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  1. Avro Lancaster B.II 1:72 Airfix The Lancaster is without doubt one of the most famous aircraft ever to fly and became the back bone of Bomber Command alongside the Halifax in the latter half of WWII. Development was born out of failure in the guise of the Avro Manchester to which history has been unkind because of the unreliable Vulture engines. Convinced that the basic Manchester airframe with an unobstructed full width bomb bay was basically sound, Roy Chadwick and his team designed the Type 683 Manchester III which used a larger wing supporting 4 Merlins. From the start, the aircraft proved Chadwick right, requiring only minor modifications for operational service. The cleverly designed bomb bay meant that the Lanc could carry a 14000lb conventional bomb load but with some modifications could even lift a 22000lb bomb which was unheard of at the time. With over 7000 Lancasters serving in WWII, most were indeed powered by the legendary Merlin. With a risk of Merlin shortages, a design was tested using the Bristol Hercules radial engine which led to one of the most visibly unique variants to operate, the B.II. Whilst the Hercules was more powerful, it had a slightly inferior service ceiling meaning that they generally flew lower than the Merlin variants during raids putting them at greater risk. This contributed to a 60% operational loss although they had a slightly faster cruising speed and rate of climb. All together, 300 B.II’s were produced, operating mainly with the RCAF which used it to replace Wellington bombers. B.II’s were eventually replaced by Merlin variants although a few went on to become test beds. The kit If you’ve wanted to build a B.II in the past, your only option was a conversion set. Paragon designs was a popular choice for several years with superb engine replacements and more recently CMR produced a very fine resin conversion kit including full wing replacements which I was lucky to treat myself to last year. This kit from Airfix is the first full B.II kit available and a very good sign of the direction that Airfix with its new releases. Unless you’ve been abducted by aliens and returned for the summer, you’re no doubt aware that this is the second variant from the same basic tooling as the recently released Dambuster reviewed HERE by Paul So first impressions.... The kit comes packaged in a very sturdy bright red top opening box with stunning digital artwork across the front. Inside, there are 5 light grey sprues bagged together and a separately bagged clear sprue. One is immediately struck by the crisp moulding and wealth of detail, very much in line with recent Airfix offerings and a far cry from their earlier kits which were quite bland and had what looked like prescription canopies! The A4 instruction booklet has superb assembly diagrams and no less than 110 steps so there’ll be no knocking this together in a weekend! This is accompanied by an colour A3 panting and decaling guide which was a pleasant surprise. Shape wise, having seen several of the Merlin variants built up, it looks very good. Throughout the review, I’ll make comparative reference to the Hasegawa and Revell kits. This isn’t to form criticism, but to make comparisons for those who have built either to relate to. Assembly starts with the interior, and plenty there is. Using the bomb bay floor, the cockpit is built onto it in the normal ‘Lancaster’ way. The interior walls are beautifully detailed. The only gripe I have is the instrument panel lacking instrument detail and instead relying on a decal. I think I’ll choose to get an Eduard replacement. There is also room for some scratch building in the cockpit if you choose, for example the prominent but missing trim wheel located to the right hand side of the pilots seat. Something else to consider when assembling the interior is that the spars that sit across the bomb bay reach out and support the wheel well assembly within the wings. If you choose to build as per instructions, you will be required to fit the wings around the bay assemblies rather than fitting them at the end as you can with the Hasegawa and Revell kits. Another option here is to cut off the ends of the spars that become the main gear bay bulkheads but leave enough of the spar protruding out of each side of the fuselage to support the wing. This will allow the wings to be fitted at the end of the build, a tip which I take no credit for but will be doing myself. With the interior fitted and side windows / formation lights fitted, the fuselage can be closed up. Detail on the exterior parts of the kit is very nicely done. Panel lines are recessed and a touch heavier in appearance than the Hasegawa kit for example, but certainly not excessive. I believe that the side windows along the fuselage are a little too deep, photographs of the real thing show these to be very narrow. Surface texture has a slight matt finish which will be good in helping the paint to bond. Attention next turns to the wings. The instructions show the ribs to be fitted between the two spars, however if you’ve cut them off, it might be better to assemble everything into the top wing to ensure you get everything located correctly. Detail in the gear bays is quite stunning, it almost