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Phoenix Model 1:4 3/4 Spitfire 50-61cc Gas/EP ARF - RCGroups EXCLUSIVE Review

RCGroups & Flying Giants got an exclusive chance to review the new giant-scale Spitfire from Phoenix Models. Nikolei takes us through an in-depth look at this 95" warbird!

Splash

A giant warbird, with lots of scale details

Product:Phoenix Model 1:4 3/4 Spitfire 50-61cc Gas/EP ARF
Wingspan:95"
Length:86"
Wing Area:424 sq in
Wing Loading:37.7oz/sq/ft
Weight:24.2 - 26.4lbs
Engine (gas):50-61cc
Motor (elec):Rimfire 50cc
Servos req:9 standard size, high torque
Price:$669.99
Available from:towerhobbies.com
PDF Manual:Click Here

Among one of the most popular warbirds, the Supermarine Spitfire was used by the Royal Air Force during and after World War II. Being the only British fighter produced throughout the entire war, there were many variants and configurations built. Of those versions, Phoenix Models chose to replicate what looks to be the Griffon engine powered Spitfire Mk.XIV (as determined by scale enthusiasts on the thread for this kit) with their new giant-scale 95" 50-60cc gas/electric model. With a scale scheme on printed covering and a ton of scale details and accessories included, this bird should look fairly authentic in the air and on the tarmac. Other features include a scale cockpit with pilot, sliding canopy and hinged side door, heavy-duty CNC air retracts, convenient 2-piece wing and functional split flaps.

RCGroups and Flying Giants got the exclusive chance to review this for you, and not really having any warbirds in my hangar yet I jumped at the chance to try out this beautiful scale plane! There's a fair amount of work to get her airborne, but I'll hopefully give you some tips along the way to help speed up your build because I'm pretty sure once you see the final result in the air, you're going to be ordering one! So hang in there and let's dive in...

See other opinions, equipment and mods on the Spitfire in this thread.

In the Box

The Phoenix Model Spitfire came in a huge box, and upon opening I noted that all of the parts were extremely well wrapped, packed and taped together to prevent movement. Unfortunately, mine arrived with a little shipping damage on the vertical stabilizer. It looked like it had been pushed in from the end, as the sides of the stab were spread apart on the top half. The box didn't look damaged when I got it, so I was a bit surprised to see the damage once I unwrapped the fuselage. Luckily, I was able to open up the top of the stab to glue & reinforce the area without much of the repair visible on the outside.

You'll notice there's a LOT of wood in this plane! The entire fuselage and wing are fully sheeted, and there's an impressive network of formers and mounting plates inside the fuselage. Much of the internal structure is balsa laminate instead of ply, I assume to save weight. I did notice that the wood underneath the covering was a bit rough. There were a handful of areas with tiny bumps, primarily on the fillets and edges, that looked like it didn't get a good final sanding. Unfortunate, but thankfully only visible up close. The covering is pre-printed with a nice scale scheme with a matte finish. The printed covering does help add the extra bit of scale detail, showing panel lines and other details that you'd be very hard pressed to do with traditional covering. I love the matte finish, but know that it does show oily fingerprints and smudges. The printed covering also makes it more difficult to do a nice patch job when something breaks.

There is a large amount of parts and hardware with this Spitfire kit. Quite a few of the parts are scale detail pieces for the antennae, wing cannons and cockpit. I love scale looking planes and Phoenix went to a pretty good length to include some nice extras. Just the details they included with the molded panels in the cockpit go a long way to increasing the scale look; including fire extinguishers (or are they air tanks?), a complete 3-dimensional instrument panel, gun-sight and canopy lock assemblies, pilot figure, sliding canopy and operating cockpit door. My only dislike at this point, is the poor pilot whose skin looks like he should be in the hospital with jaundice! He certainly isn't the best looking pilot, rather cartoonish really, but it's easily repainted or replaced if you choose.

The rest of the hardware included looks to be of good quality for a giant-scale kit. The control horns are thick and heavy-duty, and the ball-links and control rods are good. The fuel tank came with a gasket that has plastic tubes, which I'm not a fan of and will likely replace with brass. Finally, the tailwheel is heavy-duty and the retracts are completely CNC machined metal. All of the basic accessories for the pneumatic retracts are included. This will be my first pneumatic retract setup, so I'm anxious to see how it works out!

