Eduard 1/72 Avia B.534 Series IV

KIT #: 7102
PRICE: $25.00
DECALS: Six options
REVIEWER: Ryan Grosswiler
NOTES:  Profipack plus "Wings Upgraded" aftermarket sprue. Got two models out of the kit as a result!

  Conjured from the ruins of the empire of Austria-Hungary in the wake of the Great War, Czechoslovakia worked throughout the 1920s to establish itself as a center of democracy, culture, and technological progress for central Europe. This resulted in the works of Franz Kafka, Rossum's Universal Robots, and a vibrant avant-garde community. Plus a short-lived but very productive aviation industry which produced this neat little biplane fighter. 
  The Avia B.534 was the last in a long succession of high-performance biplanes and was the contemporary of the Gloster Gladiator, Fiat CR.42, and Polikarpov I-15 family. In a bid to increase foreign sales, the Avia put in a good showing at 1937 Zurich international air meeting, reportedly coming in second only to the newer monoplane Bf-109.
   The Czechs were also the first to recognize the value of aircraft in law enforcement when a distinguished detective by the name of Zdeněk Bubník was forced to watch in frustration as a serial killer suspect fled by train across the open countryside to Bratislava. After some bureaucratic wrestling and a poor early start with obsolete types a dozen Avias were released from the production lines for this new service, the Czech Air Police, which was supposed to prevent such escapes from occurring again. However, this mission quickly began to change focus as a new problem appeared: foreign reconnaissance aircraft intruding Czech airspace assessing the land for future conquest. The axe was about to fall. In 1938 the international community fed the young nation to its ambitious neighbors with Nazi Germany seizing the key industrial areas and the Avia plant. Many of the 500-odd 534s built were distributed to Germany's allies and its own training units, with some being retained by the treaty-compliant Slovak Air Force.
   The Avia finally saw action with its original user (in some guise, anyway) during one of the forgotten early-war border skirmishes when neighboring Hungary grabbed some of the southern Slovakian districts in the early months of 1939, the Slovaks losing several Avias to Hungarian Fiat CR.32s. Later that year, Slovakia sent a couple of squadrons to support the German invasion of Poland, the Avias downing a single Polish reconnaissance aircraft for the loss of two more aircraft to triple-A. Those same squadrons were also sent in support of operation Barbarossa, but were weakened by the continual loss of personnel attending to the autumn harvest and morale bad enough that a few dozen pilots deserted in their Avias to Soviet lines as the war dragged on. The type really spent most of its time in service as a fighter trainer and in anti-partisan duty. In short, it really didn't distinguish itself in combat owing to the times and circumstances in which it was deployed. Except for one event: in September 1944 an Avia being flown by a rebelling Slovakian pilot chased down and destroyed a fleeing Hungarian Ju-52, scoring the last known air-to-air kill for a biplane in history.
   Despite what intuition would lead you to believe, the bubble-top examples were not some late advanced version; they were simply various early-series aircraft fitted with canopies on an individual basis at the depot level.
  The trim Avia has always been one of my favorite biplanes, and it must mean a lot to the Czech people, too, because there have been several kits of this type in 1/72 originating in this region. The oldest and most familiar is of course the old KP kit from 1971, resident in most of our stashes and slightly underscale at about 1/75. More recently RS Models released a limited-run series of various 534 sub-types with an available range of photoetch upgrades from Brengun, preceded a little earlier than that by a similarly comprehensive resin range from HR models.
  Eduard released this one 2014, and--true to form--followed it with a wide range of version and marking options, aftermarket both separate and in their Profipack releases, and a Vegas-buffet "Quattro Combo" with four complete kits, dozens of marking options, and a variety of extra goodies. 
  In this release, three dark grey spues cover wing, fuselage, and small parts; a clear sprue with every canopy and windshield option for the type, a small color photoetched fret, and a masking sheet (covering not only the canopy but some of the trickier paint scheme elements) round out the package. A full-color instruction booklet instruct assembly, masking, rigging, and four-views of each of the six painting schemes which outline the type's service history pretty well from the Czech Air Police from 1937 to the Slovak National Uprising in 1944. Everything contained is to the very highest quality offered by the industry.
  One of the main differences between each of these releases is the fuselage sprue: Eduard took the time to cut at least five different ones to depict the open cockpit, closed cockpit, different gun slot arrangement of the Bk-, the bubble-canopy, and the streamlined racer. The bubbletop version was only ever offered in the Quattro combo and as an Overtrees release as far as I've seen.
  Also, some time after I purchased this kit (and after it had been out for several years) I noticed Eduard offering a "Wings Upgraded" sprue under their Overtrees aegis for $6 US. Curious, I ordered a set. Upon arrival, these 'upgrades' consist of 1) much more foolproof and secure wing strut mountings, 2) more restrained surface detail, and 3) wingtip position lights.
  The addition of this purchase combined with the kit's options left me with a lot of extras! These included wheels, a propeller, and a complete set of flying surfaces, among other useful bits. I gazed at the unused parts, and the KP kit nearby that would now never be built. The creative gears started turning...
 Soon I was busy modifying the KP fuselage and landing gear to take the redundant Eduard parts and converting it to the low-back/bubble canopy configuration. This ended up being a pretty involved effort, as I not only had to stretch the fuselage to 1/72 with a plug aft of the cockpit and cut down the rear fuselage upper decking and shape a new one from styrene laminate, but build up new wing roots, lengthen and reshape the radiator housing, sand it all down and rescribe, and scratchbuild a new cockpit to match Eduard's stock example...which I was building and painting in parallel.
   I took the time to mark and drill all the holes for the rigging next. It's less fun doing so when the model is assembled, especially in 1/72! 
  The cockpits and KP fuselage complete, construction proper began. For the stock Eduard model, this was done over the course of a single day as I worked on some overdue housecleaning, stopping by the bench and spending five minutes assembling the fuselage and upper cowl parts, visiting a little later for ten minutes to clean all the seams (I used Tenax/Micromark 'Same Stuff', so all the joints were ready for cleanup within the hour) and apply the canopy mask, still later for another ten assembling the landing gear, and so on, until after half a dozen sessions totaling less than forty-five minutes I had the whole thing together with struts, less the top wing.
   The ersatz bubble-top model naturally took a little longer, as I had to continue adapting parts to some degree and one set of cabanes went sailing out of my tweezers and arcing into the unknown, requiring replication from styrene strip. But even this second model only took a couple of hours after I had converted the fuselage to get it ready for primer.
  Whenever I build a biplane, I attach all the struts to the bottom wings and fuselage just before painting with the top wing dry fitted temporarily to assure alignment. The pain of working around these during the finishing process is worth it for the fact that it restricts the mess of gluing and touchup to the less-visible bottom surface of the upper wing.

