Matchbox 1/72 Westland Lysander Sprayer
KIT #: PK-7
PRICE: $ cheap
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Brian Baker
NOTES: Easy and colorful conversion

HISTORY

This project actually started when I was trying to dig up some information on Stearman 75 agricultural airplanes on the Canadian Civil Register.  My 1962 edition wasnít too extensive, and going through it to pick out the 23 Stearmans  on the register at that time, plus three I had photographed that werenít listed, I came across three Westland Lysanders. Now that sparked my interest.  Being an avid agricultural airplane fan, and having built several agplane conversions, I couldnít resist investigating the subject further, and the story, I found, was rather interesting.

During the war, the Royal Canadian Air Force took delivery of 75 Mk. IIís and 150 Mk. IIIís built at the National Steel Car Corporation, Ltd., in Hamilton, Ontario.  Most were used in Canada as communications aircraft and target tugs.  After the war, they were declared surplus, and transferred to a number of War Assets facilities for disposal.  Most were, unfortunately, scrapped, but four were purchased from the Swift Current, Alberta, station,  for $50 to $250 each, very much like similar American surplus aircraft transactions in the immediate postwar period.  The new owner,  E.S. ďTedĒ Holmes, formed a company to use Lysanders for agricultural spraying, and modified them by using the 95 gallon fuel tanks for chemicals, and adding a 44 to 46 gallon tank behind the pilot for fuel. 

The prototype, CF-DGI-X, made its first flight on May 1, 1946, and CF-DRL, CF-FOA, and CF-GFJ followed and soon were approved for flight by the Department of Transport, the Canadian equivalent of our FAA.  The aircraft began spraying operations in southern Alberta in 1946, and were used by Holmesí company until 1947. Since they were larger that the Stearmans and Cubs normally used for this kind of work, the Lysanders sprayed a 120 foot swath, as opposed to sixty feet for a normal Stearman. However, powered by an 870 hp. Bristol Mercury radial engine, they were quite expensive to operate, especially considering the size of the airplane and the load they could carry.  Stearman agplanes from the same period had engines no larger than 450 hp., and they carried a similar payload.  At the end of the year, Holmes sold the company to Westland Spraying Services, at High River, Alberta, who operated the Lysanders until 1950, when they ceased operations because they were not profitable.  The firm had a rather sophisticated setup, with trucks, crews of pilots, maintenance people, markers, etc., and even house trailers for the men.  One initial problem was that the DOT had stipulated that the pilots wear parachutes, but when the firmís management brought it to the attention of the bureaucrats that the airplanes rarely flew higher than 10 feet above the surface, and parachutes served no useful purpose, the requirement was waived.   After the firm ceased operations, the airplanes remained on the Civil Register, and in 1962, DGI, FOA, and GFJ were still listed as belonging to Westland Spraying, Ltd.  

Research

Through an agricultural aviation website hosted by noted aviation historian and author Bill Larkins,  I contacted several people to see if I could get some information on these planes.  I unearthed contemporary   photos  of dubious quality, but I had enough to get started.  Since they were black and white pictures, I supposed that the planes would have been silver or light grey, but after some help by a Canadian contact, I came to the conclusion that the planes were most likely bright yellow, so yellow it was.  The photos gave me an idea of the general layout of the airplanes, their color schemes, and the position of the spray bars.  It was a simple conversion, and the planes were basically marked with black registrations in the standard position, along with black cowling and cowl flaps, landing gear covers, and wing struts.  The spray booms and struts were probably left unpainted, so these became silver. I could not detect in the photos any wind-driven pump for the spray equipment, such as most sprayers have, so I assumed  that this equipment was engine driven.  I merely took a 1/72 scale three view and drew in the spray equipment to scale.   After I finished the kit, I received a photo of CF-DGI-X, which confirmed the color and general arrangement.

THE KIT

No information provided
CONSTRUCTION

I had a couple of Matchbox Lysanders in my stash, do I decided on this for the model.  Assembly was standard, except that I added a fuel tank in the rear cockpit taken from a Williams Brothers Boeing 247, which included tanks for the long range version.  Other than that, and adding some details to the cockpit, the kit is pretty much out of the box.  I painted the model disassembled, masking off the canopy.  The rear part of the canopy was painted over, so only the pilotís windows and windshield were masked. I then attached the landing gear and engine.  After the decals were applied,  the wings and struts were installed.  The strut attachment points need a little trimming or the dihedral angle will be too high, but this is an easy kit to build, so I had no serious trouble.

The spray bars were the most delicate part of the process.  Before installation, I drilled out some holes where the bars attach to the wheel pants, remembering to also provide for the center bar, which goes underneath the belly of the plane.  I then began constructing the spray bars themselves,  adding eight spray nozzles on each side, and four in the center bar.  I marked off the position of the nozzles, and just superglued very small pieces of plastic rod to one side, and trimmed them off to the correct length when they were dry.  The main spray bars were then attached to the landing gear assemblies, and they stuck into the units enough to form a pretty solid bond.  After they were set up, I measured off the length of the two V struts on each side, and superglued them to the underside of the wing.  It was a trial and error process, but not a difficult one.  It probably took an hour to mount all three bars, and the airplane was completed, except for minor trimming. 

COLORS & MARKINGS

No information provided

CONCLUSIONS

I think that the effect of this model is all out or proportion to the amount of effort involved. The airplane is extremely colorful, and depicts an airplane that is rarely seen and that very few people know anything about.  I had heard of Lysanders used in agriculture, but until recently, I had never seen a photo of one.

Agplanes have always interested me, and I regret the fact that I never got to fly one, but Iíve done a few models of them, and plan to do some more. Now Iím looking at photos of an Australian DeHavilland Tiger Moth sprayer used in the forties and fifties, registered VH-DDT. I canít pass that one up. This can get addicting.

Brian Baker

March 2011

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