Aircraft In Progress

Trumpeter’s 1/48 L-39ZA: Albatro! Get Your Albatro!

I suppose we all have our guilty pleasures. Those things that really aren’t all that newsworthy, but we’d rather not advertise that we enjoy them. Stuff like buying a large bag of M & Ms and eating them all in one sitting. Or standing in front of your TV while an orchestra plays and act like you are the conductor. Or driving your riding lawnmower while imagining it’s a tank. (Just picking some examples at random, mind you. Complete, total random… o_O )

I suppose for me, building Trumpeter (and sister company Hobbyboss) kits is a guilty pleasure.

Yes, I know they’re rarely accurate. Sending them my dollars only perpetuates the process. I get it. The sheer number of errors to be found in their catalog could just about make up another catalog.

But… they’re pleasant to build. They fit together pretty darn well for the most part, especially the stuff released in the last few years. Overall detail is good – even if it’s just a bit of fiction at times.

And it’s not as if you can’t tell what they are. No one mistakes the finished model for a plate of ravioli or an aardvark.  (The animal kind, not the F-111 kind.) 

Of course, if accuracy is important to you, I get why you’d not like their kits. And while I do want the result of my efforts to look like the real thing, my number one criteria for me is having a fun time whiling away the hours. Life has enough things to dwell on that aren’t pleasant. If I can build a low drama kit and enjoy a brief respite from thoughts of blood sugar, cholesterol, debt, and taxes, so be it.

Bring. Them. On.

Looking over my list of built models, there’s not many brands I’ve built more of. As of this writing, I’ve notched up 284 builds in the last 12 years. Of those, 20 have been Hobbyboss, and 14 were Trumpeter. Only Airfix, with 38 kits on the list (mostly Spitfires, of course) tops the combined number of the Trumpy/HB kits.

And looking over the names of those kits, not a single one stands out as causing any heartburn. 

Meet the L-39ZA “Albatro”.

So when I saw that Trumpeter had released an L-39ZA Albatros in 1/48 scale, the decision was simple. Buy it.

Even if they got the spelling of the name incorrect on the box. 🙂

The L-39 is a Czech made twin seat jet trainer that has been around since the Cold War days. I’ve always thought it was one of the sleekest little jets ever made. It’s as if Lear decided to make a military jet.

Enough Babbling… How About The Kit?

An examination of the parts showed me exactly what I expected. Clean, sharp panel lines with very nice surface detail. The cockpit had decent relief and detail, though the instrument panels are simply recessed circles. The decal sheet does provide instrument faces, however. More on that though…

Parts breakdown is simple enough. Left and right fuselage halves, cockpit tub, single lower piece wing with two upper parts. Very standard engineering, with no crazy attempts to split the fuselage into multiple sections that seem to defy logic.

All of the little details, in general, looked to be in place. And the shape, to my Barney-builder eye, looked just fine. (I’m not a rivet counter, only a rivet estimator.)

My goal for this build was simply to relax and have fun. I’ve been stretching myself in new genres and techniques, and while I have enjoyed it, the process of growing is not always free of pain. So I thought keeping it simple would be in order for this one.

I started by assembling a few bits together. The seats are rather simple, and don’t come with any belts. While I had some spare photoetch belts that were generic enough to probably work, I like the extra bit of relief that something with a bit more substance provides. While the photoetch is more to scale, having a bit of thickness gives the eye something to “grab hold of”. This is why I prefer resin seats with belts cast in over add on photoetch parts.

I’d been meaning to try something new… to me at least. Grabbing a piece of thin sheet plastic – I have no idea what thickness – I cut a long strip that seemed about the width of what a belt would be. Cutting the piece to lengths that seemed appropriate, I did a bit of test fitting and trimming, and tacked them into place with Tamiya Extra Thin cement. I cut a few smaller pieces, and these were added to represent buckles.

Now- I didn’t spend more than about 15 minutes on the entire process. And I’ll admit, up close as the photos below show, they don’t look stellar. However… at a normal viewing distance, they look reasonable enough to convey the idea of “things that strap the pilot in to keep him from flying about”. I do think the experiment showed potential. Next time I’ll use thinner stock, and perhaps try to get a little more creative with the buckles. (And take photos from further away… 😉 )

I painted the interior parts with Ammo of Mig Light Gray Green, which is probably a shade or two lighter than the real thing, but… oh well. 🙂 To keep with the “simplicity” theme, I opted to go with the provided decals for the instrument panels and side consoles. While not as precise as the color etch sets from Eduard, they did the job, and fit over the raised detail very nicely. An application of Solvaset snuggled everything down.

The seats were painted in a dark gray color, with the headrest given an application of pure black, a little gray edge highlighting used to define it. The seat cushions received an olive green color, and the belts tan. 

After a gloss coat of Future, I hit everything with a quick application of Ammo of Mig Panel Line Wash Dark Brown.

All told, I probably spent an hour total time on the cockpit. You may of course be thinking “and it shows it“. You’re probably right. However – keep in mind my goal. Low drama. Just whistle while you work. My blood pressure is already too high to sweat precise details. Besides, I think it’s healthy to every now and again just build without much restraint or boundary. Never mind what the guy in the nachos line at the IPMS-US Nationals says!

With all the parts painted and lined, I hit it all with a spray of Vallejo’s Matt Varnish from the Mecha Color line. A dry fit of the parts showed no problems at all. The kit does come with photoetch pull handles for the ejection seats, but I’ve opted to leave those off until I add the seats in permanently towards the end of the build. 

I also assembled the wings, and a dry fit of the cockpit in the fuselage, with the wings added on, was stellar. With just a bit of glue, it appears that a simple seam sanding will be all that is needed.

I’m looking forward to the exterior painting of this one. 

If accuracy in every detail is high on your list of priorities, Trumpeter (and Hobbyboss) may not be your thing. But if the build experience is more of a factor for you, I can solidly recommend either range of kits. And if you don’t want to tell anyone you built it, no worries… I won’t say a thing! 😀

Now, it’s back to the Albatro! Err…. Albatros. Or, Albatross. Back to the L-39!

 

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