by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundThe Heinkel He 280 holds a unique place in aviation history as the world's first jet fighter, as well as being the first aircraft fitted with an ejection seat. Perhaps a slightly less welcome "first" came with the first successful use of an ejection seat when Helmut Schenk was forced to abandon one of the prototypes.
Predating the more famous Me 262 and Britain's Meteor, the groundbreaking He 280 fell foul of a mix of technical issues and the political intrigue that plagued Nazi Germany. Despite its head start, the He 280 was designed closely around Heinkel's own jet engines and suffered from the continual delays in developing the engines and their eventual cancellation. Fitted instead with Jumo 004s, the He 280 struggled to compete with Messerschmitt's rival and this, combined with Erhard Milch's opinion that Heinkel should concentrate on building bombers led to the whole He 280 programme being cancelled before any production aircraft were completed.
The KitEduard have re-released their He 280 after it having been unavailable for a good many years. Itís shocking how time flies by, but the kit actually dates back to 1999 - I simply canít believe itís almost 20 years since I built it! At the time it marked something of a turning point for Eduard, because it was among their first kits produced to ďmainstreamĒ standards with steel moulds. And those same moulds have stood the test of time well, because this present release looks as crisp and sharp as I remember the first time around, with no flash or signs of wear. All thatís changed is that the parts are now moulded in Eduardís classy dark grey instead of pale olive.
Well, thatís not quite all thatís changed, because the new boxing gives the two different engine options that were previously boxed separately. And the other big change is the inclusion of colour photo-etched upgrades, which use a technology that wasnít available back in 1999.
So, what do you find when you lift the lid of the compact box? The sprues and accessories are bagged separately for protection, and the kit comprises:
90 x dark grey styrene parts
4 x clear styrene parts
31 x photoetched parts
A sheet of die-cut painting masks
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
Test FitI did a quick dry assembly of the main components to refresh my take on the kit after all these years. With the fuselage, the thing I noticed immediately is that there are only two locating pins - one at the tip of the nose, and one the other end at the tail. Thatís fine, except the fuselage halves tend to flex a bit, causing a step on the seam if youíre not careful. The fix is simple - just add some tabs of styrene card spaced along the inside edge of the joint to support it and youíre home and dry.
Thereís a different issue with the wings, in that thereís a slightly proud area just inboard of the trailing edge. Leave it as moulded and youíll find a noticeable gap along the trailing edges of both wings. Again the solution is straightforward - just a bit of careful sanding is needed until youíve levelled the surfaces.
One thing I remember from building the kit before was that I had to pay a bit of attention to blending in the nacelles. This release includes the nacelles for both Jumo 004 and HeS 8a and has small extra fillets youíll need to add for the latter.
A Few DetailsAs you can see from the parts count, Eduardís He 280 is basically quite a straightforward kit. If you were to use just the styrene parts for the cockpit, youíll be talking about a dozen pieces, but the inclusion of the etched fret makes a big difference to the level of detail. The side consoles are dressed up with new fascias and tiny etched throttle levers etc., while the instrument panel is replaced by a lovely 3-layer pre-coloured etched version. Alternatively, there's a crisply printed decal to lay over the original styrene panel, which should work fine because the raised detail isn't too pronounced. The solid-moulded rudder pedals are ditched in favour of delicate etched parts and thereís what looks like a circuit-breaker panel to add to the otherwise bare sidewall. Finally, the seat is treated to a set of pre-coloured straps and the overall effect should look suitably busy for an ďofficeĒ in this scale.
The undercarriage is simple and sturdy, but Eduard have included etched oleo scissors to add to the gear legs this time. The inner doors for the mainwheels are moulded shut, so you donít need to worry about whether the wheel bay is detailed or not - it's just not there at all. The wheels are moulded unweighted, so Iíll flatten the tyres a tad to avoid the finished model seeming to stand on tip-toes.
Maybe the passing of time is playing tricks on me, but I thought the original release included a nose-weight? Whatever, you don't get one this time, but there's ample room up front to ensure you don't end up with a tail-sitter.
The transparencies are crystal clear, with a choice of open or closed canopies and a landing lamp for the port wing. Eduard provide a set of die-cut kabuki tape painting masks for both the canopy and landing lamp, plus the nosewheel and mainwheels.
Instructions & DecalsThe instructions are printed in colour as a classy little 12-page A5 booklet on high quality glossy stock. The stages aren't numbered, but construction covers 5 pages, with clearly laid out diagrams and "info views". As usual with Eduard, colour matches are given for Gunze Sanyo paints, with RLM codes included where appropriate.
Decals are provided for a trio of prototypes:
A. He 280 V2, GJ CA, March 1943 - Jumo 004 engines.
B. He 280 V3, GJ CB, July 1942 - HeS 8a engines.
C. He 280 V8, NU EC, July 1943 - Jumo 004 engines.
The decals look to be very good, printed in perfect register on the sample sheet. The items are thin and glossy, with minimal excess carrier film. I've had excellent results with Eduard's own-brand decals on recent builds, so I have no reason to doubt that these will perform just as well. Swastikas are included in both full and composite forms - presumably the former will be snipped off the sheet for some markets.
ConclusionI really welcome the return of Eduard's He 280. It's quite a straightforward kit at heart and, barring the couple of points noted above, there's really not much scope to go too far wrong, whatever your level of experience. You could simplify things further by not using the photoetched details, but I reckon Eduard have pitched things just right as an entry-level project for anyone new to working with the medium.
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