PHOTOS BY JOHN REID
Top-shelf Battle of Britain classic
No other airplane is as famous as the Super-marine Spitfire. This unequalled British fighter was one of the very best all-round WW II aircraft. Constant improvements throughout its production gave it a vital margin of superiority over its adversaries. The Spitfire’s final production model remained in service with the Royal Air Force well into the 1950s.
One word best describes this KMP(ESM) Spitfire Mk. XIV kit: extraordinary! Features such as true-to-scale panel outlines, a painted, molded-fiberglass fuselage and cowl, a molded scale exhaust, scale hinges, flaps and a built-up stabilizer and an elevator and rudder covered in Solartex all prove my point. The model represents the latest in a succession of extremely well-built KMP airplane imports. I’m afraid that if the company continues to introduce this type of ARF, I may never build a kit or from scratch again!
THE KONDOR SPITFIRE MK. XIV BLURS THE LINE BETWEEN PROFESSIONALLY SCRATCH-BUILT AND HIGH-QUALITY ARF MODEL AIRCRAFT.
All of the major components are well-packaged and sealed in plastic bags. The built-up wing halves are kept separate at the top of the box. The wing, split elevators and rudder are all covered with Solartex in the same flat camouflage scheme as the painted fiberglass fuselage and cowl. A painted, vacuum-formed canopy, split flaps, laser-cut wooden parts, scale decals and a complete hardware package that includes a set of 4º-inch wheels are also included. A 30-page illustrated instruction manual with photos guided me through the construction. To complete this ARF, I needed only epoxy, CA, radio gear and a servo extension.
This highly prefabricated Spitfire would likely take an experienced builder about 40 hours to assemble.
Wings. The ailerons require separate servos with a minimum of 61 oz.-in. of torque and two 12-inch servo extensions plus one Y-connection.
Six CA hinges are used to hinge the two ailerons to the wing. After installing the hinges, I checked my work by pivoting the ailerons up and down and pulling on them several times. The opening for the servo bay is easy to position by using the measurements given in the instructions or by feeling the covering for the indentation where the opening is. After carefully cutting away the covering, I sealed down the corners of the covering with my heating iron. I installed a servo and a 12-inch extension in each wing half and used heat-shrink tubing to secure the connectors. I needed to use the longest servo arm I had because the usual four-point servo arm was too short to exit through the top of the cover. I also had to widen the opening in the servo cover a bit more to prevent the servos from binding against it. Before I connected the pushrods, I connected the radio and made sure that the servos were centered.
- MODEL: Spitfire Mk. XIV
- MANUFACTURER: ESM
- TYPE: scale ARF warbird
- LENGTH: 64 in.
- WINGSPAN: 72.5 in.
- WING AREA: 946 sq. in.
- WING LOADING: 33 oz./sq. ft.
- FLYING WEIGHT: 13 lb.
- ENGINE REQ’D: 1.08 2-stroke or 1.20 4-stroke
- RADIO REQ’D: 6-channel w/8 servos
- PRICE: $469.95
- ª Excellent scale outline
- ª Complete hardware package with retracts
- ª Solartex fabric covering
- RADIO: Futaba T7CAP & R148DF 8-channel receiver; 4, 61 oz.-in. standard servos; 4, high-torque 76 to 94 oz.-in. servos
- ENGINE: O.S. FS-120SE 4-stroke
- FUEL: PowerMaster 15%
- PROP: APC 18◊5-6
The flaps, too, required that the covering over the opening in the wing be cut and the edges sealed with an iron. To get both flaps to operate in the same direction, I installed their servos so that they faced in the same direction. Because of this, one of the flap covers had to be modified: I rotated it 180 degrees and cut a new slot for the servo arm. I installed the servos, the pushrods and the control horns. While I was checking the flap deflection, I noticed that the control-horn backplate interfered with the flap and prevented it from lying flat in the wing. I fixed this by using a Dremel tool with a grinding wheel to grind away part of the plate. I didn’t have to remove much.
After carefully cutting away the covering from the wheel-well area, I installed the plastic wheel wells in the wing halves and used 5-minute epoxy to secure them. Now, the tubing and T-connector for the air retract can be installed in the wing. The kit tubing is too large and is difficult to bend without crimping it. I replaced it with narrower air tubing from Robart. The 4º-inch wheels were a little too tight in the wheel wells for my taste. I didn’t want to risk the wheels’ getting stuck in them, so I decided to replace them with 4-inch foam wheels.
In the Air
GENERAL FLIGHT CHARACTERISTICS
- STABILITY. Solid and smooth! This plane will make you feel confident from the start and will quickly eliminate any preflight jitters.
- TRACKING. Ground tracking is easy to maintain by adding power gradually and using a little rudder.
- AEROBATICS. The Spitfire was not an aerobatic plane, but the model does rolls, loops, Cuban-8s and inverted scale flying that look like the real thing.
- GLIDE PERFORMANCE. As you would with any scale warbird, you’ll have to land with power on. Although this isn’t absolutely necessary, I recommend that you use 75 to 80 degrees of flaps when landing.
