Text by David R. Vaught
Photos by Ellen M. Vaught
The creation of foam molds for making model airplanes is a true craft. What you put into the detail within the mold you get out, and if done right, you get something like the Airfield Models P-51 Shangri La fighter offered by NitroPlanes.com. This is a huge EPO foam plane with a 57-inch wingspan and a high-torque 600kV motor swinging a 14×9 4-blade prop shrouded by a massive 3.5-inch spinner, and it comes with mechanical retracts! I got my hands on the P-51 and immediately knew I had something that was going to be a blast to fly. Notice I cut right to the flying because the build will only take you about one to two hours.
You get a fully painted and decaled warbird with extreme detail and scale looks, including a painted pilot. It even comes with flap servo compartments and doors if you want to add flaps to your Shangri La fighter. I reviewed the $229 receiver-ready 2.4GHz version, but it’s also available without the receiver, transmitter and 14.8V, 2200mAh 20C LiPo battery for $199. Both versions come with five 9-gram servos, a 5-amp speed control with external battery-eliminator circuit (BEC) and two 17-gram retract servos installed. The tailwheel has its own servo coupled with the rudder servo for great ground control and handling. The 6-channel transmitter includes a gear switch and a flap switch.
The design work is extensive and many well-thought-out features are included. As an example, all the hinges are molded into the EPO foam. These are durable and only require a slight bit of “exercise” before the preinstalled linkages are attached. The tail uses a twin elevator arrangement linked to a single servo.
Wing pockets are reinforced with wood providing an extremely sturdy coupling of those nearly 30-inch wing halves to the fuselage. Another system element adding to the wing strength are interlocking moldings that, when joined, are a perfect fit. A large carbon spar runs almost three-quarters of the way to the wingtips and just beyond the last major molded point along the wing. Four wing bolts secure the wing. The tail is strengthened by the accurate mating of the horizontal surface to the vertical section and only two screws are needed to make the attachments. Symmetry is excellent.
The big, but lightweight 600kV motor is mounted to a steel motor mount with reinforcements molded into the firewall so the mount is very secure. The cowl also uses molded in screw ports for a tough and durable nose section. You will absolutely love the looks of the huge spinner and the 4-blade prop. It really makes the P-51 what it is, a warbird. You get the sense that plenty of torque is necessary to swing the big prop and torque is what you get with the included FMS brushless motor.
Retracts are mechanical, using a push-pull system with a locking bar inside the retract housing and 2.5-inch main wheels. I was impressed with the strength of these main wheels. Rather than mount the retract receptacle from only one side of the wing, retracts are really mounted by pinching two mounting plates with the wing in the middle. You will not likely shear the retractable gear out, but they do have a slight weakness as the metal wheel strut joins with the plastic retract housing.
All of the control horn and linkage hardware is provided. The servos are mounted and the fuselage has plenty of room for setup, but the canopy protrudes pretty deeply into the fuselage. Just beware that other than the battery, clearance room must be provided to seat the canopy. Most of your servo leads will fit easy under the rear portion of the cowling and your ESC will actually be within the cowl with only the BEC extending into the fuselage opening. Strong magnets hold the canopy in place but may require your adding more reinforcement tape over time.
The NitroPlanes.com Airfield P-51 crosses into a wide variety of flying skills and foam scale demands. For those who don’t want to waste time building, the P-51 can get you into the air in just a few hours. For the pilot who is into more building, the flaps can be added with little effort, and I recommend that you take the time to install them. You will need a reversed servo or a servo reverser lead to make the flaps operate in unison. In any configuration, this big foamie is exemplary of Humberto Lobo’s beautiful P-51.
IN THE AIR
The P-51 always stands proud on the runway with its tail low to the runway and nose pitched up waiting for the pilot to release the reins. I enjoyed just taxiing around a bit to so I could see the Shangri La from all sides. A smooth runway is necessary to keep the P-51 from nosing over.
