18 March 2016

F2H-2P Banshee - Sword Model Kit Review

1. Introduction
Aircraft: McDonnell F2H-2P Banshee
Model kit manufacturer / country: Sword / Czech Republic
Scale: 1:72
Catalogue number: 72078
Release time: 2014

Basic information on the F2H Banshee is available in Wikipedia (link) and will not be repeated here.

2. Kit
2.1. Box
The box is a typical side-opener, of moderate size (25 x 17.5 x 4 cm) and of soft cardboard (therefore, not particularly sturdy).

2.2. Instruction
Instruction is printed in on three black & white A4 sheets. Guidance on building and painting is clear enough. A typical review writer will lament the lack of references to model paint numbers and corresponding FS codes, but I believe that this is a type of information that modellers ought to obtain from a reliable source beforehand.

2.3. Plastic, Resin and Photoetched Parts
This is a true multimedia kit. In addition to plastic parts you get a number of resin items and a set of pre-painted photoetched parts.
The quality of molding is very good, all exterior surfaces are smooth with thin panel lines. Resin items are very nicely cast. The quality of etching is superb.
But quality is one thing, while accuracy is quite another. And in this area the kit leaves much to be desired:
1) Unfortunately, the distinctive shape of the camera nose is not accurate in the kit. On a real F2H-2P there are pronounced "eyebrows" above the camera apertures, the tip of the nose is slightly more pointed and more rectangular (rather than roundish) in cross-section.
2) Engine exhaust shroud shape is inaccurate in the kit. Refer to my comparison pictures. The round bulge of the engine shroud must stand more proud above the wing surface.
3) The wing root fairing between the engine exhaust shroud and the fuselage is less than accurate in the kit. On a real Banshee the fairing is longer.
4) The camera bay interior on a real F2H-2P is much more intricate than the plastic parts offered in the kit. Furthermore, those parts give the appearance that no less than 9 cameras are present, whereas a real photo-Banshee was not designed to carry more than 6 cameras.
5) The proportions of the nose wheel in relation to its tyre are slightly off in the kit. There is no imitation of the ribbed rim. The tyre lacks tread pattern.
6) Resin main wheels provided in the kit are not exactly accurate, as the central part of the hub should be flat and not bulged inwards (see my comparison pictures) Furthermore, the tyres lack tread pattern.
7) The F2H has a rather distinctive tail bumper. Respective part is present in the kit; however, the instruction manual tells you to glue it onto the entirely wrong place on the fuselage. As always, historical photographs are the only thing to trust.
8) The fuel dump tube on a real Banshee is rather prominent. It is omitted in the kit.
9) Alas, as it is customary with practically all kits in the 1:72 scale, there are no clear parts to imitate navigation lights, landing light and position lights. Incidentally, the Sword guys themselves have already broken this trend with their F9F-8P Cougar and T-28C Trojan kits where clear navigation lights are present.

To be objective, a number of high points of the kit must also be noted, in particular:
10) The kit includes resin cast seamless intake channels. This is a most welcome part, and sadly absent in many other good kits.
11)  Resin items to detail engine nozzles are provided (turbine blades and center body).
12) The cockpit has excellent detail straight out of the box. A nicely detailed resin ejection seat, finely painted photo-etched dashboard, side consoles and seatbelts are especially worth mentioning
13) Some items are provided to detail the space below the sliding canopy, and that is an extremely rare occurrence in this scale.
14) The kit's canopy is given as two separate parts and thus can be positioned open, which is excellent.
15) The whole nose section is provided in clear plastic. This is a very clever idea, as masking is much easier than gluing 9 small clear pieces into small holes.
16) Very good out-of-the-box detail is provided for the landing gear legs and landing gear wells (modellers should note that main landing gear doors are always closed on a stationary Banhsee).

