Parkzone's Spitfire Mk. IX
This Spitfire really packs a punch in scale features and flight performance
By Jim Wiggin/photos by Jim Wiggin and Frank Fanelli
A few years back my good friend Dave and I were on a trip to one of many airplane meets that we attended. During such a road trip as this, we would often engage in interesting discussions ranging from our next project to how we performed some technical achievement. On this particular trip Dave broke the silence with a simple question, “What in your opinion is the most beautiful car or truck of all time?” Without hesitation Dave quipped sarcastically, “Oh wait, I know, the Jeep!” No Dave, I replied.
AT A GLANCE
Type: R/C electric sport scale
Wing span: 43.2 inches
Wing area: 290 sq. in.
Length: 37.3 inches
Weight: 41.1 ounces
Wing loading: 20.41 oz./sq.ft.
Motor: 15 brushless 950 Kv
Battery: 3S 11.1V 2200mAh 25C Li-Po
Radio: 4-5 channel
Dist. by: Horizon Hobby
4105 Fieldstone Rd
Champaign, IL 61822
In a shock to him and most people who know me, the utilitarian and capable Jeep, while my favorite, is not the most beautiful car on my list. Surprised, Dave asked, “Well, what then?” I would have to say in my mind the most beautiful car of all time would be the British Aston Martin DB-5. A somewhat surprised hint of approval came in the form of a “humph” from Dave.
“Okay, what is the most beautiful and your favorite airplane of all time?” This question was a bit harder as I suffer from a condition known as aircraft-love-ocitis, however I truthfully answered. It would have to be the Spitfire Mk IX, with the Mk. XXII being a close second. The Spitfire was born in an era of smooth flowing lines, race inspired aerodynamics, and like the Aston Martin that would come after it, the brute force, speed—and in the case with Mr. Bond— deadliness, would be camouflaged under its elegant and clean lines.
The Mk. IX variant was born of necessity, due to the fact that the Luftwaffe was gaining a critical advantage in air supremacy with the Focke Wulf 190A-3 appearing in late 1941. This was later proven after the British were able to test a captured Fw190 A-3 and test it against the Mk. V version of the Spitfire. Air Command at the time concluded that building a new platform from the ground up would not be as effective as refining the Mk. V version into a more powerful variant. In the end, they not only succeeded in producing an aircraft that not only matched the Butcher Bird, but also became the most successful Spitfire of all the variants both past and future. Parkzone choose to model an early variant of the Mk IX in RAF pilot Johnnie Johnson’s scheme. The earlier Mk. IX, which this model is derived from, is evident mainly by the carry over of the rounded vertical stabilizer and rudder. Later Mk. IX’s would have a more pointed vertical stab and rudder assembly. So if Parkzone had done this much homework to label their Spitfire a Mk. IX, how scale was this small electric?
Out of the Box
Taking the box into the workshop, I was impressed with the packaging. Not only was the box art clean with sharp photography, but left no doubt to the potential customer what exactly was in the box. Simply put, add your Spektrum or JR radio transmitter and you are ready to keep the homeland safe. Opening the box one sees how the airframe and its associated components are arranged. The interior is foam and all of the pieces are safely captured within the foam. This assures all that work in detail and paint is not harmed on its way from the factory to your shop.
The fuselage, wing, two-piece horizontal stabilizer and elevator, small bag of hardware, charger and 2200 mAh battery are all there. The term building does not really apply to this aircraft; final assembly really fits here. In fact, your first step should be to charge your flight pack with the included charger or one that is compatible, as the model will be finished long before the pack is ready.
With the parts out of the box, I studied the individual foam components, and was impressed to see that all of the panel lines were there and were nicely done, not too deep to look over done, but present to give a nice scale effect. I looked hard at the camouflage pattern and colors of the plane and after thinking a bit, grabbed my Model Master Color paint chip book off the shelf. Not only has Horizon Hobby used a correct paint scheme but also the colors for the RAF Slate Gray, Ocean Gray and Medium Sea Gray all matched my color chip samples.
A real “kudo” goes to the development team in taking the time to put in these subtle details that many manufactures forget or ignore. I was also impressed to see a cockpit with a fully painted pilot installed as well as the simulated paper red gun covers on the wing. About the only thing missing was some slight weathering, but that can be done later. Rather than go into the final assembly of the model I will cover the optional retractable gear and subsequent flying. Just know the only tool you will need is a small Phillips screwdriver.
For this review, Horizon Hobby also sent along a set of their electric retracts for models within the .10-.15 size range. In my modeling past there were only two types of retracts; mechanical and air type systems. Mechanical retracts are simple enough and do not weigh much more than an extra servo but can be a study in frustration in setup. Air retracts are a bit easier to set up and look a bit more convincing in flight like the full scale. However, they require a bit more weight and installation time. They would be too heavy and complex for a model of this size.
The retracts from E-flite at first glance look like any other retract with the exception of a small motor and a servo lead. Installing them into the Spitfire couldn’t be any easier. In the manual you have the option to install the included fixed gear or retracts. For the retracts, simply unscrew the four screws in the wheel well area and remove the plastic plate. Parkzone also supplied a set of gear struts and gear covers that are specifically for the Spitfire. Simply unscrew the setscrew within the retracts, slide out the strut and replace unit with the Spitfire strut.
