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Scorpio Spitfire

This Spitfire is more than a pretty face. The Scorpio Spitfire is a very nice flying plane that looks and sounds very scale.

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Specifications
  • Wingspan: 42-3/4 inches
  • Wing Area: 376 sq. in.
  • Length: 33-1/2 inches
  • Motor: Speed 400 6V Motor
  • Gearbox: 3:1 MJ gearbox (included)
  • Prop: 9x6 APC slowflyer prop
  • Weight: 28 ounces
  • Controls: Ailerons, Throttle, Elevator, Rudder
  • Manufacturer: Scorpio
  • Available from: Hobby Lobby

Introduction

One model that has received a fair amount on attention in the E-Zone forums, specifically the Foamie Forum, has been the Scorpio Spitfire. The Scorpio Spitfire is a foam ARF model of one history's most revered planes, the Supermarine Spitfire.

During the Battle of Britain, pilots flying Spitfires helped defend Britain against the German onslaught. Even after the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire and its variants served the British Royal Air Force and the allied Air Forces well in many roles, in campaigns in European, Middle East, Far East, and North African theaters.
When I saw that Scorpio had come out with a line of foam WWI planes, I hoped that they would consider releasing models of some WWII fighter planes too. I didn't have to wait long before they put several WWII planes on the market. The Spitfire deviates a little from the standard Scorpio foam designed planes, including that of their other WWII foam models. The Spitfire uses a geared Speed 400 motor where most of their foam planes use Speed 280 or Speed 300 motors. In addition, the Scorpio Spitfire is also equipped with ailerons, where most of their planes only have elevator and rudder controls. Both of these were big draws for me, as I prefer more powerful and aerobatic planes, even in the park flyer sized planes.

Initial Impressions

When I received the Spitfire, I was very impressed with the packing and the condition of the plane. All the parts were well wrapped and protected with plastic or with paper, and all made the trip in one piece. I was also impressed with the quality of paint, details, and foam. Some early foam models used very thin foam for their fuselages, but I immediately noticed that while the Spitfire's fuselage was also a formed foam shell, it was much thicker and stronger than the foam shell fuselages that I had seen to that point.
I had hoped to have some construction pictures to show for the Spitfire, but unfortunately, my digital camera was stolen just as I started the review. While the pictures would have been nice, I was able to write the review from my construction notes. I also have pictures that I took after the model was built, and after I bought my new camera. I wish I could have included the construction pictures, but honestly, you are not missing much.
The major components consist of the wing, fuselage, and tail; all are made foam and all are already fully formed. The assembly of the Spitfire is very straightforward and largely consists of adding in parts to hold the motor, servos, and battery, before finally assembly of the subsections.
As with the most of the Scorpio line, the major balsa parts include precut balsa parts for the battery box, servo tray, firewall, and nosecone back plate. Also included were several preformed plastic parts that helped complete the plane, like the spinner, the wing fillets, the simulated exhaust ports, the fairings under the wings, the canopy, and finally the pilot. There is a small assortment of items that finish out the kit, and they include the control rod and wires, the main wheels and gear, tail wheel, and thin ply control horns. I found that all of the included items were very satisfactory and all worked quite well on the plane.

Construction

I followed the very explanatory pictures and directions, and built the plane as indicated. The whole process went very smoothly and I was able build the plane during the course of one Saturday. Since there is no need to rewrite or document the instructions, I will only address a few things that caught my attention.

The hinges for the ailerons, rudder, and elevator are all foam hinged. To allow the control surfaces to move more freely, the builder is supposed to cut through a small, designated section of each hinge area. This works very well, but care must be taken when making the cuts. While making the cuts for the rudder hinge, I slipped and cut the bottom part of the rudder free. Off the top of my head, this could have been fixed one of two ways. I could have hinged the rudder with tape, or have made a more permanent and less visible repair. While tape may have worked for a while, tape does not stick well to painted foam. Therefore, obviously I chose option number two. I cut the rudder free and then glued standard CA hinges in place with 5-minute epoxy. I first glue three hinges into the vertical stabilizer. After those dried, I cut corresponding slots into the rudder for the hinges, and glued the rudder in place. When I was done, the repair was not noticeable and the rudder moved as intended. While this repair worked well, I would recommend using extra caution while cutting the hinges to avoiding making the same mistake I made. Extra glue adds extra weight, and extra weight this far aft can affect the center of gravity.
When I glued the wing to the fuselage, I made another little mistake. The fuselage and main wing were not exactly perpendicular. The battery box held the front of the main wing in correct alignment, but I estimated the alignment of the trailing edge of the wing with the fuselage. I should have taken an extra minute and found the location the center of the trailing edge of the main wing and the fuselage. As it turned out, my estimate was off by half of an inch. I have no idea if the plane would have flown like this, but I wasn't about to try it and find out. The epoxy was starting to setting up, but I was able separate the wing and fuselage. After double-checking the measurements, I re-glued the wing and fuselage together.
The only other minor problem that I had, that again had nothing to do with the quality of the kit, was that I had a difficult time in getting the pinion gear in the correct position on the shaft of the Speed 400 motor. The first time I pushed it on, it went all the way to the bottom of the motor's shaft. After a bit of work, I was able to pry it back up using an Exacto blade, which was the only thing thin enough to slip into the space between the motor the pinion. It took a bit of time and a little heat to break the pinion free, but I finally got it off without warping the pinion or breaking the motor. On my next try, before I pushed the pinion on the shaft, I clamped a hemostat (clamp) on the bottom of the shaft so the pinion could not go too far down.

