The Focke-Wulf Fw-190 was a German single-engine/single-seat fighter plane designed by Kurt Tank in the late 1930s, used extensively in World War II. In addition to its well-known counterpart, the Messerschmitt Bf-109, the Fw-190 became the backbone of the Luftwaffe’s fighter plane force. In this review I’m testing out one of the less expensive mid-size Fw-190 models on the market, the HobbyKing Focke Wulf Fw-190 (1200mm). It is sold in a plug-n-fly package, also sold elsewhere under the lesser known TopRC hobby brand. Read on to find out how well it went together and how it flies!
With this particular plug-n-fly format Fw-190, the motor, ESC, servos and propeller are all included. To complete the setup, a 2200mAh 3S battery and 6 channel radio receiver are required. I picked up my Fw-190 from the HobbyKing UK warehouse during a sale event at the end of 2015 for £93 not including domestic shipping fees.
This Fw-190 is constructed from factory painted EPO foam, having a wingspan of 1200mm, a length of 1100mm and a flying weight of 1600g (depending on battery weight). The completed plane as reviewed here had the following specifications:
- 1x DAT brushless 3511 size 750 KV motor (included with PNF version)
- 1x Unbranded 12×8 three blade propeller (included with PNF version)
- 1x Unbranded 40A brushless ESC (included with PNF version)
- 6x HobbyKing 9g servos (included with PNF version)
- 1x Overlander 2200mAh 3S SuperSport LiPo Battery (via local dealer)
- 1x Hitec Optima 7 2.4GHz radio receiver (via local dealer)
In addition to the above, the TopRC Fw-190 includes electronically sequenced retractable undercarriage, split flaps, and navigation LED lighting on the wing tips. This particular take on the Fw-190 is painted in the colour scheme of Christophe Jacquard’s FlugWerk 190.
As is usually the case with planes I receive from HobbyKing, the Fw-190 arrived in its own retail packaging box, which was in turn safely transported in a larger heavy-duty brown cardboard box. Delivery of the plane took 2 days after placing the order with HobbyKing, and everything arrived in one piece.
Opening the brown shipping carton revealed this well illustrated box showing the specifications of the plane and a feature overview. The HobbyKing logo is seen both on the box and the paperwork inside - this would say “TopRC” on the Chinese export version of the kit.
Looking at the opposite side of the retail box, an unbranded R/C transmitter is pictured, but not included in this PNF version. Presumably this model is also sold in a RTF (ready to fly) version which includes the transmitter, but it is not sold in this format on the HobbyKing website.
The airframe and accessories are packaged in a moulded polystyrene container which does a decent job of keeping everything secure during shipping. The main wing on the Focke Wulf Fw-190 has quite a lot of dihedral, meaning the wing does not sit flat inside the box, but is kept in position with various extrusions on the polystyrene container.
Removing the main wing from the box reveals the main fuselage, rear stabiliser fin and accessories. The fuselage is equally well held down inside the box. All parts were sufficiently wrapped in plastic bags or bubble wrap.
The photo above shows the various parts that are included in addition to the fuselage and main wing. Unlike most HobbyKing plane kits, this model did not include any glue. However it did include a basic screwdriver and spanner for assembly.
HobbyKing provide a nice historical introduction for the Fw-190 on their product page, which I have reproduced below:
When the Fw-190 first appeared in the sky’s over France in 1941, it proved to be a shock to the RAF, totally outclassing the Spitfire Mk V. The radial engined fighter was totally at odds with European thinking of the time, radials were considered to be inferior to liquid cooled “in-line” engines due to excess drag, the Fw-190 quickly made engineers re-think this idea. When a Fw-190 was accidentally landed intact in England by a rather lost Luftwaffe pilot, British engineers & test pilots were given the chance to study it extensively, the ‘190 was found to be highly advanced in many respects and many of its features were to find their way into later Allied aircraft.
For a sub-£100 scale model, this Fw-190 is packed with features. A retractable undercarriage is pre-fitted to the main wing, which includes an integrated electronic door sequencing board and simply needs to be connected to a 2 position switch on the radio system. There are red and green navigation LED’s installed in the wing tips, which are powered by connecting them to a spare receiver channel. A third LED is installed in the rudder, but this is not connected to anything and only for decoration. This Fw-190 has been designed to accept the ubiquitous 2200mAh 3S lithium polymer battery, which will appeal to the casual hobbyist.
The heavy-duty plastic nose cowling and equipment bay cover make for what feels like a surprisingly nose-heavy model, but using the recommended battery it balances properly.
