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Hobby Lobby Alfa Model Bristol Beaufighter Twin Scale ARF Review

Mike Llewellyn takes a look at the first Alfa twin - the Hobby Lobby Alfa Bristol Beaufighter Twin Scale ARF!

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Introduction


Wingspan:40 3/8”
Wing Area:248 sq”
Wing type:Semi-symmetrical extruded foam
AUW weight:Advertised – 21.9oz Actual -21.1oz
Length:28.5”
Wing loading:12 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:4 – Hitec HS-55’s
Transmitter:Spektrum DX7
Receiver:Spektrum AR6100
Battery:Poly-Quest 1500mA 2s LiPoly
Motors:Speed 300 6v
Gearboxes:MP Jet 5:1 BB
ESC:Jeti 20 amp
US distributor:Hobby Lobby
Manufacturer:Alfa Models

Alfa has done it again! Their fantastic new release is the rarely modeled Bristol Beaufighter. If you are new to the e-flight world, the Alfa line of planes has few rivals and this impressive newest offering is the largest Alfa model to date.

The review package shipped from Hobby Lobby and it arrived in great shape. It was well packaged - double boxed and the contents were protected individually with bubble wrap.

This model is the same good quality and has the detail work found in earlier Alfa models. The paint is immaculate and the panel lines and details are represented well. In order to keep the box size manageable this Alfa takes a bit more construction, but don’t let that scare you away.

History

Included with the model is a brief history and information sheet about the Bristol Beaufighter. Here is snippet:

"Bristol Beaufighter was developed from the Bristol Beaufort light fighter and torpedo aircraft. The original wing and empennage remained initially intact, while the new smaller fuselage provided space for a two-man crew, weapons and equipment. The pilot possessed an excellent view due to a short nose and ample glazing of the cockpit, the navigator sat in the middle of the fuselage. The aircraft was powered by a pair of fourteen-cylinder, double-row Bristol Hercules air-cooled radials of various versions.

The role of the night fighter was one of the most important in the Beaufighter’s service, and especially so in the initial phase of the war. The Beaufighters served with the Coastal Command as the long-range escort fighters and later on anti-shipping tasks as torpedo carriers."

Kit Contents

Kit includes:

  • Painted foam fuselage and wing
  • Lightweight plastic cowls
  • Pre-attached canopy and battery hatch
  • Hardware (EZ type connectors, pushrods and horns)
  • Decals and markings
  • Unpainted pilot figure
  • Wood for servo mount and battery tray
  • Large picture assembly guide and text instructions

Kit requires:

  • Motors
  • Propellers
  • 2s-3s LiPoly battery
  • 3-6 servos 7-10g type (Optional: 2-retracts 1-rudder)
  • Receiver
  • 3 channel minimum transmitter

Included for this review:

  • Graupner Speed 300 6v motors
  • MP Jet 5:1 BB gearboxes
  • Jeti 20amp Brushed ESC
  • Poly-Quest 1500 2s battery pack
  • 3 - Hitec HS-55 servos
  • MP Jet propeller adapters
  • APC 9x6 slow fly propellers

These components came straight from the Hobby Lobby recommended list of equipment for this aircraft. Hobby Lobby does all of the leg work for us, making it easy to select the right equipment for success.

Now, before you tune out because this review features brushed motors, read on! Brushed motors provide an excellent low-cost option and happen to work very well in this model. A future review update will include the recommended MP Jet brushless motor and retractable landing gear – so stay tuned!

Assembly

The Bristol Beaufighter requires a bit more assembly than most of the previous Alfa models, so you can expect completion in about 10-12 hours.

The foam Alfa uses is light, but it can be easily damaged so exercise caution when handling the model during the build to minimize dings and dents.

I prefer having rudder control on twins in the unlikely event of a motor out situation and I appreciate that the steps to add a functional rudder are included.

