by: Brad Cancian [ ]
The AircraftThe only Albatros fighter to be powered by rotary engine (the 60hp Siemens-Halske Sh.III), the Albatros D.XI presented a departure from customary wire braced Albatros designs by using struts instead of cables to brace the wing cellule. Two prototype aircraft were ordered (2208/18 and 2209/18), and the first prototype, 2209/18, completed construction in March 1918 but engine supply problems meant the aircraft did not begin flight testing until May 1918. D.XI 2209/18 participated in the in the Second Fighter Competition (used to allow front line pilots to provide input into future fighter selections) in June 1918, and put up an unexceptional performance before crashing on landing due to its high undercarriage and short fuselage. This contributed to Idflieg (German Flying Inspectorate) eliminating the D.XI from production consideration, especially considering other aircraft entering production had priority for the Sh.III engine. Albatros continued development work, and the second prototype, 2208/18, which had larger ailerons, a four bladed prop and a shorter undercarriage to assist landing, participated in the Third Fighter Competition. Even with these modifications, the control response was too docile, although other flight characteristics were good. Again the D.XI was not selected for production, and the last of the prototype airframes was destroyed by the allies in early 1920.
The KitProduced by Karaya, this little kit to my mind is a real gem. Produced in resin and photoetch, all of the pieces are crisply moulded, with some flash present on some of the smaller pieces which should be easily cleaned up by a sharp knife.
First, the engine. The Siemens-Halske Sh.III is finely produced with separate cylinders, and include finely moulded cooling fins and spark plug wires. This should look very nice painted up. The cowling comes in three pieces – the front cowling encasing the engine, and the two curved panels that attach to the fuselage sides. These may be tricky to get off the moulding blocks. Going by the pictures in the “Albatros Experimentals” datafile (my primary reference for this review), these three pieces were all one piece on the real thing, so make sure there is no join seam. The cooling cut outs in the front of the cowling are also there, meaning no tricky cutting, sanding and filing.
The cockpit is reasonably well detailed, and looks to be based on the “standard” Albatros fighter layout – included is a floor, seat, seat mount, fuel tank pressure pump, rudder bar, control column, and instrument panel. I am not sure how accurate the cockpit is as I do not know of any photos of the cockpit – however the instrument panel looks a little spurious to me and given that most Albatros fighters did not have an “instrument panel” to speak of, I would suggest that the panel should not be there. Ammunition container details are not provided, and the cockpit ends in a flat firewall at the front end. Some additional detail may be added here to spruce this area up. No detail aft of the pilot’s seat is provided, so the builder may want to add some framing details also. Photoetched seat belts are also provided.
The Spandau machine guns are real gems. Karaya very thoughtfully supply pre-rolled Spandau jackets (oh how I wish more manufacturers would do this!), which are dead round and look great. The resin chamber is supplemented by a number of very fine etched pieces and handles. The muzzles are also provided in resin, pre-hollowed (again fantastic forethought), and also look great. The guns too should look extremely convincing when done.
The fabric surfaces are some of the best I have seen in any scale or medium, plastic or otherwise, and Karaya is to be very highly commended. Ribs are finely represented and subtle, and the trailing edges are thin. Care will need to be taken however to separate these parts from their hefty casting stubs. The fuselage is also nicely cast, and the panel details are fine and crisp.
The rest of the details are finely cast in resin, and again there are some great little pieces in here, such as hollowed out carburettor induction pipes, a very fine tail skid, prop, spinner and struts. The cabane trestle is finely cast, but will be fragile, so care will need to be taken when removing from the casting blocks and cleaning up. The rest of the struts, including interplane and undercarriage struts, are re-enforced with wire, so there is no chance of the struts sagging or snapping. This is very thoughtful, and shows that Karaya have put a lot of thought into this model to make it as “build-able” as possible – well done Karaya!
Quickly laying the major parts over the datafile drawings, the fuselage looks spot on in length, with the cockpit perhaps ever so slightly too far aft, although this will be hardly noticeable on the finished model. Elevator, rudder and lower wings all scale very well to the datafile. The only shape problem is the upper wing. According to the drawings, it is 2-3mm too short in chord, the ailerons are about 3mm too far inboard, and the shape of the wing tips are too shallow in their curve. This may be due to a slightly different set of plans being used for the masters for this model, however if the datafile is correct, these deficiencies will be difficult to correct. That said, it still looks like an Albatros D.XI wing, and given how nicely moulded this part is, I will likely leave the top wing as is when I build this kit.
Decals are by Techmod and look very thin. Decals are included for both of the prototypes, however only parts for the first prototype 2209/18 are included. I am assuming that Karaya will look to issue the second prototype in a later release. If not, the second prototype could easily be produced by scratching new ailerons, using a four bladed prop, shortening the undercarriage and changing some of the cowling details. A painting guide is also provided, calling out a clear varnished fuselage, silver / grey panels, and lozenge printed fabric wing camouflage (despite the box art showing clear doped linen wings). No lozenge decals are included, so you will have to get this from the decal stash. No rib tape colour call outs are provided, and photos show no marked colour contrasts for the rib tapes, so I would look to use either lozenge coloured tapes, or perhaps the salmon pink rib tapes often used by Albatros.
ConclusionsKaraya have produced a really excellent and first rate kit here. It is finely detailed, and well cast. Small details are admirably captured, and the kit is designed with the modeller in mind. The only detractor is the dimensionally inaccurate top wing, and some of the parts will be difficult to remove from their casting blocks. That said, overall a very impressive kit, and Karaya should be highly commended for tackling this subject. I would definitely recommend this kit for those who have worked with resin biplane kits in the past.
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