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Hobby Lobby Alfa Spitfire Mk. Vb ARF review

Mike Llewellyn takes a look at the newest Alfa offering available from Hobby Lobby - the Spitfire Mk. Vb ARF. As with previous Alfa models the Spitfire has true scale outlines and is simply stunning!

Splash

Introduction


Wingspan:32.5”
Wing Area:183 sq”
Wing type:Semi-symmetrical extruded foam
AUW weight:Advertised – 15.3oz Actual -13.1oz
Length:27.4”
Wing loading:10 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:3-5 servos 5-10g type
Transmitter:Spektrum DX7
Receiver:Spektrum AR6100
Battery:Thunder Power 1320 3s LiPoly
Motor:MP Jet AC 22/7-60D Outrunner
ESC:Atlas Black 20 amp
Manufacturer:Alfa Model
Available from:Hobby Lobby
Retail Price:Plane only - $132.00, Entire recommended set-up and plane - $459.00, Hobby Lobby Short Combo - $259

Anybody who knows me knows my love of the beautiful British Spitfire and, I was thrilled when I saw that Hobby Lobby was going to carry this plane. Alfa continues to provide us with amazing new scale RC planes and the Mk. Vb is a handsome addition to their fleet. Stunningly recognizable, Alfa has replicated the features and lines of this plane remarkably well. If you are new to Alfa, let me just say that their models have few rivals; they come pre-painted, include wonderfully accurate markings and decal sheets and they fly even better than they look!

Kit Contents

The review package shipped from Hobby Lobby, and had one rough ride on the way. Thankfully it was well packaged, double boxed, and the contents in the box were very well protected. The fuselage is actually bolted to the box to protect the large fuse to wing fillets that make the smooth Spitfire fuselage to wing shape.

The paint was immaculate and the panel lines and details are represented well. This model has a bit more plastic in key areas to protect the foam and for the optional retractable landing gear, but even so, this Alfa Spit is my lightest to date.

Kit includes:

  • Painted foam fuselage and wing
  • Lightweight plastic cowl
  • Pre-attached canopy and battery hatch
  • Hardware (EZ type connectors, pushrods and horns)
  • Decals and markings
  • Unpainted pilot figure
  • Large picture assembly guide and text instructions

Kit requires:

  • Motor
  • Propeller
  • 3s LiPoly battery
  • 3-5 servos 5-10g type (Optional: 1-retracts 1-rudder)
  • Receiver
  • 3 channel minimum transmitter

Included for this review and recommended by Hobby Lobby:

  • MP Jet AC 22/7-60 brushless motor and mount
  • Atlas Black 20amp Brushless ESC
  • Thunder Power 1320 3s battery pack
  • Hitec HS-55 and 50 servos
  • MP Jet lightweight propeller adapter
  • APC 9x6 slow fly propeller

Hobby Lobby does all the hard work for us with this recommended set-up list, making it easy to select the right equipment for success.

Assembly

The Alfa Spitfire requires little of the modeler - expect completion in about 4-6 hours. Steps to add a functional rudder and retractable landing gear are included in the instructions. (I prefer having rudder control on my planes for aerobatic and crosswind landing purposes.)

I always recommend caution while handling and building Alfa ARF to minimize dings and dents. Alfa uses plastic covers on the really fragile and high wear areas to keep damage to a minimum.

The Alfa Spitfire comes with:

  • Pre-installed tail surfaces
  • Surfaces hinged
  • Horns installed and glued
  • Pushrods installed and ready to hook up
  • No covering necessary – the painting is all expertly done, except for your pilot

The builder needs to:

  • Install radio system
  • Install the power system
  • Apply decals
  • Paint and install the pilot
  • Install the pushrod, horn for optional rudder (if desired)
  • Install the optional retractable landing gear system (if desired)

Fuselage

The amazing Alfa ARFs are very complete. You simply install the servos and power system... it just does not get much simpler than that.

Horizontal Stabilizer and Elevator

Common to most Alfa models, the elevator pushrod comes pre-installed - a nice touch that sure speeds assembly.

Adding the optional functional rudder

I like to use the rudder, especially on crosswind landings and with aerobatics. I used a new razor blade to free the upper rudder from the top section of the vertical stabilizer, then I drilled a small hole in the fuse and I added my own pushrod tube and Dubro micro horn (not included).

Here you can see the radio area and the factory cut hole for the servos. HS-55s fit without modification. It was critical that I epoxy the servo end of the pushrod tubes to keep them from floating and to avoid binding.

This Alfa had some large holes cut in the battery tray, so I used a small piece of 1/16" medium balsa and glued that right behind the firewall. This proved a solid surface to attach the included hook and loop material to secure the battery.

