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Top Flite Gold Edition AT-6 Texan ARF Review

Mike McDougall looks at the Top Flite AT-6 TEXAN, a 69" detailed scale Gold Edition ARF Warbird with the mild manners of a trainer.

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Introduction


Wingspan:69"
Wing Area:730 sq. in.
Weight:8.5 to 9.5 lb
Length:51"
Wing Loading:27 to 30 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:(7) Futaba S9001 & (1) Futaba S136G
Transmitter:9C w/TM-7 FASST Module
Receiver:Futaba R617FS
Battery:Futaba NR-4RB 1000 mah
Engine:O.S. FS-91 II Surpass
Prop:12x6 Master Airscrew
Manufacturer:Top Flite
Available From:Hobbico Dealers and Fine RC Hobby Shops
Retail Price:$279.99

The AT-6 began life as the North American Aviation NA-16. It was designed in 1935 for the 1937 Army Air Corp competition, which it won handily and then entered military service in 1940. During the next ten years, over 17,000 AT-6s were built as original airframes, not counting the airframes that were used to rebuild damaged planes or those planes based on the AT-6 design such as the P-64 and the Boomerang. Variations of the AT-6 have been designated as the SNJ (Navy), Texan (USAF), Harvard (RAF), Wirraway (Australia), Yale, I-Bird, and Mosquito. Perhaps its best-known name was the PILOT MAKER. The AT-6 was used to train pilots from 34 countries during WWII. In fact, many RAF Spitfire and Hurricane pilots trained in AT-6 Harvards in Canada. Since WWII, the AT-6 has been used to train pilots in air forces in 55 countries worldwide. Recently, the AT-6 has been used for pylon racing, air show demonstrations and general sport aviation.

The Top Flite AT-6 is advertised as a "Gold Edition" ARF. This means the model has scale outlines and enough scale detailing to be eligible for AMA Fun Scale competition right out of the box. The assembly manual lists a source for the needed scale documentation for competition. The level of scale detail is impressive, and the finished model is a real looker on the flight line. Let's get started on the build, and get this puppy in the air!

Kit Contents

Kit Includes:

  • All parts precovered in an attractive Monokote color scheme
  • Fuselage with vertical stabilizer and pushrod tubes
  • 3-piece wing with flaps and ailerons
  • Horizontal stabilizer & elevator
  • Rudder
  • Engine cowl with dummy engine and scale style spinner
  • Heavy duty retracts with scale style wheels
  • Detailed cockpit interior with 2 pilots and greenhouse canopy
  • 2-Piece engine mount, fuel tank, and generous hardware package
  • Thirty-two page photo-illustrated assembly manual

Kit Requires:

  • Minimum 6 channel radio with 7 full-size servos & 1 retract servo
  • 1-6" servo extension, 7-12" servo extensions, & 2-Y harnesses
  • Minimum 1000 mAh receiver battery
  • .60 two-stroke or .91 four-stroke engine
  • Thin & medium CA glue
  • 6 minute & 30 minute Epoxy glues
  • 3' of standard silicone fuel tubing
  • 8-32 tap and drill set
  • Thread locking compound
  • Assorted drills and knife blades

Recommended by Top Flite and supplied by Hobbico for this review:

  • O.S. FS-91 II Surpass Engine
  • Futaba R617FS receiver
  • Futaba NR-4RB receiver battery
  • 7-Futaba S9001 servos
  • 1-S136G retract servo
  • 1-6" and 7-12" servo extensions
  • 2- Y-harness servo extensions

O.S. FS-91 II Surpass Engine
O.S. FS-91 II Surpass Engine
Type: 4-Stroke Glow
Displacement: 14.95cc/0.912 cu. in.
Bore: 27.7mm/1.09 cu. in.
Stroke: 24.8mm/0.976 cu. in.
RPM Range: 2,000 - 12,000 rpm
Engine Weight: 641g/22.6 oz.
Engine w/Muffler: 686g/24.2 oz.
Power Output: 1.6 BHP at 11,000 RPM
Prop Shaft: 5/16-24

Futaba R617FS Receiver
Futaba R617FS Receiver
Frequency Band: 2.4 GHz
Type: FASST Frequency Hopping
Number of Channels: Seven
Antenna: Dual Antennas
Range Cassification: Full Range
Size 1.6" x 1.1" x .35"
Weight with case: 9.8g/0.34 oz.
Weight without case: 7g/0.25 oz.
Power: 4.8V - 6V

Futaba NR-4RB Receiver Battery
Futaba NR-4RB Receiver Battery
Type: Flat NiCd
Voltage: 4.8 Volt
Capacity: 1000 mAh
Weight: 4.2 oz.
Connector: Male J plug
Dimensions: 2.21" x 2.65" x 0.59"

Futaba S9001 Servo
Futaba S9001 Servo
Type: Analog
Size Factor: Standard
Motor: Coreless
Bearing: Single Ball Bearing
Operating Speed 60°: .22 sec (4.8V) - .18 sec (6V)
Torque: 54 oz-in (4.8V) - 72 oz-in (6V)
Weight: 48g/1.7oz
Dimensions: 1.6" x 0.8"x 1.4"
Gear Type: All Nylon

Futaba S136G Retract Servo
Futaba S136G Retract Servo
Type: Analog
Size Factor: Compact - Low Profile
Motor: 3-Pole
Bearing: Twin Ball Bearing
Operating Speed 180°: 1.74 sec @4.8V
Torque: 92 oz-in @ 4.8V
Weight: 42g/1.5oz
Dimensions: 1.8" x 0.9"x 1.0"
Gear Type: All Nylon

Assembly

The thirty-two page assembly manual was well illustrated and detailed enough for seasoned builders. However, new modelers may need to get help from someone with more ARF building experience. The manual had some errors and some omissions which will be covered in this review. As with most ARFs, the model should be unpacked and left to adjust to your local temperature and humidity before you start the build to let the wood breathe and shrink or expand as needed. After a couple of days, the review model still needed the covering tightened in several areas. It took a little over an hour to get the Monokote looking just right.

Construction begins with hinging the flight surfaces. The CA hinge material was easily shaped into the required 1"X1" hinges. After I drilled a 3/32" CA "wicking" hole at each hinge location, I cleaned each slot of any excess wood. However, when the hinges were inserted into the surfaces, the slots had not been cut deep enough for this size hinge. All the hinge slots were only 3/8" deep.

Some work with a hobby knife deepened all the slots and got the build back on track. Be sure to clean each hinge slot after you drill the 3/32" CA "wicking" hole and check the depth of each hinge slot before you grab your CA.

Wing

The manual contained some errors with reference to the wing. Before you remove the packing tape from any of the wing servo covers or flying surfaces, take careful note of each piece and its orientation on the wing. I suggest labeling each piece as you remove the tape.

The orientation of the surfaces and servo covers did not match the instructions in the manual. When I contacted Hobbico, I was told that the designer at Top Flite had reviewed my questions and that the parts "as shipped" were correct, so make note of these corrections to the manual.

Page 7, Steps 8 thru 13 - The hinge point hinges should be visible from the bottom of the wing when the flaps are assembled. If you assemble them like the pictures in the manual, they will not open far enough.

The wing center section should be hinged the same way.

Pages 9 & 10, Steps 14 thru 17 - The cutout on the servo covers on the right wing panel face in opposite directions. The servo covers on the left wing panel both face the wing tip. If you assemble them as shown in the manual, the servo arms will not match up to the plywood hard points on the flying surfaces where you must install the control horns.

Check your kit very carefully before you hinge the wing flying surfaces or install the servos to be sure that the servo cover cutouts match the flying surface hard points.

Here's a little trick I used to get the proper clearance around the wing servos to be sure they were vibration isolated from the cover plates:

Read the retract section before you proceed with the final wing assembly. When you are ready for the wing assembly, pay special attention to the two hardwood wing joiners. They only go one way, and you need to mark them clearly before you start spreading epoxy.

Retracts

The manual shows to remove a set screw from each side of each retract and apply thread locking compound to each screw. The retracts supplied with the AT-6 actually had a total of FOUR set screws on each retract. The outer set screw was a locking screw and did not contact the retract gear leg. I removed all four set screws on each retract and applied thread locking compound to each screw.

As a matter of personal preference, I installed the retracts and retract servo to the wing center section before I glued the outer wing panels in place. This allowed me to make all the needed fine adjustments without having to wrestle the whole assembled wing. When I mounted the retracts, I found that the screws in the hardware packet were only 1/2" long, and the manual called for 3/4" long screws, but in this case, the manual was right: The provided 1/2" screws did not go deep enough into the retract mounting rails. I bought some longer screws, and the retracts mounted nice and solidly. If you choose to install the retracts before gluing the wing together, be sure you seal up the wing rib next to the retract itself: You don't want to get epoxy on the operating parts of the retracts after you went to all that trouble to get them operating smoothly.

