemed to be cut with a round tool since the slot was deeper in the center than on either side. A quick pass with my Great Planes Slot Machine made the slots the perfect depth.

In the wing panel joining process, I usually wind up cleaning off more epoxy than I put on. This time, I ran a piece of masking tape at each wing root and taped the plastic shipping bags back into place to guard against epoxy fingerprints on the Monokote. When the plastic bags were removed, VOILA! No fingerprints!

I hate fairings with a passion! But this one was relatively simple to fit. There’s a first time for everything, I guess. The white plastic exposed by the cutting and trimming process was hidden with the use of a black marking pen on the edges of the fairing. It roughly resembles a black gasket between the fairing and the fin and stab. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The tail wheel wire and bushing had to be epoxied to the rear of the fuselage after cutting the proper holes and slots in the appropriate pieces. This is detailed in a small addendum sheet included in my kit.

It’s now 8 PM on Thursday evening and the total time from opening the box to this point was just about 4 hours with an hour off for dinner.

(Back to work on the Hawk. Friday afternoon, 4:30 PM)

Remembering that I had read that a pound of nose weight was necessary to balance the Hawk even with the OS 1.20 Surpass, I began to consider what could be placed on the engine box to offset this additional weight.

I chose to measure the distance from the firewall to the nose of the cowl to be used when mounting the engine on the mount, instead of just following the dimensions listed in the manual. The measurement I got was almost half an inch longer than stated in the manual, but that will put the engine a bit more forward, lessening the need for nose weight...

Its time to quit for the evening. It’s 8 PM and after a dinner break, the total time to this point is about 6 ½ hours.

(Saturday morning, 8 AM and back to work!)

The instructions recommended mounting the switch inside the cockpit, which has worked well.

NOTE: The aluminum tubes supplied with the fuel tank wouldn’t allow fuel line barbs or even wire to be soldered to them, which could've added a safety measure preventing the lines from slipping off.

Each aileron servo has its own servo wire that runs down into the fuselage through a disconnect plug and socket, making it easy to set the system up for flapperons and differential aileron throws.

Mounting the wings:

  • The lower wing is bolted to the fuselage using the supplied nylon bolts and is secured at the front with the plywood root rib extensions.
  • I located the small holes in the covering that indicated the locations of the strut mounting blind nuts, and I opened these fully using an old tip on my soldering iron.
  • Small metal brackets bolted to the upper and lower wing panels and the interplane struts then bolted to the metal brackets on the lower wings only.
  • The cabane struts then bolted to the center of the upper wing.
  • The top wing was then placed on top of the interplane struts and the struts bolted to the upper wing.

This sounds like a whole lot of bolting but it really doesn’t take that long to complete.

With the upper wing loosely in place, I checked that it was square to the lower wing and fuselage and then drilled the holes for the lower part for the cabane screws. Again, everything fit perfectly and the mounting screws were installed, the interplane strut bolts tightened and the wing structure was just about complete. There were no specific instructions for which bolts to remove when taking the wings off the fuselage, but I’d rather remove just a bolt and washer with one tool (ball driver) rather than a bolt, washer and safety nut with two tools (ball driver and a pair of pliers). I’d also rather just drop only the bolt rather than the bolt and the nut.

Now for the most complicated part of the assembly process, the carrying handle that consists of 22 pieces of laser cut plywood, 4 bolts and 4 blind nuts. It all assembles easily using thick ZAP and a little accelerator, and even quicker if you don’t ZAP the wrong parts together and have to cut out a new one from scrap plywood. Who would do such a thing? In any case, the carry handle holds the interplane struts and bolts securely to the cabane and allows easy handling from the shop to the car without holding the plane by its tail.

(Time now is 12:00 Noon on Saturday. Another 4 hours of work on the Hawk for a total of 10 ½ hours.)

The dreaded “Nose Weight Box” was assembled and readied for the balancing operation.

