by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundThe PZL P.11c holds a special place in Polish hearts as the fighter that first stood up to the might of the Luftwaffe in the autumn of 1939. When it was first introduced in the early 1930s, the P.11 was the most advanced fighter in the world, clearly superior to the biplanes that still equipped most air forces. But, by the end of the decade its design had hardly changed and a new generation of heavily armed low-wing monoplanes with enclosed cockpit and retractable undercarriages had arrived, making the P.11c obsolescent before it ever saw combat.
Nevertheless the Polish fighter squadrons inflicted heavy losses against German fighters and bombers before the overwhelming odds lead to their defeat. Today, just a single P.11c survives on display at the Polish Aviation Museum in Krakow.
The KitThis is very much a "first look" at Silver Wings' latest release, because I want to get it onto the workbench without delay. So, watch out for the Blog to follow for further detail.
Arriving in a very sturdy package that's carefully lined with expanded polystyrene for protection en route, the new P.11c is proof, as if ever needed, that looks can occasionally be deceptive; on opening the box, the first impression is that the kit isn't all that complex. There are three main sets of parts, each wrapped neatly neatly in bubble wrap for protection - the fuselage halves, the wings, and then the “smaller parts and accessories”. It’s only when you begin to unpack the separate zip-lock bags in this last group that you realise just how detailed Silver Wings’ latest beauty actually is!
The kit comprises:
149 x pale grey resin parts
1 x clear resin part
84 x etched brass parts, plus clear film
8 x turned brass parts
2 x DVDs of reference images
An A-4 poster of the box-art, along with a sticker of the PZL logo
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
The kit is excellenty cast with just a whisper of light "flash" here and there. The parts are mostly still attached to their casting blocks so, inevitably, there's a bit of cleaning up to do before you can start assembly. The make or break point with any kit of this aircraft is how well the corrugated surfaces have been handled, and Silver Wings have rendered them beautifully delicately.
The nature of the kit makes it hard to do much of a dry assembly without first cleaning up the casting points - something I'll leave for when I start building it for real - but the fuselage halves arrive ready taped together (which is always encouraging) and the wings sit squarely and firmly in a slot on the top. The wing panels are pretty heavy, though, so I'll add brass pins to help support the joint between them and take a bit of the load off the metal-cored struts.
A Few DetailsConstruction begins with the licence-built Bristol Mercury, which comprises around 38 parts by the time you've added the push-rods. The detail on the engine casing is excellent and it has a separate etched front. The cowling is split into two sections and is cast wafer-thin to be as near true to scale as possible. This makes it both delicate and prone to distortion - especially before the engine is in place. So, if need be, be prepared to dip it into hot water over a suitable former to make sure it’s truly circular.
The cockpit is highly detailed at around 75 parts. The main structure follows the original with an angled-section framework, the joints of which are reinforced with etched plates. Into this slot a multi-part seat, rudder bar and control column. Etched seatbelts are provided, and the instrument panel is a metal and film affair. Added to all this are the throttle, oxygen bottle, document case etc., creating a suitably busy "office".
Each of the fuselage guns and its ammo feed comprises 7 resin parts, with the option of replacing the barrel with a quite exquisite 2-part Master Model turned brass version. It’s a no-brainer really - the brass versions are pretty much unbeatable.
Turning to the exterior, the radiator is simply incredible, being built up from individual etched fins. It’ll be extremely fiddly to construct (certainly not something for anybody lacking patience), but the result should look amazing.
Moving on to the wings and tail, all the control surfaces are separate, with etched trim tab horns and aileron hinges. Once again in the wings, there are brass barrels for the additional machine guns carried by some aircraft, while the underwing 12.5kg bombs have etched fins to ensure they are scale thickness.
The wheels are nicely detailed and the undercarriage struts are cast with wire cores to take the weight of what will be quite a heavy kit for its size. I’ll be tempted to go one step further and build the undercarriage with functional wire bracing to give a little extra support.
Instructions & DecalsThe assembly guide shows a revised style over previous Silver Wings kits I've seen. Produced in colour as a 12-page booklet, the diagrams are much clearer and more professionally drawn, which will certainly make life easier. The resin parts still aren't numbered, though, so it’s a good idea as the first job to sift through them carefully, identifying them against the drawings and grouping them ready for use when the time comes.
Construction occupies 6 pages - not stages, as such, because each may include a number of sub-assemblies. The drawings are large enough to keep things clear, and modellers with some experience of mixed-media kits shouldn't have any problems.
There are no colour matches given in the instructions - but, this isn't an issue because Silver Wings have supplied 2 disks of reference images. One set contains vintage illustrations from the original manual, while the other is a very comprehensive walkaround of the preserved airframe at Krakow. Between them they would render any necessarily simplified colour notes in the instructions superfluous.
Decals are provided for the following 4 schemes:
PZL P.11c – Number 45-N, 111 Squadron, Warsaw, October 1938
PZL P.11c – Number 8.14, 112 Squadron, Warsaw, May 1936
PZL P.11c – Number 8.70, flown by Hieronim Dudwał, 113 Squadron, Warsaw, 1939
PZL P.11c – Number 8.66, flown by Stanisław Skalski, 142 Squadron, Toruń, June 1938
The decals are simply superb - printed in perfect register on my sheet, and thin and glossy with basically no extra carrier film on many items. With all those corrugated surfaces, the decals being so thin is going to be vital in getting them to snuggle down - and, while the proof will obviously be in the pudding, these really do promise to do so beautifully.
ConclusionThis is another great kit from Silver Wings and it’s easy to see why they've acquired such a well-deserved reputation for excellence. With such an iconic subject, it could prove to be their most successful release to date and I can recommend it unreservedly to experienced modellers.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.