seems a shame to paint them black as you won’t see it! Unique to the new Airfix kits is the ability to have lowered flaps straight from the box. Again the detail is well thought out meaning that it would be rude not to show off the flap detail by having them closed. A slight downside however is a notable sink mark on one wing top surface resulting from the flap moulding on the other side. Fortunately, whilst quite large, it’s on an area of the wing which is easy to fill and sand. It’s strange how only one wing has been affected by this. The wings can be joined up once the gear bays have been assembled. A quick inspection indicates that the dihedral on the outer wings looks to be quite accurate. Next comes the tailplanes and engine nacelles. I’ve read on Britmodeller (Thanks to Stuart Wilson) that there is a mistake on the part numbers for the tail planes. The instructions tell you to join parts A6+A7, but both have locating pins. The correct fitment is A6+b8, A7+B9 so be aware. Separate elevators allow you to choose the position. Each tailpane comes with well engineered tabs to ensure that they don’t sag after fitment. Engine nacelles are quite straight forwards. An unusual design unique to the airfx kits is the requirement to drop the undercarriage through the top of the wing according to the instructions before fitting the nacelle wing root fairing into place. I’m not sure if this is necessary or whether the gear can be fitted from below as per normal, perhaps someone who has already built one can comment? The gear legs are of a sturdy and detailed design although quite fiddly to assemble the drag links which look similar to the Revell kit in design. The gear bay doors have their control links moulded to the doors which is another unusual feature and I suspect at least one will get consumed by the carpet monster when I build mine, so take care with these. They unfortunately suffer from having ejector pin marks that are quite visible (see further down on picture of bomb bay door interior). Flaps can be positioned either in the open or closed position. Plan this step carefully as there are alternate parts for the trailing edge of the inner nacelles which ever you choose. A nice touch comes with the tails. Separate rudders allow choice in position. The rudder horns are moulded as one piece per tail which gets wedged between the tail and rudder unlike the Revell kit which has each one independently attached and tend to go missing at the earliest opportunity. The armament... This kit comes with some great parts and options in regards the turrets. You get the standard 3 turrets as one would expect, but being a B.II you also get the FN.64 under belly periscope sighted turret that was a common fitment on B.II’s. Also on the clear sprue is an FN.82 turret housing .50 guns which whilst I’m pretty sure wasn’t found on this mark will come in useful somewhere for everyone! The turret interiors are well designed with enough detail straight from the box. The .303 barrels are ‘OK’, certainly better than the Revell parts, although I’d prefer to replace them with Quickboost ones. A novel feature of the rear turret is the ability to fit the barrels from the outside which is great for us sausage fingered modellers as you can leave them off until after painting. Getting back to the FN.64, some B.II’s had the turrets installed, some not. Also there are two different types of bomb bay doors included, so better to do some research on your chosen kite before proceeding underneath. Be aware that the doors with full length extra depth suffer from some noticeable ejector marks that will need dealing with if you use these. Unfortunately, whilst the kit comes with bomb carriers, it doesn’t come with the actual bombs. It does however advise you to purchase the separate ’Resupply’ set which carries the bombs plus much more. Whilst this may be a little frustrating for some, having got that set ready to review too, it’s well worth getting. Instructions on alternative loadouts are however included in the instructions. The engines... The design of the engines has been well thought through. Separate banks of cylinders and gearbox are provided with the propeller mount fitting through the gearbox from behind to hold it in place. The cooling gills are provided in the open position only. I’m not sure about the 4 engine stays that are mounted in front of the engine. I’m sure there should be three positioned in an irregular layout, although happy to be proven wrong if information comes to light. If not, you may want to scratch build these as I’ve done with other Hercules powered kits. The Rotol propellers are superb and have not only a separate aero hub, but additional back plate too for each one. The canopy looks quite good. I say quite because when you look closely, there is a slight distortion effect throughout that is difficult to show in the pictures. I’m comparing it to the Revell and Hasegawa kits which suffer less distortion, but shape wise, the Airfix part looks excellent with separate astrodome and has the escape hatch in the correct place unlike Hasegawa’s part. Whilst only simple parts, the main wheels have well designed hubs. These are very simplistic on the Revell kit so I find these quite refreshing. There are quite a lot of ‘sticky out ‘ parts on the kit such as control surface push rods, aerials etc. and these are finely moulded. The decals Typical of recent Airfix offerings here in terms of quality, register is spot on and the print is very crisp with some fine detail. Colour of the codes and roundels is good in respect to the blue and dull red tones. Two decal options are provided: LL725 – ‘Zombie’ EQ-Z of 408 ‘Goose’ Sqn, RCAF based at Linton-on-Ouse, 1944 DS842- ‘Fanny Ferkin II’ of 514 Sqn, RAF based at Waterbeach, Cambridgshire 1944 LL725 was lost on operations over Hamburg in July 1944 however DS842 was more fortunate and survived the war. Conclusion As the B.II is my favourite Lancaster mark, I’m very happy with the kit. It’s great to see this radial engine brut being produced for the first time by a mainstream manufacturer so my hat is off to Airfix for widening the choice of Lancaster kits on the market. More importantly, they’ve done a superb job. Yes there are some minor issues that I’ve picked up during the review, but there are far more positives to celebrate. You get a lot of detail included so value for money is excellent and yet assembly is such that both novice and expert builders will enjoy it and be able to get good results. No more is a B.II only something that those brave or skilled enough to do conversions were able to add to their display Review sample courtesy of
  2. Lancaster B.II - Etch & Canopy Masks for the Airfix Kit Eduard 1:72 With the release last year of the excellent B.II radial engine Lancaster from Airfix, Eduard have come up trumps with some improvement accessories to improve both the exterior and interior of the kit. Four sets are being reviewed here, exterior, interior, dedicated flap replacements and the budget Zoom set that focusses on the cockpit interior. Also included is the canopy mask set which for me at least is as integral to model building as glue and paint these days! Lancaster B.II Landing Flaps (Set 72578) Whilst the Airfix kit is already blessed with an open flap option, the limitations of injection moulding mean that there is some scope for improvement in terms of scale finesse. This comprehensive set from Eduard provides that solution. Obviously, to use this set, filing of the existing detail is necessary as well as levelling the surface to apply the etch to. Some plastic or brass rod of 0.8mm and 0.3mm diameter is also required in the instructions but not supplied. As the flaps are the same as the B.I/III, there is no reason why they can't be used on the other Airfix Lancaster variants too. More information can be seen in the online instructions provided by Eduard - HERE Lancaster B.II Exterior (Set 72566) The exterior gets a well thought out selection of improvements. The landing gear bays and doors get some intricate additions and both the main and tail wheel legs are treated to the etch touch including brake lines. The radial engines in the Airfix kit are a little lacking in detail in my opinion, so the attention of them is well deserved. They are routed from the rear of the cylinders. I've seen pictures of some framework in front of the Hercules engines on the Halifax that WEM have in their B.III etch set, however I'm not sure whether this was also present on the Lancaster B.II. Some other improvements include the upper fuselage escape hatches, trim tab control rods and oil cooler mesh faces. For more information, see HERE Lancaster B.II Interior (Set 73492) Again, Eduard have found some creative ways to add detail where it matters, this time inside the aircraft. The cockpit area gets a complete makeover, with a highly detailed pilots seat and wealth of controls and panels that are on show under that greenhouse! This attention to detail goes back into the navigators and wireless operators area too. Further areas of focus include the bomb aimers location with more panels and some enhancements to the front and rear turrets. The panels are provided on pre-painted self adhesive etch to aid assembly into the aircraft. Some kit detail will need to be removed from the surfaces before assembly of these parts. for more information, see HERE Lancaster B.II Interior Zoom (Set SS492) The zoom set is a budget alternative to the interior set above. It provides the pre-painted self adhesive etch fret shown above hence primarily focusses on the panels inside the cockpit and bomb aimer locations including throttle quadrants. For more information, see HERE Lancaster B.II Flexible Paint Masks (CX372) If you hate masking like I do, you will welcome this set, especially given the wealth of clear parts on the Lancaster. Two sheets of pre-cut parts are provided in the pack and include wheel masks too. As the transparencies on the B.II are common with the B.I/III, they can be used on any of the airfix kits. Conclusion There is no doubt that Airfix have released a great kit in its own right, however these sets do allow you to take it to another level by utilising the benefits that etch can provide over the injection moulded parts. Obviously, some of the parts and the preparation needed to fit them requires a higher skill level, but if you are a fan of the B.II, then they are certainly something to consider when you build one. Review sample courtesy of
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