Vought Sikorsky VS-300
The Kit and Assembly
The kit consists of 23 gray resin parts, 3 injection molded plastic rotor blades, and two sheets of photo etch metal, altogether containing approximately 50 parts, of varying size and complexity. None of the parts is named, but most are identifiable. One thing to remember is that this is not a kit designed for beginners, and wondered while I was assembling the kit whether it was really intended for experienced modelers. There are a LOT of parts to this kit, especially considering its size, and you will have to be very careful cutting the PE parts off of the sheet, as they will do their best to escape. Some are so small that if some reason they should become lost, they will be gone forever. Use of a magnifying glass is highly recommended, both for assembly and for looking for parts on the floor.
The main fuselage and engine assembly are the first sections to go together, and the rear fuselage is particularly critical because it is basically a photoetch structure forming half the length of the fuselage. When folded over and superglue, it is surprisingly strong, although the inner aluminum sheet is a little dicey to install. The engine has a lot of parts, and it is almost a model in itself.
The main rotor blades are quite complicated in their assembly, as they are a combination of injection molded plastic, resin, and PE parts. The instructions in this part are pretty good, and the drawings are very useful. Once the main rotors are assembled, the structure on top of the rotors is rather confusing, as it is apparently the mechanism used to control the rotor pitch. The drawings are not too clear.
The landing gear instructional drawings are quite well done, and, of course, and wheeled installation is simplest. The floats required some serious sawing and sanding to remove the resin mounts, but this merely takes time. The float mounting struts should be mounted directly to the floats to get them perfectly square, and then the whole unit can be mounted directly onto the bottom of the fuselage. There are resin struts that are used to brace the struts, and there are some small rigging wires that brace the floats. Then, alongside the floats, there are some metal structures of some kind, type undetermined, which need to be superglued to the sides of the pontoons. They are probably some kind of protective device, but I’m not sure exactly what. It would have been useful for the kit producers to have explained what they were. I suspect that they sent someone to the Ford Museum to research the model, and that would have been easy to do.
Painting and Finishing
Painting this model was one of the easiest steps. The major resin components can be airbrushed individually before assembly. The rear structural members should be painted black after they have been bent to shape and glued. Then the small parts which should be silver can be painted and superglued to the structure.
I brush painted many of the struts silver, and glued everything together. Probably the most intricate assembly was the upper portion of the rotor blades, which involved a lot of little parts. Seeing as how the rotor blades were silver, the small parts could be attached and then the whole structure airbrushed silver again. There are some very small wires on the PE sheet that need to be silver. If the kit manufacturer had made these of silver rather than brass color metal, things would have been a lot easier. But I painted them and they look all right.
I painted the floats yellow, although I’m not really sure if this is the correct color. The “ brown/yellow” color reference is very confusing, so I used regular lemon yellow. It is colorful. The little metal guards on the sides of the floats were painted silver.
One issue that I solved right at the end was how to attach the rotor blades to the crankshaft. The small hub in the kit had no attachment point, so I drilled out a small hole, which was very slightly larger than the shaft. I then filled it with white glue, and set it in place, allowing it to dry. It seems solid enough, and if it comes loose, it will be easier to repair than if I had used superglue.
Conclusions and Recommendations
To my knowledge, this is the first kit ever issued of the VS-300 helicopter, which to me is rather unusual since the aircraft is historically very significant. It is a very complicated kit to build, but with patience, a skilled modeler should have no trouble building it. You could build two, one with wheels and one with floats. If this is your area of interest, it is certainly worth getting at least one. You might invent some new expletives during the building process, but that will only show your creativity. The completed model will look impressive on your display shelf. Just be careful when handling it, as the completed model is VERY fragile. Recommended.
The kit instructions consist of one 8 ½ x 11 inch sheet, folded in half, providing four main instruction sheets. Page one has a good historical sketch, a photo of the aircraft, and sprue diagrams of the 14 resin parts, and the 3 rotor blades, which are injection molded plastic. There is no mention of the two photoetch metal sheets which contain the largest number of parts for this kit. Page 2 contains a color guide and four exploded assembly drawings, showing how to assemble the forward fuselage and cockpit, the PE tail section, the engine, and the rotor blades. Page 3 has four assembly drawings showing more details of the rotor assembly, the fuselage, and the engine after it is installed in the fuselage. Page 4 has an assembly drawing showing how to attach the floats, and also has two side elevation drawings showing the final assembly of the wheeled and float version. Some painting instructions are given, and even a small decal of the experimental NX28996 n umber, which was painted on the side panels underneath the rear fuselage structure. There is a photo of the completed model on the boxtop, although it doesn’t completely conform to the instruction sheet. For example, the floats are listed as being “brown-yellow”, whatever color that is supposed to be, while on the boxtop photo, the floats are gray. It would have helped to have access to a photo showing the exact colors.
Rotary winged aircraft have been around since just after World war I, but they were mainly autogyros, which had an engine for forward propulsion, and a free swinging rotary wing system to provide lift, as long as the aircraft was moving forward. The system allowed for some pretty spectacular takeoff and landing performance, but the aircraft flew like a regular airplane, and could not take off vertically like a helicopter. Autogyros were not particularly complicated, as they did have adjustments for blade angle, and they also had gear drives to start the blades rotating before takeoff . But once in the air, the blades swung freely, and merely allowed some very steep descents. The helicopter, however, had the direct drive from the engine to the rotor blades, and these served to provide both lift and thrust in whatever direction the pilot wanted to go. A number of autogyros were built up from existing aircraft, such as Avro 504’s and FW-56’s.
Numerous autogyros were built during the twenties and thirties, but although they were popular, they never really did the job. In 1937, Focke Wulf developed the twin rotor FW-61V1 helicopter, which was the world’s first successful true helicopter. In 1938, United Aircraft directed its branch, Vought Sikorsky, to develop a true helicopter, and Igor Sikorsky, a refugee from Communist Russia, was given the job. It was a single rotor, single engine aircraft with a stabilizing tail rotor for directional control. The original aircraft had two mainwheels and a tail skid, and later, it was equipped with a pair of pontoon floats. The pilot sat in a single open cockpit in the nose, and the purpose of the type was to develop the technology for the development of more advanced helicopters. Sikorsky first flew the VS-300 in 1939, and continued flying it for several years, making the first landing of a helicopter on water on 17 April 1941. Test flying continued until 1943, when Sikorsky finally donated the aircraft to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where it still resides.
There is not a lot of reference material available on the VS-300, although there is quite a bit of material on line. Actually the kit instructions have a pretty good historical summary of the aircraft’s historical importance, along with an actual photo of the airplane in its landplane form.