Now that everything other than the dummy flying wires was installed, I decided to actually check the balance of the Hawk. With the cowl and prop in place, I marked the recommended balance point on the underside of the upper wing, held my breath and picked up the Hawk with my fingertips at this location. Upon opening my eyes, the plane was just about level and well within the range of balance locations as stated in the manual. This was done with no added lead at the nose. I had only added the receiver and glow plug batteries and the throttle servo on the engine box. I was really happy at this point!

Now for another milestone, the total weight of the Hawk. If you remember, I had said that the manual stated one weight range and the kit box stated another range. The middle point of these two ranges was 14 pounds. When placed on my digital postal scale, the completed Hawk weighed 13 pounds 12 ounces, and I was even happier than before.

It was time to take the almost completed Hawk out to the driveway (the grass was still damp) and run the OS 120 Surpass engine for the first time. I had charged both the receiver battery and the glow battery, so all I needed to do was fill the tank (once I switched the fill line and vent line) turn on the radio system, prime the carb and give it a brisk flip. It sputtered on that first flip but sprang to life on the second one, and soon it was running at a good RPM for breaking in the engine.

I let it run for about 10 minutes at a rich carb setting, and then revved it up, only to find that it was lugging a little with the 18-6 APC wide blade prop. I switched to a 17-6 model, restarted the engine and this time it responded with a better sounding high speed run. The idle speed was adjusted and after leaning the low speed needle, I had it ticking over at about 2000 RPM without the plug being lit. I let it run at about 5000 RPM and set quite rich for the remainder of the tank, and it ran another 20 minutes that way. I filled the tank once more and taxied the Hawk in the grass and down the street, finding it steers straight as an arrow and responds to quick bursts of power very nicely. Again, I was happy with the results.

Installing the Rigging Cords:

  • I drilled holes in the structure where the rigging is to be inserted;
  • Applied a drop of thin ZAP on the cord end to harden it;
  • Slipped this end into the hole, bonding it in place with another drop of ZAP.
  • The loose end will loop around the strut and attach back at the fuselage at the field.
  • Assembly at the field simply requires remembering which rigging cord goes around which strut and they automatically result in the correct locations.



So far, I have spent a little over 12 hours assembling the Great Planes Curtis P-6E Hawk and I have to admit that I have never assembled any other kit as fast with absolutely no problems with parts fit or applicability. Each and every part fits perfectly and every part is suitable for use on a plane of this size and type. It’s good to see such a great plane coming from, well, Great Planes.


Flying

The Great Planes Hawk needed only about a hundred feet of grass runway to become airborne. I held up elevator a little too long and the plane popped off the ground at a rather high angle, but it was under complete control.

Flight testing began with low speed performance, with full up elevator to show if the balance point was set correctly. At this setting, the Hawk just mushed through the air at high idle power, with no tendency to fall off to either side. After adding some power, I climbed to a safe altitude and tried a loop and a roll, finding both to be exactly as the book says they should be. But a great big barrel roll looked best of all! I did a few stall turns and some low altitude passes for the cameras and decided that the Hawk was a really good looking and flying model. The spectators also agreed with me in this respect.

I set up a landing approach and aimed the Hawk towards the upwind side of the field, cut power a bit more and flared at the point of the wheels touching the runway. It was a pretty good three point landing, only to be spoiled by a gust of wind at the very end that plopped the nose onto the ground.

After checking for loose or missing parts, I fueled up the tank, started the engine and handed the transmitter to one of the pilots at the field to get his impression of how the Hawk flies. By the way, this pilot’s name is Wayne Parrish, former full scale aerobatic pilot and now R/C scale pilot. I had the video camera ready to go and Wayne asked if it was OK to start. “Of course it’s OK,” I answered and off he and the Hawk went. Wayne basically flew the plane around a few circuits trying to get a feel for what it could do and then made some low sweeping passes for the cameras. Even through the camera viewfinder, the Hawk looked absolutely beautiful. I asked Wayne for some comments and he said things like “Plenty of power”, “really good control response” and “I like this plane!” He made a slow inverted pass, using only about ¼ throttle and his comment was that it needed only a touch of down elevator to stay level.

