The brainchild of Charles H. Zimmerman, the F5U was intended to perform well as a fighter plane while being able to remain in flight at extremely low airspeed, making it easier to operate from carriers. The F5U's unusual appearance owed to a very low aspect ratio wing without a fuselage, which resulted in something looking like a flying saucer. This shape, combined with powerful engines driving large propellers, could plow through the air at low speed (40 mph!), since the whole airframe is immersed in the prop wash. As a result, short takeoff and landing (STOL) performance was possible. At the other end of the performance envelope, the low aspect ratio and lack of fuselage would decrease drag, maintaining a high maximum speed. Maneuverability at all speeds would be improved by a small reduction in wing loading compared to conventional fighters, combined with a more compact shape and prop wash going over all control surfaces.
In 1941, Vought began building a low-power, full-scale demonstrator of wood and fabric construction, the V-173 (Bu. No. 02987), first flown on November 23, 1942, by Vought test pilot Boone T. Guyton. Other than test pilots Guyton and Richard Burroughs, the V-173 was also flown by Charles Lindbergh. In some 200 test flights, the V-173 proved Zimmerman right, having a low stall speed, relatively high maximum speed considering the powerplants, and being impossible to stall or put into a spin.
Based on the success of the V-173, the Navy ordered two XF5U-1 prototypes (Bu. Nos. 33958/33959) in 1944. The airframes were completed in August, 1945. An interesting innovation as the use of "metalite" for the skin, a sandwich of balsa between two layers of aluminum. Unfortunately, it wasn't until 1947 that the special articulated propellers were delivered. Tethered tests were performed in Connecticut, but plans to flight test the F5U's at Edwards AFB (delivering them via the Panama Canal) were canceled in 1948, the Navy having lost interest in propeller-driven fighters.
Professional Models is one of those smaller Czech-Republic outfits that have done some wonderful castings as of late, this one however is out-of-production to the best of my knowledge. Comparing this offering to a currently available 1/48th-scale resin kit by Miku, the Professional Model version wins hand down, which is one reason I sold my Miku flapjack on E-bay last year. What's so different?
The quality of castings are very similar, however fidelity of details become quite evident if you have the Steve Glinter book on the XF5U-1. Professional Models did their homework when trying to depict an detailed and accurate kit, a photo-etched fret handles most of the smaller details, although in a flat two-dimensional sort of way, it does have a great instrument panel.
If you really want an opinion on the interior, use a Corsair resin upgrade, the layout and floor arrangement look almost identical, plus or minus a couple tanks or panels. Not much of an interior was supplied with the kit, not an interior to my taste. So pull up your chair and tuck in your bib, I'm serving up Flapjacks!
"Whuddle it be?. Flapjacks with stee-raw-berries, plain Flapjacks with Maple surup, Flapjacks with Mar-ga-reen, you name it, we got it. "
Well, I'll have mine with a whole lot of work in it, namely this kit sat in my maybe finish pile for over a year before it saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Literally, we all have those kits that wait for a 'spurt' of inspiration. Mine couldn't have happened to a nicer kit, if you want a good representation of an XF5U-1. The castings are in typical light tan resin, no air bubbles anywhere, and it looked fairly accurate in dimensions. To be honest, the interior was chucked in the circular file and another scratch-built after the drawing in Steve Glinter's book. It looks an awful lot like a Corsair. Another area of detail, the landing gear, was scratched from aluminum tubing as the resin ones in the kit require too much clean up. The rest of the build was pretty much out of the box.
How many times do you see a glossy navy aircraft at a hobby meeting or contest? Not a lot, and you know, some righteous judge is going to zap you for it too. In reality, the Flapjack never saw much outdoor scenery; but then again I didn't want people to over look this kit because it was shiny. So most of the build was trying to get a reasonable finish to the kit, ended looking like a weathered veteran again.
The only new and neat thing that was tried was the Alps decals used for the overall finish of the propellers. A wood grain finish was downloaded into CorelDraw, some triangles and manufacturers markings and yellow tips, with no painting! A lot of Future wax dips and the props looked a whole lot better than any paint job I could ever do. Got to step out on the wild side sometimes guys.
The wheels had a bit too much tread on them, so some Obscurio brand wheels made it onto the bench, unfortunately the two sets where of different vintage, two were flattened, two were not. So the kit wheels, sans tread ended up on the gear. The clear parts are wonderful, and fit pretty well, only one set was provided otherwise the canopy might have been opened.
Decals are great, I wish I had known that the Stars and Bars go on the left upper wing and not the right as shown in the instructions. So some new ones got scavenged from a Micro-scale sheet. Goes to show that I've been doing Luftwaffe aircraft for far too long. There are some interesting American aircraft kits out there, minus the usual P-51, P-47, P-38, especially the lesser known versions or one-off that are around the hobby shops or E-bay.
In the end I now have a rare prototype aircraft amongst my rare one-off Luftwaffe aircraft kits - and it fits in just fine, thank you. If you have the chance to get this version of the kit, do so. The Miku version seems O.K., but lacks a lot of detail where it counts. My thanks to Professional Models for making this kit, and here's hoping they re-issue it sometime in the future.
Cool-O-Meter is at 8 of 10, ease of assembly 5 of 10, and the fun meter rates in a 7.