1/48 L-39C Albatros
Scott Van Aken
The Aero L-39 Albatros is a high-performance jet trainer developed
in Czechoslovakia by Aero Vodochody. It was designed during the 1960s as a
replacement for the Aero L-29 Delfín as a principal training aircraft. The L-39
Albatros has the distinction of being the first of the second-generation jet
trainers to be produced, as well as being the first trainer aircraft to be
equipped with a turbofan powerplant. The type was exported to a wide range of
countries as a military trainer.
The L-39 Albatros later served as the basis for the updated L-59 Super Albatros,
as well as the L-139 (prototype L-39 with Garrett TFE731 engine). A further
development of the design, designated as the L-159 ALCA, entered production in
1997. To date, more than 2,800 L-39s have served with over 30 air forces around
the world. The Albatros is the most widely used jet trainer in the world; in
addition to performing basic and advanced pilot training, it has also flown
combat missions in a light-attack role. The design never received a NATO
At the Farnborough Airshow in July 2014, Aero Vodochody announced the launch of
the L-39NG, an upgraded and modernised version of the L-39.
The L-39C trainer aircraft were widely sold as surplus and a
considerable number have found homes in the jet war bird market.
is the initial release of this aircraft from two years back. Prior to this
we have had, in this scale, the MPM L-39 kit and more recently a version
from Special Hobby, this one differing in having an injected plastic clear
sprue instead of vacuforme parts. I built the MPM kit and while the end result turned out
fairly well, it was a lot of work to reach that point. In fact, it spent
some time on the 'shelf of doom' before being completed. Fast forward to the
present and we have a modern, non-short run kit of this aircraft from
Trumpeter. Typical of 'one mold meets all variants' kits, you will need to open up
or close a
few holes during construction. It also comes with a photo etch fret as it
seems that you cannot get kits nowadays without it. The fret is not all that
extensive proving bang seat pull handles, the VOR antennas for the fin, a
rudder hinge plate, and some other small bits.
The cockpit has two bang seats with belts
molded in place. Side consoles have inserts and there are decals to fit atop
these and the instrument panels. Rudder pedals and control sticks complete
this assembly. There are small side panel pieces for inside the fuselage
halves and once you build up and attach the exhaust and glue in the nose
gear well, you can add 10 grams of nose weight and close up the halves.
There is absolutely no color information provided for the cockpit or the
seat frame. Even the instrument panel has no painting information. A bit of
time on the net showed three cockpit colors. One is the blue-green Soviet
style, or a dark grey or even one close to the shade of British interior
green. Seats were either black or dark grey.
The wing is a single lower piece with
separate upper halves. There are holes opened in the bottom wing piece for
pylons, but no pylons are in the kit so you'll have to fill those. The main gear well fits into the lower half. The kit
provides separate flaps and ailerons as well as a separate rudder.
Additional cockpit pieces along with the windscreen and canopies
are glued on after the airframe is fairly complete. You can pose the canopy
sections open if you so wish. Landing gear is well molded and the gear doors
have positive locators. You can also model the speed brakes open or closed,
though you'll have some trimming to do for the closed position.
This is a standard 'learn to fly jets' trainer
so the pylons and weapons that come with the L-39ZA kit are not present.
Instructions provide a full color painting
guide with a variety of paint company options. There is only one scheme but
with nine options. The huge decal sheet provides the markings for any one of
the Breitling team jets. Most of this plane is in dark blue with silver wing
undersides and silver around the cockpit and the top of the jet intakes. The
silver areas will also need to be painted as will the black areas around the
cockpit. Interestingly, the painting guide shows two aluminum painted tanks,
but there are no additional tanks included in the kit and certainly no
pylons on which to attach them. The giant decal sheet fills the box and
should be fairly straight forward to apply.
My past experience with Trumpeter kits has been that while they may have
some glitches in terms of shape and decals, one thing that cannot be faulted
is their engineering. That means they are a pretty straightforward
construct. This one turned out to be just that.
The initial thing I did was to paint stuff while still on the sprue, knowing
I'd have to do some touch-up at a later date. I picked a medium grey for
wells, Soviet cockpit green-blue for the cockpit, a fairly bright green for
the wheels, as well as medium grey and khaki for the bang seat. The head
rest of the seats were painted in Tamiya's
rubber black. This gave me a good
start. One thing I do not like about modern kits is a tendency for some
companies to have the sprue attachment points on the gluing surface. For me,
this invariably means that I end up sanding a bit too much to remove them
and it leaves a gap that needs to be filled.
Ok, so I then started building up the cockpit. I'm not sure why they
bothered with separate side console pieces or the additional small parts for
the sidewalls, but they are there. I then attached the decals to the
instrument panels. These really do look nice when they are in place and I
will always use them instead of painting the dials and such as it is so much
easier. It did take two applications of solvent to get them to snuggle down
all the way. I then added the control sticks and rudder pedals. The latter
were a bit of a shove to get them into the holes. The main panels were glued
in and all was left to dry for a bit.