The battery hatch actually had me baffled and searching the instructions for help. The hatch uses the cowl for the front attachment point and has a flexible stick glued to the inside of the other end of the hatch. The glue was only attached to the stick towards the center of the hatch. At first I thought this was in error, but after reading, I learned that you actually want the end of the stick to flex so it can work properly. When the canopy is attached, you simply lift on the canopy end, allow the stick to flex, and slide it back towards the tail until it frees the lip that is secured by the front cowl end. I found the process to work OK, but Alfa needs to learn about magnets! Mine will be retrofitted in the near future as I found the recommended process cumbersome.

The included pilot was not used for this ship. I used a pilot from another plane - my Fleet Air Arm (FAA) painted Alfa Corsair for this model. He is British through and through and was happy with his new home in the Spitfire.

Motor and ESC installation

The firewall former came pre-installed in the fuselage. Alfa includes a small piece of filler ply for a pre-cut hole. The filler is used with the smaller MP Jet motor and mount.

Wing

Unlike many of the Alfa planes, the Spitfire uses a servo for each aileron surface. Hitec HS-50s are recommended as they are super light. They have a very slight relief cut for the servo arm.

Alfa also includes two vacuum formed wing tips for use if you choose to clip the tips. I love the elegant elliptical wing of the spit, so no clipping for me.

Power system

MP Jet AC 22/7-60D Outrunner

  • Motor statistics:
  • Stator Diameter – 22mm
  • Magnet length – 7mm
  • Turns - 60
  • Weight - 26g
  • Shaft - 3mm
  • Max efficiency current - 5 Amps
  • Peak current – 8 Amps
  • KV (rpm/v) - 1070



The MP Jet brushless motors have been around for some time now. The motor is tiny and light but with all those turns it is easily able to handle 8-9 inch props on 3s voltage. I have used the motor on several Alfa planes now, and I can assure you this tiny MP Jet AC 22/7-60D Outrunner motor is a tiny but mighty power house - Highly Recommended.

Amp draw

The motor produced the following results:

Motor statistics
APC-sf Props Amps Watts Voltage RPM
9x6 11.2 126 11.8 5700
9x4.7 8.7 103 11.9 7000
8x6 9.2 112 11.9 6700
GWS 9x5 HD 8.5 100 11.9 7400
GWS 8x4 HD 6 72 12 9300

The recommended 9x6 APC props are just too much load at my altitude, so I used the 8x6 APC-SF propeller for flight. This prop gives great performance with nice pitch speed and good thrust. Most of the video is shot at low power settings!

This gives the Spitfire 137/lb performance - stunning power. If you do install the retract option, I recommend the use of this same motor. It is very light and, as you can see, powerful. You will welcome the weight it saves when adding the retract component weight.

Atlas Black 20 amp ESC

Atlas 20 AMP ESC

  • Size – 1-7/8" x 7/8" x 3/8"
  • Weight – 19g
  • Voltage - 5 to 10 NiCd or NiMH, 2 to 3 Lithium cells
  • Atlas Program Card included with controllers
  • NiCd and NiMH or Lithium battery (Type and cell count)
  • Hard or Soft Start
  • Hard or Soft Cutoff
  • Timing: Low, High or Auto Detect
  • Brake On or Off
  • Direction of Rotation of Motor
  • Governor Mode for Helicopters



This is the first Atlas controller in my stable. It worked very well with no issues encountered in testing on the bench or in the air.

I was especially impressed with the simple ESC program card. You simply set the jumpers on your card, plug the ESC and a power source into the card, and it is programmed in about a second. I especially like the forward reverse as you can direct solder the ESC to the motor with no connectors needed.

Battery

I used a single 3s 1320 mAh Thunder Power pack to provide the electrons. I have many makes and models of batteries, and Thunder Power’s rank among my favorites. I have never been disappointed with any of them.

Finish

Alfa has expertly painted the foam in an authentic scheme in standard Spitfire spinach green and grey. The paint finish on this plane is simply stunning - one of the best Alfas to date. I did not find even a single flaw.

Decal sheets are included and are user installed. Use care and time with Alfa decals - they are very accurate but thin. I used decal solvent on the seams and a clear coat to seal them to make them much more durable.

The markings are "duck egg blue,” that funny greenish color. Also included is a matching spinner in the correct scale shape. I must say Alfa continues to amaze me with their attention to detail.

Flying

I absolutely love British war planes. They are all unique with beautiful lines. The Spitfire Mk. Vb is one of the most handsome WWII planes you will ever see, and the elliptical wing is unlike any other. Alfa replicates this beauty well. It is a remarkable scale plane!

Preflight

CG

Spitfires, with their lovely but portly Merlin engines, tended to have short noses. l had early concerns about balance. With the small, light but compact TP1320 pack you can get the battery right behind the firewall. With the super light motor, mine needed .5oz or about 15g of nose weight to get the CG right on the marks. Even though Alfa includes nice molded marks on the bottom, you balance low wing models upside down. I have flown many Spitfires, and all of them fly best with a forward CG.

I should have better positioned the ESC right at the firewall - it likely would have eliminated the need for any of the nose weight. My light 6g receiver was also placed in the wing so I would not have to use extensions or "Y" on the aileron servo wires. Again, placing it forward (there is plenty of room) would have helped and likely eliminated the need for additional weight.

Rates and transmitter setup

I used the Spektrum DX7 transmitter for this plane. Rates were set as recommended in the Alfa manual with ailerons and elevator at 12mm and 10mm respectively. I used 20mm throw on the rudder. No high rates were mentioned, so i set those rates to give 20% additional throw.

No exponential rates were mentioned, so I used 25% for all primary flight controls for initial values. This has worked on every other Alfa model I have, so I knew those rates would be perfect (and they were).

I set the flight timer to count down from 9 minutes to give me adequate warning to land before the 1320mAh battery depleted.

Takeoff and Landing

The Alfa Spitfire took to flight with a slight push. The plane was very easy to launch with a gentle toss. It pulled away quickly at half throttle settings. I have learned that Alfa models need little power on launch with the Spitfire being no exception. It climbs with authority, and I rarely use full throttle in flight at all.

Landings with the light wing loading and related stall speed are very easy. Line up and increase elevator and it will slow very significantly, then drop on the ground. It remains responsive at slow speeds.

Special Flight Characteristics

This plane stalls very predictably for a model with the exceptionally light wing loading. When pushed to a stall you get a gentle nose drop. No wingtip drop was noted even in abrupt stalls. This is no small feat as that elliptical wing on other planes made for tip stalls. It slowed very significantly before stall, and it remained fully controllable right down to the last second. Stall recovery was quick, with smooth throttle application.

Loops are simple to control and keep large and perfectly round. With the tiny MP Jet motor, the plane easily looped from level flight and did not exhibit any snap characteristics.

Rolls were a thing of beauty. The Alfa Spitfire rolls well at the recommended rates. In fact, it rolled very quickly. Most warbirds have a pronounced barrel role but very little was evident with this Spit.

Stall turns with the rudder are amazing as well - point straight up, kick the tail around and come straight down. A thing of beauty.

At full power, the Alfa Spitfire is simply on rails. It is very responsive and grooves very well. High speed pylon turns where you expose that beautiful elliptical wing are amazing!

Thanks to Dawnron1 for these excellent flying shots:

Is this plane for a beginner?

While definitely not for the first time pilot, this Alfa warbird is not difficult to fly. The Spitfire does not exhibit any self correcting responses, something any beginner needs.

Flight Video

Downloads

Conclusion

I am a certified WWII warbird nut, and when I saw that Alfa was introducing a Spitfire, I thought, “well, it is about time!” They did an amazing job on this scale airplane. The Spitfire from Alfa is a great flyer. It has the distinguished Spit outline and the elliptical wing is unmistakable. It makes a perfect addition to the fine Alfa British war bird line.

Assembly was fast and simple. I literally had the spit together and finished in three short evenings, and in the air shortly after.

The Alfa Spitfire flies very well. The MPJet power system provides excellent power even with the smaller propeller and ~9 amp current draw. The almost 140w/lb makes the plane literally shoot like an arrow when you go from low to high power settings.

The included rudder modification was simple and helps in some aerobatics. The added weight is hardly noticeable. Do not shy away from this easy modification!

The paint and finish on the Spitfire are simply impeccable. Markings are researched and accurate. I could not find one single flaw.

Alfa continues to impress me with planes that literally fly out of your hand. I was commenting to a flying buddy that I was not even a bit anxious on the maiden flight as I knew exactly what to expect. Hats off to Alfa for a solid designing and test team that clearly spend the time to make these aircraft fly so well.

The Alfa Spitfire Mk. Vb raises the bar on an already fantastic line of airplanes!

Hits:

  • Excellent looks
  • Fantastic scale details
  • Option for clipped wing version
  • Short assembly time
  • Stellar flight performance
  • The lightest Alfa model I have built
  • Option for retractable landing gear!

Misses:

  • Battery hatch hard to secure

The Alfa Spitfire is Highly Recommended. Check it out at your local hobby shop or buy direct at Hobby Lobby.

