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There is something exciting about starting a new plane on maiden day. I just didn;t know how exciting this maiden was about to get!
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Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF - Segment 3

Accidental proof of how good a plane this is!

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Flight video by Clark Ponthier

Posted – 11-8-2016


Before I can permanently secure the battery packs I need to get the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF on my EZ Balancer to see where they need to go to put the CG (center of gravity) where the manual specified. During the build, I tried to keep the motor as close to the firewall as the cowl and muffler would allow. While that turned out to be about ¼” back from the normal firewall to prop washer distance I am hopeful that its placement will minimize if not eliminate having to install lead ballast. A common problem with a warbird is that there is little “wiggle room” in terms of where the components can be installed. If the balance is out by more than a little bit, we can wind up with a discouraging lump of lead on one end or the other of our new plane.

Incidentally, while setting up for checking the CG I had the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF fully together with all its equipment inside for the first time. I got out the scale and set the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF on its spinner on the scale and found that my new warbird weighs a rim 20-lbs all up minus fuel. Not bad at all.

The first chore was to lay out the proper location of the CG per the manual. I put some masking tape on the top of the wing approximately where I thought the CG would be. Then I measured back from the leading edge as they show in the manual and made marks on each wing. With a straight edge, I connected those marks with a thin line that now runs along the CG. This will let me align the plane to the EZ Balancer precisely so I get the best indication of the balance or just where the out of balance condition comes from.

I take the time to lay out the CG location accurately so when I go to the balancer I get the best results possible.
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I expected the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF to be nose heavy but was very happy to find that 2-1/4oz of lead on the tail made it virtually neutral. That confirms my suspicion that the EME 60 engine might be a tick heavy so installing it as far back as I could have paid off in a big overall weight savings. That also means Top Flite™ does it again with another great ARF kit and instructions.

Clean Up

Once I had the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF balanced I could permanently mount the battery packs to the underside of the rear wing mount. This position is not only handy it makes getting to the batteries for charging very easy with no need to extension cables. I also bundled some of the servo wires and to make the interior of the fuse look better but more importantly to give all those cables support to help prevent vibration-related wire failures. Just grouping several wires together and securing with a plastic tie-wrap stabilizes all of them to enhance their durability but also to help prevent them getting caught up in the servo arms. This kind of interference can easily abrade or cut servo leads, an occurrence that never seems to cause something good to happen.

Stickers

Now was as good of a time as any to put some stickers on to “military” it up a bit. Top Flite has nice stickers and provides good instructions for applying them, including how to mix some dish soap and water to help get the stickers on in the right place. I am a big fan of B&E Graphix and I began using their Rapid Tac 2 that we spray on the area where the graphic is to be installed, wipe it down to clean the surface and then spray a little heavier coat of Rapid Tac to let us position the graphic right before squeegeeing the fluid out from under the graphic. The water and dish soap works well but I think that the Rapid Tac 2 works better.
Top Flite provides a bunch of smaller decals for those who want to “spec” the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF out for a more scale appearance. I save these scale decals in hopes of one day having a plane that needs them.

Maiden Day

We lucked out and a woke to one of those perfect Carolina blue skies with high 60’s temperatures and light winds. After putting the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF together we put it on one of our big work tables so I could set up all the control throws per the manual. Later I will set up a dual rate mode where I can try increasing the control throws but have the original settings available. So far, both of my big warbirds are manufactured by Top Flite™ and have their famous ease of flight built into the well-designed airframes. Jig-based assembly assures perfectly aligned flying surfaces and that translates directly to a predictable, stable flying model. The Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF would prove to be no different.

The first pleasant surprise was how well the EME 60 engine started and ran once we got fuel through the new system and to the carb. I originally had the EME 60 in my Top-Flite Giant Scale P47 Razorback but pulled it when I put the Saito 60cc Radial in that warbird. The EME 60 should be a great power plant for the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF. I used a Xoar, two blade, WWII military style prop in the 23X8 size. It appears that the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF likes that prop so for the time being anyway it will remain on the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF.

One again my EZ Balancer saves the day (left) ad makes balancing my P51 perfectly a quick, simple job. I found that it needed 2-1/4oz of lead (right) at the tail to make the P51 neutral. It flew perfectly.
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One of the “new” aspects of this review was starting out with the included fixed landing gear because several of my viewers asked for that. I realize retracts are not always possible so I installed the fixed gear. It never occurred to me that the included landing gear could be much of a problem but on a grass runway with mild bumpiness that assumption turned out to be very false and more than a little frightening.

As soon as I started taxiing the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF on our semi-smooth grass runway the wire main gear began bending backwards when encountering a bump and then kicking forward when they passed over the bump. The field is not perfect by any means but every plane I have with retracts or aluminum flat gear have no issues with the runway. Making the fixed Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF gear even more scary is their tendency to bend inwards towards the center of the plane. Watching the mains jerk around as my new Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF rolled down the runway was increasing the pucker factor of the initial flights.

It is important to note that in the accompanying video you get to see every second of my first two flights with the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF. Nothing other than occasional “dead air” has been cut out. Knowing how much flight time I have with the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF is crucial to your understanding something that happens at the end of the second flight.

