Anigrand 1/144 Northrop HL-10

KIT #: A-5007
PRICE: $64.00 (for a set of five aircraft)
DECALS: One option


There is a fantastic photo that says everything cool about being a test pilot in the 60s - it shows Bill Dana in a silver pressure suit, standing on a dry lake bed next to a futuristic looking wingless craft, with a very 60s silver and white-swoosh paint job, as a monster B-52 roars overhead at low altitude, streaming black exhaust into the blue desert sky. You can see the picture from the link under references; the futuristic looking wingless craft is the Northrop HL-10 "lifting body".
The lifting bodies were a little-known aerospace program that made a major contribution to the design of the Space Shuttle. Even during the heyday of Gemini and Apollo, the US realised that the one-shot approach to space travel, where every single item had to be built from scratch for every mission, was ultimately unsustainable. If space was to become routinely accessible, and maybe even commercialised, a re-usable system was needed. One of the many consequences of this idea was that the spaceship needed to be able to come down to earth and land in some controlled way, rather than splashing down under parachutes and being recovered by an aircraft carrier.

Before that could happen, NASA needed information about the designs that might achieve this. One solid line of thought was the "lifting body" - a plane without wings that could still generate lift, preferably from a shape that could also function as a heat shield.

The program had actually started with the M2-F1, a wooden glider that was towed behind a hotted up Pontiac, and later behind an aeroplane, to verify that such a thing could even fly. It could, and so Northrop won a contract to build the HL-10 and the M2-F2. These aircraft were carried to altitude by a larger plane like a B-52, then they were dropped. The rocket kicked in, carrying the plane to a greater height, and then it glided back down, often supersonically, before slowing down to land.

The HL-10 had its first gliding flight on 22 December 1966 and fired its rocket for the first time on its 12th flight, 23 October 1968. In all, the HL-10 flew 37 times. Its fastest speed was Mach 1.86, which was the record for any lifting body, and its best height, also the best for any lifting body, was just a fraction over 90,000 feet. 
The HL-10 survives and is displayed at Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB.

I previewed this cool little combo set from Anigrand right here on MM. The first thing to remember is that there are four other lifting bodies in the combo set, which reduces the sticker shock a little bit. I have already built the HL-20 which you can see right here on MM .

The HL-10 has a single piece body, three tailfins, canopy parts and undercarriage, plus a long air data probe. There is a cockpit cavity with a simplistic rendition of an ejector seat.

I didn't realise until I started the kit that there are not enough yellow NASA stripes to go around. The thinner ones fit the HL-10 and M2-F2/3, but you need thicker ones for both the X-24A and B (unless you do the -A in the scheme with white rudders, as pictured on the box instead of the totally bare metal scheme set out in the instructions). I ordered another sheet from Anigrand when I bought another kit from them later on.

There isn't much to building this lifting body. Wearing a safety mask, I sanded down the seams on the resin body, and tidied up the winglets or tailfins (not exactly sure what these technically should be called...). Then, using superglue, I assembled the body. About 90 seconds later, primary construction was complete! Later, more sanding, although the fit really is pretty good, and then I was ready to paint my HL-10.
After painting, I installed the undercarriage, added the two canopy sections (be careful to align it better than I did) and then made some new undercarriage doors from plastic card. The kit's ones are way too thick. Last of all I used some stretched sprue for the long air data probe. The kit comes with one but it is a bit thick and was also bent.

Pictures show the aircraft to be bare metal, fairly shiny. In some pictures it also has the white tailfins and side stripes, as I have done here. Although this thing is very small, and sits happily on the palm of my hand, I still chose to spray paint it with a blast top and bottom of Tamiya gloss aluminium. After that, I used some masking tape and I brushpainted the white area using Tamiya gloss white X-2. Inside, I used a medium grey for the cockpit and black for a scratchbuilt instrument panel (which might have been grey on the real thing, actually). The head of the ejection seat is red. Undercarriage is just Tamiya aluminium.
Anigrand's decals work ok. There are not many markings on the plane anyway, although the data labels aft of the yellow rescue arrow aren't included. Nor is the serial number N804NA which goes just above the main wheel door, and, while I'm at it, there ought to be a NORTHROP sign just aft of the NASA meatball near the canopy, and a BEWARE OF BLAST on the rump, a bit above and behind where the N804NA should be. But never mind, you get most of the decals and the model really is very small.

A cool lifting body and a fantastic compilation set from Anigrand. Easy to build, great for your first go at resin, or if you like real space or just something out of the ordinary on your shelf-top flightline. Recommended.

Cool photo of Bill Dana at this link 
Good pics of the HL-10 here. 

Richard F

April 2015

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page