Home RC Airplane Reviews Airfield F6F Hellcat Review
Airfield F6F Hellcat Review Print E-mail
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Thursday, 20 October 2011 22:24

History

The Grumman F6F Hellcat was a carrier-based fighter aircraft developed to replace the earlier F4F Wildcat in United States Navy (USN) service. Although the F6F resembled the Wildcat, it was a completely new design powered by a 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800. Some tagged it as the "Wildcat's big brother". The Hellcat and the Vought F4U Corsair were the primary USN fighters during the second half of World War II.


The Hellcat was the first USN fighter designed in view of lessons from combat with the Japanese Zero. The Hellcat was credited with destroying 5,271 aircraft while in service with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps (5,163 in the Pacific and eight more during the invasion of Southern France, plus 52 with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm during World War II), which was more than any other U.S. naval aircraft. Postwar, the Hellcat was phased out of front line service, but remained in service as late as 1954 as a night fighter. The Hellcat holds a crew of one and is powered by a 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10W "Double Wasp" two-row radial engine. The more powerful engine gave the Hellcat a top speed of 380 mph and a service ceiling of 37,300 ft.



Intro

Several months back FMS/Airfield announced they were working on several warbirds to be released this year. A German FW-190, P-38 and BF109 were a few of the planes they were announced back in mid-summer. About a month after their original announcement they declared they would also be releasing a F6F Hellcat. I figured we wouldn’t see the Hellcat for months considering all these other planes were announced previously, but suddenly here it is in all its glory!

   

Kit Contents

The Hellcat took less than a week to arrive at my office after ordering it online through Nitroplanes. The package was double boxed and well protected which is a good thing considering the outer box had several gouges and rips on it. The contents contained within the box were undamaged and found in good order. The Airfield Hellcat can be ordered in three different flavors. Kit, ARF or RTF. For this review I chose the Almost-Ready-to-Fly version. The kit came with the 500kv motor, 50 amp esc w/4amp SBEC, 7 – 9g servos, 1 – 17g servo and electric retracts already installed. A radio, receiver and 4S 2200mah battery is required to complete the plane.

   

The kit also included all of the necessary hardware needed to assemble the warbird as well as extra parts in case you break something. A vaguely detailed poster was included in the box with assembly instructions printed upon it as well as a tube of glue and a small screwdriver. Like most Airfield kits nearly every piece of the plane is protected and wrapped in plastic to avoid damage during shipping.

Assembly

After unboxing all of the pieces of the plane I was delighted to see that there were not too many small or intricate parts that needed to be assembled. Virtually all of the work had been done by the factory. Assembly starts with the control horns on the moveable parts of the plane. The control horns are larger and made of a softer plastic than previous Airfield warbirds. I for one welcome the change as these control horns are much easier to attach to the plane. Each control surface has its own bag of parts making it easy to keep everything in order. The ailerons and elevator bags contain screws of different lengths so be sure to install the longer screws on the thicker part of the body. Installing the control horns for the flaps can be difficult but a little patience helps the process.

   

After the control horns were attached I focused my energy on the elevator and rudder. The elevator sits on the tail and is secured by two long, metal screws. The rudder sits on top of the elevator and is secured from the bottom side by two metal screws. The design is simple, smart and requires no gluing. I like the fact that the design creates a strong counter pressure that pulls everything in the tail tight. 

   

Once the tail was finished the wings were pressed into the sides of the fuselage with careful attention spent on threading the wires into the fuse. The task is not too difficult, but a few of the wires coming from the wings are short, so make sure they don’t get smooshed or caught on the inner edge of the wing. The wings slide over two short spars and squeeze in very tightly to the body of the plane. Four metal screws are used to secure the wings from the inside of the fuselage. Once again the design is totally different from previous Airfield Warbirds but it is completely tight and sound as the wings displayed no play or wiggling tendencies.

   

The nose of the plane was looking bare without the prop so I decided to assemble it. Each blade of the three-bladed prop screws into the central hub. The entire unit then slides onto the motor shaft, but after fussing with it, I found that the inner diameter of my hub needed to be reamed out a tiny bit more before it would fit properly. Once it was reamed out I screwed on the spinner and was finished!

   

All of the major parts of the plane were assembled but I spent some time messing with the servos and making sure all of the ailerons, elevators and rudder were flush.

The kit included a sequencer like the ones found in the Airfield Corsair and Zero kit but I have no idea what it is for since there are no doors or flaps to sequence with the gear so I left it off of the plane, but hey….free sequencer! The build was very straight forward and did not require any glue for major parts, just a drizzle for the wing mounted machine guns, and the antenna.

Features

The Airfield Hellcat features EPO foam that is covered in smooth blue and white paint. The outer skin of the plane is really nice and there are very few bumps or blemishes that are often left over as a result of foam injection. The warbird comes with electric retractable landing gear that move with force when the switch is flipped. Compared to other retracts on the market they seem much stronger and more durable. The lines of the bird are excellent and very close to scale. The kit comes with a 500kv motor that produces 35 amps and 564 watts which is well within the range of the 50 amp speed controller. The plane requires a 4s 2200mah battery that perfectly balances the plane when it is stuffed all the way forward in the nose. Some foam or waded up paper towels should be used to keep the battery forward in the nose and from sliding around while in flight. A thick 3-bladed prop sits on the front of the plane and Airfield was kind enough to include an extra prop blade in the box should one break. The lights on the edges of the wings are bright and look awesome in the air. All in all the build of the Hellcat is solid and the plane is loaded with features without being too overdone.