Last edited by Angela H; Aug 09, 2007 at 01:12 PM..
Thread Tools
Aug 06, 2007, 11:58 AM
There is no place like Hodges!
edge5foamy's Avatar
I may have to look into this bird, I have always wanted a cheap warbird with retracts.
Aug 06, 2007, 12:10 PM
AA6JB
Bajora's Avatar
Having recently reviewing the Alfa FW190 Dora 9, I can so identify with many of your observations Mike. I have flown several of the Alfa warbirds and have a Wildcat in the closet awaiting building. Some may argue they are too expensive but they absolutely cannot be beat IMHO. The quality, ease of assembly and superb flight characteristics are blue ribbon caliber.

And as Ronnie's photos again so wonderfully show, they look AWESOME in the air!
Aug 06, 2007, 01:45 PM
It flew...nearly!
Have just completed mine, but have yet to fly it. One issue I found a real hassel, was threading the servo wire's through the wings, it took me hours. If I build another one I think I will thread the wire's without the connector's on, then solder them afterwards. It certainly looks great and flies great in the videos I have seen and it was good to see it can be hand launched alone as that is most likely to be the scenario when I can it maidened.
Thanks for a good review!
matthew
Aug 06, 2007, 05:59 PM
The sky is my playground.
Dora Nine's Avatar
Beautiful work on the pilot figure! Also nice to see that mine isn't the only one that does the hand launch "dip." I was out flying mine just this evening... And a superb landing you did there...
Last edited by Dora Nine; Aug 06, 2007 at 08:04 PM.
Aug 06, 2007, 06:24 PM
Registered User
pda4you's Avatar
Quote:
Wildcat in the closet awaiting building
That is my FAVORITE Alfa bird - don't wait too long!

Quote:
One issue I found a real hassel, was threading the servo wire's through the wings, it took me hours. If I build another one I think I will thread the wire's without the connector's on, then solder them afterwards.
Sorry I didn't mention it in the review - but I will give you a trick that works great. A simple nut - and a string/thread/dental floss does wonders.

Simply tie the nut to the string and drop it through.....then you have a pull string.

Quote:
Beautiful work on the pilot figure!
Doug is amazing - I am trying to get him to do an article on painting airplanes. Figures took him YEARS to master - but as you can tell he has the knack!

Mike
Aug 06, 2007, 06:26 PM
Registered User
I can only echo the comments above...my Spit, with retracts and rudder, flies beautifully. We flew the Alfa Spit and my Mk. 9 Flying Styro Spit two weekends ago and it was like scenes from the movie Battle of Britain. The Alfa Spit flies better, IMHO, than the FS, probably due to the lack of a four-bladed prop (good for looks, not efficiency).
Thanks to my son for finishing it for his ham-handed old man: now he can get back to finishing his Mossie.
Old Shep
Aug 07, 2007, 12:15 AM
JSF pilot
flyingrandy55's Avatar
Very nice Mike! great review and a wonderful looking Spit. Ronnie did a great job on the video, very clear and well shot against the clouds.
Yet another GREAT ALFA warbird!!

Randy
Aug 07, 2007, 04:07 AM
It flew...nearly!
Sorry I didn't mention it in the review - but I will give you a trick that works great. A simple nut - and a string/thread/dental floss does wonders.

Simply tie the nut to the string and drop it through.....then you have a pull string.

Hi and thanks for your reply!
There was a pull string in the wing when I got it. The problem is there isn't really enough space between the spar and the inner wing surface. I pulled hard and long in a multitude of directions and managed to get one through in the end. The other side I had to cut out part of the wheel compartment to get it through.
Maybe it's just me!
Cheers,
matthew
Aug 07, 2007, 05:52 AM
Registered User
I've gotta say that is one fine looking spit, i will be adding it to the list (I have to have one as I am only an hour away from Biggin Hill 'the home of the spit') I must say that tiny mpjet motor is a beast, that plane looks way over scale speed and you say most of it was at low power!
Aug 07, 2007, 07:34 PM
Dr. Dave
Mike, your flying stole the show. I have to admit when watching the video the Spitfire looked solid enough to be a giant scale. Really nice job.
Aug 07, 2007, 08:36 PM
Registered User
pda4you's Avatar
Thanks guys - all the Alfas fly "larger" than they are.....

This one really amazed me with the very VERY light AUW. A keeper for sure.

Mike
Aug 08, 2007, 12:15 PM
Canucklehead
orenda635's Avatar
You should mention that it's only $279 with the "Short Combo". My jaw dropped when I saw $459 full setup until I realized that includes TX and charger.

I'm quite impressed with the planes Hobby Lobby is coming out with. Especially the Alfas.
Aug 08, 2007, 07:23 PM
Motor Maniac
Great pics in the review. Amazing how life-like a foam airplane of that size can be. May I ask what camera was used in taking the pics?
Aug 09, 2007, 01:11 PM
Administrator
Angela H's Avatar
orenda - I will add that... thanks for saying something!


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