Amodel 1/72 KhAl-1
KIT #: 72174
PRICE: $26.00
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Chris Peachment
NOTES: The box has the title of HAI-1, which is initially baffling, but all becomes clear on the instructions. In the Cyrillic alphabet the aircraft's name name begins with a capital X (ХAИ-1), and, as in Greek, it is pronounced as a guttural CH sound, like the ending of the Scottish word Loch. In English is is more usually rendered Kh, and the maker's name as Kharkov.



The Kharkov KhAI-1 was major step forward in aviation history in that it was the first airliner, of clean design, to feature a retractable undercarriage, and it had a top speed better than most fighters of its time.

The prototype was designed by students as an exercise, under supervision from the chief designer of Kharkov, IG Nyeman. In fact two teams of students were set to work to produce two designs for a high speed airliner from simple material, and the KhAI-1 was the winner. It was constructed from wood, with fabric control surfaces, and was completed in 1932. By 1933 it had flown and was accepted by Aeroflot, who went on to use about 40 examples. Its high speed and good handling gave it a 50 per cent better performance than the Kalinin K-5 airliner of the day. The interior featured sound proofing and, possibly another first, a lavatory. Everyone was so pleased with the results that Nyeman won and Order of the Red Star for his work. A military version was mooted but came to nothing.



You can find a previewhere. Ed



Anyone familiar with Amodel kits will know what to expect. In fact the usual problems caused by warped parts and more flash than the plastic parts to which it is attached are rather fewer in this case. One suspects a few improvements have been taking place around the Amodel plant lately. Although their signature marks are still in evidence. A canopy which looks more like a glass brick. And transparent side windows which have no locating flanges and do not fit any of the apertures. To get around this problem, I left all the fuselage windows until last.

There is minimal cockpit detail, just a seat and a stick, but don't worry about this. Nothing but a faint impression will be seen through the canopy, which seems to have been taken from the sides of a beer bottle. Unless you are going to try plunge moulding your own (a technique which still eludes me) then just paint the seat leather and the interior a tasteful shade of dark blue and leave it at that. The same goes for the four seats of the passenger compartment. Once the seats were dried, the two fuselage halves were cemented and, when dried, the seams were sanded smooth. I have often written that sentence in the past with respect to almost any kit, but devotees of Amodels will know that it will entail at least an hour of scraping and sanding before the seams disappear. It is worth noting at this point that the windows do not in fact match up, the port side row being higher than the starboard row. It doesn't show on the finished aircraft, and I didn't see much point in doing anything about it. Any Amodel is an exercise in tolerance. There is always a large amount you have to live with.

Much the same applies when attaching the wings, which came in three pieces, a single underwing half and two upper wings. There is a secret process here which applies to all Amodel wings. If you attach the two wing halves together first, then you will be left with a gap at the upper joint between wing roots and fuselage. In fact it is not so much a gap as a canyon. The cunning trick  is to cement the lower single wing to the bottom of the fuselage first, then remove all locating lugs. This isn't hard as there aren't any.

Then cement the upper wing halves so that they are snug against the wing roots. This will leave you with a good few tenths of an inch all round of the lower wing protruding beyond the upper wing. Get to work again with a coarse sanding block and make sure the leading and trailing edges finally blend. Once again, you will end up with a good deal of plastic dust on the floor and a model which is several scale inches undersize. I suspect most of my Amodel kits come out at 1/74 scale. No matter, there is no other way.

 After attaching the tailplanes, pause and note that the fin is moulded in place and is in fact accurate in that it is offset to one side to counteract the torque of the propeller. Well done Amodel. Now look to your canopies, please.

You can now leave aside the engine and undercarriage and get on with the painting and decaling. Once everything has been smoothed off with wet and dry, and the window holes carefully plugged with wet tissue paper, I blasted it with Humbrol Matt white primer, and remembered to give the undercarriage doors, front engine cowl and Townend ring the same treatment.