He set up a landing and touched down at the center of the runway with the Hawk stopping within a couple hundred feet. He then commented that he had promised himself not to get any more airplanes until his present project was completed, but that he might have to change that promise after flying the Hawk.

The next flight was made by another friend, Rick Cawley, and he echoed the feelings about the plane that Wayne had made. He said that there was plenty of power for a plane of this size and type and that it responded crisply to all control inputs. Since the Curtis Hawk was not an all-out aerobatic or 3D type plane in real life, we made no attempt to fly anything like those type maneuvers. Rick did do some Cuban S’s, split S’s, rolls and loops, all resulting in the type of maneuvers you’d see on a newsreel film of the full scale Hawk flying in a 1930’s airshow. Big round loops, slow rolls, Hammerhead turns, and other similar maneuvers were all part of the Hawk’s repertoire and the Great Planes Hawk is able to do them all with grace and dignity.

With the threat of snow becoming greater as the late afternoon sun was slowly setting in the West, it was time to pack up and head for home, but it would be a good ride because of the flights made with the Great Planes Curtis Hawk. Nothing but positive comments were heard and I am quite sure that at least several of these kits will be ordered as a result of the flights we made on this cold and gray day.

Downloads

Conclusion

The Great Planes Curtis P-6E Hawk ARF was an excellent kit to assemble and fly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, everything fits. It’s good when that happens. The quality and suitability of each and every part in the box is perfect for a plane of this type and size. It can be powered by engines within the power range suggested in the manual, it goes together quickly and easily and there are no major assembly problems. Some of the data supplied such as recommended weight range and surface areas are not quite right, but that’s about all I found to be incorrect. That kind of quality and workmanship are not found in every kit available today, but it certainly is found in the Great Planes Hawk.

I suggest you take a look at the Hawk and get one for the upcoming airshow season. You’re gonna love this one!

Ups:

  • Smooth and graceful flying model,
  • lands and takes off at jogging speed,
  • very stable at all power levels,
  • excellent quality materials and craftsmanship,
  • above average covering application,
  • fiberglass parts well formed and painted,
  • very complete kit,
  • relatively light for a plane of this size and type,
  • everything fits!!!

Downs:

  • The measurement to mount the engine was ½” too short.
  • Differences in specifications between manual and box label
  • Hinge slots were not cut deep enough

Editor's note: A special thanks to Dick Pettit and to RC Report Magazine for making this a joint project. For a different slant on the same write-up, in a magazine copy you can keep handy any time, please pick up an RC Report!

Discussion

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Old Jan 23, 2006, 07:07 PM
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jfassino's Avatar
Peoria, Illinois, United States
Joined Sep 2003
430 Posts
Great review and enjoyed the video. Would love to have one of these. Thanks for the great review.

Jim
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Old Feb 08, 2006, 01:26 PM
Just Happy To Be Here!!!
harrymc's Avatar
United States, AL, Tuscaloosa
Joined Nov 2004
1,678 Posts
Great review! And as a result of it, I'm currently building one and referring back to the review often. Such a beautiful bird!
Thanks,

Harry
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Old Jan 31, 2007, 03:54 AM
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Joined Dec 2003
7 Posts
A word of warning about mounting the cabane to the fuselage on this plane do not use the recommended/supplied half inch screws as they are too short as I lost my Curtis Hawk on the third flight when the cabane screws pulled. When we examined the wreckage the screws only barely penetrated the hard wood rail as there it a square piece of one eight inch thick ply glued to it to locate the cabane. When you allow for the cabane thickness and the piece of ply you only have about a quarter of an inch screwed into the hardwood. I also have a GP Stearman which has the same fixing but the screws supplied are of a different type/make and this plane has about 30 flights on it with no problems.
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Old Apr 20, 2007, 05:06 PM
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Joined Apr 2007
3 Posts
Question

