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Hobbycraft's 1/48 Scale
Bell YP-59 Airacomet

by John Valo


Bell YP-59 Airacomet


Hobbycraft's 1/48 scale YP-59 Airacobra is available online from Squadron




Once again, a nice little niche has been filled in 1/48 scale by Hobbycraft with the release of two variations on the Airacomet theme.

In typical Hobbycraft style, the kits are basic detail-wise, but of very nice quality with beautiful scribed panel lines and good fit. Cutting Edge addresses the most fundamental shortcoming of the kit with a gorgeous resin cockpit set, so off we go!


The Airacomet has always been one of my favorites, so I decided to embellish the model with a few extras. In addition to the CE cockpit set, I spent a bit of time refining the intakes, adding visible engine fronts, dropping the flaps, and detailing the landing gear.

Intakes and Engine Fronts

The kit intakes are engineered to facilitate the molding process rather than strictly represent the prototype. As such, the intakes are a bit 'boxy' and lack the distinctive fillets at the top and bottom.

These were corrected with a bit of sheet styrene and filler, followed by sanding the intake lips to create a more rounded appearance.

I scratchbuilt two engine fronts from bits of styrene sheet, tube and rod; just enough to avoid the see-though effect when looking down the intakes.



While these are not strictly 'to-scale', they add a bit of visual interest, and effectively enough represent the design of the actual engines.


Hobbycraft engineered the flaps as separate pieces to accomodate both the fabric-covered early versions and the metal-covered late (production) design with their two releases. While the flaps are not intended to be dropped, the way the parts are molded certainly makes things easier for the modeler to do so. I removed the locating pins, glued the flaps in the lowered position, and added small strips of styrene at the underside hinge points.

Once again, maybe not strictly accurate, but effective enough. Can you see I'm a recovering AMS sufferer?


After reading Tom Cleaver's P-59 review on Modeling Madness, I took his advice and shortened the main landing gear struts, and slightly lengthened the nose strut. This really helped the 'sit' of the model. I also added brake lines and scratchbuilt oleo scissors to all three struts.



The vinyl tires were painted first, then given a nice glazing of Future before attaching them to the plastic wheels. I have found that the barrier provided by the Future generally prevents the type of self-destructive behavior shown by vinyl against plastic -- so far anyway!


The cockpit set by Cutting Edge is simply beautiful, and well worth the price. The detail is outstanding, and it fits perfectly.



The kit provides the windscreen, canopy and rear windows as separate pieces, however the canopy isn't intended to be opened - it's just a bit undersized for that. I rectified this by adding two small strips of styrene on the bottom edge of the canopy, just enough to give it clearance to be posed open.


The rest of the overall assembly is essentially trouble-free. The kit fits together nicely, even with the various optional parts to accomodate the early and late versions. My only other addition was a small MV lens in the clear nose to represent the landing light.



Painting and Markings


Although the Olive Drab and Gray prototypes are so starkly attractive, I couldn't resist the British test aircraft that is one of the options in the kit. Try as I might, I couldn't find definitive proof whether the particular aircraft I chose to model was armed, so I elected to use the nose cap without the guns. I reasoned it would be easier to add guns than to remove them, if any evidence of armament eventually surfaces.



The model was painted with PollyScale paints, then clear coated with Future. I felt that the colors of the kit decals looked a little bright on the kit sheet, so I substituted some spare Aeromaster roundels and 'circle P' markings.

I had a few black and white photos of the landing gear from the NASM restored aircraft, and they show the struts as a dark color, while the bay and door interiors are a lighter color. After much hemming and hawing, I painted the struts 'Bell Green' and the inside of the bays and doors in yellow chromate.




The Hobbycraft P-59 is a competent and well-engineered effort, and builds into a quite attractive model. The two releases provide a great selection of marking choices, from OD and Gray to Natural Metal to a three-tone-blue US Navy test bird.

The kit is somewhat basic in some areas, most notably the cockpit, but the addition of the CE cockpit set and a little work makes this kit a very worthwhile addition to one's collection.



Additional Images


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Text Copyright 2004 by John C. Valo
Page Created 09 July, 2004
Last Updated 09 July, 2004

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