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Airfield A6M Zero Review Print E-mail
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Monday, 12 September 2011 23:19


History

The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a long range fighter aircraft operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) from 1940 to 1945. The A6M was designated as the Mitsubishi Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter, and also designated as the Mitsubishi A6M Rei-sen and Mitsubishi Navy 12-shi Carrier Fighter. The A6M was usually referred to by the Allies as the "Zero", from the 'Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter' designation. The official Allied reporting name was Zeke.

When it was introduced early in World War II, the Zero was the best carrier-based fighter in the world, combining excellent maneuverability and very long range. In early combat operations, the Zero gained a legendary reputation as a "dogfighter", achieving the outstanding kill ratio of 12 to 1, but by mid-1942 a combination of new tactics and the introduction of better equipment enabled the Allied pilots to engage the Zero on more equal terms. The IJNAS also frequently used the type as a land-based fighter. By 1943, inherent design weaknesses and the increasing lack of more powerful aircraft engines meant that the Zero became less effective against newer enemy fighters that possessed greater firepower, armor, and speed, and approached the Zero's maneuverability. Although the Mitsubishi A6M was outdated by 1944, it was never totally supplanted by the newer Japanese aircraft types. During the final years of the War in the Pacific, the Zero was used in kamikaze operations. In the course of the war, more Zeros were built than any other Japanese aircraft.



Intro

When it comes to RC Airplanes one that has never entered my hangar was the Japanese Zero. For years Shaky Thumbs and I have longed to fly our Mustangs, Corsairs and Spitfires against the Zero but we never bought one. When I learned that Airfield was going to produce and release a Zero was 100% excited and knew I had to review it. Within a week of ordering the Zero, it was on my doorstep ready for the unveiling.

   

Kit Contents

The Airfield Zero arrived in perfect condition and was tightly packed in typical Airfield fashion. Lots and lots of plastic bags were used to ensure each and every piece of the plane was safe and protected during shipping. The kit included the plane with all of the servos, motor, esc, retracts and lights already installed. Inside the box was also a bag full of accessories, screws, instructions, a screwdriver and some glue.  There were also several bags labeled “free part” that indeed contained extra parts for the assembly of the plane. There was some extra clevises, control horns, screws and my personal favorite; one extra blade for the propeller. There is nothing worse than bonking the prop on a botched landing and being grounded because only one blade was broken or damaged. I thought it was a nice touch to include an extra one!

   

   

Assembly

The plane comes about 85% assembled but in order to get in the air, there are a few things that need to be done. The first step is to attach all of the control horns to the moving surfaces. In the past this step has been more time consuming than it should be given the fact that the screws don’t line up, or they are barely long enough to get through the foam. With the Zero all of the control horns lined up very well and Airfield was smart to included 2 different sized screws that are used to secure everything down. Within a matter of minutes the rudder, elevators and ailerons all had horns. Securing the horns for the flaps was a little trickier but fortunately larger horns were used and they were fairly simple to attach to the underside of the flaps.

   

Moving towards the rear of the plane it was time to attach the elevator and rudder. The rudder and elevator are secured to the tail of the plane with Epoxy or CA. I like to be certain that the tail feathers will not rip off during flight so I slathered them with 5-minute CA and held everything together for a full 10 minutes to be confident everything was secure.

   

Once the tail was dry it was time to put the wings into the fuselage. I was excited to see Airfields 2-bracket 6-screw design of securing the wings. The wings slide over a plastic tube and are held together by two brackets that not only pull the wings together but allow the holding screws to be secured into the fuselage. The final two screws are for the leading edge of the wings and help hold the front of the wings in place. This design feels rock solid and I wish more planes incorporated something like this. There is no play or excess movement once everything is tightened.

   

After the wings were done I finished with the nose of the plane. The included props and spinner screw together very easily and I am happy with the balance of the spinner as there was little to no wobble which is an accomplishment compared to previous Airfield planes. Likewise the motor mount itself is very tight and there is no excessive play which makes this Zeke whisper quiet in the air.

   

Once the nose was complete I glued on the guns and airspeed indicator, plugged the servos into the receiver to center them and attached all the clevises. With everything plugged in the Airfield A6M Zero was complete!

   

Features

The Airfield Zero features a dark green, realistic paint scheme that is accented by lights on the wing tips and a large silver spinner on the nose. The wings spread out to 55” and the foamie Zeke weighs in at 1880g. At the front of the plane is a 500kv motor that turns the 3-bladed prop. A 50 amp ESC runs all of the electronics and there are plenty to run considering the 9 servos implanted within the plane. The foam is EPO and feels strong with a smooth finish. The electric retracts are smoother than Barry White and close completely flush into the wing giving the bottom of the plane a sharp edge. In addition the plane also features split flaps, one large bomb and guns perched on the leading edge of the wing. The cowl is made of hard, thick plastic and gives the entire nose of the plane a strong feeling of quality.

