FH-1 Phantom "Demonstration Teams and Trainers"
If you are a fan of US Naval aviation in 1/72 scale, you will likely want to add one of the Special Hobby kits of the FH-1 Phantom to your collection as this was the first operational jet used by both the Navy and Marine Corps. Built up, the kit is a great representation of the Phantom, but I would recommend that the modeler have some experience building kits, as there were some fit issues to overcome. Overall, I would still highly recommend this unique representation of the Navy’s first operational jet.
Initially designated the XFD-1 as the two prototypes were being built (X for experimental, F for fighter, and D for McDonnell), the plane would evolve into the designation of FH-1 as Douglas aircraft started producing fighters again for the Navy, and were given back the “D” designator while McDonnell was assigned “H”. The second prototype was flown by LCDR James Davidson to make the first landing and takeoff of a jet aircraft from an aircraft carrier (the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42)) on July 21, 1946. The Navy ordered 100 of the planes (this was later reduced to 60), which were delivered between November 28, 1946 (with squadron deliveries beginning July 23. 1947) and May 27, 1948.
The Phantom was 37 feet, 3 inches long, 14 feet, 2 inches tall, and had a wingspan of 40 feet, 9 inches (16 feet, 3 inches with the wings folded). Powered by a pair of Westinghouse J30-WE-20 turbojets, the plane could cruise at 248 mph with a maximum speed of 479 mph and a ceiling of 41,100 feet, she had a range of 695 miles (980 miles with a drop tank). The Phantom had four 0.50 caliber guns for offensive and defensive use and could carry eight 5-inch rockets to attack ground targets.
Molded in a smooth, medium gray plastic, the kit also includes a clear sprue and small photo-etch sheet. This release has decals for planes used as trainers and with demonstration teams (just as the name implies). The first is a Naval Air Test Center plane flown by Rear Admiral Apollo Soucek (the man for whom the Apollo space program would later be named) as he flew with the “Gray Angels” display team. The one I chose to represent was assigned to the Naval Air Reserve, Naval Air Station Grosse Ile in 1951. There is also a Marine Phantom from the aerobatic display team “the Flying Leathernecks” and finally a plane used by the Teterboro School of Aviation in the 1960’s.
Construction, like most planes, begins with the cockpit and Special Hobby provides photoetched seat belts and a harness as well as an optional throttle. Other photoetched parts include main gear door actuators, rearview mirrors, and antennas. I added two small fishing weights to the nose, and I am certain that I went well above the recommended 3 grams, but the plane will absolutely sit properly on the nose wheel. The fuselage went together with only minor gaps to fill, but I experienced fit issues when joining one of the upper wings to the lower piece, between the wings to the fuselage, with the main wheel small doors, and the running lights. The wing to fuselage joints required the use of plastic strip to fill, and I had to do a fair amount of filing and sanding to get the one upper wing to sit properly, the small main gear doors to fit in place, and the wing tip lights to fit properly. As I had the plane painted and decaled when I was adding the lights, I made the lights fit rather than attempting to file or sand the mounting area on the wings.
I used Model Master Acryl Dark Sea Blue, Interior Green, and Insignia Red as well as Model Master Metalizer Burnt Iron, Vallejo Aluminum, Khaki, Leather, and Dark Rubber. The blue paint was glossy enough to apply the decals to directly, and I used Alclad Gloss Klear Kote for the overcoat to seal everything.
Just producing a nice kit of this important aircraft is a hit for me, but I appreciated the color 13 pages of instructions, which aided in the painting process. The photoetch parts are very small in some instances but are very well rendered. The decals would probably have settled using only Micro Set, but out of habit, I did use some Micro Sol on the decals that covered panel lines to aid in their setting.
I would have to call some of the fit issues a miss for me, and although a modeler with some experience can overcome these, a beginner could get frustrated with the extra work required. As we all should know, dry fitting is a very important step with modeling, and if you do this and take your time, you will be rewarded in the end. I do not know that I will call it a miss, but when I applied the decal for the instrument panel, it disappeared. Not a big deal in this scale, especially if you close the canopy, but if you are a stickler for that detail, you may want to consider an alternative.
Overall, I would highly recommend this kit to modelers wanting to add this historic jet to their Naval Aviation livery. I would recommend this kit more for experienced modelers, as there is some work required in order to get some of the items to fit properly.
I would like to thank the folks at Special Hobby for providing this kit to the IPMS-USA Review Corps for assessment, and to John Noack for leading the Review Corps, and allowing me to perform this review along with Phil Peterson. I would also send out kudos to all of the folks behind the scenes at the Review Corps who help John with his efforts, and as always, my sincere appreciation goes out to all the folks who take the time to read my comments.