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ParkZone Wildcat Review

11/24/2010 by Gary Katzer

Copyright:© 2010 Horizon Hobby, Inc.

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     With the notable exception of the F4U Corsair, ParkZone has focused most of its design efforts on creating fantastic flying replicas of warbirds from the European theater of World War II. So it was pretty exciting news when they announced the Bind-N-Fly F4F Wildcat. Not simply because it was another Pacific theater warbird, but because it was a scale subject that hasn’t received a lot of attention from the vast majority of park flyer manufacturers out there.

Come along as we put the Wildcat through its paces on a brisk autumn day at Eli Field in Monticello, Illinois.

Fact Sheet
4F Wildcat
Manufacturer: ParkZone
Part Number: PKZ1980 (BNF); PKZ1975 (PNP)
Class/Type: 480-size brushless-powered Z-Foam™ park flyer
Target Audience: Intermediate to experienced RC pilots
Completion Level: Bind-N-Fly (Tested), Plug-N-Play

Test Items Used
JR X9303 2.4 9-Channel Programmable DSM2 Transmitter
ParkZone 3S 11.1V 2200mAh 25C Li-Po Battery (PKZ1029)

Historical Background - The Underdog of the Pacific
     I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog. I think that’s part of what makes Grumman’s F4F Wildcat such an appealing subject. It’s the plucky little fighter that could.
     From Pearl Harbor through 1942 the Wildcat was the best carrier-based fighter the U.S. Navy had in the Pacific. It was extremely rugged and had an armor-plated cockpit that protected its pilots. But these advantages came at a price. They made the Wild Kitty heavier, slower and less maneuverable than the nimble Zeros it faced. Wildcat pilots soon learned, however, that because the Wildcat was so much heavier than the Zero it could dive faster.
     By using slashing diving attacks and avoiding the tight turning dogfight at which the Zero excelled, skilled Wildcat pilots were able to rack up an impressive number of victories. Enough victories to thwart Japanese advances just long enough for the faster more powerful Hellcats and Corsairs to make it to the fight.

On The Bench
     The BNF version of the ParkZone F4F Wildcat comes out of the box with a 480-size 960Kv brushless outrunner, 18A ESC, four servos (2 aileron, 1 rudder and 1 elevator) and a Spektrum DSM2 sport receiver installed. A ParkZone 3S 1300mAh Li-Po and DC Li-Po balancing charger are included. Also included is an extra bind plug as well as an extra battery strap for use with larger 3S Li-Po batteries of up to 2200mAh. The PNP version is identically equipped, minus the battery pack, charger and receiver.
     The two most impressive scale touches, for me anyway, were the simulated retracts and the paint scheme. One of the big reasons I think the Wildcat hasn’t been attempted by too many RTF or ARF park flyer manufacturers is the landing gear. Its narrow stance and geometry is such that it would take a pretty good stick to keep it from ground looping during taxi, takeoff or landing. I’m betting it’s a little bit of an engineering challenge, too.
     ParkZone has bypassed all of these little hassles and still preserved the scale looks by making this Wildcat a hand launch park flyer with the landing gear modeled in the retracted position. A tough little belly skid is used for landing and it blends into the fuselage profile so well you don’t even notice it.
     As for the paint scheme, it is patterned after that of a Wildcat flown by Lt. Cmdr. Edward “Butch” O’Hare. O’Hare was the U.S. Navy’s first fighter ace as well as a Medal of Honor recipient for whom Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is named. The paint job consists of a flat blue finish on the top with unpainted white foam on the bottom. Decals depicting kill markings, nose art and squadron numbers are also applied.

All these little details add up to a model that would look great hanging on display if it wasn’t so much fun to fly.

Field Conditions
     Eli Field, home of the Monticello Model Makers, is easily one of the nicest flying sites anywhere in North America. Located in the heart of the Midwest, it is surrounded by picturesque prairie with uninterrupted views of sky from horizon to horizon. Field elevation is about 750 feet above mean sea level. Temps on this November afternoon were in the low 50’s with fairly steady 10 to 15 mph winds right down the runway.

     The fuselage of the F4F Wildcat has the perfect shape to make hand launching a breeze. I’d say the underside has an almost football-esque shape to it, providing the ideal surface area I needed to get a firm grasp and toss it into the wind. Once the F4F Wildcat was airborne it climbed quickly.

Power and Climb Rate
     The F4F Wildcat features a 480-size 960Kv brushless outrunner motor with a 9 x 6 prop. This setup matched with the lightweight Z-Foam airframe makes for a great thrust-to-weight ratio that will let you fly spirited warbird aerobatics. It also makes for a very respectable climb rate, not just for a warbird, but for any plane of this size.

Flight Characteristics
     As I mentioned in the video the wing loading of the F4F Wildcat felt lighter than other ParkZone warbirds like the Messerschmitt and the P-51. It will eagerly execute rolls, turns, loops and other maneuvers yet still has very docile slow speed manners. In all this is a very happy plane in the air that you can feel comfortable pushing to the limits while having a lot of fun.

Final Approach and Landing
     As a hand launch/belly land plane I had scoped out my landing area before I had even taken off. There was a nice patch of grass nearby that made the perfect landing spot for the Wildcat. On approach it’s very predictable, just as it had been throughout its entire flight. With the nose tacked into the wind I came in nice and level, giving the throttle a bump right before touchdown to keep the nose up a tad. Sitting there so pretty, it was just begging for a fresh battery and some additional flying time. So I obliged. Who am I to argue with such a well behaved plane?

Final Thoughts
     ParkZone continues to push the envelope in combining scale looks and details with exceptional performance and durability. The F4F Wildcat is no exception. Any intermediate to experienced pilot should be thrilled to have one of these in their fleet. Assembly took me about 30 minutes but that was simply because I spent a lot of time just sitting there inspecting all the cool little details. I couldn’t help but admire all the little details ParkZone has added as I was laying the parts out on the bench. Things like panel lines, a dummy radial, cowl flaps, the painted pilot figure; they all really punch up the realism. In all the Wildcat made for a great day of flying and fun. Now go get one.