Bell P-39 Airacobra
The P-39 Airacobra was designed in 1937 in response to a tender by the U.S. Army Air Corps. In many respects the P-39 Airacobra was an unusual aircraft. The basic idea was to install a powerful engine as close as possible to the aircraft's centre of gravity in order to improve manoeuvrability and stability. An Oldsmobile T-9 37 mm cannon fired through an opening in the propeller spinner. The P-39 was the first American fighter to fitted with a freely rotating nose-wheel. The Airacobra also aroused interest in the British Air Force; the RAF however later rejected the aircraft. The Russian Air Force also expressed strong interest in the aircraft and initially took delivery of 179 units. The U.S. Army Corps also equipped some of its newly formed units with theP-39, including the 8th and 35th Fighter Groups which operated out of New Guinea. Often underrated in the West the P-39 proved to be an exceptional aircraft in the Far East. Its top speed of 580 km/h was sufficient to dominate an A6M Zero in a dogfight.
Originally released by Special Hobby this kit came with pre-painted etch, resin exhausts and gunsight. This Revell re-pop doesn’t come with these, but it shouldn’t really matter too much to the general modeller. The kit comes in the rather feeble end opening box which Revell seem determined to stick with. The box art is of P-39D Air A Cutie, with a rather comely naked lady on the nose, in flight over an island in the Pacific. Inside the box, there are 5 large, and 2 small sprues of light grey styrene and one small of clear. The parts are all well moulded with only a small amount of flash, there are a few moulding pips and some strengthening bars where needed. Panel lines are nicely engraved along with raised detail as per the real aircraft.
Beginning the build with the nose wheel bay, which is made up of five parts to produce the bay and a further two parts that make up the rear bulkhead and rear bay roof, which is also the cockpit floor. The well detailed cockpit is made up of the forward bulkhead to which the rudder pedals are attached. This assembly is then fitted to the cockpit floor along with port control box. The instrument panel is made up of upper and lower instrument clusters and lower binnacle. The panel is attached to the floor, whilst the two machine gun breeches are fitted between the front bulkhead and upper IP. The control stick, rear bulkhead, seat supports, seat and rear decking complete the cockpit. Before fitting the cockpit to the fuselage, frame parts, control boxes and auxiliary intake interior are fitted. The cockpit is then fitted and the fuselage halves are closed up and the two part radio is fixed to the rear decking.
From the fuselage to the wings, the upper and lower horizontal tailplane halves are joined together as are each of the primary control surfaces. The moving surfaces are then attached to the fixed in the desired position. The single piece lower wing has the radiator intakes and outlets are fitted, as are the outer main landing gear boxed units, the inners being moulded to the wing. The outer wings and ailerons can then be attached. The completed wing is then fitted to the fuselage, with the horizontal tailplane assemblies and rudder. At the front fuselage, the front upper decking piece, which includes the nose machine gun troughs, is fitted, once 50g of nose weight has been added. The nose gear, consisting of two wheel halves, main oleo, two part scissor link is fitted to the nose gear bay once the prop shaft and uplock are fitted. The retraction struts and actuator are then attached to the oleo, followed by the nosewheel doors. The main gears are made up of four piece wheels/tyres, outer doors and scissor links. These assemblies are then fitted to their respective bays which are finished off with the inner doors and actuators. Whilst the model is upside down the lower navigation lights, landing light and radiator outlet flaps are fitted as is the optional drop tank and associated sway braces. Flipping the model over the exhausts, each are made up of two halves, which could be a little problematical with cleaning up of the seams. The completed exhausts are then fitted with their outer panels. In the cockpit, the gunsight mount, gunsight and sighting glass are fitted, followed by the main canopy and the two doors which can be posed open if required. The final parts of the build are the addition of the nose and wing machine gun muzzles and pitot probe are glued into place. The propeller is built up of the backplate; separate blades, spinner and cannon muzzle, and then attached to the aircraft.
The large decal sheet provides options for two aircraft. Air A Cutie, of the 36th Fighter Squadron, 8th Fighter Group at Milne Bay, New Guinea 1943 in olive drab over neutral grey with a white tail, or an un-named aircraft of the same squadron and group, in olive drab over neutral grey. The decals are nicely printed, with good opacity, in register and slightly matt. The spinner of the second option is provided as a decal since the complex pattern would take some painting, but the decal will probably take a fair bit of softening solution to fit. The same aircraft also has a large green band around the rear fuselage which could be painted instead if the right shade could be identified. Air A Cuties more noticeable insignia are the ladies either side of the nose, and these are pre-cut to fit the doors, but will take a bit of patience when fitting and the use of softening/setting solution to settle down over the raised panelling.
Another very nice re-pop from Revell, this kit will build into a very good looking model. I have only heard good things about this kit, in its Special Hobby incarnation and can’t see anything difficult in the build. There is no engine, or gun bay that you may see in other kits of this scale, but this is not really a problem as it simplifies the build and probably improves the fit. There is scope for adding extra detail in the cockpit and undercarriage bays, but that’s about it. Personally I would only add some seat straps and build it out of the box. I can easily recommend this model to anyone interested in an unusual looking aircraft in a nice size.