Phoenix Model's SBD DAUNTLESS - RC Groups

Phoenix Model's SBD DAUNTLESS

Maybe it isn't a sleek as a P-51 but I don't remember seeing one of those sink an aircraft carrier either!



Wingspan: 56.7 "
Wing Area: 565.75 Sq. In.
Weight: 106-116 oz. (final weight 121 oz)
Length: 45"
Servos: (6) Futaba S3152 Digital Servos
Servo:(1) Futaba S3170G Digital Planetary Gear Retract
Transmitter: Futaba 8JA 8-Channel 2.4GHz
Receiver: Futaba R2008SB
Battery: FlightPower LiPo FP50 5S 18.5V 5000mAh 50C
Motor: Great Planes Rimfire Rimfire .55 42-60-480 Outrunner Brushless
Prop: APC 15x8 E
Engine:.46-.55 two stroke
ESC: Great Planes Silver Series 60A Brushless ESC High Volt
Manufacturer: Model
Available From: Tower Hobbies
Price: $209.97 ARF

One cannot discuss of the Battle of Midway in June 1942, without mentioning the successful bombing of the Japanís naval fleet by SBD Dauntless : they sank three Japanese carriers and heavily damaged a fourth!

The distinctive perforated split flaps or "dive-brakes" was used to eliminate tail buffeting during diving maneuvers (can you say 70 degrees!). The SBD Dauntless used a heavy engine (Wright R-1820-60 radial engine, 1,200 hp) that weighed in at 1,184 lb (537 kg), hence the short distance between the nose of the aircraft and the CG.

For that reason you do not see very many models of the Dauntless, and those that are modeled often require POUNDS of lead up front to balance. Phoenix models decided to take on this challenge and introduced a very scale-like model that also was a fine flying warbird.

SBD Dauntless RCGroups com (6 min 8 sec)

Kit Contents


Order of Assembly:

Ailerons; flaps; joining wing; wing/fuse fit; landing gear; horizontal stab; tail wheel; rudder; engine or motor mounting; servos and push rods in fuselage; cowl; canopy; wing joints added; CG.


If I had to do over again, I would not glue the hinges for the flaps until after the servo were connected as it would make installing the control horn easier as would painting the inside of the flap area red. You also have to decide how you are going to make the flaps work in the same direction as there are three options.

The easiest is to connect the flaps is to have each flap servo plugged into a different channel on the receiver (use tx "Master/Slave" function) then reverse one of them. Another option is use a servo 'reverser' which is available from many different companies, but the only one I really trust is the one from Futaba. A third option would be to take one of the flap assemblies and rotate is so both servo arms are facing the same direction. Your two aileron servos each point in opposite directions but your flap servos should point either to the left or to the right.

Retractable Landing Gear

Once the wheel wells are in place, the retract unit can be mounted. For some reason I got confused on the push rods when installing the flaps and ailerons, so the two push rods necessary for the retracts weren't available so some good old fashioned wire from the scrap box was used.

The "Z" bend was formed by using a Du-Bro product that unfortunately is now discontinued and the angle of the wire was done by TLAR (that looks about right).

My strongest suggestion on this bird is to dry fit the retract servo BEFORE gluing the wing halves together because even a low profile retract servo (which was used) will required some grinding/sanding to get that puppy to fit. Then came the wire push rods - spent some time tinkering to get it right. As you can see from the previous pictures, some gentle bending is needed.

Using an inline volt/amp meter showed the retract servo was pulling almost zero amps while in the up or down position. A stalled servo can cost you a plane, so make certain your retracts lock up and lock down before flying for the first time....of course electric retracts could be substituted....


Maybe it is just me, but I prefer to mount the power plant before adding the tail feathers, so that is what I did. The Dauntless comes with both a motor mount and a two-piece mounts for a glow engine and whereas this is going the 'E' route, the 'new' firewall was easily mounted, followed by the RimFire 55. Surprise of surprises, the supplied "X" mount for the RimFire lined up with the firewall without any modifications.

