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Aero L-159A Alca

Scale: 1/48th
Manufacturer: Planet Models
Ref No: 149
Material: R, WM, PE, VF
UK Distributor: Hannants
UK Price: £56.99

Aero L-159A Alca
Aero L-159A Alca Aero L-159A Alca Aero L-159A Alca Aero L-159A Alca
Kit Review
Planet Models is one of the large group of Czech manufacturers specialising in multi-media kits of less well known subjects not covered by the mainstream manufacturers. For the most part the kits are resin with vac-form canopies with a few photo-etch and White metal parts used where appropriate. The subject of this review is the L-159A Alca, a light attack jet based on the L-39 Albatross trainer. The most obvious change being that the rear cockpit is used as an avionics bay so it is now only a single seater. Never having built or even seen a Planet Models kit I was quite keen to get stuck into this one. The kit comes in a stout cardboard box with a very nice colour profile on the top. Inside you will find over fifty grey-coloured resin parts, a pair of vac-form canopies, three white-metal undercarriage legs and a photo-etched fret. The decal sheet is very well printed although some of the items were wrongly scaled so a supplementary sheet is provided. There are two options provided. Both are for Czech Air Force aircraft in a three tone Grey scheme although one is and anniversary scheme with a Black spine and Pegasus markings on the tail. It all looks good so let’s see how it builds.

I began by removing the casting blocks from the main parts and cleaning up the parts to check for overall fit. With the help of some Tamiya tape the basic airframe was assembled and I could see that with a small amount of adjustment the fit was pretty good. One thing with resin casting is that to preserve the moulds a release agent is used so after dismantling the taped up airframe all the parts are washed in warm water with a little washing up liquid. They were then rinsed with clean water and left to dry thoroughly overnight. Construction begins as usual with the cockpit tub. The resin tub and instrument panel were cleaned up before offering them up to the fuselage halves. When I was happy with the fit the cockpit parts were all given a coat of MrHobby H308 Grey. This would probably be a good time to point out that there are no colour references given for any of the detail parts throughout the build. The answer to this was to start searching the internet for walkaround photos. Fortunately there are quite a few out there but be aware that there are variations of this aircraft. Armed with a few good photos the instrument panel and side console details were picked out in the appropriate colours. The smaller delicate throttle levers and switches were added later on through the cockpit opening along with the ejector seat. A couple of bulkheads need to be added along with the cockpit before closing the fuselage halves, not forgetting some nose weight of course. Being a resin kit means you will need to use cyanoacrylate or epoxy throughout assembly. I prefer to use cyanoacrylate with an activator as the joint is more or less solid immediately. The other benefit is that a quick session with the files and sanding sticks means very little filler is required. Ignoring the instructions because the one piece wing fits so well I added the intakes next. They require a little more in the way of adjustment so it is easier to fit them before the wing goes on. A few touches of MrSurfacer 500 here and there were all that were needed before cleaning up with sanding sticks. Any panel lines that needed re-scribing were also dealt with now. The tailplanes are butt joints to the fuselage but once again using cyanoacrylate the joints are more than strong enough. With the wing and tail fin added the majority of the airframe is now complete I turned back to the detail parts. The rear cockpit on the L-159A is used to house the additional avionics boxes that give it the aircraft its attack capability. These are mostly covered by a shroud with just the front section visible. As with the cockpit these are made up from resin and photo-etch parts and are mostly Black. Two vac-form canopies are provided so with the security of a spare I decided to have the forward canopy open. Many modellers still tremble at the thought of cutting out a vac-form canopy but if you take your time and exercise patience it is quite simple really. My method is to fill the canopy with Blu-Tac before I start cutting. This makes the canopy rigid enough that all that is needed is a fresh sharp scalpel blade. Don’t try and cut through in one pass, several light passes will give a cleaner cut. With the Blu-Tac removed the fit is refined with a sanding stick. The front screen and rear canopy were tacked into place with a few small spots of cyanoacrylate then sealed with Pacer Formula 560 PVA. A damp cotton bud removed the excess PVA. While this all set the undercarriage and pylons were cleaned up and prepared for painting. On the subject of the undercarriage, in particular the main bays the inner doors are usually closed at all times. The problem is that the outer doors for the legs are moulded closed as well. These are actually fixed to the legs so when the undercarriage is down that section of the bay should be open. As the wing is cast as a single piece there is no real way to cut out the doors so my answer was to paint that section of the bays Black to give an impression of depth. The canopy, cockpit and screen were masked up now and then given a quick coat of Black paint to represent the inner framing. At the same time this was also sprayed into the intakes and exhaust outlet to give them some depth. Where the kit fails to give you any guidance for the detail painting it scores very highly with the overall paint scheme. Each of the main colours is described by the relevant Federal Standard number so establishing the equivalent to your chosen paint manufacturer. In my case that is Gunze-Sangyo Mr Hobby acrylics so after a quick scan through the lists the relevant paints were pulled from the box. An important thing to remember before you start painting is that the division of the colours must be reasonably accurate as the decals are colour coded to their position on the airframe.  I started with a coat of H307 Radome Grey on the nose cone. That was then masked and the underside was sprayed H308 Light Grey. The division between upper and lower colours is hard edged so it was out with the Tamiya tape again. The H305 Dark Grey on the top surface went on next and when that had dried to give a soft division it was masked with Blu-Tac. The final colour to go on was H306 Medium Grey. With the paint dry the masking was removed and the entire airframe was given a coat of Johnson's Klear as a base for the decals. The decals themselves are very good but be warned they are very thin so when you use them no setting solution and plenty of water. Once in place some Micro Sol was used to bed them down. With any excess decal solution cleaned off the model was given a wash of thinned grey acrylic ink to accent the engraved panel lines. The formation lights and bare metal areas were picked out by brush with Games Workshop acrylics. The undercarriage and pylons were added now and for a bit of added strength the pylons gun pod and drop tanks were drilled and pins fitted. To complement these pair of rocket pods from the spares box were fitted as well. A coat of Vallejo Satin clear seals everything and evens out all the various finishes. The final touches; basically all the bits that would get snapped off were added now to finish the build.

So, what do I think of my first encounter with a Planet Models kit? The answer to that question is I thoroughly enjoyed it. The resin and white-metal parts are very well cast and the vac-form canopies very thin and clear. The decals are superb as is the photo-etch. The subject matter is very nice being an aircraft that no one else has covered yet. With the three-tone grey scheme with the matching low visibility markings I think it looks stunning. Well done Planet Models for an excellent production.

Our thanks to Planet Models (www.cmkkits.com) for the review sample.