Kitty Hawk 1/48 UH-1D

KIT NO:KH80154

Bottom line up front: In hands possessing the necessary skill, experience, and most importantly patience, something great could come from Kitty Hawk plastic, especially this kit. In less hands it will be a frustrating experience in skill building and fortitude. Kitty Hawk’s ambition and attention to detail makes a kit with many parts, that can look phenomenal and well detailed, but the quality of the fit and engineering is severely limited by their apparent tooling {in}ability. In no way is this a shake and bake kit, but it might be the best detailed kit of the venerable Huey D in this scale.

THE BUILD: My intent of the unvarnished feature is not to provide the reader with a comprehensive build guide but to give a quick reference of the overall quality and build-ability of the kit. To do this requires limiting myself to using only basic tools and skills. No paint, no filler, nothing hidden or corrected.

I always begin a kit by going through the instructions several times. At first blush the staple-bound instructions look beautiful with detailed diagrams spanning 20 pages, not including the fold-out full color marking and painting illustrations. A couple of the instruction pages in my example were also fold-out, appearing as almost a correction made as an afterthought. While not fatal this haphazard organization made the booklet less inviting and organized than it should have been.

Step one is one full page with multiple steps to begin fleshing out the cockpit and crew compartment. Credit where it is due, the parts are richly detailed and look great sitting on the sprue (if you aren’t looking for flashed over holes and other signs of less than adequate tooling). Assembly will take a great deal of test fitting and clean up, as well as opening up various holes, and cleaning up mating surfaces. I would highly recommend waiting to install the rotor hub (Parts C67, C3, C28+29, and 3x C1) until further along in assembly. This delay is mainly to allow for positioning these parts in situ as mine ended up being significantly off the aircraft center line, with poor fit all around.

Steps two through four take up the second page and are more seats, PE seatbelts, and other details. Lots more cleanup and careful assembly is required here. I didn’t install the PE seatbelts as that is simply a matter of, quite literally, bending the parts to your will and putting them in place. Detail continues to be quite impressive, and fit is reasonable, after a thorough clean up and lowered expectations.

PE seatbelts (not shown but included in kit) add the final touch to an otherwise impressive cockpit assembly.
multiple sink holes adorn the hook assembly.

Steps five and six involve building out the fuselage halves with some nice interior detail. To note, while the instructions do not show it as an option, you will be able to pose the doors in the open position. In fact, due to some fit issues with the front doors, I would recommend posing them open to avoid those issues (and to show off the nice interior detail you no doubt spent hours painting and weathering). The parts for the sling in the belly came with impressive sink holes that would have to be dealt with, and the exhaust outlet required modification of it’s location tabs to get it to fit in place correctly. You notice a theme? Do lots of test fitting here, making sure that you test fit the parts with the fuselage closed, or there will undoubtedly be trouble.

Assembled crew area and engine compartment. Considerable effort will be necessary to clean up of the parts, but it builds into a very nice looking kit.

Steps seven and eight are building out a reasonably solid rendition of the Lycoming T-53 turbo-shaft engine, installation of the same, and closing the fuselage. Due to the nicely done photo-etch ventilation grilles in the engine cowling, you will be able to see at least a profile of the engine inside even if buttoned up, so you can’t skip the engine (but the level of detailing you add is proportional to the amount of the engine that you decide will be seen). The fuselage halves went together surprisingly well, probably the best that I have seen in a Kitty Hawk kit. There is a seam along the bottom that, despite my best efforts, I could not get to align correctly. Of all the things on this kit to address, that would be as easy as a dab of filler and some sanding to even it out.

Notice the slight step along the fuselage seam? Not much to complain about.

Step nine is the tail, stabilizers and a few tail details. This is probably the only step in the entire build that goes exactly as expected.

Step ten is putting on the tail, nose panel, and roof/ceiling. The fit of the boom to the fuselage is surprisingly good and needed just a bit of clean up on the inside socket of the tail where it fits to the fuselage. There is a significant issue with the fit hidden in this step, as my ceiling (B-34) needed some significant modification to fit along the wall in the back of the crew compartment that surrounds the rotor hub and transmission. Once you get the ceiling addressed (it took some time with some sanding sticks) the roof fits perfectly. Important note: at this point, and before you install part B-12 that surrounds the hub, I believe you should address installation of the rotor hub and detail that was supposed to be installed in step one so it can be aligned with all axis of the aircraft. I thought it best, after several iterations of test fitting, to install sub assembly B11 and A12 with C64 (what I would call the hood on a Huey) allowing any misalignments or minor gaps created between that and the tongue on the fuselage to float until I installed the chin windows later.