Fuselage

You must first identify the bottom of the horizontal stabilizer and the bottom of the stab filler block before you glue them to the fuselage, and yes, there is a top and a bottom to the stab and to the filler block. The bottoms have a deep cut to allow the elevator joiner wire horn to move throughout its full travel. Installing either in the wrong orientation will result in lack of surface movement in at least one direction.

Once you have the stab properly oriented, proceed with positioning, marking and cutting the covering. Be sure you have plenty of rubbing alcohol and paper towels on hand before you start smearing epoxy on the horizontal stab (don't ask me how I learned these lessons).

The rest of the fuselage assembly was relatively painless. I did have to relieve the lower hardwood cowl mounting block to clear the back of the engine cylinder head though.

Due to the high temperatures here in Texas during the Summer, I increased the size of the cooling air inlet in the dummy engine.

I installed a remote glow plug connector because connecting a glow heater to an inverted 4-stroke is not an easy task. I also installed the receiver switch in the same area.

Radio Installation

Rather than mounting the Receiver on the fuel tank rail, I mounted the receiver with hook and loop material to the rear of the fuselage area. This location gave better access to the servo connections and extensions and allowed the RX antennas to be located further away from the engine area. Notice that I used the existing antenna tube as well as a newly installed antenna tube to orient the FASST antennas at the recommended 90 degree angle. The new tube was just a piece of the extra tubing that was used to install the retract wires that was later hot melt glued to the elevator and rudder pushrod tubes. For you folks flying 72 MHz systems, the stock receiver location should work just fine but be sure and route the antenna away from all the servo wires and extensions.

Completion

The completed Texan weighed 9 pounds and 3 ounces. I checked the center of gravity, and with the flight battery all the way forward, the CG was exactly at the recommended location. I set the control surface throws at the recommended amounts for low rates and for high rates. I programmed in 25% exponential on low rates and 35% on high rates. I then set flap points at about 25 degrees and 40 degrees flap angle. In addition, I set the rudder with a triple rate and used maximum servo throw for the extra high rate with 45% exponential. It seemed like a good idea at the time. See the flight report for the results.

Flying

Basics

The Texan was a joy to fly. Low rates were very effective, and even though I usually like really high rates, I found myself flying on low rates 90% of the time. I heard lots of positive comments along the flight line about the great looks and scale details on the AT-6 even before I fired up the engine. Speaking of the engine, the O.S. FS-91 was a real sweetheart of an engine: Easy starts and gobs of power were the order of the day, every day.

Taking Off and Landing

The Texan’s ground handling was much more mild mannered than I expected. Taildragger Warbirds have a history of being real handfuls on takeoffs, but Top Flite got it right on this one: the Texan took just a little right rudder, ran straight down the runway and lifted off by itself. I used 1/2 flaps for most takeoffs with great results. Takeoffs without flaps just took longer to get airborne. We got lucky with the weather, and our test flights were flown on mostly calm days. I used full flaps on landings, and they really slowed the Texan down. Full flaps required programming in a little down elevator to keep the Texan from ballooning. As with most Warbirds, you should carry a little throttle all the way to touchdown to keep from stalling or bouncing the landing (see the second video to find out how I know).

Scale Aerobatics

OH BABY! Even though the Texan was modeled after a trainer, it flew great aerobatics. The Texan flew all prototypical scale maneuvers with ease: Loops, rolls, Emmelman turns, spins, snaps, figure eights and inverted flight were flown with precision and ease, and I didn't even have to use full power. With the recommended CG location, the Texan needed a little down elevator to hold level inverted flight. Low rates were perfect for scale maneuvers.

Advanced Aerobatics

This Top Flite Texan flew so well I had to try and really wring it out to see what would happen at full power and high rates. WOW! Almost unlimited vertical performance and lightning fast snaps and spins were a real treat. Full bore low passes were really fast. Knife Edge flight was possible, but it needed some mixing to hold a straight line. It's nice to know that if you ever got bored flying scale manuevers, you could open up the throttle on your Texan and have some fun.

One note of caution though. Remember where I said that I had set the extra high rate rudder well beyond the recommended Top Flite throws? Spins with this extra high rudder were really tight, but they took over a full turn to recover. I took the Texan up extra high and intentionally put it into a flat spin. It looked spectacular and really wound up tight, but it didn't want to come out of the spin. Cross controlling and throttle bursts finally neutralized the rotation, and we got the Texan home safe. I deleted the extra high rudder rate, and I don't think I'll be trying anymore flat spins anytime soon. Stick with the factory recommended throws and you won't have any problems.