Maiden Flight

We had a bit of a straight in crosswind when I took off with the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF the first time. It “weather vaned” a little so that it was aimed across the runway at roughly a 45-degree angle. Seeing how flimsy the wire main gear looked I was not about to hammer the rudder to get it aimed more down the runway. The EME 60 was powering the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF across the runway and accelerating quickly so I just held it sort of straight and when it got to the edge of the runway I pulled back on the elevator and the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF lifted off smartly.

A warbird just is not right without military graphics.
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The Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF had a good bit of right aileron and down elevator in it but both were corrected quickly with trims. The Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF likes to slowly gain altitude when flying straight and level at full throttle. I always have two flight modes, one for landing and one for general flying so flipped the mode switch to normal flight and added a bit of down elevator trim and that helped get the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF lower for the speed passes. I will increase that down elevator as I get the handling more sorted out. I do have to say that with just the trim changes right after takeoff the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF handles very well and feels solid in the air.

After a couple minutes, I decided to shoot some approaches to see how then Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF reacts to full flaps (manual recommended settings) and how it acts as it slows for landing. The Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF has a good bit of sink rate with the flaps out and throttle lowered some but that is easily controllable with a bit of elevator and slightly more throttle if it starts to wallow around. I was pleasantly surprised at how stable the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF remained even when going slower than need be. We won’t be doing any harriers or elevators with the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF but it does have a relatively forgiving flight envelope.

I managed to bounce the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF a time or two on the touch-and-go and subsequent landing. I decided to cut the maiden flight short because it flew so well and because I thought I might have bent one of the main gear wires and wanted to look at that before continuing the test flights. I could find no damage to the main gear wires or the gear mounts themselves.

The second flight started out fine and I was playing with different attitudes and tweaking my Flight Mode settings, primarily to get the down elevator trim and throttle levels dialed in. Then I took the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF back up to altitude, brought it across the field, pointed it up at about a 45-degree up line and flipped it over to inverted. I let go so the sticks and the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF just continued up that line. As my EZ Balancer had told me earlier, the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF was perfectly balanced on the CG the manual gives.

Once or twice during the second flight I felt like the engine was balking or that something was wrong with the throttle. It wasn’t constant but with a new plane I thought I’d better bring it around and shoot a landing approach because the wind had changed directions and I had not tried landing from that side. On the first pass the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF did not slow down nearly enough even with full flaps so as it passed the pilots station I rolled the throttle back in to climb out and go around but the engine didn’t change. The throttle servo had quit and was holding the throttle a bit over a high idle, too much rpm for landing but not near enough for the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF to keep flying around normally.

The Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF turned out to be a great flying plane (left) with surprisingly docile landing characteristics. A bad throttle servo put me and my new Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF in very bad spot but it's stable flight properties let me get away with way too much rudder and a long glide to get back to the field in one piece. See that whole sequence in the video below.
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We have a line of trees off the left end of our runway and I was approaching them and was not at all sure I could climb over them. I decided to give the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF a bunch of rudder and counter with some aileron to keep the wings as level as I could to try turning it around before hitting the trees but frankly I was sure my new Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF was going to hit a tree any second. I kept turning the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF and eventually was coming back from the tree line and now had the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF heading sort of towards the runway and surrounding field.

While heading back towards the runway was a good thing, it was down wind so the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF was trying to sink all the way and I could not get any more throttle so I just tried to keep the sink rate as slow as I could without fully stalling the plane. As the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF sank closer to the ground I decided to shut the engine off altogether to try and salvage the prop as I was sure it would flip over in the taller grass next to the runway.
As the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF approached the edge of the runway I pulled up just a little bit of elevator and was able to sustain the glide just enough for the main wheels to touch down on the edge of the runway. Not a bit of damage anywhere other than a dead throttle servo. I just watched the video for the first time this morning and understand how everyone watching thought there was no way to get that plane back to the runway. But it made it and I think I know why.

I continue to be amazed at the flying characteristics of the Top Flite ARF warbirds and this incident just proves to me that the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF is straight rigid and light. The incidences are spot of right out of the box. Top Flite also does a good job of providing clear instructions for assembly and the recommend control surface throws are right on the money, including when thing to nurse a stalling giant warbird back home.

Conclusions

The Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF is a great looking, great flying warbird with surprisingly forgiving flight characteristics. My Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF came out at 20lbs all up minus fuel which explains some of the light sensation you get flying it. All of the components are well made and fit very well without a bunch of modifications. The instructions are actually instructional and written by people who are familiar with the English language.
I did find a couple things that could be improved. The location of the rear servos beneath the wing mount block makes working on those servos and their linkages harder than it needs to be. I’d like to see those servos moved forward out from under that mounting plate.

Video Tour

The included 5” aluminum spinner is certainly out of the ordinary in an ARF kit but the cone screws on to the baseplate and frankly that looks kind of hack. This also indexes the cone cutouts for the prop so you need to get drilling the back plate just right for it to fit properly. I opted for a Dave Brown 5” aluminum spinner when has no screws around the baseplate but it does have the more common center bolt and no indexing to the back plate.

Another good point about the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF is that it sells for $549.99 (11-7-2016) which I think is a very good price for what you get. This is a great looking, well built ARF that will let you get into the air faster than you might think. And once you start flying the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF putting it away for the day is going to be one of the toughest parts of owning this plane.

Visit the Top Flite™ Giant P51D Mustang ARF web page – Click Here

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