Credit where due: the windscreen fits perfectly.

Step eleven deals with the engine cowling and surrounding detail, as well as the windscreen. I’ll start with the good news. The windscreen fits superbly and only needed a dab of Tamiya extra thin to create a perfect seam on the top where it meets the roof, and along the nose. The bad news is that on the sides, if you are modeling the doors closed, the fit is not good. Save yourself the trouble and model them open. The engine cowling comes complete with nice photo etch vents. These will need some very minor rolling on a flat surface to get a bit of curve required to mount flush into their holes. Sadly, I skipped this step, but you get the flavor.

Cue “Fortunate One” sounds in the distance…

Steps twelve through fourteen are building up the 7.62mm M-60 machine gun and mount and installing them to the fuselage. The guns and mounts offer some pretty impressive detail including photo etch parts for the bi-pod and sight assemblies. If you’ve ever heard a modeler use the term “fiddly” to describe construction of a model, and weren’t quite sure what it really meant, this is the perfect example. Detail is particularly good (at least in theory), molding is all over the place with fit that is proportional to the quality of the molding, and the instructions here leave a great deal to be desired. Find some picture references and play around with the location of the parts before you commit to glue, and take your time (and frequent sips of your favorite libation, if you are old enough to partake). The chin windows, parts GP21 and 22 fit far better than I expected after looking at the gap left between the hood and the fuselage tongue. In fact, when placing these chin windows onto the model, they closed the gap fixing the minor alignment issues that remained. This was far better than I had hoped, but is exactly what I had wanted to happen.

The chin glass fit perfectly and forced the “hood” and fuselage “tongue” into the proper alignment. What more can you ask?

Step 15 is assembly of the landing skids. After my experience with Kitty Hawk’s Little Bird kit, I was very wary of their design sensibilities regarding helicopter skids. These, however, were all you could hope for. I followed the instructions, letting the skids assembly dry just long enough to stay together but not before it had become rigid thus still allowing some play in the joints, and then installed into the bottom of the chopper checking alignment. The rest of the step is installing the various PE details and lights along the bottom of the bird. By now, you should be very comfortable with Kitty Hawk, and understand the flow.

Things are beginning to wind up at this point, and we are on to the various and sundry probes, antennae, handles, windshield washers and other details that give the Huey that down-to-business-in-the-jungle look. As long as you have pre-drilled the holes in the windscreen and fuselage roof, this should be nothing more than a matter of some time, care, and patience. I would suggest that you check the references of your specific aircraft as I noted that antenna part C-45, and nose probes C38, 39 and 79, do not appear on some of the aircraft I had been looking at.

The final two steps are the main rotor and tail rotor assemblies. Here is where Kitty Hawks ambition finally finds traction. These assemblies are well detailed to my eye, and almost trouble free. Well, that is trouble free once you figure out how they all fit (surprise! the instructions are not great). Say it with me: “test fit before you commit”. Assuming you have aligned the main rotor hub assembly as discussed in the steps above, the rotor should sit true. The tail rotor needed to have the receptacle on the tail drilled, but that was not an issue.

Kitty Hawk kits are notorious. There are some people who have never built one and will tell you how bad they are. There are people who have tried to build them and given up. There are some people who have built several and tell you that the legend of Kitty Hawk is worse than the reality. I’ve built a couple (and am building no fewer than three right now) and can tell you that the truth is in the middle. Kitty Hawk kits will undoubtedly have issues. They will frustrate you. They will wear you down. But, if you approach them with patience, endurance, and at least an intermediate skill level, they can reward you with increased confidence and pride. This Huey is no different. It took much longer than I wanted for an Unvarnished featured build, left me questioning my sanity at times, but the end result looks to me to be a pretty impressive Vietnam era Huey with lots of detail out of the box.

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