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In-Box Review
148
Letov ä.328
  • PM_Letov_Boxtop

by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Brief history
Following an unfulfilled order for Finland, the Letov ä.328 was developed for the Czechoslovak Army Air Force. The prototype first flew in 1932 and the type was ordered in 1934, with the aircraft entering service the following year. Almost 460 were built, including night fighter and seaplane variants. Powered by a licence-built Pegasus radial engine, the Letov saw service throughout the rest of the 1930s and, following the German occupation, the surviving aircraft flew with the Luftwaffe as well as Slovak and Bulgarian forces. The aircraft saw considerable service on the Eastern front on anti-partisan sorties, combating night-harassment raids by PO-2s and flying ground-attack missions themselves. Near the end of the war, many Slovak Letov crews defected to the Soviets and flew their aircraft against their former Nazi comrades.

The kit
My interest had been piqued once more by the eye-catching boxtop of Planet Models' 1/48 scale resin kit and now, thoroughly sold on the idea of the aircraft, I wasted no time ordering the kit on-line from Modelimex. (As a brief aside, I must say how impressed I was with Modelimex's mail order service. The price was somewhat cheaper than elsewhere (always a help!) and every item is listed with an estimate of the availability if if it's not already in stock. But more important, from the point of reassurance, was the excellent way they process and track the order, with a priority e-mail when the order was shipped and their request that you confirm safe delivery of the item. Such concern for good service is testimony of the way Modelimex value their customers.)

Back to the kit, which arrives in Planet Models' familiar style of end-opening box, with the parts sealed in a roll of clear plastic pouches. This is fine for shipping the parts, but I much prefer the individual zip-lock bags used for their recent Avia B-35.1, which allow you to repack the parts after you've checked them. The kit consists of:

93 x beige resin parts
4 x parts cast in a more rigid black resin
1 x vacuformed windscreen (plus spare)
46 x etched brass parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes

The casting is excellent, well up to the high standard I've grown to expect from Planet Models in their latest releases. The only tiny flaw I found was a small bubble in one internal stringer - an insignificant point that will be easy to fix. The major parts arrive already separated from their casting blocks and, at the risk of being unfair to such a fine kit, the positioning of one of the pour-stubs is really thoughtless, falling right across some delicate detail. Surface detail consists of beautifully scribed panels and an excellent depiction of fabric surfaces along with one or two raised panels.

A test fit of the fuselage halves shows a very precise fit and the model is going to build in a large and surprisingly "beefy" biplane. Obviously a test fit isn't feasible, but the lower wings seem a good match for the roots in terms of airfoil and chord. They are a simple butt-joint, so adding extra metal pins could be a good idea to ensure a strong, stable joint. This is also true for the top wing, which is made up of 3 separate panels. This model is definitely a contender for being built in a jig to keep everything straight and true during assembly. In terms of accuracy , I must admit I have absolutely no idea beyond the aforementioned Scale Models review, which included a set of 1/72 scale plans reproduced from a Polish magazine of the time, plus one or two poor quality photos and colour profiles in other publications. With such a dearth of reliable references, I'm perfectly happy to go with the kit as supplied.

Construction Breakdown
Some idea of the complexity of the kit is obvious as soon as you see that the assembly instructions take up 7 sides of A-4 paper. The diagrams are very neatly drawn, with each section broken down into manageable chunks - 21 stages in all. Colours are indicated for most parts throughout assembly and there are a number of scrap views included included along the way. The only real omission is any form of rigging diagram, so you're left to rely on the boxtop picture to try to figure things out.

The high parts-count is down to the interior, which is really superbly detailed. With the large open cockpits positioned well behind the upper wing, this is really going to be a focus of attention and almost 70 parts go into this area, making it one of the most detailed cockpits I've found in a kit of this nature. The pilot's seat alone is made up from 8 parts, plus a further 6 for the etched harness. There's a choice of instrument panels - a well detailed resin item or a multi-layered etched version - while the observer's machine guns are built from 9 parts, combining resin and etched details to great effect. Add a 10-part camera/mount and it's clear that the interior is really a model in its own right!

