Roden 1/48 Beechcraft GB-2 Staggerwing
Scott Van Aken
Towards the end of the 1920's American aviation enthusiast Walter
Beech created his own aircraft engineering company, the Beech
Aircraft Corporation. One of the most successful projects of the
newly formed company was the Model 17 aircraft, named the
Staggerwing after its unconventional biplane configuration, whereby
the upper wing was positioned to the rear of the lower wing. In the
middle of the Thirties appeared the D17 modification, which became
popular among pilots. Before the USA entered into WWII, the
Staggerwing had various occasions to join the fighting in the sky;
in Spain, and in the confrontation between China with Japan.
After the United States entered into World War II, at least 118
Beechcraft Model 17 were requisitioned from private owners for army
needs. The Beech D17 quickly became useful as a courier aircraft.
Soon the military placed an order with Walter Beech's company for a
further 270 of the type. Planes which were taken on by the Army were
designated the UC-43, while machines which were delivered to Naval
Aviation became the GB-1 and GB-2. There were no differences between
the army and naval versions of the aircraft, except for the fact
that navy aircraft were obliged to have on board a basic set of
rescue equipment in case of emergency landing on water. The majority
of the GB-2's joined the Naval Air Transport Service, where they
were used until the final days of World War II. Their principal work
during the whole period of war was the fast delivery of military
staff and also important mail from the bases in Britain nearest to
the continent. Often, navy planes with a characteristic marine blue
coloration were based on airfields right next to military machines
in their protective olive color, immediately distinguishable from
them by their exterior. Britain's Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm
received the Staggerwing under the Lend-Lease agreement. The
British, traditionally, gave the plane their own name of Traveller,
with the unusual spelling for an American of double 'L' letters.
According to the deal, the British should have received 107 machines
of this type, but at least 12 of them never reached the shores of
'Foggy Albion', when their U.S. transport was attacked by a German
submarine and sunk. The other 95 (60 former UC-43 were named the
Traveller Mk.I, and 25 GB-2 the Traveller Mk.II) were spread
throughout their territories under seven commands overall, and some
machines were even sent to the Near East. The tasking of the
aircraft, as by the United States, had a similar aim - fast courier
service between distant bases, and delivery of important
communications. After the end of the war, all Travellers should have
been passed back to the U.S. in accordance with the terms of the
Lend-Lease agreement, but some of them nevertheless found their way
into the hands of new private owners in the UK.
The Beechcraft 17 did not achieve the fame of such fighters as the
Mustang, or bombers like the Flying Fortress. However, its
apparently minor contribution to the overall victory in the war was
actually quite significant. The quick reaction of the military
leadership to operational events often depended on the working
connection between distant military units or the immediate delivery
of secret orders, and therefore the Traveller could be considered
not only one of the most elegant aircraft of its time, but a very
important military machine.
is not the first kit of this aircraft in 1/48 scale as AMT released one back
in the late 1960s along with their MiG-15, Meteor, DH-4 and P-36, all of
which have now been superseded by much more accurate and better detailed
kits. Picking this one adds to Roden's somewhat eclectic line of kits. They
seem to pick subjects that are both interesting and able to be done in
several boxings, this one being the second one so done.
The molding on the kit is well up to Roden's standards with very nicely done
engraved detailing and equally well done fabric representation. It just
looks right. I did find a bit of flash, a few sink areas (underwing near the
wheel openings), and some ejector pin marks that will need to be taken care
of (inside gear doors and cabin doors). I also noted some slight mold shift
on one of the large sprues.
The interior is very nicely done with some quite petite parts going into the
building of the seat frames. There are control yokes, rudder pedals and an
instrument panel to go along with the three seats. A decal is used for the
instrument faces. The engine is also nicely detailed with two engine halves,
intake and exhaust manifolds as well as a push-rod assembly and some smaller
bits. This is trapped between two cowling halves.
Main gear is also nicely molded. One has to fold the lower part of the gear
door and the wheels themselves are in halves. The wings both have the
ailerons/flaps molded into one wing half to give a nice, sharp trailing
edge, something I appreciate. There are also 'cups' into which the flying
wires can be inserted, making what little rigging there is, an easy chore
even for those of us who are intimidated by rigging. Clear parts are a bit
cloudy when compared to some, but a dip in clear gloss acrylic should help.
are quite well done with lots of well drawn detail to help in construction.
references are Model Master. There are five markings options. Four of them
are USN types with one from Vero Beach, Florida, one from NAS Atlantic City,
one with VRF-3 at Terminal Island and one of an unidentified unit (this is
the one with the red surround insignia). Three of them are in the Tricolor
scheme with variations on the demarcation lines while the fourth has no
white on the underside, that being in intermediate blue as is the side. The
fifth is a British Traveller Mk II as assigned to the RAAEE and it is in
British colors. The large decal sheet is mostly well printed, though the red
surround US insignia and the British fuselage roundel are off register.
Thanks to Roden's rather poor decal reputation, it may be best advised to
replace the insignia with aftermarket ones.
I'm sure that many are quite pleased that this one has
been released and I'm equally sure that many civil boxings are in the offing.
Thanks to the minimal rigging, this is one I can handle and I'm already underway
on the build so stay tuned.
Roden web site
My thanks to
Squadron Products for the review kit. Get yours today at your local
retailer or ask them to order it in for you.
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