RCU Review: Top Flite P-51D Mustang - 60 ARF

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    Contributed by: Mike Buzzeo | Published: September 2008 | Views: 123167 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    RCUniverse.com Review of the Top Flight P-51 ARF
    Mike Buzzeo

    Email Me

    Distributed Exclusively by: Great Planes
    Model Manufacturing Company

    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021

    Window Media Player
    Top Flite
    P-51 Mustang 60 ARF

    • Great Scale Appearance.
    • Excellent MonoKote Covering Job
    • Scale Tail Wheel Location
    • Pre-Painted Aluminum Spinner
    • Scale-Looking Exhaust Stacks
    • Excellent Flyer

    • Wing Bolt Holes Did Not Align With Fuse.

    The 357th Fighter group was home to some of the most famous Mustangs of WWII. Dubbed "The Yoxford Boys", the 357th's tarmac held Bud Anderson's Old Crow, Chuck Yeager's Glamorus Glen and Kit Carson's Nooky Booky IV just to name a few.

    But my favorite is a little known Mustang flown by Lt. Jesse R. Frey called Ain't Misbehavin'. Maybe you've never heard of it, but my dad was her crew chief.

    Ain't Misbehavin' of the 357th Fighter Group
    Piloted by Jesse R Frey (Click for actual photo)

    He and I have built several Mustangs over the years and they always carried the red and yellow checkerboard of the 357th fighter group. We've also had several P-51s in ARF versions; some were good, others were just ok. They all seem to have good qualities and bad. Maybe they flew well, but were not much in the scale department. Other's looked good, but didn't fly too well. So when Top Flite announced its new 60-size P-51 in the markings of Bud Peterson's Hurry Home Honey, it was a no-brainer - I had to check it out.

    Dad and I first saw it at the iHobby show in Chicago and dad was blown away - Not only by the distinctive checkerboard nose of the 357th, but also by its appearance. Unlike most Mustangs, this one has the tail wheel in the scale location. It also has flaps, retracts and some of the best-looking exhaust stacks around.

    I have flown Many of Top Flite's models and I've never been disappointed, so I was very anxious to get my hands on their new P-51 that comes with the 357th's distinctive checkerboard nose! I hope it lives up to my expectations. But that's only the first hurdle - It has to pass DAD'S inspection! That will be the real acid test.

    Let's dig in!

    Name: Top Flite P-51D Mustang 60 ARF w/ Retracts

    Price: $299.97

    Wingspan: 64.5" (1640mm)

    Wing Area: 721 sq in (46.5 sq dm)

    Weight RTF: 8.75 - 10lb (3970 - 4540g)

    Wing Loading: 28 - 32 oz/sq ft (85 - 98 g/sq dm)

    Length: 56" (1420mm)

    Airfoil: Fully-symmetrical, low-wing

    CG: 5-5/8" (143mm) Back from the wing's leading edge

    Engine: .60 - .91 cu in (10 - 15cc) 2-stroke OR .90 - 1.20 cu in (15 - 20cc) 4-stroke

    Items Needed To Complete

    • Engine and Prop
    • 6-channel
    • Receiver Battery: At least 1500mAh capacity
    • Servos: 7 Standard (2-Aileron, 1-Elevator, 1-Throttle, 1-Rudder, 2-flap servos) 1-Retract Servo
    • Servo Extension 24": 2 required for aileron servos.
    • 2 "Y" Cords
    • 30-Minute Epoxy
    • Thin CA
    • Medium CA or other glue
    • 8-32 tap and #29 drill bit
    • Foam Padding for Tank
    • Medium Fuel Tubing
    • Various Hand Tools

    The Top Flite P-51D comes in a very attractive full-color box with lots of compartments for securing the smaller items. All major components were individually bagged and secured with tape to avoid shifting, and there was no sign of that.

    Some of the things that stood out were the included pilot figure and the pre-painted aluminum spinner. Something worth noting is that they did not scrimp on the spinner paint. When I first saw it I was a little apprehensive as to how well the paint would hold up under the stress of an electric starter, but I have spun a starter cone on it several times - A few of those slips even made me cringe - but the paint has held up.


    The manual is one of the best I've seen, but it's also a good example of why you should always read ahead. This was one of the few times that I didn't take the time to fully read the manual beforehand, and there were several steps where I questioned the methods being used - until I read a few steps ahead and saw how the process played out. My only critique would be to say that the sentence telling you how to align the second flap servo hatch should have been in bold text.