Look carefully and you will see the leads for the retracts in the wings radiators. Carefully pull the lead out, plug in the retract lead and you’re ready to bolt the retract and cover in using the screws that you took out previously. I also added a bit of thread lock to each screw just as an added bit of security. As an added precaution, I used a small piece of thread to tie the leads together so that the assembly would not disconnect. Normally I use heat shrink tubing for this process but the space required is frankly not there. Once the leads have been secured, they can be pushed back into a small space within the radiators. With the gear bolted in and wire hidden, simply install the wheels and your done.
With the Spitfire ready for duty, I bound the receiver to my Spektrum DX-8. Within 10 minutes I had all my travel rates and associated exponential programmed into the radio. With a selection of the gear switch on the transmitter the gear went up and fit snugly into the wheel well. To say it’s pretty cool to hold such a small, scale-looking electric in your hand and watch the gear slowly tuck up correctly the first time would be an understatement. On a side note, this is my first Spektrum radio system and I have never been one of those to be a fast programmer, but I found the Spektrum’s programming to be logical and simple to use.
The weather in northern New Jersey has been very prototypical of the area in which the full scale Spitfire protected. In short, very rainy and wet! However, we were blessed with an October day that had a clear blue sky, and only a light breeze. I charged the battery and headed for the usual haunt for flying such a review model. With Frank Fanelli as cameraman, I fired up the DX-8, and installed the 2200 pack, connected it and replaced the hatch cover. The Spitfire came alive. A quick check of all the flight surfaces to ensure everything was in order and I was off to the runway. The manual suggests you program your timer for seven minutes, I set the timer to activate at 25% forward throttle.
Two concerns I had of this Spitfire, and any model Spitfire for that matter, came by the way of its narrow gear and its elliptical wing tips. The narrow gear on the full scale, and subsequently many models, has been the subject of many ground loops and serpentine take-off patterns for many a pilot. Second, the elliptical wing tips that are so pleasing to our eyes hide that evil known as tip stall. How would the Parkzone model do I wondered.
I eased the throttle up after pointing the craft into the wind and my first fear was gone. The model tracked just fine. True, on this day the takeoff was helped by a 5 mph headwind, but I can say honestly that subsequent takeoffs on an asphalt runway with zero wind, have been just as predictable. If you have some tail wheel experience and are familiar with the stick on the left of your transmitter, you’ll have no problem getting the Spitfire off the ground.
Once the Spitfire was up, I hit the retract switch and watched the gear go up and tuck up into the wells. A few beauty passes for the camera and some trimming was in order. The Spitfire tracks very well and flies like a much larger plane and while you certainly do not have to use the rudder in turns, a little never hurts. I added a bit of throttle and pointed the plane up a bit to gain some altitude. The included motor and ESC combination provides more than enough power for the plane, and I flew the plane comfortably at ¾ throttle most of the time.
With trimming complete I next induced the model into a stall. I could not detect the wing favoring one side over the other; rather the plane would stall, nose forward and gain speed and was real easy to recover. This being said, do keep your speed up in the turns. At a comfortable altitude, I purposely throttled the airplane back to 25% and at low rates performed a tight right hand turn with ailerons and rudder. She fell out of the turn and lost some altitude but releasing the sticks to neutral and adding power is all it takes to regain control. This is true with just about any airplane and let’s remember this is a pursuit aircraft.
The fact that I had to really force the airplane to do anything other than fly is a testament to the design crew of the model. Many times I would do things I would not normally do with a warbird and I was surprised that the model just kept flying along. One of the things that impressed me was the slower speed capability of the model. Usually warbirds of any type are fast because a fighter plane by nature does not fly stable at slow speeds. The plane will roll and loop on low rates, but before you do that high-speed pass ending with a victory roll, keep in mind it looks much better with high rates.
All too soon, the battery indicator on my transmitter was telling me it was time to return to base. I selected my gear switch, did a low inspection pass, turned into my pattern and set up for a landing. Keep the power up a bit as the gear down puts some drag into the equation. My first landing was a bit bumpy, maybe due to the wind that had picked up, but the plane still tracked nicely. Close inspection of the gear showed no damage or bent struts. Subsequent landings have been much smoother and done right can really look nice.
With the gear down, keep your air speed up, level the wings and use the rudder to steer her. Wheel landings are the best, set her on the mains while decreasing your speed and let the tail settle on to the runway. Do not force the tail wheel down otherwise you risk stalling the plane and bouncing the model.
The folks at Horizon and Parkzone have a winner with this model. I have since flown this model more and now need to order more 2200 packs. R&D really went the extra mile and produced a scale looking model yet kept the weight down so that the model is easy to fly and would make an excellent first warbird. The model is predictable in the air with no bad habits and unless there is some wind over 10–15 mph, the model tracks straight and true. Take-offs and landings are a nonevent, judicious use of elevator, rudder and throttle is key.
About the only negative I found was not directly aimed at the model but more due to the authenticity of the trim scheme. The model can be a bit hard to see in low light situations. With that in mind, simply keep the model at a comfortable distance and take into fact the dark pattern of the model.
With a fast assembly, completeness and scale looks, one could purchase this model at a warbird fly-in and have a model that will stand its own among other models that have been built up and will fast become the model you will fly the most. Just as the full-scale Spitfire Mk. IX is easily my favorite warbird, the new Parkzone Spitfire Mk IX is my new favorite R/C warbird. Tally Ho!
This review appeared in the January 2012 issue of Flying Models.