by Tommy H. Thomason

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Special Hobby FH-1 Phantom and XFD-1 Conversion

As I've written and said before, the FD/FH Phantom was a significant and unlikely achievement. Two companies, with no experience with jet airplanes (and little with airplanes - see XP-67) or jet engines, were able to produce a viable carrier-based airplane, folding wings and all, that was combat ready.

Not many were produced, as the rapid pace of jet engine development almost immediately resulted in bigger engines with more thrust, which resulted in the larger, faster F2D/F2H.

Special Hobby recently issued an excellent 1/72 scale FH-1 kit of this significant milestone in carrier-based aviation.

 Click HERE for the markings options provided.

It's a very detailed kit, particularly the cockpit, which is built up from plastic, decals, and photo etch to a degree not usually found in this scale and will be challenging. The assembly instructions for it take up a full page in the instruction sheet.

One external detail that caught my eye were two oval depressions on the belly just inboard of the jet exhaust pipes.



These are depressions where JATO bottles could be attached, allowing for a shorter deck-run takeoff if the catapults were hors de combat or just plain broken. Compare to the actual airplane:
Clear plastic parts are provided for the lights on either side of the hold-back door.

JATO came in handy when a Marine was forced to land, belly-up, on a beach after his engines quit due to fuel contamination. A recovery team dug holes under the wheel wells so the landing gear could be lowered. Then the holes were joined and the resulted hole expanded forward to create a ramp so the airplane could be towed onto ground level. The belly tank was removed, the inboard flaps replaced, the fuel system flushed and filled, and JATO bottles fitted for a takeoff from the beach.

Paul Boyer has already built the kit for a review in Fine Scale Modeler.

Peter Zanella asked me what changes would be required to convert this kit to the XFD-1 that made the U.S. Navy's first carrier takeoffs and landings.

This is a summary of the differences:

This is a comparison drawing of the nose, canopy, and vertical tail differences:

Creating an XD-1 Canopy would be the hardest part of the conversion.

For its at-sea carrier evaluation, the XFD-1 was modified to have a fixed Davis Barrier activator in front of the windscreen (it was retractable on the production FH-1s).

It was sort of a canted tripod.

Finally, it's worth repeating that the XFD-1 did not make its first flight, as it is commonly understood, on one engine: https://thanlont.blogspot.com/2016/07/mcdonnell-xfd-1-phantom-first-flight.html

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