RCU Review: VMAR L-19 Bird Dog

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    Contributed by: Erick Royer | Published: November 2006 | Views: 59046 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon

    Review by: Erick Royer

    Distributed by Richmond RC








    Phone: 604-940-1066

    Windows Media Player
    VMAR L-19 Bird Dog VIDEO

    Ease of Assembly:
    Completeness of Kit:
    Covering Quality:
    Basic Flight:
    Advanced Flight:
    Stall Characteristics:

    • Fast easy assembly
    • Excellent instruction manual
    • All control surfaces are pre-attached
    • One Piece Wing
    • Painted Fiberglass Cowl
    • Very Detailed Polycote ECS Covering Scheme
    • Very Good Flying Characteristics
    • Pushrods already installed with CNC clevises on them
    • Optional Power Pack Combo saves time and is very complete

    • Would have preferred plastic control horns

    It has been a long time since I reviewed a VMAR airplane. In fact the previous plane I reviewed had some issues which led to it not being completed. Over the years we at RCUniverse have worked closely with Richmond RC sharing our own personal comments as well as sharing comments in the forums from our members. Rest assured that all this feedback has been thoroughly digested by both Richmond RC and the VMAR factory. The end result is a product that I would put up against any other comparable semi scale model in the industry. Is this a model that will win the Top Gun competition? Of course not. But it will win a lot of looks at your local flying field when they see the attention to detail that shines in VMAR's PolyCote ESC (Enhanced Covering System) covering. Then they will turn their heads again when they see the model perform in the air. They will never believe that you only spent $79.95 on this model!

    As if the quality and attention to detail is not enough, Richmond RC also makes available a Power Pack Combo specifically for the L-19 Bird Dog. This combo includes everything you need to get this model in the air, minus the glue, receiver, and transmitter. It includes a high performance brushless outrunner motor, ESC, all wiring and connectors, and a 11.1V 20C 1800 MaH LiPo battery. The combo saves you $40.00 as compared to purchasing each item separately. But my favorite part of the Power Pack Combo is the Bird Dog firewall that has the motor preinstalled on it. They even include 4 free VRS Micro Servos and a Y Harness. This is my type of ARF kit. While you have the option of selecting your own power system and components, it is really nice when the manufacturer puts together a very complete kit that leaves no room for "guesswork". You can spend your few hours putting the model together and the rest of your time enjoying the realistic flight of the L-19 Bird Dog.

    Let's Get Assembling!

    Price For L-19 Bird Dog: $79.95
    Price for Power Pack Combo: $144.95

    48.5 in (1232 mm)
    Wing area:
    336 sq in
    Semi-Symmetrical Bottom
    33.5 in. (851 mm)
    Flying Weight as tested:
    22 oz. (625g)
    Skill level: Beginner - Intermediate

    Radio Used:
    Futaba 9C Transmitter
    Hitec 555 Micro Rx
    (4) VRS Micro Servos (Power Pack Combo) - Ailerons (2), Elevator (1), Rudder (1)

    Channels Used: 4 total - elevator, aileron, rudder, throttle
    Battery Used:
    POLYPRO LiPo Battery 11.1V (3 Cell) 1800mAh 20C with power wires & Voltage Port connector (Power Pack Combo)
    Motor Used:
    VMAX Electric Motor - Brushless - 11.1V 15A 165W Max (Power Pack Combo)
    ESC Used: VMAX Electronic Speed Control (Power Pack Combo)
    Prop Used:
    Master Airscrew Propeller - 8 x 5 - Narrow Electric (Power Pack Combo)
    Spinner Used: None
    Required to Complete:

    If you do not use the recommended Power Pack Combo from Richmond RC, then you will need:

    • 4 Micro Servos

    • Brushless Motor and ESC

    • Lipo Battery

    • Propeller

    • Epoxy

    • CA

    • RX and Radio System

    If you use the recommended Power Pack Combo from Richmond RC, then you will only need:

    • RX and Radio system

    • Epoxy

    • CA

    Parts as they come out of the

    Glossy full color manual

    The L-19 Bird Dog comes out of the box very complete, requiring only a couple hours to assemble and get into the air. The covering had a couple minor bubbles, which is common as these models are shipped half way around the world to arrive here. It was nothing that a couple minutes with a heat gun could not cure.

    The included manual is very detailed with a lot of nice colored pictures to walk you through the assembly process. In addition to the manual there are a couple of warning sheets and some "read this first" addendums. You should really take a moment to read through these as there are some corrections and additions to the manual that will save you some frustration if you know about them ahead of time.


    The first step in the assembly process is to assemble the two wing halves. This is done by using 30 minute epoxy and the included wing joiner. To assemble, simply draw a line in the center of the wing joiner and place some epoxy on one half and insert it into the corresponding wing half and allow to cure. Once it is cured, apply more epoxy to the other half and join the two wing halves together. I used some masking tape to hold them tightly while they cured. Once complete, use the included trim tape to cover the seam. The leading edge dowel pins are already installed which is a nice touch. All of the control surfaces come pre-hinged and glued from the factory, thus saving another step.

