Eduard 1/72 Aero L-39 Albatros Profipack
Reviewed by Mike O'Hare
Most modellers know Eduard from their extensive range of photo etched sets which seem to cover almost every plastic model kit ever produced. Many also know the company for their plastic model kits, however their focus on WWI aircraft, a genre which seems to receive an unfortunate lack of attention from most, means that their growth as a kit manufacturer isn't widely known in the modelling mainstream. They still seem to suffer from the limited run stigma of their early releases. It's a bit of a little known secret, but Eduard are in a hard-fought battle for the title of "best manufacturer", and one can make a pretty compelling case that they're winning. Now, they're about to get a whole lot more mainstream: a newly tooled 1/72 MiG-15 family is due to hit the shelves within the next few months, as is their much anticipated 1/48 Mirage IIIC. And yet, in spite of the company's growth, a lot of modellers still aren't fully aware of what Eduard is capable of. Hopefully this review will serve as a thumbnail sketch of what to expect from, and why to be so excited about, their new releases, as well as detailing the ins and outs of the kit itself.
The L-39 is a wildly successful Czech-built trainer and light attack aircraft. It has seen service with just about every former Eastern Bloc country, and most of Russia's client states through the years. It is also a common sight as a 'civil' fast jet for those lucky few able to afford one, and in this capacity has worn everything from mock Thunderbirds markings to a James Bond bad-guy livery.
This kit in particular is Eduard's ProfiPack release of their basic L-39. The 'regular' releases of the kit contains 45 crisply moulded parts in tan plastic plus six crystal clear parts for the canopy and wing tip pods. Eduard also include a sheet of their express masks for the modeller's convenience. The ProfiPack release adds a photoetch fret with various instrument panels, ejection seat and airframe details to the basic kit, along with film and printed card instrument panel backings. It also has an expanded decal sheet with eight (actually, nine) subject aircraft and a dizzying array of stencils to cover the subtle differences between each of them, and this decal sheet alone is worth splurging for the ProfiPack release.
It's an unusual step to review a kit's packaging, but it's worth mentioning here, as it's one of the best examples of just how good Eduard has become. You just get a wonderfully warm, tingly feeling when you lift the lid off a new Eduard kit, it's presented so well in the box. It's that almost inexplicable feeling you get when you just KNOW it's going to be a quality kit, and a fun project, that certain something that draws you in and makes you want to get started right away. The only other manufacturer that even comes close is Tamiya, but even they are a distant second to Eduard here. In this case, the clear parts, etch and Express Masks, all separately bagged, are stapled to a small, raised card advertising other Eduard kits, in order to protect them from damage in transport. The instructions are loose on top of the two main sprues, which are bagged together, and under these, on the bottom of the box is another bag with the two decal sheets. And rather than being the standard heat-sealed bags, each of these has a small, self-adhesive strip folded over the top so parts can be removed, trimmed and then kept securely together without fear of anything falling out. A nice, subtle touch. Another nice touch is the instruction sheet; 22 pages in booklet form, it is printed in colour. The instruction sequences are all clearly laid out and easy to follow, an important consideration given the many small differences between the many subjects the kit can build, and all gluing locations are highlighted in blue, leaving absolutely no doubt as to where any given part is located. Following the assembly instructions are diagrams outlining how and where to apply the masks, which are then followed by full colour diagrams for each markings option. Apart from Hasegawa's occasional photographic decaling insert, Eduard is the only manufacturer I'm aware of that does provide such colour camouflage layouts. Wrapping up the instructions are two pages devoted to general stencils, colour coded to make it easy to follow which versions of the stencils apply to which subjects. That's not it for the instructions, though. Eduard also include an insert sheet with paint listings (Gunze Aqueous, cross referenced with Tamiya, Humbrol, Revell and Testors - another seldom seen touch) which has the sprue diagrams on the reverse. No more flipping back and forth through the instructions to see what colour a particular number is, or where that part you can't find is on the sprues. Again, it's a very simple touch, but one that makes building the kit just that little bit easier, and makes you happy you bought it.
