Hobby Lobby EScale A6M5c Zero EPO Receiver Ready ARF with Retracts Review - RC Groups

Hobby Lobby EScale A6M5c Zero EPO Receiver Ready ARF with Retracts Review

Iconic warbird looks, sport plane handling, fantastic scale detail, receiver-ready convenience, working retracts and tough EPO foam construction add up to one of the nicest Zeroes you may ever fly regardless of scale.



Hobby Lobby EScale A6M5c Zero EPO
Wingspan:39.4" (1000mm)
Wing Area:271 sq. in. (17.6 sq. dm)
Weight:30 oz. (850g)
Length:32.6" (829mm)
Wing Loading:9 oz/sq. ft. (255g/sq. dm)
Speed Range:Visually estimated at 60 mph (100km/h)
Servos:Four EScale 9g analog micro servos with one EScale 19g retract servo
Transmitter:Spektrum DX6i six-channel spread spectrum aircraft
Receiver:Spektrum AR6100e six-channel park flyer
Battery:EScale 1650mAh 3S lithium polymer with W.S. Deans Ultra Plug connector and JST-XH balancing plug
Motor:EScale 970Kv brushless outrunner
Propeller:EScale multi-piece three-blade scale; pitch and diameter not specified
ESC:EScale 30-ampere with W.S. Deans Ultra Plug connector
Construction:Pre-painted expanded polyolefin foam with vacuum-molded plastic canopy, spinner, cockpit tray, wheel wells, dashboard and cowl, injection-molded engine air scoop, radio mast, guns and pitot tube details, foam tires with plastic hubs, latex pilot figure, lite plywood servo tray
Minimum Skill Level:Intermediate
Available From:Hobby Lobby International, 5614 Franklin Pike Circle, Brentwood, Tennessee 37027 USA
Price (USD):$189.99

A click on an ad banner here at RCGroups led me to the EPO foam Mitsubishi A6M5c Zero from Hobby Lobby with gorgeous scale detail including a pitot tube and ID stencil, accurate markings and coloring, multi-part scale propeller, working retracts and a pre-installed radio system, requiring little more than basic final assembly and the installation of a suitable receiver.

Online research revealed that the prototype, with tail number 03-09, was a rare "Hei" version of the Zero flown in 1945 by Naval Air Pilot First Class Takeo Tanimizu, the ace Imperial Japanese Navy fighter pilot of the 203rd FG, Kagoshima. EScale may have used existing static models as a reference to create this scaled-up and flyable version; N.A.P. Tanimizu's Zero is a popular static modeling subject. For example, the prop hub appears to be variable pitch even though it isn't and even though the hub is hidden by the spinner.

Some minimal final assembly is all that stands between you and the fun, so let's get started!

Kit Contents

Let me simply say that if this model looked good on my computer monitor, the real deal looked positively beautiful in person. I just kept saying "oh my gosh, oh my gosh" as I unwrapped the parts.

Not only was it painted in that unique combination of dark olive green and light gray many ground-based Japanese fighters of the period are famous for, EScale took it up a notch with a bevy of silk-screened decals underneath a clear-coat finish. From the brilliant red and white rising sun hinomaru insignia and Tanimizu's kill markings right down to a faithfully recreated Imperial Japanese Navy ID stencil and some Japanese script atop the wing, the Zero was shaping up to be one of the most beautiful foam ARFs I'd ever seen. Add to that such touches as guns, a radio mast, the prototypically correct seven exhaust pipes for a Sakae 14-cylinder radial and even a pitot tube on the outer LE of the left wing and you're pretty much guaranteed to draw a crowd of admirers at the field.

The foam itself is certainly worth a mention. "EPO" is the acronym for "expanded polyolefin," a relatively new plastic which has been a hit with glider enthusiasts. It's extremely rugged, bounces back after crashes, takes paint well and is easily repaired with foam-safe CA or epoxy. The light, strong material has even found favor with the world's auto manufacturers.

There's a lot packed into the box holding the A6M5c:

  • Pre-installed servos, motor, ESC, tailwheel and retracts
  • Pre-painted and decorated parts
  • EScale 1650mAh 3S li-po with Deans Ultra Plug connector
  • Three-blade scale propeller
  • Vacuum-molded and injection-molded parts
  • Y-connector and servo extension

You only need the following to get flying:

  • Computerized aircraft radio with a minimum of five channels
  • Five-minute epoxy
  • Small phillips screwdriver



Since there's a lot of prefabrication on the Zero, there really isn't much to assemble. Still, assemble we must and it starts with the horizontal stabilizer.

