|Wing Area:||193.8sq” 12.5dm2|
|Wing type:||Semi-symmetrical extruded foam|
|Kit weight:||6.4oz 179g|
|AUW weight:||Advertised - 15.2oz 430g Actual -14oz 392g|
|Wing loading:||10 oz/sq. ft.|
|Servos:||2 – Hitec HS-55’s|
|Receiver:||Hitec Electron 6|
|Battery:||Poly-Quest 1800mA 3s LiPoly|
|Motor:||MP Jet AC 22/7-60D Outrunner|
|ESC:||Jeti Advance Plus 8 amp|
|US distributor:||Hobby Lobby|
For those of us in the e-flight world, the impressive Alfa line of planes has few rivals. They are nearly complete out of the box, beautifully painted and ready for radio and power system installations. I was more than thrilled to see the newest model – the F4F Wildcat. The Wildcat is not commonly modeled and it is a welcome addition to their war bird fleet. It is great to see them pick models that we do not commonly see done, and the Wildcat certainly in that category.
The review package was shipped from Hobby Lobby and it arrived in quick order. It was well packaged and the contents in the box were very well protected.
Upon opening the box it was immediately clear this has the same quality and detail work found in earlier Alfa models. The amount of pre-fabrication will make this aircraft ready to fly in short order.
The Alfa instruction sheet includes the following information about the F4F Wildcat.
"In 1935 the US Navy sought a future replacement for the successful Grumman F3F fighter biplane. Its manufacturer offered the Navy a project of the XF4F-1, again a biplane. It had a better performance than its predecessor, yet not high enough to stand comparison with the all-metal monoplane, offered by Brewster. Following the approval of the Navy the Grumman company redesigned the project to an all-metal mid-wing monoplane designated XF4F-2. The machine had rounded wing tips and empennage, enclosed cockpit and a narrow-track undercarriage retracting to the fuselage, a sort of trademark of the Grumman-designed aircraft of the period. During its tests the prototype met with serious problems stemming from the powerplant. Due to that the Brewster XF2A-1 won the contest. Grumman was nevertheless allowed to continue with the development of its new type. The new prototype, designated XF4F-3, took to the air for the first time on 12th February 1939. The machine, powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 radial, markedly differed from the previous prototypes. Its wings and empennage were angular, sporting the outlines that were to characterize the subsequent types of the Grumman company. The appearance of the prototype changed several times as a result of measurements in the NACA wind tunnel at Langley. In August 1939 Grumman received an order for the first 54 machines of the F4F-3 Wildcat. The development of the aeroplane, which, as one of the few US Navy types, served for the duration of the Second World War, documents how quick the changes in the aircraft design were in the late thirties.
The F4F-3 was armed with four wing-mounted half-inch (12,7mm) Browning M-2 machine guns. This version has borne the brunt of the combat in the early phases of war in the Pacific and was also the prototype for your model. The F4F-4 had folding wings and carried 6 machine guns. Its performance, compared to the preceding type, dropped somewhat, owing to the 318 kg increase in weight, on the other hand the folding wings saved a lot of space aboard the Allied carriers, allowing them to bring more fighters to combat. In 1942, at the beginning of the Battle of Midway, the aircraft carriers Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown had each 27 of the F4F-4s on-board.
The Wildcat also served with the British Royal Navy as the Martlet. From 1942 the Wildcat was built under license by the General Motors Corporation as the FM-1 and the FM-2. The FM-2 differed from the other Wildcats by its taller vertical tail.
Altogether about 7800 of Wildcats of all versions were built."
Included for this review:
These components are straight from the Hobby Lobby recommended list of equipment for this aircraft. Hobby Lobby does all the hard work for us making it easy to select the right equipment for success.
As with all ARF kits the builder has very little control over the final flying weight. Power system and battery can make a difference, but it is sure nice when manufacturers pay attention to the final weight of the plane.
|Fuse and tail surfaces||3.1oz||86.8g|
The power system (motor and ESC) is very light adding to the final flying weight. The servos, receiver and power system brought the final flying weight to a low 14oz. (381g). This light all up weight contributes greatly to its excellent flight performance.
This aircraft is nearly complete and truly almost ready to fly. The tail feathers are attached from the factory and the wing is in one piece. The surfaces are all pre-hinged and ready to go, no glue needed. Even the horns and pushrods are installed and ready to go! The surfaces and wing are all square, straight and true.
