|Modellers Comments||Inside the box is an off-white polyurethane resin kit with vac-formed canopy and cabin glazing (two sets provided). There are approximately 100 resin parts, some of which are extremely small and fiddly. In one kit I have seen, all the small parts are joined together in a film of flash, in another they have been partly cleaned up and packaged in separate plastic bags. There are several spares of some of the parts, presumably in the hope that one at least will be acceptable. There are also parts in the box that are not used in this version.|
The instructions consist of a rather small exploded diagram and a numbered drawing of the constituent parts. No decals or paint-schemes are included, though suggested colours for some of the interior parts are given. Without reference drawings and photographs from other sources I would have found it impossible to complete the kit with any semblance of accuracy. Other Top Gun kits, including the Mi-14PS, come with better instructions, colour photographs, and detailed external paint schemes (but still no decals).
Although the initial appearance of many of the small parts is rather daunting, I found that many of them cleaned up quite easily to reveal a surprising level of detail. Others were defective or so fragile that I replaced them with scratch-built parts. This being the first resin kit I have attempted, I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the resin is rather easier to work with (cut, sand, carve, scribe, etc.) than some injection-moulded plastics, as well as being at least as strong and flexible.
Construction began as usual with the cabin interior, which consists of two bulkheads, floor, ceiling, and operator console. To these I added an operator's seat, which for some reason is not provided, and an additional internal bulkhead to separate the operator's station from the rest of the cabin. There is a good level of detail on the interior parts, which are easily visible if the cabin door is left in the open position. Next came the flight deck, with the usual seats, sticks, and instrument panels. There ought to be a third jump-seat between and slightly behind the pilot and co-pilot positions, but again this is not provided.
Before fitting the interiors into the fuselage I pondered long and hard about how the vac-formed cockpit glazing was going to work. The part supplied is a complete front end of the fuselage including boat-hull, which the instructions suggest should be chopped up to leave just the individual panes which are then to be fitted between the resin framing moulded as part of the fuselage. I spent a lot of time filing down the frames to an acceptable thickness, and then in the end I removed them all.
Test-fitting the interior assembly between the fuselage halves, I had to remove a lot of material from both the interior and the fuselage before the thing fitted properly. I omitted the cabin windows because I had initially decided that they would be made from Kristal Klear. The engine intakes and covers do fit very well above the fuselage, once they are cleaned up. The finished fuselage is very slightly asymmetrical when viewed directly from the front and the floor on mine isn't quite horizontal, but it's hardly noticeable.
The front glazing was eventually cut and fitted in one piece and the framing added from plastic strip. The cockpit bubble windows supplied were rejected because by the time they had been trimmed to size they were all bubble and no flat surround. New bubble windows were made by filling the originals with Milliput to make masters which were rubbed down to make them smaller and than impressed into warmed acetate sheet through an aperture cut in a sheet of aluminium. The original idea of making the cabin windows from Kristal Klear was put to one side when I found I had a punch of just the right diameter which was used to cut the slightly bulged windows from the kit's vac-form sheet. The punch in question is one of a nesting set originally used for making holes in corks for glass tubes, and has proved very handy over the years.
Next came the sponsons which house the main landing gear and the flotation bags. Again there is a lot of work involved in shaping the mating surfaces to give a good fit, and in thinning down the 'fins' to a scale thickness. The surfaces of the sponsons were marred by a whole constellation of shallow pits which were very difficult to fill satisfactorily. The undersides of the sponsons also needed a lot of adjustment at a later stage to properly accommodate the triangular wheel-bay doors which are attached to the undercarriage legs.
Turning to the rotors, I replaced both shafts with steel rod and removed almost all the detail from the main rotor head. This was because it was impossible to clean out the flash effectively, and also because some of the detail was missing due to bubbles in the moulding. Scratch-built parts made from insulated wire and scrap brass from an etched sheet replaced the parts I removed and all the linkages. The rotor blades themselves have to be attached to the rotor heads by drilling and pinning, an extremely delicate process in the case of the tail rotor. I should mention here that at several stages during the construction I was very tempted to resort to parts lifted from the KP Mi-8 kit, and although this would have made life much easier, I deliberately chose not to take this route out of sheer masochism.
