AMK 1/48 L-29 'Delfin'

KIT #: amk88002
PRICE: $40.95 SRP
DECALS: Seven options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: New tool kit

HISTORY

The Aero L-29 Delfín (English: Dolphin, NATO reporting name: Maya) is a military jet trainer aircraft that became the standard jet trainer for the air forces of Warsaw Pact nations in the 1960s. It was Czechoslovakia's first locally designed and built jet aircraft.

In the late 1950s, the Soviet Air Force was seeking a jet-powered replacement for its fleet of piston-engined trainers, and this requirement was soon broadened to finding a trainer aircraft that could be adopted in common by Eastern Bloc air forces. Aero's response, the prototype XL-29 designed by Z. Rublič and K. Tomᚠfirst flew on 5 April 1959, powered by a British Bristol Siddeley Viper engine. The second prototype was powered by the Czech-designed M701 engine, which was used in all subsequent aircraft.

The basic design concept was to produce a straightforward, easy-to-build and operate aircraft. Simplicity and ruggedness were stressed with manual flight controls, large flaps and the incorporation of perforated airbrakes on the fuselage sides providing stable and docile flight characteristics, leading to an enviable safety record for the type. The sturdy L-29 was able to operate from grass, sand or unprepared fields. Both student pilot and instructor had ejection seats, and were positioned in tandem, under separate canopies with a slightly raised instructor position.

In 1961, the L-29 was evaluated against the PZL TS-11 Iskra and Yakovlev Yak-30 and emerged the winner. Poland chose to pursue the development of the TS-11 Iskra anyway, but all other Warsaw Pact countries adopted the Delfin under the agreements of COMECON.

Production began April 1963 and continued for 11 years, with 3,600 eventually built until 1974. A dedicated, single-seat, aerobatic version was developed as the L-29A Akrobat. A reconnaissance version with nose-mounted cameras was built as the L-29R.

The L-29 was operated by literally dozens of air forces and is still equipping a handful. A considerable number are being operated as warbirds.

THE KIT

 I am not sure with whom AMK is associated or if it is a start-up company, but it is made in China and the company itself is based in Macau. The molding on the kit is first rate with the now to be expected engraved detailing and plethora of sunken rivets/screws. I found absolutely no molding glitches, not even ejector pin marks inside gear doors.

The kit includes a photo etch fret that interestingly, does not include a set of seat harnesses. These bits are for the belly antennas, speed brake hinges, and the detail inside the flap housings on the wing.  Clear parts are very clear and include things like landing lights and the blast shield in between the front and rear seats. I like that the canopy sections include the framework, something a few new kits have done separately.

Cockpit s well appointed with two nicely done bang seats, separate control sticks, the ejection rails for the seats, raised console decals and decals that provide dial detail for the two instrument panels. The kit offers a nose cover that can be built open to show the various electronics and pressure bottles stored there. No intake trunking is provided but there is a full exhaust section that includes the final compressor face.

Flaps can be molded open or closed with, as mentioned, etched brass detail for the inside of the flap wells. Both the main and nose gear wells are nicely detailed with the nose gear well being part of the nose detail assembly. I like that for the main gear, the wheels and tires are separate parts, making painting much easier. While the ailerons are fixed in place, the elevator and rudder pieces are separate. Speed brakes can be posed open or closed. You can also pose the two canopies open or closed as you so wish. They are very clear so any detail in the cockpit will be easily seen. Two drop tanks are provided for under the wings. AMK has already opened the holes for these so if you choose not to use them, you will need to fill these holes.

Instructions are very nicely done and in full color. The paint information is in Gunze and where applicable, FS 595 references. Markings are provided for seven aircraft in a variety of camouflage and markings schemes. Two are Czech, with one each for Russia, Slovakia, East Germany, Iraq and Indonesia. The decals are superbly printed, crisp, and very colorful. I anticipate an aftermarket sheet or two on this plane since they did fly with so many nations.
CONSTRUCTION

For this one, I began by first painting all the interior bits, wheel wells, inner gear doors and the nose compartment with dark gull grey as recommended in the instructions. I also glued together the wing tanks and horizontal stabilizer bits. Next I painted the exhaust pieces with Alclad II 'jet exhaust' as these would soon be hidden in the fuselage when the halves were closed. The instrument decals were next and this led to a bit of a surprise. The black outline to each panel is not permanent and breaks into tiny sections when wet. Each panel decal is actually 3 or 4 sections and getting those on without some of the outline bits attached is nigh near impossible. You have been warned! Also, the working time on these decals is rather short as the glue on the paper backing soon goes away making the final bits difficult to remove from the sheet.

