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Written by Terry Dunn
A salute to the Tuskegee Airmen
Product review
As seen in the September 2018 issue of
Model Aviation.



Review video


Fans of the P-51 Mustang can choose from a huge selection of RC models in a wide range of sizes. Most of those models represent the famous D variant, with its distinctive bubble canopy, and why not? It’s a beautiful aircraft. Many would even say that the P-51D is a quintessential fighter airplane.

Your model choices are much more limited if, like me, you prefer the earlier Mustangs with a greenhouse-style canopy. One popular option is the P-51B from VQ Warbirds. It is a great-looking balsa and plywood ARF.

This model has been around for several years, but it has been updated to include wing flaps and a magnetic battery hatch. Let’s crack open the new release of this razorback Mustang and take a detailed look.




The VQ Warbirds P-51B is a balsa and plywood ARF that is intended for glow or electric power. Note the printed markings on the factory covering.



Assembling the Mustang

This Mustang has a 60-inch wingspan and is rated for either a .40 to .46 glow engine or an electric power system with approximately 900 watts. It includes static landing gear, but the airplane is also equipped to accept retracts.

The cosmetic features of this P-51 are impressive. The factory-applied iron-on covering includes all of the insignia, stenciling, panel lines, rivets, and even some weathering! It is definitely a notch above most ARF finishes that I’ve seen.

The color scheme emulates a restored P-51C that currently flies with the Commemorative Air Force’s Red Tail Squadron. This organization and its Mustang honor the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. Those men overcame countless challenges to become the U.S. Army Air Corps’ first black aviators.

VQ Warbirds provides a printed manual with line drawings. The fundamental information that you need is there, but occasional improvisation is required. If you already have a few ARFs in your logbook, you won’t have too much trouble assembling this one. Just be aware that the P-51B is not a quick, one-night build. Give yourself plenty of time to work through all of the steps.




VQ Warbirds offers electric retracts for the Mustang. Some assembly and fitting is necessary, but they look great and operate reliably.


Assembly begins by joining the wing halves together. The thick plywood dihedral brace in my kit was a bit warped, slightly skewing the wing panels. I was able to use a combination of clamps and weights to keep the wing roots perfectly aligned while the epoxy dried and locked everything in place.

I used four JR DS368BB digital servos to control the ailerons and flaps. These servos fit into the factory cutouts with only a little bit of sanding. The included pushrods use metal clevises on the control horns and EZ Connectors on the servo horns. I am not a fan of EZ Connectors, so I omitted them and added Z-bends to the pushrods.

The manual illustrates steps for installing the static landing gear, servo-driven retracts, and electric retracts. I used the optional electric retracts from VQ Warbirds. These units have functional oleo struts and require some assembly. Be sure to file flat spots on the connecting pins where they interface with setscrews, and use threadlocker. You will also have to drill out the hubs of the included main wheels before they will fit on the axles.

I had to remove some material from the mounting rails in the wing before the retract units would fit properly and operate without interference. I also had to remove most of the floor area from the factory-installed plastic wheel wells. After some trial and error, I was able to get the gear solidly mounted and cycling perfectly. Unfortunately, I was not able to integrate the included landing gear doors with these retracts.




The P-51B is powered by an ElectriFly RimFire .32 brushless motor paired with a Castle Creations ESC and a 4S Flight Power LiPo battery.


A nylon engine mount is included for those intending to power this Mustang with a nitro engine. You’ll also find a fuel tank in the kit. The method for attaching an electric motor uses a plywood mounting plate that is offset from the firewall with long 5 mm bolts. It is a simple and robust arrangement.

I went with electric power and configured the motor mount per the dimensions listed in the manual. It is prudent to apply threadlocker to every nut on the mount. The completed mount aligned the motor shaft perfectly with the airplane’s fiberglass cowling.

My power system consists of an ElectriFly RimFire .32 brushless motor paired with an APC 12 x 10E propeller and Castle Creations Phoenix Edge Lite 75 ESC. A Castle Creations BEC provides power to the radio system. The battery is a Flight Power 4S 3,600 mAh 50C LiPo. This system produces slightly more than 950 watts and nicely motivates the Mustang.

The kit includes a large nylon spinner that looks great. Unfortunately, my example had a warped backplate and was significantly out of balance. The dodgy spinner caused unacceptable levels of vibration during my test runs.

I was unable to fully rectify the issues despite considerable effort, so I decided to ditch the stock spinner and go with a 3.25-inch unit from Great Planes (part GPMQ4781). My new spinner does not quite have the correct profile for a P-51, but it fits well and runs true, so I am happy!




The author opened an air inlet on the front of the fiberglass cowling and added an exit path to the bottom of the fuselage.


The fuselage is designed to accommodate standard-size servos. I was able to utilize another pair of the JR digital mini servos by adding two strips of 5/16-inch square basswood stock as servo rails. Each elevator half uses a dedicated pushrod. These pushrods are ganged together near the servo with a three-way coupler. A similar coupler joins the pushrods for the rudder and tail wheel steering.

There is plenty of room inside for radio gear. I used hook-and-loop tape to install a Futaba R617FS receiver slightly forward of the rudder and elevator servos. Although not mentioned in the manual, a plywood battery tray is included. I added hook-and-loop tape to the tray and also incorporated a strap to wrap around the battery.

The battery access hatch is located a bit forward of the windscreen. It is held in place with strong magnets. You will have trouble removing the hatch if you attempt to lift it vertically. The easiest method is to slide it sideways. That is also the best way to reset the hatch into position.

I used a small sanding wheel in my Dremel tool to open an air inlet in the cowling’s chin. This airflow helps to cool the power system components. The air also needs a path to escape, so I added a hole in the bottom of the fuselage.

The suggested center of gravity (CG) location looked too aggressive to me. I played it safe and balanced my Mustang 5 mm farther forward. This required me to add 2 ounces of ballast in the forward part of the cowling. My revised CG has worked out well during flight testing.

I took steps to keep the rear of the Mustang as lightweight as possible. For instance, I used carpenter’s glue instead of epoxy to attach the tail feathers to the fuselage. Another weight-saving strategy was to replace the stock tail wheel with a lighter unit from my spare parts stash.

I also used plastic tubing in lieu of a brass wheel collar to retain the tail wheel. Each effort shaved only a few grams, but the benefit multiplies quickly when you consider the additional nose weight that would have otherwise been necessary.




This updated variant of VQ Warbird’s P-51B model includes a magnetically secured hatch for easy access to the flight battery.


As I mentioned, most of the finish work on the Mustang is complete from the factory. There were only a few steps left to finish the job. I applied the included self-adhesive decals to the cowling. There is a typo in the decals (Airman rather than Airmen) that I decided to overlook.

The cowling and battery hatch do not have the printed details that are found on the rest of the Mustang. I added simulated panel lines and rivets to these parts with a fine-point Sharpie marker. My inked details would probably disappear quickly if I was using nitro power, but I expect them to persist for a while in the absence of exhaust residue.

My final cosmetic detail was to partially repaint the pilot bust. The factory paint job was well done, but the pilot’s skin tone did not reflect that of the Tuskegee Airmen. It would have been disingenuous of me to have a model honoring the Red Tail Angels and overlook that significant detail.


Flying the Mustang

With its wide gear stance and steerable tail wheel, this P-51 is easy to handle on the ground. Nose-overs are not a problem because the main gear is angled somewhat forward. I have not yet found any reason to take off with flaps deployed. With a gradual advance to full power, the tail wheel comes up quickly and the main wheels do not lag far behind. Slight rudder correction is necessary to keep the Mustang tracking straight during the takeoff roll.

After it is in the air, the P-51 behaves in a classic warbird style. It is fast and smooth, but not hard to fly. Competent sport fliers should have no problem with this airplane. Low, high-speed photo passes are fun for the pilot and spectators. Be sure to earn bonus points by finishing with a slow victory roll!

Control response is good in all axes with the suggested throws. I wanted more muscle, however, in pitch and roll. I subsequently increased the maximum elevator and aileron travel to 15 mm and 9 mm respectively. The flaps work well to slow down the Mustang and do not require an elevator mix. I generally land with my flaps in the takeoff position.

The P-51 has adequate power and agility for the full gamut of standard aerobatics. Loops and rolls are easy. Knife-edge passes look particularly good. It will even perform snap maneuvers. The only vice that I have found is a tendency to tuck the nose when exiting stall turns. Be ready to counter that with a dose of up-elevator.

With a casual throttle management, the 3,600 mAh battery consistently provides flights lasting roughly 5 minutes (with some reserve). I have also flown with a 5,000 mAh battery. The airplane didn’t mind the extra weight and I gained more than a minute of additional flight time.

There’s no trick to landing this P-51. Just make sure that you hold some power and maintain adequate speed. I prefer to arrive on just the main wheels. You might like the three-point option. The Mustang does not care either way.


Final Approach

If you like Mustangs (who doesn’t?), but want something that stands out from the rest of the herd, the VQ Warbirds P-51B is a good solution. This razorback fighter might demand a little more assembly time and effort than an average ARF, but it rewards you with a unique profile, nice scale details, and exciting flight performance.

—Terry Dunn
terrydunn74@gmail.com


Manufacturer/Distributor:

VQ Warbirds
info@vqwarbirds.com
www.vqwarbirds.com


Sources:

Futaba
(800) 637-6050
www.futabarc.com

Castle Creations
(913) 390-6939
www.castlecreations.com

ElectriFly RimFire
www.greatplanes.com/motors/gpmg4505.php

Great Planes
www.greatplanes.com






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