Each of the forward undercarriage legs and their wheels are cast as single parts which I used without modification except that the forward actuator rod was replaced by a wire rod so that it could be fixed into a hole drilled in the wheel bay. The legs were also drilled and pinned up through the fuselage and (conveniently) up into the forward bulkhead. The main undercarriage legs were less satisfactory because of moulding deficiencies. I removed almost all the detail from the main vertical strut and replaced it with scratch-built parts, adding some hydraulic hoses from thin wire, and again taking the opportunity to add wire rod reinforcement and fixing extensions.
The kit's Magnetic Anomaly Detector 'bird' which is stowed on the outside of the rear fuselage was rejected because it was somewhat banana shaped and had beads of resin between the fins. A replacement was scratch-built, the cylindrical housing which goes round the outside of the fins at the tail being made by wrapping a few turns of 3M magic tape around a lightly greased rod. You can make very thin-walled tubes of any diameter this way. The framework which guides the retracted MAD into its stowed position was added from bent wire.
Also replaced were the struts which attach the rear float-bag container to the underside of the tail-boom. The kit ones didn't match the pictures I had, and in any case were more satisfactorily made from wire drilled into the boom and float.
Any deficiencies in the appearance of the insides of the exhausts and intakes were effectively masked by fitting them all with the usual (red) protection covers at the final detailing stage.
Initially I intended to do the basic Soviet delivery-scheme of blue-grey over bright blue with a dark blue cheat line at the waterline. I tried to get modern Bulgarian roundels to add a bit of variation, but none seem to be available. In the end I was persuaded to do it in the Polish scheme which adds a camo pattern in a different blue over the top of the upper surface blue-grey. The dark blue line was done by spraying the colour onto decal film and cutting it into strips. After completing the model I realised that the line on the sponsons should be slightly inclined relative to the line on the fuselage, but never mind.
The decals were all home-made apart from the Polish 'roundels' and the red text 'UWAGO SMIGLO' which is superimposed on the tail rotor warning arrow. These were lifted from the Hi-Decal Mi-8 sheet. The flying crocodile badge beneath the cockpit windows was made from a combination of a red ring from a Huey, a white disk, artwork drawn on the PC and photocopied onto decal film, and hand-painted detail. After the pictures were taken I also got hold of a photo of the cartoon Green Dragon badge which goes on the cabin door of Haze 1009, and a friend ran off a corresponding decal on his ALPS printer. Each Polish Mi-14 seems to have its own individual artwork - 1005 not only has Winnie-the-Pooh and his honey pot, but also a shark-mouth and eyes at the front.
Additional scratch-built detail included the cabin access ladder, the wire antennae (nylon thread and blobs of Kristal Klear coloured with black acryllic paint), the odd-rods antennae on cabin roof and beneath the tail boom, the pitots, anti-collision beacon, and last but not least - the winch. Most pictures of Hips and Hazes just show the winch support bracket, but I eventually tracked down a close-up of the whole thing in the Hip feature in WAPJ #10, p.123.
The main reference used was the Polish publication 'Skrzydla w Miniaturze' 3'91. A number of pictures were also downloaded from the net, particularly from the Polish Aviation website: http://aviation.pol.pl/photo/military/poland_navy.htm
Thanks are also due to Ken Duffey, Jonathon Mock and Pawel Okulski.
Well, it was hard work, but in the end the result is deeply satisfying, and now I'm not quite so afraid of resin kits !
Note: Since I built this kit, InTech have released a limited edition (800 copies) book entiltled "Polske Smiglowce Wojskowe". This includes colour photos, drawings, paint refs. and decals for 15 different Polish Military helicopters including two Mi-14PL's, 1007 and 1011. The first is shown in the original scheme of light blue-grey FS35526 over greyish-blue FS35187, separated by a dark blue strip FS35044. The second is a 1998 scheme with additional patches of blue-grey FS35177 and light grey-green FS35352 on the upper surfaces. Both have their own individual door-badges, the flying croc badge is also provided. There's also decals for the Mi-14PS 5137.