by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundThe Heinkel He 178 is one of the most important aircraft in aviation history, because on 27th August 1939 it made the world's first flight using using a turbojet engine. Despite similar developments abroad, the full significance of Germany's lead in this field is evidenced by the fact that the He 178's nearest direct rival, the Gloster E.28/39 "Pioneer" didn't fly until almost two years later.
The record-setting He 178V-1 featured a short span elliptical wing and flew with the undercarriage locked down. The 'V-2 was redesigned with a longer span straight tapered wing, a fully retractable landing gear and the more powerful HeS 6 engine, promising greater speed and increased manoeuvrability. Sadly, the prototype never had the chance to prove its potential as it never flew under power and ended it's days as an exhibit in the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin where it was destroyed in air raid in 1943.
The kitIf nothing else, Special Hobby's new quarterscale He 178 V2 illustrates just how much short-run kits have advanced over the last 14 years, because it's roots lie firmly in Condor's 1994-vintage He 178 V1.
Arriving in an attractive new box, adorned by a picture of the 'V2 in powered flight (something it never achieved in real life) the kit comprises:
33 x styrene parts (3 not used)
1 x injected canopy
2 x resin parts
18 x etched steel parts (2 not needed) with a printed film for the instruments
A small sheet of decals
This is a kit with a split personality. The bulk of the styrene parts date back to the original 1994 short run kit. In fact, I'd be tempted to say, Sprue A is actually an original vintage moulding, because the hard pale grey styrene matches the Condor kit in my stash perfectly, even down to the flash and hefty ejector pin marks, and a slight yellowing of the plastic. The only difference is that. for some reason, the parts have been re-numbered in the new instructions.
Sprue B is all new, with the straight wings and undercarriage doors. The plastic used is softer and the moulding, generally, much closer to mainstream standards.
Ironically, although the old fuselage parts are thick and slightly warped (nothing that can't easily taped together while they set), the scribed panel lines are finer than on the new sprue - so, not every change is necessarily for the better. It has to be said, though, that in true old-fashioned short-run tradition, the original detail parts like the undercarriage and cockpit controls are a bit crude and will benefit from some clean-up.or replacing from the spares box.
The etched parts are unchanged, other than being steel now, rather than brass. The fret includes a nice instrument panel and seat harness. The cockpit side console is etched too, and must be folded to shape before adding throttle levers. Bizarrely, what was originally the right-hand console (Part #L2) is now shown as part of the cockpit floor - I think I'll go with the old version...
The two big changes in the kit are the wing and the undercarriage. The new full-span wing top surface slots in neatly enough, but the increased chord means that some trimming is needed to remove the old roots before the lower panels can be attached. Likewise the undercarriage; the original kit had the mainwheel wells moulded closed, so these must be opened up before new resin inserts for the wells themselves can be fitted.
Like the fuselage parts, the canopy seems to be original too. It's quite thin and clear with neatly defined frame lines, but it has a slightly rippled distortion - and there's even an identical flow line to on my old 'V-1.
Instructions & DecalsApart from the muddle over the etched console mysteriously transforming into a floor panel, the instructions are clearly drawn and simple to follow. Colour matches for Gunze Sangyo paints are included throughout.
The overall finish is a mixture of natural metal and RLM 02 in a panelled effect, and the tiny decal sheet contains just two items - the word "Heinkel" to be applied under the cockpit sill on both sides.
ConclusionSpecial Hobby's He 178 V-2 is a real walk down memory lane with its combination of 1990s parts with new extras. If anyone's disappointed that it's not an all-new tooling, I think the relatively small specialist market that it will appeal to justifies the decision to go with using original mouldings, plus of course it helps keep the price low. So, in my opinion, it's a more than acceptable compromise. This isn't a complicated kit, but a bit of experience is recommended, particularly as you have to open up the wheel wells. The resulting model should be very a attractive tribute to the early days of jet flight.
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