Italeri 1/72nd Scale H-34 "Sea Horse"

Model & Text by: Tony Morgan (a.k.a. The Heli-Master)


HISTORY:

The Sikorsky H-34 is one of the relatively small number of aircraft types that have served with all branches of the US armed forces. The British further developed the aircraft as the turbine-engined Wessex, which has previously been kitted by Frog and Matchbox, and is now kitted by Italeri, using common components from the H-34 model. A long-serving and popular aircraft, the Italeri kit is the first model of the H-34 to be offered in 1/72nd scale.
 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

The main parts of the kit come on two trees of dark olive green plastic, with a small tree of clear parts. There is a nice set of decals, offering four finishing options; a USMC H-34D serving in Viet Nam, a German Army H-34G, and two French Navy HSS-1ís one stationed in France, and one serving in Algeria.

The kit offers a well-detailed interior, optional portside nose panels for the different exhaust configurations, pre-drooped main rotor blades, and a selection of weapons for the various versions. Surface detailing is very good, with scribed panel lines and very fine texturing for the meshwork on the engine cooling screens.
 

CONSTRUCTION

Construction of the kit is straightforward, as Italeri have engineered the kit well, and given the builder a well-planned set of instructions. Starting in the cockpit, the only omission that Italeri has made is the lack of collective sticks. This is a common fault in helicopter models, but something that Italeri should address, as they are now the number one source of new helicopter kits.  Moving to the troop cabin, everything goes together according to plan. The troop seats will benefit from masking tape or etched metal seat belts, but this is only really necessary if you plan to leave the cargo door open.
The next step is the installation of the interior parts, side windows, and joining of the fuselage halves. A fastidious modeler may want to add some former and stringer detail to the insides of the fuselage halves, but again this is only necessary if the cargo door is to be left open. This step also includes the addition of the tail-rotor, something I recommend avoiding until final assembly to lessen the risk of breakage. While on the subject of the tail-rotor, this is one point where Italeri goofed; the tail-rotor should rotate clockwise when viewed face-on, and Italeri has moulded the blades the wrong way around.

Four options are available to the modeller to rectify this situation:
1) Remove the individual blades from the hub, turn them around, and reattach them.
2) Cut the rotor mounting post off, and glue it to the opposite side of the hub.
3) Leave the rotor the way it is and plead ignorance.
4) Install the tail-rotor from the Matchbox Wessex kit, which is correctly moulded, although the kit is now obsolete thanks to the new Italeri release. (I chose the last option, as I had three Matchbox kits in the closet, and had to do something with them.)

The next two steps cover the installation of the belly pan and nose panels. This means itís decision time, as you must select the low-set or high-mounted exhaust pipes. Installation of the nose is very simple, as the join line falls on a panel line, and the width of the nose matches the width of the rest of the fuselage exactly. Step five of the instruction sheet, has you install the cooling vent for the transmission; I recommend making blanking sheets for the bottom and front of this panel, otherwise paint may pass through the gills when you are painting the fuselage and ruin the interior. Add the landing gear, cargo door, winch, and horizontal stabilizer, and you are essentially through with construction.

Step nine, the last in the instruction sheet, has the modeller assemble the rotor-head and attach the fuselage-top screen. I advise against using the rotor-mast retainer, part 66a, as leaving the rotors removable will make painting, transportation, and storage much easier.
 

PAINTING & DECALS:

My particular model does not use any of the marking schemes supplied by Italeri, but I will put in a few words about the kitís USMC scheme. The transmission cooling grille panel should be yellow FS33538 not orange as specified. The German and French color schemes and markings are correct to the best of my knowledge.

I built my model as a base-flight aircraft from MCAS Yuma, Arizona. I found a photo of the aircraft in a copy of Air Fan International magazine, vol.2 no.2, March 1997 , and simply couldnít resist the irony of doing a fluorescent orange Marine aircraft. I used Model Master enamels for the finish, laying down a base coat of flat white followed by the orange. I clear-coated the orange paint using Model Master Acryl gloss, then applied a mixture of kit decals and spares from assorted Microscale sheets. The kit decals went on like a dream, and I was very pleased with their quality and colors.

WEATHERING & FINISHING:

The model was given a light washing with burnt umber oil paint overall, and heavier washing on the grille panels. A smudge of pastel was added to simulate the engine exhaust staining. I tried to keep the weathering light, as base-flight aircraft are usually well maintained. The final step was a top-coat of MM Acryl flat.
 

CONCLUSION:

I LOVE this kit! It goes together very well, it has very good detailing, and it is quite accurate in shape and dimensions. The H-34 served with so many countries, and in so many roles in the US armed forces that the range of marking options is almost unlimited. A dedicated modeller could easily fill an exhibition case with H-34 and Wessex variations, and no two would look the same. I recommend this kit to anybody who wants to build a high quality replica of this historically important helicopter.

If you like this model you can see more of Tony's work at his helicopter specific web site. Also, if this model looks like something you would like to build the Roll Models catalog number is: IT0066.