Bell X-1A/D by Special Hobby

1/72 scale
Kit No. SH 72160
Cost: $28.00
Decals: Four versions
Comments: Engraved panel lines, resin wheel wells


The Bell X-1 (originally XS-1) was a very successful test aircraft, securing its place in aviation history when it broke the sound barrier with Chuck Yeager at the controls on October 14, 1947. Only three aircraft of the original version were built, with serial numbers 46-062, 46-063 and 46-064. Both the U.S.. Air Army Force High Command and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, precursor to NASA) ordered the second generation X-1 from Bell Aircraft Company. Bell produced the X-1A (serial no. 48-1384), X-1B (serial no. 48-1385) and the X-1D (serial no. 48-1386). The planned fourth aircraft of the second generation, the X-1C, was never completed.

The second generation X-1’s were larger, with increased fuel capacity and canopies offering improved visibility. They were also equipped with a movable horizontal stabilizer. The first machine, the X-1D was transported to Edwards Air Force Base in California and launched from beneath the wing of a B-50 bomber. It made its first glide flight on July 24, 1951 with Bell test pilot J. Zeigler at the controls. The nose landing gear was damaged on landing and repaired. The first powered flight was set for August 22nd 1951, but the X-1D’s fuel tank exploded while attached to the B-50 mother ship and climbing to altitude. The pilot, Major F. Everest survived, but the X-1D was badly damaged, jettisoned and finally destroyed on impact with the desert floor.

The X-1A’s first glide flight was on February 14 1953, followed by powered flight on February 21st with J. Zeigler at the controls again. Zeigler conducted three more test flights for Bell, but did not break Mach due to problems with a low frequency elevator buzz and a malfunctioning turbopump. Chuck Yeager made the first flight in the X-1A for the Air Force on November 21, 1953, reaching Mach 1.1, reaching a speed of Mach 1.9 on subsequent flights. On December 12, 1953, Yeager reached a speed of Mach 2.44, but the X-1A encountered violent instabilty at Mach 2.3, went into an inverted spin during which Yeager lost consciousness. The X-1A plummeted over 16,000 feet before Yeager regained consciousness, recovered from the spin and landed safely. The cause of the problem was a phenomenon known as aerodynamic heating. It was Yeager’s last flight in an X-1.

Due to the problems encountered at high speed, the Air Force decided to continue the X-1 flights but to remain at speeds below Mach 2. The X-1A made 26 flights before it was destroyed in mid-air while attached to a B-50 bomber, meeting a similar fate as the X-1D.

The X-1B’s first glide flight was on September 24, 1954 and it first powered flight was on October 8th. It was used by a succession of test pilots to familiarize themselves with the type. Later it was used to research the aerodynamic heating problem encountered at Mach 2 and higher speeds. The last pilot to fly the X-1B was future astronaut Neil Armstrong. The X-1B completed 27 flights, and was decommissioned on January 23, 1958 due to cracks in a liquid oxygen tank that were too expensive to repair. It was donated to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.


Wingspan: 28.01 feet
Length: 35.53 feet
Maximum Speed: Mach 2.44
Service Ceiling: 90,439 feet
Duration under full throttle: 4.66 minutes

The Kit

Special Hobby’s X-1A/D is injection molded in grey and consists of 50 plastic parts, three resin parts for the wheel well inserts and ventral surface detail, and a series of photo-etched parts providing seat belt and rudder pedal detail in the cockpit, as well as PE accents for the landing gear. The kit bears engraved panel line detail throughout, as well as a separate rudder and single-piece wings, with raised actuator detail on the rear stabilizers. The cockpit features a main instrument panel with raised detail and separate parts providing exceptional sidewall detail considering the scale of the kit. The canopy is a single piece, so although there is a fair amount of cockpit detail, it will not be easily seen.


The decals offer vibrant, realistic colors, are perfectly in register, and include “NACA” markings for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the precursor to NASA, into which NACA morphed in 1958.There are markings for four versions, three of which are different paint schemes for the same aircraft:

The first version is for an X-1A in overall orange (except for a bit of white at the top of the tail), Serial No. 48-1384;

The second version is for an X-1A in overall natural metal with a bit of white at the top of the tail, and a ventral spine also in white, Serial No. 48-1384 (this version features the large red stylized “X-1A” marking on the nose);

The third version is for X-1A  No.48-1384 in NACA colors, painted white overall with the exception of a section of the fuselage just aft of the cockpit, which is left in natural metal, as are the control surfaces (rudder and ailerons, as well as the nozzle for the rocket engine at the rear of the fuselage.  The bare metal fuselage section was the section containing the X-1A’s oxidant tank, which iced over when the tank was full.  Serial No. This is the only version which carries the NACA marking on the tail — the others all bear U.S. Air Force markings;

The fourth version is for an X-1D in overall natural metal with a bit of white at the top of the tail, and a ventral spine also in white, Serial No. 48-1386.  This aircraft was destroyed during the first attempt at powered flight on August 22, 1951, when its fuel tank exploded before it could be released from the B-50 mother ship  (Note: An examination of the kit instructions shows no parts unique to the X-1D, so it may have been externally identical to the X-1A).


An excellent and highly detailed kit of the second generation X-1. Highly recommended.

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