Kit Reviewed: Lavochin LA-7
Manufacturer: Hobbycraft #RC1530
Price: $13-15 US
Media: Injection molded plastic
Decals: Poor to fair; two versions: Ivan Kozhedub's aircraft and a Czech version from 1944-45
Accuracy: Scale and appearance look good to me
Review and Photo by: R. Swift
Considering our collection of WWII models and the comments of the reviewer of Hobbycraft's Polikarpov I-16, we can only agree with the observation that a large segment of WWII history, relative to Russian aircraft rendered in 1/48 scale, has largely been ignored by major kit makers until recently. After a 30 year absence from modeling, my grandson decided we should begin again and direct our attention to what is available in this scale, and on this subject.
In the design evolution of aircraft from this era, there is a set of conditions encompassing a designer's insight and inspiration, state-of-the-art aerodynamics, power plant availability, and some degree of serendipity, where, when everything comes together, the resulting aircraft just "looks right". In my eyes the LA-7 possesses those qualities that make an aircraft memorable. While considered crude by Western standards, still, it is aesthetically pleasing to view; had a great performance at low altitude, and performed well under very primitive conditions. Hard to believe that only one offering of this quality, in this scale exists for the aircraft type flown by the leading allied fighter pilot, Ivan Kozhedub, with 62 combat victories.
The kit instruction sheet is "bare bones" but adequate. It is molded in grey plastic, and small components are well rendered and flash free. The plastic itself is good quality and just soft enough to be easily worked. This was a wooden aircraft; so, bear that in mind when finishing. Panel lines are well molded; most recessed, as are rivet details where they appear. Nice feature of a model of a wooden airplane; joints can be filled and sanded nicely without destroying a lot of detail that has to be re-scribed. The canopy is a bit too thick, but fairly clear. Cockpit detail is sparse, but what there is, is nicely done. With the one piece canopy not much can be seen, anyway. Instrument panel, control stick, and pilot's seat with a separate piece of wrap around armor plate for the seat back, come to mind. The cockpit subassembly is fragile and it is wise to take some scrap and reinforce the glue seams. I didn't and lost a bulkhead in the interior of the fuselage. Retrieving it and getting it glued back into position was eventful. Care should also be taken to determine the correct angle of the little shelf piece that attaches to the rear bulkhead, as it must be angled upward to join the fuselage properly. The rudder is a bit too thick where it is glued to the fuselage; thinning it down a bit helps later when decals are added. As noted with the I-16, Hobbycraft seems to like making at least one part in their kits too small; the small bar that divides the main gear wheel wells is too short, but it is an easy fix. The underside joint between wing and fuselage rear requires attention to avoid ending up with a big bump. Overall, seams and joints fit well requiring only moderate filling and sanding.
Decals are another matter; in finishing the I-16 we were treated to the disintegrating decal trick. The kit decals are not very good; so, to avoid this we opted for the Aeromaster Fighting Lavochins II sheet (48-087). The kit decals do not respond at all to softening solutions, either. Aeromaster got it right; well worth the investment if you want a better looking model.
This kit was fun to build. We choose to finish with Kozhedub's presentation aircraft; great colors and low mileage. Not bad entertainment for less than $20. The picture should be worth more than my thousand words.
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