Done by the factory:
The builder will need to:
So for most builders 2-3 hours will have this airplane ready to fly!
Quality and accuracy is clear throughout this model -- including steps to ensure the best possible performance of the pushrods. I started the wing by removing the pushrod wire from the tubes and applied a small amount of light machine oil to the wire. Graphite would work well here also. I also bent the wire into a slight “bow” to mimic the curve of the pushrod tube. These steps, per the instructions, help the linkage work more freely.
Servo installation is very simple, but a bit unique.
When gluing servos I prefer to first wrap them with fiber stranded tape. After taping, I roughen the outer coating of the tape until the glass fibers start to just fray and then epoxy the servo with a very small amount of glue to the foam sides. Then, if I later need to re-use the servo in the future, the tape has protected the case.
Ailerons are positioned with 1mm of up in both per the instructions. This will help the slow speed stability of the plane by applying slight washout. The wing also appeared to have a small amount of washout molded in, allowing the model to slow well.
In order to accommodate the EZ connector height above the servo arm I trimmed the plastic area where the pushrod tubes enter the rear of the fuselage. This gave me a direct shot to the EZ connector with no binding. Then I used a small scrap of balsa to elevate the tubes so they would attach to the servo with no binding or bending. The tubes must be glued to provide the necessary rigidity for the thin wire pushrods.
The battery tray installation in the mid-wing airplane is nothing short of brilliant. The included die cut tray has two tabs in the front that are accepted by slots cut in the firewall. This allows the tray to remain removable. Then I simply applied the hook and loop tape to the wing top and to the bottom side of the battery tray. This allowed the tray to be removed and in turn keeps the wing easily removable. What a clever idea!
Under the battery tray there is just enough clearance for the ESC battery wires and the servo wires and plugs.
The canopy and forward section of the fuselage is removable for battery access and wing removal. The canopy is attached to the hatch and has the panel lines painted and ready to go. There is a small plastic vacuum formed pilot included. I wish I could take credit for this amazing pilot but it is good to have nice friends.
The canopy/hatch front lip simply slides under the top side of the cowl. The rear of the canopy/hatch is kept true by some pine sticks and a small dowel securing the top. To remove it you slide the whole hatch forward and expose the dowel then lift. Removal is simple and effective with no tools required, always a plus. I did find that you do need to take care when replacing the hatch area. The hatch assembly must be aligned with the wing fairings while it is replaced. This process was a bit tedious and only time will tell if the hatch has the needed durability.
The cowl is also complete, painted and ready to go. It also included a molded engine! I had a hard time getting this engine started so I decided to install the MP Jet AC 22/7-60D outrunner motor for power. The cowl can be tack glued with epoxy or taped to the fuse. Here I used clear packing tape for ease of removal if later needed. Be warned the cowl material is very thin, so use care here.
The firewall former is glued in place for you. Since I was using the smaller MP Jet motor it required an included plywood insert be glued in to fill a pre-cut hole in the firewall.
The foam is carefully painted in two colors. The decal sheets are stunning and include several different finish options. I really took my time with the water slide decals. They look excellent and add significantly to the looks of the plane. I used decal solvent to help them conform and assure they will stay put.
I choose to model Butch O’Hare #15 bird. I also applied five kill markings for the planes Butch shot down in a single day, becoming the first Navy ace of WW2. It was a hard choice, as you could also model John “Jimmy” Thatch’s plane as another choice. In fact markings are included for 5 different full scale planes! If you do not know the story behind these amazing men, spend a little time researching why we were so lucky they and many others flew this magnificent bird.
MP Jet AC 22/7-60D Outrunner
My thoughts on the motor: The motor it tiny and light but with all those turns it is easily able to handle 8-9 inch props on 3s voltage.
The MP Jet brushless motors have been around for some time now. I have used several of them in a number of applications and have been very happy with the power they offer.
The motor produced the following results:
|GWS 9x5 HD||8.5||100||11.9||7400|
|GWS 8x4 HD||6||72||12||9300|
As can be seen, this tiny motor is very strong and it gave this 14oz. airplane plenty of motivation. The bearings were smooth and the cogging was as expected. This light power system makes a great choice!
Jeti Advance 08 Plus ESC
Programmable for the following settings via the program Card
Nicad and NiMH or Lithium battery
My thoughts on the controller: The ESC performed flawlessly out of the box. It started and ran the outrunner without jerking, stuttering or hesitation. Considering the large props this motors spins that is very impressive.
