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WWII Training Biplanes Bu.131D, DH.82A & PT-17 (32039) 1:32


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WWII Training Biplanes Bu.131D, DH.82A & PT-17 (32039)

1:32 ICM via H G Hannants Ltd




Pilots need practice to make perfect, and even today with all the immersive simulators we have access to, there comes a time when you need to grab a control column and put your feet into a pair of rudder pedals.  It makes sense to give the novice pilot a docile, mild-mannered aircraft to take out initially, usually with a second cockpit for the instructor to offer advice and correction when necessary, or to take over control if the novice became confused or let the aircraft get away from him and into danger.  Before WWII the majority of training aircraft were biplanes, and in the run-up to conflict air forces chose types that were suitably placid, and these became standard ab initio trainers.  In the UK it was the De Havilland Tiger Moth, while the US had the PT-17 Stearman, and in Germany, the Bücker Bü-131.



The Boxed Set

This compact box contains all three trainers in 1:32 scale, all of which fit inside the small volume of the box, the lower tray having the usual captive top flap that we expect from ICM.  Inside are a total of ten sprues in grey styrene spread over three re-sealable bags, with a further three small clear sprues, three decal sheets and three instruction booklets, one for each kit.  Detail is good throughout, as all the kits are pretty recent and were well-received when they first arrived.



The Tiger Moth

The de Havilland Tiger Moth was one of the most important and most widely produced trainer aircraft to have seen service with the RAF. It was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland himself in the 1930s and was based on the Gypsy Moth, suitably redesigned to meet Air Ministry Specification 13/31. In comparison to its predecessor, the Tiger Moth's wings were swept and repositioned, and the cockpits were redesigned to make escape easier. The airframe was also strengthened and the engine exhaust system was redesigned.


The Tiger Moth entered service with the RAF in 1932 and remained in service until well after the war. Over 8,000 examples were completed and the type also served with the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force as well as a great many other military and civilian operators. In service it proved itself to be ideally suited to its role; easy enough to fly, but challenging enough to weed out the weaker students.  It was also cheap and easy to maintain. Further variants would be the DH.82C fitted with an enclosed hood for cold weather operations in Canada; and the Queen Bee which was an unmanned radio-controlled target drone that resulted in a thinning of the herd of surviving airframes.  Always popular with civilian users, many Tiger Moths found their way into private ownership after the War, with many maintained in flying condition to this day.


This is a reboxing of the recent tool from ICM that was first released in 2020, so it’s a thoroughly modern model.  There are four sprues in grey styrene plus one of clear parts, decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour profiles on the rear pages.  The detail is excellent as we’ve come to expect from ICM, and providing you aren’t phobic about rigging, should make a straight-forward build. 








Construction begins with drilling holes in the two fuselage halves, using holes that are pre-thinned from the inside to ease the way.  The fuselage halves are then detailed with throttle quadrants, instrument panels with dial decals, and the bulkheads between the two seating areas.  At this time there are a couple more 0.3mm holes drilled in the top cowling in front of the cockpit to insert more rigging wires, which you’ll need to supply yourself, along with more threaded through the holes in the fuselage sides that you drilled earlier.  Helpfully, the instructions tell you the length of wire that you should plan for, although I’d be tempted to use the numbers as a minimum value, just in case.  You can always cut some off, but adding some on is much more of a skill.  With that the fuselage is closed, a firewall is inserted into the front, and an elevator inserted onto a rectangular peg in the rear of the fuselage, with the wider strakes that are fitted to the decal options, followed by the standard rudder fin, which has the tail skid moulded into the bottom.  There is a good representation of the four-cylinder Gypsy Major engine that outputs less power than my perfectly normal family car, which makes one stop and think for a second.  The block is in two halves that trap the conical drive-shaft inside, exhaust manifold, mounts and other ancillaries, with a baffle on one side, after which it can be glued into the firewall at the front of the fuselage, and have the cowling parts installed along with the open or closed access doors for the crew, small intake on the starboard cowling, and bumper-strips on the forward edge of each cockpit aperture.  The lucky crew have a three-faceted windscreen placed in recesses in front of them to keep the bugs out of their teeth, then we move onto the wings.


The wings are full-width parts, and the lower wing is made first, drilling rigging holes in the top surface, and leaving off the underside of this and the topside of the upper wing until after the rigging is complete.  Whilst that might work for some, I’d be a little wary of gluing big parts such as the wings together after painting, although that’s just my opinion.  You may have noticed there were no more cockpit details made up earlier, which is because the rest of the cockpit is built on the lower wing centre, as that’s where you will find the cockpit floor.  A narrow control assembly is made first with rudder bars and control columns in duplicate, fitting into the cockpit floor on eight small rectangular slots, then joined by the aft seat, and the weird front seat that is moulded as a deep depression into the bulkhead between the two.  The lower wing (upper only) is then mated with the fuselage, completing the cockpit at the same time.  The interplane struts are individual parts in the outer wings, with two Z-shaped cabane struts fixed high on the fuselage sides just in front of the cockpit.  More rigging holes are drilled into the lower half of the upper wing before joining it to the struts and adding the ribbed fuel tank to the centre of the upper wing.  The next two diagrams show the location of the rigging using red lines, dotting them where they pass out of sight, and numbering them in a dot-to-dot fashion.  After completion of rigging, the upper-upper and lower-lower wing halves are glued in place, hiding any messy rigging knots that you might have left.  It does make for a clean job of the rigging, but I’m no expert at rigging.  The upper wing has a pair of slats added to the leading edge, and ailerons to the lower trailing edge, then it’s time to make the landing gear.