After that was completed, the cowl caught my attention. First the plywood 'ring' was epoxied to the firewall and while that was drying, the scale radial engine was cut out from its form. Gee that also needs some paint!

Then another 'wood ring' was glued to the back of the plastic engine with some thick CA. Once this was dry the center of the plastic was removed by the action of the handiest tool in the workroom - a Dremel. This assembly was then glued into the cowl with some flexible glue stolen from the wife's craft supply.

Now the cowl can be lined up and secured to the fuselage with a couple of screws.


The horizontal stabilizer has to be mounted through the access slot in the fuselage. Once the stab was centered, the center section of the covering was removed by using a 'Hot Knife' by Hobbico (stock # LXSD16). The covering is actually melted NOT cut so the structural integrity of the stabilizer is not compromised. There appeared to be sufficient wood to wood contact to hold the stab in place.

The two elevator halves were put into position and the location of the control horns were made before the individual halves were glued into position. Inserting the push rods through the center hole in the firewall made their installation easy. Make certain the elevator halves can move up and down without striking the fuselage.

The rudder was installed after the tail wheel assembly was fixed into its proper location. The tail wheel strut extends through the bottom of the fuselage to the lower portion of the rudder where it makes a 90 degree bend. Of all the places to find the hardest metal to bend, it would have to be here! Making that bend was not easy as there isn't much to hold the vertical shaft while making that bend. Mine came out a 'sorta' right angle as you can see. The trick was using a needle nose pliers to hold the vertical wire, then making certain the tail wheel is straight, bend that puppy 90 degrees. Easier said than done.

Both the elevator and rudder was secured to the stabilizers with thin CA.

Radio Installation

Lot of space for the radio and being powered by electrons, extra space is available because there isn't a need for a throttle servo.

The receiver was Velcro'd to the fuselage and its location was dictated by the length of the throttle connector coming from the speed control. The flaps would be plugged into two different channels in the receiver, therefore it's location had to be such that access would be easy to make those connections.

The Great Planes 60 A. ESC was located in my favorite location - right in the airstream and its location required a small portion of the fuselage had to be removed. A hole was then drilled so the ESC's battery connection could be routed upward inside the fuselage. Nonetheless, it is a big of a pain to connect the battery then secure the battery inside the fuse. I guess one could make an extension but that would make life easier and we all know how to like to complain so I'll skip that option and grumble<g>.


With all the parts in their respective location, the CG was marked on the fuse/wing at 115mm from the leading edge. Surprise! It balanced right on the mark - did you hear that? A Dauntless that didn't require grandma's portable bank to balance - I bet I'm the envy of all Dauntless lovers!

Control throws were set at the 'low rate' settings on the Futaba 8JA transmitter and about double that for the 'high' rate. The rudder was set to maximum throw at either setting and yes the rudder is effective, even at low airspeeds.

Pictures were just about taken when the 'let's do something to make this bird stand out' mode hit. Some Testor's silver paint was used to make the weathering along the leading edge (used an 'acid'brush) and some black markers did their thing as described below.

Some Extras

Some of you will want to dress up your Dauntless and here are some suggestions. Before gluing your flaps to the wing, paint the inside of the flap area. If you wish, you could paint the wheel wells some sort of yellow/green.

If you wish you can detail the bottom of the wing with some 1/64" black tape (I like Chart-Pak which can be found at some office supply stores). I would recommend you do all your work on the wing panels after gluing them together. Or you could do the permanent marker route - which I did on this model (Sharpie Fine Point). The good news is that if you goof up, wipe the area with rubbing alcohol and your errors are a thing of the past!

