The Hughes 500 was first developed in the mid 1960s to meet a US Army requirement for a Light Observation Helicopter (LOH). The Hughes Model 369 won the competition in 1963 and was ordered into production. US Army pilots quickly transmuted LOH into 'Loach”. Hughes Helicopters offered a civillian version designated the Hughes 500. In 1976 the Hughes 500D was announced. This differed from the original by a 5 blade main rotor and a T tail. The 500D quickly became the standard commercial offering, replacing all previous models.
Hughes Helicopters was purchased by McDonnel-Dougas in 1984, and all models were given an MD designation. After the Boeing/McDonnel-Douglas merger in 1997, the helicopter division was sold off to become MD Helicopters.
The -500's distinctive shape has resulted in the affectionate nickname of 'Super Grape'.
This is a delightful little short-run model. The sprues are in a soft carmel coloured plastic, with the exception of the main cabin and doors which is done in clear. This rather neatly avoids the nasty fit problems one may expect in fitting the helicopter's rather extensive glazing, but does make for an intricate masking job. There is a small amount of flash and all parts are covered in mould release agent which must be washed off before construction begins. The instruction booklet is printed in full colour and there are no less than 8 different marking schemes to choose from.
The fuselage is two halves from nose to engine bay, with a separate tailboom. The cabin interior is vey complete, with 4 seats, cyclic and collective sticks and anti-torque pedals. The instrument panels are catered for by printed paper overlays. About the only thing missing are the seatbelts, which will be very visible through the large windows. The doors are separate, allowing them to be posed open. There is no indication whether nose weight wil be needed, nor is there much room to fit any in.
The rotor is a simple assembly made up of a rotor shaft, the 5 blades, control linkages that look a bit out of scale, and the domed cap that fits on top of it all. The modeller is expected to drill a mounting hole for the rotor shaft in the top of the cabin, and mount the rotor with a 4 degree inclination forward. The rotors droop only slightly while the helicopter is at rest. This droop is not moulded in, so the blades must be very carefully bent.
The vertical fin fits to the right side of the tailboom, and the tailplane and end cap fins fit on top. The tail rotor right-angle gearbox and tail rotor are separate mouldings.
The MD-500's exhaust is actually 2 pipes almost joined together in a back-to-back D shape. The exhaust cap provided in the kit is a nearly featureless disk with a shallow representation of the split exhaust. It would be much better to replace this with a piece of tube divided by a plastic card insert.
The floats are top and bottom halves with separate struts and skid nose parts. The struts are butt-joined to the cabin and the floats, so could probably benefit from drilling and pinning for extra security. The float fins appear to be optional; not all marking options show them fitted. There is room in the front of the floats for a bit of nose weight if it is necessary. If you wish to show the floats deflated, the plain tall skids could be used, and the packed floats made from miliput and plastic rod.
I don't compare models to drawings or published measurements. When assembled it will look like an MD-500D.
Decals and markings
The decal sheet offers no less than 8 different options:
- 1. N59RF from the US NOAA in overall wiite with light and dark blue trim provided on the decal sheet;
- 2. GdiF 109 of the Italian Customs Service in yellow and green;
- 3. HP1478PA from a private Panamanian operator in overall light blue with dark blue trim;
- 4. N8352F from a US Private operator on white and orange;
- 5. EC0SJ from the Spanish Fishing Vessel Alcomora in overall orange;
- 6. TF-GRD from the Icelandic Coast Guard in white with red and black trim;
- 7. ZK-HTN from Greenpeace Antarctica World Park in overall orange;
- 8. JMSDF 8773 from the icebreaker Shirase in day-glow orange and yellow.
N59RF, EC0SJ and ZK-HTN are the only options that will not require some tricky masking for the complicated colour schemes.
The rubber window seals and vent window outlines are provided on the decal sheet.
The real thing:
in its natural environment.
shown with the floats deflated and stowed on the skids