And yes, that attention to detail exhibited by the packaging extends through the whole of the kit. Panel lines are all crisply recessed throughout - a tiny bit heavy, not unlike Tamiya panel lines, but nothing out of the ordinary - but with very finely recessed lines and rivets (almost Academy-like) around all the smaller access panels. It's an interesting effect that helps delineate the access panels from the rest of the aircraft. Cockpit detail is finely raised (think Revell F-16) and Eduard provide decals to go over this detail for a simple to build, very attractive out of the box cockpit. And while most modellers shy away from decals for cockpit detail, these are VERY nicely executed, look exactly like the real instrument panels, and hold up well under magnification. Keep in mind that these are meant to go over the raised detail, they're not a substitute for it, so they're more of a way to avoid lots of careful painting. The ProfiPack edition includes etched instrument panels in three varieties, for the three sub-types that can be modelled from the kit, as well as individual photofilm and printed card backings. The ejection seats are simple, but so are the seats in the real thing. These are probably the components that benefit most in the ProfiPack boxing, however, with etched belts, pull handles, sequencers, safety tabs and other smaller details. The basic items would be fine with the addition of some pilot figures though. Also inside the fuselage is an intake fan on a bulkhead - no intake trunk is included but with the intakes on, not much is visible, and it's a simple matter to make trunks from plastic card - and the exhaust. The landing gear is also simple, exactly like they should be. The L-39's gear doors snap completely shut with the gear down, so there's no need for bays; the only time you'll see inside its landing gear wells is when the gear is transitioning, or during maintenance. Also to be attached to the underside are the optional gun, drop tanks and rocket. And that's about it - a simple, clean kit of a simple, elegant aircraft.
There are actually two decal sheets in this boxing of the kit. The main sheet, and the largest, contains the major markings for each of the nine subject aircraft. This includes two different Thai aircraft (the same markings but with different squadron tail bands), a Czech Tiger Meet aircraft in two-tone green over grey, another Czech jet in lo-vis grey (with different roundels to accurately depict the new surround), a very nice Libyan option in a cool green-green-sand desert scheme, a German Albatros with markings to depict either pre- or post re-unification (the same aircraft and colours, but with different insignia and numbers), a Romanian trainer in overall grey, and finally a Soviet testbed in grey over aluminium. Loads of spares for future projects, but unfortunately, it's almost impossible to choose which ONE to build, or build first. The main decal sheet also includes the various cockpit decals, anti-glare panels and a small stash of 'Aero L-39' company badges for the various subject aircraft. The smaller sheet is packed full of stencils, with just about every marking in triplicate to depict the differences between Albatros sub-types and the many camouflage schemes. And, perhaps best of all and something not even most aftermarket decal companies do, there are decals for both ejection seat and landing gear placards. Probably some of the most visible stencils on modern aircraft, and the most of-neglected, it's extremely good to see them included here. The decals themselves are very thin and nicely printed. The main decal sheet in my example is in near perfect registration, though the stencil sheet is a little bit out - not much, and it's only noticeable on three decals, but still worth noting. The detail on the main sheet also seems slightly "crisper", with all of the text being legible, while the text on the stencils is a bit "blobby" as though the ink bled under the silk screen slightly. Again, it's certainly acceptable and no worse than most of the higher quality decals out there, but the stencils aren't Leading Edge kind of clarity.
The Test Fit:
There's really very little between Eduard and any other mainstream manufacturer these days in terms of fit, either. They aren't quite up to Tamiya's LEGO-like click-together engineering, but anyone that's able to build a newer Revell Germany or Hasegawa kit will be more than able to handle Eduard these days. The fuselage fit is about as near to flawless as one could expect, and the same goes for the numerous components that get trapped inside it. The wing halves also go together well, and the only slight hiccup I experienced while playing around the major components was actually trying to fit the wings to the fuselage. The wing centre section seems to be just a hair too long, which means they're a bit of a snug fit to the fuselage, and leave a hairline gap between the two. Some light sanding of the mating surfaces should be all that's required for a perfect fit, however - it's just the tiniest bit off.
It really is an excellent kit, and is easily as good as any other 1/72 jet on the market. Those who still think of slightly crude, slightly rough limited run kits whenever they hear the name 'Eduard' really should take notice. And those who just flat out haven't ever bought an Eduard kit should do themselves a service and give one a try. It's easy to fall into the trap of only building models from certain manufacturers, but you can REALLY miss out on some gems doing so. The Albatros is also two years old now, and Eduard has continued to improve since its release. So if you're a jet modeller wondering what to expect from their upcoming MiG-15 and Mirage families, this is it!
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