Short-run kits provide unusual subjects that probably wouldn’t show up in mass production. They also have a reputation for being difficult to build. Special Hobby’s Heinkel He 178V-2 delivers on both counts, providing a historically significant subject but challenging your modeling skills.
Heinkel’s He 178 made the world’s first jet-powered flight on August 27, 1939. However, fuel consumption limited its flights to 10 minutes, and when Germany invaded Poland a few days later, jets were a low priority. The 178V-1 eventually was sent to a museum in Berlin, where it was destroyed by an Allied bombing raid. A second version, V-2, never flew.
Although Special Hobby’s kit is labeled V-2 and supplemented by the later wings and gear doors, you could as easily build the earlier variant with the parts provided.
Instructions are online
; I printed out a bigger copy.
The first step represents a major decision: landing gear up or down? Since the V-2 never flew and I wanted to show off the kit, I chose down, which required cutting open the fuselage for a plastic tail wheel well and two resin-cast main-gear bays. Engraved lines provide a good guide to the main-gear openings. The resin castings are clear and clean; I shaved their backs to fit. I postponed cutting the fuselage to mount the V-2 wings until I saw how they fit.
I also skipped most of steps 2 and 3, saving much of the cockpit detail to make construction and painting easier. The cockpit floor offers no location of the seat or rudder pedals; test-fit it with the rear bulkhead and put the seat as far aft as you can to place the other stuff.
Closing the fuselage halves sounds much simpler than it is. Several pieces must be captured inside: a backing plate for the intake opening; the cockpit floor; instrument-panel visor; aft cockpit bulkhead; resin gear bays; tail-wheel well; and exhaust. Nothing fit without being whittled. I left the panel visor and tail well for later.
The fuselage halves were a poor match, and the molding falls a little short at the nose; I filled that gap with a slice of styrene and super glue. Fortunately, the thick molding gives you plenty of plastic to smooth and shape.
Steps 5 and 6 join the wing halves and attach the tail planes – and reveal perhaps the most serious issue of the kit. The wing halves were not a good match, and the fillets are wrong. In the few pictures I found, the wing roots are roughly covered by what looks like roof flashing attached to the fuselage and wings. However, in the kit molding this detail is engraved on the wings and does not go beyond the trailing edges. Adhesive foil around this area might make it look more like the pictures – and it could help cover the rough join produced by cutting the fuselage away to accept the V-2 wing.
Steps 7 and 8 center on the landing gear. The tires are poorly matched halves that must be sanded round. Using the landing gear’s mounts in the resin wells as shown won’t angle the legs properly. I super glued the legs athwart the mounts, but the angle was still too steep and I had to cut the supporting struts for a floating fit inboard of the main legs.
After painting the plane with Alclad II aluminum and Testors RLM 02 gray enamel, I realized I had forgotten the little stabilizer at the top of the tail fin. Instructions called for me to cut a slot in the tail (and my finished paint!) to slide in a photoetched-metal plate – and there’s not much above that slot, presenting the possibility of serious damage. A razor saw got it done, but it was a nervous business.
The canopy is an imperfect fit I bouyed with lots of white glue, leaving one more surprise before completing the plane: two Heinkel decals. Like other decals, immerse them in water – but don’t let go. I did, reached for a paper towel, and looked down to see Heinkel
floating free and twisting on itself. I’ve never seen that before. The decals look a little over-scale.
Still, after the decals and my dander were down I had a nifty looking little jet. You can, too – if you’re an experienced modeler and take your time.