Done by the factory:

  • Surfaces hinged
  • Horns installed and glued
  • Pushrods installed and ready to hook up
  • No covering necessary – the painting is all expertly done (except for your pilot)

The builder needs to:

  • Install the horizontal stab/elevator
  • Install/join the wing to the fuse
  • Install radio system
  • Install the power system
  • Apply decals
  • Paint and install the pilot

Fuselage

Per the instructions, I started construction with the fuselage, making the overall assembly easier.

Horizontal Stabilizer and Elevator

The elevator pushrod was pre-installed... a nice touch. I am glad that the instructions suggested cutting the small relief in the rudder, or I wouldn't have been able to install the stab!

Adding the pre-hinged, optional functional rudder

On twins, I prefer having rudder control. While rare for electrics, in the unlikely event that one motor quits, use of the rudder for thrust trim is essential and I appreciate that the steps to add an optional functional rudder are included (though the hardware is not).

I used a new blade to free the rudder (the rudder is actually pre-hinged so be sure to not cut the rudder off entirely) from the upper section of the vertical stabilizer , then I drilled a small hole and added my own pushrod tube and micro horn (not included).

It was critical that I epoxy the servo end of the pushrod tubes to keep them from floating and to avoid binding. They had to be secured for the solid pushrod wires to move the surfaces.

In the stock design, the forward section of the fuselage is removable for battery access and the forward canopy serves as the front attachment point. I do not care for this system as it is difficult to remove and replace the hatch and I will eventually attach the hatch using magnets to secure.

The full scale Beaufighter is larger than a P-38, and only slightly smaller than the B-25. The included pilot is too large in scale for this ship. I didn't install the pilot figure, but will select a smaller pilot from Dare.

Cowls

The cowls arrived complete, painted and ready to go. Because of the camouflage markings, the cowls are each designated a specific side. Exhaust stacks exit from the correct side of both cowls... nice to see they did their research here! Some radial jug moldings would have been nice touch for these otherwise perfect cowls.

Motors and ESC installation

The firewall formers come pre-installed in the nacelles in each wing. Alfa includes a small piece of filler ply for the hole if you use the smaller face mount MP Jet brushless motors.

Note: Afla uses plastic covers (which, on the retract version of the model, function as the retract doors) on the high wear areas on the bottom of the nacelles and nose of this ship. This should be really helpful in considerably reducing wear for those building the belly landing version.

I broke in the brushed motors by running them at 3v with no load for 45 minutes each to seat the brushes. Since the wing is hollow, it is easy to run the motor and servo wires. I used a short length of string tied to a small nut for a wire pull string.

Wing

Unlike other Alfa planes, this one uses a servo for each aileron surface. I glued the servos toward the leading edge of the wing to keep them fully enclosed in the thin wing area. The recommended Hitec HS-55s require some foam to be cut from the hatch area - an easy job with a sharp hobby knife.

Pay careful attention to the wing assembly and make sure the spar is snug but not overly tight. Mine was a bit too tight that should have been caught in a careful pre-fit.

I used my knife to poke some small holes in the fuselage where the root of the wing joins to the fuse. This helps the 30 minute epoxy bond with more bite.

I nearly had a mess on my hands because I forgot to check the dry fit of the spar box and joiner. Installation of one of my wing panels proved traumatic when it quit moving before it was seated against the fuselage side. I panicked, but managed to get the wing apart and then back together again. I should have done a careful dry pre-fit of these parts.

Power system

Brushless systems have spoiled us all, but I am glad I did not dismiss the brushed system. It works wonderfully and powers the plane well.

I have settled on the performance of the GWS 8x6 HD propellers. At less than 15 total amps it idoes not tax the battery, ESC or motors. The motors provide great thrust and a decent pitch speed with near full throttle power (I generally fly at about 80% power settings with the brushed motors). If you opt for the optional retracts, I recommend a light brushless system.

