1/72 Sword Vought V173 & Hasegawa XF5U-1

Gallery Article by Alex Bigey on Sept 4 2003

 

Flying Pancakes

Charles Horton Zimmerman, a 1930 University of Kansas graduate, designed these amazing aircraft as a NACA engineer, and after joining Vought Aircraft in 1937, a full scale manned aircraft came to reality in 1940 as the V173 demonstrator, ordered by US Navy who was considering hovering liftoff and relatively high top speed capabilities of such a design, for a carrier based fighter project that would later appear under the XF5U-1 designation. Known as "flying pancakes", "flying flapjacks", or "Zimmer's skimmers", they where impossible to stall or to spin, which doesn't mean they couldn't reach the ground in an unwanted attitude, which test pilot Richard H. Burroughs had the opportunity to experience on june 3, 1943, when following an engine vapor lock, the V173 hit the ground ending inverted like a...flapjack during the subsequent emergency landing.

Both fabric covered V173 and metallic XF5U-1 have basically the same dimensions and single seat twin engine design, with counter rotating props and fully washed airfoil, but the XF5U-1 is much heavier and powerful in order to fighter specifications, with an expected top speed of 473 mph against 137 mph for the V173. However, if the V173 flew many times (with Charles Lindbergh himself at controls among others) until 1947, its successor never flew (might have been a good thing for its expected test pilot...). After a couple of engine runnings and taxis, program went to cancellation on march 17, 1947 due to war end funding cuts. Other priorities given at dawn of jet age... 

I used the excellent Steve Ginter's "Naval Fighters" n21 as reference material to build both kits, but the Vought Aircraft website is very useful as well.

 

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The Sword 1/72 V173 kit, issued in 2001 is a nice little multi material one typical from czech republic and is highly recommended. You can choose between the former version without wheel fairings (for which a bit of surgery is necessary) and national markings without bars, or the same aircraft later in its career, which I elected to do.

I used "chrome yellow" and "gloss aluminum" Tamiya spray cans to paint the model, and careful masking is required to represent the boundary between yellow and aluminum colors. The decals, although fragile are excellent with no silvering at all of the tail markings. The trim tabs and underneath pressure probe are scratchbuilt; the aerial is a hair from the devoted girlfriend. 

The 1/72 Hasegawa XF5U-1 kit has been reissued in 2001 for the last time, but had been designed by the defunct Hobby Spot U manufacturer (as well as the 1/72 Hasegawa Bell X-1). Although boxing and conditioning are Hasegawa standard, I couldn't say so about the parts quality, some parts requiring a lot of trying, filling and sanding to assemble, such as engine intakes and prop spinners. The model is painted with "Navy blue" Tamiya spray, with clear varnish. The bottom "star and bar" is not used, which photos seem to indicate. One can note oval prop markings on the left side only, and landing gear legs painted dark blue (and not silver) according to photos. I stated too late that the back side of props must be painted flat black. 

Alex Bigey

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Photos and text by Alex Bigey