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Hobby Lobby Alfa Fw 190 D-9 "Dora" ARF Review

Touted as "The Easiest to Fly Alfa Warbird" yet, Jon Barnes spends a few evenings assembling the latest offering from Alfa Model, coming to the USA all the way from the Czech Republic via Hobby Lobby.

Splash

Introduction


Wingspan:33.5"
Wing Area:186 sq. in.
Weight:15.5 oz.
Length:32.5"
Wing Loading:12 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:Hitec HS-55
Transmitter:Hitec Neon 3
Receiver:Hitec Micro 05S
Battery:Thunder Power 1320 mAh 3S Pro-Lite
Motor:MP Jet AC 28/7-35D
ESC:Atlas Black 20 Amp
Manufacturer:Alfa Model
Available From:Hobby Lobby

You cannot build and fly an Alfa warbird model without doing a little research into its full scale counterpart’s historical past, for each Alfa model comes with incredibly accurate details. The FW190 Dora 9 is certainly no exception, and in fact, according to Wikipedia, the decals that come with this kit will gain you admittance into a very elite squadron:

Jagdverband 44 (JV 44) was a special fighter unit of top German fighter ace pilots in the Luftwaffe during the last months of World War II. The commander of JV 44 was General Adolf Galland (103 victories). The main aircraft used by the unit was the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. Because of the greater length of runway it required, and the slow acceleration it had at low speeds, the Me 262 was especially vulnerable during takeoff and landing. Galland thus established his own protection squadron, the Platzschutzstaffel (Protection squadron) to provide air cover for takeoffs and landings. If measured by the accumulated victories of its pilots, the Jagdverband 44 (literally translated meaning "hunter group" or "fighter group") was by far the most elite fighter squadron in air war history. The unit was established in. February 1945 as a jet fighter squadron. The flying personnel of the squadron were made up almost exclusively of high scoring aces, or "Experten". The unit's top five aces alone had more than 1,000 victories. The unit had some 50 pilots and 25 Me 262 jets, though no more than 6 of these planes were operational at any time.

The Platzschutzstaffel flew the long-nosed 'Dora', Fw-190 D-9, or Fw-190 D-11 variant of the well-known Fw 190. These aircraft were painted bright red on their underbelly with contrasting white stripes so anti-aircraft batteries could distinguish them from Allied piston-engined aircraft. The Staffel was nicknamed "Die Würger-Staffel", a play on the common nickname for the FW 190, which was Würger or Butcher-bird. After the war it also become known as the Papagei Staffel (Parrot squadron) due to aircraft being painted in various bright colors.

As if I weren’t already excited about getting the chance to build and fly this one! After reading up on the historical background of this version, I couldn't wait to get it into the air to fly cover for the 262s as they took to the air. So, lets see ... tools ready...instructions ready ... layout plan ready ... and finally, RCGroups up on my shop PC LCD ...READY!! Lets do it!

Kit Contents

This is the third Alfa I have built. They all come in a good sized box, and no wonder! They arrive with the empennage already attached.

There are not very many pieces to inventory upon opening the box, and this hints at the rapid rate at which the kit will assemble. A fuselage, a wing, a four sheet non-illustrated instruction manual, a large plan view page with assembly hints and a bag with a few accessories make up the complete kit. The instructions are very good, but if you have any questions you can consult the large plan view print they include or the forums on RCGroups. The latter usually ALWAYS has a build thread which is just full of hints and tips to assist you as you build any given plane.

Kit Includes:

  • Foam fuselage, tail feathers and wing
  • Small hardware package
  • Pilot (requires finishing)
  • Instruction manual and plan sheet
  • Decals

Kit requires:

  • 3S LiPoly battery
  • 2 micro servos
  • Receiver
  • Transmitter
  • Brushless motor
  • Brushless speed controller

Included for this review:

  • Hitec Neon 3 SS with Micro 05S 5 channel Receiver and 2 HS-55 Servos
  • MP Jet AC 28/7-35D Outrunner Brushless Motor
  • Atlas Black 20 Amp Brushless Speed Controller
  • Thunder Power 3 Cell 11.1V 1320 mAh LiPoly Battery
  • APC 9x6 Slowflyer Prop
  • MPJet Ultralight Collet Prop Adapter

Assembly

I was able to complete assembly in about six hours. I would have to say that a sizable amount of that time was spent attaching all of the white stripe decals that decorate the bottom of the fuselage. I read over the four page instruction manual several times prior to commencing the build, but these planes go together quite easily. I found it necessary to consult the instructions but a few times during the assembly. The control surfaces all come prehinged and the aileron and elevator push rods are installed at the factory.

