Douglas C-47 Skytrain
In 2014, Airfix tooled a new 1/72 scale Douglas C-47 Skytrain (or Dakota as it is know in the UK) that virtually eclipses Airfx original C-47 kit that was introduced in 1960 and released in various forms eleven times since then. The new kit is superior in all respects (with maybe two exceptions, which will be explained further on) and clearly demonstrates the strides Airfix has made in improving the detail and accuracy of their recent offerings.
The kit comes in a sturdy two-piece box with a dramatic box top painting of D-Day C-47 41-2100521 that can be built from this boxing. Inside, there is a sealed poly bag with five sprues containing 126 injection molded parts in medium gray plastic (some not needed for this build) and one sprue containing 19 clear parts. The gray plastic is rather soft and can be easily scratched and nicked if not removed from the sprues with a bit of care and handled with respect during assembly and finishing. A comprehensive 16-page instruction booklet with CAD illustrations is provided to guide the construction in sequential (but not always logical) assembly steps. A substantial decal sheet is included with markings for two aircraft. It provides everything that will be required including a staggering number of airframe stencils (nearly 80 of them). The decals are well printed in colors that appear to be accurate, and the print registration is excellent. However, it is worth noting that the white is not opaque enough to adequately mask the black and white fuselage invasion stripes of the D-Day livery.
Markings are provided for:
- 41-2100521 “Kilroy is Here”, 92nd Troop Carrier Squadron/439th Troop Carrier Group, “Operation Overloard” – Upottery, Devon, England, 6th June, 1944
- 43-16062 Military Air Transport (MATS), Isachsen Airstrip – North West Territory, Canada, 9th October, 1949.
Dimensionally, the kit looks pretty much spot on and the external details feature recessed panel lines and appropriate raised details. Overall, the panel lines are quite pronounced. In this reviewer’s opinion, they are a bit heavy handed for 1:72 scale and would look better on a 1:48 scale model. But, they are not out of line with those found on the majority of recent Airfix 1:72 kits and are less obvious under a coat of paint. There are multiple options. Both narrow (pointed tip) and wide blade propellers are provided, 2 types of cowl intakes are included, wheels and skis are provided, cargo doors may be attached in open and closed positions and there is a loading ramp (although it is not mentioned in the instructions. I believe it is accurate to say Airfix has provided more surface detail than can be found in other C-47 kit with one surprising exception… the nicely detailed Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radials have no cooling fin detail on their cylinders. They just have smooth cylinders.
Moving on: The interior detail is rather complete for a 1/72 Out of the Box build. It features adequate cockpit details, all of the interior bulkheads, electrical conduit, complete fuselage sidewall rib and stringer detail with the interior ceiling light panel, and rows of paratrooper seats (in options providing both extended and folded configurations). A decal is included for the instrument panel details. Unfortunately, there are a number of conspicuous ejection pin marks located throughout the interior of the fuselage but fortunately most of them will not easily be seen when the fuselage is closed up. Those toward the rear of the fuselage on the starboard interior wall, however, might be visible enough through open cargo doors that they may need to be dealt with if the model is completed with the doors open. All that really may be considered missing to complete the interior are seatbelts for the seats for the pilot, copilot…and maybe the ones for the paratroopers.
The landing gear is delicate and well detailed. The wheels display excellent hub detail and the tires have a realistic amount of bulge along a subtly flattened spot. Aftermarket wheels, if available from anyone, probably would be a waste of money because what come in the kit are more than adequate. The optional skis add considerably to the detail of the 1949 MATS version.
Assembly begins with the cockpit and the 15 parts involved feature more than adequate detail for a model in this scale. Actually the parts count can be increased by two if the model builder decides to include the pilot and copilot figures that are provided, but I chose to leave the crew at home. I followed the 10-step assembly sequence and found the fit to be reasonably good. However, dry fitting is recommended to get the bulkheads and other structural details lined up correctly so the fuselage sides will close up without stressing anything. As I assembled the bulkheads, I tested the fit against one fuselage side wall a number of times before the liquid cement had firmly set…and held the other sidewall in place with a couple of rubber bands just to be sure.
This kit features a rather unique method of installing the fuselage’s clear parts. Windows along the sides of the fuselage as well as the cockpit windshield and side windows are designed to be attached from the outside after the fuselage sides are joined. In the case of the fuselage side windows, it is a very easy task and the windows fit the openings perfectly (just be sure to place parts F8 and F9 in the correct sides specified in the instructions as they have slightly different contours to match the left and right sides of the fuselage). A clear astrodome also is easy to add to the top of the fuselage, but the cockpit side windows and windshield are a different matter. I found they required careful dry fitting and minor sanding to fit correctly. I also found it advisable to use thin strips of Tamiya masking tape to keep the side windows from disappearing into the cockpit when testing the fit and then when installing them (see the photo below). With them in place, fitting the windscreen was not difficult…although a little edge sanding also was required to get a perfect fit. In hindsight, I believe it would have been a better idea to go ahead and fit the cockpit side windows before the sides were closed up…so, I would recommend that deviation from the instruction’s assembly sequence for anyone else building this kit.
The wing is composed of six parts (plus a spar). Its assembly is well thought out. The parts go together with no drama and no filler should be required. The kit’s wing-to-fuselage assembly is also excellent and will result in a perfect fit and uniform wing dihedral. Fitting the separate wing fillets pieces is an easy task and they close everything up perfectly. Airfix deserves high marks for engineering this part of the build.
The engines assemble nicely with the propeller shaft imbedded and ready for the propellers to be attached later in the construction sequence. They mount on pieces that make up the front of the nacelles that include forward wheel bay details. These pieces provide alignment slots for fitting the 2-piece cowlings. Air intakes and exhausts are then attached. Much like the wings, everything is well engineered and comes together with no need for filler. Again, Airfix deserves kudos for how well they designed these assemblies.
The kit is designed for the cargo doors (which are composed of three parts) to be built either open or closed. I decided to build the review model with them closed up and, after a few attempts at dry fitting them in place, found what may be the single most frustrating part of the build. They just do not align as well as they should when closed. I found it difficult enough that I attached a few small styrene tabs along the inside edge of the opening. Even after doing that, it was necessary to use some filler along the lower edges to achieve a smooth contour. Those planning to build a model with a natural metal finish should be prepared to give this area considerable attention. I patted myself on the back for having decided at the onset to finish this one in the D-Day Olive Drab over Neutral Gray scheme.
Unlike the cockpit windshield and side windows, the wing landing light lenses are slightly undersized to fit into the openings and are difficult to align smoothly with the leading edge. It is important to follow the instructions and be certain that you are placing parts F3 and F4 in their correct positions…but, even when they are in their correct positions, neither lens fits. I placed them so they aligned as closely as possible to the wing top and applied many coats of Future to the edges and the gap that formed along the underside. It took some time using Future as a clear filler, but I felt it was a safer way to go than using superglue or epoxy to fill the gaps.
As noted above, I had planned from the beginning to finish this one in the kit’s 1944 D-Day markings. The instructions provide 4-view color illustrations on separate pages to guide painting both that version and the natural metal C-47 from 1949. In addition, Airfix includes black and white line drawings to guide placement of stencils common to both aircraft…a lot of information for a lot of decals.
Unfortunately (for some of us), the instructions provide only Humbrol color numbers to guide painting. Since, I use Mr. Color paints, it was necessary to cross-reference the colors on the Internet (modelers who do not use Humbrol paints may have to take a few minutes to do the same thing unless they know the corresponding colors off the top of their head). Everything went smoothly until I realized the side profile illustrations for the D-Day version show the fuselage invasion stripes in the wrong location. Checking photos of actual aircraft on the Internet and USAAF paint specifications, it was obvious that Airfix did not place the rearmost stripe 18” from the leading edge of the stabilizer fillet. It appears they missed it by nearly 30” (see the image below of the painting instructions and a photo of the correct fuselage stripe positions on an actual C-47).
So, after measuring, remasking and painting the stripes in the correct positions, I moved on to apply the decals. They went on without difficulty, responded well to a careful application of Mr. Mark Softer setting solution, and almost disappeared under a couple of coats of Future. As noted above, I found the white of the national insignias to be less than completely opaque, so I masked and painted those areas with an undercoat of white before applying the decals.
An oil wash was applied to the panel lines to bring out details, a little weathering was airbrushed on and everything received an overall spray of Testors Dullcoat before the masks were removed from the clear parts. The window gun port decals were applied and sealed with Future. The final steps of the build went smoothly…although a bit fiddly when it came to the multi-part landing gear (7 parts are involved in each leg)…as I found three of the eight articulation rods to be short shots that barely touched the spot that they were to be attached to (note that although parts D14 and D15 [four of each] may look alike…but they are not and should be placed in their correct locations to fit well). After that, adding the antennas and tail wheel were much easier tasks. The navigation lights were then given a final overcoat of Future to gloss them up a bit and it was time to hook on a Waco glider and get in line to take off for the Normandy coast.
In summary, as 1:72 scale C-47s kits go, this definitely is the one to build. It is well engineered, but doesn’t exactly fall together in a few areas. With the exception of my initial disappointment that the engine cylinders lacked cooling fin detail and the unexpected fit issues I experienced with the closed cargo doors, landing light lenses and cockpit side windows, I was very please with this kit and happy that I was able to build it. It is highly recommended. My thanks to Airfix for providing the review sample and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review it.