The elevator and rudder control surfaces are connected to the fuselage using factory fitted hinges, while the ailerons are standard ‘foam hinges’. The split flaps on the main wing appear to be fixed to the wing with tape.
The core assembly process is fairly quick and easy, consisting of installing the tail stabiliser, propeller, nose cone and the remote control electronics.
The included black and white instruction manual is nothing exciting to look at, but perfectly adequate to guide the builder through the assembly process. The only genuinely useful page of the manual is the left-hand page in the picture above.
The main wing has the servos and retracts already fitted and includes labels on the numerous servo leads to make identifying them easier. Visible at the front of the wing is the retractable gear control mechanism.
The paint and decals used on this Fw-190 aren’t going to win any scale model competitions, but I was still very impressed with the quality of the finish given the price. There are lots of small details included in the foam which add to the scale effect.
A single servo embedded in the wing actuates both the landing bay doors and the retractable wheels.
This photo shows the underside of the main wing, where the split flaps and undercarriage can be seen. A split flap design means that the top surface of the wing does not deflect when the flaps are lowered. The flap surfaces are only be held in position using adhesive tape, but they seem to be secure enough. The gear doors are nicely designed and the whole undercarriage assembly is contoured so that is sits flush with the curved wing when retracted.
One minor detraction from the model is that the pre-fitted servo clevises did not have any ‘safety sleeves’ fitted to stop them working loose during flight. I would recommend adding a couple of millimetres of fuel tubing (or purpose made clevis sleeves) to the control rods for extra safety.
The DAT 3511 brushless outrunner motor is positioned quite deeply in the nose of the plane and a long shaft extends from the motor to the area where the three-bladed propeller is attached. A semi-scale plastic cooling fan is also mounted on this shaft. When assembling this model it is important to check the motor housing for any stray motor cables, as there have been reports on the Web of loose cables becoming worn-through.
On the subject of semi-scale features, the tail fin on the fuselage of this model is considerably thicker than on a real Focke Wulf Fw-190. Compared to the rear of the fuselage, the tail fin barely tapers inwards at all. There has been quite a lot of discussion about this on the RCGroups owners thread forum post, with at least one owner reworking the tail fin to make it thinner.
The cockpit of the plane is finished in plain black plastic, and includes the dashboard and pilot’s seat, but no pilot. The clear plastic canopy on this model does not remove easily as it is glued in position, which is a shame as this would otherwise make a great opportunity for custom scale detailing.
Generally the paint finish is very good but I did notice while handling the plane during assembly it started to flake away where I had held the foam too tightly. For the ultimate quality finish, the water based polyurethane (WBPU) coating method could be used to repaint the model to a higher standard.
The internal equipment area is split in to two compartments, one at the front for the battery and a smaller one towards the rear for the radio control receiver. The servo leads from the wing are routed through a hole in the bottom of the fuselage to the radio receiver area. The hinged plastic cover for these compartments clicks in to position when closed, but is also kept secure with a rotating latch. Fitting in the Hitec Optima 7 receiver was a bit of a squeeze but not a problem. Equally, the battery bay is a good fit for the common Turnigy 2200mAh 3S battery packs.
A look at the underside of the fuselage shows the hole where the servo leads must be routed through each time the wing is fitted, and the two servos for elevator and rudder control. I loosened the screws on the two servo collets to allow the control rods to be centred later when the radio control system is being set up.
As this Fw-190 has a very stubby non-scale landing gear, there is not enough forward rake in the undercarriage to prevent the plane from frequently nosing over on the ground. As I did not want to completely replace the retractable undercarriage with a longer system, I decided to bend the tail wheel closer to the fuselage and reduce the diameter of the foam wheel tyre by trimming it with a knife. This won’t be as effective as replacing the main undercarriage with a longer one, but it should have a positive effect on the plane’s ground handling characteristics.
The rear horizontal stabiliser is pushed in to position through the hole in the fuselage. It is a very tight fit once centred, so there is no need for glue, which would explain why there was none included in the accessories pack for the model.
One of the elevator control horns is pre-fitted to the stabiliser, but the other one needs to be screwed in to position after everything has been put together. According to the manual, two small screws are included with the kit for this purpose, but my model only came with one. Luckily I found a very similar small screw in my spare parts box. I decided to reinforce all of the control horns with some Deluxe Materials Foam-2-Foam glue, as they are only screwed in to EPO foam with very short screws. After fitting the control horn, the elevator and rudder control rods must be attached to the horns.
In a happy coincidence, the servo lead numbering scheme used on the model was the same as the default channel assignments on my Hitec radio system. The last receiver channel for the plane is not strictly required, as it is only used to provide 5V power to the wing LED’s.
At this stage I loosely fitted the main wing to the fuselage to bind the radio receiver and check that all servos were operating properly. Despite how it might appear in the photograph above, the retractable undercarriage does not have any suspension dampers fitted.
Once I had verified that the plane’s servos were all working and moving in the correct direction, I removed the wing to centre the elevator and rudder servo rods. While manually positioning the control surfaces in a neural position, the collet screws are clamped down on the rod. It is important to have the radio control system turned on when doing this so that the servos are properly centred. It was neccessary to increase the end points of the servos as seen in the photo to achieve a good amount of travel.
The wing slots in to the fuselage using two plastic rods at the front and two long flat head screws at the back. The optimum centre of gravity is stated in the instruction manual as 75mm back from the leading edge (closest to the fuselage body). There are no factory markings on the wing to indicate the centre of gravity position.
The fully assembled model looks great and was easy to assemble too. The generous amount of space in the cockpit area could probably be used to house a head-tracking FPV camera system for a bit of scale FPV entertainment, it’s just a shame that the canopy is glued to the fuselage.
I undertook the maiden flight of this Fw-190 about two weeks ago on a cold but sunny winter afternoon. There was a fair bit of wind on the flying field, gusting at up to 12mph. Scale warbirds are known for being quite difficult to fly, given they are designed to look like real planes and not necessarily provide the best flight characteristics, so I was a little apprehensive about trying to undertake the maiden flight in gusty winds.
Attempting to take off from a short grass runway was a complete non-starter, resulting in almost immediate nosing over of the plane with full up elevator and flaps applied. To be fair to the Focke Wulf Fw-190 model, I fully expected this as our grass runway had not been mown for quite a long time and the ground was very wet and soft. I opted to hand launch the Fw-190 with the help of an assistant.
Using the recommended 2200mAh 3S battery, the Fw-190 had plenty of power to climb out from a standing hand launch. After doing a couple of circuits with the plane I realised that I needn’t have worried about the plane being a handful, as it flew very well. The 75mm centre of gravity point seemed to be working well, with no nasty stall characteristics or ‘tail dragging’. A few clicks of trim to dial in properly levelled flying and the plane was demonstrating great flying characteristics, performing fast rolls and loops with ease. I was even able to glide the plane at times when flying in to a headwind.
The plane could certainly be a bit faster, and many people have upgraded to a higher rated ESC to use 4S batteries, but I still found the plane to have enough power for flying at a decent speed in a moderate wind. Vertical climb performance is reasonably strong but not unlimited.
For the maiden flight I did not adjust the travel rates or radio exponential settings, and whilst it was controllable, it was a little too sensitive for my liking. After the maiden flight I adjusted the remote control transmitter to use 95% rates and 33% exponential, which made the plane easier to fly smoothly.
To sum up, this 1200mm Focke Wulf Fw-190 is great fun to fly and very good value. The paint finish and decals are to a good standard for a model costing less than £100. The scale design is also good, although not perfect, with the stubby landing gear and oversized tail fin detracting slightly from the overall look.
The model is surprisingly straightforward to fly for a small low-wing scale warbird, with the 750KV motor and three blade propeller providing a respectable amount of power. The plane can handle a bit of wind with no drama, and has great stall characteristics. The biggest drawback of this model is the short undercarriage which makes take off and landings on less than perfect runways problematic.
In terms of longevity, HobbyKing do not sell any spare parts for this model, however local model shops and other retailers do seem to be able to obtain parts for the TopRC branded version of this plane. For example, Century UK sell identical replacement three-bladed propellers for the Fw-190.
This model offers the more experienced or adventurous R/C modeller quite a lot of opportunities to improve upon the standard design. Two popular modifications for this plane are to upgrade to a 4S power system for more speed and to upgrade the retracts to longer ones (to increase forward rake). Other ideas include fitting a scale pilot figure, repainting the model using a WBPU coating, and adding a sound effects module.
If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive scale warbird, or your first warbird model, then the HobbyKing/TopRC 1.2m FW-190 is definitely worthy of inclusion on your shortlist. I’ll certainly be keeping this plane in my hangar for the foreseeable future.
- HobbyKing Focke Wulf FW190 1200mm PNF Store Page
- HobbyKing Focke Wulf FW190 Product Manual (PDF)
- Top-RC FW190 1200mm Product Thread (RCGroups)
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