|KIT:||Italeri 1/72 VH-71 'Marine One'|
|PRICE:||$22.45 from GreatModels|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The AgustaWestland EH101 (AW101 from June 2007) is a medium-lift helicopter for military applications but also marketed for civil use. The helicopter was developed as a joint venture between Westland Aircraft in the UK and Agusta in Italy (now merged as AgustaWestland).
The designation "EH101" is a typographical error that stuck: the aircraft was originally designated EHI (European Helicopter Industries) - 01. The aircraft is manufactured at the AgustaWestland factories in Yeovil, England and Vergiate in Italy.
In 1977, the UK Ministry of Defence issued a requirement for an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter to replace the Royal Navy's Westland Sea Kings. Westland responded with design WG.34 that was approved for development. Meanwhile, the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) was also seeking a replacement for its (Agusta-built) Sea Kings, leading Agusta to discussions with Westland about the possibility of a joint development. This culminated in the joint venture being finalized in November 1979 and a new company (EH Industries) being formed to manage the project the following year. EHI is an abbreviation for European Helicopter Industries. As the design studies progressed, EHI became aware of a broader market for an aircraft with the same capabilities required by the British and Italian navies, leading to a more generalized design that could be customized. After a lengthy development, the first prototype flew on October 9 1987. EHI no longer exists, having been incorporated into the parent when the two companies merged. In June 2007, the EH101 was re-branded as the AW101 to reflect this.
The helicopter is either currently operated or being developed for Great Britain, Italy
In 2001 AgustaWestland signed a deal with Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter Textron to market the aircraft in the US under the designation US101. It competed for and won the VIP and "Marine One" Presidential transport roles currently carried out by H-3 Sea King or the smaller VH-60 White Hawk. In doing so, it beat the Sikorsky H-92 Super Hawk in a contentious and hotly debated competition that was rife with political shenanigans and back-room deals. As a result, it became the first non-Sikorsky helicopter to fulfill the Marine One role since 1957. The order is for 23 aircraft, to equip the Marine One squadron, HMX-1. The US101 will be built in the United States and fitted with largely American systems and equipment, plus the General Electric turboshafts as used on the Italian variants. These aircraft will be given the military designation VH-71A Kestrel and is the subject of this kit.
The first test VH-71A, Test Vehicle #2 (TV2), made its initial flight on July 3, 2007 at AgustaWestland’s facility in Yeovil, UK. Lockheed Martin is already using an EH101, designated TV-1, for initial testing in the USA, including landings on the White House lawn.
No one can every say that Italeri doesn't take every opportunity to try to be first on the market with kits of new aircraft. Often that has hamstrung them later when their kits of what are either prototypes or pre-production aircraft have become obsolete by later design developments. Italeri was the first and only company out with the EH-101 when it first appeared, marketing the kit as the prototypes. Now I have to confess that I'm not sure if later boxings have been upgraded from prototype status or not and if not, then I doubt if this one is similarly updated.
However, I do notice that the design of the kit is such that whatever changes are made from one version to another (and in helos it seems to be the number and placement of fuselage windows and doors), have been catered to by large open fuselage sides which will accept whatever inserts are deemed necessary. Apparently, the main fuselage and rotor sprue are the same in all the various EH 101 kits as is perhaps the clear sprue. I also notice that the fuselage/boom is three parts, making proper alignment an area that the modeler will have to pay special attention. Another point of interest is that the interior of the cabin is totally bare. The seats on the sprues are shown as not used, so I guess the President will be standing or lying on the floor during flight.......
There is a rear ramp that appears to be able to be moveable, though for this kit it might not be a bad idea to glue it shut such is the lack of cabin materials. The rotor blades are superbly molded and the hub is properly complex, though on modern helos, there is not the mass of bellcranks and pushrods as on older helos. I did find that the little pieces that trap the blades and attach to the hub all have small sink areas in them that will need filled. There doesn't seem to be much space for nose weight, but the wheelbase of this one is such that I doubt any is really needed.
Decals are well printed and from my past experiences with Italeri decals should work just great with Microsol. Though no helo has yet been delivered, the colors of gloss OD with a white top are logical. I've noticed on most HMX-1 VIP helos that the stripes and lettering are in gold. On this sheet, they are white. The sheet also includes all the black exhaust stain areas and walk areas, making painting pretty well a piece of cake. Even the multi-colored tail rotor stripes are provided.
We all know how nice newer Italeri helo kits are and this one should be no exception. It is not a small helo and having it done in these markings will surely set it apart from others in your collection.
My thanks to GreatModels for the review kit. You can get yours as well as other kits and accessories at GreatModels
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