I'm building the kit and EVERYTHING you've said I've found to be true! My one question is there a need to fiberglass the center section of the wings? Or the outboard struts enough extra support. I do have a 1.20 4 stroke in it and I fly Very conservatively.
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Old Apr 21, 2007, 02:47 PM
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Joined Dec 2003
7 Posts
If you bolt the cabane to the fuz there is no need to glass the center section. I have built and flown the replacement Hawk which my LHS replaced free of charge and have no problems, just remeber bolt the cabane to the fuz do not use the screws supplied.
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Old Aug 05, 2007, 10:11 AM
Binkly
Central Coast California
Joined Jun 2007
10 Posts
Carry Handle Instructions

GP has added an addendum to the kit for building the Carry Handle. You do need to pay close attention to the photos in the instruction manual though. The photos in the review make it clear on how to assemble all the "assembled parts".
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Old Aug 05, 2007, 12:44 PM
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Joined Dec 2003
7 Posts
Building the carry handle wrong will not cause you to lose your Hawk in flight, it's a pity GP did not add an addendum re. the cabane mounting.!!!!!!
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Old Jun 06, 2008, 07:03 AM
Registered User
Hofterup, Sweden
Joined Dec 2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RG1416
A word of warning about mounting the cabane to the fuselage on this plane do not use the recommended/supplied half inch screws as they are too short as I lost my Curtis Hawk on the third flight when the cabane screws pulled. When we examined the wreckage the screws only barely penetrated the hard wood rail as there it a square piece of one eight inch thick ply glued to it to locate the cabane. When you allow for the cabane thickness and the piece of ply you only have about a quarter of an inch screwed into the hardwood. I also have a GP Stearman which has the same fixing but the screws supplied are of a different type/make and this plane has about 30 flights on it with no problems.
On my 5th flight the same happened to my Hawk. The upper wing fell off and I totaled the Hawk. This is a very bad solution!!!! Screws are way to short!
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Old Dec 27, 2008, 03:27 PM
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Joined Dec 2008
3 Posts
Pitts style muffler?

Has anyone tried a Pitts or Slimline muffler in this model. It looks like it might fit from the pictures. I might want to add smoke too and thought it might work with a Slimline inverted smoke muffler. Any thoughts?
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Old Feb 21, 2010, 07:33 AM
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Farmingdale, NJ
Joined Mar 2009
2 Posts
G26?

I'm thinking of running a G26 from BH Hanson in this plane. Any input?
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Old Dec 21, 2010, 03:42 PM
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Joined Dec 2008
3 Posts
Great planes has brought the kit back for a limited time!! I just saw this in the tower hobbies "tower talk" issue 1 for 2011. Get it while you can.
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Old May 06, 2011, 08:39 PM
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Joined Dec 2007
10 Posts
Anyone considered going with the DLE 20 instead of a .120 glow engine? I have an OS
.120 pumped and also a DLE 20.
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Old Oct 27, 2011, 05:59 PM
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Joined Oct 2011
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DLE 30cc

finished my P6E and first flown on 10/2/11 installed a new DLE 30cc engine
finished weight was 16.5lbs, very good power available but most of the time at 1/2 throttle [throttle curve used ] and still be able to do loops and lazy 8's.
but still has limited vertical climb 200 feet approx plus before it stops.
The DLE will cause the tail surfaces to do the monokote rattle so you will have to install flying wires on the tail instead of the fake stuff. this braces the tail very well and no more shaking.
I did install the 4x40 screws and blind nuts in the fuselage for the cabane struts changed out the 4" wheels for 4.5" wheels as the field is rough and bumpy. stock tank provides well over 30 minutes flight time with the 30cc DLE as one flight was 21 minutes and used 1/2 tank
Also installed battery charging receptacles in the wing so you can just plug-in the extension from the fuselage


tg
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Last edited by tgunn; Oct 27, 2011 at 06:12 PM. Reason: more info
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