by: Andy Brazier [ ]
History The first US Navy’s jet aircraft to be operated from the aircraft carriers and the first jet of the US Marines ever, such could be the description of the airframe produced by McDonnell under designation the FH-1 and which was commonly known as the Phantom, although the same name, just with a number II added, would be later given to another and much more popular jet to seemingly eclipse the historic significance of the original Phantom.
McDonnell company was established in 1939, and in 1940 it received its first contract for a production of subassemblies for other producers. In January 1943, McDonnell’s design team was assigned a new job though. The US Navy commissioned a jet fighter aircraft to be built which was to be known as the FD-1, later to be renamed to the FH-1 in 1947 (in US Navy system, the letter D denoted the Douglas company)
The team, led by K.Perkins, put forward a concept of a straight wing monoplane of all-metal construction. The power plants were supplied by Westinghouse. Originally, before the whole concept of the aircraft became clear enough, as many as eight engines were considered per each machine. Eventually, a more conventional design with two powerplants on either side of the fuselage was accepted. The machine was fitted with six machine guns in the nose section and the Phantom military nickname was chosen. The type’s Model 19 powerplants proved to lack the necessary performance and were quite unreliable, too. However, the prototype XFD-1 machine begun its taxiing tests fitted with this type of powerplants, to be more precise it was fitted with just one engine. On 26 January 1945, an accidental hop occurred during taxiing which was considered the type’s very first take off. The flight tests went on until 1 November 1945 when the plane crashed, killing its pilot, W.Burke. It was hard times for the company, indeed. The original order calling for 100 examples of the aircraft was cut down to just 30 airframes by the end of the war, however, eventually, as many as 60 airframes were requested. The flight tests went on with the second prototype, during these tests the very first landing and consequent take off from an aircraft carrier occurred, making the Phantom the very first naval jet aircraft to achieve this milestone.
The production machines differed from the prototypes by having their tail fins squared off, the wind shield was simplified, fuel tanks enlarged and a provision for another tank carried under the belly was also made. The very first production airframes, the FH-1, went to VF-17 unit, making it the first jet aircraft unit of the US Navy. The unit was later re-equipped with the more modern Banshee type and renamed to VF-171. The second Navy unit to operate the Phantom was VF-172, while the first Marines unit to do so was VFM-122, which, led by ace pilot Marion E. Carl received their FH-1s during the Autumn of 1947. It was also this unit where the first FH-1 display, or aerobatics group was formed, named the Marine Phantoms. Another one was established at the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, named the Gray Angels, but was also unofficially known as the Admirals‘ Group as its members were Rear Admirals D.Galler, E.A. Cruise and A.Soucek.
The FH-1 Phantom did not see very long first line service, it was transferred to Naval Air Reserve units at various Naval Air Stations throughout the whole US rather soon and by 1955, the Phantom had retired from active service. In 1964, two airframes and another one to supply spare parts were used to civil jet pilot training by Progressive Aero Inc. company.
Info from Special Hobby
In the box Special Hobby do produce some wonderful box art and the Phantom art work is just as nice as previous kits with an FH-1 banking over a coastline, sporting one of the marking options in the box.
Inside the box you will find three grey sprues, one clear sprue, a small photo etch set, one set of decals and the instruction booklet.
The packaging is good with the sprues inside a sealed bag with the clear parts inside thier own bag within the main bag, so damage to the parts should be limited.
Ejector pin marks are only found on the major parts and are in places that wont be seen once the model is built. There is however a few blemishes in the plastic, but I don't think that it will effect the look in any way. The plastic does have a glossy look to it, so a primer will need to be sprayed over the parts to help the paint adhere.
Exterior detail is very good with recessed panel lines adorning the fuselage and wings, and are quite subtle.
All the control surfaces are moulded in the neutral position, so surgery will need to be done if you want them off center.
No external stores are supplied for the FH-1, (basically because it could only carry rockets anyway), but the kit does come with a separate belly fuel tank.
Internal detail for the cockpit is fairly good, with the pilots seat having a unpainted photo etch harness.
The instrument panel has raised details for the dials and decals are supplied if you don't fancy painting it. The cockpit is predominantly black, so not much detail is going to be seen.
Undercarriage bays have moulded detail in them, with raised spars filling much of the space.
The undercarriage legs are nicely detailed and multi part affairs with one piece wheels with some nice spoke detail on them.
The engine inlets have a set of compressor blades installed in the air intake tubes, and the exhaust also has the rear of the exhausts blocked out with blades.
The clear parts are distortion free and quite thin, with raised areas for the framing, which should help with masking. The canopy can be posed open.
Instructions, markings and decals
The instructions are printed on a folded A4 size paper, and consists of 15 pages, with the last two, as advertisements for other Special Hobby kits. The booklet is glossy and in colour for most of the build and the four profiles.
The build sequence is over 28 steps and is easy to follow with internal paint numbers for Gunze and Mr Color range of paints alongside any optional parts.
The build starts off with the cockpit assembly, and the nose wheel well, which doubles up as the cockpit floor.
Once the cockpit is complete the fuselage can be closed up, remembering to put 3g of weight in the nose, of which there is ample space for.
Next up is building the air intakes and exhausts, then that follows with the main undercarriage bays be fitted to the inside of the lower wing.
The wing is split into one lower section and two upper halves. The air intakes need to be added before closing the wings up.
The next three stages concentrate on adding the wings to the fuselage and building and installing the undercarriage
The last two stages are for adding ariels, the tail stabilisers, tail hook, tail skid, exhausts, belly tank and the canopy.
The decals are printed by Cartograph of Italy, so there shouldn't be any problems with them.
There is quite a few stencils to add the aircraft, and a one of the pages of the instructions is dedicated to the placement of them.
Four marking options are supplied, three of which are in the Glossy Sea Blue, common to all Navy aircraft of that era. The forth marking option is for a civilian aircraft in white, with red trailing edges and nose.
The marking options are
1 no. 750 operated by the NATC and flown by Rear Admiral Apollo Soucek, member of the Gray Angels aerobatics and display team.
2 no. 108 assigned to Naval Air Station Grosse Ile, 1951, with the fuselage band in Orange. On the occasion of a public show, this airframe was carried an enlistment poster underneath its canopy, the poster is also in the decal sheet.
3 A-FH-1 of the Marine Phantoms display team of VMF-2, with yellow trim.
4 FH-1 Phantom, N2482A, as used for the pilot training in Teterboro School of Aviation.
Conclusion There is something about the early jets which are sleek, solid, with a cleanliness about them missing in more modern jets.
A much needed release of the US Navies first operational jet aircraft.
Special Hobby have captured the FH-1 well and seems to be an easy build with a fair amount of detail in the kit.
Now lets hope they upscale this to 1/48th, then I will truly be a happy bunny.
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