Before starting assembly, I went over every joint I could get to with thin or medium CA. This is not required, but always a good thing to do for a little extra piece of mind. I did notice some gaps in the pieces, primarily in the wing webbing. I put some thick CA in those gaps as best I could. It's also interesting to note that the wing has NO main hardwood spar! But no worries, from the few reports I've seen of other pilots with this model, it's handling high-G turns just fine.

Finally, a few of the covering seams had lifted a bit, so I went over the seams with my trim iron on LOW. (High heat, as suggested by the manual made the covering get gummy and almost melted, so keep it low.) As the parts sat in my hobby room for some time, some bubbles did appear. I found the best way to remove these was with my heat gun. Using an iron seemed like it wanted to make creases as the wrinkles shrunk. With this printed covering, be prepared to put the heat gun on the area for no more than a second or two at a time; and since everything is fully sheeted, figure on having to chase many of the wrinkles to an edge.

Assembly

Wings

Assembly of this giant Spitfire starts off with the wings. Be sure to take note when installing the control horns on the flaps, that there are 2 holes. Make sure you're opening the correct one by lining it up with the slot in the servo hatch before grabbing the knife! Also make sure to get the flap control horns in before gluing in the hinges, as installing it afterwards is a tight fit. The included hinges are similar to Robart knuckle pinned hinges, but these use a small bolt and nut instead. Check each one and make sure there is some glue on the end of the threads so the nut doesn't work loose. A few of mine needed some tightening and extra glue to secure them.

Depending on what servos you use, you may need longer servo arms to reach out of the hatches. You need about 3/4" arms and with the Futaba S3305s I had, I needed to order the Dubro #670 long servo arm set. The ball-links provided seem to be heavy-duty enough for the task, but I swapped out the phillips bolts for #3 allen-head bolts. I'm again using my favorite dual-servo harnesses from Taildragger Rc, so I connected those extensions to the servos as I installed them. I'll make a mounting plate for the receiving end in the fuselage later.

Before getting your air retract system setup, the manual has you put the wheels and gear doors on, but I suggest leaving these off until the plane is almost done so you can set the wheel alignment and door placement correctly the first time (the set screws will leave divots in the aluminum struts). Everything is included to get your air retracts working, including the air line, t-connectors with integrated quick-connects, dual output valve, and a fill valve. I made the decision to order an adjustable Robart valve (to adjust the retract speed for realism) and some extra air line. The included air line is just fine, but it is fairly stiff compared to Robarts which makes me wonder if it will crack over time. With air retract systems, it's helpful to use 2 colors of line to keep your in and out lines straight. I had planned to use the included blue line for in and the Robart line for out, but it turns out the Robart line is slightly smaller diameter, which meant it wouldn't work on the included T-connectors. I opted instead to use the included line for the line in the fuselage from the tank to the fill valve and output valve, and then Robart line, T's and quick twist-connects for everything else. With that figured out, I got lines connected to each of the gear and bolted them to the wings with some loc-tite.

Now we get on to some scale details for the wings - the intakes and guns. My intakes didn't match the arc of the wing airfoil real well, so I ended up taking a small piece of self-healing cut mat, laying it on the wing and putting the intake on top. The mat conforms to the airfoil, and acts as a heat shield so I could use my heat gun to coax the intake base to the right shape. I used the duck-bill attachment for the heat gun to direct the heat right to the flanged base of the intake. A couple of seconds of targeted heat got it soft enough that I could use the flat edge of my quick square to roll and press it to the wing shape. It took some time, but it ended up with a much better match to the wing.

The diagram in the manual gave the dimensions from each edge for placement, but it was difficult to tell the correct rotation alignment. After consulting some full-scale pictures, I determined they should be perpendicular to the wing root so they are facing straight forward. I used a quick square against the wing root to align it and marked the outer edge before carefully cutting away about 1/4" of covering inside that line. I used medium CA to attach the intake and finished it off with the included matching color tape. Note that this tape does react somewhat to heat, so your can use a detail iron to help stick and shrink some of the wrinkles that come up when bending it around radii. Use a little thin CA under the tape if it doesn't want to stick, some of mine lifted up after a few days.