    Wing joiner installed in one wing half

    Both wing halves taped together

    Next, I installed the two aileron servos in the wing. The servo pocket openings are already cut out from the covering and they have installed a tunnel inside the wing for routing the servo wires. This is a very nice feature thus making less of a headache in routing the wires. My kit came with the Power Pack Combo, which I will be referring to throughout the review. This combo comes with the required micro servos and the aileron Y harness. Note: The servo leads are not long enough to make it through the wiring tunnel, so I fed one side of the Y Harness though the tunnel and connected the servo at the servo opening in the wing. I used some tape to hold the connector together and then pulled it through the wing. Then I repeated the process on the other side. They did not give you a whole lot of extra wire, but rest assured there is enough to do it.

    Covering removed for wooden control

    Control horn fastened with thin CA

    The servo control horns are attached to the pre-assembled pushrods. Only minor trim adjustments will be required. The control horns on the wing are different than what they show in the manual for all the control surfaces. The manual shows plastic control horns that you screw onto the control surface. Where as the included addendum shows wooden horns with a round base that you glue to the control surface. However, the addendum instructs you to mark the location and cut the covering. Happily, this has already been done for you so all that is needed is to simply glue the wooden control horns in the correct position and connect the push rod.

    Richmond RC Aileron Y Harness

    Completed aileron servo/pushrod

    A quick note on the included CNC clevises... Most CNC clevises that I have seen in the hobby are either plastic or spring metal with a a pin that snaps the CNC clevis shut and you usually use a small piece of fuel tubing as a backup to ensure they do not come apart in flight. Well, VMAR uses a metal CNC clevis with a screw rather than a pin to make the connection. I was not to sure about this at first, but I used a drop of thread locker on all the connections to ensure that they would not vibrate loose in flight. Time will tell, but I think this is a good solution.


    The fuselage assembly starts with attaching the stabilizer and vertical fin to the tail of the aircraft. This is a standard process for most ARF airplanes on the market, where you slide the part in place, make sure it is aligned and mark the area of covering to be removed. I used a sharp blade to remove the covering being careful not to score the wood. Once both parts were prepped, I installed them in position using 30 minute epoxy and some masking tape to ensure they would not move. The instruction manual is very detailed on this procedure, in fact it is probably one of the most detailed I have seen.

    Marking the horizontal stab for the
    covering to be removed

    Marking the vertical fin for the
    covering to be removed

    The next, step is to install the landing gear. The gear comes preformed with the wheels and mounting tabs already installed. To attached to the fuselage, all I needed to do was align the holes in the fuselage with the mounting tabs and attach with the included bolts and nuts. The fit was a little tight, but nothing to complain about.

    Pre-assembled landing gear

    Main landing gear installed

    The tail wheel went on next. The manual tells you to glue in the mounting tab and then bolt the tiller arm to the rudder with a metal clip, but on my kit, there was a plastic tube in place on the rudder for the tiller arm to slide in, so bolting it was not required. All I needed to do was glue the tab to the rear of the fuselage with some 30 minute epoxy.

    Pre-assembled landing gear

    Power System

    Again, my kit came with the optional Power Pack Combo. The manual shows you how to assemble the motor to the firewall with individual components if you decide to use a separate power system. This is very well detailed in the manual, but since I used the Power Plus Combo and I strongly suggest that you do as well, I will cover that procedure and it's components.

    Power Pack System for the Bird Dog

    The Power Pack Combo comes with a brushless outrunner motor preinstalled to the firewall with the ESC mounted and wired. The first step to installing the new firewall is creating the standoffs using the 4 bolts with nuts and washers as the manual shows. The dimension for spacing is specified in the manual. To ensure proper clearance for the cowl and proper CG, you should adhere to this measurement.

    Pre-assembled firewall with motor
    and ESC

    New firewall installed on stand offs

    The wiring is pretty straight forward with the exception of a Fuse assembly that you must mount to the bottom of the firewall with glue. This fuse is placed in series with the positive (red) wire and adds an element of safety for the wiring system. The ESC comes with an plug already attached to mate with the Poly Pro battery. This whole assembly of the propulsion system took less than 10 minutes. Talk about easy!. If you are using your own power system, then you can expect it to take about 1/2 hour more.

    With the motor installed, I placed the cowl into position and using 4 pieces of paper taped to the fuselage, I marked the location of the screw mounting tabs on the fuselage. Then I transferred those locations to the cowl. I checked the cowl for proper clearance for the prop and made sure the prop shaft was centered in the opening and fastened it in place with 4 self-tapping screws.

    Paper used to locate mounting tabs

    Cowl installed

    The propeller is mounted using a lock nut threaded all the way down the shaft. The hole in the prop was too large for the motor shaft, so the prop sits on the lock nut and then a washer and second lock nut are used to secure it in place. The install was very simple. There is no spinner to install.

    The battery is placed in the compartment with the removable hatch just behind the firewall on the bottom of the fuselage. The compartment is removed with one screw. I placed some rails in the opening and used a Velcro strap to attach the battery in place. Once the battery is in the compartment, there is not much room for movement front to back which left me concerned about CG adjustments. But with the battery in place I temporarily attached the wing and verified the CG and it was right on. This is a true testament to the engineering that went into this model.

