Hobby Boss 1/72 UH-34D 'Choctaw'

KIT #: 87222
PRICE: $20.00
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Bill Michaels
NOTES:  Built as USCG HUS-1G (HH-34F)


Nomenclature Notes: In the 1950s, helicopters used by the US Navy and Coast Guard used a different designation than the Army and Air Force. So the Sikorsky Company's "S-58" was the HSS-1 Seabat in the Navy (ASW version), the HUS-1 Seahorse (Utility/transport version) in the Marine Corps, and the H-34 Choctaw in the Army. In 1962, the Department of Defense standardized the nomenclature for aircraft and the Navy's designations were dropped. The Navy's HOS-1 helos became the SH-34, while the Marines now flew the UH-34. The "Seabat" name was also dropped, and the "Choctaw" name was used going forward. The US Coast Guard, which is not part of the Department of Defense, chose to adopt the same naming scheme. So the Coast Guard's HUS-1Gs became HH-34F models.

Introduced in 1954, the Sikorsky H-34 (company designation S-58) was a follow-on to the very successful H-19 Chickasaw. It was originally designed as an ASW helicopter for the US Navy. But it ended up being used by all branches of the US Armed Forces, and about 25 other countries world-wide.

US Coast Guard Use: The Coast Guard had pioneered the development of the helicopter for the US in Search and Rescue during WW2. During the 1950s, the Coast Guard acquired 41 HOS-4 (H-19) helicopters, which proved their worth as SAR platforms. In 1959, the service acquired six of the newer, more powerful H-34 helicopters. The plan was to replace the older H-19s with the newer aircraft.

The Coast Guard had mixed results with the new aircraft, losing three of the six in overwater flights. Two of them were lost on the same day in Sept 1960 in Tampa Bay. CG AIRSTA St Petersburg's CG 1334 was rescuing the crew from a USAF B-47 that had crashed in the Bay, when a failure in the Stabilization Control caused the helo to crash in the bay as well. CG1335 was dispatched to the scene, and suffered the same failure, and the same fate. The two helicopter crews and the B-47 crew were later rescued by a civilian who had witnessed the entire event. Then, in November 1962, CG 1336 was also lost in Gulf of Mexico because of the same failure, tragically with the loss of one of the crewmen.

With the loss of half the service's HOS-1 fleet over water, the Coast Guard cancelled plans to acquire any more, and instead chose the Sikorski HH-52 Sea Guard, a turbine-powered helicopter with a flying boat hull, as the new SAR helicopter. The HH-52 served from 1969 until 1989. (But that's a story for another build article!)


The kit was released in 2010. You can read Scot van Aken's preview of the new release here.

Externally, the UH-34D and the HH-34F are very similar. (The Gallery 1/48 H-34 kit even includes USCG markings in one of its releases.) About the only obvious difference is that the USCG version was fitted to carry a drop tank on the port side to extend the aircraft's range. (I toyed with the idea of adding a drop tank to my model, but never got around to scratchbuilding the necessary mounting. Someone used to make a resin accessory, but I can't seem to find it online anymore.)


I built the kit basically OOB, to add to my collection of USCG aircraft. I built this over a year ago, so my memory is a little fuzzy on the process. But fortunately I did take a few pictures along the way, probably for the "2016 workbench" thread here on MM.

The great thing about building a helicopter is that it generally goes quickly-- build the fuselage, and you're nearly finished! So it is no surprise to say that construction starts with the cockpit and then the interior of the cabin. The cockpit went together well enough, with a decal for the instrument panel. It is adequate for the job, as you can't see the panel that well anyways. The cockpit was painted light gray and black, with a medium green seat cushions on the empty seat. (I basically copied the colors used in a build review of the 1/48 kit on the IPMS USA website.)

This was one of those models that had been started early in the year, with some minor assembly and interior painting, then set aside for several months, before being finished in time for a December club meeting. When I returned to working on it, I discovered that I had lost one of the two pilot's seats. A search online turned up no aftermarket replacements, so I went to the spares box to see what I had. The only thing I had that was even close was a pilot figure who had been solidly gluded to a generic seat by my young son many years ago-- that had been rescued when the model it was in was scrapped. The gobs of tube cement ensured there was no way to get him out of the seat without destroying it, so he stayed. A quick repaint in USCG flight suit colors, and I had my replacement seat, albeit occupied!