A similar process was needed to attach the molded leading edge gun piece. The curve didn't match perfectly, so a little heat got it close enough to glue. The covering that needed removal for the gun was a little more difficult, due to there being a few layers up on that leading edge. This led me to question why they bothered covering the inset area that the gun completely covers, adding to the layers you need to cut through to attach this gun. Not a big deal to remove, regardless.

With that, the wings are complete (except for finalizing the landing gear struts and door positioning later)!

Fuselage

Since I had repaired my vertical stab from shipping damage before starting, I could proceed with gluing in the horizontal stab, elevators and rudder. After I had removed the covering from the middle of the H-stab (again, why was it covered?), I temporarily slid the wings onto the fuse and checked the alignment with the stab. It was just slightly off, so 15 minutes of careful light sanding and re-checking got it good enough to epoxy in. The area needed some additional sanding in order to get the stabilizer to slide in all of the way. The fit was very tight and it was difficult to tell exactly where it was rubbing to preventing it from fully seating.

With the servos and control horns installed, I connected the control rods. I needed to cut off about 1/4" on each end for the rods to fit. I'm using the Dubro Full Dual Servo Arm (DUB3344) for the rudder control and I got the servo side pull-pull wires setup first before doing the rudder side to give myself more room to work. As with my previous reviews, you'll see I used my twist & melt process on the pull-pull cables instead of using the loop and crimp. The wires were then connected to the rudder and tail-wheel with no issues; although I did have to cut back the wire guide tubes for the rudder on the servo side so my twisted end didn't catch on the edge of the tube at full deflection.

Installing the air system in the fuselage was a whole new challenge for me! It wasn't difficult, but I definitely had to think through what connected to where to keep my lines straight. I also took some time to figure out where to route the tubing to keep things tidy inside the fuse. As mentioned earlier, I upgraded the air valve with the adjustable Robart version, but the one from the kit would be connected exactly the same way. You can see I chose to route the primary lines (which are red & purple Robart line) coming from the valve under the tank and the T's that come off of those are still semi-accessible on the side of the tank. The lightening holes in the formers provide great ways to route your wires and tubes along the side of the fuse. I also drilled a small hole in one former for an easy-access location for the fill valve. Once I was pretty sure everything was connected correctly, I laid the fuse and wings on the ground, connected the air lines and tested the system. Everything worked first try! Note to get the tank into its home, you'll have to remove the rudder servo. With the test-run complete, I secured all of the tubes together loosely with small zip-ties and put some silicon glue around the tank to secure it (don't forget to do this!).

While getting the fuel tank ready to assemble, the plastic tubes that came in the rubber stopper broke. I was considering replacing them with brass anyway, but didn't expect them to snap so easy. I'd recommend tossing the pre-made stopper from the kit in favor of the Dubro gas stopper (DUB400) and some 1/8" brass tubing with solder-on fuel barbs (DUB813). It's simply not worth the risk of an in-flight fuel failure! Also, use heavy-duty velcro between the tank and plywood tray, and a nice velcro strap around the tank (instead of the recommended zip-tie). Finally, leave your tank out of the plane until your engine is mounted and ready to go form more room to work.

My DLE-55RA mounted right up to the pre-drilled holes, with the exception that I had to Dremel out some clearance on the inner triangle stock on the left side so the washers could sit flush. Be warned though, that using an engine that has a different mounting pattern may require you to fill the provided holes and re-drill, which is made more complicated by the absence of center-of-thrust lines on the firewall. Personally, it's not a big deal to drill 4 holes...so it would've been better had they marked the holes for DLE along with thrust lines so anyone could easily mount any engine they wish. For the throttle control rod, I used a 2-56 ball-link I had on-hand, a 2-56 rod and a carbon fiber tube to give the rod some rigidity. My Tech-Aero IBEC was connected up and mounted out of the way on the fuselage side. I carefully Dremeled out 2 small holes in the cockpit instrument panel to house the ignition and power LEDs.

