Trumpeter 1/144 Kawanishi H6K5 Type 97 'Mavis'

IJN Flying Boat

Model and Text by Mark Smith, photos by Alexander G. Ihde and Dave Aungst




"Rara Avis: A White-Tailed Mavis"

Back in the early 1970s I was delighted when Profile Publications finally got around to devoting an issue (#233) to "Kawanishi 4-Motor Flying Boats." They are more familiarly known to most of us as "Mavis" and "Emily." It's an indication of the obscurity in which these machines toiled that 232 other aircraft types had been deemed more worthy of publication, but one particular photo that was included always stuck in the memory. When I finally got my hands on Trumpeter's 1/144 model of the Type 97 H6K5 "Mavis," and dusted off that little booklet that once seemed so grand, the photo was smaller and grainier than I remembered, but the caption was the same.

"A mixed group of H6K2-L and H8K2-L Transport Flying boats found on the Dai Nippon Koku slipway at Yokohama in September 1945 by the U.S. Forces…The two H6K2-Ls are painted with white surrender markings on the rear hull only, with green surrender crosses on the hull and superimposed on the upper wing hinomarus." The caption is a bit misleading; in the photo the entire aircraft is white from the trailing edge of the wing aft.

Dai Nippon Koku is Japan Air Lines Ltd. The color side view based on this photo called it an H6K4-L. Whichever it was, almost surely the cowlings were of an earlier variety than the H6K5 version that the kit represents, and its propellers were probably without spinners. Problem? Well, fifteen years ago it would have been a given: either effect a proper conversion or build something else. A modeler's got to sleep at night, after all. But strange things happen to you when you're approaching 50, and live in a rural area where a Catalina is something Pontiac used to make. I think it's called "perspective." Bottom line: Few know the difference. Fewer care. And the ones that might bring it to your attention last finished a model during the Nixon administration.

I was really excited when this kit was announced, and its outlines are generally excellent. I heartily recommend it. Considering how few of them I've seen around, if you want one get it soon. Even with the limitations of the scale, however, a good deal of work is required. Overcoming significant fit problems with this kit felt like more of a challenge than any of the detail I added, which besides the rigging was minimal. The numerous struts are understandably out of scale and are tricky to align. The main wing supports need a lot of filling and sanding. Careful cleanup and reshaping of the props and spinners will help the model too, as the mold parting lines on these are definitely not to 1/144! I reshaped the upper cowl scoops and their long fairings with plastic card and superglue.

My finished Mavis owes much to two modelers I don't know: Tom Norrbohm and Steve Hustad. Tom's review on the Roll Models website was an excellent guide - both his model and the photos are superb, and his suggestions saved me some trouble and time. If you want to build this one, print and stash his review. Steve Hustad, a past master and a name known to many of you, built a truly remarkable model from the venerable 1/72 Hasegawa kit that I saw at the IPMS Nationals in Dallas in 2001. I found a "photo walkaround" series of this model on the Internet that proved far more helpful than the paltry number of available photos of the actual airplane, and also spoke well of Steve's own research when compared with said photos. The weathering on Steve's model was also an inspiration, and I tried my best to translate it to 1/144.

I didn't waste any time on extra cockpit or interior details - you just can't see it once it's done. The most glaring omissions are the engines - only the gear housings are there to meet those spinners, so this is the one area where extra detail would really pay off. But I kept telling myself…don't get bogged down. Maybe Alex Bernardo or the folks at Cobra will make some engines for it.

All markings on the model are paint. The parasol wing design and numerous struts made painting more of a chore than I had imagined, and I was frankly glad that there was a lot of leeway for the green crosses (they were pretty sloppy as a general rule); I was surprised how hard it is to center a cross over a circle with masking tape. Once the markings were on I concentrated on the weathering and trying to rig the model. I used stretched sprue for the float and antenna line rigging, applied with a bit of slack and drawn taut by application of heat. A punk for lighting fireworks works nicely. (I wouldn't recommend fireworks proper).

As you may have heard, Trumpeter supplies this model without beaching gear and asks you to open a flashed-over hole in the bottom of the hull and put it on a clear stand a la the old Airfix kits. What nerve they have! One could rob and modify beaching gear from the LS / Arii "Emily." But I tried something different. This turned out to be a fairly delicate model due to the rigging and the floats, so I made a base for it, with a cradle for the hull and brass weights on the bottom, which makes it easy to transport and a little safer to display. I intended for the base to represent the inside of the metal skinning of the airplane, hence the "aotake" with its characteristic blue-green finish. The base didn't turn out too well - the rivets are hokey, and as my daughter says, "the colors clash."

But I sure love that white-tailed Mavis, its prehistoric profile mated with that graceful wing. I've always wondered if that particular ever flew even once in those markings or played any small part in effecting the surrender - or if all that white paint went to waste. But to have to wonder is part of the fun. I'm glad someone took that photo, and that Bob Mikesh dug it out of USAF files and sent it off to be included in the Profile. It only took me thirty years to get it on the shelf. I guess modeling is like much else: if you "always meant to do it"…better get started. Time's a wastin!

Mark Smith


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I'm sorry, but since the review has been published that product appears to have gone out of production.