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By Steve Ciambrone

Name P-47D Thunderbolt
Aircraft Type Giant Scale
Mfg. By Top Flite/Great Planes Model Dist. Co., P.O. Box 9021, Champaign, IL 61826-9021. (800) 682-8948,
Mfg. Sug. Retail Price $429.99
Available From Retail Outlets
Wingspan 85 Inches
Wing Chord 15.6 Inches (Avg.)
Total Wing Area 1327 Sq. In.
Fuselage Length 75.5 Inches
Stabilizer Span 34 Inches
Total Stab Area 276 Sq. In.
Mfg. Rec. Engine Range 2.1-2.8 cu. in Glow, 41-70 cc Gasoline
Rec. Fuel Tank Size 32 Oz.
Rec. No. of Channels 6-7
Rec. Control Functions Rud., Elev., Throt., Ail.Flaps, Retract Gear
Basic Materials Used In Construction
Fuselage Balsa, Ply & Plastic
Wing Balsa & Ply
Tail Surfaces Balsa & Ply
Building Instructions on Plan Sheets No
Instruction Manual Yes (63 pages)
Construction Photos Yes
Radio Used Futaba Super 8 8UAFS
Engine Make & Disp. U.S. Engines 41 cc/18x10 prop
Tank Size Used 24 Oz.
Weight, Ready to Fly 356 Oz. (22 Lbs., 4 Oz.)
Wing Loading 38 Oz./Sq. Ft.
Well-engineered kit, wood quality, flying qualities.
Nothing noted.

The illustrious P-47D Thunderbolt was one of the premiere WWII fighter planes that helped to win the war for America and the Allied forces. Top Flite has produced a Giant Scale model of the WWII heavy iron fighter designed around US Engines 41 cc gasoline engine, although other engines can be used. The model is quite large with a wingspan of 85" and expected weight of around 21 lbs. The P-47D is intended for full control, the normal four controls, plus flaps and retractable main and tail landing gear. The model kit is also capable of being built with a bubble canopy or as a razor back version.

The P-47D is packaged in a large box measuring 6" x 16" x 49" and displays a photograph of the prototype model. When opening the box, as one would expect with any Giant Scale kit, there was a large quantity of material. The balsa and plywood parts were cleanly die-cut and neatly organized in the package to reduce damage. The smaller pieces and hardware were neatly bagged. The ABS cowling and other parts were of a suitable thickness. The clear plastic canopy was well protected wrapped in tissue paper. Most of the die-cut parts were stamped with a part number, and to also aid in identifying the parts is a reduced size drawing in the instruction manual of all the die-cut sheet patterns. Large decal sheets were provided, and included were the particular items to reproduce the "Tarheel Hal" paint scheme as pictured on the box.

The Top Flite P-47D includes four plan sheets which measure 39" x 50" in size. The drawings are very clear and well detailed. The construction manual provided has 64 pages with drawings and photographs detailing the construction sequence. Next to each step is a block so the modeler can check off each step when completed. I recommend this practice, especially on a big project like this since it will certainly be stretched out over a longer time period than a smaller model. The construction manual details and lists all the other items required to complete the model. The model is designed to accept the Robart retracts designed for this kit and the large retractable tail wheel also available from Robart. Reduced size copies of the plans are provided in the centerfold of the manual for reference. I found this very useful and pulled them out of the manual and kept the drawing handy while building. Throughout the manual there are sections called "Hot Tips" which give some form of construction technique relevant to the current task at hand. Also included are short paragraphs titled "P-47 Fact" which discuss some of the historical points of the model being built. I found this information very interesting and enjoyable while constructing the review model.

The first items built are the tail surfaces which are primarily balsa with some plywood for reinforcement. For all assembly Great Planes Pro CA and Epoxy were used. For high strength joints Great Planes Milled Fiberglass was mixed with epoxy. Jigs are used to ensure the parts are built straight and true. The tail surfaces are built with their corresponding control surface as one piece and then were separated after sheeting. This also ensures a warp-free assembly. After the tail surfaces are assembled and the top sheeted, the item is removed from the building board and placed upside down in the same building jigs, then the bottom is sheeted. Tip blocks are added and sanded to shape. The leading and trailing edges of the control surfaces are then added and shaped accordingly.