With the engine temporarily mounted, it was time to cut and mount the cowl. It took some creative thinking to use the normal paper template method to get around the air intake on the bottom. I ended up making a U-shape of paper taped to the fuselage sides as my anchor points. That gave me the rough starting square for marking and cutting the cowl. I cut small and way inside my lines to start and slowly worked my way out until the cowl was able to slide into its final position. Then, using other users remarks in regards to cooling needed, I made some additional openings to get air both in and out. Finally I taped the cowl to my spinner with a little gap between, pre-drilled the 8 holes and mounted it in place.

Speaking of the spinner, the included spinner with this kit, while it looks nice, it is quite heavy and more importantly, severely out of balance. I made a valiant attempt to balance the cone, but I determined like others that have tried, that it wasn't really feasible nor worth of my time. A few others mentioned that their stock spinner looked like it was about ready to shake the plane apart before even getting to half throttle, and that's the last thing you want to risk happening in the air! I replaced it with a 6" Dave Brown parabolic aluminum spinner, which doesn't quite have the scale elongated shape of the Mk.XIV, but is pretty close and still looks good on the nose once painted.

The home stretch! The fine details, where an aircraft can go from same-ole same-ole to a head-turner! Phoenix has included 10 or so plastic parts on a sprue that need assembly before putting them in the cockpit. All of the parts are molded black, and come to find out have a matte clear finish applied over them. There was some flashing and mold release lines and circles that needed some trimming/sanding, which unfortunately made the matte finish flake off. I ended up either sanding or scraping off any matte that was in my way, since I wanted to paint the pieces to be more true-to-scale anyway. According to full-scale pictures, the gun sight should be mostly black with a band of green as the mounting bracket, and the sighting glass should be a flat rectangle as opposed to the box-shape Phoenix provides. I found some small pre-cut mirror and clear plastic circles at the craft store that worked perfectly in the gun-sight with a little bit of Dremel work.

I found very few full-scale pictures of the cockpit latch, but decided on mostly silver with the release ball being red. I used a piece of small heat-shrink tube on the crimp wire to mock the rubber sheath they used. As for the rear-view mirror, it looks like the exterior casing should match the cockpit glass casing color, green in this case. Not sure why, but the cockpit photo on the website shows an instrument panel with black background which is correct to scale, but the included one is light grey. Besides being glued in, the instrument panel is also kind of locked in by the side panels. After cutting the glue and some careful slow pulling, prying and cursing, the panel finally came out so I could paint it.

I had my wife start to repaint the sickly-looking oddly-shaped pilot included with the kit, but later came across a 12" pilot action-figure from 21st Century for a good price. It's considerably more detailed and fits in the Phoenix Models 1/4 scale Spitfire quite well.

There were a few spots that needed some matching paint to clean up the camouflage pattern. The lines on the cowl didn't match too well with the fuselage, and some parts like the gun blister on top of the wing needed painting to match. After many attempts to match the color, I was able to mix Model Master Acrylic Marine Corps Green (4724), some medium grey and black to get pretty darn close to the green on the covering. The light grey/blue shade I had a much harder time with. Initially, Model Master Enamel Hellblau RLM (2087) looked like a very good candidate, but any attempts to adjust the darkness ended up with various shades of grey. Save yourself the time and money that I wasted by going to your local paint/hardware store and having them match the colors for you. Home Depot got me a match for the grey-green in no time and for just over $3! I later went back and had them match the other 2 colors as well.

Finally for the exhaust stacks, I studied several dozen pictures and decided to airbrush on some layers of Copper, Rust, Brown and Black. I then took my light beige and sprayed some light layers trailing from the exhaust down the side of the fuselage over the wing saddle. And since no warbird looks right bright & crisp, I added some weathering all around to add a little scale flavor with sponged on steel 'paint chips' and airbrushed some brown/black for dirt and oil. I fully admit I'm no expert at weathering, but I think these steps give it that extra little touch of realism, and help it stand out from others at the field.

I assembled the included Vanessa CG rig and slid it on followed by the wing halves. A quick lift in the air showed it needed some nose weight, as expected. It took 2 pounds on the nose to get 'er level. AUW came to 27.2 lbs, which makes for a very nice light wing loading for a 95" warbird!

And we're done! Let's get to the field and shoot down some enemies...