The fuse could use some attention in the canopy area. Remove the portion of the canopy around the pilot and it looks like it was slid back. For this task a "Hot Knife" from Hobbico was used, working slowly and letting the plastic melt, not cut. Most Dauntless pictures show this section open - guess they liked to fly low with the breeze (and noise) in they hair. You can also remove the rear section of the canopy and and put in a pair of guns and even another bust of an old pilot you have laying around. Too bad I couldn't find one or that is what would look great!

I would love to see a bomb slung underneath the center line of the would be complicated, but I bet someone of you will rig up a bomb that could be dropped - but I'd be happy with just a scale 1000 pound bomb stuck there.

The full-scale Dauntless was carrier based, so I guess it needed an arresting hook, so one was made out of some white plastic pushrod material.

Anyway, there are some suggestions to get YOUR creative juices if Phoenix Model would release a 80" wingspan Dauntless...hummmm, hint, hint!

Oh, on another note, the wing walks are on backwards but for the time being, I will leave them as is!


With a 30.1 wing loading, the SBD Dauntless proved it was indeed a warbird. At no time did I feel the plane was doing what it wanted, not what I wanted. After flying over 6 minutes, my flight battery was still registering 79% left - so I don't see why a solid 8-9+ minutes cannot be completed on a 5 cell 5000 mAh battery. With a fresh charge the motor pulled 36.6 Amps - 755 watts.


The full-scale Dauntless wasn't an aerobatic aircraft and neither is the Phoenix's model of the same plane but in spite of the high wing loading, our Dauntless handles very nicely in the air. The low rates suggested for the first flights are O.K. but don't try any rolls, hammer heads or loops unless you have some empty airspace below you!

Taking Off and Landing

Take offs can be a challenge IF the wheels do not have some toe-in. At low speeds the tire seems to grab the runway and a squarely take off is in the forecast so don't make your take off run very slow but as soon as it is tracking straight ahead, pour on the coals while holding some right rudder. Once its speed is fast, the rudder will handle all needed corrections. I think at higher speeds the tires skid and not turn the plane as the thrust overcomes the drag of the tire. The strut can twist slightly on a rough landing causing your next take off to become more exciting than you would prefer.

Landings are the same, only in reverse. The Dauntless will slow WAY down with full flaps (and rise at the same time - but no angle change) and will make a very smooth landing but as the tail drops, be ready with the rudder if your wheels aren't tracking straight ahead. I think the narrow spacing between the wheels have something to do with this also..

Flying level downwind some flap is usually deployed (3-way switch) one click. The plane will continue to fly level, but increase in altitude! Add some down elevator and reduce throttle and when on base leg the last notch of flaps can be added and again, no change in attitude but increase in altitude if you are traveling too fast!

Once on final use the rudder (which by the way is very effective) to keep your alignment with the center-line and reduce all power until you are about 5-6 feet from the runway, then add a click or two of power. Watch the video and see what happens when the Dauntless lands and gets a bit too slow!

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

Warbirds are great at high and slow speed passes, rolls, loops, Split ess inverted flight and of course Immelman maneuvers. And this is what this plane will do - and will do them VERY SLOWLY at the recommended control throws. The plane handles very nicely at those throws and probably more scale-like than we think. So increase the control throws to your liking - I ended up flying at low rates on all surfaces (except aileron) with a little expo thrown in to soften the near-center stick movements.

Be careful with large elevator inputs and I'd recommend 10mm +/- maybe up to 15 mm maximum. In our tests we found out the Dauntless will snap if enough up elevator is given, say at the bottom of a loop. We kept trying to get a snap with power off and most of the time it would just descend. Going vertical, cutting power and forcing a stall will produce a nice spin but be careful when pulling out of that spin. You can see what happens this in the video. Start with the recommended throws and adjust to your satisfaction.

Is This For a Beginner?

I would say no to a rank beginner due to the construction (all balsa/ply) and higher wing loading. But if you can handle a low winged sport plane well, the Phoenix Dauntless could very well be your second Warbird!

Flight Video/Photo Gallery



Unboxing SBD Dauntless (10 min 3 sec)

Unboxing the SBD Dauntless.



