FMS P-51D Mustang Dago Red 1100mm PNP

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Written by Jon Barnes
FMS P-51D Mustang Dago Red 1100mm PNP
As seen in the November 2021 issue of Model Aviation.
Review

once in the air the dago red wastes no time in settling into a nice
Once in the air, the Dago Red wastes no time in settling into a nice, smooth groove. When not making photo passes, at full throttle it easily maintains knife-edge flight.
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THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AIR RACES, held annually in Reno, Nevada, since the early 1960s known informally as the Reno Air Races, is truly the last aviation-based racing event of its type. It carries on the air-racing traditions started by the Cleveland Air Races, held in Northern Ohio during the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s.

The Unlimited class is, for many spectators and enthusiasts, the most exciting and attention-garnering class at the event. This is likely because the dominant entrants in this class are P-51 Mustangs, F8F Bearcats, and Hawker Sea Furys, all historical World War II-era fighters.

Flown in both stock and modified versions, the fastest of these Unlimited class racers can achieve speeds that exceed 500 mph! The historical significance and high-speed performance of these vintage propeller-powered fighters make them a perfect product line for a hobby typically dominated by those who almost always share a penchant for speed.

With the 2014 release of a series of 1,100mm wingspan, EPO-foam models based on some of the more famous Reno racing aircraft, FMS Models and ROC Hobby offered pilots a relatively affordable, easy way to experience the thrills of Reno’s Unlimited class, albeit on a significantly scaleddown level. By the time the foamie dust of designing and manufacturing the product line had settled, pilots who were interested in purchasing one of these 4S-battery-powered speedsters would be faced with the dilemma of choosing from four of the following better-known Unlimited class warbirds:

  • Critical Mass, a highly modified Hawker Sea Fury
  • Voodoo, a highly modified purple and green P-51 Mustang
  • Strega, a somewhat more mundanely red and white, modified P-51 Mustang
  • The relatively rare (only 10 full-scale aircraft were ever produced), 24-cylinder Pratt & Whitney radial engine-powered F2G Super Corsair
dago red comes out of the box with a high level of completion and the graphics are factory applied
Dago Red comes out of the box with a high level of completion and the graphics are factory applied.

All four of these tail-dragger models featured flaps, retracts, and scalelike four-blade propellers. Powered by a 3648-770 Kv brushless outrunner motor and 70-amp ESC, the racers were designed to be flown using 4S batteries in the size/range of 2,200 mAh to 3,000 mAh. These models enjoyed a wave of popularity among pilots who were passionate about going fast on the cheap, with many modelers even more accurately capturing the true essence of the Reno Unlimited class by quickly crawling under the cowlings and modifying them to go even faster!

Seven years later, most of these models—and the spare parts required to keep them flying—have long since ceased production. Although a few pilots might have painstakingly kept theirs airworthy, most of these foamie models have met the undeniable expiration date inherent to all RC aircraft.

Pilots, however, need no longer lament the loss of this exciting and affordable series of Reno racing warbirds. In the spring of 2021, FMS Models blew the dust off of the production line and released what I hope will be the first of a new and subtly improved series of EPO foam-composition, 1,100mm wingspan Reno racers.

The first model to roll out of the FMS hangar was the brightly colored Dago Red P-51! One of the most notable changes to this new edition is a slightly upsized and hotter 3948-900 Kv brushless outrunner motor, with an additional 10 amps of overhead fitted into the included 80-amp ESC that feeds it.

Although the first generation of Reno racers utilized old-school clevises on the pushrods used to deflect the control surfaces, this second generation uses slop-free ball links. Flaps and retracts are included, as is a scale-looking, four-blade propeller and chrome spinner. The FMS marketing materials boast that the Dago Red V2 can be flown using larger, potentially flight-extending 4,000 mAh LiPo battery packs.

Assembly

I continue to be impressed with the quality of the paint applied to FMS EPO foam-composition models. The Ferrari red paint used on the Dago Red is so nicely laid down that it nearly obscures the grain and individual cells of the foam on the surfaces of the wing and the fuselage. Molded-into-the-foam rivets and panel-line details, plastic exhaust stacks, and an authentic-looking set of Dago Red graphics, give this model a nice sport-scale appearance. The paper assembly manual tucked into the box walks pilots through the model’s quick, mostly non-adhesive assembly.

Unlike the previous generation of Reno racers, pilots will not need to install the control horns on the control surfaces. All of the control horns are factory installed. And except for the short elevator pushrod, which must be attached after the two horizontal stabilizer/elevator halves are mounted to the fuselage, all of the ball-link-equipped pushrods are factory installed. A spot or two of foam-safe adhesive is required to attach the wing fences and pitot tube.

the recommended battery is a 4s lipo pack between 2600 and 4000 mah in capacity
The recommended battery is a 4S LiPo pack between 2,600 and 4,000 mAh in capacity. The author used 2,700, 3,000, and 4,000 mAh 4S battery packs to power the model.

Best practices dictate that pilots refrain from mounting the four-blade propeller and spinner until after they have installed and bound their radio systems and completed all of the necessary transmitter programming. FMS provides a recommended range for the center of gravity (CG), as well as two sets of recommended throws for the primary flight surfaces. No suggested control throws are provided for the flaps. I went with approximately 20° throws for the takeoff flaps and 40° for the landing flaps. Programming instructions for the included Predator ESC are in the assembly manual.