Motors

The Graupner Speed 300 motors are little powerhouses. Remember, one of these motors will haul a 14-16oz model around easily so two of them on this 21 oz. bird are more than enough power.

I found the MP Jet gearboxes very easy to set up. It is important to use a drop of medium CA to secure the motors to the gearbox.

Amp draws

The motors produce the following results:

Motor statistics (both motors)
Props Amps Watts Voltage
9x6 APC SF 21.5 155 7.14
9x5 GWS HD 18.5 135 7.3
8x6 GWS HD 14.7 108 7.57

The recommended 9x6 APC props are just too much load in my opinion. I have run many s300 motors, and for longevity, I prop them for 8amps max. I used the 8x6 GWS HD propellers for flight to keep the motors at a bit over 7amps each and make all the equipment much happier. This gives the Beaufighter 82w/lb performance - plenty of power. If you install the retract option, I recommend the use of the lighter MP Jet brushless motors. You will save needed weight and gain 30% more power which is important for the added weight of retract components.

Jeti 20 amp ESC

Jeti 20 AMP ESC

  • Size – 1”x3/4”x3/8”
  • Weight – 15g
  • User settings via jumpers:
  • Brake – On / Off*
  • Battery type (NiMh/NiCad or LiPoly)

My thoughts on the controller: I have long been using Jeti ESCs and they performed very well for this project.

Wires on both the motor and battery end are the perfect length for most applications, a plus considering many ESCs come with rather short battery and motor leads. I extended the wires on the motor end of the ESC.

When using brushless setups, you will need two ESCs. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for twin setups - most require removal of one BEC from the system.

Battery

I used a single 2s 1500 mAh Poly-Quest pack to provide the electrons. I have many of the Poly-Quest 20c batteries and have never been disappointed with any of them.

Finish

Alfa has expertly painted the foam in an authentic three color scheme. The paint finish on this plane is remarkable and I couldn't find a single flaw. Well done Alfa.

The decal sheets are included and are user-installed. Alfa decals are very accurate, but they are made from thin material so take care with the application. I took time to carefully install the decals and after the decals dried overnight, I sprayed a clear coat to seal and protect them.

Pre-flight

CG

Since the nose of the Bristol Beaufighter is short to the point of being almost non-existent, I had a small concern about balance. In fact, the heavy brushed motors and gearboxes allow placement of the battery near the CG. Use of lighter power plants would put the battery in a forward position. I really like that Alfa has actually molded the CG marks on the bottoms of the wings.

Rates and transmitter setup

I used the Spektrum DX7 transmitter for this plane. Rates were set as recommended in the Alfa manual with ailerons and elevator at 12mm and 15mm respectively. No high rates were mentioned, so i set those rates to give 20% additional throw. No exponential rates were mentioned, so I used 25% for all primary flight controls for initial values. These settings worked well for me in flight, however rates are a very personal preference.

I set the flight timer to count down from 8 minutes. This gives an audible warning to land before the 1500mAh battery is depleted.

Flying

Basics

The Beaufighter lives up to the Alfa reputation of being able to fly right out of your hand. It is totally predictable and I could not find a single bad habit. I had an immediate, comfortable feeling with the overall flying characteristics of this plane. I like planes that go where directed and this one is a total blast to fly.

Takeoff and Landing

The Alfa Bristol Beaufighter takes to flight with a slight push. It is so easy to launch, I gave it a gentle toss and it pulled away quickly. I found the brushed system gave an excellent climb rate.

I found the landings to be easy and predictable. This largest of the Alfa birds slows very quickly with draggy twin motors, propellers and cowls. This drag element is a common twin characteristic with the twin large prop disks slowing you down. I recommend power on approaches, giving the plane a nice flare, and only cutting at touchdown. The elevator is large and very effective so do not over do it.

Special Flight Characteristics

This plane stalls very predictably for a model with a light wing loading. When pushed to a stall, you get a gentle nose and slight wingtip drop. It slows very significantly before stall - not bad for a twin war bird - and it remains fully controllable right down to the last second.

