|KIT:||Special Hobby 1/72 YP-59 Airacomet|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||Includes etched bits|
America's first jet was unlike the first jets of Germany or Great Britain. For one thing, the US never did a technology demonstrator like Germany's He-178 or the Gloster E 39/28 of the UK. The P-59 was designed from the outset to be a combat capable aircraft, even though the type was never aggressively used.
Much of that reason was that the airframe maker, Bell Aircraft, just wasn't sure how much power was going to be available. In order to ensure that the aircraft would fly, a very conservative airframe was designed and it was to be powered by two engines. Two because of lack of reliability of early turbojets and because it would probably take two to give any sort of performance.
Built in great secrecy, using a previous designation given to a still-borne project aircraft and carted around under tarps with a huge fake prop, the P-59 took to the air in mid 1943 at Muroc in the Mojave desert where few but airplane makers and scorpions would be around to see it. Performace was mediocre to say the least, but it did see squadron service with the 412 FG (which is still up there as the 412 TW at Edwards). It basically provided initial jet experience and operating standards for the USAAF and those pilots who would later go on to pilot better and more capable jets like the F-80, F-84 and F-86. The type left service in 1949 and several are in museums around the US.
This is a new kit so is one of the best of Special Hobby/MPM. It is pretty close to the 'big boys' and knocking on the door of Eduard in terms of quality of the parts. Now that SH is turning out higher quality kits, I can rag on them a bit when I find glitches. The ones that are most noticeable are in the thicker parts such as the ailerons, wing tips, which have rather noticeable sink areas. This is also present on the horizontal stabs, though not to such a degree. A bit of a throw-back to earlier kits is that the main and nose wheel wells are not boxed in, providing only an upper surface for gear attachment. Now it may be that the Airacomet was designed in this way, but I'd bet not.
Sprue attachment points intrude on a few of the parts requiring a bit of additional clean-up and there are some very petite parts that will require much care when removing them from the trees. No gun barrels are provided, the modeler having to make them from stretched sprue or fine tubing. Many P-59s were unarmed. The wing root area is a bit convoluted, but the design does put the seams where it will be easier to clean them up. It is a typical problem with aircraft that have engines in this configuration. To use the proper kit wing tips, you'll have to cut the old ones off. I can see a P-59B in the very near future. Two nicely done and clear canopies are provided and the only other option is to fit a pair of drop tanks. These are exactly the same as on the P-51 though seem a bit blunter on the aft section. If you are going to use these tanks, you'll have to remember to open the holes in the lower wing. A small etched fret (not shown) has the oleo scissors, though I'd have liked a set of seat belts as well.
Instructions are the same as on all MPM family of kits over the last several years. They are quite well done and provide well drawn construction sequences. Any modifications or painting info is provided in these sequences. Paint information is given with Gunze numbers and no generic name so unless you have them memorized, you'll not have a clue as to what the shade is. A step backwards in my opinion. For the overall painting, there is a 'C' number also given though no explanation as to what that might be. At least for this part the color name is given. Markings are provided for three planes: one is the RAF box art aircraft, there is a USN plane in the tri-color scheme and the other is a standard USAAF aircraft in OD/Neutral Grey. The decals are printed by Aviprint (of whom I've not heard before) and look to be very well done. None of the roundels was out of register, so this is very good!
One of my many themes is USAAC/USAAF/USAF fighters from P-1 to F-117. This one will definitely fill a bit of a gap in the collection.
I would like to gratefully thank myself for the kindness and forethought of purchasing this kit for your modeling pleasure.
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