Paperback, 96 pages, heavily illustrated, 30 color profiles
Published by Osprey Publishing October 2019
Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.3 x 9.8 inches
Unlike the vast majority of volumes in Osprey’s Combat Aircraft Series and despite the title, B-58 Hustler Units has very little to do with the units and more to do with the design of the aircraft.
The first chapter deals with the history and development of the delta wing planform in general. This traces the history back to the work of Alexander Lippisch and the many subsequent American designs that used this configuration. It was nice to see Richard Whitcomb’s discovery of the Area Rule phenomenon give recognition as well.
The next few chapters discuss the design of the Convair B-58 and describe in detail the specific systems incorporated into the aircraft. The design of the novel fuel / payload pod is a unique solution to the aircraft’s lack of internal volume. The discussion of the problems of crew ejection at supersonic speeds and the development of the cramped capsules to deal with the issue are enlightening.
It is not until approximately two-thirds of the way through the book that we see the first B-58s assigned to SAC Bomb Wings. Even there, much of the writing is concerned with describing SAC’s strategic plans and operating procedures.
The B-58 Hustler served in relatively small numbers and was operational for less than a decade. No B-58 ever saw combat, so it is not surprising that the setting of various speed records constitutes the most notable incidents in the type’s history. Personally, I enjoy reading about the technical issues the engineering teams had to solve to get the aircraft into service. Don’t be misled by the title however, the book has much more to do with the design and operational doctrine of the aircraft than a history of the units which flew them. Still very interesting and a good read.
The Convair XFY-1 Pogo was a US Navy experimental prototype which flew in 1954. It was designed as a shipboard VTOL aircraft which was to provide small combatants and even merchant ships with an air defense capability. While the prototype flew successfully it proved difficult to land vertically on shore bases, to say nothing of the much more challenging shipboard environment for which it was intended. It was also outclassed by the rapid advances in aviation of the time, for example the MiG-21 would first fly the next year in 1955.
In pictures of the real aircraft you can see various metal panels, but no panel lines. The recessed panel lines on the KP kit are very prominent. I sprayed them with Mr. Surfacer 500, which is ideal for this kind of job. The model has a scratchbuilt cockpit with Eduard belts, Albion tube pitots, and the castor wheels were drilled out and rebuilt with wire stock and tube. The kit canopy is excellent, a nice surprise. Decals were a low point, and there is no help from the aftermarket on this one. Almost all the markings are scaled incorrectly in size or layout. For example, the Convair logo behind the cockpit is twice the size it should be. The NAVY lettering is the wrong size and spacing. The white bar (or is it a “1”?) under the cockpit is missing, as are the white outlines on the canopy frames. Ironically, the art on the back of the box has accurate marking dimensions. I replaced what I could, and will just have to live with the rest. Other than that, a relatively simple build of an aircraft you don’t see everyday.
It is big. That is the first impression, and it is undeniable. It is the biggest model airplane I have ever seen. Is it the biggest model airplane in the world? Reportedly not, but a brief search reveals the all-knowing internet is thoroughly confused on that point. It is, well, big. And impressive.
How big is it? It is a 1/9th scale B-36, with a wingspan of 26 feet. It was built by James Pappas in his mother’s attic in 1952, at the same time Convair was building the real thing at Fort Worth. Think about 1952 for a minute – no CAD, no scale plans, no internet, no fancy tools. A drill, a saw, a miter box, and a whole lot of Balsa. The model was built to a flying standard, but there is debate about whether it was ever actually flown. The story of the model is here: http://www.rchalloffame.org/Exhibits/Exhibit41/index.html
Last week Ed Crotty of the RC Hall of Fame donated the model to the Academy of Model Aeronautics in Muncie, Indiana. I went along to help move the model, which was a bit of an adventure!