The manual tells you to peel the backing off of the preinstalled double-sided tape on the stab, but there was none possibly due to a change of specifications. To me, it was just as well given the snug fit of the part which would have likely stuck it in place prematurely. Instead, I mixed up a bit of the five-minute epoxy I brought out for attaching the tail. The molded construction not only gives the Zero a stabilizer with an airfoil, it makes it easy to align the stabilizer as well. Using epoxy instead of tape allowed for fine-tuning, so I applaud EScale for their decision to omit the tape.

After test-fitting the tail fin, I mixed up a bit more epoxy and on it went. There's a hinge tab immediately in front of the control horn; it didn't want to go in from the rear, but slid right into place from the top. The tab seems to be a bit flimsy, so cutting it off an replacing it with a CA hinge is a viable option. Mine partially tore off during the test-fitting stage, so I used a small Du-Bro pinned hinge of the exact same size I stumbled across in the parts bin.

Like the stabilizer, the tail fin fits perfectly, but its right side is marred by a rather ugly and large ejection mark that the factory elected to simply paint over rather than to first remove.

The clevises are attached to the outermost hole of each control horn, but they lack silicone tubing safety retainers. I'm a believer in this simple safety feature, so I cut a couple of pieces of scrap tubing I keep on hand for just this situation, removed the clevises, slipped on the tubes and replaced the clevises.

If the ejection mark on the tail was an unfortunate part of the manufacturing process, the preinstalled pull-pull tailwheel was a truly welcome sight despite the grossly oversized wheel and tire. Short of a really high-end, giant-scale model, you're unlikely to find a nicer setup than this one.

I was interested in seeing how the unidentified servos, motor and ESC would work, so I attached the leads to a 72 MHz receiver, fired up my trusty old Hitec Laser 4 and plugged in a fresh li-po. The servos snapped to attention, the ESC generated its series of ready tones and the fuselage was ready for its first test.

The nine-gram servos were not only remarkably quiet, but fast as well with plenty of throw. I personally see no reason to upgrade them; they struck me as very high-quality units quite a bit nicer than the kinds of servos often associated with a receiver-ready or RTF. I don't see a reason to upgrade the motor or ESC, either. Throttle response was buttery smooth as was the motor operation itself. I don't know why the electronics manufacturer(s) declined to identify their products, especially after such a good first impression.


The wing is completely assembled save for the gun and pitot tube details. Servos, retracts and any bracing have already been installed for you. Once I used the enclosed 6" servo extension to connect the retract servo to the Spektrum AR6100e receiver, I decided it was time for a test.

The retracts are of the typical push-pull variety and the retract servo is a darned fast one. Flipping the retract switch on the Spekrum DX6i transmitter immediately snapped the gear down, but the left gear didn't want to lock. Some brief noodling about with the sub-trims and end-point adjustments resulted in perfectly functioning retracts with no hint of servo buzzing and no need to adjust the pushrods.

Once the aileron servos are plugged into the supplied Y-connector, plug the connector into your receiver, attach the wing to the fuselage with the supplied machine screws and you're done. Just make sure that the retracts are extended so that you can install the two forward screws.


I've never had to outline the assembly of a propeller before, but there's a first time for everything.

There's little to it, actually. The blades, which only fit one way, are first inserted into the front part of the hub. The rear of the hub is attached with screws and the prop along with the spinner are assembled to the preinstalled motor adapter. The prop is a bit of a tight fit on the adapter, so I used a 10mm socket wrench on the retaining nut and washer to press the propeller in place.

The spinner's wooden backplate and clear plastic retainer base are attached in front of the prop with the aforementioned nut and washer, but the base makes getting at the nut kind of tricky without a 10mm deep socket. The base and spinner have predrilled screw holes which must be properly aligned as the nut is snugged up. The spinner itself is attached to the base with a couple of small screws, completing the installation.

A quick spin of the prop showed the assembly to be remarkably well-balanced; testing under power confirmed how well-balanced (and powerful) the prop really is. The blades have a bit of flex to them which should prevent breakage in all but the most severe crashes.


All that's really left for you to do before setting the CG and control throws is to add the neat little details which distinguish the Zero from a lot of other ARFs, namely the simulated radio mast, guns, pitot tube and air scoop. Both the mast and scoop fit very loosely in their appointed locations despite some preinstalled double-sided tape on the latter. Some Beacon Foam-Tac foam glue was all it took to get those parts in place with a bit of give if need be. I thought that to be especially important where the mast was concerned since the canopy slides on and off over it. The pitot tube was a loose fit as well, so I used a little trick to hold it in place. I simply dabbed a little bit of foam-safe medium CA on the shiny plastic pin, inserted it in the hole, let the glue set and carefully twisted the pitot tube itself. This left me with a firmly seated pitot tube which can be removed later if need be.