The wheels of the Tiger Moth are moulded in two halves, and slide over the axle-ends of a single complex W-shaped (ish) strut, which once it is in place is buttressed by four support struts that prevent the gear collapsing on landing.  A little L-shaped tube glues to the underside of the fuselage while it’s upside down, and actuators are added under the ailerons, plus a couple of support struts are fitted between the elevators and fuselage, which also have triangular actuators added to small slots that are mirrored on the rudder, with more rigging added there later.  The prop is a single part that snugs into the tapered drive-shaft, and after completion of the final rigging to the tail, a further diagram has a set of shapes printed that you can use to pattern your own masks for the two canopies if you don’t want to spend extra money on a masking set.  I like these, but haven’t used them yet, and would suggest reducing the tape’s stickiness by applying it to a clean surface first, to avoid tearing or marring the paper when you remove it.




There are two decal options for this kit, one in silver, the other in the more traditional camouflage over yellow that most people would think of.  From the box you can build one of the following:


  • No.3 Flight Training Sqn, RAF Grantham 1938
  • No.25 (Polish) Elementary Flight Training School, Summer 1944






Decals are by ICM’s usual partners, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.



The Stearman

The Stearman Aircraft Corporation was founded in 1927 by Lloyd Stearman. then in 1929 it was sold to The United Transport & Aircraft Corporation, which would then split in 1934 due to US Antitrust legislation with Boing which had been a part of becoming its own business again.  Stearman then became a subsidiary of Boeing.  At about this time they designed what would become their most famous aircraft, the Model 75 Kaydet. The new aircraft was a conventional tail wheeled biplane with an exposed radial engine and fixed main gear. The aircraft was selected as the basic primary trainer for the USAAF and the USN, as well as for the Royal Canadian Air Force. In USAAF Service it would be designated the PT-13 with a Lycoming R-680 engine, The PT-17 with a Continental R-670-5 engine, and as PT-18 with a Jacobs R-755 engine.  Canadian PT-27 aircraft were USAAF PT-17s supplied under Lend/Lease and renamed.  In total over 10,000 airframes were built, with many were sold off post war, and a great many of these still survive today as a much-loved simple and docile private aircraft.


This is a reboxing of the recent Stearman PT-17 Kaydet kit, and consists of four sprues in grey styrene and another small sprue of clear parts, plus the decal sheet and instruction booklet.














Construction begins with the cockpit, which is mostly empty space with a tubular framework holding all the instruments and controls.  The sidewall frames are detailed, as is the floor with a pair of linked control columns, then they are joined together and held perpendicular to each other by a triangular cross-brace.  The two seats are each a single part with a ladder frame added at the rear, and they slip in between the sides, strengthening the assembly further, then the fuselage is prepared for closure and the insertion of the cockpit assembly.  Just a fire extinguisher is added to the port sidewall, which has ribbed detail moulded-in, then the two halves are closed around the tail-wheel, which has a separate wheel part slipped over the axle.  An insert with riveted panelling is placed under the fuselage between the wheel struts, which are incidentally moulded into the two fuselage halves, then the cockpit assembly can be pushed in from the front and secured on pins, allowing the ribbing to be seen through the framework.  The upper fuselage deck is separate and has the two instrument panels and back rests glued to the underside before it is fixed in place over the cockpit, closing the fuselage.  Another shorter insert fits under the front of the fuselage with another added to the port side, and the firewall closing the front.  The landing gear strut ends are simple affairs with separate scissor-links that slot into the legs after adding the two-part wheels, and are covered over by inner panels that are glued to the moulded-in legs.  Your model can now stand on its own three wheels for the first time.


The flying surfaces are begun by joining the two halves of the elevator fins together, and fixing the flying surfaces to the rear, with the ability to pose them deflected if you wish.  They fit into slots in the sides of the tail fin, which then receive a single thickness rudder with separate actuator.  Both main wings are supplied as full span assemblies, with separate tops and ailerons on the lower wing only.  A pair of clear wingtip lights are inserted into the upper wings, then the four cabane struts and two Z-shaped interplane struts are glued in place and the wing is then lowered onto the model, taking care to keep everything correctly aligned.


The Continental R-670-5 7-cylinder radial engine of the Stearman is barely any more powerful than the Tiger Moth, and its six exhaust stacks are assembled on the firewall at the front of the fuselage, followed by the intake trunking and push-rods, then adding the carburettor underneath.  The cylinder bank is made up from two halves, adding a short prop shaft from inside the front half that is covered over by a circular part to prevent it from falling out of position.  The rear portion is glued into place, and a vertical housing is inserted between the bottom two cylinders, after which it can be fixed to the fuselage with a choice of two props, each with two blades.  The narrower prop is a ground adjustable steel McCauley unit, while the thicker one is wooden fixed-pitch Sensenich unit.


