by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Originally published on:
The D-558-1 was a transonic research plane powered by a General Electric TE-180 jet engine. Nicknamed "The Crimson Test Tube" after its gloss red finish, the first prototype established a new World Speed Record of 1,031.049 kph on August 20, 1947, broken just five days later by the second prototype with a speed of 1,047.356 kph. Eugene "Gene" F. May took the Skystreak to supersonic speeds on 29 September, 1948, when he reached Mach 1.01 while in a 35° dive.
Three D-558-1s were built, flying until early 1953. The second prototype was eventually lost along with its pilot, H.C. Lilly, in 1948. The surviving Skystreaks are displayed in the US Naval Aviation Museum and US Marine Corps Museum.
The kitSpecial Hobby's D-558-1 arrives in a nice solid top-opening box, with the parts bagged separately for protection. The kit comprises:
53 x grey styrene parts
2 x clear styrene parts
11 x resin parts
12 x etched parts, along with a clear film for instruments
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
This is a semi-short run kit, so be prepared a bit of extra clean-up and adjustment during assembly. That said, the parts are moulded pretty cleanly with no sign of flash, but there are one or two minor sink marks in some of the smaller plastic parts. The kit is typical of the MPM stable, with a "satin finish" and neatly engraved panel lines. There are quite a few ejector pin marks that need shaving off inner surfaces before assembly can begin.
The relatively small number of parts promises a reasonably straightforward build, and a quick test fit of the major components is encouraging, with the fuselage halves dead-straight and the wing slotting into place neatly. Obviously, with this being a record-breaker, care will be needed to ensure a blemish-free exterior finish.
The cockpit is unusual in consisting of a large slab-sided resin "tub" that doubles as the nose intake splitter. Because it's resin, it can incorporate a remarkable level of detail on the sheer sidewalls - the problem will be painting it, because access is so cramped. I would have preferred separate sidewalls that could be painted before fitting them, and it's tempting to cut the kit part up with a fine razor saw to reassemble later. There's a choice of styrene or etched instrument panels and the rather plain 2-part seat is supplied with an etched harness. Behind the pilot's cockpit, there's a 4-piece box compartment which doubles the roof of a nicely detailed nosewheel well. Despite the long nose and solid resin intake splitter, the kit will be a tail sitter and weight must be added in a niche under the cockpit.
The mainwheel wells have some pretty good detail and the undercarriage features resin wheels for the styrene legs. The nosewheel is essentially identical to the mainwheels, with just extra hubs for the latter.
Rounding things off, there's a choice of canopies - the original rounded type and the later high-speed style used for the record-breaking flights. Both canopies are moulded closed, but are crystal clear with crisp framing.
Instructions & decalsThe assembly diagrams are typical of Special Hobby with clearly drawn exploded views. There are a number of additional "info views" and, ironically, it's one of these that provides some confusion by seeming to show the nose-gear well being fitted five stages after it's already been built into the fuselage! Colour matches are given for Gunze Sangyo paints.
The instructions mention three colour schemes at one stage, but only two are provided: Bu Nos 37970 and 37971 - the 1st and 2nd prototypes, both finished in gloss red overall.
The small decal sheet is printed and Aviprint and is excellent quality, with thin glossy items in perfect register with minimal, crystal clear carrier film.
ConclusionSpecial Hobby's Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak is a good quality kit of an important aircraft in the annals of high speed flight. As with any semi-short run kit, it's not suitable beginners, but modellers with a little experience should encounter few real problems and you could hardly ask for a more eye-catching model to sit on the shelf.
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