Completed Phoenix Model Spitfire

Flying

Takeoff & Landing

With a slow push of the throttle stick, the DLE-55RA and Xoar 23x8 prop combo pulled the Phoenix Models 1/4 scale Spitfire down the runway. Some right rudder was needed to keep it pointed straight until the tail lifted. With the relatively light wing loading, it didn't take long at all for the wheels to lift off the runway. Take care though, that you don't lift off too fast before you get some good airspeed and risk a stall. Once in the air, the Spitfire rose beautifully into the sky with just a little down and left aileron needed for hands-off flight!

Landing a big warbird can sometimes be a little stressful, as many are known to tip stall if the pilot gets too slow. Thankfully the light wing-loading of the Phoenix Models Spitfire helps give this baby a great glide slope. Of course, you still need to be mindful of your approach speed, but with flaps and a little throttle control, it really lands quite nicely. The stock wheels are rather hard and stiff, so it can bounce a bit if landing on pavement.

Basic Flight & Flight Envelope

Boy, this beautiful Spitfire looks great roaring through the sky! The big airframe shows well and the printed scheme looks very scale in the air. As most warbird pilots love to do, full-throttle strafing runs are a blast and made even better by hearing the DLE-55RA give the Xoar 23-8 a slight prop rip as it roars past you. A victory roll at the end of the field followed by a half-cuban gets you right back on the deck and strafing enemies from the other side. If you had any qualms about not choosing the bigger engine, let me assure you the 55cc DLE pulled the 27lb Spitfire very well with a respectable top speed. It wasn't blistering fast, but I didn't once think it was too slow! A simple prop change might pull a little more speed out of it. If you prefer to turn and burn, be careful as we noticed that the top-side wing tended to roll-over with tight turns (your mileage may vary).

As mentioned with the landings above, the large wing and light wing-loading combined with split flaps allow this big warbird to fly quite well at slower speeds. Stalls were tested at altitude, which resulted in a wing drop. It didn't appear to have any dramatic stall-snap tendencies and we were quickly able to recover the stall.

Aerobatics

Cinch up your harness, clean your goggles and get ready to have some fun flying combat maneuvers! Half-cubans, loops, immelmanns, barrel rolls...the big 95" Spitfire from Phoenix Models flies them all with great scale appearance. The recommended rates were very slow on low-rate, so our first few flights all ended up on high-rate until I increased the rate settings. Rolls were elegant and axial, and inverted flight was comfortable with just a little down elevator pressure needed. Strafing the runway with this scale-looking Spitfire will soon have you making machine gun sounds as it passes by. For even more fun, get some friends and do a full-on warbird sortie!

Flight Review Video

Flight Photo Gallery

Summary

This 1/4 scale Spitfire from Phoenix Models is an excellent giant-scale warbird to add to your collection. It not only flies well, it comes nicely built and includes several scale details. Despite the entire plane being fully-sheeted and an impressive network of wood inside, this big warbird comes in many pounds lighter than its competitors. This keeps the wing-loading light and allows slower flying and easier landing. It's built to easily handle gas or electric power, with a nice big hatch for battery access, or general electronics access. The kit comes with a bevy of accessories, hardware and scale details - including full-metal CNC pneumatic retracts, screw-in wing cannons and fuselage radio antennae, and a detailed cockpit with instrument panel, gun-sight and canopy latch. With all of these scale details included, it's really up to you how much time you want to invest to make it look truly realistic and accurate to scale! Either way, the Phoenix Models Spitfire is a great looking, great flying plane that you should consider if looking for a giant-scale warbird that won't break the bank.

Hits

  • Heavy-duty CNC all-metal pneumatic retracts
  • Several scale details including fully molded cockpit included
  • Nicely detailed printed covering, no decals needed!
  • Well illustrated manual
  • Heavy-duty hardware package
  • Looks great on ground and in the air
  • Large fuselage hatch for easy electronics and/or battery access
  • Two-piece wing for easier transport
  • Good top-end speed
  • Light wing-loading allows decent slow flight and gentler stalls
  • Lands pretty easy compared to most warbirds
  • Flies great!

