Monogram 1/39 Wright Flyer

KIT #: PA 30
PRICE: Last release was about $12.00
DECALS: None required
REVIEWER: Peter Burstow
NOTES: First released in 1958, this one was dated 1964.


About 60 parts in a weak and tatty box. The parts are moulded in three colours, the flying surfaces are white, and the rest of the parts in two shades of brown. Included are figures of Orville in a prone flying position, and Wilbur waving his hat. The monorail and a few bits of clutter are included to allow a diorama based on the famous photo at the top of the Wiki entry. The kit includes a two piece stand.

The parts are all a little clunky, though the fabric effect on the flying surfaces is better than a lot of more recent kits. The spars are all very heavy and could do with a lot of thinning. There is some flash, but the big problem is ejector pin marks and towers. Some parts had around 20 ejector marks, even the smallest had one or two.

 The instructions have 16 easy construction stages, are very comprehensive and include rigging information. There is a good history, and a mini-painting plan showing much of the detailing. All the parts are named, but only a few are numbered.

Many of the parts are keyed, and can really only go together one way. Notches and holes for the rigging are moulded, some need a clean out. The scale is very odd, but was determined by the wings fitting in what was the standard box of the time.


First step was painting all the bits, the few parts needing detail painting were removed from the sprues and dealt with separately.

 After fixing an enormous number of pin marks, and cleaning up flash, I sprayed the wings Tamiya white primer, and the spars and other structures Tamiya XF-78 Deck Tan. The spars were then gone over with X-24 Clear Yellow. I varnished the props with X-26 Clear Orange, just to make them a little different.

 I followed the instruction sequence closely, it seemed reasonable. First the engine was assembled, detail painted and added to the lower wing, along with the hip cradle. The engine crankcase has the only seam in the entire kit, the fit was good enough for it to  just need a light sand. The centre section struts, propeller supports and drive chain were then added. Then the upper wing was placed. That's most of the airframe done already, and I'm only at step 3. The wings were jigged up square and left to harden up.

Now a couple of sub-assemblies, each with only a few parts. The four part rear rudder was assembled, jigged square and left to harden. One of the spar parts was short shot. There are jury struts moulded onto the spar frame, to be removed after assembly. While removing these I broke two of the spars. I replaced the three spars with 1.2mm Evergreen rod.

Then the much more complicated front elevator assembly, two flying surfaces, and seven spars, put together and jigged square. Next step was adding the rest of the wing struts, each had a tiny 'F' or 'R' moulded on them, but they all seemed much the same. I probably should have thinned each of them a lot, they are far to heavy, and square. I also should have jigged the wing, but instead followed the instructions and held it all together with rubber bands, big mistake, it dried with a twist which needed a bit of work to fix.

After it was all dry I did some paint touch ups, mainly on the wing spars, where I had shaved off the moulded letters just before assembly.


 At this point the instructions suggested rigging. I added fore and aft wires, using clear invisible thread, in the outer bays first to get the wings to stay square.  There was a lot of detail on the rigging in four stages for the wing assembly. I followed the rest of the rigging instructions, which included the wing-warping control cables driven by the hip cradle. Really was a straightforward job, with the lengths being called out in the notes, notches and holes were moulded in appropriate places. I used 4lb monofilament for the wing and control wires.

I added the fore and aft cross rigging in the inner bays and elevator rigging, which is visible in some photos, mainly to add strength and rigidity to what is a flimsy structure. These wires were not in the instructions.

 Finally got the sub-assemblies together, first the landing skids, then the elevator and rudder parts. I added the prominent fuel line, using a bit of insulated wire. A few more rigging and control lines, then the propellers were added. A few paint touch ups, then I added the stand. Didn't use the kit figures, really too much flash and ejector pin marks, I added another, slightly inappropriate, figure instead.


The kit gets re-released from time to time, and is often available at swap meets. Worth looking for, especially if you are interested in early flight history. I have seen it in contests many times over the years, including a few times on MM, mostly better than my effort.

 A very enjoyable build, with no complications. Rigging was easy, but tedious, with about three meters of line used. The parts are a little thick and heavy, no doubt due to the moulding limitations of the time. Replacing the struts in the wing and elevators could result in a kit better showing the fragility of the real aircraft.

A good introduction to biplane kits and rigging, recommended for all who don't mind fixing ejector marks.


 Peter Burstow

January 2015

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