Phoenix Model A-26 Invader ARF
Impressive performance and looks in a rare subject
Impressive performance and looks in a rare subject
Chances are that many of you are unfamiliar with the Douglas A-26 Invader. This ground-attack and light bomber saw service from its introduction in World
War II well into the late ’60s. Despite being a capable aircraft, only about 2,400 were built, and it never quite gained the popularity it deserved. Thanks to Phoenix Model, this may very well change.
This roughly 1/9-scale model is built entirely out of balsa and light ply and is covered in Oracover film. It’s a large model that can be powered with either a pair of electric motors or internal-combustion engines (mounts for both and fuel tanks are included).
A full complement of hardware, including scale-type retractable landing gear, means that all you need to supply is the powerplant and control system. Don’t let the overall dimensions scare you; slide-on wing panels mean that you can still fit this big bird in all but the smallest cars.
An excellent instruction manual has the perfect mix of images and text to guide you from start to finish. There are exploded views of all components and parts, which help you visualize where everything goes. The
A-26 Invader is meant for intermediate modelers who are comfortable flying scale aircraft.
The box the A-26 comes in is an indication of how big the plane is going to be. I could literally lie down in it and close the lid. Everything is extremely well packed and protected, with all small parts packaged according to build sequence. Despite being a large airframe, it feels light in your hands. The Oracover is applied quite nicely, and seams are placed inconspicuously. Everything was taut, but it’s still a good idea to give it a once-over, just to make sure the film won’t sag when it gets hot out.
All hinges are flat CA type and come preinstalled but not glued in place. I like that because it lets me fine-tune the controlsurface side gaps. The single-bolt control horns are all mounted onto reinforced spots on the control surface and have molded tabs to prevent any rotation. Fork/slot-type clevises let you remove any potential pushrod slop.
Overall assembly of the Invader is straightforward thanks to the well-fitting parts. The only snag I noticed was with the tail-cone cover, which had a small piece of light-ply bracing that was blocking it from passing over the rudder torque rod. It’s obvious that it just needed to be trimmed away, but it wasn’t mentioned in the instructions.
Whether you decide to go gas/glow or electric, the manual covers both installations in great detail. One of only two places you need to use any epoxy for assembly is the cowl-mount standoff rings (the other being the horizontal tail). They allow quick-and-easy mounting of the cowls and allow for lots of air movement to provide cooling.
Radio installation is clear-cut. All openings and mounts are a perfect fit for standard-size servos, and if you use Futaba’s S.Bus system, you can seriously minimize how much cabling has to be run to the receiver.
Of course, no warbird is complete without a nice set of retracts, and Phoenix Model doesn’t disappoint. The air-operated, all-aluminum and sprung tricycle landing gear mount without any fuss, and the operation is smooth, with positive lock in both
the up and down positions. I had a chance to try them on a less-than-perfect grass strip, and they didn’t wince a bit. One nice feature of the nose gear is that it has a single vertical centering spring, so even if there is a bit of slack in the pull-pull cables, it stays straight while taxiing.
IN THE AIR
No matter how many planes I’ve test-flown, I always get a few preflight jitters (yes, even for simple foamies), and the more I like the plane, the more noticeable they are. Well, I must really like the A-26 because I haven’t felt this way in quite some time.
As always, I double-check the center of gravity before any test flight, and Phoenix made it easy to do so with a handy jig that slips onto the joiner tube at the fuselage. With everything a go, the throttles were advanced and the big Invader rolled down the runway, the tricycle gear keeping things right on centerline. Once flying speed was achieved, it lifted off and started the climbout to a safe altitude. One thing to remember with these warbirds is that you have to fly them on the wing; they are not overpowered sport planes that lift off in a couple of feet and have unlimited vertical.
Landing a plane like this does take just a bit of planning, just as full-scalers do. Dropping the flaps and gear slows things down nicely, and the spring-loaded gear makes anything but the most ham-fisted landings look smooth. As expected, my jitters were unwarranted.
GENERAL FLIGHT PERFORMANCE
Stability: With a typical scale warbird wing loading, the A-26 doesn’t get thrown around by gusts as much, so it looks and feels stable. Tracking: There is a lot of tail area to keep the Invader going where you point it. It likes having
a bit of coordinated rudder in the turns—again, typical for this type of plane.
Aerobatics: The A-26 looks fantastic doing staple warbird maneuvers, such as loops and wingovers.
Glide and stall performance: The A-26 has some momentum to it, so the glide is deceptively flat until you hang out the gear and flaps. I did perform a few straight-ahead power-off stalls from which it recovered just fine, but don’t let it get low and slow in a turn.
As long as you remember that this is a scale warbird and fly it with that in mind, you will enjoy how the Phoenix Model A-26 Invader performs. Its stance on the ground and in the air is stunning, and there is not much that compares to the sound of a set of props at full song on a low fly-by.
Here is the Phoenix A-26 Invader as it comes out of the box: a nice scheme that’s begging for some personalization. I’ll detail how I dolled up my A-26 in a future issue.
The air-operated retracts are nicely machined, and the suspension is robust enough to handle rougher strips. Of note are the spring hose reinforcements, which prevent kinks that could develop into cracks and leaks.
Rudder control is via a pull-pull cable affair. This makes for positive control and keeps things light at the rear, preventing any unnecessary balancing weight. A removable tail cone allows any future adjustments if necessary.
One beauty of electrics is the simple and quick installation of the powerplant. The provided standoff mount is drilled perfectly for the RimFire .32 motor backplate. Castle’s Talon 90 speed controls use a clip-mount system, so you don’t have to rely on tape or straps. I hope this trend takes off.
Field assembly is speedy thanks to the simple wing-retention system and quick-release retract T air connectors. Battery access is made easy with the removable canopy hatch, and there is plenty of room in there for just about any-size battery you’d like to use.