The last page of the instructions detail rigging of the model, spanning three steps that show the wires marked in red over a line-drawn diagram.  To the side is a drawing that shows the shape of masks that you can make yourself to help you keep the clear parts from getting marred by paint during the build.



There are three decal options on the sheet, two of which are bright and distinctly yellow in tone, while the third is an all-over aluminium airframe.  From the box you can build one of the following:


  • PT-17 USAAF, 63rd AAF FTD, Douglas, Georgia 1942
  • PT-17, WAASPs, Avenger Feild, Texas, 1943
  • N2S-3 USN, Unit not known 1943






Decals are by ICM’s usual partners, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.



Bücker Bü-131D

The Bu 131 was designed by Carl Bucker and Anders Anderssen after Bucker Flugzeugbau was established in Germany in 1932, and was to be the last biplane built in Germany. The aircraft is a conventional two seat trainer with a tubular steel fuselage, wooden wings, and all exterior surfaces fabric covered with a doped finish, powered by a Hirth HM60R engine. The aircraft was, praised for its handling characteristics, and still stacks up well against even modern aircraft.


The aircraft was in use before and during WWII as the primary trainer for the Luftwaffe, and was also selected in this role by the Japanese Army where it was designated as the Kokusai Ki-86, The Japanese Navy called it the Kyushu K9W, and the Spanish Air Force flew CASA built aircraft.  CASA continued manufacturing the aircraft well into the 1960s, and additional licensed production also took place in Switzerland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. A further 21 aircraft were produced in 1994 in Spain using the CASA jigs, and is still being produced today by Air Res Aviation in Poland.



The Kit

This kit was initially released in 2018, so is the oldest of the three by a short margin, although it is still a very modern tooling from ICM with good detail.  It has a relatively low parts count and only two sprues in grey styrene, plus one clear sprue, but that’s due to it being a very simple aircraft.  The decal sheet can be found inside the instruction booklet that has colour profiles on the back pages.






Construction begins with the lower wing, which is of conventional construction with a single part lower and split upper surfaces. The centre of the wing will also form the floor for the front cockpit, and a section of framing is placed over it once the wing is assembled. The ailerons are each separate parts and can be added at this stage before moving onto the fuselage, which has the steel tube framework added to the cockpit sidewalls in both halves, built side-by-side with the engine that is made up with a high part count and including bearers.  The fuselage is closed and the elevator fins are joined under the fixed rudder fin after adding curved hinges under each side. The fuselage is then mated to the lower wing, and the coamings and instrument panels with decals for both cockpits are made up for installation after adding the linked control columns and a seat in the rear cockpit.  The rear coaming/panel assembly is inserted between the cockpits, and a bulkhead is fixed to the fuselage behind the rear seat, allowing you to fit the front seat, a pair of rudder pedals and the metal cowling panels to the sides of the engine compartment, followed by the top cowling and a firewall bulkhead closing off the area.  The crew access doors are shown installed in the closed position on both sides of the cockpits, although there’s nothing preventing you from posing them open if you wish.  The motor is affixed to the holes in the firewall on pins at the end of its four bearer arms, and the top cowling is applied over it, adding the front fairing and two-bladed prop to the front.  The lower cowlings have exhaust outlets glued to the bottom of them, and they are both installed around the engine as the two windscreens keeping the bugs out of the crew’s teeth are fitted using a suitable non-fogging glue.


The upper wing is comprised of two full-span parts that have ribbing moulded-in, as well as separate ailerons and a full set of Z-shaped cabane and straight interplane struts.  The completed wing assembly is shown being placed on the model from above as the rudder is fitted, and it would be sensible to add the wing while the glue is still soft to allow accurate alignment of the two wings over each other.  The elevator surfaces are both single thickness, and attach to their fins to complete the empennage.


The main gear legs are fixed, and are based around an A-frame with multiple cross-rails and an axle on the bottom end to which the two-part wheels are attached, then they are braced by a peculiarly shaped cross-brace with outriggers, adding exhaust stubs under the nose, actuators to the elevators and rudder, and tail-wheel with moulded fairing under the tail.  A rigging diagram is provided in the instructions, picking out the wires in red, but it is always a good idea to check your references when creating rigging from just two profile views.




There are four options on the decal sheet, however the swastikas are not present, so the modeller will have to source them elsewhere if their locality permits it.  From the box you can build one of the following:


  • 2./JG54, Russia, March 1942
  • 2./JG54, Russia, Summer 1942
  • Stab III/NJG 1, Germany 1943
  • Training Unit Bad Aibling, Germany 1944






Decals are by ICM’s usual partners, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.




Three well-known and regarded biplane trainers that are depicted by modern kits in 1:32 scale, arriving in one relatively small box that will help you to kid yourself that there’s very little growth of your stash.


Highly recommended.


Available in the UK from importers H G Hannants Ltd.



Review sample courtesy of







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