The fuselage is built in halves with the top first on the building board and then the bottom added to the top. This is the point in which I had to make the decision whether to build the bubble canopy or the razor back version of the P-47D. After paging through a copy of Squadron/Signal Publications' "P-47 Thunderbolt in Action" to find a color scheme, I decided to build the Razor back version since these tend to be modeled less than the bubble canopy version. At this time I ordered the razor back canopy from Top Flite and it arrived in short order. The building instructions clearly state how to build either version. The bubble canopy version is the easier one to build due to the lack of the concave compound curves which are present on the razor back version. At this time I also decided to make provisions for the Top Flite Cockpit kit which is available for this model. The cockpit kit allows the use of a 1/5 scale full body pilot which is also available from Top Flite.

The fuselage is basically a former and stringer construction, then is fully sheeted. Before the top half of the fuselage is removed from the building board, the horizontal stabilizers and vertical fin are installed onto the tail. This made alignment very easy since the surface of the building board is used as a reference. The top half of the fuselage was then removed from the building board and the bottom formers added. The fuselage at its deepest point measures 13" and this is where I started to get an idea of the large scale size of this model. The Robart Super Stand II was a great help to hold and stabilize the large size fuselage and was used throughout the construction of the model. With some of the stringers in place, the Robart retractable tail wheel was installed. Since the model was designed for the Robart unit, installation is a breeze. The Robart large pressure air tank was installed as directed just behind the cockpit in the pre-cut locations. The airtank was secured with Pacer Technologies ZAP-A-DAP-A-GOO instead of silicone. Pushrod tubes and a Du-Bro antenna tube were installed before the rest of the stringers were glued in and the bottom of the fuselage was completely sheeted. I decided not to build the review model with the intercooler doors open. These are provided in ABS for the modeler who chooses to use them.

4-40 control rods are supplied but no control horns, so Robart control horns were installed for the elevators and rudder. At this time the canopy was fitted to the fuselage and the razor back sanded to shape.

The wing is built flat on the building board. The ribs are supplied with tabs which provide the built-in washout. The wing is a typical built-up structure and was framed up quickly. Again, as with the tail surfaces, the control surfaces are built with the wing and separated later. The wing was sheeted on the top along with the control surfaces and then turned over to install the main retractable landing gear mounts and servo bays. Fiberglass was applied as a reinforcement in the landing gear area as directed. I did not run the servo wires or retract air lines at this time since with the servos removed there is generous access and wire routing was quite easy. The wing was joined and the fit of the two wing halves was very good, with just a little minor adjustment. Jigs for the wings were supplied to ensure proper alignment during the lower skin sheeting procedure. The lower skins are also applied to the control surfaces.

After sheeting was completed, the ailerons and flaps were cut from the wing. The leading edge was attached to the aileron and sanded to shape. The flap leading edges were attached, then the provided templates were used to get the proper flap leading edge shape. The flap hinges are designed to simulate Fowler style hinges using the large size Robart hinge points. This would normally require a difficult positioning of the holes needed for the hinges, but Top Flite provides a flap hinge drilling jig which makes the task quite easy. The servo hatches were fitted and the mounts sized for the servos. The landing gear bays were cut out and the gear installed, then I cut out the wheel wells. In the instruction manual it states the landing gear will stick out of the wing slightly when retracted, but Robart has reworked the original design for a scale look and they now fully retract into the wheel well. This now allowed the use of permanently installed gear doors which I put on. Also used on the review model was Robart's new machined aluminum wheels. When I brought them to show off to the other club members, they just drooled over them. The wing was now fitted to the fuselage and the fit was perfect.

The wing fillets use a 1/32" plywood base with a mixture of micro balloons and epoxy used as a filler for the final shape. A little extra work here and it really makes a difference.

The belly pan is built onto the wing while it is attached to the fuselage to ensure a proper fit and is sheeted like the rest of the model. I chose to use socket head nylon bolts instead of the wing bolts provided. I have found that it is easier to use a hex wrench down in the paper tubes than a straight screwdriver.

The ABS cowling was assembled and reinforced with fiberglass tape as directed. Top Flite provides a template of the engine baffle for the recommended US Engines 41. The ABS turbo-supercharger cover and the oil cooler shutters were glued to their respective positions on the fuselage.

After a final light sanding the review model was ready for covering. First a coat of Coverite Balsarite was applied to all the surfaces to be covered. This is not required for most iron-on films, but does add a bit more adhesion and I think leads to a better covering finish. I lightly sanded the model with 400 grit sandpaper to remove the little bumps and irregularities from the surface of the model. Coverite 21st Century film was used to cover the review model and 21st Century spray paint was used to paint all the plastic parts like the cowling. The kit's decals were used to decorate the model and worked great on the film surface.

The recommended engine for the Top Flite P-47D is the US 41 engine. The US 41 engine is a 41 cc 2-stroke gasoline engine. This engine comes equipped with a magneto and spring starter. The review model's engine was attached to a test stand and given a run-in period for approximately one hour. I found the engine quite easy to start using the spring starter so no electric starter was required. The engine was installed as recommended in the instructions using the Great Planes Large Engine Isolation Mount. This engine mount incorporates vibration dampening which minimizes the amount of engine vibration transferred to the rest of the plane. The engine's original muffler was used which only required the addition of brass tubes to the exhaust exits so the exhaust will vent outside the cowling. A Great Planes 24 oz. fuel tank was installed in the fuselage wrapped with foam, then secured with Velcro® straps. The Great Planes fuel tank is compatible with gasoline fuel. A Top Flite 18 x 10 Power Point wood propeller was used for the flight testing.

The radio installation in the Top Flite P-47D was quite easy since everything was designed in a logical fashion. The fuselage servos are all installed on a large plywood plate which is removable for access to the fuel tank. For all control surfaces, FMA S355M High torque metal gear servos were utilized. The rudder, tail wheel, right elevator, left elevator, right aileron, left aileron, right flap, and left flap each has one servo dedicated to its function. The FMA S300 Standard servos were used for the throttle, and retract gear valve. An FMA Fortress 8 channel dual conversion receiver was installed in the review model. With a total of ten servos installed in the review model, a high capacity FMA Sanyo 1800 mA receiver battery was used. Also installed was an FMA Heavy Duty switch harness which incorporates vibration isolation mounting of the switch. The transmitter used for the P-47D was a Futaba Super 8 computer radio (8UAFS) and was programmed with the recommended control throws.

When at the field the engine was adjusted for proper running with the cowling in place. A range check with the engine off and then running was conducted, but the results were unsatisfactory. I added Multiplex Ferrite cores to the radio servo wires that go to the long servo wires in the wing. These ferrite cores were placed as close to the receiver as possible. Long servo wires can often be a cause of short radio range. This cured the problem and resulted in a satisfactory range-check. An ignition engine can be a source of radio interference in a model and must always be range-checked with the engine running before a maiden flight.

The C.G. was checked and did not require any changes to the review model.

No more excuses could be thought of, so it was time to fly this bird. The US 41 kicked right over and was sounding pretty good. A final control surface check was completed. The Top Flite Giant Scale P-47D was taxied out onto the runway and lined up in the take-off position. While holding up elevator the throttle was advanced. When a little speed was built up and the elevator was released then the tail lifted from the runway. The wide stance landing gear of the P-47 helps to keep it straight on the runway and, after about 200', I started to apply pressure to the elevator stick, and the review model then had air under its wheels and was climbing soundly. At about 50' of altitude a downwind turn was initiated and the roll rate was very comfortable. The gear was then retracted and the model gained speed. The review model required only minor trim adjustments to fly straight and level. It felt really comfortable in the sky and subsequent flights were even more comfortable. The P-47D is capable of aerobatics prototypical of a WWII warbird. It does look best when tipping the nose down and making a high-speed pass down the field. If you start the pass a little off the runway centerline and then make the classic warbird "Banana" pass, holding the plane at a 45 degree roll angle, it sure looks great. This model is one impressive beast in the air. It took a while for this modeler to learn how to land this bird, but some of it was due to my limited flap landing experience. The P-47D can fly unbelievably slow with full flaps which are a great asset for this model.

This is certainly no beginner's kit and requires substantial building and flying experience. If you have not already noticed, Top Flite has every part of this model planned out so the first-time Giant Scale warbird builder can buy what is recommended and have a great model when completed. The Top Flite P-47D is a very well-engineered kit that is a joy to build and results in an excellent flying model.

Photos By Don Schelling. Reprinted with permission.
February, 2002 R/C Modeler Magazine
Editor: Patricia Crews

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