The Vultee BT-13 Valiant was an American basic trainer aircraft built by Vultee Aircraft for the United States Army Air Corps, and later US Army Air Forces and was the basic trainer flown by most American pilots during World War II. It was the second phase of the three phase training program for pilots. After primary training in PT-13, PT-17, or PT-19 trainers, the student pilot moved to the more complex Vultee for basic flight training. The BT-13 had a more powerful engine and was faster and heavier than the primary trainer. It required the student pilot to use two way radio communications with the ground and to operate landing flaps and a two-position Hamilton Standard variable pitch propeller. It did not, however, have retractable landing gear nor a hydraulic system. The large flaps are operated by a crank-and-cable system. Its pilots nicknamed it the "Vultee Vibrator."
An identical version for the US Navy was known as the SNV and was used to train naval aviators for the US Navy and its sister services, the US Marine Corps and US Coast Guard.
This is not the first BT-13 Valiant kit from Planet Models. In the same scale, the MPM affiliated resin manufacturer already produced one under the reference PLT166. In case you've missed it, now is the chance to get one in different US Navy and French Marking.
Packed in a sturdy top opening cardboard box, the content consists of a multiplicity of resin parts plus some white metal landing gear legs, two vacuformed canopies, a decal sheet and instructions. The different parts are located in several heat sealed plastic pouches to protect them from damage.
The resin parts are the typical Planet Models cream coloured moldings. I found that there was very little flash and a limited amount of air bubbles on the main components (Fuselage halves and one piece wing). Removing the medium and small size parts from their pouring blocks will require extreme care and appropriate tools (like a photo etched saw for example). Especially the way the engine cowling part has been molded will cause some troubles.
The overall quality of the kit is very good. The parts are very crisply molded and the surface detail is very good. Some will regret the absence of rivet lines (there were many prominent raised ones on the real aircraft) but this is a matter of taste and it is still possible to add some with a riveter if one wishes so. The corrugated skin of the trim trim tabs have also been reproduced. The representation of the tubular frame visible inside of the cockpit is present on the fuselage halves and with a good painting should look the part.
The level of detail is quite good despite the absence of photo etched parts. The cockpit for example seems to be nicely done and while some will probably add even more there, the kit one will look the part for most modellers. Included are a floor, two seats which feature seat belts, two control sticks, two instrument panels, four rudder pedals, two levers, two fire extinguishers and some additional structures (bulkheads and crash pylon). The engine is quite good but it lacks the very visible pushrods and the cylinder heads are missing as well. The propeller and the wheels are very nice.
The landing gear legs are metal parts which will help the model to stand on its feet once completed (the one piece wing is heavy!) and the transparent parts are vacuformed (canopy and leading edge landing light covers). Though the clear parts come in two exemplars it would have been nice to have the movable greenhouse parts as separate items.
Decals and markings
The decals sheet provided will give the modeller the choice between three machines, two US and one French:
A - SNV-1, BuNo 03024, NAS Pensacola, 1942.
B - SNV-1, BuNo 03154, 1042/43.
C- BT-13 42-90572, CIC Meknès, Morocco, 1944/45.
Instructions are printed one two A4 size paper sheets and the painting and decal placement drawings are in colour.
This is a nice kit of an important aircraft and thankfully it is made available by resin kit manufacturer Planet Models. There are probably more pilots who flew this trainer aircraft than any other combat type so it is good to see it in model form. I wouldn't recommend it to beginners though but it shouldn't represent a too big challenge for someone used to resin kits. In fact, like the real aircraft, I would say it is aimed for intermediate skilled people.
The real thing
A restored SNV
performing on the airshow circuit.
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