The Pegasus engine is similarly well done, with a neat one-piece cowling showing off the finely detailed radial engine to which are added 18 delicate push rods and an exhaust ring. Almost amazingly, all the push rods were perfectly cast and arrived intact.

Once the interior is installed, the actual airframe looks reasonably straightforward but, as noted earlier, an assembly jig is definitely recommended. The undercarriage struts are cast in a more rigid black resin, which seems an excellent idea, but I'd have also liked to see it extended to the interplane struts as well. Ironically, these stronger struts are the only ones in my kit which will need straightening carefully in hot water - their weaker counterparts are perfect! The upper wing is going to be quite heavy when assembled, so only time will tell if the standard resin struts are up to the job of supporting it in the long term. To be on the safe side, builders may choose to replace at least the cabane struts with scratchbuilt metal items for extra peace of mind.

Underwing WZ 30 gun packs are included, but the instructions don't show barrels for either these or the guns mounted in the wings themselves. One minor disappointment, considering the level of internal detail and the inclusion of etched external items such as handholds, trim-tab actuators and a very neat gunsight, is that no light bombs or racks provided.

Painting and decals
The kit contains a large decal sheet with markings for two aircraft:

Letov ä.328.71, 91st Heavy Fighter Squadron, Flight Regiment 6, Czechoslovakian Army Air Force, Prague 1938. Khaki topsides and silver-grey undersides.
Letov ä.328148, Combined Flight of the 1st Czechoslovakian Army in the Slovak National Revolt, August 1944. Khaki topsides, pale blue undersides, with yellow tactical markings remaining from its former service on the Eastern Front. A colour profile in the old Salamander Books' "Combat Aircraft of WW2" shows the same aircraft in Axis service and, with a bit of crafty cutting, it might be possible to combine the two sets of national markings included with the kit to model the aircraft at that stage of its career.

The decals are excellent; thin and glossy, printed in perfect register with minimal carrier film.

Conclusion
Planet Models' Letov ä.328 will build into a large, impressive model which is sure to turn heads at clubs and shows. It's certainly not a model for beginners, with a combination of a complex interior and biplane construction, but if you have a bit of experience working with resin kits and you're looking for an unusual model of an important but largely overlooked WW2 aircraft, this could be just the thing. Resin kits are inevitably rather more expensive than mass-produced items, but the price of the Letov seems very fair for such a well produced model. Highly recommended.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
SUMMARY
It's frequently said that we're lucky enough to be living in what could be termed a golden age in modelling and, when I look at the steadily increasing quality of short-run kits, it's easy to see why. The beauty of such models s that they allow us to tackle less obvious subjects that will almost certainly never feature in the product lines of the major manufacturers. A classic example is the Letov ä.328, a reconnaissance biplane that saw widespread throughout WW2 with a number of airforces, but is sadly likely to remain relatively obscure. It's one of those aircraft that I was largely aware of due to an old edition of Scale Models from dating right back to 1973, featuring the 1/72 scale injected kit from Kovazavody Prostejov kit - a model I never saw in the flesh, so to speak. So, the Letov slipped to the back of my mind for 30-odd years until the recent release of this new 1/48 scale resin short-run kit!
  CASTING QUALITY:95%
  DECALS:90%
Percentage Rating
95%
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: PLT146
  Suggested Retail: Ä 42.00
  PUBLISHED: Jan 06, 2007
  NATIONALITY: Czech Republic
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 88.10%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 82.13%

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)
FROM: NO REGIONAL SELECTED, UNITED KINGDOM

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright ©2019 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.



