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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spitfire vs. Butcher Bird - Parkflyer Head-to-Head

Update: My Fw-190 review now contains 4S trials and prop data, pulling it on top of the Spitfire for the comparison below.  The stock Fw-190 motor handles 31.46A/467.8W with no problems, resulting in a 71mph pitch speed.

Updated with a Spitfire 4S video clip.

The Spitfire offers a little something extra under the hood (or the 
bonnet, as her funny-speaking designers would say), a 4S 
.15 size motor.  The Butcher Bird stands on tall custom retracts 
with split flaps -- and sometimes, they even work. Shown here 
with a Parkzone Fw-190 2-blade spinner.
Ok, I admit I haven't even posted my Parkzone Spitfire Mk IX review, but this comparison was screaming at me.  I also admit I'm giving away my Spitfire review's pending surprise: perfect, out-of-the-box 4S operation.  

But what could be more important than reliving this little slice of air warfare history?  These two vicious killers crave blood, and they want it now.  As flown:

Parkzone Spitfire Mk IX 43.2"
$185 BNF + $50 AR500 Rx + $50 2200mAh 4S = ~ $285
(ESC is over-amped by 25% when using 4S)

Flyzone Fw-190 Select Scale EP Rx-R 44.5"
$190 + $45 Hitec 6ch Rx + $35 2200 mAh 3S = ~ $270
(Includes retracts and flaps)

On the Ground:

Some 60 years after their heyday, these two carnivores still dwell at the top of the air combat food chain.  There are only a handful of silhouettes that compete on this level.  The Spitfire Mk IX sports perhaps the most recognizable planform in aviation history.  The Fw-190 Butcher Bird imposes the most sinister stance of any death machine, bristling with machine guns and canons.  Just looking at these hateful rivals brings one back to the uneasy feeling of winner-take-all desperation.
The slap-together look of the Focke Wulf canopy 
is true to period.  The Spitfire Mk IX is so elegant it is 
almost feminine, even buxom.
In the Air:

The RC renditions of these bitter rivals does them justice.  Both exude personality similar to the original, as they attempt to duel to the death.
If looks could kill the Nazi's would have slaughtered our ancestors. 
The cowardly paint job purposefully omits the swastika, 
which is illegal to depict in Germany--as if that same
attitude isn't exactly how this swirling fiend was born.
The Fw-190 kicks ass from wheels up to wheels down.  The plane has light wing loading, good power to weight, and a barn door it calls a wing.  The high aspect ratio stab digs down deep for stable, high alpha flight, and the rudder moment is long enough to minimize the need for a large vertical stabilizer, saving weight and increasing effectiveness.  Slow flight is confidence inspiring.

The Focke Wulf climbs high to prey on hearty B-17 and 24 red meat, relying on its generous wing.  It gets sucked up into the dark gray gloom without fanfare, as it goes about the gruesome business of ferociously mauling the guardians of freedom.  You have to respect the Axis pilots' in-your-face attitude, knowing they were diving straight to Hell.  They didn't care; Kurt Tank's "Butcher Bird" screams evil.  The plane is clearly the spawn of satan, just like the Nazis who flew it.  You can't help but be drawn-in to its ruthless sense of purpose.  No nonsense here.

The Fw-190 carves up the sky in graceful slices, like a dubiously experienced serial killer.  The motor in this model is strangely quiet, just like the Butcher likes it.  I flew it with a 10x7 for the first time, shown above, the Parkzone Fw-190 spinner is a fine match, even if it mixes-up paint schemes a little.  The better prop efficiency definitely keeps the aircraft aloft longer, plus adds a dash more speed which is badly needed given the Parkzone Spitfire Mk IX motor discussed below. 