Wing

Wing “assembly” requires only installation of the lone aileron servo. Alfa uses this same technique on most of their kits. I have noticed that some have opted to install individual aileron servos, feeling that this gives them more positive control and also the ability to program additional functionality from their transmitter. I like Alfa's approach and hot glued the Hitec HS55 servo into the center of the wing, with absolutely no modifications required for a snug fit.

Completion of the servo installation requires feeding both aileron torque rods into a piece of the included tubing and then slipping this into one of the included quick links. It is recommended that you set both ailerons with a very slight upward deflection before tightening the linkage down to improve the slow speed handling and stability.

After the servo is installed in the wing, all that remains is to attach the wing to the fuselage. On the Dora 9, this is done by means of one nylon bolt. Unlike most planes, there is not a dowel or pin in the leading edge of the wing, and the wing retention bolt is not located at the trailing edge of the wing on the bottom of the fuselage. Instead, the wing fits snugly into the fuselage saddle, and the bolt is located about a third of the way back from the leading edge. To get to it, you must remove the hatch, since the bolt goes through the fuselage down into the wing. Speaking of removing the hatch, have you ever owned an Alfa and seen their ingeniously easy solution to positive hatch retention?! Its great!

Fuselage

The first order of business on the fuselage is to mount the shiny blue MPJet outrunner to the firewall. It was nice to see that the three slight dimples on the firewall perfectly match up to the three mounting holes of the motor mounting plate. I predrilled the three holes to try and prevent any cracking or splitting of the ply firewall.

In just minutes, the motor was mounted. However, I noticed that positioning the cowl over the front of the plane caused it to hit the motor. And installing the prop and spinner revealed that there was quite a gap between the back of the spinner and the front of the cowl. All of the evidence indicated that the motor needed to go further back towards the firewall, but I already had it as far back in the mount as it would go. After studying it for a while, I figured out an easy solution. I removed the motor from the motor mount and flipped the mount over. Now it nestled up even closer to the firewall, which also allowed the cowl to mount without coming into contact with the front of the motor. The spinner to cowl gap was also now very small and aesthetically pleasing.

I elected to retain the snug fitting cowl with nothing more than two small pieces of Blenderm tape attached to the cowl and the plastic exhaust stack pieces. After working out the motor mounting arrangement, I attached the speed control and inserted it into the fuselage. I have already read on RCGroups where some individuals had experienced difficulty getting the CG in the correct position, and that they were having to add weight to the rear of the plane. I left the speed controller leads long and positioned it as far back in the fuselage as I could, and used a piece of the included Velcro to anchor it. The speed controller that comes in the short combo from Hobby Lobby has an On/Off switch, and I am not quite accustomed to having such a switch on my ESCs. Instead, I just plug the battery in when I am ready to fly. To insure that I would not have any inadvertent in-flight shut offs, I took a large diameter piece of heat shrink and inserted the entire assembly into it, shrinking it tightly around the switch and locking it in the On position. I then hot glued it to one of the fuselage formers.

Tail

The Alfa models are some of the few kits that arrive with the empennage already attached. It is always a good idea to insure that they were attached correctly. The Dora comes set up for ailerons and elevator. It would appear that it would be fairly easy to add rudder control and Alfa even has placed a mounting position for it in the fuselage.

Thus,it would be quite easy to cut the rudder free, add hinges and reattach it and then add another push rod and control horn. It is common to find Alfa planes that are modified to include a rudder. I may undertake this in the future.

Radio Installation

The aileron servo was installed when we assembled the wing. The elevator servo slips into a pre-cut mounting hole in the plywood inner skeleton of the plane. I attached it with the mounting screws that are included with the servo and a little hot glue as a backup means of retention. The elevator push rod is already installed from the factory, so all that is required is to attach the other end of the control rod to the supplied quick link after you have attached it to a servo arm. The push rod is inserted into a slot in the plywood framework, but I decided to secure it with a little epoxy for more positive control response on the elevator. The assembly instructions mention the receiver mounted on the wing’s plastic saddle, but I instead decided to hot glue it into the main fuselage. I used a drop of hot glue to secure both the crystal and the antenna.

