The Hughes 500 was first developed in the mid 1960s to meet a US Army requirement for a Light Observation Helicopter (LOH). The Hughes Model 369 won the competition in 1963 and was ordered into production. US Army pilots quickly transmuted LOH into 'Loach”. Hughes Helicopters offered a civillian version designated the Hughes 500. In 1976 the Hughes 500D was announced. This differed from the original by a 5 blade main rotor and a T tail. The 500D quickly became the standard commercial offering, replacing all previous models. In 1982 the -500E version with a pointed nose offering more legroom was introduced.
In 1975, Hughes began work on the NOTAR (NO TAil Rotor)
concept. This replaces the tail rotor with a fan inside an increased-diameter tailboom. The fan blows air out of carefully designed slots in the tailboom which causes the rotor downwash to wrap around the boom, providing a 'lifting' force using the Coandǎ effect
which in effect turns the boom into a sideways 'wing'. This force is carefully calculated to counter the main rotor's torque. Directional control is achieved by a movable 'puff port' at the tip of the tailboom. NOTAR helicopters are the quietest helicopters in service.
Hughes Helicopters was purchased by McDonnel-Dougas in 1984, and all models were given an MD designation. After the Boeing/McDonnel-Douglas merger in 1997, the helicopter division was sold off to become MD Helicopters.
The -500's distinctive shape has resulted in the affectionate nickname of 'Super Grape'.
This is a delightful little short-run model. The sprues are in a soft carmel coloured plastic, with the exception of the main cabin and doors which is done in clear. This rather neatly avoids the nasty fit problems one may expect in fitting the helicopter's rather extensive glazing, but does make for an intricate masking job. There is a small amount of flash and all parts are covered in mould release agent which must be washed off before construction begins. The instruction booklet is printed in full colour and there are no less than 10 different marking schemes to choose from.
The fuselage is two halves from nose to engine bay, with a separate tailboom, in this case the NOTAR boom and its complicated end cap. The cabin interior is vey complete, with 4 seats, cyclic and collective sticks and anti-torque pedals. The instrument panels are catered for by printed paper overlays. About the only thing missing are the seatbelts, which will be very visible through the large windows. The doors are separate, allowing them to be posed open. The box art shows wire strike protective system cutters that are not included in the kit. These will have to be scratchbuilt or sourced from a photoetch sheet. There is no indication whether nose weight wil be needed, nor is there much room to fit any in.
The rotor is a simple assembly made up of a rotor shaft, the 5 blades, control linkages that look a bit out of scale, and the domed cap that fits on top of it all. The modeller is expected to drill a mounting hole for the rotor shaft in the top of the cabin, and mount the rotor with a 4 degree inclination forward. The rotors droop only slightly while the helicopter is at rest. This droop is not moulded in, so the blades must be very carefully bent.
The one piece tailplane fits above the tailboom, and the end cap fins fit above and below the tailplane tips. The fins have visible gaps on the real thing, so they will need some careful cleanup and fitting, but will not need filling!
The engine exhaust is a curved part with an end cap. The end cap has detail of the bifurcated exhaust, but it's much too shallow. It should be carefully hollowed out and a piece of plastic card inserted to give an illusion of depth, or replaced with a piece of plastic tube carefully bent to shape. The NOTAR fan intake at the top of the boom is a solid piece where it should be a mesh screen. A decal mesh is provided on the decal sheet, but it must be cut to shape. This is one place where a replacement piece of photo etch would look very good, although it would have to be bent to shape over a very complex compound curve. The tailboom exhaust puff port is also provided as a decal where it should have depth. Careful scratchbuilding can render the area looking much better.
The landing skids are single piece mouldings. The kit offers both the tall and short struts but all of the marking options use the tall skids. The skids are a simple butt join to the fuselage. They could probably benefit from being drilled and pinned for extra security.
I don't compare models to drawings or published measurements. When assembled it will look like an MD-520 N.
Decals and markings
The decal sheet offers no less than 10 different options:
- 1. YV-1014CP from a private Venezuelan operator in white and blue with a bold red stripe slashed across the white
- 2. N501HP from the Honolulu Police Department in overall dark blue with white trim;
- 3. N952SD from the Los Angeles Sherrif's Department in overall metallic mid green with green and yellow tim;
- 4. OK-YIK in overall red with white trim from a private Czech operator;
- 5. Y52008N from the Salvadorian police in white and blue;
- 6. D-HABF in overall red from a private German operator;
- 7. ZK-HDW in overall metallic mid green with green and yellow tim from New Zealand's Central South Island Helicopters;
- 8. RF-00618 from GALS Aero in Russia in overall scarlet red;
- 9. G14 of the Belgian Gendarmerie in overall white with red and navy blue trim;
- 10. OE-XKI in overall silver with maroon and black pinstripes from Knaus Air in Austria
The Venezuelan and Salvadoran options are the only ones requiring a two-toned paint scheme. All others are a single solid colour with the trim colours provided by the decals. The rubber window seals are provised on the decal sheet, as are the vent window outlines for those aircraft fitted with them.
The real thing:
patrolling the skies above Honolulu. Book 'im, Dano.
hard at work. The kit does not include the spray rig shown here.