Installing the battery allows the setting of the CG which is 75-80mm back from the LE of the wing. There's one heck of a lot of room in that battery compartment which will allow for an equal lot of experimentation with other batteries.

Oddly enough, there's no mention of the pilot bust anywhere in the manual and he doesn't show up on the box art, either. Any pilot figure is a nice touch and it seemed to be pretty obvious as to how to install the bust and its tray with its pre-applied double-sided tape inside the canopy.

One teensy little problem arose: The tray didn't allow the canopy to be attached to the fuselage. Not only that, the bust is out of scale. The canopy attaches by sliding over some corresponding guides in the fuselage and is secured by rare earth magnets on either side. Placing the tray where it would fit blocks the guides; placing it further in the canopy spread the canopy apart too far. Sadly, I chose to forego installing the pilot for the video shoot scheduled for the next day. The answer hit me a few days later. I simply trimmed away most of the mounting tabs, leaving only small tabs fore and aft of the canopy. That was the ticket. The canopy fit perfectly over the guides using this method and the Zero now has a pilot!

After a few quick final settings of the Spektrum DX6i, including 25% expo on the ailerons and elevator, the Zero was ready to hit the air.



Since I didn't want to risk flying a retract-equipped model off of grass and since I had no desire to hand-launch such a relatively large model as suggested in the manual, the maiden flights, beauty shots and video would take place at the beautiful Coachella Valley Radio Control Club outside of Coachella, California. My friend Ken Alan accompanied me yet again as my videographer.

Per my initial assessment, the Zero caused quite a stir among some of the pilots present that morning; few foam ARFs of this size I've encountered really compare with the visual punch this model packs.

I was particularly interested in the ground handling; remember that the Zero comes equipped with a fantastic pull-pull tailwheel. Let me tell you: It works beautifully. Slowly taxiing the Zero between the pits and flight line was as easy as guiding a toy R/C car. No slop, no weird changes of direction and no wandering, just some of the easiest ground handling of a taildragger I've ever enjoyed. The wheel and tire might be way too large from a scale viewpoint, but it's a tremendous help in the real world.

Taking Off

The three-blade propeller produces a lot of torque, much more than I'd anticipated. Once the tail lifted off, the torque pointed the Zero left, but it was airborne immediately after.

The Zero rocketed toward the clear desert sky and looked absolutely gorgeous doing so. Handling was solid and predictable per Hobby Lobby's claim of sport plane-like flight. After a couple of turns to get the feel of the model, I slowed it down so that Ken could shoot video.

Any model with an elliptical wing and with as much aileron travel as I'd set (more on that a bit later) risks stalling in turns at low speed and the Zero was no exception. Bumping up the speed a bit and taking it easy on the stick cleared up the problem immediately. Even at less than its full potential, the Zero was a genuine blast to fly with no other bad habits. I sometimes get a bit of an adrenaline rush when facing the unknown during maiden flights of high-performance models; not so with the Zero. Up went the gear as I brought it around for some high-speed passes over the runway. I'd predicted a top speed of around 60 mph (100km/h) before it hit the air and my visual estimation seemed to be right on the money.

I avoided doing any aerobatics both for Ken's benefit as well as my own, electing instead to fly it closer to scale. This didn't diminish the fun at all; it simply went where it was pointed, unaffected by the slight breeze.

Since I only had the battery it was supplied with, I kept the flight relatively short, swung out to set up for a landing and brought it in.


This is where one needs to keep in mind that this model has an elliptical wing which really likes airspeed. I did and kept a bit of power on as the Zero settled in. Just as I was about to blip the throttle one last time and flare out for the landing, the wing stalled. Fortunately, the model was only a few inches off the ground and moving slowly. It came down on the mains and plowed its nose into the runway, resulting in only tiny scrapes to one propeller tip and the spinner. This elicited a laugh from my friend Dick Knapp, the club's VP and treasurer who said he knew that I could do better.

I knew I could as well, so I told Ken that I'd be taking off again to bring it back around for another landing. This time, I was ready on the rudder and the Zero took off nice and straight. The second landing was much better as well, but it wasn't the three-pointer I'd hoped for. It came down on the left main resulting in a wobbly but controllable landing without stalling.

The taxi ride back was a real joy thanks to the terrific ground handling evident in the video.