    The first step is to secure the MonoKote with a sealing iron. Even if the manual didn't tell you to do this, I always make a point of double-checking the covering job.

    Now it's time to install the flaps. Top-flight provides pinned hinges and the holes are pre-drilled. I like to melt a tiny dab of Vaseline into the joints to prevent glue from seeping into them. Everything lined up according to the manual and the hinging went smoothly.

    The rest of the surfaces get CA hinges.

    Product Spotlight

    I have been using a new epoxy lately called Epo-Grip from Newton Supply Company, Inc.. Epo-Grip is produced for the Taxidermy and Furniture Repair industries, but after some extensive tests I have found that it works great for many of our modeling applications. It comes in many varieties including a fast and slow-setting formula.

    The fast-set will give 6-10 minutes of working time, while the slow-set (Called "#30-Paste") has more of a two hour working time. Now this is a lot more working time than the 30-minute epoxy I'm used to, and to be honest, if it's a little cold in the room, it can take several hours to completely set up, but the one big advantage that I really like is that it is a paste, not a liquid. Once mixed, it has the consistency of Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline), so when you put it somewhere, it STAYS there and won't run all over the place. I have used it very successfully for gluing stabs/fins to fuselages and other typical joints that require epoxy, but two things I really like using it for are pinned hinges and for joining wing halves (Where you can smear the paste on the wing joiner and inside the slot and it doesn't all drip to the bottom). All in all, I'm very happy with Epo-Grip's adhesives and I'll continue to use them.

    The flap and aileron servo mounting blocks are now epoxied to the hatches. I always like to scratch the mating surfaces to give the epoxy a little extra grip.

    Once the assemblies are complete and the epoxy is fully cured, the hatches are screwed in place, and then removed so the screw holes can be hardened with thin CA. This is standard procedure for every screw that is going into wood.

    Now the aileron control horns are attached. Like all of the control horns, they are secured with two wood screws that go into a plywood plate. I have used this method many times without ever having a failure, but remember to harden the holes with CA!

    The flaps are rigged in the same fashion. The only differences are that the flap control horns need to be trimmed down to prevent them hitting the trailing edge of the wing, and you must place both servo hatches facing the same way to avoid them moving like ailerons.


    Joining the two wing halves is like most planes, but here again I want to emphasize the ease of using the Epo-Grip epoxy. You can just smear the paste onto the wing joiner and into the slot and it stays there - It doesn't run to the bottom of the pocket which causes you to feel the need to rush this critical operation.

    Now the wing bolt plate can be glued to the trailing edge, and the forward wing dowels get epoxied in place.


    According to the manual, the retracts are pre-installed, but this is not the case. The retracts are packaged separately with an addendum explaining that the Top Flite engineers were not satisfied with the original setup, so there is a little more assembly on your part.

    Plywood parts are supplied which must be epoxied into the retract compartment to reinforce it before installing the units. However, it also should be noted that this modification will only need to be made on the planes that came in the original shipment. Top Flite has informed me that the second shipment which is now arriving has these pieces pre-installed. But you will still have to install the retracts yourself.

    To install the retracts, all you need to do is to slide the pushrod through the guide tube until the retract sits between the rails and screw them in place.

    Now the retract servo cradle is glued in place, the servo is installed and the pushrods are cut to length and attached.


    The wing is now attached to the fuse for the first time. I found that the angle of the wing bolt holes was wrong and the bolts hit about 1/4" behind the blind nuts. Using a small, round file, I changed the angle of the holes slightly so the bolts could meet the nuts.

    With the wing in place, the fiberglass air scoop and belly pan are held in place and marked to remove the covering. With the covering removed, they can now be epoxied in place (Being careful not to glue the wing to the fuse).

    Finally, the strut covers are installed by marking their location, drilling holes for the mounting straps and screwing them in place.

    Adding the dummy guns to the leading edge completes the wing assembly.


    The instrument panel starts by cutting two decals from the decal sheet. One is applied to the laser-cut plywood panel. A black marker is used to darken any uncovered wood.

    Now the clear plastic "lenses" are glued to the rear of the panel so the bubbles protrude through the holes.

