by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundThe An-2 is used as a light utility transport, parachute drop aircraft, agricultural work and many other tasks suited to this large slow-flying biplane. Its slow flight and good field performance make it suited for short, unimproved fields, and some specialized variants have also been built for cold weather and other extreme environments. The Guinness Book of World Records states that the 45-year production run for the An-2 was the longest ever, for any aircraft, only recently beaten by the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.
The Antonov An-2 was designed to meet a 1947 Soviet requirement for a replacement for the Polikarpov Po-2 which was used in large numbers as both an agricultural aircraft and a utility aircraft. Antonov designed a large single bay biplane of all-metal construction, with an enclosed cockpit and a cabin with room for seats accommodating twelve passengers.
By 1960 the USSR had produced over 5,000 units. Since 1960, most An-2s have been built at Poland's WSK factory in Mielec, with over 13,000 made there before full production ended in 1991. Limited production from parts stocks, as well as spares and maintenance coverage continued until 2001, when 4 aircraft were produced for Vietnam. China also builds the An-2 under license as the Shijiazhuang Y-5.
In kit formValom's An-2 arrives in large and solid convertional box, with the sprues and accessories bagged separately. The clear parts are in the same bag as the main sprues, but seemed none the worse for wear in the sample kit, which comprises:
120 x grey styrene parts
9 x clear styrene parts
8 x resin parts
11 x brass parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The parts are very cleanly moulded - another testament to the enormous strides that have been made in limited-run kit production over recent years. There's very little flash, and I didn't come across any sink marks in the sample kit.
What immediately stands out is the surface finish. Along with crisply engraved panel lines, the fuselage features beautifully subtle and intricate embossed rivet patterns. Fabric surfaces look nicely handled too, and the overall effect should look excellent, imparting the solid workhorse appearance of the aircraft without going too far.
Test FitOnce you've got over the sheer size of this beast (see how the fuselage totally dwarfs a same-scale Ki-61 in the picture at the right) it's time to do some basic test fitting. The fuselage halves match up very nicely and are moulded good and straight. The lower wings and tail are butt-joints and are an excellent fit on their respective root stubs, so I don't foresee any problems there.
The upper wings are bit more complicated; the shape of the wingtips on the upper and lower halves don't quite match, but that'll be a simple fix with filler. The way the upper wings attach to the fuselage is unusual and rather ingenious; instead of having butt-joints again, they feature a wedge-shaped "root section" that sits on a similarly angled "shelf" that forms the roof of the cabin. It's hard to explain, but makes sense when you have the parts in front of you. Remember, this is a short-run kit, so be prepared for a little adjustment to perfect the sit, but with this done the assembly should be rock-solid with the correct dihedral built-in. The wings feature separate slats, flaps and ailerons, while the tail control surfaces are fixed.
The CanopyThe transparencies are injection moulded and nice and clear, although the usual dip in Klear/Future won't do any harm. The canopy features neatly defined framing and is designed to interlock with the front of the wing. This is quite a critical part of the assembly as it's so prominent on the model, and the instructions indicate that a small amount of trimming is needed to the underside of the wing to fit the canopy snugly.
I was corresponding with Václav Lomitzki who owns Valom and he mentioned that he was unhappy with the canopy. At first I thought he just meant the fit, which actually shouldn't be too hard to get right for experienced modellers, but Václav explained that he had discovered that the angle of the windscreen is wrong, and that he will be producing a replacement. In the light of his words, I can see what he means - the real aircraft's windscreen is quite upright (rather reminiscent of a Ju 52), whereas the kit's part is raked back, looking more refined and streamlined.
Changing the moulds can't be cheap, and Václav's desire for accuracy is commendable. But what is even more praiseworthy is his commitment to his customers; anyone who has purchased the kit in its original form should contact Valom and they will receive the updated canopy free of charge when it is ready. Of course it's a shame the mistake crept in, but where many companies would try to brush it under the carpet, Václav's openness in highlighting the problem before it has even been picked up on in review, coupled with his up-front offer to his customers is very admirable.
A few detailsThe interior is divided into two distinct sections - the cockpit and the passenger cabin, with a bulkhead separating them. The cockpit is straightforward and neatly fitted out with two styles of seats with etched lap-belts, and neatly moulded sidewalls, instruments and controls. The centre console is cast in resin and very nicely detailed and the overall "office" should look quite effective. Stepping back to the other side of the bulkhead, the passenger compartment is quite bare by comparison. The floor is nicely textured, but there are no sidewall details and the only other fixtures are simple seats running along each side. To be honest though, this hardly matters, because so little will be visible in the finished model. It's a shame that a separate fuselage door wasn't included so that anyone determined to superdetail the interior can show it off - as it is, cutting out the door will almost certainly ruin all that lovely riveting on the exterior.
The propeller is built up from a separate hub and blades, and it's clear that more versions are planned because no less than 3 styles of blades are included. The engine is moulded as a single piece - a little simple, but it should look fine with careful painting and the addition of ignition wiring.
The undercarriage is nicely done and features beautifully detailed main-wheels. Attaching the landing gear requires 2.5mm holes to be drilled into the wing roots, and this should provide a very solid assembly - it'll need to be, because I think the finished model could well be quite heavy on its wheels.
Instructions and decalsThe assembly guide comes in the form of a nicely illustrated 8-page booklet. The diagrams are clearly drawn and the overall sequence is logical and easy to follow. Info-views such as the wing/windscreen joint are dotted throughout the assembly, while a useful rigging diagram completes the 23-stage construction.
A comprehensive colour chart is included with matches for Humbrol. Agama, ModelMaster and Gunze Sangyo along with FS equivalents, so you should have no trouble finding suitable paints wherever you're based.
Two colour schemes are included, and these are illustrated with full-colour profiles:
An-2TD, OK-RIE, Prostêjov, Czech Republic, September 2007
An-2TD, D-FWJK, Gera-Leumnitz airport, Germany, 2009
The decals look excellent quality and are very nicely printed - thin, glossy and in perfect register.
For the purposes of this review, Valom also provided the decals for their military version of the An-2 (Kit #48001), again offering two striking schemes; one in standard Soviet markings, the other sporting the most outlandish "sharksmouth" (is it actually a pike?) scheme I've ever seen.
ConclusionValom's An-2 looks set to build into a spectacular model that will dominate any display through it's sheer size and rarity (in model terms). It's not an overly complex kit, but I think it's most suitable for modellers with a degree of experience in working with limited run models, and I think they should relish the challenge it offers. We've got a civil campaign coming up soon on Aeroscale and I reckon I've just found the kit I'll enter! Recommended.
Update - October 2010As promised, Valom have released the restyled clear parts. The canopy now not only captures the shape of the full-sized version better, but also features more delicately depicted frames, complete with subtle rivets to match the rest of the airframe. The fit is also better too, although a little work blending everything neatly looks like it will still be required.
The new clear parts will be included in all future production of Valom's AN-2 kits, and as noted above are a free upgrade for customers who've purchased the original style.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.