This will hopefully serve as an insurance against either of them detaching from the receiver due to vibration or aggressive flight maneuvers. I routed the antenna lead back through the fuselage and out a tiny hole that I drilled at the rear of the fuselage. I again used a touch of hot glue to provide a strain relief for the antenna wire where it exits the fuselage.

Completion

There are always fine details that can get overlooked during the build process that come back to bite you if you aren’t careful. Minute details like putting the servo horn screws in and making sure you tightened up any retainers or fasteners. Alfa provides some very small diameter tubing to glue over the push rods at the control surfaces. The push rods have a 90 degree bend in them and they then insert through the control horns. It is a good idea to stick a small piece of the tubing over the end and use a little CA to hold it. Alfa kits always include a nice set of decals to attach your plane to a specific historical wing or squadron. I think I spent about 2-3 hours attaching all of the white stripe decals to the bottom of the Dora but I think the effort was worth it.

I used some water-based polyurethane applied with my airbrush to seal all of the decals. This is an especially good idea for the belly decals, as one or two landings on an even slightly rough surface will destroy all of the hard work of applying them. A little glue and paint and the pilot was ready to climb into the cockpit. I had to carefully pry the canopy off for him and once he was in and settled, I used very small dots of hot glue to lock it back down behind him.

Flying

Alfa provides a pair of dimples on the bottom of the wing so there is no confusion as to where the CG should be located. I found it necessary to locate the battery all the way to the rear of the provided tray. In fact, I had to add a light ply cross bar to provide adequate support for the rear of the battery. I set up the control surface deflections exactly as recommended in the instructions. A quick trip across my scale informed me that my All-Up-Weight of 15.1 ounces was just a little shy of the expected weight. Lighter is ALWAYS better!

Taking Off and Landing

Alfa provides a convenient "handle" on the bottom of the wing, and I was looking forward to using it, confident that it would make the launches even easier than normal. However, I discovered that the handle is just not deep enough for my hands to get a good grip on it. I was only able to grip it with my fingertips, and I have small hands! I do realize though that if it were any larger, it would be impractical.

I reverted back to my normal way of hand launching most of my electric planes: I hold the fuselage and give it a nice underhand toss.

In the video linked below, you'll see a good launch and one that almost went awry. The MP Jet motor has enough power that if you launch with too much throttle, it will pull hard to the left, requiring you to make a quick correction. The secret is to launch at about half throttle or so. The maiden flight was quite impressive. The Dora climbed out nicely, with no trim needed other than two clicks of down elevator.

The landings are really easy. Again, watch the video below and you will see that the Dora slows down very nicely and settles back to earth with a nice, gentle plop.

After the first half a dozen flights, I found that my fear of all of the decals on the bottom of the fuselage getting damaged during landing to be unfounded.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

This is a warbird. As such, I love to try to fly it in as scale a manner as possible. I love the look of a banked descending turn that ends in a high speed, low altitude pass. With the recommended power system, you can pull vertical at the end of such a pass and climb back to the safety of the clouds. The roll rate with the recommended throws is quite scale looking. Split-S and immelman turns look great and are easy to do. I get quite a rush flying this plane.

Is This For a Beginner?

Just about everybody loves the look of a warbird, and the small size of these make them perfect for park flying. But, one needs to remember that they are made of formed foam and if one is not careful, they can be damaged quite easily. It can be disheartening as a beginner to buy a beautiful plane and destroy it on the first flight. However, this plane is not difficult to fly. It has no bad habits at all. One who is comfortable with a low wing, aileron equipped plane should have no worries. And if you absolutely have to have one of these but are not sure you are ready to fly it, seek out the assistance of a local pilot in your area. With just a little help, you will soon be providing cover for the 262s on your own.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Conclusion

Is this "The Easiest to Fly Alfa War bird"? It is the third one I have flown and I think I would have to agree. From launch to landing, I cannot find any bad habits. The slow speed flight is superlative. Equipped with the recommended MP Jet, the high speed passes are stable and satisfying. Some may not like the bright red bottom, but I think it looks great in the air.

Pluses:

  • The usual top shelf Alfa quality
  • Quick building; from the box to the sky in about six hours
  • Very predictable flight performance. Wide speed envelope.
  • Beautiful scale appearance

Minuses:

  • Launch handle a bit too small for my hands
Last edited by Angela H; Jul 15, 2007 at 03:06 PM..