Rudder response to the prop torque was minimal and I had no problem keeping the nose down the middle of the runway as I gently lifted the tail. Scale-like takeoffs are easy, but the P-51 will also depart the runway with the tail down–whatever you are comfortable with. It is not capable of a Viking departure but does climb out nicely. You immediately get an earful of those big propeller blades biting the air. The hollow fuselage provides excellent resonance and gives you enough noise to let you know where it is in the air at all times.
Retracts are slow but will pull the wheels up. I had some occasions where it took a little longer than I would have liked to get the wheels up, and a couple of times when they did not completely make it into the wing cavity. I flew several times down to noticeable power loss with the supplied 14.8V 20C battery and in those occasions the wheels did not want to come up. With a full battery they worked generally just fine. I switched to a PowerEdge 30C 4S 2200mAh LiPo and found an increase in the performance and air time, and the retracts operated better. I would guess lifting and lowering the wheels is not something most pilots do repeatedly and getting the wheels down was never a problem. I thought the BEC did a good job of allocating the power needed when everything was moving. I did not experience any hesitation or jerky movement representative of a BEC that cannot keep up.
The P-51 is fully aerobatic and will execute all the wartime evasive maneuvers necessary to wow your friends and foes. Inverted flight is rock steady so I felt like the CG was on target from the initial setup. If you use the total deflection possible on the ailerons you will get very crisp rolls and with the use of the rudder and elevator those rolls can be slowed down to look very realistic.
Landing is the critical element of just about any warbird, and you just have to keep your thumbs from getting too aggressive. Let the P-51 fly to the end of the runway under some power. Keep the nose down and when you are at the threshold, ease off the throttle and just let it land. Rough surfaces will cause the P-51 to nose over.
Aileron: ± ¾ in., 0% expo
Elevator: ± 5/8 in.,- ¾ in. , 0% expo
Rudder: ±1 in., 0% expo
General Flight Performance
>Stability. The P-51 is at home right side up or inverted. I like the realistic flight performance and sound of the props. Landings are just slightly in the intermediate skill ra
>Tracking. Good model design gives the Shangri La great tracking. The big rudder does pull the plane around to maintain coordination. It does look odd in the air though as in the turns the tail seems to be low, but that’s just the P-51.
>Aerobatics. This warbird is fully aerobatic. The 600kV motor gives you plenty of power, but not blazing speed or vertical performance.
>Glide and stall performance. The glide is not neutral with a slight inclination to the heavy side. You need to keep the power on during your landing approach. Stalls are not too quick but the left wing will drop.
This P-51 does a wonderful job of letting you fly a very scale-like rendition, but in an EPO foam format. The EPO is really flexible and durable; I tanked several approaches with no damage at all. The prop is also very durable. This is a great plane to get the feel of warbird without some of the harsh characteristics. It’s full of great features and with retracts you have it all!
Detailed high quality finish and decals
Retracts and flaps
EPO foam for durability
Radio: 6-channel 2.4GHz
Motor: 600kV Brushless
Battery: 14.8V 2200mAh 20C LiPo (supplied); PowerEdge 14.8V 2200mAh 30C (poweredgerc.com)
Prop: 14×9 4-blade
Model: Airfield P-51 Shangri La
Wingspan: 57 in.
Wing area: 577.13 sq. in.
Length: 49 in.
Weight: 70 oz.
Wing loading: 17.47 oz./sq. ft.
Radio incl’d: 6-channel w/ installed servos
Power incl’d: 14.8V 20C 2200mAh LiPo
Price: $229 (receiver ready); $199 (w/out transmitter, receiver & battery)
The tailwheel has a dedicated servo for actuation
The mechanical retracts are plastic, but extremely durable.
The huge spinner mates perfectly with the cowling to hide the 600kV brushless motor.
The battery has little room for movement but matched the necessary CG for the P-51 very well.