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F9C Sparrowhawk Kit

Williams Brothers 1/32 F9C Sparrowhawk Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2017 Manufacturer Williams Brothers
Subject F9C Sparrowhawk Scale 1/32
Kit Number 32590 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Unique subject Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $28.95

First Look

F9C Sparrowhawk Kit
F9C Sparrowhawk Kit
F9C Sparrowhawk Kit

The Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk was initially designed as a single-seat aircraft carrier-based fighter based upon a 1930 US Navy requirement. With two prototypes built, the Navy's carrier fighter procurement was cancelled, but the F9C was instead adopted to operate as reconnaissance fighters aboard USS Macon and USS Akron. This new role meant that the tailhook on the F9C was replaced by a skyhook - the Macon and Akron were airships and the Sparrowhawk was to become a parasite fighter. The skyhook mounted over the wing of the F9C would engage a trapeze suspended below the airship and once locked onto the trapeze, the aircraft would be pulled up inside the hangar bay. Once the pilots gained experience with sky launches and retrievals, they found it easier than operating from a carrier deck.

The skyhook featured a guard ahead of the hook to keep the trapeze away from the aircraft's propeller when the aircraft was experiencing turbulence during recovery. Over land, the Sparrowhawk had the ability to recover at any airfield as well as aboard the airship, but when the airship was at sea, the landing gear was removed to allow for additional fuel to be carried by the small fighters. USS Akron was lost at sea in 1933 though no aircraft were embarked at the time. USS Macon was lost in 1935 with four aircraft aboard, and with only six production Sparowhawks built and no further airships in the Navy's plans, the parasite fighter program ended.

The Williams Brothers first released this kit of the F9C in 1/32 scale back in the mid 1970s and has been reissued a few times over the decades. The kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on three parts trees plus one dye-cut clear acetate windscreen. The kit features a nicely detailed radial engine while the remainder of the kit offers basic details. You'll note in the parts images that the parts have mold flash that will need to be carefully cleaned up.

Among the features and options in the kit:

  • Detailed Whirlwind engine
  • Basic cockpit
  • Choice of skyhook or tailhook

The kit provides marking options to replicate any of the six production aircraft as well a markings for USS Macon or USS Akron.

The instructions appear to have you install the skyhook and tailhook on the model, but only the pre-airship prototype carried the tailhook. These were no longer required once the F9C became a parasite fighter or in its limited utility role after the loss of Macon and Akron. You will need to pay close attention to the instructions as the top/bottom/side views have key notes about where to notch the lower wing leading edge and main gear struts to allow passage of the airframe rigging. You can also refer to online photos of the F9C-2 on display at the Udvar-Hazy annex of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for reference.

This is the only kit of this unique subject in 1/32 scale though there are other kits available in smaller scales. If you're a fan of the yellow-winged fighters of the 1930s, this kit will compliment the 1/32 scale fighters from Hasegawa and provide a colorful addition to your scale flightline.