Now careful masking of the blue areas can begin. Various slightly different schemes can be found on the internet, the chief difference being that some examples seem to have the whole streamlined top decking in blue, while others just had the flashes down at the root. I went with the instructions and also the box art, just to make life more difficult.

For the blue I used Lifecolour Matt Royal Blue FS35050, which is a pleasing hue, though slightly darker than the box art. One dried, I was faced with the problem of the side windows, and toyed with the idea of filling them in with Clearfix. This can work although it sometimes leaves windows looking a little medieval.

So I employed a technique which previously I had only ever used for covering  wing landing light apertures. Old fashioned clear sticky tape. (Sellotape to us in the UK, Scotch tape to you in the US.) The one thing which makes life hard is that it is extremely high tack. And so only cut squares of it that slightly overlap the window space, keep it well clear of any decals, such as the arrow which I had already applied down the sides, and also make sure your white paint is thoroughly dry.

Stick the tape down over your window space and and then run around the edges with a brand new scalpel blade. Very carefully peel off the excess and you are left with brand new shiny windows. I dare say in a few years time, the dust will settle inside the interior and attach itself to the sticky side of the tape, leaving them looking like an ancient museum piece. But then that happens to us all.    


You can now turn attention to the engine, which is matt black with some gunmetal dry-brushing to lift the detail. The front moulded cowl covers most of the cylinders anyway. Fit the engine to the fuselage first, and then attach the pre-painted Townend ring. Some fiddly work is now necessary to attach the tiny exhaust pipes, noting that the upper and lower pair are routed around the front of the Townend ring before curving upwards and back. I dare say this was to spare the front of the cockpit glazing becoming blackened too quickly. Paint the exhausts dark rust and then attach a propeller. The kit provide two example, one wood, and one metal which had variable pitch. As far as I can see from the few photos of the aircraft, the ones with Townend rings used the metal prop and so did I.

The undercarriage is straightforward, though the struts are a little spindly after removing the seams, which thanks to Amodels usual habits are larger than the strut itself. I replaced them here and there with plastic rod. The wheels seem to be all tire, apart from tiny hubs, which I painted silver, though white might be an option. The tail skid is well moulded as a two strut, one skid affair, and I painted the struts white and the skid wood brown.


Now you have the delicate task of going around the aircraft correcting those annoying blobs where the blue had crept under the masking tape. I used a very fine brush and some Vallejo off-white which seems a good match and doesn't show up with any contrast. A quick coat of Klear and then the decals, which go on fine. Anxiety is the default setting when applying Amodel decals, but while these were very thin, and wrinkly when wet, they did settle down in one piece, and after a coat  of the new Humbrol Decalfix, there was no silvering. I then gave it an overall blast of Citadel Satin Sheen, an excellent varnish in a rattle can, which comes out more matt than satin.

After that it is a simple task to mask off the metal panels on the upper wings, paint them gunmetal and give them a polish.

The final touch was to add the passenger door in an open position. This was not to show of my exquisite interior details, complete with passenger lavatory. It was because there was no way the door was going to fit in its aperture. The shape is all wrong, and sanding it down would have resulted in great chasms, so I went with the only option. Think about it all beforehand however, as the arrow stripe decal down the side will have to be cut to fit so that the door gets a length of it just below the circular window. Mercifully, the door was moulded in clear plastic, so it was just a question of masking off the window rather than trying to get a tiny blob of clear plastic to fit.  


I am very pleased with this one, as it is hard enough to find any kit of anything from the Golden Era  of the 1920s and 30s, let alone an airliner. And a little known Russian airliner to boot.  Added to which it is an elegant and pleasing shape of great design.

I have perhaps over-emphasised the horrors of Amodel kits. In fact I am coming to love them because they insist on so much extra work, and that makes me feel the kit is mine, and not something that has been glued together straight from the box like a thousand other kits. Moreover, if you want a very good range of Soviet types, including rarities such as this one, then Amodel is the only game in town.


Including a short one from Youtube which features the aircraft flying and also some close-up detail of engine and cockpit.

Chris Peachment

September 2013

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