Turning performance is notably better than its pigeon-toed British rival, at least in RC incarnation.  The Fw-190 pivots tight, until a wing gives out and wrenches the plane toward a harrowing spin.  Raising both ailerons might help control the tip stall (which I preemptively dialed into the heavier Spit, see photo below), but ultimately, there is no getting around the long elevator's ability to leverage the wing beyond earthly limits. Min turn radius is awesome.
The Mk IX should have a big honkin' 4-blade propeller 
nailed to a 12-cylinder Rolls, but 4S will have to do.
The Spitfire Mk IX has a completely different personality as an RC weapon.  It takes to the air on 3S as boxed, but this duel is for keeps, so I flew the Spit on a war secret 4-cell Lipo that evokes its original Rolls Royce Merlin and RR Griffon prowess.  On 4S, the wing knifes the air with a haunting Doppler howl.  I'm not sure why, but it sounds more realistic than it should for an electric warbird.

The Spit's wing is devilishly efficient, but it can't quite cope with the solid weight of this plane.  The plane feels heavy in the air.  Slow flight is unnerving.  Just the opposite of its nimble opponent.

The curvy little Spit climbs like a she-devil, on thrust, not lift.  Pushing over accelerates on all 4 S's and you can see the acceleration up high like some far-off Neutron Star's gravitational field is invisibly yanking the plane through the delirious burning blue.

The included PZ 10x8 is a good choice for speed and diameter efficiency on a secretly hopped-up .15 motor.  Come on Parkzone, calling this ornery bitch "3-cell compatible" with all 4S components just makes you look cheap for cheating the ESC.  Your speed controller is at least 7 Amps short on capacity, as it conjures 545 Watts  from from behind the gushy foam firewall.   Short bursts, my dear Allied friends, short bursts--or you'll find yourself hanging under a canvas mushroom floating toward a dreary Stalag to meet some freak camp doctor named Mengel.  Too bad, Parkzone didn't take care of you by including the 40A ESC this tearing anvil requires.

The Supermarine turns tight as whip, but it falls off before the Focke Wulf warps space to arrive behind it.  So put the pedal down; that 190 gets real small, real quick.

If you run the electron fuel dry (oops, maybe I know from experience) you'll discover the plane glides ok.  The smart CG keeps the pitch attitude right where it should be, but the heavy weight of the plane doesn't give you a lot of float and what you little you get is pretty high speed.  I managed to make the middle of my generous runway, but even well flared off, the awkward undercarriage makes the ground roll difficult to directionally control--you'll want to keep the rudder on high rates with expo to maintain enough authority to overcome Parkzone's poor landing gear.

4S Spitfire vs 3S Butcher Bird
The Dogfight
Mk IX
Fw-190
Ground views
9
10
Aerial Views
10
8
Maneuverability
7
8
Acceleration
9
7
Top Speed
8
5
Personality
9
9
Intimidation
7
10
RC Features
8
9
Quality
4
2
Durability
4
4
Value
3
5
Overall
7.1
7.0
If you must buy only one, the Spitfire delivers an insignificantly more satisfying warbird experience, but only on 4S which makes it much more pricey.  To do 4S right you should probably replace the ESC to accommodate a 37.5 Amp draw, and find a way to vent the hot-to-the-touch engine bay.  In an addition to addressing the under-amped ESC, you have to buy a new battery and 4S capable charger, which all told can exceed the cost of an already expensive foam plane that we know won't hold up long.  That said, 3S can deliver adequate fun, so I didn't ding the 3S-Spit's value proposition any more than I would for any underpowered, cheap disposable foamie.

The Fw-190's Aerocell foam is noticeably both stronger and lighter than Parkzone's Z foam.  Flyzone's paint is substantially more durable. The Fw-190's retracts and flaps mostly suck, they would add significant value if they worked better--but still--with both machines spinning 3S, the more maneuverable Fw-190 comes out on top.

In the end, the better handling and more feature laden Focke Wulf has no answer for the Spitfire's 4S Merlin.  The Mk IX frame delivers plenty of competency to keep the plane pointed where you need it to go, though the heavy Spit needs to keep moving and devours roughly double the Fw-190's min runway requirement.  The Fw-190 in Flyzone form is really a pilot's airplane, nimble and efficient.  But as a 4S Spitfire climbing hard to meet you proves, in the deadly arena of military air combat, cunning efficiency is no match for ruthless effectiveness.

Both of these adept dogfighters are worth owning.
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