Misses

  • Some parts unnecessarily covered
  • Wood dimpled and rough in spots under covering
  • Matte finish on plastic cockpit parts flaked off
  • Pre-weathered details on the covering scheme would've been awesome
  • ABS plastic parts for the wing needed quite a bit of work to conform to the airfoil
  • Pilot is cartoonish and needed a better paint job
  • Gaps between some pieces primarily in the wing
  • Spinner way out of balance
  • Trim tape doesn't stick well and could be wider
  • Wheels are pretty hard & bouncy
  • Tailwheel is difficult to align & adjust

*Thanks to my pilots Alex Fredrickson and Chad Lunsford, and to Sam Hunter for help with video! Also thanks to Tower Hobbies for providing the Spitfire for our exclusive review!

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Last edited by Nikolei Zinsli; May 08, 2018 at 08:45 PM..
Thread Tools
Sep 18, 2018, 01:09 PM
Registered User
the UC legs look too far apart ??
Sep 18, 2018, 02:48 PM
If it's R/C, I LIKE IT!
Nikolei Zinsli's Avatar
From the source pics I'm seeing, Phoenix may have placed them very slightly outward from the wing root as well as angled out a little more than full-scale...but this makes for much better ground handling at R/C scales.
Latest blog entry: 93" AJ Laser 230z
Sep 18, 2018, 04:31 PM
Tassie Mike

Looks!!!!


PLEASE PLEASE put a three Bladed Prop on -- Looks stupid with two!!!!
Sep 18, 2018, 09:07 PM
If it's R/C, I LIKE IT!
Nikolei Zinsli's Avatar
Yeah I may do that at some point.
Latest blog entry: 93" AJ Laser 230z
Sep 21, 2018, 11:09 AM
Registered User
FlightZoomer's Avatar
imho it looks very wrong around the spinner and the gears (as mentioned before).
Oct 04, 2018, 04:47 AM
Right Rudder
PittSpecial's Avatar

Electric Setup?


Anyone has this in an Electric Setup yet?

I mean 2lbs. of DEAD WEIGHT! Seriously!

Oct 08, 2018, 10:14 PM
Registered User
edgetorker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by PittSpecial
Anyone has this in an Electric Setup yet?

I mean 2lbs. of DEAD WEIGHT! Seriously!

Thats nothing for a large scale warbird. Short nosed radial powered planes are worse.
Oct 08, 2018, 10:41 PM
Right Rudder
PittSpecial's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by edgetorker
Thats nothing for a large scale warbird. Short nosed radial powered planes are worse.
I do understand, I have a large ZERO which in my book is worse.

My question still stands, nonetheless.
Oct 09, 2018, 09:41 AM
If it's R/C, I LIKE IT!
Nikolei Zinsli's Avatar
Someone of FB with the same engine said he only needed 1lb of weight with the same engine. Not sure how he managed that.

I havent seen any electric setups yet. There are a handful on some of the Facebook groups im in, but I think they were all gas.
Latest blog entry: 93" AJ Laser 230z
Oct 09, 2018, 12:24 PM
Registered User
I have 1200g of lead in my blackhorse spitfire and that is smaller than this, totally normal for this type of aircraft.

It also has printed covering and I have to say will never own another print covered model again no matter which manufacturer it just cannot be repaired.
Oct 10, 2018, 09:08 PM
Same Day Delivery
mike3976's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by PittSpecial
I do understand, I have a large ZERO which in my book is worse.

My question still stands, nonetheless.
It's a Gas Powered Warbird, Go fly your GWS Beaver if you want electric!
Oct 10, 2018, 09:35 PM
Right Rudder
PittSpecial's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nikolei Zinsli
Someone of FB with the same engine said he only needed 1lb of weight with the same engine. Not sure how he managed that.

I havent seen any electric setups yet. There are a handful on some of the Facebook groups im in, but I think they were all gas.
Do you have any links outside this forum assuming there are Electric Setups?

Thank you!
Oct 11, 2018, 06:26 PM
If it's R/C, I LIKE IT!
Nikolei Zinsli's Avatar
Pitt,
Check out "radio control model spitfire owners/admirers group" on Facebook.
Latest blog entry: 93" AJ Laser 230z
Oct 12, 2018, 06:33 PM
AeroDan
Looks weird w/a 2-bladed prop. It’ll haul even more ass with 3- or 4-.


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