The last few releases by Airfield have been top notch and the Zero is no exception. Their foam, paint and features are getting better and better when compared to their earlier releases. I hope they continue this trend on the upcoming FW-190 and P-38!

First Flight

By a random stroke of luck I was able to get off of work early on a Friday afternoon so I rushed home to pack up the Zero and get some flights in before the sun settled below the horizon. The field was nearly vacant and the wind was calm making it a perfect afternoon for a maiden flight.

I checked all of the connections on the plane, stuffed a 4S 2200mah battery as far it would go in the nose and found the balance to be right at 80mm. Satisfied, I put the plane on the runway and pushed the throttle stick for some power. The plane rolled out straight with no dramatic torque and I didn’t need any rudder input to keep her tracking down the line. After 30 feet of rolling I pulled back on the elevator and she climbed into the sunset with little effort. With the plane high in the sky I could tell there was a slight roll and she wanted to climb. I gave 4 to 5 clicks of left aileron trim to stop the roll and about 6 or 7 clicks of down trim to calm the climb. The Zero immediately settled in and flew wherever I pointed her.

   

Each of the control surfaces was responsive and fluid which gave the Zero wonderful characteristics in the air. The power was substantial and I was impressed at how whisper quiet the motor/prop combo was. No buzz, no whine just a wistful ‘whoosh’ as she flew by. I was excited by how well the Zero rolled and the ample elevator control gave the Zero snappy turns.

After 6 minutes of flying I brought the Airfield A6M Zero down to the ground for a flapless, bouncy landing.

Flight Characteristics

The Nitroplanes Zero is a sight to behold in the air. The level of maneuverability coupled with the scale looks make this warbird a joy to fly! While piercing the air the Zero is very responsive and agile. Rolls, spins and loops are easy and inverted flight feels completely stable. The plane floats okay and the stall characteristics are mild. Never once did I feel that the plane was going to tip stall or flip over with any amount of force. The flaps do not drop a dramatic amount but they are paramount in slowing the Zero down. They are highly advised to use when landing, which is covered in the next section.

The A6M can do all of these things but it looks best when coming around on a high banking turn towards the end of the runway. The yellow tape on the leading edge and bright red circles on the wings make the Zero easily distinguishable from all the Allied aircraft in the air.

Takeoffs and Landings

Given there is little to no torque roll, the Airfield A6M is very easy to takeoff. The plane’s tail wheel will jump off the ground before the throttle can reach ¾ and at about ¾ throttle the plane practically lifts itself off of the ground. Only an easy pull on the elevator stick is needed to get the Zero into the air.

   

Landings are a bit trickier given the fact that the Zero likes to carry some speed. My first landing was less than perfect and much bouncier than I would have liked. Fortunately the gear was up to the task and the Zero has flown many more flights. It is highly recommended to use the flaps for landing as they slow down the Zero an incredible amount and make the landing much more manageable. The last landing in the video below shows just how soft the plane can land….on grass no less! With the flaps deployed and the plane lined up with the runway it is just a matter of throttle control to bring the plane down. Continually close the throttle down until the plane is a few feet off of the ground and you should have enough speed to chop the throttle and let it fall (gently) to the earth.

Is This Plane For a Beginner?

No it is a bit too big and hard to fly for a beginner. The controls are ample and could give a newbie some trouble. The landing speed would feel awfully fast for someone just starting out so this should be kept in the closet until more time and experience is spent on other planes.

Conclusion

The Airfield A6M Zero is a fun flying plane that is filled with features. The RC Airplane has superb flight characteristics and virtually no ill habits. The foam feels strong and although the motor could handle a much bigger prop, the Zero does not lack power. Low on the deck, high in the sky or running from a P-51 Mustang, the Zero looks great no matter where it is at. The assembly is very easy and all of the parts worked correctly right out of the box. After owning planes from all other countries it was time to get something like the Zero. Fortunately Airfield stepped up and released this bird that fills a gap in the market. The warbird can be had for around $220 and given the amount of features and excellent properties; I’d say this is a definite buy.

GRADE: A

Pros

  • Strong construction (love the wing connection)
  • Price vs Features is a win!
  • Scale looks
  • Surprising Maneuverability and Stability
  • Whisper quiet in the air

Neutrals

  • Guns on the front really stick out and are easily breakable. Took me 30 seconds to break one after attaching it.

Cons

  • The “manual” is merely a poster with pictures too small to see what they are showing. They would be better off just including a poster of the plane that says “Make it looks like this”.

 Media and FLIGHT Time!

    

   

    

   

   



 
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