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Hobbycraft Canada 1/48 scale P-59A Airacomet

Kit: No. 1439
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer: Hobbycraft Canada, 140 Applewood Crescent, Concord, ON L4K 4E2, Canada
Price: $27.98
Comments: Injection-molded, 63 parts (3 vinyl tires), decals
Pros: Good parts fit, good decals, engraved panel lines, exquisite clear parts, separate wheels and tires, three-piece canopy, separate control surfaces, detailed wheel wells
Cons: Blunt intake lips, main gear struts too long, errors in instructions and color guide (on bottom of box)

Just before the United States entered World War II, General Electric received a license to build an American version of the British Whittle jet engine. It was up to Bell Aircraft to come up with an aircraft to be powered by a pair of these revolutionary power plants, and so the P-59 Airacomet was born.

Hobbycraft Canada's kit is finely molded with recessed panel lines and with the wing fillet molded to the fuselage. This results in tight-fitting wings. The frosty texture of the molded parts presents a problem, though, if you choose a natural-metal finish. You will need to sand all the surfaces glass smooth - not an easy task.

Most of the control surfaces are molded separately, allowing the flaps to be dropped and the ailerons and elevators to be posed off neutral. The cockpit interior is basic, but adequate if you don't open the canopy. The three-piece canopy allows posing the canopy open, but to be accurate, the rear panels were hinged to allow the canopy enough room to slide back.

Construction is straightforward, and all the cockpit parts fit with no problems. However, the instructions don't mention that weight is needed in the nose to keep the model from falling back on its tail.

I was impressed by the excellent fit of the rear fuselage halves - nice and clean and on a panel line. But the instructions don't mention the attachment of the separate splitters/shock cones in the intakes. They are shown already installed in step 4, but disappear in step 5. Hmm. Be careful with them, as they are "handed" - the less sloped end should go up. They are too thick and molded flat, while the fuselage sides they attach to are rounded.

While we're looking at the intakes, the front lips of the intakes are blunt - almost flat - and should be sanded to a rounded contour. The engine exhaust pipes fit loosely in the rear bottom pan, so I wrapped tape around them to help anchor them in place.

When it came time to paint, I couldn't resist the Navy test bird option on the decal sheet. I had trouble with "fisheyes" - small round areas that seem to repel paint, but I don't know if that was caused by something in the plastic or in the paint.

Hobbycraft's color guide is printed on the bottom of the box. There is an error: Some of the white markings aren't shown, and I had to consult my references to determine their locations. The decals were well-printed, but they are thin and need care in application.

The final assembly task was the landing gear. I have mixed feelings about vinyl ("rubber") tires. The diamond-pattern tread looks great, but the material is difficult to paint. There's not much holding the nose-gear doors to the fuselage, so be careful handling the model.

The sit of the model doesn't look right. I think the main gear struts are too long and the nose-gear strut too short. Otherwise, the model is an impressive addition to my collection. Hobbycraft also made a companion kit of the earlier Airacomet version with the rounded wing and tail tips. Between the two kits you could build any of the production P-59s, but the original XP-59s should have fabric-covered control surfaces to be accurate.

My references include P-59B Airacomet - A Peregrine Photo Essay by Steve Muth, and Air Force Legends No. 208, Bell Aircraft P-59 Airacomet by Steve Pace.

There are already two resin cockpit interior sets for this model from Cutting Edge and True Details. Either will spruce up the kit's "front office" to competition standards.

I enjoyed the 37 hours I put into my Airacomet. Anyone who can solve a few mysteries due to missing information will find Hobbycraft's jet pioneer a pleasure to build.

- Al Jones

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