1/14 sport scale model kit
I recently purchased this Top-Flite DC-3 kit and have been working on it evenings and weekends. Unfortunately, I can't spend a lot of time building this web site because it takes away from my airplane building time....so here's a few words, 'cause the pics speak for themselves.
If you have pics of either full scale or model DC-3's or C47's and would like to add them to this page, or if you flew these planes and would like to tell your story, please email them to me and I will be happy to post them.
Ok, so here is the real story.....
I walked into the local hobby center to pick up some odds and ends. Behind the counter on the back wall are shelves, three high, that run the length of the store and display all of the R/C aircraft kits. Naturally, one must peruse the shelves to see if something new has arrived. Directly behind the cash register, at eye level, the Top Flite Douglas DC-3 kit was displayed. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the kit and had to know more.
The clerk smiled, and although no words had been exchanged, he brought the kit down from the shelf and set it on the counter for me to view up close. There is something about the DC-3 that finds that soft spot in every aviation buffs heart, you just have to love it, there is no choice!
Thoughts of my wife’s punishment for bringing home another airplane rushed through my head. I shook my head and said "I just can’t"..... As I reached the front door of the shop I stopped, did a 180, and took another look at the kit still sitting on the counter. The clerk laughed out loud and said, "Will that be cash or charge?"
On the trip home I began rehearsing my story for the evening inquest. Thoughts of "It just jumped into the truck, honest honey" and "I’m just gonna try it on, I’ll return it tomorrow" ran through my head. When I reached my domicile, my loving wife was standing in the driveway waiting to see what I bought this time. Do they have radar or what? I carried the box past her and exclaimed "I just had to have it!" and kept on walking straight to the shop.
I opened the kit, removed the instruction manual, and closed the box again. Obviously I needed to clean a few projects off the bench to make room for this experience. So the first evening was spent cleaning the shop and reading the instruction manual cover to cover.
On the second day, I took the instruction book to work with me, and during break time, I formulated a shopping list of supplies that would be needed. I knew that the Eastern Airlines format would not work for me and I am not a warplane buff.... obviously some research was in order.
On my way home I stopped at the hobby store for the supplies, ordered the retracts, and found a book, C-47 Skytrain from Squadron Signal Publications. After reading this book from cover to cover, I decided to use this image from the back cover for my subject, now this was more my style, even if it was military.
So the building began, in the background I could hear my wife telling my daughter that she should take out an ad in the paper for a new father.... it fell on almost deaf ears. I found the instruction manual to be well written, a trifle overkill in some areas and vague in some of the more important areas. The wood was above average as kits go, the plywood diecuts could be improved. Having built several laser cut models previously, my opinion is extremely biased.
The tail feathers went together quickly, I built the rudder and elevator according to the scale configuration. I’ll talk more about the scale issue later. The basic fuselage went together easily, although I didn’t care for the pushrod design. I feel that the model could use some improvements here.
Joining the tail feathers to the fuselage was an easy task, but beware of the excitement factor when you reach this milestone. You could easily lose several hours of precious building time while you bath in self admiration.
I decided not to install the hatch / removable tail cone, but instead went for the permanent installation. Beware that the model was tail heavy without these goodies.
I permanently mounted the cabin and did a superb job of feathering and blending. Unfortunately the nose cone was too small and on further examination I discovered that the front of the cabin was not sitting on former F1. I had to cut the cabin from the fuse and redo the entire assembly. Beware that the cutlines on the plastic are not final, they are only a guide. The second installation was not as pretty as the first time....Oh well!
I decided to cover the fuse before tackling the wing. There was no difficulty adding the wing saddles and fairings later.
The wing assembly is much more complicated. I had the retracts and lights to contend with on top of an already complicated structure. Oh, didn’t I mention lights? There is a rotating red beacon on the vertical stab, a white tail light in the tail cone, red and green wing tip lights, and two landing lights. A definite attention grabber.
To complicate things further, I decided to use the newly released YS FZ53 motors which meant using different motor mounts and doing some minor hacking on the engine nacelles. The throttle linkage was probably the biggest pain for this conversion.
I decided to place the receiver, light controller, and two battery packs in the fuse. This turned out to be a very smart move. The wing is stuffed full of servos, wires, fuel tanks, air hoses and on and on. It was truly amazing that all this stuff could be packed so tightly and still get the sheeting on. I used two mass termination connectors, a 16 contact connector for all the servos and a 4 contact connector for the lights.