Stall recovery is quick, with smooth throttle application. The vertical stabilizer is fairly small, but the rudder is huge and very effective. In fact, the Beaufighter did amazing rudder only turns!

Loops are simple to control and are large and perfectly round. With the stock power system it loops from level flight and does not exhibit any snap characteristics. With brushed motors, you need full throttle in the up lines.

Rolls are not totally axial (just as expected with nearly all warbirds). I found that the recommended 15mm aileron throws gave slow roll rates that are a perfect scale speed. The rolls are graceful, especially as those twin motors roll around! I suspect rolls were not common in the full scale plane.

I found the Beaufighter benefits from aileron differential and I recommend using less down than up deflection.

The Beaufighter responds well to this turnaround maneuver. It doesn't have any tendency to over-rotate in roll or pitch and is completely smooth and predictable.

I know that spins are risky maneuvers on twins models. I have flown models where spins are simply unrecoverable. However, with the large, effective rudder on the Beaufighter, I knew all would be fine. It recovers quickly with added power and opposite rudder input but I do not make spins with twins a habit!

I have just a few thoughts on turns with the Beaufighter. Speed is needed in turns or it tends to slide or drop out of them especially in high bank turns. When performing aileron only turns, very little elevator is needed as you rotate around. I highly recommend coordinated turns or computer mixing of aileron to rudder. Aileron differential helps this drop out tendency as well.

Thanks to Dawnron1 for these excellent flying shots:

On short grass, the low-wing design allows the nacelles to skid along the grass. The fuselage does not actually contact the ground on landing!

Is this plane for a beginner?

While definitely not for the first time pilot, this Alfa war bird is not difficult to fly. Although the Beaufighter does not exhibit any self correcting responses (something that any beginner likes to have), it will fly hands off until it is out of sight. It would make an excellent first war bird twin with throws set at tame rates, especially the elevator.

Flight Video

Downloads

Conclusion

When I saw that Alfa was entering the twin market, my heart skipped a beat! I enjoy twin planes a great deal and I am a certified scale airplane nut with war birds being my favorite. I always look for planes that are not commonly modeled and this certainly fits that category. The Bristol Beaufighter from Alfa is an excellent plane; distinguished looking, a great flyer - it makes a perfect addition to their fine war bird line.

Assembly is easy and straightforward.

The Bristol Beaufighter flies very well with the s300 brushed motor system. The flying characteristics are a bit different than the other Alfa planes. While it has no bad habits in flight, this larger ship requires power in the turns and not too much elevator input.

I highly recommend the optional rudder addition, and instructions are included. It is a very easy modification and the rudder is so effective in flight that the model does magnificent rudder only turns.

Alfa continues to impress me as they release more models. The paint and finish on the Beaufighter is amazingly flawless. I do not know how they can give the planes such detail and still keep the overall cost down!

I absolutely love British war planes. They all tend to be unique with interesting lines. The short nose distinct to the Beaufighter gives this bird an unmistakable look. The Alfa Beaufighter is a beauty and a remarkable scale plane!

Plusses:

  • Excellent looks
  • Short assembly time
  • Stellar flight performance
  • Light weight for a twin
  • Flies great on the brushed system!

Minuses:

  • Battery hatch hard to secure
  • Wing joiner too tight in spar box

The Alfa Model Bristol Beaufighter Twin Scale ARF is a fantastic plane and a wonderful addition to the Alfa war bird line. Twin fans, this is a must have! I highly recommend it. Check it out at your local hobby shop or buy direct from Hobby Lobby.

Stay tuned for a Brushless and retract upgrade to the Bristol Beaufighter!

Last edited by pda4you; Apr 03, 2007 at 10:10 AM..

