In Depth Review: Freewing A10 Thunderbolt 64mm

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The Fairchild Republic A10 Thunderbolt II has long been my favorite military aircraft. It is one of the greatest examples of form follows function, as it is unsurpassed in its role in close air support for ground troops. I’ve been flying almost exclusively classic pattern and sport glow aircraft for the past several years and had the itch for something different. The A10 was an easy choice.

The Freewing A10 has twin 12 blade 64mm fans and a wingspan of 43.3 inches. Mine came out at 4 pounds, 2 oz ready to fly, just slightly above the specs in the manual. That yields a wing loading of 33.58 oz/sq.ft, definitely not a floater but manageable with intermediate level flying skills.

Unboxing
The ARF comes in an attractive box and is well-packaged to prevent shipping damage.

There is a high level of prefabrication, so assembly can be completed in 3-4 hours. The trusty dining room table was enough space.

Tools Needed

Long reach Phillips screwdriver, needle nose pliers, string with weight for pulling wires, self-adhesive velcro

Equipment Used:
Turnigy Graphene 4s 4000 mah battery
Graupner MZ 24 transmitter with GR16 receiver

Photo Shoot

ARF Evaluation
The Freewing 64mm A10 Thunderbolt is a quality built foamy with durability features often not found on less expensive planes.

Likes: Pinned hinges, plastic replica cannon, strong retracts, good scale detailing, clear manual
Dislikes: Flimsy attachment for bombs, paint chips easily, battery strap too short

Details: All control surfaces, including the optional flaps, have plastic pinned hinges, the replica GAU Avenger cannon on the nose is hard plastic to survive handling and imperfect landings, and the retracts appear robust and installed with good structural design.

The manufacturer included keepers for all the pushrods- a small detail that novice builders might forget to add. Scale detailing is good by ARF standards; molded-in panel lines, standard decals, and a proper matte finish over the foam give the A10 a good scale appearance. Those who want more can easily weather and detail the existing finish to make this model a real knockout.

Battery Selection
After reading a few comments that said the Freewing A10 comes out tail heavy with the recommended battery, I chose the Turnigy Graphene 4s 4000 mah battery. At 54mm, it rubs the battery compartment however you install it, but it fits. I tossed the included battery strap which was about 3 inches too short and installed a strip of velcro on the tray instead.

The plane balanced at 2.2 inches behind the LE. This is .04 behind the recommended rear limit. Flight testing showed this CG location to work well.

Assembly Notes
There are only 3 major components to attach in order to get the Freewing A10 ready to fly. With the high degree of prefabrication, the assembly went smoothly. My only complaint is receiver installation, which I will outline below. Except where noted, I followed the manual instructions.

Assembly begins by attaching the vertical stabilizers using the provided glue. All servos and pushrods are already installed, so after gluing it only takes 2 screws to attach the complete tail assembly to the fuselage.

After installing the tail, a receiver must be attached to center the elevator servo and adjust the pushrod length. The elevator uses an EZ connector for quick adjustments. Don’t forget blue Loctite to make sure the screw stays put.

The wing is fully prefabricated, and the manual says to attach the weapons at this point. I suggest waiting until the plane is finished, as the attached weapons make it harder to mount the wing and move the plane around. Flaps are optional and require two micro servos (not included).

I suggest that users install the receiver at this point, which the manual does not cover.

There are two practical locations for the receiver- in the nose in front of the battery tray or attached to the elevator servo mount inside the wing saddle. I chose the wing saddle, which requires extending the nose wheel retract and steering servo wires and pulling them back through the tight space under the battery tray. I also had to pull the ESCs out to get those wires through and to get to the throttle connectors.

Once installed, I used a spare receiver battery to turn on the receiver so I could put the retracts down and function test all control surfaces. Installing the receiver in the wing saddle keeps the battery compartment uncluttered, a real consideration with the tight confines of most EDF jets.

The picture on the right shows the uncluttered battery tray that results. A front-mounted receiver would have been attached to the foam in front of the plywood battery mount.

After receiver installation, attach the wing with 2 screws. I went ahead and installed the bombs and missiles at this point, but I found that it is better to wait until everything else is done.

The engine nacelles are next. Fans are already assembled, so this step is merely connecting the 3 wires for each fan and installing 4 screws. It is important that the receiver is already working at this point since the ESC wires are not color-coded. If a fan runs the wrong way, just switch 2 of the 3 wires.

Once you’ve verified that both fans spin the right direction, tidy the wires and attach the nacelles with 4 screws.

Flying Impressions

Test flight day was windy and overcast with gusts up to 14 mph. Due to the high wing loading, the Freewing A10 needs good groundspeed to take off smoothly. Pulling up too soon results in sideslip stalls that require quick use of the rudder to correct.

Once airborne, the plane flies scalelike and can do any maneuver that the real A10 can plus a few more. Small loops and rolls, Immelmans and split-S’s look good. Being a heavy military jet, the plane is not an aerobat. It does not have the power for unlimited vertical performance (not that it should) and is less stable in the wind than sleeker jets with swept wings would be. I enjoyed the flights thoroughly, as I was looking for a scale flying experience with the quirks and limitations that that brings.

Landings require some airspeed. I found that mine needed about 1/3 throttle if I brought it in shallow and smooth. Letting the plane get too slow results in wing rocking and a quickly developing stall that ends in a bounced landing if the pilot does not compensate with more throttle. Cutting the throttle as the wheels touch results in a 100-150 foot roll out before taxiing back to recharge and fly again.

Overall, the jet delivers a scalelike flying experience with the quirks and limitations that one would expect. Flight times with the 4000 mah battery can easily reach 8-9 minutes with some part throttle operation during the flight. The recent upgrade to 12 blade units gives pilots a reasonable facsimile of the turbine sound and plenty of power for hot passes down the runway and fast acceleration for getting out of stalls and taking go-arounds.

Summary

The Freewing A10 Thunderbolt gave me what I wanted- a scale jet flying experience with all the quirks and nuances that come with it. It’s not a beginner’s model, as stalls develop quickly and slow speed flight is unforgiving. I have thoroughly enjoyed my flights with it, pretending to strafe Iraqi tanks and take out SAM sites with a realistic jet sound and the challenge of flying a heavy jet. The Freewing A10 is a great addition to one’s jet collection, something different from the sleek fighters that are so prevalent and a hugely important part of the US Air Force’s history.

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