Aircraft Completed Builds

Trumpeter’s 1/48 L-39ZA: It’s Accurate To Say I Had Fun

I suppose if someone were to accuse me of gravitating towards simpler, low drama builds, I’d have to declare “guilty as charged”. While I’ve built difficult kits – some very difficult – the older I get, the more apt I am to avoid models that I know going in will be a chore. Even if the subject is something I really want to build. 

I’ve come to the realization that a pleasant journey is worth more to me in modeling than a dramatic destination.

Can you blame me though? Things like mortgage payments, tax notices, blood sugar checks, paying for a new set of tires on the car, and dealing with a plumbing leak give life enough drama as it is. The hobby is supposed to take my mind away from all of that. (Or perhaps I’m missing the point? 😉 )

So when it comes to seeking out plastic serenity in a box, yes – call me a Barney Builder!

And Trumpeter’s 1/48 L-39ZA is exactly what the doctor ordered. (Well, along with a low cholesterol diet, exercise, portion control, reducing carb and sugar intake, and… oh, you get the point.)

The kit falls into what I like to call the “perfect profile”. All the parts that are needed to make the basic model are there, but none of the over-engineered, fiddly assembly, impress me with your casting and molding skill nonsense is present. Two fuselage halves, a lower wing part, two upper wing parts, landing gear, tailplanes, and the interior. That’s most of the kit. It’s like it was designed to make sure your blood pressure was not elevated.

The cockpit consists of some simple yet nicely detailed consoles and instruments panels. While the detail is raised, inviting effective drybrushing and painting, I decided to go with the kit supplied decals for the interior. The seats are a bit basic, but the addition of some simple plastic card seat belts helped convey the look of small seats with plasticard seatbelts. 😉

Assembly of the airframe was very straightforward, with only minimal sanding and a touch of Mr. Surfacer 500 here and there to hide the seam lines. Say what you will about Trumpeter’s accuracy, their engineering is very good.

(For a more thorough view of the interior and airframe assembly, take a look at the previous blog entries for this model.)

The kit comes with markings for two schemes, both Czech Air Force. I decided on an option that featured a cool Batman-like piece of nose art. 

The undersides were given a coat of Tamiya XF-80 Royal Light Gray, and then once fully dry, Tamiya masking tape was used to cover up the paint work. 

The uppers consisted in part of a somewhat hard to identify greenish yet sort of brown color. The kit instructions called for US Interior Green for the lighter color. I’ve learned through building Trumpeter kits though that I can never trust their call outs. Some are close, and yet others on past builds have been comically way off.

I started looking at photos of the L-39 from the Googles. No two seemed to be exactly alike – one might be more brownish in tone, another more green. Still, the more I looked at photos, and made some amateurish attempts in Photoshop to “correct” colors, I kept coming back to the notion that perhaps US Interior Green wasn’t far off. The other color in the two-tone camo scheme – Olive Green – was easily identified, as I had a bottle of Tamiya XF-58 Olive Green that seemed to be perfect. And from experience, I knew  that once the two colors were combined, the lighter of the two would have a slight “shift” from how the eye perceives color.

So I banked on the shift being in the right direction.

I finally settled on Vallejo Model Air interior Green (71.010), and gave the full upper a coat of the color. Allowing for a good drying time, I then masked off that color, a topic I covered in some verbose detail in this blog entry. I then airbrushed the Tamiya Olive Green on to the model.

When I unmasked the airframe, I was quite happy with the results. The lighter green areas seemed to have just the slightest hint of warm, browny tone to it. And while comparing it to a photo was not an exact match in every case, I felt it was close enough to pronounce it “good enough to move on!”

A few areas of black color were masked off and sprayed, using Tamiya’s XF-69 NATO Black, and the air intake edges were painted with Citadel’s Leadbelcher. The entire model was then given a gloss coat using Future, in preparation for the decals.

Trumpeter’s decals are much like their models – a few very good things, but enough groan worthy moments to take the shine off. The usual issues I see are colors that are far to vibrant and primary, or warnings and stencils that are, at best, comical. (My favorite was the warning for the FJ-4 air intake, which read “Warning – Jet In Take”. 😀 )

On this sheet, things looked pretty good, however, The Czech roundels looked to have decent color, and aside from a few stencils being more tiny blobs than actual letters, everything seemed in order.

To make sure I placed the roundels correctly, I wanted to cut them from the sheet and match them up. On Czech aircraft, the blue portion always points forward, and the white section either points to the outer edge in the case of the wings, or the upper edge in the case of the vertical stabilizer. So each surface had a “mirror” roundel that I needed to pair off.

This is where I discovered the “Trumpeter” effect once again.

Their decal placement instructions clearly showed the correct mirrored layout. And the numbering of the decals on the marking sheet was correct, showing left and right distinctions. However… someone forgot to mention this to the fellow in the decal designing  and printing department, because all six roundels were identical. Meaning that three were correct, and three were not.

Fortunately, I had a nice set of Czech roundels in another kit, and I knew that I would not be using them on that particular model, so I grabbed those.

With that sorted out, I went on and applied all the decals. The rest of the Trumpeter markings did behave nicely, with Solvaset working quite well to pull them down tight.

With decals on, I gave another gloss coat to seal them in. An application of Ammo of Mig’s Deep Brown Panel Line Wash helped bring out the nicely recessed surface detail. As I did not want this jet to look overly worn out, I kept weathering to a minimum. Some faint streaks were added here and there, based on both photographs of L-39s and operational jets in general. Ammo of Mig Starship Filth Oilbrusher was applied for these smaller stains. The upper surfaces were given a slight bit of post-fading using Tamiya XF-4 Yellow Green, very heavily thinned with alcohol. A few areas were post-shaded with a 2-1 mix of Tamiya’s NATO Black and XF-9 Hull Red, again heavily thinned with alcohol, with just a small dose of smoke effect applied to the stations where the rocket pods were to be placed. Not being able to fully restrain myself, I did add a touch of silver Prismacolor pencil chipping here and there, mostly from habit.

With all of that on, a final coat of Vallejo Mecha Color Matte varnish was applied. The landing gear, underwing stores, and canopies were glued in place, and the ejection seats were slipped into the cockpit.

I set it aside for a bit, as per my usual habit, and then came back to look it over about a half an hour later. For some reason I don’t like to do a “final assessment” straight away after completion. I think that gives me time to look at the model as a whole, rather than evaluating the last thing I did.

I must say I was quite happy with the result. I’d never declare it ” award winning” or “museum quality” – not that I ever do, mind you – but I can say with certainty this was a fun model. Aside from half the roundels being wrong, it really has no vices. It builds up into a nice representation of what I think is arguably one of the sleekest trainer jets ever produced.

This is a kit I can heartily recommend to any modeler. Even if its name is misspelled on the box top. 😀

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