RCU Review: Greg Covey's Amp'd Issue 8: Scale it Up!

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    Contributed by: Greg Covey | Published: September 2008 | Views: 36305 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon




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    Issue 8
    Article By Greg Covey

    Print Issue 8 "Scale It Up!"


    In a fast-paced world, where our hobby time is limited, the invasion of Almost-Ready-to-Fly planes (or ARFs) has been a real blessing for many R/Cers. These models allow us to assemble something beautiful, very quickly, and spend quality time flying at the club or just down the street. We no longer have to be master builders or too afraid to fly our creations.

    Some models like this 1/3 scale clipped wing Cub from World Models (right) look great right out of the box. By adding just a few simple scale enhancements, these models start to look very real.

    Other models are so popular that they may get lost in a "sea" of similar ARFs at the local flying field or R/C event.

    With only a minor change, here or there, your plane can stand out from the rest. My focus in this month's issue of AMP'D will not be to convert an ARF to compete with the Scale Masters or Top Gun craftsmen, but rather to inspire your imagination to create your own simple model changes that will help scale it up!

    Warbirds are one of the most popular R/C models for scale enthusiasts. Some models like the Hangar 9 Corsair and Hangar 9 P-51D look and fly fantastic right out of the box. These ARF designs allow many people to fly a piece of history that would not otherwise have the skill or time to build one from a set of plans or even a kit. With a little imagination, the experience can be enhanced by making small changes where it counts.

    Robart Struts:

    Although my stock Hangar 9 Corsair retracts worked fine, the plane would bounce on occasion when I had a less than perfect landing. I decided to replace the skinny wire gear mains (left) on my .60-size Corsair with some Robart 653 series struts, which I purchased from Tower Hobbies. The Robart struts will eliminate this problem and cost less than replacing the entire retract mechanism. They were too long to fit in the Corsair wheel wells so the strut needed to be shortened to fit properly. This cut into the spring chamber, which required that the spring be shortened to about 2/3 of its original length.

    There are a few factors to consider for the final length of the spring. You want the spring to be close to fully extended when just holding the weight of the airplane. It should compress a little bit. You also want the maximum compression to require about 3 times the weight of the aircraft. This will absorb the shock of most landings; good or bad.

    The modified gear mains, using the Robart struts on my Hangar 9 Corsair, not only looked better than the skinny stock wires, they worked superbly to eliminate bounce!

    Painted Pilot and Cockpit

    My pilot for the Hangar 9 P-51D is from Century Jet Models. The lower torso was easily removed with a craft saw as it was originally pieced together at the waist area. I added my own touch-ups to the pre-painted pilot figure and cut the stock plastic cockpit seat from the P-51D detail kit. By adding half of a shoulder strap to the back of the seat, it enhanced the scale look. The control stick was made from a rubber grommet base, grey control tube section, and a hand-cut rubber handle.

    The dash gauge decal was transferred to a piece of cardboard before gluing into the cockpit. This created a clean smooth look on the gauges. The canopy is screwed in place (instead of gluing it) so further scale details can be added in the future. The canopy screws were colored black with a fine tip marker. Adding simple details like this is a great deal of fun and adds to the scale realism of the warbird.

    Scale Props

    A Zinger 4-blade wood prop can be transformed into a scale beauty that functions well and looks much better than a 2-blade prop on the appropriate model. Joe Zingali will even make the hub hole to fit your needs (by request) for a perfect fit. The $57 pre-assembled prop costs $67 including shipping. The Zinger 2, 3, and 4 blade props can be purchased in many sizes. Remember to specify the "pro" blades as shown painted because the older standard blades shown (unpainted) are not efficient by today's standards.

    The Zinger 4-blade prop was painted black with yellow tips by my friend, Paul Weigand. He also added the Hamilton Standard decals made by Major Decals for an added scale touch. These decals are available from Horizon Hobby, Tower Hobbies, or your local hobby shop. The finished prop and stock spinner looked great on the ground and in the air!


    Scoops and Pipes

    On many ARF warbirds, you'll often find a plastic scoop that just doesn't look right. If the plane is electric-powered, you can usually cut away the opening (upper right) to create a realistic air intake that helps cool the components. If cooling is not needed, a simple black felt-tip pen can give the scoop (lower right) an open look.

    Plastic pipes can be painted black to enhance the look. Adding something simple like sticky-back rubber pads can change the shape a bit for a unique scale look on your model.

    Rockets and Missiles

    Making rockets, missiles, bombs, and drop tanks for scale warbirds is not only fun but can save you money over buying them already built. If you are not adventurous enough to make them yourself, visit a toy store and find the appropriate scale size you need from the numerous plastic toys available for kids.

    Estes Model Rockets and accessories are available at most hobby shops and craft stores. With a little spray paint and glue, you can tailor the design to fit almost any application.

