by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ] (photos and kit history by Alan Bussie)
Welcome to the first review of the late-great Aurora Model Company range of 1/48 helicopters! Kaman HOK-1 “Egg Beater” was kitted in 1956 as kit Nr. 505-69; “-69” was the MSRP of 69¢, and one got a cool model for that. We’ll judge this venerable kit today.
Special thanks to Alan Bussie of Old Model Kits for his contribution of kit release notes, as well as making this model available for this review.
Kaman HH-43B Huskie/HOK-1
Aurora’s Kaman Model K-600 (Kaman Aircraft’s designation) model is of a unique helicopter flown by the United State’s Air Force, Marines, and Navy. Decals are included for all three of the services, as well as for the US Army, for which I can find no history of. Although Aurora marketed it as the USMC HOK-1, as it was essentially the same aircraft (Except the HOK-1 was powered by the R-1340-52 radial piston engine engine while USAFM’s Husky had a turbine engine), I offer USAFM’s history of the machine.
The U.S. Air Force acquired the HH-43 Huskie primarily for local base rescue (LBR) and fighting aircraft fires. Kaman delivered the first USAF H-43As in November 1958, and the B series followed in June 1959. In 1962 the USAF changed the H-43 designation to HH-43 to reflect the aircraft’s rescue role. The final USAF version was the HH-43F with engine modifications for improved performance.
The Huskie’s interesting intermeshing rotor configuration used two wooden rotors turning in opposite directions, eliminating the need for a tail rotor. Large tabs on the trailing edge of each blade warped the rotors and caused the helicopter to rise or descend.
A Huskie on rescue alert could be airborne in approximately one minute with a fire suppression kit hanging beneath. Developed at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, the fire suppression kit weighed only 1,000 pounds, but it could produce almost 700 gallons of fire-fighting foam. Huskies often reached crash sites before ground vehicles arrived, and the foam from the kit plus the powerful downwash of air from the rotors opened a path for rescuers to reach trapped crash victims.
During the Southeast Asia War, the Air Rescue Service (later the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service) first used HH-43 Huskies, which became known unofficially as “Pedros” from their radio call sign. First assigned to Da Nang and Bien Hoa Air Bases in the Republic of South Vietnam and to Nakon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base in 1964, the HH-43 remained the only dedicated USAF rescue helicopter until the arrival of the HH-3 Jolly Greens in late 1965.
Flying the first USAF rescue helicopter to arrive in Southeast Asia and the last to leave, HH-43 aircrews saved more lives in combat than crews flying any other USAF helicopter. From 1966 to 1970, they performed a total of 888 combat saves — 343 aircrew rescues and 545 non-aircrew rescues. It was an HH-43 that carried Airman 1st Class William J. Pitsenbarger on his Medal of Honor mission on April 11, 1966.
The HH-43B on display (serial number 60-0263) established seven world records in 1961-1962 for helicopters in its class for rate of climb, altitude, and distance traveled. It was assigned to rescue duty with Detachment 3, 42nd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Kirtland AFB, N.M., prior to its retirement and flight to the museum in April 1973.
Crew: Local Base Rescue (LBR)/Firefighting — Six: Pilot, Copilot, Flight Engineer/Crew Chief, Aeromedical Technician and two Airborne Rescuemen/Firefighters; Aircrew Recovery (ACR) — Four: Pilot, Copilot, Pararescue Jumper (PJ) and Flight Mechanic/Engineer
Engines: Lycoming T-53 of 860 hp
Maximum speed: 120 mph
Range: 185 miles
Ceiling: 25,000 feet
Rotor diameter: 47 feet
Overall Length: 47 feet*
Who in the world thought that designing a helicopter with two blades swirling into each other is a good idea!? Yet it works, and obviates the need for a tail rotor. So who perfected it? Like so many post-war designs of the Western democracies and the Eastern dictatorships, Kaman’s unique design came from a German engineer.
In 1947 Anton Flettner, a German aviation engineer, was brought to New York in the United States as part of Operation Paperclip. He was the developer of Germany’s Flettner Fl 282 “Kolibri” (Hummingbird), a helicopter employing the “synchropter” principle of intermeshing rotors, a unique design principle that dispenses with the need for a tail rotor. Flettner settled in the United States and became the chief designer of the Kaman company, where he started to design new helicopters, using the synchropter principle.
The Huskie had an unusual intermeshing contra-rotating twin-rotor arrangement with control effected by servo-flaps. The first prototype flew in 1947 and was adopted by the U.S. Navy with a piston engine. In 1954, in an experiment by Kaman and the U.S. Navy, one HTK-1 was modified and flew with its piston engine replaced by two turbine engines, becoming the world’s first twin-turbine helicopter. The Air Force later adopted a version with one turboshaft engine: HH-43B and F versions.**
When researching these Kamans, be aware of the multiple designations which differed from service to service, and changed again in during the Kennedy administration; the SecDef R. Strange McNamara couldn’t understand the military’s nomenclature and in 1962 (perhaps impressed by the Soviet centralization of things) ordered all military designations to be common. Thus, in 1962, USMC’s HOK-1 was redesignated as an OH-43D.
Aurora Egg Beater
In 1952 ‘Helicopters For Industry’ (Hempstead, New York) issued the world’s first helicopter kits in ‘near 1/48’ scale. By 1955 there were five different molds, although there were more than five part numbers since HFI issued the same model with different service decals and different box art. In that same year, HFI approached Aurora to sell the molds. There reasons are not known, but they probably centered on distribution and price. Aurora had a vast distribution network that HFI, being a much smaller company, did not have. The HFI kits were high-priced for that time at $2.98. Most Revell kits were 98 cents; Monogram kits were right around a dollar, and Aurora’s kits ranged from 29 cents, with the majority at 98 cents. Even the high priced ‘Giant Bombers’ were only $2.59 and $1.98!
