KIT: LF Models XP-31 Swift
KIT #: 72070
PRICE: Around 25 or so
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Resin with photoetch parts and vacuformed clear bits

HISTORY

The Curtiss Model 66 Swift was an unsuccessful competitor against the Boeing XP-936/P-26 for the US Army's interim monoplane pursuit of 1932. Encouraged by the Army, Curtiss undertook the development of a new pursuit as a private venture for which the Army agreed to provide the powerplant and the military equipment under a bailment contract. The experimental project number XP-934 was assigned.

The all-metal Swift drew heavily on the Curtiss A-8 Shrike attack plane. Like the P-26, the Curtiss Swift was an intriguing mixture of the old and the new. It was fitted with a low-mounted monoplane wing with external bracing struts. The fixed, non-retractable undercarriage was enclosed by a set of spats. The pilot's cockpit was fully enclosed by a sliding canopy. The wing was fitted with trailing-edge flaps and carried a set of full-span leading-edge slats that opened automatically at 15 mph above stalling speed. Armament was four 0.30-cal machine guns, two in troughs in the nose and two in external packages on each side of the cockpit.

The Swift had originally been planned for the 600 hp Curtiss Conqueror liquid-cooled V-12 engine, but the Army believed that this engine was nearing the end of its development cycle and insisted that the powerplant be changed to the 700 hp Wright R-1820 Cyclone air cooled radial. The aircraft was also fitted briefly with a Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial.

The Swift left the factory in July 1932. During the early flight testing, the performance was found to be rather disappointing. Within a month, the Cyclone radial was replaced by a Curtiss G1V-1570F Conqueror of 600 hp, which was the engine that Curtiss had wanted all along. Although the speed increased, other performance characteristics suffered because the plane was now seriously overweight. Maximum speed was 215 mph at sea level, initial climb rate was 2130 ft/min, service ceiling was 22,700 feet, and range was 396 miles. Weights were 3334 lbs. empty, 4143 lbs. gross.

The Army bought the XP-934 in February 1933 and assigned it the designation XP-31 and the serial number 33-178. The civil-type engine was replaced by an equivalent military-type V-1570-53 engine. The XP-31 was re-designated ZXP-31 (Z for obsolete) and was retired to an Air Corps mechanics' school in July 1936. It was surveyed at Edgewood Arsenal on December 10, 1936.

The XP-31 was the first US Army fighter with an enclosed cockpit (it flew before the P-26) and was the last one with external bracing for the wings and fixed landing gear.

THE KIT

This is one of those kits that was sort of stumbled upon. I made a purchase at a well known mail order concern for the Anti-Pesto van. Unfortunately, the price of this was below the minimum order to ship overseas so I looked around for something to fill out the order and saw this kit.

It comes in a small, and somewhat flimsy 4 X 5 inch box with the wings fit inside diagonally. The resin is quite well done with very fine engraved lines and subdued fabric representations. Though some of the parts are on large, thick resin wafers, others are molded so that a hobby knife will be enough to remove them. I found none of the resin glitches sometimes found on other kits, such as air pockets, chips in the trailing edges or detritus on the surface. In fact, it all looks to be well done and nicely engineered. A single set of vacuformed bits are included and these are fairly well done. I do wish that these companies would include spares for we who are fumble-fingered!

A small photo etched fret is included and looks to be somewhat generic with two seats, a set of harnesses and some other small bits. A small half sheet is included. On one side is a parts diagram and three exploded construction steps. No color information isgiven, though I'd suppose that the interior is aluminum as that was the norm. The interior itself is a seat and stick and are placed on a floor section. An aft bulkhead is included. There is some framework detail on the inside of the fuselage halves, but it is quite lightly done. The instructions also seem to miss the tail plane bracing. I couldn't find part #20 (what appears to be a long strut section), though it is shown on the parts diagram. The other side of the sheet is a full color painting guide (basically blue fuselage and yellow wings). The decal sheet is well printed and has the markings of the aircraft when assigned to Wright Field. It will be interesting to see how opaque the white is when put against that yellow background.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall a very nice little kit that will go well with my slowly increasing US fighters collection.

Purchased by your editor.

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