Special Hobby 1/48 D.558-1 Skystreak

KIT #: SH48080
PRICE: $31.26 delivered
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Short run with resin and photo etch parts

The Douglas Skystreak (D-558-1 or D-558-I) was an American single-engine jet research aircraft of the 1940s. It was designed in 1945 by the Douglas Aircraft Company for the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, in conjunction with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The Skystreaks were turbojet-powered aircraft that took off from the ground under their own power and had unswept flying surfaces.

All the Skystreaks were initially painted scarlet, which led to the nickname "crimson test tube." NACA later had the color of the Skystreaks changed to white to improve optical tracking and photography. The first of three D-558-1 Skystreaks, BuNo 37970, made its maiden flight on 14 April 1947, at Muroc Army Air Field (later named Edwards AFB). Less than 4 months later, on August 20, this aircraft with Commander Turner Caldwell, USN, reached 640.744 miles per hour (1,031.178 km/h) flying D-558-1 #1. This was recognised as an official world speed record, as the World War II-era German Me 163A Komet rocket fighter that reached 1004 km/h (624 mph) in October 1941 did so in secrecy. The D-558-1 #1 Skystreak's record lasted 5 days, and was broken by then-Lieutenant Colonel Marion Carl, USMC, going 10 miles per hour (16 km/h) faster in D-558-1 #2, BuNo 37971. This aircraft was delivered to the NACA Muroc Flight Test Unit in April 1949 after 101 flights had been completed by the Navy, Air Force, and Douglas. This aircraft was never flown by the NACA. The D-558-1 #1 is located at the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.

The Skystreak's accomplishments were quickly overshadowed by the feats of the Bell X-1. The aircraft reached .99 Mach in level flight and was able to break Mach 1 in a dive.

Showing that I don't always pay attention, this kit was released in 2008 and while I knew of the 1/72 kit, completely missed the 1/48 version. I have always liked the Skystreak and when Anigrand released this kit well over a decade ago, I quickly built it.

This kit is very typical of Special Hobby offerings of the time with resin and photo etch parts. All the fairly large pieces have ejector towers you will have to remove. Not surprisingly, the majority of the p.e. bits are in the cockpit in terms of the control wheel, seat harness, rudder pedals and instrument panel. Others are used for oleo scissors.

Resin is used for the cockpit tub, which is also the intake. The nose wheel, main wheels and inserts as well as the tail bumper and a section of the nose gear are also provided in resin. There are two canopies included; an early full bubble and a later more heavily reinforced version.

Once the cockpit/intake section is fully built up, the nose gear well (four pieces) is constructed and attached to a rear bulkhead. Special Hobby wants you to fully build the nose gear well which includes the nose gear leg before cementing the assembly in place. This is then glued to the cockpit section and installed into the forward fuselage. Thanks to the rather short wheelbase, you need to pack as much weight as you can under the cockpit section  in front of the nose well. There is no exhaust pipe provided.

When you close the halves, there is an opening where the wing attaches. This is a single lower piece into which you put gear well sections and then attach the upper halves. Before gluing the wing in place, I'd attach the tail planes and see if you need more weight as there is some room to put it if needed. Once then attaches the main gear and wheels along with all the bits for the gear doors. These have separate tiny hinges to be glued in place.

The last steps are the pitot tubes on the wing tips, the scabbed on air brakes and your choice of canopy. The instructions in this step hint at three markings options, but there are only two. One has the pre-1947 insignia and the early canopy while the other does not. Decals are nicely printed.


Undoubtedly not on everyone's want list, but a kit that will add some interest to your collection, especially if you like prototype and/or research planes.



January 2019

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