Setup for steerable tail wheel

To help maneuvering during takeoffs and landings, I made a small deviation from the stock design of my Spitfire. I added a steerable tail wheel using a small piece of ply, the original tail wheel, a slightly thicker piece of wire, and a short piece of plastic tube.

The tail wheel worked very well and I was very pleased with the results, but I now wish that I had tried the Spitfire's stock tail wheel before I made the modification. I imagine a Scorpio Spitfire that is built stock would be light enough to have more than adequate control on the ground using only its rudder. Besides, the modification added extra weight to the tail of the plane. Even though the over all amount of weight that I added was tiny, to get the plane to balance at 70mm point, I had to relocate as many parts as possible to the front of the plane. I moved the ESC into the nose of the Spitfire, in front of the battery box. I also had to attach the receiver to the back of the battery box with Velcro.

The image above is not scale or measured using the exact dimensions. It just shows the concept.

  • Select a thicker, but not too thick piece of wire. Use a long piece of wire and cut off the excess when done.
  • Find a small plastic tube that fits well over the wire without too much friction and too much slack.
  • Slide the wire into the tube and bend the top 90-degree bend first. (Obviously, you cannot slide the wire through the tube once the wire has been bent.)
  • Cut a small slit into the bottom seam of the rudder. Bend the "box" so that it fits into the hole. Make sure and make your box big enough so that it has plenty of contact area inside the rudder. You can also glue on a scrap piece of the super thin lite-ply from some of the left over scraps that came with the kit's parts. (Be careful, if you add a lot of weight back here, it will make it hard to balance the plane.)
  • Bend the ~45-degree bend for the tail wheel and then bend the 90-degree right bend (or left) for the tail wheel.
  • Carefully glue the tube to a small piece of the scrap ply from the kit. (You want to use the thicker ply.) Be careful not to use a large piece, as this can also add a lot of weight. Also be careful not to get glue into the tube or on the wire. I used CA and no fixer.
  • Cut a slot into bottom of the fuselage, and test fit the ply-bracket. Make sure that the tube lines up with or fairly close to the hinge on the rudder. You want it to be as close as possible.
  • When you are sure it lines up and the wire "box" fits into the rudder, glue the "box" into the rudder and the ply bracket into the fuselage with 5-minute epoxy. Do not use more epoxy than needed, or the plane will be tail heavy.
  • You will have to enlarge the hole in the original tail wheel slightly to get it on the new thicker wire. After it is on, CA on a piece of tube, or make a bend in the wire to hold the wheel on. Again, use the original wheel to keep the weight down.
Note: It is very important to keep the weight and CG issues in mind if you are planning to build this plane more or less stock and you are plan to add the steerable tail wheel. If you are going to slap on a big brushless motor, you may want to add more weight at the rear of the plane.

Test Flights

Once my Spitfire was built, it was time for some test flights. The first thing I did to prepare for the flight was to configure my radio. I dialed in the lower rates on the rudder, ailerons, and elevator to 75%, and the upper rates to 100%. For my first flight, I decided to use the lower rates.

When I got to the local field, I tried to taxi the Spitfire, but I had a little problem keeping it straight on the runway. On the first trip down the runway, torque kept pulling it to one side. I added in a little trim and dialed down the throw on the rudder, which helped tame the torque steer. I lined the Spitfire up again, applied full throttle, and it shot down the runway. In about 25 feet, it was climbing out. I trimmed the rudder back to neutral and made a few passes back and forth over the field to get the trim set. The CG must have still been a tiny bit too far back, as the Spitfire kept wanting to pitch up a little bit. After I got it trimmed, I throttle up to 100% to check the speed. It wasn't lightning fast, but it flew very scale and looked very nice in the air. The gearbox also made a very nice sound as the Spitfire passed overhead. When I was a little more comfortable, I put the Spitfire into a few rolls. Even at the lower rates, it rolled very nicely and very precisely. As soon as I set the sticks back to neutral, the Spitfire instantly stopped rolling. I then tried a few slower passes and again the Spitfire looked very nice as it passed overhead. The Spitfire was flying a little too low and slow as it approached the end of the field, so I applied full power and pulled up. Again, the Spitfire wasn't a rocket, but it pulled out nicely. I'm not sure exactly how long I had it up, but since it was close to sunset, it was getting hard to see the orientation of the Spitfire so I decided to bring it in early.
On my first flights with any new plane, I just try to get the plane trimmed if it needs it and try to avoid and sudden and "unplanned landings". On my first outings with the Spitfire, I made a few quick checks of its stall characteristics, and a lot a straight line passes down the field to check speed and trim, with only a roll or two to check the aileron throw and roll rate.
During the stall checks, I noticed that when entering a stall with the wings level, the Spitfire gently stalls nose down, and picks up speed easily. However, care should be taken to keep the speed up in a turn, as the Spitfire does have a slight tendency to spin when stall is initiated in a banking turn. If the plane is high enough, this is correctable, but on a low and slow approach, the spin happens very quickly and it can be difficult or impossible to recover the plane.
I also noticed that on my first attempts at landing, I brought the Spitfire in much too fast, which made for long and fast landings. After getting use to the plane, I was able to float it in with minimal power. Just remember to stay on the throttle in case you need to make a quick recovery or go around.