With all that done, I started assembling the various bits for the cockpit. For the rear seat, you have to remove the rails on the upper portion of the seat and the angle sections from the top of the seat rails. Be sure to have the grooves facing inboard on the seat rails as the aft seat has some small panels that have to be glued in place. I then attached all the bits for the nose compartment (though not the landing gear). This compartment, the interior and the exhaust section were then glued into one fuselage half.

Kit instructions state that 15 grams of weight is needed and to put it under the cockpit. Well, I saw no way to put that much weight under the cockpit so put 14 grams just behind the cockpit assembly and 3 grams under the cockpit. I then taped the fuselage halves together as well as the wings and the horizontal stab. Even without the flaps, elevator and rudder, it was barely nose heavy. I then filled nearly all the remaining openings under the cockpit and that seems to have been enough. I glued the clear blast shield to the other fuselage half and when dry, the fuselage halves were glued together. I used super glue for the seams and a pair of sink areas I found on the underside.

The next thing I did was to attach the small etched pieces in the flap area. Naturally, I managed to lose a couple of the tiny one (which is one reason I am not fond of p.e.). Actually, they fit in the slots quite tightly, making it easy to simply add a touch of superglue to them once in place. It is getting them there via tweezers that causes me issues!

Anyway, with those in place, the wing halves were glued together and the engine intake trunking installed. These stick out a lot more than you'd think so test fit the wings before the cement dries to be sure you have them at the proper angle. I glued the elevator to the horizontal stabilizer with the elevator angled up. I looked at literally dozens of photos of L-39s parked on the ground and found this feature to be pretty common. What I also noted was that in none of the photos were the flaps lowered nor were the speedbrakes open. Once again, a model company gives us options that are not prototypical, but there are probably those who would whine if not provided. Having installed all that photo etch, I will be building my kit with the flaps lowered.

I then glued on the rudder and horizontal stabilizer. I also said goodbye to the painting and parts I put into the upper nose bay and glued the cover shut. The cover required several applications of filler as it did not fit all that well. Then I glued on the boarding steps, masked and glued on the windscreen, masked the other two canopy bits and tacked them on in preparation for painting. The wheel wells were filled, the flaps simply fit into place and it was off to the paint shop.

COLORS & MARKINGS

Thanks to AMK's choice of markings, picking one was not at all easy. I eventually settled on the Indonesian version. This required the nose, wing and stab tips, speed bullet tip and a fuselage band to be painted red. First I used Tamiya gloss white and when dry, Gunze red was then sprayed over those areas. After allowing it to cure, I masked the red parts. The rest of the airframe was painted light aircraft grey, using Humbrol #166, which I thought was a better match than Model Master FS 16473.

FINAL BITS

Once the paint was dry enough to touch (which was pretty much overnight thanks to thinning it with lacquer thinner), I removed the masking and continued the build. This meant the landing gear. The nose gear is a very complex and rather fragile-looking assembly, consisting of five separate pieces. The attachment parts are rather frail looking and I'm not sure how it will handle all the nose weight. This is where a hoped-for Scale Aircraft Conversions metal gear would come in handy, especially if they cast this all in one piece. The main gear attachment points, like the nose gear, are all quite scale and in this case, the gear attaches to the rear of the wheel well, just like the real aircraft. Of course, this isn't the strongest attachment point for a model, so one will have to be cautious and get a good join. The instructions would have to attach the wheels and gear doors before installation, but frankly, that would make attaching the legs and the retraction strut pieces quite difficult, so I left those off until the gear was fully dry.

With the gear in place there were a myriad other bits to attach. I glued on the wheels, being especially careful with the nose wheel as it is rather flexy. I then glued on all the gear doors. The rear ones fit quite well. I also glued on the flaps as well as some scoops I missed and the rear mounted IFF antenna. The nose gear landing light was a real pain to get in place and refused to fit on its designated location so I fudged a bit. Also added were the under-wing rad alt antennas and the light on the underside. The wing tip lights refused to fit and one went flying. The instructions have you install these when you join the wing halves. Despite the hassles of masking them when painting the wing tips, this is a time when the instructions are right. I filled the holes with clear paint and built it up so there would be something there. Last items to be attached were the canopies. I did a bit of touch up painting and tried some AK Interactive 'smoke' pigment, which looks convincing enough. Last bits to be glued on were the wing tanks and that was it.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall I have to say that I'm quite happy with the way the kit turned out. I wish I could paint fuselage bands better, but there it is. The kit fits quite well and while it does take a bit of patience and careful building, the end result is a very nice looking model. I especially like all the nice markings options that are given and I've saved the remainder of the decal sheet and markings instructions for use on my Planet Models kit, should I decided to build that one. It must be a relatively popular subject as the LHS got in several of these along with their Kfir. The L-39s were gone in a few days and the Kfirs are still on the shelf.

REFERENCES

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aero_L-29

June 2014

Thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the review kit. You can get yours at your local or on-line retailer. 

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