    With the lenses in place, the second decal is glued to the back of the assembly to put "instruments behind the lenses". Once the subassembly is complete, it is trimmed and glued into the cockpit - and it looks pretty darn good!


    The center stab covering is removed, the stab and elevator torque rod are installed and the stab is aligned and epoxied in place. Now the elevators can be epoxied to the torque rod and CA-hinged to the stab.

    I was a bit apprehensive about the tail wheel installation. I have seen some instances when a tail wheel is placed in the scale location where the installation can be a nightmare.

    But Top Flite's method is beautiful. The tail wheel assembly goes right into its compartment and it's actuated by its own pushrod, which makes the entire process easy.

    Now the rudder is hinged in place, the control horn is attached to the pushrod and the pushrod is slid into its outer sheath. This helps you to align the control horn in perfect alignment with the pushrod. Then, the pushrod is connected to a different hole in the servo arm than the tail wheel pushrod is connected to.

    The elevator pushrod is connected to the torque rod internally so there are no exposed linkages. Following the manual's detailed instructions resulted in a beautiful setup.


    The tank parts are assembled and installed with the addition of some Du-Bro fuel tubing.

    Using multiple colors makes it easy to see at a glance which line is the feed, vent and fill. If you've never tried this method, I recommend using a more transparent tubing for the feed line so you can see bubbles if there are going to be any.

    Next the tank is installed and the engine mount is temporarily bolted to the firewall.

    OS FS-91 II Surpass Closer Look
    O.S. FS-91 II Surpass

    The First Choice for Quality, Durability and Performance

    The OS 91 four stroke is a ringed piston engine which puts out 1.6bhp while weighing in at only 23 oz with muffler. It's practical rpm range is 2,000 to 12,000 rpm. Full specifications are below:

    • Bore: 27.7mm (1.09")
    • Stroke: 24.8mm (.976")
    • Displacement: 14.95cc (0.912 cubic inch)
    • Power Output: 1.6 BHP at 11,000 rpm
    • Practical RPM Range: 2,000 - 12,000 rpm
    • Crankshaft Thread Size: 5/16" x 24
    • Weight: w/o muffler- 21.3 oz (603g) with muffler- 23.0 oz (655g)

    The manufacturer recommends this engine be run on fuel containing 5% to 15% nitromethane and oil content at a minimum of 18%. I chose to use Cool Power with 15% nitro and 18% synthetic oil as I've found it runs extremely well in all my engines and especially the 4 strokes. The synthetic oil helps to keep the 4 stroke cleaner while castor can gum them up over time.

    Some of the advantages of the 4 stroke engines are fuel economy, their ability to swing a larger prop, and (My favorite) that cool 4-stroke sound!

    Props recommended by the mfg. for the OS 91FS are:
    Stunt planes: 11 x 11-12, 12 x 10-12, 13 x 9
    Scale models: 13.5 x 8, 14 x 7, 15 x 6, 16 x 6, (12 x 8 & 12.5 x 7-3 blade)

    The prop used for this review was a Graupner 14 x 7

    This version II of the OS 91 sports more power than its former model and comes with a full 2 year warranty from OS.

    O.S. 2-Year Warranty icon

    Download the manual in PDF format - Click here

    The engine mount is now marked for drilling. I'm not a big fan of fancy gadgets, but I have to admit that the Great Planes Dead Center Hole Locator is the best method of doing this job. Once marked, the mount is removed, drilled and tapped (8-32) reinstalled and the engine is mounted.

    A standard servo drives the throttle pushrod.


    Once the cowl is cut out for the engine, three holes are drilled on each side for the mounting screws.

    I added a Du-Bro remote safety igniter to avoid having to clip the igniter from the underside.

    Now the prop and spinner are attached, the dummy exhaust stacks are glued in place and the decals are added to complete the look.

    I used a Du-Bro Kwik Charge Switch Jack and installed the battery and receiver in the planned location. I later moved the battery back and had to add an ounce of weight to the tail to get the CG right.

    Finally, the cockpit is assembled and installed, the canopy is glued in place with RC-56 and she's ready!

    The OS91 Surpass cranked right over as usual and in no time the P-51 was speeding toward its first take off. Once airborne, a few minor trim adjustments were made and after two or three passes, she was flying "hands-off". Then the real fun began!

