eRC Spitfire review
Micro rc airplanes have come a long way in a short time and the eRC Spitfire is one of the most recent (at time of writing, early 2010) to hit the shops.
eRC is a brand manufactured for and distributed by Hobby Lobby International of the USA and their micro warbirds are a good reflection on what micro-sized rc components have made possible in recent times, as well as the popularity of such rc airplanes to both experienced and beginner pilots; it's very easy to understand the appeal of being able to buy a fully controllable micro warbird that can be flown indoors as well as out!
At the time of writing (June 2010) the eRC Spitfire is one of only two micro warbirds in this range, with a P-51 Mustang being the other, but writing on the side of the box suggests more warbirds on the way, with the next possibly being an FW-190.
What's in the eRC Spitfire box?
As has become 'the norm' with micro and ultra-micro RTF electric rc airplanes, the polystyrene packaging around the plane is good and doubles up as a very adequate transport box with everything being held in place by removable chunks of styrene - no risk of any movement and damage there!
The lower right corner of the box is home to the transmitter which, has to be said, is very cheap and plasticy in its feel but that's not at all surprising given the price of these planes. The Tx's saving grace is that it's 2.4GHz, another nice reflection on how the hobby is changing - it's good to see 2.4 gig systems being sold with even the cheapest of RTFs!
The receiver in the Spitfire is already bound to the transmitter but in the event of it not being bound there are instructions in the manual on what to do; the binding process involves quickly depressing the two throttle trim buttons simultaneously, the ailerons and elevators should then confirm a successful binding by moving.
The transmitter doubles up as the charger for the single cell Li-Po, in the same way as the infrared micro helicopters (Picoo-Z etc.) are charged, but personally I prefer to save the Tx battery strength (4 AA cells are supplied for the Tx) for flying and not charging - given the popularity of these Li-Po cells nowadays there are several different options when it comes to charging them which anyone with any of the micro/ultra-micro aircraft will be familiar with. It makes a refreshing change that in a hobby full of non-standardised components, these single cell Li-Pos have indeed been standardised and so are fully interchangeable between chargers such as those supplied with, for example, ParkZone's Ultra-Micro range, the FlyZone Playmate, the E-flite Blade mCX helicopters etc. etc.
On the note of the Li-Po cells, eRC supply two identical 130mAh cells which is also a refreshing change from the lone cell normally provided. What with doubling up on the cells and the Tx charging cable, they've clearly gone for the "charge while you fly" approach which is a great idea. If you are going to charge from the Tx though, I would suggest carrying a spare set of 4 AA cells with you to replace the ones in the Tx should they start to fail.
Finally in the box is a black plastic display stand, in two pieces that clip together. This is a nice touch because the detailing on the Spitfire is enough to make it resemble a well built plastic kit and as such is very worthy of being on display when not being flown!
eRC Spitfire details
And so to the Spit itself...
The detailing is surprisingly good for such a cheap RTF, with a nominal amount of panel lines having been moulded in to the foam along with some rather shallow exhaust ports. There's a clear moulded canopy and the Spit's proportions seem scale enough. The green and grey camouflage colour scheme, while not completely accurate, is close enough to that of the full size Mk.IX Spitfire that it replicates, ZD-B (MH434).
Underneath the wing are the two characteristic air scoops and between those is a removable belly hatch with air intake cover; this hatch is held in place with a small plastic tab at the rear and two tiny button magnets at the front which locate on to a thin metal strip on the leading edge underside of the wing.
The eRC Spitfire is supplied with fixed landing gear which is, it has to be said, rather spindly. I've removed mine for the sake of scale authenticity in the air, besides which one leg refused to stay stuck to the underside of the wing, the double-sided tape not quite doing its job as it should!
But credit where credit's due and you have to hand it to the guys at eRC for making the effort to produce a (semi) scale-looking undercarriage with moulded spokes on the hub and paper oleo covers true to shape! There's no argument though that the undercarriage is a bit, er, nasty and I wouldn't like to say how it performs for take offs and landings - possibly OK, but I'm leaving mine off.
Under the hood of the eRC Spitfire micro warbird sits a neat little PCB that plays host to receiver, ESC and both linear servos; each one (aileron and elevator) consisting of nothing more than several thin nylon gears and a tiny motor to drive them, the type of motor commonly found on the tails of the aforementioned infrared micro helicopters. The gear and motor arrangements hang off each end of the board, one above and one below.
The control surfaces are connected by way of very thin gauge wire, the elevator using a very small control horn but with the ailerons using a different method; the complete leading edge of each aileron is connected directly to a wire rod which in turn is connected, via a horn, to the perpendicular control rod coming off the servo horn directly mounted on the largest gear. The system seems to work very well, but I wouldn't like to have to make any adjustments!
Chocks away, Ginger!
My removal of the undercarriage no doubt had a small effect on the Spit's Centre of Gravity and unfortunately the manual makes no mention whatsoever of the intended point of balance. As a result my Spitfire was decidedly tail heavy - not by much, but enough to give it some interesting flight characteristics. A small metal pin in the nose soon sorted this though, and the characteristics improved enough to make the Spit a nice little bird to have some fun with.
As I thought though, the cheapy transmitter with its toy-like feel to the sticks give a more 'on/off' feel to the controls than smooth proportional control (although they are fully proportional) and this is reflected in some quite jerky movements in the air. No biggie though, and zooming this micro warbird around the sky is a great deal of fun! Flight times have so far been around ten minutes or slightly less with the supplied 130mAH cell, but I've got some 180mAh cells lurking somewhere.
The power is somewhat limited as you can imagine from such a small motor, but the outdoor propeller option does make a slight difference and my Spitfire just about managed a loop after a dive in to it.
Below is a very poor vid of the Spit's maiden flight, I'll replace it with a better one soon...
eRC Spitfire - worth the money?
In short, absolutely! You can't really complain when you're buying a completely RTF micro warbird with 2.4GHz radio and two cells for the price that these things are going for. OK, the quality isn't tremendously high but in my opinion it's really only the transmitter that lets everything down but, again, for the money I have no complaints and would recommend one of the eRC micro warbirds - the Spitfire or the P-51 - to anyone looking for some low cost WWII action.
If you have a fair size garden or plot to play in, or your local park is a bit on the small size, then I'd go so far as to say that one of these rc planes is almost essential, and when a German fighter joins the range then I'm sure they'll be many micro-dogfights going on around the world!
All in all a great value package indeed.