by: Entoni Seperic [ ]
IntroductionThe PWS-A was a Polish licence development of the famous Czech ďdřevŠkĒ (wooden-clog) Ė Avia BH.33. It seems that the overall reputation of this small fighter from the period of the Great Depression wasnít too good, but its original production arrived at no more than two hundred aircraft. Prague based Avia initially struggled with failures in production of pursuit aircraft, and regarded the monoplane concept rather prospective, but the firm lacked technology and skills required in production of such an airframe.
The nickname feature of this early BH.33ís, i.e. an all-wooden fuselage ďboxĒ, stick with the operating personnel and pilots, and the planes were not popular at all. The Army harshly criticized its two machine guns, which usually boosted flame and smoke all the way to the upper part of the pilotís seat, and sometimes blazing across the entire length of the aircraft. The machine gunís original position near the main petrol tank filler cap, combined with potential oil leaks during aerobatic manoeuvres, resulted in major corrugation of the plywood and raised many security issues. Ignoring the harsh criticism, Avia decided to build a series of 20 BH.33ís mainly as companyís demonstrator aircraft along with five previously built aircraft, which were already presented to the potential buyers, i.e. Belgium, the Soviets, and Yugoslavia. Especially important was the companyís decision to grant the licence for fifty wooden-framed Aviaís to be produced in Poland.
PWS-AIt is now generally accepted that Avia exported 3 BH.33ís to Belgium, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia, and 2 to Poland. However, it is most probable that the company produced at least 40 export aircraft with same designation, which ended up with different owners and were used for demonstration purposes. Nevertheless, the first commercial success for the company was the license for production of BH.33ís in Poland. It is reported that the aircraft was presented to Poland as early as December 1927, but business negotiations continued for almost a year, since the Poles attention was drawn to an all-metal pursuit plane design in cooperation with the French. The former resulted in the Polish acquisition of Spades 51 and 61 as the Polish Air Force standard fighters.
Apart from lowering the initial price, the Czech company tried to convince the Poles with high manoeuvrability and climb rate performance of the BH.33ís, which could relieve the Poles urgent need for a pursuit aircraft until the intended domestic designs are ready for production. It was agreed that only one Jupiter VII machine will be produced and delivered for testing. In their efforts to cut down the expenses, the Poles eventually decided to fit their PWS-Aís, which was a licence designation revealing the Podlaska Wytwůrnia Samolotůw-Avia, with a weaker Jupiter IV engines discarded from their Ferman F-68 Goliath bombers, and driven by Szomański wooden propeller. So, the performances of the Polish licence built version were comparatively weaker than that of Avia BH.33ís. The aircraft was fitted with two Vickers 7.92 mm machineguns, with telescopic sight and the Ludolph compass regularly replaced by domestically built instruments. There were also other minor modifications, but the overall appearance of the plane was reminiscent of the Czech ďdřevŠkĒ.
By April 1, 1931, and contrary to the initially agreed deadline, the Polish Air Force saw only 29 PWS-Aís in service, with a total of 40 received in the beginning of October. The PWS-A was not highly regarded in the service, but it did became well-known due to acrobatic teams in early 1930ís. Equipped with older and frequently failing engines, maintained by a second-rate workmanship and with many other structural problems, accidents were inevitable. Loosing parts in flight were not a rare scene. However, about 20 PWS-Aís survived in service until April 1938, when they were finally cancelled and put out of service. As our sources confirm, the evidence of their destruction or dismantling are missing, and it cannot be ruled out that some of these airplanes were used by Germans as dummy targets in 1939.
In the boxThe kit comes in rather small but sturdy top opening box. The first impression after opening the box is somewhat mixed, but definitely more on the positive side. Although the kit would hardly withstand the quality of Ruslan Bilykís or Sergey Kosacevís kits, it is still meticulously arranged and rather well executed.
The kit consists of:
- 44 resin parts;
- 4 photo-etched parts (belts and instrumental panel);
- 1 acetate film with instruments and windscreen;
- 1 decal sheet;
The upper wing and the fuselages halves are packed directly in the box and all of 40 other resin parts are squeezed inside tiny zip-bag. Decals, acetate film and PE parts are all bagged separately. You will immediately notice the absence of any national insignia. The casting of tan coloured resin pieces is generally very fine with nice satin surface. The design and breakdown of resin parts is straightforward and generally free of imperfections. However, I noticed several bubbles and minor surface imperfections, some resin flakes and flash. The most problematic areas, however, are joints between the casts and resin pouring blocks. This is prominent along the leading edges of the wings and along the fuselage halves. Although these casting goofs are easily solved by an experienced resin builder, it is still much annoying in the light of the achieved standard of quality in some of to-days resin kits. Maybe I am too spoiled and demanding, but this is surely one of the features that will distinguish a hi-tech resin kit from simple garage casting. However, it is my modest impression that with more effort and quality control the X-resinís kits can easily cross the threshold. I remind you that the judgment is based on this particular kit, since I didnít have an opportunity to examine X-resinís latter products.