   

First Flight

There was a beautiful break from the rain the day after I assembled the Hellcat. Not wanting to miss a great opportunity to maiden the warbird, I packed everything up and headed out to the field. I carefully went through all of the surfaces and made sure everything was working correctly and that each control surface moved in the proper direction. Reversed control surfaces can be very hazardous to the plane’s health.

With the Hellcat lined up on the airstrip I throttled up and let the beast launch down the runway. After a 25 foot rollout I pulled back on the elevator and the Airfield Hellcat responded gracefully with a smooth climb. I tried to level the plane out but she was completely out of trim and wanted to roll and climb towards the heavens. I was able to smooth out the roll with nearly 10 clicks of trim but after feeding in my entire down elevator the plane was still trying to climb. I was going to ‘make do’ and power through the first flight but during some inverted flying the canopy came loose and I was forced to make an emergency landing. With the gear down and the canopy nearly off, the plane was a handful and I nearly lost her above the trees several times. It was a few hairy seconds but I was able to bring the Hellcat in for a bouncy landing.

   

On the ground I readjusted the elevator and found some tape for the canopy since it was not making a good locking connection. Flight #1.5 was much more successful and it was nice being able to fly the plane without having to fight to keep the nose down.  The 2nd flight was flown on the same battery as the first and lasted about 4 minutes (6 minutes total) and upon landing the 4S 2650mah battery was not even warm and had about 3.80 in each cell….plenty of juice left for more flying.

I used the 2650 pack for the first flight as it was newer and more powerful than other batteries in my bin but in the subsequent flights I found that the standard 2200mah 4S battery balances the plane better and gives it better flight characteristics.

Flight Characteristics

The Hellcat’s fuselage is a fat, round behemoth and sails through the air like a greased pig. The plane actually flies fairly well once up to speed and in the air. The roll rate is predictable and stable, the elevator is responsive without feeling too ‘touchy’ and inverted flight is surprisingly docile as long as the canopy stays attached. Sadly the power system is a bit weak and feels mushy. I know the motor can handle a larger amount of watts/amps than the stock 3-bladed prop pushes out. I wish the props were a ½” longer or a slightly higher pitch to take advantage of the unused power. At 564 watts the power is more than sufficient but is a far cry from Airfield’s 700watt P-40 or 700+watt (new) P-51 Mustang. Not every plane needs to be a supersonic missile, but this is a warbird and I found the performance lacking.

Even though the performance was a bit soft the plane’s motor/prop combo was near perfectly balanced and was quiet as a whisper through the air. The flaps are on digital servos and come down in a scale manner to help cushion any dramatic ballooning effect when they are deployed. The flaps slow down the beast very well, but don’t go too slow as the plane will definitely stall heavily.

    

The flight characteristic high up in the air are good but if there is one thing to know about the Airfield Hellcat it is when the gear comes down, all bets are off. Most RC Airplanes have similar flight characteristics whether the gear is up or down, some might change slightly when the gear is down. On the Hellcat, things change dramatically. The second the gear comes down the warbird begins to fall like a rock, and more juice must be pushed through the prop to maintain altitude. In addition the controls feel sluggish and the entire plane becomes a nasty handful. It was quite surprising when it happened the first time and I thought it was just me falling asleep at the sticks. Each consecutive time the results were repeated. It was quite a dramatic change in the flight characteristics and one to be aware of.

 

Takeoffs and Landings

Taking off with the Airfield Hellcat is simplistic and smooth. The warbird does not display any heavy ground looping or torque tendencies and will take to the sky within about 25 to 30 feet. Power is adequate for takeoffs and I never needed to blast the throttle to full power to get it off of the ground.

   

As stated previously in this review, landings are much more dramatic. Since the plane wants to drop out of the sky when the gear is down it is really best to leave the gear up until you’re on final approach. Even when I knew what to expect, after deploying the gear I still struggled to keep the plane in the air and just about lost it a few times. To combat this I would align the plane with the runway and drop it as I was descending in a straight line. No turns, no funny business…just nice and easy. This is much later than I would usually prefer to drop the gear, but it made landing so much less stressful.

Is This Plane For a Beginner?

No. Besides being a 5 channel warbird the landing characteristics could end in disaster with beginner thumbs at the sticks. Stay away from this warbird until you’ve had plenty of practice on more docile craft.

Conclusion

The Nitroplane’s Airfield F6F Hellcat is beautiful copy of the WWII warbird. The foam and paint are durable and bright. The attention to detail is excellent and impressive whether the plane is hanging on a wall or flying above the tree tops. The growly face could have been left off the side of the cowl, but that is just personal preference. The retracts are fast, sturdy and plenty strong to handle the weight of the plane. The build was extremely easy and required no glue for the assembly, aside from the guns and antenna. The handling is good and the power is just okay. The plane does not like to slow down too much and the drag created by the deployed gear is quite surprising. Because of this, landings can be a little tricky and stressful. Overall the plane does what it is supposed to do but given the increased price point over recent Airfield warbirds, I was a bit disappointed at the performance. If you’re looking for a scale warbird with all the fixins and minimal assembly this is a great choice.

GRADE: B-

Pros

  • Excellent Build Quality – Very Sturdy
  • Nice Paint
  • Loaded with features and fun
  • Easy to assemble, only a couple of hours
  • Smooth and quiet through the air
  • Extra parts

Neutrals

  • Manual is standard poster size with tiny pictures
  • Price is close to $300 after shipping

Cons

  • Wildly different characteristics when landing gear is deployed
  • The motor prop combo is a touch on the weak side
  • Canopy does not want to stay on, the clip doesn’t not line up well with the removable canopy

 

Media and FLIGHT Time!

   

   

   

   

   




 
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