    My Corsair rocket uses an aluminum tube and hardwood clothespin for a simple yet secure mounting scheme. The tube is held to the rocket by a piece of carbon rod that is slid inside and then tacked in place with CA. The clothespin is attached on one side to the plane's wing using servo tape which can be removed if no longer needed.

    Storage of your "masterpieces" can be made fun with a little imagination.

    An old Kodak camera case protects my finished rockets for transport and "unauthorized" use.

    The rockets slid onto the painted clothespins with a snug fit. During flight, the air flow keeps them pressed against the back stop.

    The result of a few simple enhancements creates an added realism that can best be described in the photos below.

    flying photos by "Papa Jeff" Ring


    Realistic Scale Sound

    Aerosound R/C is the sole distributor of the exceptional Benedini R/C aircraft sound systems for the U.S.A. and Canada. These sound systems, perfected by Thomas Benedini of Germany, are truly remarkable. Many installations in electric powered aircraft have already been done, and I have added the TBS Micro Soundmodules to my Hangar 9 1.50-size P-51D and .60-size F4U Corsair for incredible scale sound effects.

    A Benedini sound system will make the difference between just another electric-powered model and a model that looks and sounds like a real aircraft. The TBS Micro digital sound units (right) reproduce original recorded engine sounds at a 22.050 KHz sample rate for the highest sound quality. The engine range covers starting, engine idle, acceleration, speed dependent engine sound, returning to idle and engine shut down. With many types of engine recordings to choose from you can now add realistic sound to any R/C aircraft.

    Two powerful amplifiers are available to give an incredible volume level in a wide range of applications. Imagine the rumble of a Rolls-Royce V-12 Merlin engine as you taxi out to the runway or hear the Doppler Effect on a fast flyby!

    Since my airplane power system used a 10-cell Lithium pack, I choose the 50v audio amplifier so I could connect it right to the ESC power lines. The engine sound control is either connected in-line to the throttle channel or to a spare channel for additional scale control. The photo below shows only one speaker for my initial testing setup. I later added the second speaker in series as shown below.

    I managed to stuff the metal frames of the two 4" speakers in the small scale nose of my P-51D. A small portion of the frame protruded from the bottom of the cowl. I used a Dremel tool to cut the fiberglass cowl.

    The Aerosound 4" speaker is custom manufactured for Aerosound with selected components and a powerful neodymium magnet to be as light weight as possible yet deliver the best possible sound at high decibel levels. They measure 4" in diameter by 1.69" deep and weigh 6.6oz. each. The sound level produced on my setup is about 98dba. Up to 102dba has been achieved using two 16oz speakers.

    We flew the P-51D with the Aerosound module at a local electric R/C show. It sounded great and the audience really loved the added scale effect of hearing a Merlin V12 in an electric conversion. The video below shows the realistic scale sounds with the various sequences like starting, engine idle, acceleration, returning to idle and engine shut down. You can hear the P-51 sound in my review video below or on the 2007 NEAT Fair DVD from SKS Videos.

    Aerosound P-51D Video (17meg)

    For further details on my Hangar 9 1.50-size P-51D with the Aerosound system, read the review here on RC Universe.

    I also added a second AeroSound system to my Hangar 9 .60-size F4U Corsair. This lower voltage system has the Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine noise as well as machine guns.

    The amount of air flow across the Power Amplifier (PA) module dictates how much additional cooling you may need. The unit is designed to shutdown if it gets excessively hot so if it cuts out on you during a flight, this is a flag for improving the cooling.

    Since I did not mount my PA in the air flow, I have mounted it to an additional metal heatsink and removed the shrink-wrap. Alternatively, it could have been mounted, as is, inside the cowl to the metal motor mount. This would put it directly in the air flow.

    You can hear the Corsair sound in the video below.

    The overall performance of the Aerosound systems approach realism and give a great scale effect to these models. I think this product will add a new dimension to electric flight...especially competitive scale applications. Although you cannot create your own sounds, you can reprogram them into the TBS Micro Sound Module and there are many real recordings to choose from at Aerosound RC. The whole sound system draws less than 4 amps with both speakers connected so it does not adversely affect the flight time.

    The Benedini sound system made my P-51 and Corsair sound like real aircraft. Many of us have been waiting a long time for this technology to make it into the R/C market. That time has arrived and it is exciting to be a part of it!


    Virtual Cockpits

    WrightRC.com has created an unusual and unique effect for making the cockpits on giant-scale aerobatic planes very realistic!

    The Virtual Cockpit photo graphics are the result of many hours of extensive digital photo retouching and illustration.

    This Virtual Cockpit kit on the right can be modified to fit almost any single seat aircraft.

    The pilot's arms, legs, and body in the photo graphic line up perfectly with the bust that sits on top of the graphic. The entire cockpit weighs only 1 to 3 ounces!

