by Tommy H. Thomason

Saturday, September 22, 2018

XFL-1 Redux

My post on the differences between the XFL-1 and the P-39 ( included a comparison of the respective wing planforms. As it happened, the P-39 outline was taken from a Bell wing station drawing that I've since discovered wasn't rigorous about the actual shape of the wing tip. The post was also created before I mastered Illustrator and started to use a dimensioned box around a drawing to allow it to be accurately scaled.

Recently I discovered that the P-39 outline was being taken as being accurate by at least one modeler. I was chagrined to discovered that it was not, certainly with respect to the wing tip. I therefore went back and created as accurate a P-39 wing planform drawing as I could from the data available to me. It's posted here:

I then redid the XFL-1 drawing, which was based on a detailed Bell wind-tunnel model drawing. I was happy to see that it overlaid perfectly with the one in the original post. I then added the P-39 drawing to it along with a dimensioned box.

(Note that the root of the XFL-1 wing is closer to the fuselage centerline than the F-39's.)

The original post has been updated with this drawing.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Sword TBM-3W

August was a good month for 72nd-scale carrier-based modeler enthusiasts with the arrival of the Special Hobby FH-1 Phantom (see prior post) and the Sword TBM-3W. While the former was excellent kit, there were earlier options. The latter was particularly welcome because it was unrepresented other than by relatively crude conversions.

There are two issues available: SW72114 shown above with decals for US Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force; and SW72115 with decals for Dutch and French TBM-3Ws.

The radome is integrally molded with the fuselage halves. Its complex shape and removal of the lower turret fairing looks to be well represented except for maybe a small area at the very aft end of the radome.

The cockpit is adequate to the scale, needing only seat belt and shoulder harness for completeness. The seat is a little undersized and there would generally be a seat-back cushion and seat-pack parachute in it. The landing gear is delicate and the tail gear is remarkably complete. The tail gear looks a little more extended than a regular TBM's, but that's mostly if not completely because the fuselage forward of that is significantly less deep.

No interior is provided for the radar operator but even if the modeler goes to the trouble of opening the compartment door, a scratch-built one wouldn't be very visible.

If you want to move closer to perfection, adding "flutes" to the exhaust stacks provided would be more obvious, although not all TBM-3Ws had flame suppressors.
Note how close the main landing gear is to the radome. These were also painted white on many airplanes.

One caution is that not all TBM-3Ws had the external tailhook, since that depended on which TBM-3 was used for the conversion (see, including the one, VS-892 25ST, for which decals are provided in the kit.
The odd representation of the star in the national insignia occurs because part of it is painted on the crew door, which is open.

Another detail with some variation are antennas. The most obvious is the relay antenna on the vertical antenna (the operational concept in the beginning, was to transmit the radar signal down to a ship).

For example, this is a depiction of the antenna suite typical of a Canadian TBM-3W2. For lots more, see

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: