by: Mecenas [ ]
SW-4 background If we trace the SW-4 history we'll see the first conceptual works had begun in late 1980'. The first prototype got airborne in 1996, second prototype in 1998 and three years later was presented at the Le Bourget trade fair. Serial production begun in 2003 with the governmental order for delivery of the helicopter for the Polish Air Force. Military version of SW-4 is called „Puszczyk”, what means „Tawny Owl” in English. Today, Polish Air Force have 24 SW-4's in service, all of which are being used by the 1st Flying Training Centre in Dęblin. Producer, PZL Świdnik, offers also a civilian version of the helicopter.
Model kit Aeroplast is an old Polish model company. Up till now its main airplanes model kits were 1:72 kits which were, to put it mildly, rather rough and two or three 1:35 scale vehicles (few boxings of VW Beetle, Russian tank T-60 and launcher BM-8-24 – all kits I know). Suddenly in the Polish modelers society popped up an information that the company is going to release soon the SW-4 kit in 1:48 scale. First pictures of the sprues which were published were very promising. And here it is, about three or four weeks ago first kits were delivered to the hobby shops. The kits are released in two boxings: military, which is the subject of this review, and civilian. So we get in the box?
Kit parts are cramped at the single sprue. To cut out all the tiniest details you will have to use razor saw or very precise scissors. Parts are moulded in light grey plastic. Surface of the parts is nice and smooth. Panel lines are thin, sharp and engraved, just as we like it the most. I'm really impressed by the quality of details, there's absolutely no reason to shame. To build just the cockpit and passenger seats you have to use about 30 parts while the main rotor mechanism consists of 16 details. I also like the landing skid details with the subtle attachment points and reinforcements. There are also few things which I don't like although I'm absolutely aware these details couldn't look different in the plastic injection technology. First one are the seat belts moulded together with the seats. You will have to make them look more sharp if you don't want to scratch build the belts from PE or a tape. From the other point of view the belts look as if they were fastened and tightened sticking close to the seat. With some extra work the belts can look ok if you build the kit with the closed door. Another area which disappoints me a bit are the "meshes" on the fuselage. The larger ones represents the cover for an air intake to the engine. On the real plane air intake is located inside the “tunnel” which suck in the air from port and starboard and is closed with the mesh. However the meshes structure molded on fuselage haves is nice and subtle. If we accept this is a technological simplification which can't be avoided and use some painting techniques (like a simple wash and dry brushing) this may give a good final effect on the kit build straight from the box. Advanced modelers which require something more will have to scratch build these details with some internal compartment.
First sub-assemblies and dry fittings I have done so far didn't reveal any area of potential problems, everything went well.
Update: The kit have the wrong type of the instruments panel. Plastic parts which we find in the box represent civilian version of the panel. I wasn't aware of it when writing the review. I noticed this after release of the aftermarket PE fret and then searched the references which only confirmed Part's correction.
Sprue with the clear parts contains the helicopter nose section, three types of crew and passenger doors and some lights. Although a bit thick, transparency of the plastic is really good so you can't do any shortcuts while building interior. For the passengers entrance we get two types of door which differs by the shape of window: bulged (which are not used in this kit) and flat seen in Polish machines. On the real plane you can notice a black gasket around each window. This gaskets are nicely recreated on the kit. It may be a bit difficult while painting but you can use one of two solutions. First one is a tiny brush which you probably use for painting cockpit details. Second one, for me easier and faster, is making yourself a custom painting masks with Tamiya tape (or similar): using a toothpick you just have to push it in the grooves and cut out with the scalpel, then a quick airbrushing and voila - gaskets painted.
Decal quality is not so good as the plastic parts. It represents the level of an early 1990's. Carrier film is very thick and surrounds the stencils very widely. I'm afraid it will be still visible on the model even when we use proper decals agents. Except serial numbers and PZL Świdnik emblem none of the stencils is readable. If any of the decal producers won't release a set for SW-4 I think I'll try to do my own painting masks for the national emblems and markings.
Very plain and easy to catch on. Assembly process is presented just on three A4 pages. On the first page you can find a simplified painting scheme and decal location scheme. Parts and sub assemblies of the kit are drawn in 3d. After few minutes of study with the sprue in one hand and instruction in second you should not have any problems during the build process. What I really miss in the instruction is no guide for the cockpit and generally interior colours – you have to find it in your references for the particular machine. In the internet you can find a plenty of SW-4 pictures - you will have to spend some time looking for your machine. There is also no suggestion of the popular hobby paints, only the numbers in FS or RAL standard are given.
Only one painting scheme and decal option is available in the kit. To be honest all the military SW-4's look the same with the only difference being an individual number. Machine 0201 was the first one delivered to the Training Centre in 2006. Its serial number is 660201. The yellow name „Puszczyk” can be seen on the pictures from the official take over of the machine. Some time later number 0201 was changed to 6601. The same refers to 0203 and 0204 which were re-numbered to 6603 and 6604. Keep it in mind when you will study your references that these may be the same machines but photographed in different time periods.
Summary “Puszczyk” is a great kit, surely worth its price. It is also the only model kit of this helicopter in 1:48 scale. I heard about some vac-formed one in 1:72 scale but never seen any. So, if I may advice you, go for it. You will get an easy-going kit without big harm to your wallet.