On my next set of flights, I had the opportunity to explore more of the Spitfire's flight envelope. The Spitfire is very capable of sustained inverted flight, outside loops, stall turns, and many more, basic aerobatic maneuvers. I was very happy with the very positive feel of the plane. It never felt sloppy or twitchy, except in windy conditions when I should not have been flying anyway. Just remember that this plane is very light and has a very light wing loading. Takeoffs, landings, and slower flight in general are going to be more difficult during windy conditions. However, I can say that under full power, the Spitfire can handle fairly windy conditions admirably.

Sadly, just a day after I wrote about the flight tests, I crashed the Spitfire. The wife and I went to field to take a few more photos of the Spitfire in action. It was getting late and the sun had been hiding behind clouds all day, so I wasn't wearing sunglasses. On the second to the last circuit around the field, the sun peeked out and for a second I lost sight of the plane. I stayed calm and I quickly picked it up as it pass by the sun. I wanted to land, but I cut the approach too short so I had to bring the Spitfire around again. I though that I had the Spitfire well below the path of the sun. I was wrong and again the setting sun blinded me for a second. I tried to remain calm and not make any sudden control inputs, but in that second, something went wrong. When I saw my plane again, it was spinning and heading straight for the ground. I tried to pull it out of its dive, but it was too late. The Spitfire went down in a muddy, grass-covered field. While the plane was destroyed, all of the electronics and gear, including the gearbox survived. I know many people say that they have a hard time feeling an attachment to an ARF, especially a foam plane. I have to admit that I was a little surprised at my own reaction. I have had my share of crashes, but I have only totaled one other plane. Perhaps it was that I haven't had all that many "fatal" crashes, but I doubt it. My Scorpio Spitfire was one great looking and flying plane and I really enjoyed taking it to the field. I have the gear out and it is already ready for another Spitfire to take its place after the holidays. I plan to build the next one completely stock. I would like to note that I have noticed that a number of people in the forums report to have made many modifications to the plane, but I can happily report that the Spitfire also flies very well on its stock configuration.

Conclusion

While the Scorpio Spitfire isn't a speed demon, it gets up to altitude quickly and makes nice circuits around the field at very scale speeds. It also has more than enough power for many aerobatic maneuvers. The gearbox also makes very nice sound as the Spitfire passes overhead. Combine all this with its very simple construction and good looks, and you have a formula for a very nice plane.
Thread Tools
May 20, 2004, 05:42 PM
Keep building, buying,fly
Bigplumbs's Avatar

Scorpio Spitfire


I have returned to rc flying after 21 years (I am now 41) I bought myself a Hobbyzone Fighterbird then moved on to an aerobird (I live in the uk and cant get an aerobird extreem here yet) I can fly the aerobird well and feel confident with loops, tail slides etc. I now want to go to an electric model with ailerons. I need one that is hand launched and can belly land on grass. I was wondering if the scorpio spit was too great a step...... What do you think


Bigplumbs
Aug 30, 2004, 04:48 PM
Keep building, buying,fly
Bigplumbs's Avatar

Scorpio Spitfire


Quote:
Originally Posted by jbourke

Scorpio Spitfire
By Dave Lilley

This Spitfire is more than a pretty face. The Scorpio Spitfire is a very nice flying plane that looks and sounds very scale.
Thanks Dave

I have bought loads of planes since posing my question, A Scorpio FW190A With 400 Brushkless mutron... Flies lovely and fully aerobatic, A GWS Spit Ok but a little under power and fairly diddicult to fly, Best of all though is a Ripmax Spit with 600 motor flies like a dream and has massive power for big dives with climb out and Rolls. Just bought a Scorpio Spit with Brushless Ok but haveing prop size problems and the of G was a bit of a Problem

Have Fun

BigPlumbs
Sep 22, 2004, 11:03 AM
Registered User
BP...going to maiden mine this weekend...your reasons are identical to mine. I've a thread on www.rcmodelflyers.co.uk under the electric thread.

Regards Gordon.
Sep 25, 2004, 03:03 PM
Registered User
Here's a pic of the Scorpio with a modified removable wing. The 2 wing bolts go onto captive nuts on the liteply with all the Rx gismos taped or screwed to it. Here's the idea.


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