    Many versions are already available for CAPs, Extras, Edges, Lasers, and other aerobatic models. Two seat aircraft and custom colors are also available.

    On the left, a Virtual Cockpit kit was installed in my 2-meter Icepoint pattern plane. The cockpit was measured first and the dimensions sent to Kregg Wright. The result was a perfect fit virtual cockpit that added a new dimension to this type of plane that normally would be an empty cockpit or have a tinted black canopy.

    Virtual Cockpit kits are lightweight and easy to install. Not only can you eliminate empty cockpit on your giant scale model but you can create an attractive custom scale representation of the full size model.


    Hubs and Wheels

    Another easy way to scale up your model is to simply add a hub onto the end of the prop adapter.

    Tower Hobbies sells a wide assortment of Higley Safety Spinner Hubs that add a nice touch to Cubs and other scale models.

    The polished aluminum hubs come in both English and Metric sizes.

    Dubro Lightweight J-3 Cub wheels are available in 1/5, 1/4, and 1/3 scale sizes. Add the realism and final detail to your J-3 Cub with Du-Bro's Treaded Lightweight Cub Wheels. These J-3 Cub Wheels offer bolt together hubs and realistic looking Cub wheel covers. These lightweight wheels feature a foam interior, yet have a tough and rugged exterior skin for durability.

    photos by "Papa Jeff" Ring and Richard Landis


    One of my favorite types of models to scale up is the foamie. Often, only a few slight enhancements are needed to transform a foamie into a much nicer looking model.

    Keith Sparks, the custom plastics guru, has a canopy upgrade for the Twister that costs only $14 including shipping. The kit contains the canopy, instrument panel, pilot and ejection seat. The finished canopy upgrade looks fantastic and you can use your imagination to make it as detailed as you like. You can e-mail Keith at parkflyerplastics@att.net to order this canopy upgrade or any of his other scale enhancements.

    By painting sections of the model, you can make your ARF stand out from the rest and provide better orientation in the sky. I often use Testors Spray Enamel or Krylon H2O Latex Spray Paint on my foam models.

    Making custom parts like this exhaust ring (right) from the bottom of a 20oz plastic bottle of Gatorade is a great deal of fun. You simply need to look around and use your imagination.



    If your models are so popular that they may get lost in a "sea" of similar ARFs at the flying field, with a little imagination, you can make your plane stand out from the rest. By adding just a few simple scale enhancements, many of these newer quality ARF models start to look very real. Contrasting certain colors will also provide better orientation in the sky.

    This month's issue of AMP'D merely scratched the surface of what is possible when you make small changes to various types of aircraft. It's a fun part of our hobby to create simple alterations inspired by imagination knowing that you don't have to be a master builder to scale it up!

    When you fly electric, fly clean, fly quiet, and fly safe!



    Special thanks for contributions by:
    "Papa Jeff" Ring, Paul Weigand, Lynn Bowerman, and Richard Landis


    This section of AMP'D covers some of the questions that our readers have sent in and I thought would be interesting for others.

    Jorgen Toll of Norway asks:

    "Hi Greg,

    I read your thread about the V-pro MiG-15 over at RC Universe. Thanks for sharing your experiences on the web like that!

    One question though... I noticed you use a Spektrum DX7 TX. Which RX did you use in the MiG? I've heard some people say that the range on the 2,4GHz RX is reduced in a glassfibre fuselage... But it seems to work well for you.


    Greg: Hi Jorgen,

    You're right, I totally missed posting about my receiver. I am using the Spektrum AR6100 receiver as in the link below. I use this receiver in many different size planes and have never had a problem with range. As far as I know, there is nothing in fiberglass that will reduce RF radiation...especially at 2.4GHz.



    Jim N. asks: "Hi Greg,

    What is a good product if I want to use my old ESC's that do not have Programable LVC? Is there something out there that will allow me to fly with lipo's and have the proper cutoff ? (3.0 volts per cell)

    Thanks for any info,

    Greg: Hi Jim,

    There are several products on the market that allow you to use LiPo packs with older ESCs.

    Here are a few:

    • AVC1AIR Automatic Cell Detect, Low Voltage Cutoff Device
    • LipoShield intelligent lithium cutoff

    Tom B . asks: "Greg,

    I am a total newbie to R/C and need help getting started. Where can I go to get the basics or maybe even more?

    Greg: Hi Tom,

    Here are some places to go that can help get you started:

    Ask questions by e-mailing me at greg@rcuniverse.com


    FlightPower FlightTech 8 Amp Linear Voltage Regulator

    FlightPower FlightTech 6-amp to 100-amp Brushless ESCs


    1-5 Cell LiPo Charger with Balancer by E-flite

    The Pinnacle in a 50? Class EP Aerobat ARF!
    Great Planes Edge 540T - EP

    Print Issue 8 "Scale It Up!"

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