Top Flite P-51D Mustang Kit .80-.90, 65” Review

Review by Nicholas Turner, Staff Contributor

Equipment Used:

- O.S.65 AX ABL

- Robart Scale Wheels 3 1/4

- Robart Pneumatic Retracts

- Air Control Kit for Robart Retracts

- Robart Hinge Points for the flaps

- 100 psi hand pump and gauge

- Robart Robostruts for landing gear

Pros:

- Standoff scale P-51

- Options for fixed or retract gear

- Field presence

- Quality kit from Top Flite

- Straight forward build

Cons:

- Fixed LG option doesn’t look right for a Mustang while in flight

- Hard to retrofit retracts

- Noses over on landing if not on top of the plane

- Nasty tip stall characteristic in slow flight

- Scale tailwheel assembly makes it hard to access for tweaking if needed

Summary:

The Build

Like all Top Flite (Hobbico sub brand) balsa kits, the manual is very clear for each step with accompanying photos as needed. My dad opted to not build in the scale elevator balance tabs. Initially she was built with fixed landing gear. Like all balsa builds, there was a lot of carving and sanding to get the curves of a Mustang. The kit includes plastic guns for the wing LE, exhaust stacks, and a plastic bottom half for the cowl. The top is balsa built onto the airframe. She’s designed for an inverted mounted engine, but historically with glow engines this type of mounting is problematic. So we side mounted the .60 two stroke engine. This required cutting out appropriate holes in the balsa portion of the cowl for the engine head and needle valve. We’d attend the Smith Reynolds airport airshow regularly and there was a local Software Engineer who’d fly his full scale P-51 named Obsession. We loved the full scale color scheme and it was elected as the base CS. She’s covered in Monokote with matching paint on the plastic pieces as needed. The pilot is a full pilot figure, only using waist up. It’s a hollow rubber type stuffed with cotton balls to keep shape. I painted the figure with Testors model paints. We used the kit’s stock Big Beautiful Doll decals for markings. The one issue with the kit build is the scale tailwheel assembly. It’s in the bottom of the fuse and then sheeted around, thus if needing to make adjustments to the ball linkage you have to cut the plane open. I recommend making a removable hatch here. Retro fitting the wing for Robart air retracts was cumbersome. It really weakened the wing in the wheel well area. Highly recommend going with retracts first.

 

Flight

The Top Flite P-51 .60 kit is a typical warbird. If you try to take it off without enough airspeed she’ll torque over on the left wing tip in a heartbeat. If you gun and go for takeoff, she’ll torque on you. She really requires a scale like run while you’re working elevator and rudder to keep her straight and wheels down until she has enough airspeed to climb out. While in the air she’ll go where you point her to go with authority. Scale aerobatics are safe and easily performed with this Mustang. Landing requires some speed and flying her to the ground. As stated, too slow and she’ll snap over on the left wing tip. The flaps help slow her down some, but you’ll need to mix some down elevator with the flaps to keep her from ballooning too much. Since it’s a warbird, the glide ratio isn’t there like trainer planes or even the Great Planes .60 Extra 300S kit. You have to fly her to landing; monitoring throttle, elevator, rudder, and speed. Like most warbirds, the landing gear is back way from the wing leading edge. This causes warbirds to nose over on the ground (taxiing and landing, especially landing). One has to be on the elevator to keep her from nosing over but not lifting up and tip stalling. With the .60 two stroke and appropriate fuel tank, flight times can reach 18-20 minutes (discovered this when the clevis on the nylon pushrod being used for throttle pulled out during flight and the plane had to be flown at half throttle for this amount of time before dead stick landing could be performed). I will caution with the Robart air retracts that were retrofitted, many times on a hot summer day the air hose connectors will pop loose sitting on the ground. And on rough landings the struts bend easily as these are not Oleo struts that can absorb some shock.

 

Conclusion

The Top Flite P-51D Mustang kit .60-.90, 65” is a quality kit from a reputable kit company. This kit is definitely not for a first time balsa builder. I recommend having at least two balsa kit builds before attempting this build. She is a beauty at the field and in the air, but she’s a warbird that can bite. This plane is definitely not for a beginner. This plane is for the pilot with intermediate skills who can fly a variety of aircraft and can identify the tale-tale signs of a tip stall. I recommend this kit to someone who can build balsa planes and is looking for a scale-like performing Mustang. I have already told my dad I’m calling dibs on this P-51 if he gets rid of it or needs to downsize his hangar.