Discussion

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Old Jul 16, 2007, 09:21 PM
Registered User
Sherbrooke Qc
Joined May 2006
2,298 Posts
Thanks for the review.
Nice video showing how well she handles. Was there much of a breeze when you filmed the video because boy did it slow down for landing? Practically crawled in.
Cheers Mike
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Old Jul 16, 2007, 09:33 PM
KK6MQJ
Bajora's Avatar
Joined Sep 2004
13,781 Posts
It was light and variable...probably 6-8 MPH?

It is a great flying plane for sure. Easy to launch, easy to land and yet it can haul with that MPJet outrunner too!

I am going to try to switch props and go with a more scale looking 3 blade. I think I have some FSK's, as well as some VarioProps.
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Old Jul 16, 2007, 10:02 PM
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Kevin Murray's Avatar
USA, NC, Greenville
Joined Dec 1999
9,273 Posts
Hice one. I hope they do the Ta-152 next.
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Old Jul 17, 2007, 12:10 AM
The sky is my playground.
Dora Nine's Avatar
United States, NH
Joined May 2005
7,752 Posts
Very nice! I love the pics. They make me want to keep mine painted as is...
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Old Jul 17, 2007, 01:08 AM
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Rudi's Avatar
Österreich, Oberösterreich, Laakirchen
Joined Jan 2001
3,352 Posts
Hello,
Thx for that wonderful article. What I have to ask, is there no down and sidethrust ?

Rudi
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Old Jul 17, 2007, 07:51 AM
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800mZero's Avatar
Rhode Island
Joined Jun 2005
5,683 Posts
great review---very good quality vid.
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Old Jul 17, 2007, 08:06 AM
What stalls falls
Ta152's Avatar
Joined Jul 2006
1,827 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Murray
Hice one. I hope they do the Ta-152 next.
That's me too. The only thing they would have to do is extend the wing tips. Also I would like if they would make it retract ready like their Spitfire.

Larry
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Old Jul 17, 2007, 08:37 AM
KK6MQJ
Bajora's Avatar
Joined Sep 2004
13,781 Posts
I always forget to mention it in the body of my review but my flying buddy T. Riley (blueskyrider) is the best third and fourth hands a pilot could ask for!! He usually helps me out in a large way, using my DSLR to get some photos while I fly the model. He is REALLY great at shooting video! He has a great eye and a steady hand!

Thanks again TR!!!
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Old Jul 17, 2007, 11:24 AM
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Chino Tom's Avatar
Chino, CA
Joined Dec 2006
140 Posts
I too enjoyed your review. Nice pics and video too! Hills are already brown in NorCal, we could use some of the eastern US rain! Thanks for a great review.

Chino Tom
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Old Jul 17, 2007, 01:52 PM
Fly it like you stole it..
Tram's Avatar
Florence, Al
Joined Oct 2000
29,310 Posts
Nice review.. I guess I'll have to pick one up..

What camera was used to film this? I think I am going to need to pick up a digital video camera.. Mine will record some digital, but the card slot is not upgradeable to much..
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Old Jul 17, 2007, 02:25 PM
KK6MQJ
Bajora's Avatar
Joined Sep 2004
13,781 Posts
I'll have to get back to you on the Model # Jeff, if it is video you are referring to. I believe it is a JVC?
I am wishing I could upgrade to a better one. Did you see the twister video put up by one guy!?

Thanks for the compliments guys.
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Old Jul 17, 2007, 05:05 PM
The sky is my playground.
Dora Nine's Avatar
United States, NH
Joined May 2005
7,752 Posts
I'd be curious too about your camera. I think this is going to be "techno" winter for me. I need a new camera, my laptop is getting tired, and I'm thinking of a video camera too.
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Old Jul 17, 2007, 05:13 PM
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Union County, New Jersey
Joined Apr 2006
990 Posts
Nice review. Is that launch handle a must? It's a deal-breaker for me.

Thanks.
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Old Jul 17, 2007, 05:45 PM
KK6MQJ
Bajora's Avatar
Joined Sep 2004
13,781 Posts
The little handle is part of the plastic underpan on the wing. But don't write the plane off on account of it just yet! Look at my hands .. It is not that large. And with all of those white stripe decals on the bottom, you DO NOT want that bird sliding directly on its belly. Because it also serves that noble purpose. You honestly cannot see it in flight.Perhaps I should have referred to it as a landing skid instead?
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