1/72 KP Aero L-39C Albatross

by Chris St.Clair

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The Aero L-39 Albatross is a Czech trainer/light attack aircraft now used worldwide. In 2003 the U.S. Air Force's Air Force Flight Test Centre at Edwards AFB obtained one on a six month lease to gauge it's suitability to replace the retired T-39 Sabreliner. The intention was to use the L-39 for low-speed chase missions for the CV-22 and RQ-4 programmes, as well as acting as a qualification aircraft for test pilot students. In the long term, Edwards is also considering using the L-39 for electronic warfare testing missions, a role once carried out by the five-seat T-39, which is now in the Davis-Monthan "boneyard". The L-39 was supplied by Teton Warbird Training of Driggs, Idaho.

I wanted to build a model of this aircraft when I first saw it in a copy of International Air Review magazine. The two kits available were by Eduard and KP. Since the Eduard kit was nearly 3 times the price of the KP kit, I went for the KP version and also used a Pavla resin interior set. The KP kit itself proved not to be the easiest model to build. The fit was not too good, especially the wing-to-fuselage joins on both top and bottom of the fuselage. I had to modify the interior of the fuselage to get the Pavla set to fit, and added a small amount of additional interior detail, mainly behind the seats which were also provided in the Pavla kit. I had major problems with these seats, as they appeared to have been cast mismoulded, and both headrests snapped off during assembly!

Having got the fuselage and wings together, the canopy provided a major source of irritation - it did not fit at all well and was pinched in. Trying to spread this out whilst gluing it to the fuselage resulted in stress cracks along the canopy which I've had to live with, as I was not aware of any aftermarket replacement. It wasn't a brilliant fit but looks reasonably OK.

Turning to the colour scheme, I had originally decided to make the decals myself using my Alps MD-1000 printer. However, I was lucky in that Vince Maddox came to the rescue and provided a complete set of markings for L-39C 00-439 which saved me the trouble of doing it myself!

I started with a number of coats of gray automotive primer and followed up with white primer. I then used Halfords Appliance White from a spraycan to paint the bulk of the aircraft. I hand-painted the red panel on the nose and wing-tip tanks and then sprayed the black anti-glare panel using black automotive primer. Before you ask, I've had a lot of problems with dust and prefer to use spray-cans wherever possible. Whilst not the most elegant of solutions, it does work!

A couple of coats of Future floor wax served as a base for the Vince Maddox decals. I had to source the footstep markings from black decal striping and I also replaced the VM stars'n'bars with those from a Bare-Metal sheet. I then finished up with a couple more coats of Future to seat the decals.

Final details were the undercarriage from the kit - the L-39 is unusual in that the gear doors are closed unless the gear is extending or retracting. I used black and white plastic card for the various aerials and pins for the pitot probes on each wing. Bare-metal foil polished with graphite was used to represent the metal jet-pipe area.

All-in-all, I was quite pleased with the result. HOWEVER - I should have started with the Eduard kit NOT the KP one!

Apologies are due for the quality of the photographs.  I've just bought a new digital SLR (Canon EOS300D) and am just starting to learn how to use it ... plus I don't have a good place to take photos either!

Chris

Photos and text by Chris St Clair