by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
I have to admit I bought Planet Models Avia B.35.1 primarily on account of it being on special offer at Hannants! Now, that could sound bad, so I'd better explain... the reason I wasn't tempted by the kit at full r.r.p. was certainly no reflection on its quality, but simply because I'd already built the old Karo As vacuform of the aircraft some years ago. With little time for modelling, common sense should dictate that I concentrate on new subjects, rather than re-visit old ones... but when has common sense ever had much (or anything!) to do with modelling?! Seeing the kit on sale at 1/2 price, I hesitated for all of 3 seconds before reaching for my wallet...
Brief HistoryThe Avia B.35 was built in answer to a 1936 requirement for an advanced monoplane fighter with a 1,000 hp Hispano-Suiza engine and retractable landing gear. The resulting aircraft would be at least the equal of other fighters under development in Europe. Since both the engine and undercarriage were unavailable, Avia built a lower-powered prototype with a fixed spatted landing gear, which first flew in September 1938. Even in this form the Czech fighter reached 295 mph and development continued with the B.35.2 and .3 prototypes before the eventual production series, the B.135 - complete with retractable landing gear. The latter aircraft was purchased by the Bulgarian Air Force, but development of this potentially very impressive fighter was cut short by the German invasion of Czechoslovakia.
The KitSo, all set for a second Avia, I ordered the Planet Models kit. What a beauty! If anything underlines the huge strides made in short-run models over the last decade, it's comparing this resin kit with the earlier vacuform. Ten years ago I was really delighted by the Karo As kit (a good quality vacuform with basic injected details) which built up nicely and gave plenty of scope for some individual skills. Seeing the 2006 resin version is a real eye-opener, with its excellent casting, a combination of delicate resin and etched details, plus a far superior decal sheet.
The kit arrives in a typical Planet Models end-opening box and I was prepared for their almost "trademark" way of packaging the parts in a roll of sealed pouches. I was in for my first surprise; the parts are presented in resealable zip-lock bags, which is a much neater idea.
The kit consists of:
32 x pale cream resin parts
33 x etched brass parts
1 x film instrument panel
1 x vacuform canopy (plus spare)
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The casting really is top-notch. The main parts are completely free of bubbles on the review model. The only items which seem to have caused a production problem are the propeller blades, so Planet have thoughtfully included spares to make sure you're okay. Full marks there! Surface detail consists of scribed panel lines and embossed rivets and fasteners, with a very fine fabric effect on the tail and control surfaces.
The fuselage halves arrive basically ready for use; they are hollow-cast like parts from a conventional kit. The one-piece wing is joined to a casting plinth along its leading edge, but separating it is a quick and painless task and the trailing edges of both this and the tailplanes are beautifully thin. A test fit shows a very good fit at the wing roots and, while the fuselage halves are splayed slightly at the nose in the accompanying photo, in reality the lightest finger-pressure is enough to close the gap.
With a reasonable number of parts for what's essentially a simple aircraft, it's no surprise that most of the detail is packed into a very nicely kitted-out cockpit. The sidewalls and floor have a neat framework onto which attach etched details such as the throttle and trim wheel. The seat seems rather small for scale, but it's provided with a good etched harness. The control column features separate etched triggers, while the instrument panel is made up of an etched front with a film backing. All a far cry from the mainly scratchbuilt cockpit I did ten years ago...
Turning to the engine area, the kit provides a choice of propellers to depict the aircraft at various stages of its career and the etched fret contains a number of neat grills and - a really neat idea - wrap-around parts for exterior of the radiator-scoop and the surface-cooler on the wing root.
The tailwheel is neatly cast, while the main undercarriage consists of two-part spats which trap unweighted wheels.
The vacuform canopy is nice and clear with a well-defined framework. It's moulded closed, so it's good to see Planet Models provide a spare so you can slice it open without fear of disaster.
Instructions and DecalsThe instructions are excellent, with a useful parts chart and very clear assembly diagrams broken down into 9 basic stages, with a number of scrap views along the way. The construction sequence looks very logical and colours for most parts are indicated at each stage.
Decals are provided for the B.35.1 at two stages of development; factory-fresh and during VTLU trials. The only real difference (in addition to the propeller) is the application of national markings to the wings and a fuselage number. Both schemes sport a spectacular 3-tone camouflage pattern on the topsides. The decals themselves are excellent, being thin and glossy and printed perfectly in register.
ConclusionIt's hard to find fault with Planet Models Avia B.35.1 - it's beautifully cast, finely detailed and should be a simple build - making it an ideal first resin kit for newcomers to this type of model. It's good value at full price and an absolute steal at Hannants' special offer price! Highly recommended.