E-flite Focke-Wulf Fw 190A 1.5m Smart BNF Basic

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Written by Terry Dunn
Technology Makes This Warbird Easier To Fly 
As seen in the September 2021 issue of Model Aviation.
Review

 
the fw 190a exhibits broad performance capabilities
The Fw 190A exhibits broad performance capabilities. It excels at large, smooth aerobatics.
 

EVERY SUPERMAN NEEDS a Lex Luthor. Every Rocky Balboa needs an Apollo Creed. Every Dorothy needs a Wicked Witch. So, when E-flite released the P-51D 1.5m to kick off the company’s Smart series of warbirds, you just knew that a worthy adversary would soon come along. That foe has arrived in the form of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190A 1.5m, a replica of the famous "Butcher Bird" of World War II.

The model’s name indicates that it has a wingspan of 1.5 meters (59.5 inches). Even so, I was surprised by the overall size of the Fw 190A. This is no park flyer. It is a substantial airplane!

The airframe is made from molded-foam components with numerous plastic accent pieces. The paint and decals are factory applied. Interestingly, the trim scheme on this model emulates a modern, airworthy reproduction of the Fw 190 that is flown by the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California. That replica is painted in the colors of World War II Luftwaffe ace Oskar Bosch. Consequently, the E-flite model has a subtle blend of wartime markings and modern logos.

E-flite offers the Fw 190A in two variants: the Smart BNF version reviewed here, as well as the Smart Plug-N-Play (PNP) model. The only difference is that the BNF includes a Spektrum AR637TA receiver, while the PNP version requires you to add a six-plus-channel receiver. Before deciding which version is right for you, be sure to take note of the stabilization and telemetry capabilities of the AR637TA. I will cover those features.

the fw 190a 1.5m is a prefabricated foam model
The Fw 190A 1.5m is a prefabricated foam model that requires few assembly steps for completion.
the spektrum ar637ta receiver provides stabilization
The Spektrum AR637TA receiver provides stabilization and telemetry options. Note the setscrew-style pushrod linkages on the rudder and elevator servos.

Both the BNF and PNP versions include a brushless power system, six servos, and electric retractable landing gear. The motor is a Spektrum 4258-460 Kv outrunner connected to a Spektrum Avian 100-amp ESC. This combo spins a scalelike three-blade propeller with a 15-inch diameter. You must provide a 6S LiPo battery ranging from 3,200 mAh to 7,000 mAh capacity.

Each control surface (ailerons, elevator, rudder, flaps) has a dedicated Spektrum AR430 17-gram servo. The rudder servo also actuates the steerable tail wheel. All of the servos, pushrods, and control linkages are factory installed.

The pushrods on the wing feature a ball link at the control surface and a Z-bend at the servo. It is a simple, durable, slop-free setup. The rudder and elevator pushrods also have ball links. Instead of a Z-bend, however, these pushrods are connected to the servo with a setscrew-type linkage.

I have never been a fan of setscrew linkages. My bias is not based on any bad experiences, yet I still think that a model of this size and performance level deserves more robust pushrod linkages. With that noted, I kept the stock setscrew linkages in place and have not had any issues with them.

Assembling the Fw 190A

You will not need any adhesives (or much time) to get the Fw 190A airworthy. A few simple tools will get the job done. The manual guides you through the process with clear, written instructions and drawings.

I found it interesting that the manual makes no mention of one of the Fw 190A’s most convenient features: a three-piece wing. The wing consists of a center section that includes the retracts and flaps. It is attached to the fuselage with four screws. Built-in servo extensions for the wing-mounted radio gear automatically connect when the wing is fully seated in the saddle.

To install either of the outer wing panels, you simply slide the spar into its slot and push the panel inward until it is seated against the center section. Two stout, plastic clips engage to hold the panel firmly in place. Pulling outward will release the clips and remove the outer wing panel.

Installation and removal of the outer wing panels require a significant amount of force. Make sure that you have a stable stance and gentle grip to avoid damaging any of the foam components. The process was slightly intimidating at first, but I quickly got used to it. I find it very convenient to transport the Fw 190A with the center wing section installed and the outer panels removed. When I arrive at the flying field, I simply snap the outer wing panels into place and I’m ready to fly.

The kit includes a faux pitot tube and barrels for the four wing-mounted 20mm cannons. These pieces are equipped with studs that screw into the wing’s leading edge. This allows you to remove these damage-prone parts during the model’s transport and storage.

After absentmindedly losing my detached pitot tube, I began storing the cannon barrels in the underside of the removable canopy hatch. They fit snugly in holes that have been drilled with a sharpened 5/32 brass tube.

I was pleased with the fit and balance of the propeller. It is a multipiece unit that is combined with the spinner and cooling fan. The system ran true and vibration-free without requiring any adjustments. For safety reasons, I suggest that you wait to install the propeller to the motor until after you have configured all of your radio settings.

this view reveals the servo connection and one of the wing clips
This view reveals the servo connection and one of the wing clips that secures the outer wing panels.
a 15 inch three blade propeller is integrated with the spinner
A 15-inch, three-blade propeller is integrated with the spinner and cooling fan. It is well balanced and performs nicely.
faux cannon barrels are screwed into the wing
Faux cannon barrels are screwed into the wing. The author drilled holes in the canopy hatch to create a secure storage location.

Get Smart

Like many Spektrum receivers, the AR637TA in the BNF variant of the Fw 190A is programmed with AS3X and SAFE Select stabilization systems. AS3X makes the airplane fly smoothly in rough conditions and it is always active. SAFE Select is intended to assist newer pilots by providing auto-leveling, as well as pitch and roll limits.

You can configure a switch on your transmitter to engage SAFE Select on the fly. You also have the option of completely disabling SAFE Select.

I initially had difficulty configuring a switch to engage SAFE Select on my Spektrum iX12 transmitter. After a few failed attempts and some head-scratching, I realized the problem. The rudder, elevator, and aileron channels must be on high rates (100% throw) for the SAFE Select switch assignment process to work.

One interesting thing I noticed is that engaging SAFE Select also activates an aileron-rudder mix. When you input right aileron, you also get right rudder movement (and vice versa). No special programming in the transmitter is necessary for this mix. My subsequent flight testing confirmed that the Fw 190A looks best when flown with coordinated aileron and rudder inputs. This built-in mix is a nice feature for inexperienced pilots.

Another feature of the AR637T is that it sends real-time data to telemetry-capable Spektrum transmitters. The data you can receive depends on the onboard sensors that you have. At minimum, the receiver’s built-in barometer provides altitude and vertical speed data.

When connected to a Spektrum Smart ESC, such as the Avian 100-amp model in the Fw 190A, you can receive a wide range of power-system data, such as motor rpm, battery voltage, battery amperage, and the ESC temperature.

How you use this information is up to you. One obvious use is to set up a voice alert to tell you when the battery has reached a certain voltage so that you can prepare to land before the juice is completely gone.

this spektrum 6s 5000 mah lipo battery
This Spektrum 6S 5,000 mAh LiPo battery provides tremendous power, with flight times that average 8 minutes.
wide track landing gear and a steerable tail
Wide-track landing gear and a steerable tail wheel provide solid ground handling.

Flying the Fw 190A

Preflight testing of the power system indicated that the Fw 190A has nearly 1,500 watts of power (approximately 2 hp) on hand. That number suggested that I could expect exciting performance from this 8-pound airplane. The numbers did not lie.

The wide stance of the main landing gear and a steerable tail wheel allow for easy ground handling. I like to gently add power to initiate the takeoff. The tail gets off the ground quickly, and only slight rudder correction is required to track straight down the runway. The Fw 190A is typically airborne before I reach half throttle.

I used the model’s initial flights to evaluate its performance with SAFE Select enabled. As expected, the airplane maintained straight-and-level flight whenever I relaxed the controls. I felt like the Fw 190A was adequately responsive to my inputs without sacrificing the safety net of SAFE Select.

With some of my other SAFE-equipped models, I needed to make large control inputs just to stay in the pattern. It was as though enabling SAFE made the controls too sedate. That is not the case here.

The Fw 190 is not a trainer, but enabling SAFE Select will definitely help inexperienced pilots transition into the exciting world of warbirds. Disabling SAFE Select unleashes the Butcher Bird’s full potential. This model likes to perform aerobatics in big, smooth maneuvers. Highrate control throws deliver axial rolls and tall, round loops. With a little bit of coaxing, you can progress a stall into a nice, tight spin.

an onboard camera on the wing of the fw 190a captures
An onboard camera on the wing of the Fw 190A captures this unique view of the aircraft.

The rudder is extremely effective, although it does not have huge deflection on high rates. Hammerheads and stall turns are quite nice (especially to the left). With a good head of steam, the Fw 190A will also perform respectable knife-edge passes.

I thought that the low-rate elevator throw that is suggested in the manual was too sedate. In fact, I had a couple of hairy moments when I realized that the low rate was insufficient to hold an inverted pass or flare for landing. I subsequently bumped my low-rate elevator throw to the high-rate setting and increased my high-rate throw by 10%.

One of the kit’s scalelike features is a removable external fuel tank. It slides into place on a fuselage hardpoint. I cannot tell any difference in flight performance with the tank installed.

I have flown this model with Spektrum Smart batteries ranging from 6S 3,200 mAh to 6S 5,000. Both packs fit easily on the removable battery tray and balance the airplane without additional ballast. I typically get 5 minutes of flight time with the 3,200 mAh battery and 8 minutes with the 5,000 mAh battery. Your mileage may vary, depending on throttle management.

The Fw 190 is reasonably fast at full throttle, but it is not a speed demon. I think that the power system provides a well-balanced mix of climb performance and speed. Most of the time, I am quite content to fly this model at 1/2 to 3/4 throttle. The airplane is still quite capable of aggressive, exciting performance at those reduced power settings.

My biggest surprise with this airplane’s flight performance is its low-speed behavior. It feels much lighter in the air than its wing loading would suggest. Stall maneuvers must be forced, and the subsequent recovery is instantaneous. The Fw 190A slows down nicely with or without the flaps deployed.

The manual’s recommended flap-elevator mix is spot-on. I do not notice any change in pitch trim when the flaps are deployed. On most days, I land with the flaps in the takeoff (middle) setting. I might use full flaps if it is a particularly calm day. In windy conditions, I might not use the flaps at all. In all cases, the Fw 190A presents no challenges for landing. It remains controllable and predictable all the way to touchdown.

Final Approach

On the surface, the E-flite Fw 190 1.5m is a nice-looking replica of the famous Luftwaffe fighter. A slightly deeper look reveals built-in equipment that provides powerful flight performance, stabilization features, and many options for real-time data. All of those elements combine to create a warbird that can be appreciated and enjoyed by a wide range of modelers.

SOURCES:

E-flite

(800) 338-4639

www.horizonhobby.com/e-flite-1/

Planes of Fame Air Museum

(928) 634-1000

www.planesoffame.org

Spektrum

(800) 338-4639

www.spektrumrc.com

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