The cabin interior includes the canvas jump seats for the Marines version, but I decided that was a good enough place for survivors to sit, so I built them as is. (Plus I intended to leave the main door just partly ajar, so I knew you wouldn't be able to see much inside.) The webbing for the seat backs was nicely molded, and easy enough to paint. The interior walls and ceiling were painted interior green, with light gray on the floor and the seat frames.

With the cabin interior and the cockpit assembled and painted, it was time to install the cabin windows and close up the fuselage. The clear windows fit the openings quite well-- no issues there. A little Testors clear parts cement secured them nicely. I thought about leaving them off until after the interior was painted- but the cabin seat frames are too close to a couple of them, and you'd never get them in after the fact. The fuselage closed up nicley, and needed just a tiny bit of filler on the seam aft of the main rotor. Fit of the main canopy was also good.

The rotor went together with no real issues. The rotor blades had a nice droop molded into them. While accurate, it does make assembly a little tricky, as you can't just lay the whole assembly flat on the workbench to ensure symmetry and proper alignment. I installed two opposing blades first, to make sure the blades were 180 degrees apart. My little plastic holder for Tamiya masking tape made a perfect jig- high enough to accomodate the droop in the blades, with a hole in the center to clear the shaft. Once the first two had fully set, it was easy enough to install the other two 90 degrees off.  


Yellow is my least favorite color to paint, but it is the only option if you're doing one of the six HUS-1Gs in USCG service. The aircraft is overall yellow, with only the rotors and a few detail parts in other colors. I stuffed the interior with tissue to keep paint out (the door wasn't installed yet), masked the clear bits, and headed for the spray booth. Only the wheels and rotors were left off at this point.

The entire model got a coat or Tamiya fine white primer, applied directly from the spray can. I let that set for a couple of days to be sure it was fully cured, then went for the color. The helo was painted Tamiya XF-3 flat yellow. I was expecting a lot of trouble getting good coverage-- but two light coats airbrushed over the white looked great! (I was fully expecting to have to apply 3 or more coats.) That was allowed to cure for a another day or two, then the model was airbrushed with a coat of clear gloss (Future) to prepare it for decalling.

The Print Scale sheet includes markings for CG1332 in 1960, when based at CG AIRSTA New Orleans. The decals were great-- they were thin, went on nicely, and reacted well to the little bit of Micro-Set/Sol used. My only complaint about them was how tightly packed they are on the sheet- some of the little ones are hard to handle because there is not much open space around them. I think I lost/ruined one of the little red stencils as a result.

Once the decals had cured, the model got a light coating of a satin clearcoat. On to final assembly!


The only decals I didn't use were the ones for the tail rotor-- which would have come from the kit sheet-- getting them to wrap around the blades without tearing seemed unlikely to succeed. So I just painted the stripes- first white, then the red, then the black last. Oddly, the main rotors didn't have any stripes. The silver parts of the landing gear struts were brush painted with Citadel bright siler-- they are my favorite metallics for brushwork.

With the painting finished, the cabin door, rotors and wheels were installed, and the clear parts unmasked. USCG aircraft are kept clean, so I didn't do much weathering. I did try to apply a bit of a black oil wash to the engraved detail for the vents around the engine copartment-- but I wasn''t entirely successful. This was really my only complaint about the kit-- the molded detail for these screens is inconsistent- in some spots, it is well defined and deep enough to take and hold a wash, while in other places it is kind of shallow and indistinct. But at this point, time was running out, so I left it as is.


Recommended. I am happy with what I got out of the build-- good value for money. It was detailed enough for my taste, and the fit was overall quite good. The only letdown is the somewhat inconsistent detailing for the vent screens-- but if I was to build another, I would not go to the trouble of cutting them out and trying to replace them with PE parts!

I am very happy with the Print Scale decals, and would happily use them again. The all-yellow finish came out great, and the decals look good.

Overall, this was a build where the result came out better than I expected, given that I didn't set out to build a "contest quality" model. If I had put a little more effort into painting the engine screens, it would be as close to perfect as I am likely to ever get! All I wanted was a model to go on the shelf in my lineup of USCG subjects-- what I got was a model that goes in the front row!


USCG Aviation History: https://cgaviationhistory.org

http://www.zianet.com/tmorris/saintpete.html : The High Cost of Saving Lives - U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, ST. Petersburg, Florida Rescue Operations 1 MARCH 1935 TO 29 OCTOBER 1976, by LT. COL. TED A. MORRIS, USAF, RETIRED.

Wikipedia entry on the Sikorsky H-34.

Bill Michaels

4 December 2017

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Special Thanks to Pip Moss, newsletter editor for the IPMS Patriot Chapter. He took all the photos of the completed model.

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