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Alliance 1/72 scale Bell X-2

Manufacturer: Alliance (Czech Republic), available from Squadron Mail Order, 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX 75011-5010, 972-242-8663.
Kit: No. 72009
Scale: 1/72
Price: $44.98
Comments: Cast resin, 17 parts (one vacuum-formed canopy), decals.
Pros: Beautifully printed decals, overall accurate shape.
Cons: Numerous bubbles in resin, inaccurate interior, fuel vent pipe missing, canopy too shallow, no test probe provided, poor fit, some markings too large for the scale.
The star-crossed Bell X-2 was a flight test pioneer - the first aircraft to penetrate Mach 3. That milestone was established, however, on the X-2's last flight, just before it went out of control and plummeted into the California high desert, killing test pilot Milburn Apt. Only two X-2s were built, and the other exploded while being carried by an EB-50 over Lake Ontario (near the Bell Wheatfield plant in New York), killing a test pilot and another crewman.

Despite the tragedies, the X-2 was a pretty airplane. Like the X-1, it was an air-launched, rocket-propelled speedster. As I like the X-planes of the 1950s, I looked forward to building this kit.

Alliance's warp-free resin parts show adequate recessed panel lines, but there are numerous tiny air bubbles in the surface of the fuselage halves, including the fin. A lot of cleanup is needed on the small parts as the edges are rough and flashy. The interior includes an instrument panel, control stick, and a sturdy ejection seat - except the X-2 had no ejection seat. A simple bucket seat was bolted to the rear cockpit bulkhead, and the pilot could (if not incapacitated by the thrashing of the plane as Apt was) separate the entire nose of the plane and gently descend by parachute. I left the seat out. Indeed, if you paint the cockpit black, you can't see any detail through the tiny windscreen.

Construction was simple, but complicated by poor fit. The wing root stubs on the fuselage don't match the sweep, chord, or thickness of the wings, so I had to smooth things out with gap-filling super glue and sandpaper. The rocket exhausts are simple thick logs and should look more like bell-shaped nozzles. The prominent ventral fuel-vent pipe is not included, nor is the instrument boom in the nose.

Step four in the basic instructions shows the landing gear setup. The X-2 had a nose wheel, but the rear of the aircraft was supported by a central strut. For a time, the X-2s had "whisker skids" attached about mid-span on the wings, but these show in few photos. The diagram in the instructions doesn't show the proper setup. The front edge of the skids should fit into the opening, just like the main fuselage skid.

The last part of the assembly stage was adding the canopy. You have to be careful when cutting it out and making it fit the opening in the fuselage. The canopy fits the fuselage OK, but is too shallow; the fuselage spine is the culprit here as it starts to curve down before it gets to the canopy. The X-2 spine should run straight and level until it reaches the windscreen.

I painted the model with Testor flat white and overcoated that with Future floor polish. The Propagteam decals are beautifully printed and provide serials for both X-2s. However, the logos for the nose are at least 33 percent too big for the scale.

My references were Jay Miller's book X-Planes, and Bunrin-Do's Famous Aircraft of the World, X-Planes. After 22 hours, I've got a pretty, but inaccurate, model of the X-2. Advanced modelers may want to compensate for the kit's problems, but it will be a struggle.


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