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woody37

Avro Lancaster B.II - 1:72 Airfix

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Avro Lancaster B.II

1:72 Airfix

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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Review sample courtesy of

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How can this kit not come with Bombs?! Airfix kits are spose to come bombed up to the nines!

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Nice review :)

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Great review Woody, I agree with your view that the engine supports are wrong and if nothing else they look a tad overscale anyway. That said these are minor quibbles,,,which mark to build????

John

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I'm really considering getting one as 1/72nd to me is more appealing lately! Great review of a nice kit Neil! :)

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Good review although the kit comes with an alternate glazing and relevant plastic guns/mounts for the .50 cal FN82 tail turret, as opposed to the Rose turret.

Looks a tasty kit and I should be getting one in due course.

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Thank you for the review! I know nothing about Lancs (built one in 197x) so I apologize in advance for some silly novice questions. First, I suppose that large tear shaped clear part represents a H2S- housing? Second, I assume the ventral turret and the target radar were mutually excluding? Regards, V-P

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Thank you for the review! I know nothing about Lancs (built one in 197x) so I apologize in advance for some silly novice questions. First, I suppose that large tear shaped clear part represents a H2S- housing? Second, I assume the ventral turret and the target radar were mutually excluding? Regards, V-P

That is indeed the H2S housing, V-P. If I recall correctly (always a hit-or-miss affair with my ageing brain cells), the H2S radar used the hole that had been intended for the ventral turret so the two were very much exclusive of each other. Excellent review, Woody, as if I needed any prompting to pick this one up!

Regards,

Jason

Edited by Learstang

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100 or so, of the 301-airframe production total, were built at Sywell until production was transferred to Bitteswell, north of Rugby.

How can this kit not come with Bombs?! Airfix kits are spose to come bombed up to the nines!

Its the Master Plan to get you to buy the Bomber Re-supply Set :bobby:

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Nice review and kit. About time someone brought out a kit of a B.II Lanc.

Being as how it comes with an RCAF 408 Sqn. decal option, it would be a near travesty if it didn't, I'll likely be buying at least one.

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Good review although the kit comes with an alternate glazing and relevant plastic guns/mounts for the .50 cal FN82 tail turret, as opposed to the Rose turret.

Looks a tasty kit and I should be getting one in due course.

Thanks mate, sorry I'm mistaken, I'll update the review tonight :)

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Bought one last week. Love it. When I'll build it remains to be seen. This review has helped somewhat. At least the wheels are the right shape and size and much better than he Revell offering. Also the main legs look more substantial and look sturdier to support the model as opposed to the Revell one which collapsed and I had to replace it with those form a spare Lanc by Airfix from the late 70's issue.

Chosen scheme, well its got to be the RCAF one for me. But mght go for one from the Xtradecal set.

And: NOT bothered about the lack of bombs!

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Already got 2. Personally, I'm very disappointed by the decision not to include a full bomb load . I'm also disappointed to note Airfix apparently going down the Hasegawa road in suggesting you buy another kit ( in this case the Bomber Resupply Set) in order to bomb up your Lancaster. This may be a good marketing ploy but, it's not much use to those (like me ) who may not be interested in buying the Bomber resupply Set.. I'd rather put the money to better use by contributing towards another Lancaster kit!. Would it really have cost much to include a full bomb load? If providing a selection of load out options in the kit would have added a few £s to the price, I'd rather have that than fork out another £16.99 for a Bomber Resupply Set or in this case, I'd need to buy 2!!.

That apart, I'm still delighted to see this version of the Lanc appear in kit form at last! My gripe notwithstanding, this is a beautiful kit and , at the price is excellent value.I look forward to getting my modelling teeth into them!.

Allan

Edited by Albeback52

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Excellent review Neil, now I'm looking forward to you building it!

Cheers.

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Thanks for the review.

Really don't know about what markings I'll choose???

Bomber command, or bomber command?

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You can always use the wings and tails for a York C2!!!

And the fuselage can be cut into its three transport sections and loaded on to Airfix Queen Mary trailors!!

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Is it me, or there's something wing with the engines cylinders?

Or do they have a special shape in reality?

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Is it me, or there's something wing with the engines cylinders?

Or do they have a special shape in reality?

Define "special".

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Thanks for the review.

Really don't know about what markings I'll choose???

Bomber command, or bomber command?

There was the test aircraft LL735with a jet engine in the tail if you fancy doing something different ?

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Define "special".

Sorry, difficult for me to explain this in english.

Usualy, air-cooled engines got cylinders with a shape designed to improve air-cooling.

And it looks like it´s missing there, I'm not really sure.

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Sorry, difficult for me to explain this in english.

Usualy, air-cooled engines got cylinders with a shape designed to improve air-cooling.

And it looks like it´s missing there, I'm not really sure.

There's a photograph here:

http://www.freewebs.com/northbrookmerlin/rollsroycetrip.htm

It's hidden amongst others, you'll have to scroll to find it.

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