Details, details, details.... (4 min 14 sec)

See the plane up close!


I like it! I like the fact it isn't just another 'P-51' and can be detailed out to make it unique along the flight line as well as in the air. All the mods done to this model did not require special skills or tools to accomplish.

!!Pluses: Heavy duty retracts; Realistic cockpit area; stall speed is very slow; looks great in the air; easily detailed; Flaps are functional; spacious interior for mounting equipment and battery location access. SPARE PARTS are available. Balsa fuselage is rock solid - some even thought it was fiberglass or a composite!

!!Minuses: Need a bomb!; Flaps are cool but the full-sized plane had a top "flap" that opened up; Wing walks are on backwards; Scale canopy should be in three pieces; landing gear doors are not flush with the wing. Landing gear has a tendency to twist resulting in ground loops when tail touches.

Last edited by tailskid2; May 23, 2015 at 10:45 PM..
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Jun 02, 2015, 04:42 PM
Registered User
Mikey 68's Avatar
The full size also had flaps all the way across , If your going to flaps please make them correct not half ***
Jun 02, 2015, 06:33 PM
Registered User
Whats up with the wrinkles in the coat?
Jun 02, 2015, 10:06 PM
killickb's Avatar
You call them flaps and on the model they may work as such but weren't they perforated dive brakes on the full scale?
Jun 02, 2015, 10:48 PM
Registered User

Nice work

Nicely done. I love the way the Dauntless looks in the air.
Thanks for sharing the work you put into it.
Jun 03, 2015, 10:40 AM
3 Blades is Better Than 2!
kman24's Avatar
Nice review! I like the scale details you added

Don't feel bad about that washer plate that gets bolted between the wing and the wing bolts on the bottom. I had trouble figuring that one out on my Phoenix Model Spitfire, as well.

Overall, it looks like a well built plane and flies nice in your videos

Jun 03, 2015, 04:54 PM
Registered User
ncflyer79's Avatar
Great review man! This thing has caught my eye for sure
Jun 07, 2015, 01:33 AM
3D Toy Designer
MicroRotors's Avatar
Great review, ... The Daunbtless is my favorite plane, ... but this one just isn't very impressive to me. I think for the same size and money, ... the Freewing Dauntless is by far a better performer and looks more scale than this one does even though it is foam.

The dive brakes and flaps are just flat out wrong and it sure would have been nice to add in the wing slots.

Latest blog entry: My New Toy!
Jun 08, 2015, 08:50 AM
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muscleflex's Avatar
this looks nice. great review as well!
Jun 11, 2015, 11:19 AM
"Hey, watch this"
Brokenfoams's Avatar
Beautiful airplane!
Latest blog entry: Mini FPV Quad
Jun 17, 2015, 06:06 PM
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tailskid2's Avatar
Originally Posted by MicroRotors
Great review, ... The Daunbtless is my favorite plane, ... but this one just isn't very impressive to me. I think for the same size and money, ... the Freewing Dauntless is by far a better performer and looks more scale than this one does even though it is foam.

The dive brakes and flaps are just flat out wrong and it sure would have been nice to add in the wing slots.

Where did you get your Freewing Dauntless? And what did it cost?

I love Dauntless!!!!
Jun 18, 2015, 03:36 AM
Registered User
muscleflex's Avatar
MotionRC sells them I think
Jun 18, 2015, 01:16 PM
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tailskid2's Avatar
Thanks for the link!
Jul 01, 2015, 03:03 PM
Registered User
Wing walks are on backwards.

At the risk of sounding really stupid, what are Wing walks?
Jul 01, 2015, 04:27 PM
Registered User
tailskid2's Avatar
Because the wing is usually slippery, especially when wet, a strip of material that is skid resistant is placed on the wing near the fuselage so the pilots and mechanics can walk on the wing to get into the cockpit. And that is not a stupid question!

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