Hobbycraft 1/48 YP-59 Airacomet


HC 1438




Four aircraft


Scott Van Aken


Cutting Edge 48438 cockpit set used


For a look at what is in the box and a nice historical background on this aircraft, please visit the preview.


Since I was using an aftermarket cockpit on this kit, that is where construction began. Cutting Edge has produced a very nice replacement that was released in concert with the kit (must have gotten a test shot). The grey resin cuts rather easily and in no time the bits were off the resin blocks and cleaned up. The inner fuselage wall detail has to be removed before the resin sidewalls can be installed. Make sure that you remember when installing these walls that the tub section slots between the resin walls and the placement guides that you leave on the fuselage. I didn't and ended up having to trim my tub to get it to fit properly. My own fault for not reading the instructions carefully.  For those who want to know why one would spend nearly 2/3rds the price of the kit on an aftermarket cockpit set, look at the image comparing the kit and Cutting Edge one. The difference is like night and day. The Cutting Edge one doesn't even have the instrument panel installed! I did have to use the kit control stick as none is provided in the set.

Moving on to the rest of the kit, I decided to glue the wings together. The fit is not too bad. I'd recommend removing the alignment pins as they really don't seem to help that much. I also sanded the mating surfaces as there was a teeny bit of flash on them that kept the parts from mating perfectly. As Tom Cleaver mentioned in his review of the P-59A, you need to sand on the top of the wheel wells to get the wings to mate perfectly on the inboard section of the flap. I did not as it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of difference when the flap is installed. You may not like having that gap so sanding the wheel well is the only way. At this time, I also installed the lower aft engine housing. The instructions would have you glue in the exhaust pipes at this time, but I left those off until the end. My luck, they'll fall inside! You do need to slightly 'squeeze the housing part to conform with the lower wing a bit. I used a clamp until the glue had dried. Going outboard once that was dry, the wing tips were installed. Some trimming of the hole was needed so they'd be more centered on the tip. As you can see, the aileron attachment point is different between the wing and the tip.

Well, how to fix it. Well, the only way I can see is to glue on a section of card. The reason is that when the aileron is placed in the slot, there is a definite gap. I don't think that is part of the airplane. When it comes to the aileron, that will need a touch of work as well. For it, the part that fits into the groove along the trailing edge of the wing is too pointed. By simply sanding it down, the fit is improved a great deal. Takes about two minutes.  You can see the result of sanding in the image to the left and as to how well it fits in the image to the right (except for the gap area, of course). Though I have not tested the flap, I'd be willing to bet that it suffers from the same thing.

At this time, I took the interior parts that I'd put together and painted them FS 34092 Medium Green as my buddy Tom suggested that it is the closest off the shelf paint to 'Bell Interior Green'. The instrument panel face was sanded from the back until the holes opened up (and it is nearly as thin as a piece of etched brass). This and the backing were painted flat black. Then the instrument dials were attached to the back of the face using clear paint. The back of the dials were painted white and before the paint dried, the instrument backs section was attached. Since there is no stress on these bits, the paint should be enough to hold everything together. Best of all, no superglue disasters!

Once the bits were all dry and the appropriate wash and drybrushing was done, the interior was glued in place. Since I had foregone reading the instructions, I had some fiddling to do in order to get it to fit properly. A bit of trimming of the lower sidewalls was necessary, but that was my fault. No gun sight was installed as only a few of the YP-59As were armed and this one wasn't going to be one of them.

With the interior installed, the forward fuselage half was glued together. Before gluing it, I added a LOT of weight to the nose to keep it from being a tail sitter. It feels as if I may have overdone it, but better safe than sorry as one cannot put in more later. Forward fuselage was a bit of a fussy fit, but that was again, due to the interior. I used a touch of superglue on a few areas to ensure proper alignment. I then glued the tail section to the forward. Not sure if it is along a panel line or not, but in my opinion, it doesn't matter as the join is a bit large so will need filler anyway.