Comments

Czech company Agama have authentic Czech Air Force colours in their range of paints, C-1 to C-12. C-13 to C-17 modern. LINK
JAN 05, 2007 - 11:17 PM
Cheers Antoni I'm a big fan of Agama paints myself - I first came across them because of their Polish Air Force colours. If anyone hasn't tried them, the Agama range of paints (both enamels and acrylics) is enormous and, going by the distinctive style of the pots and the smell of the contents(!), Agama produce the excellent Xtracrylix for Hannants. All the best Rowan
JAN 05, 2007 - 11:37 PM
Snap! I also discovered them because the Jadar shop had Polish Air Force colours. Iíd never used acrylic paint before and had a few problems. They seem to be very high quality with lots of pigment that covers well and dries quickly. The problems Iíve had are mostly due to my inexperience. Fortunately I had the good sense to experiment first. I had some spare decals on an Aero Master sheet for a Rumanian P.11 so I built that. I was seduced by the yellow theatre markings but it would have been better to have chosen a simpler scheme to begin with. I wasnít sure how well acrylic paint would adhere to plastic or enamel paints so I undercoated with Halfords Plastic Primer. Agama have two types of thinner, spirytus (alcohol) and water based. I asked them at the shop why there were two types but they didnít know so I got both. I chose to use the spirytus first and it wasnít a good choice. I think I probably thinned the paint too much which didnít help. When it first went on it formed into small drops and then began to run together into larger ones until all of a sudden it flowed into one flat sheet of paint. Iíd masked off the yellow areas and unfortunately the paint was so wet it easily ran under the edges. The other problem was that the airbrush nozzle (Aztek) kept clogging. At one point I had a long thin tube of dry paint on the tip. I think the spirytus thinner is only good for cleaning the airbrush. I then tried the water based thinner (both thinners actually smell of alcohol although they do have a different smell to each other) which was much better. It still clogged a bit and I had to keep cleaning the nozzle with a paint brush soaked in thinner. I also tried Tamiyaís acrylic thinner and that worked well, with just slightly more clogging than with the Agama water based thinner. Iíve not tried thinning with water but that might work. After the first disaster I was worried about the paint creeping under the masking but when I removed it there was only a little bit a touching up to do. The tape did pull off a few bits of paint on the tail plane but maybe that was because I had thinned the first coat of paint too much. Some remedial work was required in places and I then found out the acrylic paint doesnít sand very well, especially if you use water. It tended to chip away at the edges leaving a ridge so when you spray over it the area is still visible. In the end I carefully chipped away the paint up to the edge of the panel lines and repainted. I used Future/Klear before and after the decals and finally Humbrolís Matt Cote without any adverse affect on the Agama paint. With all the remedial work I ended up with some very thick layers of paint and the model should only be viewed from six feet away. Donít let me put you off. Iím sure in more experienced hands the Agama paint is a very high quality product. Iím going to practice first on some smaller models before I attempt anything like a Karaś. Speaking of which, Have you seen the last post I made (before Christmas) on the dual control? Itís very mucky because I used a lot of pastels to hide the blemishes!
JAN 06, 2007 - 06:23 PM
Hi again Antoni I must admit I'm pretty useless when it comes to thinners - I seldom use manufacturers' own brands and I just experiment with with the usual culprits. For Agama paints I've found Isopropyl Alchohol works well, or good old Windolene as a substitute for water (the detergent helps the paint flow better). I found your Karaś notes - cheers, they're a huge help and your model is looking great! I've moved the thread to the WW2 forum. Of course, it reminds me that's another stalled build in my pile - I really must get on with my own Karaś this year! 2007 is starting to look busy already! :-) All the best Rowan
JAN 06, 2007 - 08:50 PM
   

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Photos
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  • PM_Letov_Package
  • PM_Letov_Parts_1
  • PM_Letov_Parts_2
  • PM_Letov_Parts_3
  • PM_Letov_Parts_4
  • PM_Letov_Parts_5
  • PM_Letov_Parts_6
  • PM_Letov_Windscreen
  • PM_Letov_Etch
  • PM_Letov_Decals
  • PM_Letov_Cockpit
  • PM_Letov_Interior
  • PM_Letov_Details
  • PM_Letov_Surface
  • PM_Letov_Cowling
  • PM_Letov_Engine
  • PM_Letov_Propeller
  • PM_Letov_Wheel