Flying

The recommended battery is a 4S pack of between 2,600 and 4,000 mAh in capacity. Assembled (without the battery), the Dago Red airframe and electronics weigh 39.5 ounces. The all-up weight, battery included and ready to fly, is 50 ounces when using a 60C 4S 2,700 mAh LiPo battery; 50.5 ounces when using a 35C 4S 3,000 mAh LiPo; and 53.9 ounces with a 40C 4S 4,000 mAh LiPo battery.

Pilots will be able to shift the larger packs slightly aft to maintain optimal CG, although the narrow fuselage does offer a limited amount of space longitudinally. Using larger battery packs will probably require pilots to carefully arrange and manage the battery and ESC leads to seat the small, magnetically retained canopy hatch.

Slightly forward-canted main gear help tame this tail-dragger model’s ground-handling abilities and control a tendency to nose-over when taxiing, taking off, and landing. As with all tail-dragger-configuration models, one of the keys to avoiding ground loops or a hard pull to the left when initiating the takeoff roll is patience.

The Dago Red will lift its tail and rotate up onto the slightly forward-raked main gear relatively early in the takeoff roll, but the more forward-mounted tail wheel (which makes for a shorter tail moment) can make holding the centerline until the tail comes up and the rudder takes over control of the yaw axis a little challenging. A smooth and easy touch on both the throttle and rudder is all that is required.

If the model begins to track to the left before rotating up onto the main gear, simply reset and try again. I typically used half flaps on the takeoffs to help keep the initial departure angle of attack on the shallow (and more realistic-looking) side of things. Pilots who are not interested in performing smooth, straight, scalelike takeoffs can alternatively just mash the throttle to the max and yank the P-51 skyward with a fist full of up-elevator. This option will result in the model pulling hard to the left until it achieves the required velocity for rotation.

When it is in the air, with the flaps and gear up and locked, this model wastes no time in settling into a nice, smooth groove. At full throttle, this model could easily maintain knife-edge flight for the entire length of my club’s 500-plus-foot long runway.

Full-throttle vertical lines are impressively strong and long. High-rate aileron rolls at speed are notably fast and furious.

For some pilots, this speedy model’s in-flight orientation could prove to be challenging. When viewed in flight and at speed, this bright red model offers relatively few differences from top to bottom. In fact, to my 50-something eyes, the bottom of the Dago Red would at times erroneously present as the top of the model.

I determined that this mirage was likely caused by the Mustang’s air intake. Positioned near the trailing edge of the wing on the underside of the fuselage, it is painted a slightly darker shade of red when compared with the rest of the model. The net effect was that my eyes occasionally mistook the air scoop for the black tinted canopy located on the top side and fooled me into thinking I was looking at the top of the model!

I flew the Dago Red with three 4S batteries within the range recommended by the manufacturer. All of the flights featured roughly the same mix of full-throttle passes, vertical climbouts, and a variety of other maneuvers flown at various throttle settings. The following lists the battery capacity, the radio transmitter countdown timer used for that pack, and the average cell-voltage reading, and an approximate amount of power left in the battery pack after landing.

  • 2,700 mAh; 4 minutes; 3.87 volts (54%)
  • 3,000 mAh; 5 minutes; 3.82 volts (41%)
  • 4,000 mAh; 5 minutes; 3.87 volts (58%)

The data for the 4,000 mAh pack suggests that pilots might even be able to push flights out to 6 minutes of duration. I noticed that as the model’s all-up weight increased, I needed to hold a little more airspeed on final approach. In all, the Dago Red handled the larger battery packs with little change in trim needed or noted.

When bringing the Dago Red down for a fresh battery pack, pilots should resist any urge to fully dump the throttle on final and simply coast the P-51 in.

Once established on final approach, with gear down and flaps deployed, pilots should hold a minimal amount of throttle in and fly the model all the way to touchdown. Doing so will help to minimize any tendency to bounce or nose-over when landing this model.

Pilots of the previous generation of the FMS/ROC Hobby Reno Racers were incredibly passionate when it came to going under the cowling and tweaking the power system components to squeeze every ounce of performance and speed out of their models.

Based on the established empirical data of their efforts, one of the easiest ways to quickly boost the top speed of this Dago Red would be to change the propeller. Switching from the included scalelike, aesthetically pleasing (although notoriously inefficient), four-blade 10.5 × 8 propeller to a more efficient, higher-pitch, two-blade propeller could be all that is required to push the P-51 through the 100-mph speed barrier.

The two-blade propeller of choice for many is an APC 10 × 10E. Pilots should verify the amp draw when retrofitting the aircraft to a steeper-pitch propeller, lest it exceed the rating of the included 80-amp ESC. A two-blade spinner of the appropriate diameter will also need to be sourced.

Conclusion

Pilots who enjoyed the previous round of Reno racing replicas released by FMS/ROC Hobby might be excited to know that FMS recently reached out to its customers via social media platforms and polled them to see which of eight historically authentic Reno racing P-51 Mustang schemes they would like to see released next.

My fingers are crossed in anticipation of FMS continuing to make additional models available in this conveniently sized, satisfyingly speedy, and eminently affordable, product line!

the recommended battery is a 4s lipo pack between 2600 and 4000 mah in capacity
Dago Red is a six-time National Championship Air Race winner and world speed record holder.
using half flaps on takeoff helps to keep the initial departure
Using half flaps on takeoff helps to keep the initial departure angle of attack on the shallow and more realistic-looking side of things.

By Jon Barnes | barnesjonr@gmail.com Photos by the author

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