KIT: 1/72 Yak-17 UTI
KIT #: ?
PRICE: $
DECALS:  
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Conversion

HISTORY

Just like any other Russian jet fighter whenever there is a single seat fighter in production the need was always felt to develop a dual jet trainer aircraft. The Yak-17C was a typical example and the tandem two seat Yak-17 trainer went to several previous soviet state countries that were to receive the Yak 17 fighter. These include the Czech AF, Polish AF and the Bulgarian AF, apart from the Soviet Union. Little is known about the Yak-17C trainer except that few were built and that it was much disliked by the would be pilots who were to follow an induction jet training course on it. Maybe some reasons pertaining to its difficult handling qualities or possibly for its safety record at its time. Whatever the reason it still formed part of the inventory of these states for some time in the  early 50s.

THE KIT

 Converting the Yak-17 fighter model version into a Yak-17 UTI jet trainer.

 The vac form kit of the 1/72 scale Yak-17 was produced by Airmodel some years ago but it also appeared under a different brand name in the Czech Republic, from where I have managed to purchase one during a visit to Prague. The kit is moulded in white plastic and has all the components to complete the single seat version, which also included a vac form acetate canopy. The Yak-17 single seat fighter was designed as an interceptor having a somewhat large front fuselage, which housed an early type of jet engine. The pilot office stood prone on the rear of the bulky nose and above the engine. There are two nose mounted 30nn guns with the gun barrels just visible. A semi retractable nose wheel is fitted and the nose doors protrude forming a fairing under the forward nose section.

 It is normally suggested that the kit of the Yak-17can be completed as either a Polish AF or a Czech AF fighter, both of which carried wing tip tanks. A pair of these tip tanks are also provided and all the detailed parts for the front and rear engine fairings that goes inside the fuselage inlets and outlets are well featured and the instruction sheet gives details of how these small parts are fitted in their place. I have preferred to replace the bullet end shaped parts fuel tank tips from my spares box, which were then shaped to the correct dimensions. There is a total of 38 parts to make up the kit into one piece and as the kit is an early release in the vac form range one should not expect the quality to match the high quality of vac form kits that are on the market nowadays. Still the accuracy of the kit was acceptable and all it needed was some care during cutting and sanding, as the plastic was rather soft.

CONSTRUCTION

 As normal practice with all vac form kit assembly, I have first marked the outline of each component with a soft pencil or a felt pen and then gently scored along the marking with a sharp knife. This was then followed with the usual rubbing down on medium rough wet and dry sanding sheet until the correct section is produced from the scale plans station sections drawn on the scale plans. The matching of the fuselage parts is good as were also the three wing halves. The same cannot be said for the tail planes these were slightly undersize and were therefore rebuilt to conform to the scale plans which were provided along with the kit. This involved joining plastic card strips, coming from same kit backing sheet and fairing over with putty.

 Upon putting the main planes together and then giving them chance to dry, these were thinned down at mid segment in order to partially rid of the blistered appearance of the wing panels. In doing so one is also reducing the depth of the rather overdone wing panel lines. Whether you are doing the single seat or the two-seat conversion, the area close to the trailing edge and adjacent to the engine outlet needed some careful rework using putty. This is applied in small layers in order to prevent sinking with time. With the two-seat version, this process has to be carried at a later stage, i.e. when the correct fuselage extension has been completed. At some stage I have ran out of Revell Plasto putty which I am accustomed to use. The model shop at L-Iklin in Malta was shut for Sunday and I had to revert using the old method of building up with putty by using talcum powder well mixed with small quantities of dope, which worked just as good.

 Having decided to convert the kit into the two-seat trainer version I opted to represent my Yak-17 UTI kit in the less common markings as supplied to the Bulgarian AF during the cold war era, a thing of the past. As for the service life of these early jet trainers, it is not known the exact fate of all the presumed six machines originally destined for Bulgarian service but recent contact with veteran ex-crew who flew the type indicated that these were in for a rather limited service. So much so these were hastily removed following a brief operational period. Needless to say, the period was still long enough to merit a kit made to its memories!

 The following brief hints list the correction made to the Airmodel kit of the Yak-17 and other conversion details to produce the UTI trainer version.

a.       Undercarriage legs built from stretch sprue (refer to scale plans).

b.      All three wheels were made thicker in section by inserting a 0.5mm thick plastic between each of the two wheel halves.

c.       Wheel wells at nose and wings were cut open and the interior was detailed with wing spars and stiffeners to conform to scale plans detail.

d.      Fin and rudder were reshaped.

e.       To extend the fuselage to take the second seat fuselage was cut in two just aft of the cockpit (see photo attached) and an insert, 5mm extension, was built up in between the two sections.

f.        The air intake and engine outlet were blanked on the inside and detail added as recorded above.

g.       Trim tabs from plastic card were added to ailerons.

h.       Wheel well doors built from plastic card.

i.         At an early stage lead weight was added to the nose area in order to prevent a “tail sitter”.

j.        Two crew seats were built from plastic card, cockpit console added and coaming and instrument added to cockpit area. Two crew figures were added to canopy to indicate scale.

k.      A two seat wooden pattern was carved using scale plans reference in order to mould a two-seat cockpit using male/ female method on the home cooker.

l.         Added aerials, wireless and pitot tube and also other rework detail links to wheel doors and undercarriage.

COLORS & MARKINGS

After careful masking, to cockpit area, the kit was finished in the standard camouflage carried by the ex-soviet satellite states of olive green upper surfaces and light blue-grey under surfaces. Bulgarian AF decals came from the spares box that was of ESCI brand. These fortunately contained the right size of stars with inset roundels. In case of difficulties to locater Bulgarian markings then the alternative is to use Russian style of stars with a red, white and green roundel added inset.

CONCLUSIONS

 I have longed to make this model of the Yak-17 UTI which seemed to make a perfect outlay of a past cold war scenery consisting of two Yak-23s, a Bulgarian and a Polish aircraft, placed alongside the Bulgarian trainer.

September 2005

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