AV Models 1/72 Miles M.39B Libellula
KIT #: AV 116
PRICE: $30
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Peter Burstow
NOTES: Resin kit with metal and vacuformed parts


Phillips and Powis Aircraft, wholly owned by Rolls Royce, and producing aircraft under the name Miles, submitted a tandem wing design, the M.39, for Air Ministry specification B11/41 for a high speed unarmed day bomber. It was to be powered by two Merlin 61 engines or alternatively three Whittle W3/500 jet engines.

While not taken up, Fred Miles' design was interesting enough that the ministry ordered a 5/8th scale flying scale model, the M.39B to specification B.11/41/2.

The Libellula, named after a family of dragonflies, first flew on 22 July 1943 piloted by George Miles, and proved very stable. Initially wearing registration U-0244, and in wartime camouflage, the aircraft was purchased by the Ministry of Aircraft Production and re-serialed SR392. It was flown to Farnborough and undertook some development work. It was first flown by Eric Brown on 30th June 1944. His book, Wings of the Weird and Wonderful, gives a detailed account of the Libellula and its flying characteristics.

After the war it was returned to Miles Aircraft Limited, (Fred Miles having bought out Rolls Royce in 1943), painted yellow, and re-serialed again, this time with the class B registration U4. It was seldom flown, and scrapped in 1948 when the firm was liquidated.


Coming in a small top opening box, there are about 20 cream coloured resin parts and 5 white metal parts supplied. There is a single vacfomed canopy, a film instrument panel and a small etched fret. There are also 4 lengths of wire in two thicknesses, one being very fine. The decal sheet has just two black 'U4' , the post-war prototype markings, nothing else.

All the resin parts are smooth and cleanly moulded, with some very fine engraved line detail. There are no obvious bubbles or other casting problems, but the flying surfaces all need some thinning of the trailing edges. One of the propeller blades had broken off, but there was no other damage.

The white metal parts are the undercarriage legs and struts. The vacfomed canopy is slightly frosty, with no indication of framing lines. The etched fret has seat belts, and a variety of other tiny parts, the use of which is obscure.

The instructions are one A4 sheet with a single exploded view assembly diagram, a scale three view drawing and five photographs of the aircraft, most of it wearing the earlier U0244 or SR392 serials and RAF camouflage. There is some indication of colours for the interior and small parts. There is no detail on where the etched metal or wire parts are to be used.


The first step was cleaning up the resin parts. There was very little in the way of pouring lugs, and only a tiny amount of flash on some of the smaller parts. A light sand was enough to prepare the parts. The parts were then all washed in a mix of hot soapy water and rubbing alcohol, then left to dry.

The single exploded diagram was only of limited help, more useful for identifying parts, than for construction. I started with the cockpit adding a set, control column and rudder bar to the floor, then fitting that, the instrument panel and a bulkhead to a fuselage half. The supplied etched brass seatbelts and the film instruments were fitted. I then added the nose-wheel well. It looked like it may be a tail sitter, with most of the rear wing behind the main gear, so I packed as much weight as I could into all available space forward of the wing leading edge. The other fuselage half was then joined.

I then added the major parts, the forward and main wing halves, engine nacelles, and the three fins and rudder parts. Fit was better than usual for a short run resin, but filler and sanding was needed on all the joints. Next I fitted the white metal undercarriage legs and struts, needing to drill out location holes, which were only marked with shallow depressions.


First a thorough wash with hot soapy water and a stiff paint brush to get rid of any sanding debris. I then applied a coat of Tamiya white primer, which showed up a few spots needing repair. A bit of Mr Surfacer and some sanding later, then another wash and another white prime. Then an overall spray with Tamiya rattle can TS-16, a nice bright yellow. It took several coats to get an even finish.


Plenty of detail parts to be added, propellers, exhausts, little brass bits for the undercarriage, wheels and pitot. I couldn't identify many of the pieces on the brass fret, so I didn't fit them. I didn't find out what to do with the wire. I did a little painting in the cockpit, then I tried to fit the vacform canopy, which didn't work at all. It was the wrong shape and size, obviously for something else. I cut a new one from a vacform insert from a box of assorted chocolates, which has dozens of potential canopies, which may be why I bought it in the first place. I made my new canopy fit then secured it with a drop of superglue at each corner. When the glue had stopped frosting the plastic, I cleaned it with a lens cleaner cloth and a little iso-propyl alcohol. Then I bogged up the gaps with white glue. It still looks a little rough.

The instructions called out a range of colours for most of the parts, most of the little bits I painted aluminium.  Just a few touch ups needed, and I hand painted around the canopy with some decanted yellow paint. Not much work with the decals, just the serial on each side. The supplied decals worked fine on the glossy surface. Last was a spray with Long Life floor polish.


A very interesting kit of a unique aircraft, needs a little fettling to get it right, but a straightforward build. The canopy was the only part needing a lot of work to get done. Great fun and a really unusual model to have in the display case. Recommended for modellers with a few resin kits under their belt.


Eric Brown, Wings of the Weird and Wonderful, Airlife, London, 1983.

Ray Sturtivant, British Research and Development Aircraft, Haynes, Yeovil, 1990.


Flight Magazine, May 4th 1944.

Peter Burstow

May 2016

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