Is This For a Beginner?

No. Scale Warbirds are not suitable for true first-time pilots. However, the fact that the AT-6 is modeled after a full-scale primary trainer makes it a great choice for a "Trainer" Warbird for the intermediate pilot. The Top Flite Texan handles well on the ground and flies very easily though maneuvers making it a great choice as a first scale model or first Warbird model.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Conclusion

The Top Flite Gold Edition AT-6 Texan has all the great scale looks and easy flying characteristics of a real AT-6 with the convenience of an ARF kit. Top Flite has included a lot of scale details and trim while retaining the fine flying traits of a Warbird trainer.

Pluses:

  • Very high quality ARF
  • Superb scale detailing
  • Very beefy retracts
  • Pilot figures included
  • OS FS-91 has plenty of power
  • Great Flying Plane!

Minuses:

  • Construction manual errors
  • Hinge slots too shallow
Last edited by Angela H; Jan 30, 2009 at 04:47 AM..

Discussion

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Old Jan 30, 2009, 07:46 AM
The sky is my playground.
Dora Nine's Avatar
United States, NH
Joined May 2005
7,668 Posts
Awesome review on great plane. Thanks!
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Old Jan 30, 2009, 08:11 AM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
5,080 Posts
Thanks Dora. This just went live this morning so you were among the first to see the review. Glad you liked the Texan. It's such a pretty morning here in South Texas, I'm heading out to the flying field right now to put a few more flights on this beauty. Retirement and RC are a great mix!
McD
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Old Jan 30, 2009, 09:54 AM
Balsa just crashes better
Cub Fan's Avatar
Bradenton, FL
Joined Nov 2004
600 Posts
Nice review- The Texan is one of my favorite planes and this one looks nicely done up. It looks very realistic in the air- now lets see- how many batteries would I need to go electric :>)

Cub Fan
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Old Jan 30, 2009, 10:49 AM
Grumpa Tom
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United States, CA, Los Angeles
Joined Sep 2003
23,451 Posts
Nice article! I saw this model at the recent AMA Convention and it is very impressive in person.
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Old Jan 30, 2009, 05:49 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
5,080 Posts
Thanks Cub Fan - I flew my 10 pound Seawind with a 6S pack. I think that same power system would fly the Texan just fine.
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=660997

Kmot - Thanks. I agree, the Texan is very impressive. Try one, you won't be disappointed.

McD
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Last edited by kingsflyer; Feb 01, 2009 at 06:06 PM.
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Old Feb 02, 2009, 12:02 AM
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Joined Jun 2005
62 Posts
Great Review,
Really nice pics....drool!!!! makes me wanna run out and get one...
btw what prop did you use?
Rahul
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Old Feb 02, 2009, 06:25 AM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
5,080 Posts
Thanks N1toga. I know how you feel. I've ruined so many keyboards surfing RCGroups, I had to get one that was waterproof.

When I started breaking in the OS 91fs I used my old reliable APC 13x8. But when I mounted it on the plane, it just looked too small. I went with a 14x6 Master Airscrew classic series prop for the test flights and it worked great. Plenty of thrust for takeoffs and vertical lines while keeping enough speed for some fun high-speed passes. For fuel, I'm using Power Master 15% nitro with a Castor/Synthetic oil blend. You can see that I'm still running the OS a little rich, but it's got plenty of power!

McD
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Old Feb 02, 2009, 08:42 AM
Registered User
Beaumont tx
Joined Oct 2004
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Lovely!

But it really irritates me that so many MFGs leave the insignia off the BOTTOM of the wings!! Or use incorrect markings.

I will probably never have one of these, but if I did, I sure would put markings on the bottom of the wing.

No offense, Kingsflyer.

howell
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Old Feb 02, 2009, 02:36 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
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Howell,

Congratulations, you are the first person to notice the missing markings! But don't blame Top Flite for the missing Stars. The proper markings are included in the kit but I choose not to put them on the bottom of the wings until I had flown the plane and determined whether I could easily tell top from bottom and keep my orientation. By leaving the markings off the bottom of the wings, I was hoping to give myself a better perspective on the plane upright vs inverted until I got some flight time on the plane. I still haven't decided if I will put the extra stars on the wings, maybe if I plan to attend some of our local Warbird events I might put them on.

No offense taken. But you really should reconsider the Texan.