The instruction manual suggests to install a pair of outer wing pylons. Indeed, specifications state that the F2H-2P had provisions for a pair of underwing flash cartridge pods for night photography. However, among all available historical photographs of the recce Banshees I was unable to find any to confirm that either of the machines covered by the decal options has in fact carried the pylons.

3. Decal
There are 2 decal options provided:
A) USMC. BuNo 125687 / MW3. VMJ-1, Pohang (K-3), Korea, 1952.
B) U.S. Navy. BuNo 128863 / PP28. VC-61, USS Yorktown (CV-10), 1953-54.

Unfortunately, as it is often the case with out of the box decals, there are many inaccuracies.
Variant A:
1) The branch of service name above the BuNo lettering is inaccurate on the decal. It must read "MARINES", not "NAVY". Proportions are also wrong: the branch of service letters must be 50% as tall as the BuNo.
2) Font for the "MW" tail code is inaccurate on the decal. Observe the difference in "M" on the decal and on historical photographs.
3) Font for the "MARINES" lettering is inaccurate on the decal. Observe the difference in "M", "A", "R", "S" on the decal and on historical photographs.

Variant B:
4) Font for the wing "NAVY" lettering is inaccurate on the decal. Observe the difference in "A" on the decal and on historical photographs.
5) Font for the fuselage "NAVY" lettering is inaccurate on the decal. Observe the difference in "A" and in spacing on the decal and on historical photographs.
6) Font for the "PP" tail code is inaccurate on the decal. Note how thick the P's are on historical photographs in relation to what we see on the decal sheet.
7) Proportions of lettering of the BuNo block are wrong on the decal: the branch of service letters must be 50% as tall as the BuNo.
8) Most of the VC-61 Banshees, including BuNo 128863, had their modex repeated on the rudder. Respective item is missing on the decal sheet.
9) Some of the VC-61 Banshees, including BuNo 128863, had their BuNo repeated on the wingtip tanks. Respective item is missing on the decal sheet.

4. Alternatives & Aftermarket
For a very long time there was only one F2H-2P Banshee model in the 1:72 scale available on the market, the one from Airfix. For a kit released in 1980, it was very good; from today's viewpoint it is rather obsolete. Somewhere around 2010 the Banshee was tackled by Olimp Pro Resin who released full resin kits of the F2H-2 and F2H-2N variants. At some point they have announced the recce variant as well, but then have seemingly backed off.

There aren't many aftermarket items applicable for either variant of the F2H-2. As far as I can see there is only this:
1) Vacu-formed canopy that comes inside the set # 4 manufactured by Falcon.
2) Vacu-formed canopy from Squadron Products (# 9111).

5. Conclusion
 - Very good quality of molding, smooth surface, fine panel lines.
 - Very good out-of-the box detail, including cockpit, landing gear, intake channels and exhaust detail.
 - Fair price (~$17 at Hannants).
 - Significant inaccuracies in shape and geometry, including: camera nose shape; engine exhaust shroud shape; main and nose wheel hub shape.
 - Inaccurate decal.

The Sword's kit is surely an improvement over the old one from Airfix. However, Sword must do something about accuracy on the corporate level. I have bought their Banshee, Skyknight and Seastar kits, and each turned out to have a whole cluster of avoidable inaccuracies. These kits are new tools released in the 2010s, and they all represent subjects for which a lot of information is available (including historical photographs, detailed books and preserved aircraft accessible for measurements). This information must be used rather than ignored.

6. Reference Data
[1] FH Phantom / F2H Banshee in Action | Aircraft in Action Series # 182 | Squadron/Signal Publications, 2002
[2] Early Banshees | Naval Fighters Series # 73 | Ginter Books, 2006
[3] McDonnell Banshee | Naval Fighters Series # 2 | Ginter Books, 1980
[4] Basic information on the F2H Banshee in Wikipedia: link
[5] An excellent photo walk-around: link
As usual, one has to be careful when looking at photo walk-arounds of museum exhibits. Frequently, painting and markings on such exhibits are historically inaccurate.