Republic P-43A Lancer – 1/72 – Clare Wentzel
Republic P-43A Lancer
Pavla Kit No. 72061
The P-43 Lancer was developed in 1938 by Seversky Aircraft Corp. as a successor to their P-35. The new model was larger overall and featured the Pratt and Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radial engine with an exhaust driven supercharger. While the airplane possessed good altitude performance, it was apparent that it would not be able to compete with the aircraft then in operation in Europe. Small numbers were produced for the Army Air Corps and some others for export to the Chinese Air Force and the RAAF. In service, the airplane suffered from leakage from the integral wing fuel tanks and combined with the lower fuselage supercharger this caused a number of fires. The airplane was replaced by the larger, more powerful P-47 Thunderbolt.
I first heard of the P-43 when I was reading “God is my Co-Pilot” in high school. The author, Robert L. Scott, tells about two P-43s that were given to the AVG by two Chinese pilots who were thankful to get the planes off of their hands. Scott and his ground crew got the planes’ fuel tanks sealed using everything including chewing gum. They used the planes to provide protection for the CBI route and Scott, in a fit of enthusiasm flew over the top of Mt. Everest, embarrassing the British who had spent months with a large crew when they made the first flight over Mt. Everest a few years earlier.
This kit from Pavla is typical of low volume kits. The basic kit is molded in a single sprue with soft engraved surface detail. It also includes a photo etched fret and several resin items. The PE fret includes a well detailed instrument panel and the camera ports for the RAAF model. Some of the resin parts include the pilot seat, the engine, the wheels, the propeller hub, the supercharger outlet and the navigation pod. The canopy and side windows are vacu-formed. Two canopies are provided in case of a modeling accident. A well-printed decal sheet covers markings for four different aircraft, a natural metal and an olive drab U.S. Army aircraft, a camouflaged photo-recon bird from the RAAF and an olive drab model from the Chinese Air Force.
The front and back of the kit box features color profiles of the four schemes. Sixteen pages of kit directions provide detailed illustrations of the kit assembly and markings as well as directions for some minor items that are required to be scratch built.
This is not a kit for beginners. The kit contains a number of challenges that must be solved to produce the finished model. The resin parts are well detailed but do not provide accurate sizing information. For example, the resin engine and the supercharger outlet parts feature very big pouring stems that do not provide accurate cut-off marks. You have to remove the stem and then sand the part down until you think that it is the correct size. The supercharger is a simple cylinder. If it had had a mounting lip, it would have fit into the fuselage correctly. I ended up gluing some plastic sheet inside the fuselage and then sanding the supercharger until it fit. Also, many other problems relate to the lack of part positioning information. Two wing spars are provided along with the top of the wheel wells. The position of these parts is only approximate and the wing assembly had to be shimmed slightly to provide equal dihedral. Also, a key feature of the airplane is the gun fairings on the cowl. The modeler has to hope that he glues them in the correct place. There is no indication of where the stretched sprue machine guns mounting holes must be drilled. The tail wheel strut was almost unrecognizable and its location was not readily apparent. I found the landing gear doors to be very thick. I used the main doors but replaced the tail wheel doors with thin sheet plastic. Finally, I had to trim the length of the main landing gear in order for the model to set right and the gear doors to look correct.
The propeller consisted of the resin hub and three injected blades. No mounting pins or locations were provided. I’m not sure how I would have assembled the part if I had not owned one of John Vojtech’s PropMaster jigs. With the help of this tool, the assembly came out looking good.
One other problem area was the canopy. The vacu-formed main section was well formed and easily painted. The quarter windows were another item. The kit parts were so thick that they would stand well proud of the surface. I replaced them with thin clear plastic sheet.
Painting and Decals
I chose to paint the model in the Chinese Air Force markings. In his book, Robert L Scott suggested that the plane that he flew over Mt. Everest had U.S. markings but it seems to me that the U.S. would have changed the markings before handing the aircraft over to the Chinese. The decals were well printed and set down well. I had some minor silvering on the tail marking but that was my fault. I had allowed the Future to pebble. The resin seat included molded-in seat belts. It was painted and installed, along with the detailed control stick, before the canopy was glued in place.
One final concern was the radio antenna. The kit box illustration showed vertical stabilizer to wing tip antenna cables. I checked what few photos that I could find of the airplane in Chinese service and could not see any indications of these antennae. I concluded that the streamlined RF antenna below the wing, only a feature of the Chinese aircraft, served this purpose. The painting was finished with light wash to bring out the control surfaces and a few of the panel lines.
I had wanted to add a P-43 to my collection and this kit allowed me to accomplish that. Although I encountered a series of problems, the kit shape is accurate and I was satisfied with the final appearance of the model. Note, Pavla build their models in batches and this second batch has been all sold. It is currently not available from Pavla but can be ordered from Squadron or Hannants.
The model can be recommended to skilled modelers who want to add this unique airplane to their collections.
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