After soldering my preferred Sermos/Anderson connectors to the battery end, I attached the MP Jet 1.8mm connectors to the ESC wires. These fine connectors allow for ESC or motor swaps to be made quickly.
The ESC is covered in blue shrink wrap. Wires on both the motor and battery end were the perfect length for most applications. A plus considering many ESC’s come with rather short battery and motor leads.
The ESC starts the MP Jet motor smoothly and quickly. It did not stutter or hesitate. Low Voltage Cutoff (LVC) worked properly, something I always test as our LiPoly batteries are expensive. The Jeti ESC does have programmable settings and can be changed with either transmitter stick settings or for more advanced settings via the program card. Nothing could be easier than using the Jeti program card. I used the card to change cutoff voltage to high (3v/cell). Full instructions are included with the Jeti ESC instruction sheet.
The Poly Quest 1800 battery is somewhat new to the RC scene. It is touted as a 20c pack. I do not like getting into the “C” rating debate as I leave that for the battery experts. But for this application the 5-6c draws did not even make this pack warm. Here is what the Hobby-Lobby site has to say about these Poly-Quest batteries:
“Best! All Poly-Quest "Twenty" brand lipoly packs can be discharged at a rate 20 times their capacity. Example: a 1200 mAh (1.2 Amp hour) pack can be discharged at 24 amps and a 3700 mAh pack at 74 amps continuous.
This is NOT the peak discharge rate; it is the rate that these packs can be discharged at CONTINUOUSLY.
All "Twenty" packs have a connector that plugs into the PCM guards (sold separately). The PCM (Protective Circuit Module) Guards prevent you from destroying your battery by accidental overcharging. Overcharging can ruin your battery and cause a fire.
"Twenty's" unique welding process allows packs to put out more power, and the packs have better between-cell ventilation which gives longer pack life.”
Poly-Quest “Twenty” 1800 pack
My thoughts on this pack: The pack has performed flawlessly and is very impressive. It holds voltage very well, including some testing at 22+ AMPs done with my much larger MP Jet outrunner.
Impressing me most about this battery is the venting system they use. The shrink wrap actually has cooling holes cut along the sides of the individual cells. Each cell is spaced away from the other, making the pack thicker, but allowing air to circulate between each cell. Very smart and no question they will be able to keep their cool under those higher loads.
The Alfa engineers have actually molded the CG marks into the bottom of the wing. A nice touch and it would be tough to incorrectly measure the proper CG. I found the recommended CG to be just fine. I tested with CG's slightly fore and aft with no ill effects.
With the recommended equipment the plane balanced perfectly with the battery in the forward most part of the tray. It is sure nice to see a plane that balances properly. With the very light 1oz motor used I was a bit worried about that. If you wish to use a smaller 3s battery with this light power system you will need approximately 3.5oz battery pack to balance the plane with no additional nose weight.
I used my trusted Airtronics RD8000 Transmitter for this plane. Rates were set as recommended in the manual with ailerons and elevator at 10mm. No high rates were mentioned so I set those at about 20% more throw.
I usually like 25-35% expo on ailerons and elevator, so I used 25% expo for initial values. I later changed ailerons to 15% and increased the throws to about 15mm each direction. Throws are a very personal preference however, and 10mm supplies enough for standard turns, but the rolls were a bit slow for my taste.
The flight timer was set to count down from 10 minutes. That should be plenty long with this plane and give ample time for landing before the 1800mAh batteries are depleted. In fact this 1800mAh pack would easily fly the plane for 20+ minutes!
I have long loved the lines of Grumman planes and this Wildcat is certainly no exception. With a plane this pretty you need to snap some pictures before the first flight. It has true scale lines and is a fantastic looking plane!
The Alfa F4F Wildcat is simply amazing. It lives up to the Alfa reputation of flying right out of your hand. It is totally predictable with smooth turns and maneuvers. I describe few planes as being “flawless” but this Wildcat is as close to that as any small plane that I have ever flown. If it is any indication of how much I like flying this plane, on most reviews I shoot video as quickly as possible just in case the worse case scenario crash occurs. I flew this plane at least dozen times before shooting video because it was so much fun to fly!
The Wildcat required minor elevator trim changes and those had the model flying straight and level. On first flights I make all attempts to check the basics, trim the airplane and check stall characteristics.