Returning to the wings, I glued in a small tab of plastic card to fill in the gap that I found earlier. Once in it was in and dry, filler and sanding took care of things and it doesn't look too horrendous. I then added the little intake plates to the side of the forward fuselage. Had I not known that they were to be added, I'd have missed them as the instructions sort of overlook them. I mean, they show them, but that's about it. As Tom Cleaver found out, they are flat and do not conform to the fuselage. I think Hobbycraft realized that as the lower attachment pin is twice the length of the upper. Looking at pictures, it seems as if Hobbycraft needed to keep the fuselage straight until after the lower intake section. Take a peek at the ones posted with this article and you'll see what I mean.  I did find that I had to trim the forward upper corner of this piece to get the wing to fit. I also found that the upper intake part had to be slightly trimmed as well to get it to slot in properly. The lower intake misses the spot on the fuselage where it is to fit by quite a bit as you can see from the image. The wing fits very tightly, but once done, only the lower fuselage may need any filler. Really, not bad at all.

It was at this time that I noticed that the interior was in a bit crooked. My luck! The rollover bar was glued in place as per the CE instructions and the back bulkhead seam filled and sanded smooth. The tailplanes were then attached and any filler needed was applied at this time.

Once the filler was dry, the airframe was sanded down as smooth as I could get it. I'll not fib to you, I used filler on most all the seams. I know folks who can build without using filler, but I think they are giving me a line. I use filler all the time! I should mention at this time that the upper wing to fuselage area above the exhaust left a rather big gap. I used some plastic card to fill the gap and sanded that smooth before attaching the wing to the fuselage.

The next step was to glue on some clear bits. The first was the nose cap. I glued an MV lens to a piece of card and stuck it in the nose as a landing light. It probably won't look that great, but something is better than nothing. The landing light cover was masked and the nose glued on. I then went to the cockpit. Nearly forgot to glue on the 'rollover plate' on the roll over bar. Did that and painted it to match the interior. The radio section was basically pushed into place as it is a very tight fit. Then the windscreen section was glued in. It appears that I must have flattened out the area right in front of it as there was a demonstrable difference in contours between the nose and the windscreen. I also noticed that the windscreen was a bit narrow. I glued in the windscreen and puttied up the area in front of it to be smoothed out later. Once the rollover plate was dry, the back clear bit was glued in after it was masked. I also masked the canopy at this time. I should also mention that the framework for all the clear parts is engraved and not raised. This makes it MUCH easier to mask as there is a trench for your knife blade to follow when cutting through the tape. A great idea and one I seriously hope catches on.

With the canopy on and smoothed out, my attention was turned to the control surfaces. These are fabric with the fabric a bit over-accentuated, in my opinion. I also found that the ailerons were a trifle thicker than the wing as they got to the wing tip. The fit of the ailerons and flaps was less than optimal. Though they finally were coerced into fitting  with coarse sanding sticks, they still are not what I'd have hoped for. The elevators were no trouble at all. Having these items separate was done only to allow the same basic airframe to be used for the P-59B with its metal control surfaces. As has been pointed out in other reviews, the P-59s control stick was spring loaded to the center so there would be no displacement of these surfaces. I could not even find photos of the flaps lowered so go ahead and glue them all in the neutral position. I then rescribed as many of the obliterated panel lines as I could in preparation for paint.


With all that finally done, it was time to add some paint. The canopy was tacked in place and the first thing painted were the wheel wells and inside gear doors. All the experten have mentioned that Bell used primer colors that were not the norm so I used US Interior Green for the wheel wells and inner gear doors. The canopy area was sprayed with the FS 34092 interior color. The wheel wells were masked as appropriate and Neutral Grey was sprayed on the lower surfaces. I then took a short time out to drill the hole on the fin tip for the pitot tube and glued the radio mast into place. When dry, the upper surface of OD was sprayed on. I then returned to the workbench to add some more bits prior to the gloss coat and decals. It was at this time that I looked in the instructions and saw that I forgot to fill in an area on the nose. Nothing to do but fill it with superglue, hit it with accelerator, sand it smooth and repaint it. Should also take the time to mention that I used acrylics for all of the exterior colors as well as the wheel wells.

Back at the bench, I removed the masking from the wheel wells and started on the landing gear. I found a color photo of a YP-59 and the gear struts sure looked like OD to me so I painted them and the wheels this color. The tires are actual rubber, which I generally don't like. The mold line was sanded off (a much harder task than with a plastic or resin one) and they were put on the wheels. The main tires fit well but the nose one is too narrow and very loose. I tried some superglue, but I know it won't last.


