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Special Hobby 1/72 scale X-1A/D "Second Generation" aircraft

Kit: No. HS72160
Scale: 1/72
Manufacturer: Special Hobby, from Squadron Mail Order, 877-414-0434,
Price: $25.50
Comments: Injection-molded, 65 parts (3 resin, 12 photoetched-metal), decals
Pros: Good exterior detail; fine photoetched-metal parts; excellent decals; good fit; accurate shapes
Cons: Poor fit of cockpit components; main landing gear difficult to install
Issue Published: May 2008
The "second generation" Bell X-1 included three enlarged research craft: the X-1A, X-1B, and X-1D. (A fourth, the X-1C, was cancelled before construction.) These aircraft were developed to investigate aerodynamic heating, stability, reaction controls, and weapons release at Mach 2 and high altitude.

Coming on the heels of Special Hobby's X-1E, the stretched X-1A features accurate shapes, fine exterior detail, and top-notch decals.

The cockpit interior is well-detailed and features photoetched-metal seat harnesses and rudder pedals.

The canopy is molded in one piece, so if you wanted to show off the interior you'd have to cut the canopy away from the windscreen and cobble a hinge and opening mechanism. If you don't want to go to that trouble, don't get too worked up on finishing the interior - you won't be able to see much through the canopy. I found the cockpit side walls interfered with the installation of the tub. Once that was straightened out, the fuselage halves fit fine.

The trickiest part of the assembly was the main landing gear. As on the X-1E kit, each main strut has two sections: One attaches to the bottom of the well, the other to a bar that is installed in the top of the well. Since the parts don't fit well, it's difficult to align the gear.

I painted the model with SnJ's Spray Metal and a bit of its polishing powder. The decal sheet is the highlight of the kit: Beautifully printed and obviously well-researched by an X-planes fan, it provides markings for the X-1A in four stages of its test-flying career, and one set for the X-1D that was destroyed on its first powered flight. The attention to detail even goes so far as to include two sets of the large "X-1A" labels on the nose, each set subtly different from the other.

This model didn't need weight in the nose. Final assembly included adding the instrumentation probes. The instructions show probes on each wingtip and one under the nose, but photos during the USAF testing show the wingtip probes were present; later, during the NACA stage, the wingtip probes were gone and the nose probe installed.

The best reference available on the entire X-planes series is Jay Miller's The X-Planes - X-1 to X-45 (Midland). Only 22 hours were needed to finish the silvery stretched X-1A, and it contrasts well with my orange X-1 and white X-1E. Now, I hope Special Hobby can bring out an accurate Bell X-2.

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