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Czech Model's 1/48
North American
FJ-1 Fury

 

By Tom Cleaver

 

The Airplane

Wartime gas turbine development greatly interested the U.S. Navy, but actual adaptation of jet aircraft for service aboard aircraft carriers presented many difficulties. The airplanes were gas hogs, and all had tricycle landing gear, which had never been used aboard carriers before; the acceleration of the early jet engines left much to be desired; and, it was not even certain a jet airplane could get off of a carrier, assuming it could get aboard in the first place.

The result was several prototypes from different manufacturers, some followed by short production runs, with a few actually making into operational squadron service, while the Navy edged its way into the jet age.

North American's FJ-1 Fury was the second of these aircraft to achieve squadron service and go aboard a carrier - the first being McDonnell's FH-1 Phantom. The Fury was designed in 1944 and three prototypes were ordered January 1, 1945, followed by a production order for 100 on May 18 that was cut back to 30 following the end of the war that August. The first XFJ-1 flew November 27, 1946, and the first of the 30 production aircraft was delivered in October 1947.

The fat little fighter betrayed its P-51 forbears in the wing shape, and perhaps in the nicely-tapered bubble canopy. Armed with six .50 caliber machine guns in the nose, the airplane was powered by the Allison J-35A-2, which gave it a top speed of 547 mph at 9,000 ft - a healthy 80 mph better than the FH-1. Landing speed of 121 mph was "hot" for an aircraft carrier.

The production FJ-1s served with VF-5A (later VF-51) at NAS North Island in San Diego. They were tested aboard the USS Boxer in March 1948, where they proved just barely able to get off the deck unassisted. With the ship steaming full speed into a 20-knot wind, the airplane took nearly the entire flight deck to become airborne. Jet fighters were going to need some extra oomph in the form of a catapult for takeoff, and this would change flight deck operations.

Later that year two of the airplanes set speed records, one from San Diego to San Francisco and one from San Diego to Seattle. By 1949, VF-51 had gone on to the F9F-2 Panther, and the surviving FJ-1s were turned over to the Naval Reserve at NAR Oakland CA, NAR Los Alamitos CA, NAR Olathe KS, and NAR Dallas TX. They served until 1953, when the surviving airplanes were turned into instructional airframes. Two now survive in museums.

The Kit

Previous to this release by Czechmaster, modelers could obtain a 1/72 vacuform from Rareplanes, first made 20 years ago and a very good example of that company's work, with good surface detail and crisp molding, or a very indifferent 1/48 vacuform from a company whose name I can no longer recall that was exemplary of all modeler's nightmares about vacuforms. I built both; the 1/72 example survives today out at the Planes of Fame model museum.

While I like airplanes from virtually all eras, I particularly like those from the First World War and the first generation jet fighters. This is because the answers weren't known at the time - in fact many of the questions were unknown - which allowed for a certain creativity in design response that one does not see in the mature developments of piston power produced during World War II, or in the computer-assisted Lockheed Su-27s and Sukhoi F-16s of today. Models are all about shape, and to me the shapes from these eras are more interesting. I am therefore really glad to see kit manufacturers starting to play with the early jets and express my hope that this is a trend that will continue to grow.

This FJ-1 is the second early jet done by Czechmaster, the first being the Soviet Yak-15, a model I liked a lot (see my review of it in our archives). The Fury is a simple limited-run injection molded kit consisting of 29 plastic parts and a bag full of very nice, well-cast True Details resin parts to take care of the cockpit and nosewheel well. Two very clear vacuformed canopies are provided. Decals are for the two record-setting Furies from VF-5A, 101-S and 115-S respectively. This is the only disappointment I find with the model, because as a kid I remember well the beautiful color photograph taken by my now-friend Bill Larkins - one of the two inventors of modern air-to-air photography - of three FJ-1s from NAR Oakland in 1950, with the colorful "Weekend Warriors" on the forward fuselage; I really wish that had been an option!

Another thing I note is that the main gear wells are not boxed in. Given their simple square shape, this will not be difficult to take care of with sheet styrene, but I really had thought the days of "open" wheel wells was gone with the Dodo Bird.

The airplane will be simple to paint: black cockpit, and midnight blue everything else. The instruction sheet gives very clear painting guides for doing the cockpit; if you future the canopy, I don't think you'll want to ruin these lines by opening it - certainly everything that can be seen will be seen.

I've wanted a good FJ-1 Fury in my collection for a long time. Thank you, Czechmaster, for doing it, and thank you Squadron Mail Order, for providing it.




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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
87199-0933
USA

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