P-47 Little Chief by Bob Frey

Bob Frey has competed in the highest levels of RC scale modeling for many years and often with a P-47. Bob knows and loves the P-47, so when we heard he was planning to put his touches on an 80 inch Hanger 9 ARF P-47 our interest was piqued. The following are Bob’s notes and comments on building and flying this excellent example of the current generation of scale ARF airplanes.

It was no surprise that Bob choose to model the P-47 as ‘Little Chief’, Lt. Frank Klibbe’s personal warbird. Bob campaigned in many scale events with a smaller (.60 size) version in the mid 1980’s. Changing the paint scheme and markings on a pre-covered iron-on finish is just one of the many techniques Bob shares with us in this article. Read on and enjoy, and don’t forget to watch the video at the end.

Little Chief’s War Dance by Jerry Crandall, see Eagle Editions, Ltd.
Little Chief’s War Dance by Jerry Crandall, see Eagle Editions, Ltd.

Little Chief

Hanger 9 P-47

by Bob Frey


Most of the basic airframe I left box stock, except that I added scale hinge lines to the stab/elevator and fin/rudder.

The wheel wells needed to be made larger and built up to get a more scale look. They are now big enough to accept 4 1/2″ wheels. Perhaps, still a little small for this model, but way better than the 3 1/2 inchers that come with the kit. This makes a huge difference in the appearance of the model. I also doctored up the doors just a little adding the inner panels and some rivets.

P-47 Little Chief Wheel Well

The dummy engine that Hanger 9 provides is really quite bad. I ordered a 1/6th scale job from Frank Tiano and added it and a lite ply baffle instead.

P-47 Little Chief Engine

I added an access hatch to service the fuel, batteries, etc. The hatch is spring loaded and in the location of a panel found on the full size bird.

P-47 Little Chief Access Hatch

I cut out and boxed in the ‘oil cooler shutters’ which are just behind the firewall and then opened them up through the firewall to get a little more air flowing through there for cooling. That way maybe you don’t have to put a big hole in the bottom of the cowl.

I used metal servo arms on the gear and those expensive JR retract servos. I’ve been reading about the scissor welds on the gear struts coming loose on a few of the models that are flying now, but I have no first hand knowledge of this.

I think it’s a good idea to do a little beefing on the engine mount. Maybe add some tri-stock in there and glass the area with at least 3 oz. cloth. Also, I’d add some glue to the fuse servo rail joints.

I kept card stock patterns for all the mods I made, so if any of you guys are interested, I’d be glad to trace them and send them along to you.

As for the kit itself, I’m most impressed with the landing gear system they’ve come up with. The rest of the kit is very, very lightly constructed and probably won’t take much abuse, like most ARFs. Finish is just fair, but it flies great.

Finish and Details

After fiberglassing most of my models for years and winding up with more weight that I like, I’ve been experimenting with Monokote or Ultracoat finishes and getting them to look more realistic. I’ve found that if you rough the surface up just a bit, almost all types of paint will stick well to the iron-on finishes except butyrate dope. On this model, I used Klass Kote epoxy for the clear coat. The Klass Kote is super but it’s not quite as flat as I would have liked it to be. I’m pretty sure Top Flite Lusterkote flat clear would be just as good or better. Anyway the finished surface is pretty impressive and I’ve found that painting the iron on finishes adds some stability that resists wrinkles a little better.

All surfaces are sanded with 400 grit sandpaper to accept the epoxy flat clear coat, which of course is the last step.

P-47 Finish and Details

Panel lines are first scribed on the model with a fine tip Sharpie pen. Small panels and hatches can be made from little pieces of iron on material like Ultracoat attached with Top Flite trim solvent. Once they’re on, outline them a bit with the fine tip Sharpie pen. At this point you don’t have to worry about not following the outlines perfectly. For the larger panels, tape up the lines with Lettraline/Lettraset chart tape. I use 1/64th for regular panel lines and 1/32 for bigger stuff like gun bays and such. This tape will get pulled off right after the final epoxy clear coat.

I scribe the rivets using a Top Flite rivet template and fine tip Sharpie. Then rivets are applied using a Top Flite trim tool with attachments made from telescoped brass tubing. Leave the iron on low or it will melt your soldered attachment.

Wipe the whole thing down with denatured alcohol to get rid of any excess Sharpie ink in rivets and along panel lines. Finally add any airbrush work you may want like gun smoke, exhaust smoke, oil leaks, stone dings on lead edges, etc.