  All along I wanted to do the Czech Air Police version with its snazzy red-trim-over-green/grey scheme. Eduard suggests Gunze "Hemp" to achieve the odd basic hue. Not having easy access to this range where I live out in the sticks, I combined RLM 70 and 02 with a little Testor's Gloss White to achieve it. My reference photos showed different shades for the reds of the airframe trim, registration, and national markings so you needn't bother matching these. After a gloss coat of Future/XXXX, the decals went on marvelously, sucking down into the detail with only a light coat of Micro-Sol. After a light weathering treatment and another clear coat, and with the model on its back, I very gently placed and aligned a set of QuickBoost resin empty bomb racks, leaving them to cure while I drove off for a night at work.
  The bubble-top model was built to a wartime scheme and received a custom 50/50 mix of RAF Dark Green and Testor's Gloss Light Brown with a bit of white over a coat of lightened RLM 65 Lichtblau. This matched my references for the green-over-grey of a Slovak machine pretty well. All decals for this second model were sourced from among the options of the kit; the fuselage registration numeral modified slightly.
   Painting and weathering done, both models were rigged via the stretched sprue method. 
 As one of those whose modelling time has actually been reduced, not increased, by COVID measures, I've really begun to appreciate a nice kit that I can assemble with neither delay nor drama. This product has edged out Tamiya's P-47 as the best kit in 1/72 I have ever had the pleasure of assembling.
  The second model that I stuck together out of all the 'leftovers' was a nice bonus!
Krybus, Josef. The Avia B.534. Profile Publications, Berkshire UK and Sun Valley, CA 1968(?)
Sumichrast, Peter and And'al, Jozef. Avia B-34, B-534 a Bk-534. HT model magazin Poprad, Slovakia 1998(?)
Rajlich, Jiri and Sehnal, Jiri. Slovak Airmen 1939-1945. Unknown publisher, 1991

Ryan Grosswiler

21 September 2021

Copyright All rights reserved. No reproduction in part or in whole without express permssion.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page

Back to the Previews Index Page