Heller 1/72 Me 163B-1 Komet


The construction of this model was canceled early 2000. I worked on and off on this model until 1999, when rumours about a new 1/72 Komet from Academy started. Indeed it came out early 2000, and it blew away all competition. Having built the Academy model straight from the box, I'm very sure I will never finish the Heller kit. The Academy kit is much better in all aspects, and it's a waste of time updating the Heller kit. I decided to leave this page on the site however, for reference.

Introduction

I bought this kit in 1992 because I had a vague interest in this little rocket fighter, and also because I visited Brandis airfield in East Germany, of which I knew it had been a major Komet base. I started researching the subject a little, and got interested. Around 1997-1998, the bug really bit, and my research went way out of hand. The results can be seen on the Me 163B Komet web site I created.

Construction

The Heller kit is nice, but needs a little work to make it really nice. It has raised panel lines, which I replaced with scribed lines. The soft soapy plastic that Heller uses does not make this easy. Heller also exaggerated the steps where fairings connected with the main structure; I'm talking about the wing root fairing and the 'skid well' fairing. I bought the Eduard photo-etched detailing set; Airwaves also makes a set. The Eduard set has only few parts for the actual aircraft, most are meant to detail the Scheuchschlepper. Of the parts for the aircraft, I used only a small number. Lastly I bought the Squadron replacement canopies. As usual they are extremely clear, and really make it worth to detail that small cockpit.

As usual I started working on the cockpit. Heller provides a rather strangely shaped 'bath tub' for the cockpit. I really wanted to show that the pilot sits sandwiched between two 80% hydrogen peroxide tanks. I first scraped the cockpit walls thinner and added a top longeron. Then I started to shape two tanks from laminated plastic card. While they are flat on the inside, on the outside they conform to the tapering nose. Next I glued them on the cockpit side using a simple jig, to ensure that the tanks sat ... mm from the aircraft centerline (leaving enough space for the pilot) and ... mm from the cockpit sill. After this operation I added straps that hold the tank in place from the thinnest strip I had.

Further detailing on the left side are a beam to which the trim wheel is glued, a small vertical hydraulic cylinder and a throttle body. The cockpit floor is built from plastic card, and features a step between the stick and the pedals. The cockpit is closed at the front end with a small bulkhead.

 
  Apart from the tank, the right cockpit side is provided with an oxygen regulator from the Eduard set. Another PE piece is to be added on top of the tank. Not visible in the pictures is the reduction of the rear windows. They are slightly too large, which leaves too little room for the pilot's headrest. Note that the whole cockpit is sprayed with a dark grey color. I thought this color was a good RLM 66 match, but it turned out too dark.
On the lower side of the aircraft I decided to open the 'skid bay' and the tail wheel bay. The 'skid bay' was given a roof where the circular fuselage would be, and three frames that connect with the skid hinges. The tail wheel bay was also given a roof and a bulkhead on the front side.  
  Some small details of the kit are visible in the left picture. The dolly was modified a little by changing the centerpiece that connects with the skid. The front end was made shorter and more pointed, while the rear end was widened with plastic card. The wheel track was reduced to 1 scale meter. This was achieved by drilling out the holes in the wheels to the size of the dolly axle.

The tail wheel was changed too: the arm was thinned, a small triangular near-vertical plate was added, and a small cylinder was added (made from steel wire with stretched tube).

The Heller seat was a bit clumsy. I modified it a little and then used it to thermoform a new one. This one is really nice and thin.
Only when I found a second kit I started on the wings. First of all I have to note that all Heller Komets I've seen so far suffer from bent wings. The wing twist is OK, but the wings bend upwards. Be careful when gluing them!

 

Although I usually do not use separate control surfaces, I wanted them on this model. The trim surfaces (inboard) are trimmed up a couple of degrees for start and landing, and the elevons (aileron+elevator) outboard are usually neither in the neutral position. Lastly, the flaps under the wings are rather special because of their position and construction, and I wanted to show that too. The flaps should be modified anyway since Heller modelled the flaps as raised surfaces.

I cut out all the surfaces. After cutting I noted that the trim surfaces and elevons do not line up accurately on the upper and lower wing halves, but that can be modified easily with some plastic card. I also removed the leading edge slot, in order to make a true slot later. The flap well was later made with a simple piece of plastic card. It looks that simple too on the real plane! I will reduce the flap span a little on the outboard side, and further it has the outboard rear corner cut off at a slight angle.

The kit is now waiting for attention. Researching the Komet camouflages really made me want to build a couple more. But lets first finish this one!

That was the last I wrote in 1999. So here the story ends of my Heller Komet.



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