Revell/Matchbox 1/72 DHC-6 Twin Otter

KIT #: ?
PRICE: €10.00
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Gordon Zammit
NOTES: Matchbox mold.

HISTORY

After producing a series of excellent short take-off and landing piston engined aircraft, DeHavilland Canada, came out with the designs of  two twin engined turboprop powered aircraft,  first the DHC-5 Buffalo in 1961, then the smaller DHC-6 Twin Otter in 1965, which would prove an excellent craft that would be widely adaptable, and ended up being very popular with both civil and military operators. The aircraft is well suited to land and sea operation, and also quite popular for polar operations by various nations for operations over snow covered land equipped with skis. The aircraft is of relatively equal dimension to the previous Otter, which had already proved its design and reliability. The Twin Otter, not only provided the assurance of the second engine, but also a more powerful aircraft with cheaper fuel costs as it now consumed jet fuel. Photos of this aircraft are very abundant, as well as other on-line sources, so building a good replica for us modelers should be an easier task than most builds.

THE KIT

The Twin Otter was first issued by Matchbox in the early eighties. It was one of their later issues before their demise, and thankfully is not one of those trench covered kits. It has since been reissued first by Modelcraft of Canada, and later (in 2009) by Revell as one of their “Revell classics” range. This kit of the Twin Otter comes nearly complete to finish it off in any configuration. Both the short and long nose versions are catered for. It also has the parts to complete it as either a normal wheeled version, or the ski version or the floatplane version. What the kit is missing are the larger tyres that are mostly fitted to military Twin Otters. As yet I haven’t found a source for these, either by using the wheels from another kit or from an aftermarket company. If anybody reading this knows from where to get these, I would very grateful if you let me know! Also the kit does not include the masts on top of the fuselage for the aerials on the CAF version: still the Revell instructions shows them and suggests the use of thread for the aerials on the painting and decal placement 4-view diagrams.

Otherwise the kit seems to be quite good (although rather basic) start for a model of the DHC-6. Surprisingly, there aren’t aftermarket decal sheets covering military Twin Otters although there is a wide variety for civil operators. The Modelcraft offering did (I think it is no longer available) have the decals for a British Antarctic Survey and US Antarctic Program planes, which although not military, still are quite interesting options. In fact I shall keep the one I have for the British aircraft option for sure. There is a single option by Draw Decals that seems to be a recent issue for the U.S. Army “Golden Knights” plane (for which I have a Revell kit without the decals now, details later on!), but I wonder how nobody makes a whole sheet full of military Twin Otters. 

CONSTRUCTION

The Revell instructions start by showing 4 side views of the aircraft: A: short nose land plane in Canadian Armed forces markings, B: long nose land plane in Aurigny Air Service markings, (Both options being provided with the kit), C: short nosed ski plane with no markings and D: floatplane with no markings as well. Pictures on www.airliners.net and other on-line aviation website show that the Canadian Armed planes were sometimes configured as both the C and D versions. I did not find number 809 which comes on the decal sheet with either floats or skis, but I assume that sometime in its lifetime if must have been so configured especially with skis (well for me it’s no big deal if it never wasn’t, but at least the option was there and it could have been). So I chose to model the CAF version with skis on.

Step 1 starts as usual with the cockpit, which is well catered for as not much will be visible when the kit is done. It has a floor and two seats and the twin control column which is well done when compared to the real thing. This is glued to the bulkhead, and the rest of the interior is completely blank. If keeping all the doors closed, this is no big deal as nothing will be visible. If doing the float version you should open the holes for these, otherwise place the windows and close the fuselage halves. I did not put the small square windows preferring to fill them with Krystal Klear when the kit is finished. The nose section is also a two part assembly. Revell suggests placing a 20g weight in the nose for all versions, but I can’t imagine the floatplane being a tail sitter! I placed as much as I could in the short nose, and it was just enough. Next the wings are assembled with the flaps and ailerons actuator fairings and engine nacelles. I did not glue the propellers but just placed the engine fronts. Matchbox moulded the propellers in a “running” position and not feathered as they are automatically set on the DHC-6’s engines. I tried to twist the blades one by one to feather them and amazingly not one of them broke: I hope to have the same luck on the other two kits I have but the Modelcraft boxing has a different plastic so that may change.

Some filling and sanding is required in the area around the engines, but nothing too serious. I left the exhausts off to be placed in the final step after they are sprayed separately. Here I did not follow the instructions as these suggest you first glue the wings and then the undercarriage and afterwards the wing strut. I first glued the undercarriage and after this dried I glued the wings and struts together to get them meet perfectly while the glue still hasn’t cured. This way seems a more reasonable way I think. Next went the tailplanes which are just glued in and set at a perfectly flat position. I glued the wheels halves together and tried to test how the skis fit over them. They wouldn’t fit as the place where the wheels should go through is filled with plastic! It might be that Matchbox did mould them to be so as the C diagram at the start of the instructions does not show the wheels coming through the skis as in photos, but I started to cut this part out to get the wheels coming out of the middle of the skis. The shape and size of the skis however seems to be very close to the real ones, so I don’t know if it was a mistake in the mould or not originally. The pitot tubes were glued on, the windscreen masked and glued in place, and it was time for the painting.