Well OK hand launch! The plane is very easy to launch as it is a mid wing design. This allows a good grip on the bottom of the fuselage. Full power in the launch was not needed or used. In fact power with the 8x6 APC-sf prop was set to about 60% or so. At that power level it has an aggressive climb rate.
Power from this tiny motor is simply amazing. As can be seen the 8x6 prop is a tad over 9 amps. That is a bit above the 8amp ESC and motor recommended maximum, but the motor system will rarely see full power so I am not overly concerned. I like fast planes so I generally prop using higher pitches to achieve that. The 8x6 APC-sf prop is the ticket. I also tried the 9x4.7 APC-sf and the GWS 9x5 HD propellers but the 8x6 was by far my preference.
This plane stalls very predictably for a model with a light wing loading. When stalled you simply get a nose drop and slight left wingtip drop. It slows very significantly before stall, not bad for a war bird! It remains fully controllable right down to the last second. Recovery is quick, but watch for torque as you slowly advance throttle when using larger propellers.
No surprises here. The landing is easy and predictable. It slows very well and you can give it a nice flare. On short grass the mid-wing designing allows the plane to skid a while before the one wing tip drops.
This plane just gets better with every flight. You will find an immediate and comfortable feel to the flying characteristics. It goes just where directed and is a blast to fly. It has rock solid stability. Although it does not self correct, it will fly hands off until it is out of sight.
Loops are simple to control and keep large and perfectly round. It easily loops from level flight and does not exhibit any snap characteristics even on fairly tight loops. If you have full throttle and full up, it will snap out.
The rolls are very axial -- in fact more than any other scale war bird I have flown. This is largely due to the mid-wing placement. At the recommended 10mm throws the roll is at a very scale speed. They look absolutely fantastic and look as if the full scale F4F is performing! I did increase the throws for quicker rolls.
The plane responds well to this turnaround maneuver. It does not have any tendency to over-rotate in the roll or pitch. It is completely smooth and predictable.
While spins can be risky on war birds I knew this plane would be fine. It does spin quite well. Recovery is quick with a slight power advance and a touch of opposite aileron. Do remember that you do not have a rudder for spin recovery so allow the altitude needed for recovery.
The recommended power system allows for the plane to remain very light, but still give excellent flight performance. I was very pleased with the 8x6 propeller and that it allowed 50-60% throttle settings for scale looking flight speeds. That reduced throttle setting will allow long flight times yet will still maintain a true fighter like scale speed.
While definitely not for the first time pilot, this war bird is not difficult to fly. However, it does not exhibit any self correcting responses, something a beginner needs. It would make an excellent first war bird with throws set at tame rates. The mid-wing will allow the low hour pilot launching a breeze.
My friends have turned me into a scale airplane nut, and war birds makeup a significant portion of my fleet. This F4F Wildcat from Alfa is a perfect addition to their fine war bird line. I always look for planes that are not commonly modeled and this certainly fits that category. This Alfa F4F Wildcat is a thing of beauty and as good as it looks, it flies even better.
With the Alfa war bird line you get both a fine looking scale ship and a plane with excellent flight performance. It flies just like it was attached to rails. The flying characteristics closely follow the other Alfa models. Having flown many war birds both small and large I can say this little beauty does not take a second spot to any war bird I have flown. I can honestly say this is the best flying war bird I have ever flown.
The Alfa F4F Wildcat is priced right and the recommended power system gives all the motivation you would want or need. This Alfa Wildcat is a must have for you warbird fans. I highly recommend it! Check it out at your local hobby shop or buy direct at Hobby Lobby.
|May 30, 2006, 05:21 PM|
Terrific review. Sounds like an addition that I'd like to make to my Alfa collection.
|May 31, 2006, 07:41 PM|
Hey Mike, great job on the review.
I was wondering what other warbirds you put this ahead of. I have fallen in deep infatuation with my E-flite P-47D (as far as flight characteristics go). I also love the way it looks and the size, but it needs work out of the box to get the control surfaces to keep working (thin foam doesn't hold up well).
I have just finished the Alfa Marie because it was on sale, but I too think that Grumman was onto something great with their airframe. So I want all the P47's I can find as well as this bird.