    Poly Pro LiPo Battery Pack

    Fuse Installed

    Radio System Installation

    I already installed the aileron servos during the wing assembly process, so now all that was left were the elevator and rudder servos and control horns. The control horns for the elevator and rudder install the same was as the aileron horns, as they are wooden as well and attach with epoxy. The pushrods are already installed in the fuselage with CNC clevises on each end. I attached the CNC clevis to both the rudder and elevator and tightened the screw using a drop of thread lock.

    Elevator and rudder servos mounted
    on their tray

    Elevator control horn and CNC clevis

    The two servos mount on a tray in the orientation that is indicated in the manual. From there, the tray installs on the mounting rails in the fuselage using 4 wood screws. I have pretty big hands and this was probably the toughest part for me - getting my hands inside to hold the screws. Once the servos were installed, I attached the receiver, and connected the wire from the ESC to channel 3 (throttle). The ESC has a BEC (Battery Eliminating Circuit) which will supply power to the radio system. I attached the battery and turned on my Futaba radio to ensure that all the servos were centered and then I connected the control horns to the servos and finished the assembly by adjusting the CNC clevises so that the rudder and elevator were in the neutral position.

    The last component to install was the pilot figure. To mount the pilot, I needed to install two rails using CA to the side of the fuselage. Then two smaller rails were glued on top of the pilot base creating a slot to which the pilot can slide in and out of. Two screws are used to hold the pilot in place.

    Pilot installed

    Propeller installed

    The wing is attached to the fuselage by aligning the two dowel pins to the front of the cabin top, and then two screws in the rear hold it securely. To complete the scale look of the Bird Dog, there are two struts that are attached to each wing from the fuselage side. They are attached with 4 wood screws. That is it!. A quick final check of the CG ensured that it was ok with the battery installed. So I put the battery on the charger and waited to hit the field.

    It took a few days to get the plane to the field, due to either windy days or rain. Once a nice calm day came, we headed out to the field with cameras in hand.


    The maiden flight took place on a 75 degree day with very little wind. A perfect day for some electric flying.

    I connected the battery and turned on the transmitter. I did a final check of the control throws and ensured all was well. I was not anticipating much room would be needed for takeoff, but the small wheels proved to be a problem in the grass at our field. So I headed to a baseball diamond at the other end of the field and proceeded to use that as my runway. I advanced the throttle, and in a couple moments the plane was airborne. It handled much like a Piper Cub on the ground.

    Once airborne, I needed to make a couple quick adjustments of the trim controls to maintain level flight. For such a little plane the rudder and elevator controls had a lot of authority. The rudder was very effective in flight and using it with the ailerons to make coordinated turns gave a very scale appearance in flight.

    The Bird Dog was designed to be a bush plane, capable of very slow flight and the oversized flaps on the real bird allowed it to make very steep approaches and land in very remote and short runways, where most other planes could never land. I did not choose to use the optional flaperons so the scale landings and steep dives were not possible. If you have a 6 channel radio you can program in flaperons, however, the flight characteristics of this model resembled a trainer and I did not think it was necessary.

    It was very stable in flight, even with slight gusts of wind, it remained tracking well. The stall characteristics are almost non-existent. Once the airspeed is bled off, the nose seemed to always fall straight ahead.

    While the Bird Dog was not intended for aerobatics, I was able to do loops and a couple barrel rolls. Again most of the maneuvers that you can perform with a trainer, you can do with this model. The motor/battery/prop combination in the Power Plus Combo gave this model excellent authority in the air. There was plenty of power to fly loops and for vertical climbs.

    Landing was also uneventful. The plane has very good slow flight qualities which allow you to touch down effortlessly. I wish I had more to report here but what can I say, it lands gently on the mains every time.

    In summary, I am so glad that I had the ability to review one of these new VMAR models. It was so nice to see such a high quality product with so much detail for such a little cost. This company has come a long way in the last several years. They have really listened to the modelers to create a very diverse product line with a higher than average quality.

    The L-19 Bird Dog was a very easy build and the use of the Power Plus Combo makes this model a very solid performer and gives you the ability to spend more time flying and less time wondering what combination of battery, ESC, motor, prop to use. Richmond RC and VMAR took a lot of time trying many different combinations of power systems to arrive with this Power Plus Combo. It is a good mix of power and endurance.

    I am very excited for the opportunity to review another model from VMAR. I really like all the value you are getting for the money. They have models in their line up that no other ARF manufacturers offer, thus letting you stand out at the field rather than being another one of those "me-too" guys.

    If you are looking for something unique that is very good quality and easy to build then I suggest the L-19 Bird Dog or any of the other models from Richmond RC. If you have owned a VMAR plane in the past - trust me, now is the time to give them another look!

    Distributed Exclusively in North & South America by:
    Richmond RC Supply Ltd
    Phone: 604-940-1066

    Futaba Corporation of America
    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.futaba-rc.com
    Product: Futaba 6VH SkySport

    Comments on RCU Review: VMAR L-19 Bird Dog

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    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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