The flaps definitely require excellent craftsmanship. fortunately they are under the wing so the critics didn’t really notice the imperfections. The ailerons were built in the scale configuration. About halfway through the first aileron I began wondering if it was worth the effort and by the time these surfaces were covered, I regretted spending the extra hours, the ribs are hardly noticeable up close and definitely get lost at a five foot viewing.
I used Monokote and LusterKote paint for finishing the model. I had used the paint on several other models and really liked it better than the other brands. The orange paint was a disaster. The paint was not an even spray, I guess it is best described as "Spraying Cottage Cheese". Fortunately the only place I had to use it was on the tail cone. I had checked with several other stores and they all had reports of the same problem with the orange paint.
The passenger windows and custom lettering were cut from vinyl. These are applied in a long strip so everything is easily registered.
Everything on the model is completed except for the engine cowls and test flights. Tuning the engines has proved difficult, partly do to the inverted mounting and mostly because I forgot how to program this computer radio..... tonight I’ll drag out the manual and re-read the sections on mixing.... a modeler’s life can get complicated!
I have received many emails about this page and I thank all of you for dropping a note. Some thoughts:
The model has working flaps and retracts as outlined in the optional sections of the instructions. They are a lot of work but worth the extra effort. The quality of the kit was very good. Personally I feel that for the amount of money that the kit costs, the manufacturer should have supplied the extra die cut pieces for both retracts and fixed gear. This would have saved many hours of interpreting instructions and fixing mistakes......
I have added scale like lighting and a pair of YS-FZ53 engines mounted inverted. Hopefully the fuel pumps will minimize the fuel problems that the manufacturer describes when the plane is in a banking attitude using the OS brand of engines. (The top engine in the bank runs lean while the lower engine runs rich resulting in a change in RPM which creates a yaw problem.)
There was considerable surgury to the nacelles to accomodate the YS-53s but the added power should compensate for the additional payload of the lighting system. Time will tell......
If anyone has further documentation on the 048892 subject that I have chosen, It would be greatly appreciated, especially the wing detail and the bottom side views.
Today I took the plane to the flying field to tuneup the engines and evaluate the gauk factor......
all thats left is the test flight and then fitting and painting the cowls....
My buddy George is the Tail Anchor, Tru Cheek is the Master Mechanic, and I'm the one in the middle doing the sweating! My TwinStar is watching intently...Do airplanes get jealous???
The test flight was NOT a major success, shortly after takeoff, the engines drifted and were no longer in sync, I was fighting an airplane that had not been trimed, substantial yaw from the uneven engines, and pure terror!
Finally I got the plane trimmed out so it was reasonably stable. It seemed very pitch sensitive, but possibly the elevators were set too sensitive, or the CG may have been on the raggedy edge.
I setup for a landing but the approach was much too fast so I tried again...still too fast... I climbed to a safe altitude, pulled the throttles back and deployed the flaps. To my surprise, the pitch change was not very radical and with a slight change in elevator trim the ship seemed stable.
The next landing approach with full flaps was still too high so I throttled up for a go around. One engine responded but the other was sluggish. The slow airspeed, combined with sudden yaw left me in a predicament. I instantly responded with cross controls and righted the plane and set it down in the tall weeds south of the runway.
Some slight damage to the wingtips was incurred, probably about an hours work in all. One of the retracts was tweaked and will require some alignment...where did I put that hammer?
Some After Thoughts....
After a good night's sleep, some hot coffee, I spent some time evaluating the previous day's events. I also wanted to place blame elsewhere. In the Model Aviation magazine, Oct '98 issue, the Tower Hobby Ad for the DC-3 reads "Today's most user-friendly introduction to twin engine flight and true scale construction."
This is my 3rd twin engine model, the 1st was a scatch built flying boat with 108" wingspan using a pair of OS 70's and weighed a wopping 23 pounds. The 2nd was the Hobbico Twin Star powered by a pair of OS 25 FP's and finally the DC-3.
User-Friendly Introduction???? I don't think so! This kit is for a very experienced modeler and requires real finese and construction skills to get a great result, It is not a beginners kit. Although every single behavior that the DC-3 exhibited during this 1st flight was CLEARLY discussed in the 1st 5 pages of the instruction manual, only an experienced pilot with a bag full of lucky charms had a chance at saving this bird. Everything that could go wrong did and believe me it was a handfull! I feel very fortunate that only minimal damages were incurred. Also one should realize from the onset that this is an expensive airplane and the completed model can easily reach the $1,500 to $2,000 price range, depending on what goodies you decided to install.
All things considered, I am glad that I built this plane, the finished result is something to be proud of, and the respect that your fellow modeler's exhibit is quite nice!