Meanwhile I built the exhaust section after painting the parts with Alclad
II jet exhaust. This was then glued into the rear fuselage. The nose gear
well was attached as was the cockpit. I taped the fuselage halves together
while the cement was drying just to be sure there would be no hassles
later. Then I cut some pieces of lead and installed that. The instructions
call for 10 grams, but I put in 13 just to be sure. I should mention that
you can buy sheet lead from a variety of on-line sources and it should last
a very long time. It seems more useful than fishing weights as it is denser
and can be quite easily molded to fit with a pair of pliers. With all that
in place, the fuselage halves were closed. Fit of the fuselage is quite
tight so you'll need to tape it closed to prevent gaps. Despite this there
is one at the very rear and may well have been caused by sanding sprue
While all that was going on, I assembled the wings and the wheels. Note that
the only 'thing under wings', that the trainer version carried was usually
fuel tanks. However, these tanks are not supplied with this kit. As
Trumpeter uses this basic kit for other variants that do have
pylons/weapons, you have four holes to fill on the underside of the wing. I
use super glue for this followed quickly by accelerator and sanding. Often
takes a couple of applications. I also built up the seats. These are nicely
done with pathetically short belts molded in place. I did not paint these as
they really are too short and the kit does not include p.e. ones. The
central pull handle is photo etch and has to be bent into a V prior to
installation. I did not install the seats at this time, preferring to wait
until I add the clear bits before painting.
With the wings finished, they were attached. A bit of work is needed at the
rear wing/fuselage join to deal with a gap. I then installed the rudder with
the small photoetch bit atop it and then glued on the tailplanes. These have
static dischargers that are very easy to damage so take car. I then dealt
with the transparencies. These have a seam down the middle. You can either
leave it or sand it off. I did the latter and as usual, was unable to attain
its earlier clarity. I'll brush on some future later. I don't dip them as
I've found that masks will pull off chunks of this when removed. The
instrument panel anti-glare panels had to be clamped in place to fit all the
way. The clear parts were masked and the seats installed. I then attached
the clear pieces in the closed position. This will leave some open squares
as they are apparently supposed to be modeled open.
Also supposed to be modeled open are the large nose wheel door and the inner
main gear doors. However, these are only open when undergoing maintenance
and during the cycling of the landing gear. To get the nose door to fit
closed, the hinges have to but
cut away and the remnants sanded/ground down. The door also needs to be
shortened a little bit to fit closed. As a note, there is a triangular piece
on the nose gear leg that will have to be trimmed down so the gear leg will
fit through the small opening that is left. On the inner main gear doors, I
cut the hinges on one side and realized that again, I'll have some small
rectangular holes to deal with. On the other side I carefully trimmed the
hinges, leaving small stubs to fill the holes. These doors are very fiddly
to attach closed as there is nothing to hold them up. With all that done, I
filled the main gear wells with Silly putty and headed to the paint booth.
The decal sheet I'm using has a ton of options on
it, making choosing one a difficult task. One thing I knew was that it would
have yellow high visibility markings. So I first painted those areas Tamiya
white and then Gunze yellow. It was suggested by Rex in TN that I use 100
proof vodka to thin acrylics as straight alcohol (or lacquer thinner in the
case of acrylic lacquers) apparently makes things too dry. So I tried it and
it really does work well. After that dried, I masked off the bits that were
yellow and did the underside. The instructions call for a light grey and
gave a Gunze reference for light aircraft grey. This is also FS 16473 in the Testors enamel line so that is what I used.
Once that had dried
sufficiently to mask, I did so and painted large areas of the upper surface
in the color recommended in the instructions. In this case it was FS 34102
dark green. This is a bit lighter than that shown in the instructions, but
should work well. Then began several hours of masking the green. The
camouflage on the L-39 is sprayed so tight that it cannot really be
duplicated free hand on a model so that is why all the masking. The other
upper color is listed as FS 30219. That was then sprayed on. All these
colors are Testors Model Master enamels thinned with DYI lacquer thinner.
Once all that was done, I had to paint the black areas atop the forward
fuselage and the inside of the wing tanks.
Before moving on to the decals, there were several antennas that had to be
attached. Some are plastic while others are metal. I also glued on the two
pitot tubes and then painted all these bits once the cement had dried.
A coat or two of Future got the surface glossy enough for decals. I used
Armycast decals #48011 for the markings on this one. I chose an Afghan Air
Force plane from 2008. I did not use the kit sheet for any of the markings
because it provided none that were appropriate for a military plane. The
Armycast decals are very thin and if they fold over, it is difficult to get
them straightened out. There is also a limited time in which they are free
enough to move. I used cold water and it took a fair amount of time to where
they would start to slide around. Once that level was reached, they had to
be applied rather quickly or the glue dissipated and the markings would
stick to the backing. They also have you double up with the yellow markings
by putting white ones under them first. They did not seem to really need
After that the wheels were glued on and the main gear doors were attached. A
coat of semi-matte clear was sprayed on and the masking remived from the
windscreen and canopies. These were then given a coat of future using a
Q-tip. Last items were the clear lenses for the side formation lights and
the front of the wing tip tanks.
I have enjoyed building pretty much every Trumpeter kit I've
built. Some of them have their issues, but fit is usually not a major factor.
This one builds well and while it does provide a few challenges as I mentioned
in the build regarding the gear doors and speed brakes, it makes into a very
nice model when you are done. One thing I did notice is that it is a bit wobbly
on the landing gear. Not disastrously so, but noticeable.
Having said that, I would steer people away from this boxing
unless you want to do the Breitling team jet. This is because it does not
provide any wing pylons and most of the photos I saw of standard L.39C aircraft
had these pylons and fuel tanks. I would spend my funds on the ZA boxing for
these bits and you'll have a bunch of weapons that you can add to your stash. Of
course, since Trumpeter brain farted the insignia in that boxing, you'll need an
aftermarket sheet and while a bit pricey, I recommend the one I used for this
Copyright ModelingMadness.com. All rights reserved.
If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please
the editor or see other details in the
Back to the Main Page
Back to the Review
Back to the Previews Index Page