Bell X-1 by Tamiya

1/72 scale
Kit No. 60601
Cost: $25.00
Decals: Three versions, including “Glamorous Glennis,” aircraft flown by Chuck Yeager on record-breaking October 14, 1947 flight
Comments: Engraved panel lines; positionable main hatch; option for clear or standard fuselage; includes stand and ball bearing nose weight

History

During World War II, as the performance of fighter aircraft in particular increased and they grew capable of faster and faster speeds, they encountered the problem of “compressibility” at transonic (near supersonic speeds). Compressibility, an increase in air pressure against the aircraft and particularly its wings at transonic speeds, was thought by some to represent an impenetrable barrier that would prevent aircraft traveling at the speed of sound. In November 1944, an agreement between Bell Aircraft and the U.S. Army Air Corps’ Aircraft Laboratory at Wright Field, Ohio, called for the construction of an experimental rocket-powered aircraft capable of reaching a speed of 800 mph. While the U.S. Navy, whose Corsair fighters had encountered compressibility in high-speed dives, wanted a research aircraft that would probe transonic speeds for a solution, the Army Air Corps’ agenda was quite different: the goal of the new plane was to penetrate the sound barrier.

Many important structural and aerodynamic advances were first employed in what became the Bell X-1, including extremely thin yet exceptionally strong wing sections manufactured from solid aluminum and capable of withstanding gravity equivalent to 18g’s. The aircraft also had a horizontal stabilizer that could be adjusted up and down to improve control, especially at transonic speeds. Due to the stabilizer’s success, later transonic military aircraft were designed with all moving horizontal stabilizers as standard equipment. The X-1’s fuselage was shaped like a .50 caliber bullet, since ballistics research indicated this was the best aerodynamic shape for an effort to penetrate the sound barrier. Even the windscreen was specially designed to be flush with the rest of the fuselage, thus retaining the bullet shape. The X-1 carried more than 230 kilograms (500 pounds) of flight test instruments.

On October 14, 1947, the Bell X-1 became the first aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound. Piloted by U.S. Air Force Capt. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager, the X-1 reached a speed of 1,127 kilometers (700 miles) per hour, Mach 1.06, at an altitude of 13,000 meters (43,000 feet). Yeager named the airplane “Glamorous Glennis” in tribute to his wife, but this was not the first of Yeager’s aircraft to bear his wife’s name. The P-51D Mustang Yeager flew in Europe during WWII was named “Glamourous Glen III”.

Once the X-1 w air-launched at an altitude of 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) from the bomb bay of its Boeing B-29 mother ship, Yeager fired its rocket engine to climb to the designated test altitude. The X-1 flew a total of 78 times, and on March 26, 1948, with Captain Yeager again at the controls, it attained a speed of 1,540 kilometers (957 miles) per hour, Mach 1.45, at an altitude of 21,900 meters (71,900 feet). This was the highest velocity and altitude reached by any manned aircraft up to that time.

Specifications

Wingspan: 8.5 m (28 ft)
Length: 9.4 m (30 ft 11 in)
Height: 3.3 m (10 ft 10 in)
Weight, gross: 5,557 kg (12,250 lb)
Engine: Reaction Motors, Inc., XLR-11-RM-3 (model A6000C4) 4-chamber rocket engine, rated at 26,500 newtons (6,000 lb) static thrust

The Kit

Tamiya’s X-1 is molded in grey plastic and features both engraved panel lines and flush rivets. The kit consists of 49 parts and includes a choice of four windscreens (two clear and two solid, with the latter to be painted over if used), optional parts for a transparent fuselage, and a choice of two types of horizontal stabilizers. The X-1’s mission of aerial research is evident in looking at the spartan cockpit layout; the seat forms part of the cockpit floor, and the bottom of the instrument panel is on a line only about 18 inches higher, with the one-piece rudder pedal assembly cemented to the back of the panel and the pedals appearing to be directly below the panel. The seat back includes a headrest but appears to form part of the rear cockpit bulkhead, and there is a side instrument panel on the port side, just as on the actual X-1. The small main instrument panel includes raised detail. There is a separate cockpit hatch which is positioned accurately based on X-1 photos, and can be cemented open or closed.

Directly behind the cockpit is a stubby cylindrical oxidizer tank. This consists of three parts and the instructions call for cementing a ball bearing (provided in the kit) inside the tank to prevent the assembled X-1 from being a tail-sitter (not required if you use the stand to display the X-1 in flight). The rear half of the fuselage interior is taken up with the equipment bay, situated directly over the landing gear, and the alcohol-water fuel tank, similar to the oxidizer tank but larger. Finally comes the engine assembly which is only three parts but bears a fair amount of raised detail. The landing gear are detailed and have nice engraved detail on the main door interiors.

Decals

The decals are thin and perfectly in register. Markings are provided for three versions of the X-1: Glamourous Glennis flown by Chuck Yeager in overall orange – this was the early model serial number 6062 aircraft operated by the U.S. Air Force; and two other X-1’s in natural metal operated by the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), serial numbers 6063 and 6064. There is a second paint scheme for 6062, the Yeager aircraft, on its final flight, that of overall orange with the exception of the tail surfaces and ventral and dorsal spines, which are in natural metal.

Conclusion

A great model of an historic aircraft, made more desirable by the inclusion of a flying stand, option for an open hatch, and an option for a half for full transparent fuselage. Highly recommended.

References

  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum website – www.nasm.si.edu
  • Chuck Yeager and the Bell X-1: Breaking the Sound Barrier by Dominick Pisano, F. Robert van der Linden and Frank H. Winter, Copyright Smithsonian Institution, 2006
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