KIT: Valom 1/72 Northrop BT-1
KIT #: 72016
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Injected multi-media kit with etched, resin and vacuformed parts.


The Northrop BT was a two seat, single engine, monoplane, dive bomber built by the Northrop Corporation for the US Navy. At the time Northrop was a subsidiary of the Douglas Aircraft Company. The design of the initial version began in 1935. A 700 hp Pratt and Whitney XR-1535-66 Twin Wasp Jr. double row, radial air-cooled engine powered the aircraft. The aircraft had slotted flaps and a landing gear that partially retracted.

The next iteration of the BT, designated the XBT-1 was equipped with a 750 hp R-1535 engine. This aircraft was followed in 1936 by the BT-1 that was powered by an 825 hp Pratt and Whitney R-1535-94 engine. 54 aircraft were built, more than enough to equip two squadrons, one aboard Yorktown and the other aboard Enterprise. Other ships used the Helldiver biplane or the later Vindicator. One of the BT-1 aircraft was modified with a fixed tricycle landing gear and was the first such aircraft to land on an aircraft carrier.

The next version, the XBT-2, was a BT-1 aircraft modified in 1939 by Douglas Aircraft Company to incorporate a fully retracting landing gear, wing slots, a re-designed canopy, and was powered by an 800 hp Wright XR-1820-32 radial air-cooled engine. The XBT-2 became the prototype for the Douglas SBD-1.


Valom has been making interesting multimedia short run kits for a few years now and each one seems to be an improvement over the one previous. This is to be expected for as one gains experience, one learns what works and what doesn't. When the BT-1 was announced late last year, I was very much looking forward to it. It is an aircraft that has been overlooked by many kit makers, though I'm sure that there have been vacuformed and resin versions, I've not seen them.

It is not a lovely plane, but it is very important in the history of Naval Aviation, being the progenitor of the famous SBD Dauntless, both designed by John Northrop, who was a brilliant designer, but who was not good at keeping aircraft companies together, having his first one bought out by Douglas and losing control of the second in a hostile takeover.

Anyway, this kit has nicely engraved panel lines that some may think are too large, but I don't and a coat of paint will lessen this impression. The fabric control surfaces are represented by some raised lines and no real fabric detail. However, most of us don't think that is a concern. There is some framework detail on the inside of the cockpit. Large pieces will have small ejector towers that one will want to remove and I saw one sink area on a bulkhead piece. Small pieces have medium size sprue gates so care will be needed to remove them.

Resin is used for a majority of the interior bits like the floor, seats, instrument panel and various other bits such as the engine banks, exhaust and bomb body. These parts are very nicely cast and have small or thin resin attachment points so that one can use a hobby knife to remove them from the pour stubs.

There are two photo-etch frets. one is for the dive brakes and is very nicely done. The other is for various smaller pieces like bomb fins, seat belts, instrument panels, and other small bits. You have a choice of an injected or vacuformed canopy. Both are well done and quite clear. I like this option as those who want to show off the inside can use the vac canopy while others can use the injected one.

Instructions are on a glossy paper and are well done. A breakdown of parts, and several nicely drawn construction steps are included. The ID tags are considerably smaller than earlier kits and much appreciated. Colors are given in Humbrol, Agma, Model Master, Gunze and FS 595 references. The painting and decal guide is in full color. Markings are given for the two units that operated the aircraft. One is the box art squadron, VB-5 aboard the Yorktown in 1937/38. It has a red tail section with a blue nose, wing, and fuselage band. The blue did not print well and looks purple, but it is blue. The other with VB-6 aboard the Enterprise has a blue tail section and wing bands. The decals are very well done and I noted no registration problems. Even the prop tip markings are provided. I should note that the 'B' for theVB-6 aircraft should probably be in black as it is not over a fuselage band.

You might also note from the image that the band on this plane from VB-5 is close to the canopy and there is a short hyphen (in this case in black and white) between each number/letter as was standard practice. The kit sheet does not provide these, but they are easy enough to make. The kit instructions also place the band and codes about halfway between the back of the canopy and the horizontal tail. I don't think this is right, but am willing to be proven wrong.

Northrop Gamma BT-1

Here is another example, this time without the fuselage band. In case you were wondering why the canopy frames are canted so far forward, I think these pictures explain that!

Late Note: Well, thanks to a reader, I have a photo of an aircraft marked in a similar manner to the kit. That is, farther back and without dashes between the codes. Seems you have a choice! Another interesting difference is that the above images seem to have some sort of scoop on the top of the forward fuselage. Thought it was part of the hangar, but apparently not. Wonder what that is about?


Another superb subject from Valom. You'll see a full build review on this in the next few weeks as it is already on the bench for preliminary work. I'm looking forward to the XFM-1 and XP-75 that are coming, especially as I missed the Seagull and Walrus that were recently released.


Wikipedia and Google

My thanks to Valom for providing the review kit. Visit their website to see what other interesting models they offer.

November 2006

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