Discussion

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Old Apr 11, 2007, 12:35 PM
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alienx's Avatar
Union County, New Jersey
Joined Apr 2006
990 Posts
Looks great. Someday I will get over my fear of twins. Very nice looking plane you built.
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 12:52 PM
3DHS Junkie
800mZero's Avatar
Rhode Island
Joined Jun 2005
5,682 Posts
great review!
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 12:56 PM
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pda4you's Avatar
USA, TX, Trophy Club
Joined May 2002
14,479 Posts
Thanks guys!

Quote:
Someday I will get over my fear of twins
Now is the time.....electrics make the risks (engine/motor out) very VERY small.....

They fly great and are totally cool! Go for it...

Mike
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 01:44 PM
Registered User
alienx's Avatar
Union County, New Jersey
Joined Apr 2006
990 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by pda4you
Thanks guys!



Now is the time.....electrics make the risks (engine/motor out) very VERY small.....

They fly great and are totally cool! Go for it...

Mike
Mike, I'm going to have to wait for your brushless upgrade! I'm not worried about it crashing ...just figuring out how to wire it all together!

But Alfa IS coming out wiith some beauties!
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 02:45 PM
The sky is my playground.
Dora Nine's Avatar
United States, NH
Joined May 2005
7,662 Posts
Ahh, the moment we have all been wating for!! The sound (atleast in the video) of the twin gear motors was pretty darn cool. Thanks!
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Last edited by Dora Nine; Apr 11, 2007 at 02:50 PM.
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 03:14 PM
"Have Glue - Will Travel"
dawnron1's Avatar
Ft. Worth, Texas
Joined Jan 2004
2,428 Posts
Great review, Mike. The Beaufighter was a real joy to video and shoot!

Ronnie
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 03:22 PM
Test your skills....fly IMAC!!
sun.flyer's Avatar
Swanton, Ohio
Joined Feb 2005
7,990 Posts
Excellent Review Mike!! The brushed motors actually move the airplane along quite nicely. Great job, I love the hat.

Tim

BTW - Ronnie you are the picture king!! Great in-flight pics. buddy!!
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 03:35 PM
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pda4you's Avatar
USA, TX, Trophy Club
Joined May 2002
14,479 Posts
Quote:
I love the hat.
Me too! Saves my little neck from getting sunburn! Built in AC too!

Thanks guys!
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 03:41 PM
Registered User
Joined Apr 2006
957 Posts
Looks yummy. I just ordered one last week and am anticipating it's arrival.

I think i will repaint mine to a later war, grey coastal command version, complete with torpedo and rockets. Not sure what to do about the tailplane though...

I'd really, really love it if Alfa would do a Heinkel 219.
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 04:08 PM
"Have Glue - Will Travel"
dawnron1's Avatar
Ft. Worth, Texas
Joined Jan 2004
2,428 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by sun.flyer

BTW - Ronnie you are the picture king!! Great in-flight pics. buddy!!
Thanks Tim! The Beaufighter really is one of Alfa's prettiest planes to date and it looks great from any angle.

Ronnie
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Last edited by dawnron1; Apr 11, 2007 at 07:17 PM.
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 04:19 PM
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Sherbrooke Qc
Joined May 2006
2,297 Posts
Thanks for the great review. Looks a really great plane in air.
Cheers Mike
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 07:09 PM
Dert Farmur
Harv's Avatar
Saskatchewan
Joined Jan 2005
799 Posts
Well, it's about time!

It's a great aircraft alright. Looking forward to your experience and opinions on the brushless and retract upgrade.

Should be up in the next week or so eh?

Are we there yet...?
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 07:27 PM
Dr. Dave
USA
Joined Nov 2005
1,316 Posts
Nice job Mike, really liked the historical backgrounding. That adds a lot to the review.
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 07:48 PM
In Development Now
Indiana_Geoff's Avatar
Joined May 2005
445 Posts
I like the way the little fighter tried to take you at the beginning of the flight.
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