by: Jean-Luc Formery [ ]
HistoryThe Fairey Albacore was the last biplane designed for service with the Royal Navy and was supposed to replace the Swordfish from the same manufacturer. However, despite much "modern" features such as an enclosed and heated cabin, a windscreen wiper and an automatic emergency dinghy ejection system, the plane failed to come up to expectations. Even worse, it was retired from service in late 1944 and was replaced by the Barracuda while the swordfish remained in service until 1945!
About 800 Albacores were produced between 1939 and 1943 and the aircraft operated both from aircraft carriers and land bases. It fought over the Atlantic Ocean and over the Mediterranean Sea.
The KitThe content is packed in a medium sized top opening cardboard box with a nice representation of an Albacore from the 817th Royal Navy squadron (picture 1). The bottom of the box is quite strong and the kit parts are well protected. In the past, Special Hobby boxes have not always been like that, so this is really a good point. Like many Short Run kits, the Albacore is a "multimedia" affair (picture 2): there are five injected styrene sprues (one in clear plastic), a bag with small resin parts, a photo etched fret, a small acetate film, a decal sheet and of course the instructions.
The quality of the plastic is typical of today's MPM production standard. The surface of the parts is smooth with delicate but crisply engraved panel lines, subtle surface rendering and only a very small amount of flash and sink marks. If you didn't built a Czech Short Run kit since a few years, you are likely to be astonished by their overall quality when compared to older ones. The difference is important and this model is another step in the right direction!
Sprue A (picture 3) is composed of the fuselage halves, the engines cowlings, the landing gear legs covers and some interior detail parts. Picture 4 shows you the delicate engraved panel lines on the outside and the subtle relief structure of the cockpit walls. I found no ejector pin marks in wrong places, so only minimal cleaning will be necessary here.
Sprue B (picture 5) holds the three pieces upper wing (the dihedral is already present), the horizontal tailplanes and the wheels. The latter are very nice and have details such as nuts and inflating valves. In the same picture 6 you can see the representation of the wing's structure. Fortunately it is far less pronounced than the hills and valleys some Asian manufacturers replicate on some of their model kits.
In Sprue C (picture 7) you will find the lower wings (four pieces), the interplane struts, various engine intakes, cockpit parts etc... Here also the quality is very good despite small sink marks I found on some struts (picture 8). But these will be easy to fill and won't represent a big challenge, even for beginners.
The last sprue (D) is the one with the most parts (picture 9): propeller, seats (pilot, observer and gunner), emergency dinghy box(?), inner struts, torpedo mount etc... It is on this sprue that I found the biggest amount of flash but the parts are nevertheless crisply done and will only require minimal clean up (picture 10). Unfortunately there is a small sink mark on the tailwheel... but you really have to take a closer look to see it, so only contest builders will find it annoying I guess.
Some elements of the model are made of resin (picture 11). It's the case of the radial engine, some cockpit parts, the defensive armament and the bomb racks. The quality of the resin is very good, as usual with Special Hobby. Unfortunately, no bombs or torpedos are provided. Thats' a shame given the nature and the role of this specific aircraft! Sadly this is common in Short Run kits.
The transparent parts are excellent (picture 12). Ten years back, such a kit would have had a vacuform canopy and five years back, an injected one as thick as "Panzerglass". But today the parts are clear like water, distortion free and free of scratches. The canopy is molded in two pieces and this will allow you to represent the defensive Vickers machine gun deployed if you want. "A propos" machine gun: only one is provided in the kit but many sources say the Albacore was fitted with two in the rear cockpit... so check your references.
A photo etched fret is also provided in the kit (picture 13). It is composed of parts for the cockpit (instrument panel and seatbelts for example) but also for the radar antennas carried by the plane of the box illustration. Those antennas appear a little flat and some modelers will probably scratchbuild new ones. A small acetate film will allow you to do a nice instrument panel using the "sandwich" method (plastic part - acetate film - PE part).
The decals (picture 14) will give you the choice between three markings:
1 - Fairey Albacore Mk.1, X9053/5C, 817th Squadron, 1943-1944.
2 - Fairey Albacore Mk.1, X8942/5B, 828th Squadron, Hal Far, Malta, end of 1942.
3 - Fairey Albacore Mk.1, L7114, "MOANA II", pilot Lt. Cdr. Tuke. 1940
All the planes have the same Dark Sea Grey / Dark Slate Grey upper camouflage but different colors on the underside: Sky for option 1, Black for the Malta plane and Black /Sky for the last one. If you choose the first option (the plane of the boxart), don't follow the color instructions!!! Special Hobby have printed a correction sheet because the made a mistake in the original painting guide (picture 15).
The instruction are printed on A4 sheets folded so to make a 12 pages booklet. Inside you have a brief history of the plane, a part layout, a 29 step assembly guide (not complicated, except for the cockpit area) and the painting and decalling guide. Unfortunately there is no additional drawing for the rigging, so you will have to rely on the cover artwork.
ConclusionThis is another fine kit by a Czech Short run manufacturer. Wouldn't it be a biplane with some rigging to do, I would have recommended it to all modelers, even beginners. But since the Albacore is some kind of anachronism, with it's two wings, interplane struts, fixed landing gear and cables, the kit is more aimed at intermediate or experienced modellers. However, it is composed of a relatively small numbers of parts and it should not represent a major challenge for most builders.
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