Subject: Lavochkin La-5FN

Price: About $15.00

Manufacturer: Hobbycraft HC 1589

Scale: 1/48

No. of Parts: 53, cast in gray plastic

Decal Options: Two Czech and One Soviet

Decal Quality: Poor

Instructions: Good, includes F.S. numbers but doesn’t name the colors. No color reference I saw agreed on the F.S. numbers. I decided to use the refs on the Aeromaster decal set I bought.

Review by: James Bevis

My first impression on opening the box was good. Quality is about the same as Hobbycraft’s I-16 series. Panel lines are recessed. The fabric-covered control surfaces have slightly exaggerated detail. Cockpit is inaccurate but busy. Sidewall detail is molded on the fuselage halves. The propeller has separate blades. The rudder is separate. The canopy is marginal, I had to bend it a little using hot water and also polish it and dip it in Future. The track that the canopy slides in isn’t there. It’s also missing one frame bar. The wing isn’t quite right at the leading edge-fuselage area. It’s an La-7 for sure in that area, and hard to change.


The cockpit has twelve parts. The instructions show the control column facing the wrong way. There are no locators for the individual parts, so I used one fuselage half for a jig to line up the separate panels. It’s easy to get the rear ‘package shelf’ at too low an angle, I did. The whole assembly is tricky, I had to pop the seat loose and move it forward slightly. There is no paint guide for the interior, so I just faked it. RLM 78 Hellblau overall, black instrument panel with the paint scraped off of the considerable amount of raised detail to show the gray plastic color (simple and effective!). Black control column and radio equipment with silver details, OD green seat and a darker green for the pilot’s armor. Using Model Master RLM 78 in the wheel wells showed up something interesting: the kit instructions call for RLM 74 for the underside, which I didn’t have, so I used 78. When I later painted the undersurfaces MM Russian Underside Blue lightened about 20% with white, the colors were almost a perfect match! Except for the difference in gloss, they are a good match. Makes the wheel wells look funny….

The fuselage halves aligned well, with very little filling required. The engine cowl is missing two or three of panel lines, so I scribed them in. The cowl ring at the very front is separate, I carefully fitted that part, since there is detail that would really interfere with fixing it after it was glued. The supercharger intake trunk fairing on top of the engine cowl is separate piece and required a good bit of work to fit right. I had to sand a bevel on the bottom edges to get it to sit down and not look too tall. I also had to glue the rear straight part of the trunk down first and then force a little more curve into the very front of it, superglue to the rescue. This was the worst fitting part on the whole kit. I dropped the cockpit in through the wing opening and superglued it in place, worked on the joints a bit and the basic fuselage was done.

I rescribed the leading edge slats and ailerons because the joints seemed too subtle to me. After paint was applied I decided that it was better before I messed with it.

After test fitting the three-piece wing assembly, I glued it up and started fitting it to the fuselage. To get a better fit at the fuselage fairing, I had to cut small wedges of styrene and force them inside the wings. This was simple, the wing structure couldn’t be better for this sort of adjustment. I also glued some plastic card to the very back edge of the wing fillets, where it blends into bottom of the fuselage. These two adjustments made the wing a pretty good fit, with only a touch more work to do. The oil cooler looks too shallow to me, so I after I thinned the edges, I made it taller. I could have blocked the view through it, but what the heck.

The horizontal tail surfaces fell into place nicely. I was surprised, because at first glance they looked like they would be hard to align, but I was wrong. The separate rudder needed work to look right, so I filed a trough in the mating edge of the fin and built up the front edge of the rudder with half-round plastic stock. I shaped this to suit my eyeball gauge and the mating surface. Then I opened the three hinge points back up, attached matching projections to the mating surface of the fin, and glued it on. Wish I’d done it before I glued the elevators on, it would have been easier!

By the way, out of two or three dozen pictures of the La-5 and La7 in my reference, I couldn’t find a single parked aircraft with it’s flaps down, and only a couple of aircraft with the ailerons in anything but the dead-neutral position. I didn’t notice any cocked elevators either. Even the rudders tended to be straight, though that was the most commonly nonaligned control surface. Maybe the personnel present at the time were concerned about appearances?

The landing gear doors looked way too thick, so I sanded them thinner. A couple of small fairings are missing on the strut covers, and a tiny fairing is absent from the wheel covers. I added the ones on the strut covers, the little bumps on the wheel covers were too small for me to care about.

The landing gear looks really nice after seam scraping and painting. The wheels don’t look like buttons! I thinned a small panel that fits flush between the gear bays, it was a hair too tall.

I’ve noticed some other details that are missing by this time. The La- 5 had a starter dog on the propeller, I added this and I am pleased with it. I drilled the spinner, drilled out some small plastic tube to thin it, glued it in and carved it to shape. It was easy and looks good, except I made it backwards, a left-hand thread, so to speak.

Paint time. Sprayed the undersurface with the lightened Russian Underside Blue lightened about 20%, masked that for hard demarcation lines, then sprayed whole upper with Russian Topside Grey + 20% white. I masked the camo pattern with parafilm, which I really like. I decided to copy the Aeromaster guide sheet that came with the decals as exactly as I could. Off to an enlarging photocopier to ‘blow up’ the illustration. Got the side view to match the scale, and assumed the other side of the sheet was the same scale. Wrong! Had to make two trips for that one.

I used the photocopies to cut the parafilm masks. Layed the prepared parafilm onto the copy and carefully cut to match, about 1/16” larger than the patterns on the copy. Applied the film to the model, then rolled up strips of parafilm into ‘strings’ about 1/16” diameter and pressed them down along the edges of the mask to soften the demarcation line when I sprayed. I used a toothpick moistened with saliva to press it down and also a “plastic clay tool” made for embossing designs into wet clay. I bought this item at Wal-Mart in the craft section, it came in a set of three for $.97, and the one with a serrated end saved me a lot of poking with a toothpick. The idea is to have the parafilm ‘strings’ present a curved edge to spray over, this gives a really fine and consistent soft edge. Works for me.

Sprayed lightened Russian Topside Green, then remasked and sprayed lightened Russian Earth Brown.

By this time I’m starting to notice a lot of little stuff that really makes this kit want to be the La-7 that it is and not an La-5! Take a look: no starter dog, cowl seams are different, metal panel behind exhausts is different, the cooling flaps over the exhausts are different, some louvers are also missing here, a couple of small cockpit vents are absent from below the windscreen, Has extra small vents below the cockpit on the fuselage sides, different panel lines below the cockpit, wing root fillet is subtly but completely different, the wing root air intakes (4 of them) don’t belong on an La-5, and the gun ports are very slightly different.

The wing root air intakes and the detail differences on the fuselage sides stood out the most. The kit also lacked navigation lights on the wing tips. I wish I had noticed the 4 air intakes before it was half painted! Oh, well. The metal panel behind the exhaust ports got me, I masked to the first panel line when I sprayed the natural metal panels there, should have gone to the second panel line. La-7s have a two-piece item there; the La-5 has a one-piece panel. It’s still an La-7!

By now I’m wishing that I’d just bought Hobbycraft’s La-7 instead of their La-5. Either that or toss the reference books and live in blissful ignorance. I’m not into major overhauls, and too much of this was a surprise after the fact. Maybe I should have studied the refs more ahead of time.

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