Wings and fuselageExterior details are pretty good with some nicely highlighted panels and finely engraved lines. The wings have rather accentuated ribs for my taste, but I am no expert on that either. The upper wing is a single piece, while the lower wing is broken down in two pieces with separate ailerons. The resin wing struts are a bit too thick in my opinion, but still very nice and without deformation. Central wing support struts where the upper wing is fixed to the fuselage are completely missing in my kit and will have to be scratched.
The fuselage is broken down in three parts, i.e. port and starboard fuselage halves and a top part, which encloses the cockpit with some prominent structural details. The empennage consists of separate vertical and horizontal stabilizers, rudder and elevators.
Cockpit, engine and undercarriageThe cockpit is somewhat simplistic and basic, but it does provide a skilled modeler with good starting point for further detailing (although the real cockpit was a bit Spartan as well). The seat is very nice and thin, and combined with provided PE seat belts will be quite noticeable in the small cockpit. The acetate film with instruments and PE instrumental panel is a straightforward and welcome improvement and will add to overall impression. The Jupiter engine consists of nine individually casted cylinders and engine base. I didnít notice any exhausts. The engine cover and propeller hub are nicely casted, but I did notice some nasty bubbles along the edges of the propeller blades.
The undercarriage consists of seven parts. The wheels attachment rods are not provided in the kit; the assembly sheet informs that you must use a 1 mm metal rod instead. Although it would be nice to have them in the kit, it is difficult to imagine a modeler without a readily available stash of hypodermic needles or some other available metal rods. The wheels are very crisply casted and will only accentuate the finish. There were number of field improvements on PWS-Aís, and the absence of the Ludolph compass and telescopic sight is not an omission in the kit, but prominent feature of many Polish machines.
Photo etched, acetate and decalsI already mentioned that the kit comes with etched belts and instrumental panel, which seems like a nice addition to the kit. The acetate windshield and the instruments are nicely printed and clear, but it will require some experience to fit them. This especially applies to the windscreen, since not every modeller is skilled enough to achieve perfect result straight away. Again, itís a kind of ďhit or missĒ mission with the windshield, because there will be no second chance for you as there is only one windshield on the acetate. If you are unsecure, I would advise you to use it as a template to make additional windshields beforehand.
Decal sheet is in good register, thin and nicely printed. However, I am a bit concerned about the density of the white used on the decal sheet, but I cannot tell for sure more until the application. As it was already mentioned before, you are not provided with national insignias and you are referred to Techmod decals No. 48-007 as the source of Polish roundels. They might be readily available to many modellers around, but I find this very annoying because my options are very limited Ė itís like having a cappuccino without milk to me, and the kit leaves you with no alternative.
Instruction sheet and painting instruction The instruction sheet is a simple one-sheet fold with exploded assembly view and one painting instruction. There is no short history or any other useful information on what you will actually build, and the painting instruction is overly simplistic. The only painting option (provided that you have national insignia) is PWS-A ďwhite 1Ē, registration 51-K, from 122 EM, 2 PL, Krakůw, 1932.
ConclusionIt seems to me that this kit leaves a lot to be desired. Having in mind the exotic subject and the effort invested in very good cast, it is still more surprising that the producer didnít find it necessary to make a step further and provide you with just a bit more than whatís in the box. The absence of national insignia maybe isnít something that will turn you off the kit, but if you already allocated significant funds to have it, you would expect a bit different approach. Apart from minor casting flows and other omissions, this kit offers you with a possibility to build sufficiently exotic and nice ďdřevŠkĒ. I am almost sure that itís the only game in the town in Ď48, and therefore I was a bit let down by my own expectations. However, I would recommend this kit only to a moderately experienced modeller, and not because of the complexity of the kit itself; nonetheless, youíll have to make an effort to transform all the parts provided in the box into a real model.
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Source: JiřŪ Vranż, Avia BH-33 fighter in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Greece, Spain, Japan and China (Jakab, 2006)
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