I glued the gear doors to the main landing gear. It seems to me that the mounting holes are a bit off center and angled a bit, but I glued them the way they showed. There is an upper door attachment point that is way too long so it was trimmed off. I glued the main gear in place then attached the upper gear door. It fits at an angle, similar to the one on a Mig-21. Not sure if it is right, but it is on there. The inner doors fit well. I then attached the gear retraction strut and glued it in place. There is no positive locator for this on the gear or in the wheel well.

The nose gear was glued in place after the oleo was wrapped with Chrome Bare Metal Foil. Make sure that the oleo scissors is to the front. There are also very small mounting holes for this so don't get it backwards. Like the main gear, the retraction strut has no positive locator. The nose gear doors are curved but must fit onto a flat surface. I don't know who designs these things, but like the main gear doors on a P-38, they are a real pain to fit. I eventually removed the center door attachment point in order to get all to fit with any success.  The nose gear wheel was a real struggle to get in place. You may want to sand it down to where it is thinner. It has no detail on it and will not only make fitting it easier, but will make the nose tire look a bit more normal. Main gear wheels were glued with no problems. I did not make any adjustments to the gear length on this kit and you can see that the tail sits quite high. Most photos show the plane with a nose high attitude which would require you to either lengthen the nose gear strut, shorten the main gear struts or both.


With nearly all the bits on, the model was given a coat of clear gloss acrylic (Future, in this case) in preparation for decals. The USAAF YP-59s were universally boring with little in the way of any neat markings. Basically your insignia and serial. I chose the "74" markings for this one. Several reasons. When I looked up some references on the aircraft, it seems as if all the photos of serials 2108775 and later had the squared off tails and wings as in the P-59B. The only photos I could find of the planes with the yellow "Bell Aircraft" logo on the nose where those converted to two seat trainers with the extra cockpit in the front and the one shown here. This photo of the other US YP-59 on the sheet, 777, shows it to have the squared off wings and perhaps the tail as well, though there is no lower fuselage strake as on the P-59Bs I could not identify the other aircraft in the picture.

Now I'm not so stupid as to make blanket statements based on just two references, but it seems that either many of the YP-59As were modified or that they were not photographed very much in their original condition. I could only verify the photo of 2108774, and that one was armed with at least one gun, which the instructions didn't point out. (Back to the bench on this one). As you can see, research is a bit of a bugaboo when it comes to building kits.

Anyway, I finally settled on 774 and applied the serial and white nose letters as shown in the photo. It seems to me as if the 74 letters are a bit smaller than in the photo, but no worries as most won't spot the difference and it does add a bit to the model. I should mention that the Hobbycraft decals are as good as any aftermarket decals I've ever used and while they probably would have snuggled down fine by themselves, I added a bit of Microset to them.

When they were dry, I sprayed a matte coat on the entire airframe to seal things in. I also added the small fin tip pitot tube and drilled a hole in the nose for the gun. I didn't like the plastic rods that were supplied in the kit so used a small section of thin-walled tubing. The masking was removed to see what damage I'd done to the underlying clear bits! I then did very minimal pastel work to the plane as they seemed to be relatively clean. As you can see from the color photo, there wasn't much contrast between the two colors on them once the upper surface OD had started to fade. Fresh OD provided a good contrast. Finally, the exhaust were installed and the wing tip lights were painted.


Despite the minor problems with the kit, I'm really jazzed about having this very important aircraft finally kitted. To make things even better, it is not a difficult build. I started this kit on a Friday and had it finished by the morning of the following Thursday. That is less than a week, a definite speed build for me! The kit desperately needs a cockpit set so save the bucks and get one for it. Having this one under my belt, I now know what needs to be done to the P-59B kit that will undoubtedly be gracing my work bench in the future. My appreciation to Hobbycraft for having the foresight to produce this kit.

April 2003
#1264 in a series


Airacomet , Pace, Wings 17/5, October 1987
Bell Aircraft since 1935, Alain Pelletier, Putnam, 1992

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Previews Index Page