COLORS & MARKINGS

As this is a yellow paint job, it is usual to call for some primer, but since the plastic was all white and I only used white putty, I tried applying Humbrol 69 directly. It took several coats to get a good cover and next time I will first apply some flat white before as it will save time and yellow coats for sure. After it was coated overall in yellow and drying for a couple of days, the red areas on the wing tips and tailplanes were masked off and I applied some red which I had mixed for a French CL-415. I had lightened some Humbrol 19 red with H69 yellow to match the red on the decal sheet of the Heller CL-415 water bomber in Securite Civile markings that come with that kit. The red band on the decal sheet of this Twin Otter seems quite close to the red painted areas on the CL-415, so I decided to try to use it. At one point I was thinking to mask and spray the band too, but looking at the finished CL-415 I was convinced that in the end it is very difficult to tell where there is paint and where there are decals (and probably it was because I knew that I was seeing any difference). So after another couple of days of drying time, some more masking was made to airbrush the matt black areas. Meanwhile the propeller tips were first airbrushed in white and then masked to apply some red to get red-white-red tips.

The colour scheme in the kit is the older (1981) one before the propellers were painted in the black and white with one blade opposite the other two painting scheme similar to RAF Tucanos and Bulldogs. They should be in red-white-red and not white-red-white as the instructions suggest (although the b&w diagrams have a shaded area on the outside and white in the middle). These were then masked off to be painted black with the other parts on the aircraft. Humbrol satin black (85) was airbrushed and after drying the masking was removed. After some days, I airbrushed Johnsons Klear, and this is something I cannot get right yet! I ended up with the orange peel finish, and was very disgusted as until now most of the process was going very well. I later decided to apply another coat by brush but the original orange peel effect still persisted. Not know anything else to try, I decided to continue the build and live with it. I applied the decals which although a little on the thick side, did not perform badly. The same Klear was used as a setting solution and helped where there are larger decals on compound curves such as the red band around the fuselage, although some wrinkling is still visible. The decals are also not very opaque, and after applying the roundels, the white portion still looked yellowish. I turned to the decals in my second copy of the kit, and applied these over the first, but as you can see from the photos they are still not white. I wish that some kit maker, or even at least the decal makers, would start providing us with a set of white decals the same size as the other decals for overlaying these on some bright or dark coloured schemes.

As you might notice in photos when comparing these to the real aircraft, the cheat lines are a little short of the roundel. I made a mistake here as I first applied the red band decals, which are separate upper and lower part, then applied the cheat line decal which is divided in 4 sections, and the part that comes up to the roundel also covers the last 2 windows, thus having to be placed over them to get the correct position. After these had dried, I applied the roundel decal and this ended up not in line with middle of the fuselage band. I left this to dry and put the model aside for a couple of days, then I decided to turn to the second decal sheet of which I had already used the wind roundels. I sanded away the misplaced decal with a 1200 grit sandpaper and water so as not to damage the yellow paint. Very slowly I managed to remove the decals on both sides with only a hint of white showing, but a little touch up hid everything, and this was also covered by the decal later on. I then lined up the roundel with the middle of the band and applied a strip of the cheat lines from the second sheet of decals as well. It’s still not perfect if you look at the real CAF Twin Otters carrying the scheme, but looking at the model it’s not very obvious. Should I redo this scheme, I would start by placing the roundel first, then lining up the other decals with it, although I’m sure it will still be problematic.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

After several days, I sprayed the model with a coat of Humbrol satin varnish and after another few days, I started to attach the aerial masts on top of the aircraft. These were all painted black before attaching, and super glue was used to fix them in place. Fishing line was used to make the aerials and was painted afterwards with Model master metalizer paint. The wheels were then attached, and the skis, which had already been painted white, were also glued in place. As I stated earlier, some trimming is required to get a better shape. Some struts holding the skis were made from evergreen plastic and thick paintbrush bristles. The bumper on the lower tail was also fixed in place. The masking was removed from the windscreen, and the side windows were filled in with Krystal Klear after removing the excess carrier film of the cheat line decals. The exhaust pipes were also attached to the engines and the propeller pushed in place with a small drop of white glue so in case the need arises, they can be easily removed. Wipers were made from evergreen stips, painted black and than white glued to the windscreen.

CONCLUSIONS

 I wish that the final result was better than it ended. It’s none of the kit’s faults but my problems with airbrushing Klear correctly! The kit itself is nowhere what we have come to expect nowadays, but still a very good replica of the Twin Otter. More improvements can be made over what I’ve done, and as we would probably not see another mainstream kit of the DHC-6, we’ll have to live with this one, and do our best to get a satisfactory result out of it. What I would really like to see though, is a set of decals for military Twin Otters which are quite abundant and varied in their colour schemes and variants, especially now that this kit has been reissued by Revell.

REFERENCES

The Complete Encyclopedia of Aircraft

Photos on www.airliners.net.

Gordon Zammit

May 2010

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