March 2020

Sikorsky R-4B Hoverfly 1

Link to Website Index:

Sikorsky R-4B Hoverfly 1

771 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, RNAS Portland, 1945.

MPM 1/72  with  various markings from spares box

Link to Website Index:

<<Link to previous month  Link to Next Month >>


Have a look at many more early helicopters on my Helicopters pages

The R-4 was the first true allied helicopter, undergoing initial trials at sea in 1943. Recognising its potential as an ASW convoy protection weapon, Britain ordered 240 of them for use by the RN and RAF, but with the end of WW2 this order was reduced to 45, most of which went o the Fleet Air Arm. The US Army and USCG also used R-4s, the former for jungle rescue in Burma and the latter for coastal patrols.

Limited in the ASW role by their small payload, precluding a useful weapons load, the RN’s R-4Bs were used in a variety of Fleet Requirements roles (such as radar calibration) and as ASW aircraft until eventually replaced by the much more powerful Dragonfly.

Building the MPM Hoverfly R-4B kit:

This particular kit is somewhat of a rarity and definitely a short run product. It has relatively little detail to see, but neither has the real thing!  

The kit requires some careful optimism and patience to build, since many of it’s parts are roughly formed and need a lot of tidying up and they generally lack such luxuries as location pins.  In fact I have heard it described a s a”tricky” build; I’m not sure I would totally agree since most of it is OK and does tidy up well. The main sticking point is the acetate cockpit canopy, a common issue with early MPM products.  This comes in 4 parts, which are nicely formed, but don’t fit together well and are very difficult to assemble and fix in place.  

Rotor blades and the complex rotor head are nicely represented, if a little weak once complete.  The cabin, which includes some nice photo etch, is pleasingly detailed, although I’m not sure the bucket style seats are correct

for a UK machine.  Instructions are a little vague about part positioning, although a search online for pictures of the real thing clarified some of my doubts.  The inside of the engine and rotor mast space are completely empty, and require you to make up some thin plastic rod to provide the bracing struts.  Basic decals are provided for USCG and US army machines.

It would be nice to see a more modern kit of this important pioneering aircraft in 1/72, but its small size, drab appearance and relative simplicity make this unlikely.  Decals come from my spares box.

© Crown Copyright IWM (A 26730) Naval ratings move an RN Hoverfly from the flight line at Floyd-Bennett airfield NY.

© Crown Copyright IWM (A 26732) A number of aircraft from the initial British purchase were retained in the US to allow initial training of RN Pilots alongside US Coast Guard pilots at Floyd-Bennett airfield NY.

Assembling the four-part acetate canopy.  Mine was very brittle (indeed the nose section had yellowed badly) and not entirely clear. I used CA superglue to fix it in place, then Krystal Clear white glue to fill the gaps. I didn’t really trim the top section back enough (although it matched the embossed lines)  and this gave me some issues with the nose section.

The RAF Museum at Hendon has one of the few remaining R-4Bs on display, unfortunately out of reach suspended from the ceiling.  It is an original British machine that served with both the RN and then later with the RAF.

Link to March 20 Page 2

This has been a bumper building month, so here is a Link to March 20 Page 2: