Airmodel 1/72 scale Helio U-10B Super Courier, kit #AM-7006
Service interest in the Helio Courier STOL aircraft was first shown in 1952 when the US Army acquired a single aircraft for evaluation under the designation YL-24. Six years later the USAF bought three of the more powerful five-seat Super Couriers with 295 HP Lycoming GO-489-G1D6 engines under the designation L-28A (now U-10A) to evaluate operational techniques for STOL aircraft. Full span leading edge slats, large flaps, one piece horizontal tail surfaces, and a low turning oversized propeller enabled this version to take off in 114 yards and land in 70 yards with a full load, and to remain controllable down to speeds as low as 30 MPH. Large numbers entered USAF service starting in 1965 for counterinsurgency duties in Vietnam. Most were U-10Bs with large paradrop doors, O-480 engines, and extra fuel giving an endurance of 10 hours/1200 mile range at cruise. Three were converted from U-10As and 100 more were new-build airframes. These B models could carry four passengers or 1000 pounds of cargo in addition to the two man crew. A large loudspeaker and a device for dropping propaganda leaflets was fitted for psychological warfare operations. Many were supplied to South American countries under the Military Assistance Program (MAP).
This was one of the few injection molded kits produced by Airmodel and was a vast improvement over their crude FW-56, being comparable in quality to their Culver PQ-14 and early MPM limited run kits. There are 17 parts molded in a hard white plastic and 15 in clear plastic, including the windscreen and fuselage halves. There are optional landing gear parts; faired gear legs on the clear sprue and unfaired on the white. The parts feature recessed details but the control surfaces need to be scored more deeply to differentiate them from normal panel lines. My kit has a lot of flash and the small parts are poorly-defined but appear to be usable for the most part. As expected from a limited run kit there isn't much detail but a major shortcoming is the lack of any internal fuselage structure in the cabin - this will need to be scratchbuilt from the drawing on the instructions and any other references available (are there any??). Cockpit detail consists of five (?) crude seats, control wheels, and an instrument panel with raised details and integral coaming.
Decals are included for three different USAF aircraft, all in identical SEA camouflage but one does have a white upper wing. The sheet in my kit is still in good condition and I plan to use it.
Overall this seems to be a fairly nice little kit that shouldn't be too difficult to build and as far as I know is the only injection molded U-10 made in The One True Scale so would be well worth searching out for those wanting to complete a collection of Vietnam war aircraft. The box sides also show a U-10D with floats along with two FW-190 variants, an R-4 helicopter, and a Commonwealth Wirraway but I don't know if any of these other kits were ever actually produced.
Here's hoping Santa brought all of you lots of plastic, and my best wishes for a prosperous and Happy New Year. I'll be back with some more vintage plastic next month. Till then, "Build what YOU like, the way YOU want to, and the critics will flame you every time."
Be sure to visit Al's Place while you're surfing the 'Net!