- a longterm love affair with aeromodellers!
Why are rc warbirds so popular? It's an easy question to answer; the looks, charisma and characteristics of many classic fighter planes simply make them perfect radio control subjects, and warbirds always get attention on the flight line!
If you're unfamiliar with the word warbird, it's a general name given to fighter planes typically of the Second World War.
Having said that, a warbird can be any aircraft that was made to see action in any war, but the WWII fighters such as the North American P-51 Mustang, the Supermarine Spitfire, the Messerschmitt ME109, Focke Wulf FW-190 and the Vought Corsair F4U, for example, are by far the commonest planes referred to as warbirds.
World War One (WWI) warbirds include the Sopwith Camel and Pup, Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a, Albatros and Fokker DR.1 (triplane) to name a few.
Airplanes such as those named above have such a rich history attached to them, and although full size ones are now very rare, they have been immortalised in many ways - including the manufacture of rc warbirds!
Above: a fine 4 channel Messerschmitt Bf-109G foam electric
rc warbird from ParkZone (img © Horizon Hobby Inc.)
Some RC warbird examples
There is a healthy selection of rc warbirds to choose from these days, and they can be bought in every form possible; kit, ARF, RTF, gas, electric... They range from simple two channel planes to giant scale ones that have taken months and months to build.
At the very top level, the serious aeromodellers build world competition-winning warbirds with amazing scale detail; some I have seen at various shows just look like a real plane has been magically shrunken down in size, such is the level of detail.
The following video shows some action from the Warbirds Over The Rockies meeting, a hugely popular event...
But for anyone looking to buy their first rc warbird, and to 'scramble' in the least amount of time, an RTF (Ready To Fly) electric warbird is your best option. Some of the nicest and best value ones come from ParkZone; their electric warbirds are very popular with intermediate rc pilots.
Although several different manufacturers produce similar planes now, ParkZone led the way in giving us a good quality foam EP warbird. The ParkZone warbird range includes the planes shown below (imgs © Horizon Hobby Inc.)
P-51 Mustang BL
Are RC warbirds for beginners?
Despite the above examples being electric RTF rc airplanes, a warbird doesn't really make a suitable first plane.
Generally speaking, warbirds fly faster and aren't quite as stable as high wing trainers; this combination means that if you try and fly a warbird with no prior radio control flying experience, you're likely going to get into difficulties. It's far better to learn on a beginner plane, and then move on to a warbird as your second or third model, once you've got a few hours flying time under your hat.
Having said that, there is a glow plug powered Ready To Fly P-51 Mustang that's been designed as a trainer; the Hanger 9 PTS P-51 Mustang, shown below...
PTS stands for Progressive Trainer System and this particular rc warbird has been designed with the beginner in mind; it's been designed with certain features that make it capable of slower flying speed and more stable flight characteristics, just like a traditional rc trainer airplane.
The Hanger 9 PTS P-51 is a very good option if you're looking at getting in to gas powered rc airplanes, and want to start with a warbird!
Sound systems for electric RC warbirds
RC airplane sound systems have been around for a long time, but mainly only for larger IC airplanes. This is generally because 4" diameter speakers are used in such systems, and so the systems are heavy and bulky.
Thankfully now there is a smaller and lighter sound system available for smaller foam (and traditional balsa) electric warbirds, featuring authentic engine noises such as the Merlin and Allison engines, as well as gun and cannon sounds. You can learn more about this system on the Mr. RC Sound system page.
Flying rc warbirds is an exhilarating experience, and a great deal of fun. The majority of them have aileron control, which means smooth aerobatic performance is made possible as well as more definite directional control than having a rudder only. Traditional warbird maneuvers such as wingovers, low passes and victory rolls look great when flown smoothly.
If you've got some experience in radio control flying and are looking for a characteristic and exciting rc airplane to try next, try a warbird!