1956 saw the release of all five helicopters in the Aurora line with the brand new logo. Notice how Aurora dropped the price to just over ¼ of the original list price! This HFI reissue was kit number 505-69, the Kaman Hok-1 Egg Beater. The artist, possibly Jim Cox, chose a water rescue scene. The Hok-1 pilots are timing the waves in a tricky retrieval of downed airmen- all set against a very colorful sky. The model scales to 1/50, which has made it popular to this day.
The ‘56 logo only lasted one year; 1957 introduced the famous Oval Famous Fighters logo. Aurora did not want to change the helicopter box art due to the high price, so they came up with various ways of removing the old logo and using the new logo. The HOK-1 was the only helicopter to get the ‘deluxe’ treatment. The old logo was painted out, the missing background carefully painted in, and the new logo placed at the upper right. Inside, there was no difference and it is common to find this issue with older logo instructions.
At least four FF oval logo variations have been seen to date:
- Yellow background logo with no PS and no price circle (’57)
- No yellow background with seal and ‘69’ (~’58)
- No yellow background with seal and no ‘69’ (~59/60)
- No yellow background, no seal and no ‘69’ (1961+)
Inside The Kit
The model consists of 37 parts: Dark metallic blue airframe and rotors (34) and clear canopy and side doors (3)
The molding is pretty good for the era. The parts are clean with minimal flash and mold seam lines. The booms have the only sink marks I found. They are irritating because a line of rivets runs through one. To me, the worst molding flaw is the many ejector marks on almost every piece. Back them people didn’t seem to mind them but that quickly changed.
Otherwise, the thick parts are smoothly (mostly) molded with crisp detail. Most of the parts, anyway – the rear landing gear struts are very softly cast. The front struts are sharper but they are very thick. The parts have a glossy almost mirror smooth surface except for the ejector marks in the rotor heads – they have striations. The clear parts are transparent with out distortion, even the thick complex curve bubble canopy.
Unfortunately, I was not able to test-fit the model.
Helicopters are affected by drag but not as critically as faster aircraft, so ‘copters were usually built with simple raised rivets. While the HOK-1 was constructed with raised rivets, they are not as obvious as the rivets on the model. To look at an excellent example of the rivet lines on a display HOK-1, see Click here for additional images for this review, at the end of this article.
The rotor head, yokes and pitch links look very good except for some soft molding along the links, and the ejector marks. The rotors are the “action” characteristic of the model, made to turn; Aurora even has gears that allows the rotors to turn in sequence, intermeshing if you please.
The fuselage interior is devoid of detail. Being such a cavernous space reveled by a big canopy, one may be tempted to detail it. I would be tempted to as it should be fairly simple. Much of the rear would be taken up by the R-1340-52 radial-engine powerplant and I think there was a firewall between it and the crew space.
The cockpit has rudimentary detail: seat; control cluster of sticks and pedals; instrument panel. That panel detail is fine and crisp, demonstrating that while not accurately portrayed with proper bezels, just how advanced HFI’s mold cutters could be.
The weak part of this model is the landing gear. The wheels and struts are the giveaway that this model is from the 1950s. Soft molding, thick pieces.
Aurora’s Kaman Model K-600 looks like a good model in the box although picky modelers may want to replace the landing gear and sand down those rivets. Restoring them is a snap these days with prototypical fine raised rivet decals available from Archer Fine Transfers.
Instructions and Decals
Aurora includes a single piece of paper with history and instructions on one side, and hawking their products on the other side. Aurora used blue ink, perhaps to appear as a blueprint? Back then parts were not numbered, they were identified by nomenclature. Assembly guidance is via an exploded-view diagram supported by over 30 textual steps. A very basic painting guide follows up the text. An image of the completed model is displayed below the diagram.
Printed in 1956, this paper advertises Aurora’s brand of glue and bears their early “sun rise” logo.
Call my kooky but there is something very appealing about this type of instruction sheet.
There are a few 1/72 Kaman K-600s that have been kitted over the years. HAWK made one in 1/32, later reissued by Testors. Research has discovered no other 1/48 Kaman K-600s, not even in resin nor vacuform.
Aurora’s HOK-1 is a decent model. If I had one, I would build it. Whether OOB-vintage or upgraded some, I don’t know. If I had two, one would be OOB. I think it is a very appealing model. It has respectable molding, although suffers from many ejection marks and sink marks. The rivets are overdone. The gear is substandard.
Yet this model should be able to be built into a show-stealing 1/48 “egg beater”. If you have one, build it. If you don’t have one, consider trwating yourself and acquiring one of these unique 1/48 whirlybirds. RECOMMENDED!
Thanks to OldModelKits.com for providing this model for review, and for extra images!
* National Museum of the US Air Force. Kaman HH-43B Huskie. [Web.] May 18, 2015.
** Wikipedia. Kaman HH-43 Huskie. [Web.] 22 September 2016, at 02:03.
Fails, William R. Marines And Helicopters 1962-1973 . [https://ia800808.us.archive.org/10/items/MarinesAndHelicopters1962-1973/MarinesAndHelicopters1962-1973.pdf]. 1978.
Highs: Respectable molding. The only such Kaman in 1/48.
Lows: Many ejection marks and sink marks. The rivets are overdone and the gear is substandard.
Verdict: If you have one, build it. If you don’t have one, consider treating yourself and acquiring one of these unique 1/48 whirlybirds.