- STALLS. To prevent the wing from stalling on landing, maintain the power as long as you can, and use full flaps to slow your landing for a gentle, controllable touchdown.
Having the correct CG allows takeoffs that are free of the problems usually associated with scale-bird takoffs. It’s very stable in flight, and it’s gentle and easy to control when airborne. In a turn, the wing doesn’t drop but instead ìrailsî around it. Low, high-speed passes on the deck are easy to do. At first, do aerobatics such as rolls, loops, etc., at a safe distance away from you and several mistakes high; you can bring the Spitfire closer to the deck when you’ve seen how it reacts. The O.S. FS-120SE has more than enough power to fly this 13-pound plane with all-out authority at throttle. On final approach, the engine throttles back nicely with a 16×6 prop and keeps the rpm just where you want them without any lag time. By the second or third flight, you’ll be an expert in the handling of your Spitfire Mk. XIV.
- ELEVATOR: ±1º in. (high); ± æ (low): expo: 20%
- AILERON: ± 1 in. (high); ± 11/16 (low): expo: 30%
- RUDDER: ±13/16 in.
- FLAPS: 75 to 80 deg. fully down
Tail feathers. I inserted the stabilizer into its slot in the fuselage and measured from each stabilizer tip to the front of the fuselage to ensure that they were both the same distance from it. I marked the outline of the fuselage on the stabilizer, removed it from the fuselage and carefully cut away the covering from the area inside the outline. I coated the bare wood on the stabilizer with 30-minute epoxy and reinstalled it in its slot. I then checked the fuselage/stab alignment and set the assembly aside to dry. I checked the CA hinges’ positions and installed them in the same way as I had the ailerons. I cut the elevator pushrod exits as described in the manual and installed the pushrods. Install the rudder in exactly the same way.
Engine mounting. The throttle of the engine shown in the instructions is in a different place from the throttle on my O.S. FS-120SE. Fortunately, there’s plenty of room in the fuse-lage to install a throttle servo in a position that matches the carburetor arm’s requirements.
After installing the engine at the correct distance from the firewall, I centered the cowl, marked the positions of the holes and drilled for the cowl screws. I cut 1/16-inch pieces of fuel tubing and slid them onto the cowl screws to protect the fiberglass around the holes from being chafed by the screws and cracking because of vibration. I finished the cowl by epoxying the exhaust stacks into place.
Spitfire Mk. XIV
Although no country has ever been saved by the actions of one man, many in the UK would argue that although their country’s survival plan was guided by Winston Churchill, he couldn’t have done it without the help of Reginald Mitchell, who designed the Spitfire.
With its factories just barely out of the range of German bombers and the enemy only two dozen miles away, when it came to fighter planes, Britain was constantly engaged in a deadly game of one-upmanship. Messerschmitts and FockeWulfs were upgraded, and Britain countered with yet another version of the Spitfire to beat them.
Eventually, the Brits realized that giving their fighter pilots a decisive edge would be difficult because they were already using the original 1,600ci Merlin engine to its full potential. So they did what those in search of performance have always done: they went for more cubic inches, and the new Griffon engine displaced a whopping 2,300 cubes!
The Mk. XIV Spitfire with its Griffon 61 had a relatively tiny airframe (by American standards), but this monster was shoehorned under the cowl. Using two-stage supercharging to maintain power to altitude, the Griffon gave its pilot 1,850hp to play with at 21,000 feetóalmost unheard of. That was more horsepower than the Merlin generated in fat air at sea level! Spitfires powered by the bigger Griffon have the characteristically long bulges running along both sides of the top of the cowl. The Griffon’s shoulders were too wide to fit it in any other way.
The Mk. XIV could fly at 448mph at 26,000 feet, and its service ceiling was boosted to 44,500 feet. This pushed the upper limits of propeller-driven, non-pressurized aircraft.
The Mk. XIV was produced in a variety of configurations, including later versions that had cut-down rear fuselages and bubble canopies for better visibility. The wing was also standardized to use Hispano-Suiza 20mm cannon or good old American .50 Brownings, though those were seldom added.
Those who have flown Merlin- and Griffon-powered Spitfires often comment that the early airplane’s grace was replaced by a snarling savagery that left no doubt that you were strapped to an artillery shell. And in the fighter game, that isn’t a bad thing.
Visit Budd on the web at www.airbum.com
PHOTO COURTESY OF NORMAN FELTWELL
I checked and double-checked my radio installation to make sure that the radio gear was tight, the control horns were securely screwed into place, and the control surfaces all moved in the correct directions.
I had to add more than 31 ounces (nearly 2 pounds) of lead weight to the Spitfire’s nose to balance it.
By carefully planning how you wish to complete this kit, you can have a nice scale version of the famous Spitfire in a relatively short time. This model is great for intermediate to expert pilots who would love to own an ARF that’s built as they would have done it themselves if they had the time. I rate this one as a 10-plus! Kondor Model Products cares about what it sells, and it shows.
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