The Hughes TH-55 started life as the civilian Hughes 300, a small three-place helicopter, but its qualities as a trainer quickly became apparent and the US Army sought it out. Once the US Army got a hold of it, it was given the name of Osage (following the tradition of naming Army helicopters after Native American tribes) and production began in 1961. By the time the series production run was over in mid-1968, 1,967 TH-55s had been built, along with another 48 license-built by Kawasaki in Japan. At a time when helicopters were starting to fill out air forces around the world, the Hughes TH-55 found its way into many of them as the primary trainer. Along with the US Army and Japan, the TH-55 found its way into the air forces of Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Italy, Kenya, South Korea, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Spain, and Sweden. Even today one can see this venerable helicopter flying in civilian livery, with many still being used to train pilots at airports around the world.
This model is a great blend of injection plastic, polyurethane resin, and vacuformed clear acetate. It would be difficult to make this model otherwise, as there is a lot of detail crammed into a very small package. The resin parts make up the interior and engine assemblies, and are very nicely molded. Done by CMK, they feature separate seats, instrument panel, engine housing & gearbox, and other assorted fiddly bits. The interior will take some time in painting, just because of all the detail, especially since there won't be a single corner hidden underneath that big bubble canopy.
The vacuformed canopy is made up of two parts, with the seam falling on the center post. Only one is included, which immediately means that I'll screw it up when I cut it out. It is very clear, though, and thin but not too thin. It's thin enough for there to be no distortion, but thick enough to provide enough area to glue the two pieces together. The doors are molded into these parts, so if you want to open them up, more cutting will be needed.
The plastic parts make up the rotors and tailboom, as well as the landing skids and other assorted bracing. The parts will need a little cleanup, as there is some flash present, but everything is round in shape, so after removing the flash there should be no problem in putting it all together. The rotors are molded as separate parts, so an assembly jig will be in order to align the three blades properly. A simple circle divided into three parts would do, with each blade along a division line. After gluing the blades to the hub, you'll want to heat them and bend them down for that characteristic droop, too.
There are some parts that aren't included in the kit, though. These are to be made up from styrene stock. Detailed drawings are included to make these parts, but they are small and delicate and include some of the supporting structure of the tailboom, so they are essential as well. This definitely puts this kit into the advanced category.
The marking potential for this little helicopter is incredible, and this kit includes markings for no less than 5 TH-55s. The first three are military versions, with a red US Army one, a dark green Swedish one, and a black JASDF one. This last one I believe should actually be dark blue, but I'll have to research that some more. The remaining two are civilian ones, the first being G-SHCB, painted in white, and the second one being D-HFAB in aluminum overall. The decals are printed by Propagteam and promise to be very thin. The sample I have was slightly off register, but nothing so bad as to be unusable.
Lately it seems that 1/72 modelers have been blessed with a lot of helicopter kits, and I am sure that this one will find its way into many collections. Its small size lends itself well to having more than one, and if you build up a bunch of the extra parts all at once, it shouldn't be too hard to do three or four of these helicopters.