Other details I added include: Pitot tube, bomb pylons, correct spinner and scale prop, radio mast, inner main gear and tail wheel doors, a flatter finish.


The star and bar decals included were way too small and the blue was way too light. I replaced the stars and bars with the ones for a giant scale Top Flite P-51. They are a much better fit, both in size and color.

To cover the yellow and black diagonal checkerboard the kit comes in I had to mix some paint to match the Olive Drab and paint the whole tail with it.

Nose art was all done by hand with water based acrylics.

P-47 Little Chief Markings


Here are some pictures of completed cockpit. Too bad I’m not sliding the canopy on this one.

P-47 Little Chief Cockpit P-47 Little Chief Cockpit


I used a Moki 1.5 and Bisson muffler for this plane. I found out tonight Moki engines really blow. The 1.5 I ran on the bench blew everything over. It blew the ni starter away as soon as I put it down. It blew my Fiat tailight assemblies off the other end of the picnic bench. It blew a full can of beer over too. That’s when I really got PO’d. Not really, there wasn’t much to get PO’d about. The motor started on the very first flip. Seems to be a real powerhouse, although I haven’t got anywhere near leaning it out yet. I ran 48 oz through it tonight, and I’ll try to get another 48 or so through in the morning and go for just a little leaner needle after that. I’m running a 16X8 Master Airscrew. Seems like a 15X10 might be better though.

I’m amazed at how smoothly and reliably the motor runs, how low the idle is right out of the box and how mizerly it appears to be on fuel. I certainly wasn’t running full throttle the whole time, but it took well over ten minutes to run through a 16oz tank.

Also, nothing loosened up like usual. No motor mount bolts or the muffler. Hope it handles as well inverted. (ed. It does!) What a great experience after the painful 4-stroke bench runs, especially the YS.

On the bench the motor started on the very first flip. It is a real powerhouse. I ran 48 oz through it a couple of times to break it in.


I’d have to rate the two test flights I had with the H-9 Little Chief today equal to what I imagine sex with Elke Sommer would be like (thirty years ago). Never have I had my hands on a P-47, or any other model for that matter, that flew as well and felt as comfortable right out of the gate as this one. All the equipment worked perfectly and the biggest problem all day was one cowl screw loosening up. After retightening for the second flight, it didn’t loosen up again.

The Moki is a Brute, yet smooth and idles like a Timex watch. I don’t believe I’ve ever test flown a model of this type that WOULD NOT STALL in level flight with only one or two clicks of throttle. At full up elevator, it just continued to mush along with no altitude loss. Unbelievable. All the rates were perfect and trim was close right out of the gate. Although light this model is not jumpy and does not hunt one bit. Looks like it weighs several pounds more than it does.

P-47 Little Chief Flying P-47 Little Chief Flying P-47 Little Chief Flying P-47 Little Chief Stance

I just really can’t find much of anything to say bad about it, and I’m sure things will get better from here. Looking forward to many successful missions with this bird.

Little Chief Flight Video

Video by Howard Kennedy and John Larid

I added another 8 – 10 degrees of flap for a total of about 60 degrees now. Landings this week were much better probably because of that. Using the servo slow down feature on the JR 9303 deploys the flaps so slowly that you don’t notice any pitch changes at all. The Moki continues to amaze me as it breaks in. I keep leaning two or three clicks between each flight and it is still rich. Makes me wonder how long this will go on and what the performance will be at the end of break in. Did more vertical this week and it’s awesome. At the top of big loops, the Moki is chugging like a locomotive. Point rolls are simply amazing. All the Jugs I’ve flown up to now answer the rudder immediately with roll as well as yaw. Unlike P-51s that respond with little or no roll with rudder. So with a Jug you need to cross control just a little on the knife edge points. This one does too, but not until you get to a pretty good rudder deflection. So no cross control is needed. Makes things super easy. Wonder if all these good habits come from being just a tad nose heavy?


Can’t remember when I’ve been as pleased and impressed with a new model.

One thought on “P-47 Little Chief by Bob Frey

  1. Hey Bob Freyberg (or is it “burg”?)
    Your new ’47 looks sweet and flies like a dream! I always immensely enjoyed watching you fly—smoother than buttah!
    Good seeing Al Casey in the video too. Glad you guys are keeping it alive.
    Best Regards
    Capt Bob Green OEAF (ret), long time ago….


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