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H-4 Hercules

Minicraft 1/200 H-4 Hercules (Spruce Goose) Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review June 2011 Manufacturer Minicraft
Subject H-4 Hercules (Spruce Goose) Scale 1/200
Kit Number 11657 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple build, nice details Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $24.95

First Look

H-4 Hercules
H-4 Hercules
H-4 Hercules
H-4 Hercules

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, US strategic planners recognized that they needed to move men and material rapidly around the Pacific as well as to Europe. Movement by sea took invaluable time and faced the risk of interdiction by hostile navies. Henry Kaiser who developed the Liberty ships saw the merit of an airborne version of his cargo vessels and teamed with aviation pioneer Howard Hughes to develop an amphibious cargo aircraft of enormous size. Dubbed the HK-1, the government issued a development contract for three aircraft to be completed in two years, but the aircraft could not be made of strategic materials (metal) needed for other production priorities. The HK-1 was to be built from birch.

Development of the aircraft was protracted partly due to the lack of essential materials, but also because Hughes was a perfectionist. Ultimately, Kaiser withdrew from the project after 16 months and the aircraft was continued by Hughes as the H-4 Hercules. While the contract was amended to one flying example, development continued until well after the war.

Despite considerable criticism of the costly delays in the project, Hughes had the H-4 moved to Long Beach where it was assembled and was ready for taxi trials. On November 2, 1947, Hughes personally conducted the taxi trials with numerous engineers and members of the press aboard. On the third run of the day, the H-4 was accelerated to 135 mph and the aircraft lifted into ground effect. Hughes kept the aircraft aloft for about a mile before settling it back into the water. The aircraft would never be flown again and the development and test teams were all sworn to secrecy. The aircraft became an exhibit in Long Beach after Hugh's death and has been moved to Evergreen Aviation Museum for permanent display.

Minicraft has re-released their 1/200 H-4 Hercules kit and this is a nice little gem. Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on three parts trees plus a tree of clear parts. Molding is clean and layout is very simple.

Construction starts with the huge (even in this scale) wings that lock together to make one eight-engined assembly. The horizontal stabilizers, wing floats and eight engine assemblies come next.

The instructions indicate ballast is needed to balance the aircraft for display on the included stand. You'll have to determine the amount of ballast after assembling the fuselage halves and installing the horizontal stabs to get the fuselage to balance about 1/2 inch behind the front of the wing cavity atop the fuselage. With the aircraft in balance, install the wings and your Hercules will rest on the stand.

Markings are provided for the sole example:

  • H-4, NX37602, 1947

The decal sheet provides cowl flap details, hatches, doors, windows, trim tabs, etc. The aircraft is finished in overall aluminum color, but keep in mind that the aircraft was all wood and the silver color was a protective dope finish.

This is a nice kit that will go together nicely and provide a quick project to add to your scale flightline. This is another nice installment in Minicraft's growing line of scale aircraft.

My sincere thanks to Minicraft Models for this review sample!