by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundHad it not been for WW2, it's conceivable that we might these days be crossing the continents in Curtiss designed and built airliners, but instead the company's main effort to take on the "big three" US manufacturers who were already starting to corner the commercial market (Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed) was destined never to succeed in its intended role. Instead, the advanced Curtiss CW-20 high altitude airliner was stripped of many of its features such as the pressurised cabin to become one of the supreme transport aircraft of the era - and among the longest serving in history - the C-46 Commando.
While the Commando never matched the fame achieved by the rival Douglas DC-3/C-47, it could carry almost twice the payload double the range, and saw extensive service in WW2 - most notably in the CBI Theatre, ferrying supplies and personnel over the Himalayas - the notorious "Hump". In Europe it fared less well, suffering dreadful losses dropping paratroops during the crossing of the Rhine. Flying low and slow (a role for which it was never originally intended), and lacking self-sealing fuel tanks, the Commando was the perfect target for the highly efficient German flak gunners.
After the war the C-46 served on through the Korean war, and remained in limited US service until the late 1960s. The aircraft was also widely used by air forces and civilian operators around the world, with a few still operating to this day.
The rebuilt Japanese air force, the JASDF, used the C-46D Commando from 1955 until the mid 1960s as its main transport aircraft, this version being the primary subject of Platz's latest 1:144 kit.
The kitPlatz's Commando arrives in a roomy and attractive conventional box with a shot of the built-up model on the lid and a full colour painting guide on the bottom. The kit comprises:
53 x grey styrene parts
2 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 4* x colour schemes (* see below)
The moulding is excellent, with no signs of flash or sink marks, and very crisp surface detailing. The neatly engraved panel lines are arguably a bit heavy for this scale, but they should look good under a coat of paint. The fuselage is moulded with solid windows except for the cockpit glazing.
A test fit is very encouraging, with the fuselage clipping together neatly, and the wings and tail featuring very substantial locating tabs to keep every true. The fit at the roots is very good, and the trailing edges are nice and thin.
A few detailsConstruction begins with a neatly moulded one-piece flight deck, onto which attach a pair of control wheels. The effect is simple but effective - quite adequate for most modellers, as not a great deal will be visible once the fuselage is closed up and the cockpit glazing in place.
The engines are nicely detailed for this scale and the propellers look very good. The three-part cowls go together fine, ready for the separate exhausts.
The main gear legs feature separate retraction arms and attach firmly, while the inside of the doors is well detailed. The main wheels have separate hubs, and are moulded un-weighted so I'll be tempted to file a little "flat" on the bottom to give a sense of the bulk of the aircraft. The tailwheel is moulded integrally with its strut, and has a rather large projecting hub which I haven't found in any reference photos, so I'll reduce it.
Last but not least, the exterior of the aircraft is dotted with a number of aerials and pitot tubes, along with an astrodome.
Instructions and decalsThe assembly guide is neatly drawn, breaking the construction down into seven simple stages. The text is mostly bi-lingual Japanese/English, and colour matches are given for Mr Color and ModelMaster paints, along with FS numbers. The painting and decal guide is a little cluttered, but does cram a lot in, featuring three JASDF schemes, plus a USAF machine from the Korean war era.
The decal sheets in Platz Models are usually a high point, and that supplied with the C-46 is no exception - in fact, it's pretty phenomenal! Along with the 4 main colour schemes, the sheet provides no less than 36 additional sets of serials for Japanese Commandos, which I think must just about represent the entire fleet. Along with the national markings, the sheet includes stencils and inserts for the windows. The windscreen framing is provided in two forms; clear for transparency, or filled-in to match the fuselage windows. De-icing boots are included for the wings and tail, and International Orange decals for the nose and fuselage band. Admittedly, getting the former to conform to the nose contours could be a challenge, but the thought was there...
The decals are printed by Cartograf, so the quality almost goes without saying. The items are thin and glossy, and printed perfectly in register with minimal carrier film.
Additional details - item #M144-3 - 1,575 YenFor anyone not content with the standard kit, Platz sell separately a very neat little etched detail set commissioned from Eduard. Spread across two frets, one partly pre-painted, the set contains 77 new parts for both the interior and exterior of the kit.
The cockpit is treated to a beautiful new instrument panel, control wheels, rear bulkhead (with separate door), seat harnesses, a trim wheel and even throttle levers. Quite how much will be visible in this scale once the windscreen is in place remains to be seen, but at least you'll know it's all in there.
Definitely more visible are liners for the wheel wells, and a test fit shows they make quite a remarkable difference - especially in the mainwheel wells. The main gear is also supplied with new wheel hubs, oleo scissors and brake lines. For the exterior of the airframe, Eduard have designed a plethora of panels, vents, pitots and aerials.
So, while the cockpit parts may be superfluous if you're building the kit with filled-in windsceen, the overall effect should be very good, and the set is a worthwhile complement to the kit.
ConclusionPlatz's C-46 Commando is a very attractive kit of an important aircraft that is often unfairly overlooked. The pst war colour schemes offered in this first release are clearly targeted at the Japanese domestic market, but they are certainly striking, and I doubt that it will be long before a WW2 variant is offered. Recommended.
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