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

While I didn't fly aerobatics during the maiden, I certainly did later. Like the video on Hobby Lobby's website shows, the Zero will do virtually anything a good sport plane or warbird can do including Cuban Eights, half Cubans, Immelmann turns, four-point rolls, you name it. The extra airspeed certainly helped; once more, the Zero did exactly what I wanted it to do.

I took a few moments to double-check the control throws since they felt a bit too high during the maiden flight. The manual suggests 100% end-point adjustment throws, but the actual throws are listed farther down the page. These throws as delivered were fairly close to those in the manual, so I used the travel adjustment feature on the DX6i to adjust the values.

One thing's for sure as I learned on the aerobatic test flights: The camo scheme works pretty darn well against a partly cloudy sky. Beyond that minor inconvenience, the Zero unleashed was a tiger.

The scale prop went about its business with remarkable silence and gobs of torque as before, pulling the Zero around the sky above the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club with real authority. Rolls and loops were effortless, but inverted flight needed quite a bit of down elevator to keep the nose up. I couldn't get it to knife edge since it simply doesn't have enough rudder area, but the Zero will do pretty much do anything else you ask of it.

One think I did notice at the higher flight speeds was a tendency for the Zero to act like, well, a Zero. It requires a great deal of care and balancing of aileron and elevator to keep turns smooth. If the nose is allowed to drop too low, the recovery can be a bit on the exciting side; the Zero snaps around and quickly. This sort of manueverability is what made the real deal such an effective fighter, one which was deemed "aerodynamically impossible" by the Allies after early intelligence reports started coming in. I'll be taming the elevator with some more exponential and I may add some aileron/elevator mixing or maybe flaperons to see how it responds.

I could have used the flaperons on landing because yes, it stalled again just about the time I was ready to flare for a landing. Everything was looking perfect, the Zero was under a bit of power, but it wasn't enough. My second landing was a little better with more airspeed, but that extra airspeed made the model want to climb instead of flare. Reducing the power brought it in for a much better landing than the first, but it still wanted to rock the wings like the landing in the video. It wound up on the nose once more, but the experience presented the solution. It needs to go out long, shallow and fast on final and come in low as it clears the threshhold of the runway, again much as in my video as well as in Hobby Lobby's video. I was coming in too high, cut power to slow it down and slowed it a bit too much prior to touchdown.

WIll I be practicing my landings with this model? Oh, yes.

Is This For a Beginner?

Sorry, but no. As easy as the Zero is to get in the air, it requires some experience with a low-wing, aileron-guided sport plane in order to fly it successfully. It also requires a great deal of attention in flight. Like the prototype, it is a seat-of-your-pants, high-performance flier that can snap out of a turn in such a way as to disorient a new pilot. Anyone with at least an intermediate level of experience with ailerons and a low-wing configuration is going to have a truly wonderful time with this model once they get the hang of landing it. Warbird enthusiasts are really going to have a blast.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery



The receiver-ready Hobby Lobby EScale A6M5c Zero is a genuine joy to fly as well as to look at. It's challenging without being frustrating; it actually seems to beckon me to keep on practicing landings until they're right. It's nicely finished in a historically accurate paint scheme, it goes together quickly, the scale details add class and flair and all the pre-installed electronics worked right out of the box with no problems or major adjusting. Fitting the pilot figure actually took longer than it did for me to get the electronics dialed in. On top of that, it's a tough customer that shrugged off noseovers that would have surely damaged another foam model.

I'm giving this model an enthusiastic two thumbs up. Way, way up. It's become a personal favorite in a very short time, and believe me, I plan on greasing those landings very soon.

Until next time, keep 'em flying!

This is a model simply overflowing with pluses, including:

  • Receiver-ready convenience
  • Tough, rugged construction
  • Fun and challenging to fly; you won't soon become bored with this model
  • Beautiful scale looks and details
  • Outstanding Hobby Lobby International customer support
  • The preinstalled servos and working retracts work perfectly
  • Affordably priced; it even comes with a li-po
  • Scale three-blade propeller is lightweight, quiet and powerful
  • Excellent if unnamed preinstalled electrics and hardware
  • Pull-pull tailwheel is a rarity in a model this size
  • Excellent ground handling

Minuses, I'm pleased to say, are few:

