a-im-title.jpg (7789 bytes) a-im-month.jpg (6572 bytes) a-top-corner.jpg (4494 bytes)

MPM's Upgraded 1:72 FH-1 Phantom


by Chris Bucholtz



After McDonnell's unfortunate experience with the XP-67 Moonbat, the fledgling company turned its attention to U.S. Navy demands for a carrier-based jet fighter. As was the case with many early jet preliminary designs, engines were a constant question mark. Designer Kenneth Perkins was first asked to design an airframe that would handle six turbojets generating 300 pounds of thrust each. The design changed to eight jets, and then ten, before Westinghouse proved their 19XB-28 engines could provide 1165 pounds of thrust each while requiring far less maintenance.

Perkins designed a clean, sleek, straight-wing design with four .50-caliber machine guns nestled in the nose. The engines were in the trailing edge of the wing roots, and the pilot was able to sit well forward.

By Jan. 26, 1945, the airframe was ready to fly, but Westinghouse had only delivered one jet engine. John McDonnell decided to take the risk of flying the plane with just one engine installed, and the plane made its first test flight successfully. On March 7, the Navy awarded a contract for 100 FD-1s, which was cut to 60 with Japan's capitulation. The first FD-1s were delivered in 1946, with an XFD-1 making the first jet take-off and second jet landing aboard a carrier on July 26, 1946 aboard the U.S.S. Franklin D. Roosevelt. (A Ryan FR-1 Fireball with a failed radial engine had made an emergency jet-only landing to claim the first jet trap in 1945.)

The first squadron to operate the FH-1 was VF-17A aboard U.S.S. Saipan, but by 1949 the Phantoms had been turned over to the Marines, and by 1950 the FH-1 was retired. But it had established a lot of firsts, most notably becoming the first all-jet carrier fighter, the Navy's first 500 mph fighter, and the first McDonnell carrier fighter, starting a tradition that continued right up to the F/A-18 of McDonnell providing fighters to the Fleet.

The Kit

MPM's FH-1 was the kit that started my love affair with short-run kits. The original parts are here in this kit - two trees with 27 total parts and a vacuformed canopy. The upgrade comes in the form of seven resin parts that will save the modeler a lot of effort and time. On my first FH-1, I added a seat from a Monogram Mustang, faked up a cockpit, boxed the landing gear, cobbled up a control panel and scrounged a control column. Thatís not necessary here! MPM gives you a beautiful cockpit tub, a seat with molded-on belts, an armored headrest, a control panel and a new control column - basically, the entire cockpit is provided, and it's rendered very well. The only thing missing is the K-14 gunsight.

The exterior is detailed with finely recessed panel lines, but there are some surface imperfections - not big blemishes, but a general roughness. As you assemble the model and address the seams, give the whole model a light sanding and this condition will disappear. The once-empty landing gear bays have been supplemented by new resin plugs that look very nice, but they raise a problem: the intakes will show them very clearly without some modification. There are blank-off plates in the kit, but their position close to the intake openings doesnít get the job done. On my first model, I used thin styrene sheet to form ducting, and they looked just fine.

The thick wing butt-joins the fuselage, as does the tail. Be careful with these and youíll be able to avoid having to do much filling and sanding The landing gear, with some clean-up, looks acceptable, as are the tail bumper and arrestor hooks.

The two low points in the kit are also present in this upgraded version. The nose has two fairings for machine guns, but the real aircraft had four. I added extra bumps from a KP MiG-19 kit, but virtually any material could be used to make the teardrop-shaped fairings. The other rough spot is harder to fix. The engine exhaust nozzles are very rough, fit badly, and are almost impossible to install without getting out of round. The nozzles in my kit were both short-shot. You might be able to fudge them with Banshee exhausts from the Airfix or Hobbycraft kits.

The canopy is beautifully transparent, although the curved shape of the rear canopy is a challenge to cut out without damaging the proper contour.

The decals depict two planes: a VF-17A aircraft from the U.S.S. Saipan in 1947, and a Marine Corps Phantom from VMF-122 in 1948/1950. Both planes are in overall glossy sea blue.

This kit was my introduction to short-run kits, and it's an easier build now than it was then thanks to the resin parts. Thanks to Squadron for our review sample.

pragolog-sm.jpg (5410 bytes)

browse-book-stack-rev.gif (3989 bytes)

tacair.jpg (6610 bytes)

Air Intelligence
1999 Modelers'
Reference Guides

1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00

Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.

TacAir Publications

PO Box 90933
Albuquerque NM

E-Mail Us!

Next: Pegasus 1/72 AW FK8
Previous: Contents
a-bottom-corner.jpg (4577 bytes)