    I was immediately comfortable flying it. The Top Flite P-51D has the feel I like. It is not a floater, it flies "heavy", but that's how a warbird should feel. It flies very true and it has a solid feel to it. It tracked beautifully through loops, rolls, Cuban 8's and whatever I put it through. Now for the real test - let's see how dad likes it.

    My dad is 87 years old but he flies a P-51 as if he were a 22 year old sitting in the cockpit. His 4-point rolls are still better than mine, and he immediately put the plane through its paces.

    When he landed it, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye. "Uh oh" I said, "I'm not getting this one back, am I?"

    "This is the nicest flying P-51 I've ever flown" was his answer. My reply was, "Happy Father's Day"

    I guess I'm going to have to buy my own now!

    Check out the video to see her in action!

    Top Flite
    P-51 Mustang 60 ARF
    Video (11meg)


    Top Flite
    P-51 Mustang 60 ARF
    Video (22meg)

    No doubt about it, this one is a winner. My favorite engine in my favorite airframe is a combination that's hard to beat - throw in the fact that it flies so well and comes in my favorite colors and I couldn't be more pleased. Top-Flight has one of the best reputations in the business and this new P-51D is a shining example of why.

    The assembly process is not an overnight project. There is a fair amount of work involved. But the manual guides you perfectly through each step, and in a week's worth of evenings (and maybe a Saturday or two) she'll be ready to fly.

    Like most good things, it's worth the wait.

    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021
    Website: www.top-flite.com

    Futaba Corporation of America
    Distributed by:
    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021; Champaign, IL 61826-9021
    Website: www.futaba-rc.com

    O.S. Engines
    Distributed Exclusively in the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico by:
    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021; Champaign, IL 61826-9021
    Website: www.osengines.com

    Everything For The R/C Hobbyist
    Phone: 1-800-848-9411
    Website: www.dubro.com

    Graupner Propellers
    Website: www.hobby-lobby.com/grprop.htm

    Comments on RCU Review: Top Flite P-51D Mustang - 60 ARF

    Posted by: MuSo on 09/02/2008
    Hello Mike, do you think it will fly with a Saito 82a? Thanks. Raffa.
    Posted by: MinnFlyer on 09/02/2008
    With an 82 it will be a little weak. This is not one of those Mustangs that "Looks like a Mustang but flies like a Sport Plane" - it flies like a Mustang. A 91 seems to be ideal, a 100 could also be a good choice, but an 82 might pull it around the field, but it won't have much in the way of "Guts"
    Posted by: MuSo on 09/02/2008
    Posted by: TwoTall2 on 09/04/2008
    Stunning model, she comes in quite hot on final approach and landing, is that normal??
    Posted by: MinnFlyer on 09/04/2008
    Try bleeding off some speed by making you final approach longer or by starting lower. If she still comes in hot, Try shifting some weight back. Landing hot is often a sign of being nose heavy - even if the plane balances where the manual tell you, it can still be nose heavy. Every plane is different, so the manual's placement of the CG is only approximate. Move the CG back by 1/8" and try it. Keep moving it back until it lands the way you want it to. But do it in 1/8" increments. If you move it back too much it can get too sensitive!
    Posted by: Abras on 09/09/2008
    Why with 82 it will be a little weak since Saito 82a have the same power that a OS 91 and it's lighter!?
    Posted by: norm on 09/09/2008

    Posted by: baumberger on 09/11/2008
    Hello Mike, great review! I have a saito 1.25 that I dont use, couldo I put it on this mustang? If affirmative, wich propeller do you recomend? Greatings fron Guanajuato, Mexico.
    Posted by: MinnFlyer on 09/13/2008
    Quote: Why with 82 it will be a little weak since Saito 82a have the same power that a OS 91 and it's lighter!? Who told you that lie??? Lighter, yes. As much power? Not on THIS planet. Yes, a Saito 125 will be MORE than enough power. I would use whatever prop size is recommended, but I will also suggest trying a Graupner prop in whatever size you choose. I really like their performance.
    Posted by: tiger650 on 09/13/2008
    I also plan on using a Saito Fa-125A. It weighs 1.69 ounces more than the OS 91. Is there any practical way to move the battery back further in the tail to balance? I would hate to have to add almost 3ozs. of lead to the tail. Thanks! Bob
    Page: 1 2 3 4 >
    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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