Mike McD
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Old Feb 02, 2009, 03:14 PM
Fly allot, Crash allot, next?
United States, CA, Corona
Joined Feb 2006
7,235 Posts
There are two sides to every review.

I have one and converted it to electric, ordered it the minute I saw it in the Flying magazine.

Ethan did his at the same time and used a nitro motor.

Both of us have a different opinion than the author regarding this kit. We feel it has some serious weak links which we feel causes it to fall short of the Gold Edition category. The exceptions are noted below:

1. The landing gear is weak and bends extremely easy, even on perfect landings. The retracts then have to be removed in order to straighten them out.
2. The plane comes with very wrinkled covering.
3. Since I paid full price, Ethan got multiple discounts, I don't think the plane is a good value for the money spent. My BH, VQ, and CMP kits are much better, and for less money.

I do have to say the pictures sure look good and the plywood used for the structure is first quality stuff.

Al G
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Old Feb 02, 2009, 05:08 PM
Registered User
Beaumont tx
Joined Oct 2004
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Appreciate that, Kingsflyer. It's a matter of energy and time. So little of those; so many airplanes.

"At my age, I don't buy green bananas"
"At my age, they make me prepay in restaurants".
howell
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Old Feb 03, 2009, 05:15 PM
We shall serve the Lord
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United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
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Al, sorry you didn't like the TF GE AT-6. Let me tell you my experience with your issues.

1. Gear - Mine are holding up just fine. You can see from the second video that not all my landings are smooth and perfect. I haven't had to straighten the gear at all. They still line up and retract just fine. I'm not flying off grass though, so other folks experiences may be different.

2. Covering - I noted that it took me over an hour to get the wrinkles out of the covering. Monokote covering has its own set of problems. Unfortunately they are pretty much a given when you buy a plane that is covered with this material from the factory.

3. Value - For a plane that is AMA Fun Scale competitive out of the box, I think it's an excellent value.

Mike McD
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Old Feb 04, 2009, 10:41 AM
Fly allot, Crash allot, next?
United States, CA, Corona
Joined Feb 2006
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Two to one MIke, so far we win.

Both of us experienced the weak gear and if you saw the landings on the pavement, you would not believe how smooth the wheel landings could be. Actually, wheel landing in a full size T6 were dangerous, they landed much better full stall. There were several variations of the T6, some had free swivel tail wheels, some had locking tail wheels and some had steerable tailwheels. Anyhow, I would not suggest a full stall landing with this kit, the only chance for the gear to survive is with a perfect wheel landing on pavement.

First flight, my gear was perfect, Ethan's bent. He then told me that perhaps his gear was not made the same. My second flight, another perfect wheel landing, it bent so bad that the wheels were off 1/4 inch. I bought the kit because, based on the gear design, I thought it could absorb a bad landing. This is not the case, the spring part does nothing to absorb the shock of a 6lb plane gently touching the ground.

While building this plane I started to not like it, but decided to give it a chance. I was also fuming over the price I paid as compared to the several BH models that I have that were really much better. I sold the frame at the field without the motor and batteries to a fellow named Tony. He informed me that he will fly the plane this weekend (if no rain). So, we then can get another opinion. Tony is out of a job and he was thrilled to get it for such a cheap price

Perhaps I am spoiled, too many planes to use as a comparison. There are lots of guys that just fly one plane, and don't mind tinkering with it inbetween weekends. For them, this plane might be just what they want. The wood used is first quality and not the cheap stuff used in other imported kits. We do have some spoiled brats in this hobby and I guess I am one of them.

What's next Mike?

Al
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Old Feb 04, 2009, 01:44 PM
We shall serve the Lord
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United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
5,080 Posts
Al,

I'm at a loss to explain the difference in our gear wire. Like you, I was very impressed with the appearance of the thickness of the gear wire when I first opened the kit. As you know, a lot or the retracts that are included with ARF planes this size are pretty marginal. I was glad to see that Top Flite had addressed the issue and include beefy retracts with the Gold Edition Texan. Mine have lived up to my expectations and are still working fine.

It sounds like there may have been some sort of problem with the metal tempering process on your and Ethan's gear wire. If Tony has problems with the gear bending, I'd have him contact Hobbico or Top Flite. I know that they have a set of just the replacement wire available under part number TOPA1748. See if they are willing to send him a replacement for the originals.

Next up is getting more air time on my Texan. Got in some great flights Monday and I'm taking it out again tomorrow.

Mike McD
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