Not sure if you know this from experience, but I wonder why Alfa doesn't make their birds in the 40" span area of the hobby. I think the quality and ease of build seems like it will keep me coming back. But the one drawback in my mind is the small size.
|May 31, 2006, 08:17 PM|
I put it "ahead" of many planes I have flown from 1/4 scale L1's to Spits, Corsairs, Hellcat, Me109, FW190, OV-10 Bronco, Mustangs (others I am likely forgetting).... I have also flown the eFlite p-47 and it is an amazing plane that flies great. I really like it's larger size and the fact it slows to a crawl for a landing! A very impressive ship for sure.
This little guy just flies so true and I just can't find a bad habit. But it is a different bird from a 30oz/foot loading of a large warbird! So to compare it with all others isn't totally fair, but suffice it to say this F4F goes with me every time I fly.... I have not flown the Alfa p-47, yet, but I hear it is a gem too.
From what I have been told Alfa has a limit in their production methods that limit the maximum wingspan, thus you see them with the smaller birds. The foam would likely not transition very well to a larger airplane as the foam may not hold up to the larger heaver planes. You could certainly ask them!
If you like larger planes (I know what you mean!) you might want to look at one of their next offerings the Bristol Beaufighter. http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showp...&postcount=117
With a 40" span it will make a fantastic project....
Don't shy away from these small birds they fly much "larger" than they really are....
|May 31, 2006, 09:03 PM|
Thanks for the response. I guess you are probably onto something with the size issue. It may take a different construction with those materials to get the plane to hold up at the larger size. Makes sense anyway.
Good tip on that Beaufighter! That is a nice alternative to a spitfire, and it could be a nice first twin. But I'm sure I'll get that hellcat and probably both of the P47's first (My name is Andy ...and I'm an airaholic.). I am very pleased so far with the Mustang I got from Alfa. Haven't flown it yet but that's just because it has been so windy here since last Summer! But it looks like it should hold up pretty well. I have four flights on my P47. After the second, I had to build balsa ailerons, and after the fourth I had to hog-out and reglue the motor stick. It just isn't very durable.
Thanks again for the review. I may have been talked into a new plane!!
|May 31, 2006, 11:15 PM|
I have the Alfa 190 and P-47. I'm running both on the HL Esskay 400t. It's a great combination. Certainly can't beat the price.
|Jun 03, 2006, 02:23 PM|
Mike: Great job with that review. The photos & video are both top-notch, which is not easy. I'm trying to get my wife up to speed with the photos.
Nothing quite looks like a warbird flying by. You don't even have to be going all that fast. Part of me wants to hit the deck every time, hehehe.
|Jun 03, 2006, 03:09 PM|
Thanks Jeremy - I am very very lucky to have a number of friends who are also into photography (I used to be, not so much anymore).
Johnathan has a nice $$ digital SLR system and long lenses. That helps too. Every once and a while I also get Keith to snap some with his professional $$$$ SLR system. Ron is no slouch either, he shoots stills and all but one of my videos (for reviews).
They all enjoy photography and RC planes, so it is an excellent fit. I am apprecitive every time they are willing to put down their TX's and make the planes look good.
I still have a long way to go on video editing. Good editing can take many hours, and I tend to spend a great deal more time on the writing part.
Thank heavens for AnnMarie, our RCGroups editor. I am getting pretty good with the HTML formatting and RCG editor, but she works her magic and polishes it even further.
4-5 people all do their peice and I am the lucky guy that gets to stick my name on the work!
I do enjoys the reviews. Like my photographer friends this adds an element of "fun" for me to the hobby. Writing is challenging work, but highly rewarding...
It sure is nice to have the On-Line review medium with video. Video adds so much to the reviews...
But thank you - and thanks too all my friends!
|Jun 04, 2006, 07:10 AM|
United States, IL, Scott AFB
Joined Sep 2004
Once the Wildcat (or any of the Alfa birds) are built, is the wing still detachable or is the airplane one piece?
|Jun 04, 2006, 07:34 AM|
The wing remains detachable. You simply take off the battery tray (it is secured with hook and loop tape) and then a single screw for the wing.
|Jun 06, 2006, 12:57 PM|
GREAT review, and thanks for the nice compliments! The Wildcat was a pleasure to film and to take in-flight pics of. Johnathan and I really enjoyed contributing to the review of this excellent flier!
|Feb 12, 2007, 06:57 PM|
Waiting for a Hellcat now. I have the Great Planes version and it just doesn't fly as nice as any Alfa bird I have seen, even with a generous power upgrade. Hobby Lobby doesn't sell the Scorpio anymore. If you have any pull, please tell them the niche needs to be filled!
Nice review BTW.
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