  • Prone to "hangar rash" like many painted foamies, although to a lesser degree given the thickness of the paint and the clear coat finish
  • Ejection mark on the tail is a disappointment
  • Pilot figure is something of an afterthought and doesn't live up to the scale detail on the model itself
  • Hinge tab on the tail prone to tearing during the test-fitting stage
  • Tailwheel is out of scale, but aids in ground handling
Last edited by Angela H; Mar 07, 2011 at 08:58 AM..
Thread Tools
Mar 07, 2011, 11:14 AM
Registered User
Your video doesn't play on my computer. What codec is used to produce the video, please?
Mar 07, 2011, 11:40 AM
Registered User
Same here.
Mar 07, 2011, 11:56 AM
Actually nice quality thru DIVX
Mar 07, 2011, 12:08 PM
Pronoun trouble...
DismayingObservation's Avatar
Sorry 'bout that. I edited the video on an iMac and the converter I used only processed thirty seconds of Windows Media video. Definitely going to invest in a commercial converter so I can convert to full-length .wma files. A DivX player will play back the .avi file on a PC like RC AVIGATOR pointed out and I believe Quick Time will play it back as well.
Mar 07, 2011, 12:26 PM
Registered User
You keep saying the Zero has an elliptical wing, which is wrong. A Zero has a tapered wing - the Spitfire is an example of an elliptical planform. Russ Farris
Mar 07, 2011, 12:41 PM
Pronoun trouble...
DismayingObservation's Avatar
You're right; the wing isn't a purely elliptical wing like a Spitfire, but it is basically elliptiform in shape especially out toward the tips. I have a Spitty that likes airspeed on landing much like the Zero does.
Mar 07, 2011, 12:47 PM
Registered User
Great job with the music! never thought I'd hear the Imperial Japanese Naval march on a US Produced video!
Mar 07, 2011, 01:08 PM
Registered User
faststick's Avatar
Nice review, and a very good looking arf! It looks like a fun bird all the way around!

Mar 07, 2011, 01:10 PM
Pronoun trouble...
DismayingObservation's Avatar
Thanks to both of you. I frankly had no other idea of what to put under the video music-wise. My research told me that the march dates back to well before the war. I don't know if it's officially still in use, but if it is, Japan is a good friend of the US nearly seventy years after the end of the war. I put a Russian march under my review of a flat foam Sukhoi SU-30 prop jet from Yardbird RC and I thought a Japanese march would be interesting under this one.

BTW, I'm working on a flat foam P-51D. "The U.S. Air Force" is most assuredly going under that one.
Last edited by DismayingObservation; Mar 07, 2011 at 04:22 PM.
Mar 07, 2011, 03:04 PM
2948 scale Combat
critter1340's Avatar
Yes it is nice... I posted these photos on another site 2 months ago
but still have not had the test flight...
Rain, Snow or wind always something.

GOOD Job DismayingObservation.
Last edited by critter1340; Mar 07, 2011 at 03:50 PM.
Mar 07, 2011, 04:25 PM
Pronoun trouble...
DismayingObservation's Avatar
Thanks, Critter. Much obliged.

Thanks for the photos, especially the one showing the modification to the cockpit tray. I really like that spinner and the airbrushing over the wing behind the guns! Did that spinner come with the model or is it aftermarket?
Mar 07, 2011, 07:33 PM
2948 scale Combat
critter1340's Avatar
The spinner is aftermarket. It threaded right on and looked good, so I used it.
Mar 07, 2011, 09:53 PM
Registered User
Strongbow's Avatar
That motor looks like the same one used in their Hun Hunter P-47. I had one of those for while. I do not believe there is any way you can come close to 60mph with that motor. I installed an exceed rc monster power 10 in mine and had it radared at 63mph in a shaloow dive. But the motor is an easy fix and not that expensive. Not sure I would trust Erc servos for long. I have had several Hobby Lobby planes end up in the trash can because of failed servos.
It looks like who ever produced for Hobby Lobby did a fair job on the scale looks, and thank goodness they didnt repeat the EPS foam mistake of the P-47. First saw this plane on ready2fly's site about 3 months before Hobby Lobby came out with it and was really thinking about getting it. But it looks like FMS may be developing an A6M5 in the larger scale. To bad Hobby Lobby's plane is in the 40 inch range. If it had a 55 inch span I would probably jump. It is a good looker and a good size for those who like the smaller birds or want something they can just toss in the backseat for a quick trip to the park.
Mar 08, 2011, 01:04 PM
Registered User
Originally Posted by Strongbow
That motor looks like the same one used in their Hun Hunter P-47. I had one of those for while.

It looks like who ever produced for Hobby Lobby did a fair job on the scale looks, and thank goodness they didnt repeat the EPS foam mistake of the P-47.
I agree about the EPO/EPS foam, the P47 was such a great looker but man was it fragile! Also I hope eScale changed the motor for the Zero, my P47 motor lasted about 3 flights before dying and according to the thread here on rcgroups, I wasn't the only one!

Glad they went with EPO...much better choice.

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