Gavia's 1/48 Westland Lysander Mk.III

Model, Text & Photos by Larry Cherniak


Detailing the Gavia Westland Lysandser MkIII in 1/48

---The Subject--

I've long thought that British WWII aircraft designs fell into two broad categories: graceful beauties (Spitfire, Mosquito..) and horrible beasts (Hampden, Barracuda...). Well, the Westland Lysandser, with its anachronistic, gawky, insectlike looks will never win awards for beauty or elegance- one wag states that even the worst English aircraft spotters could make one distinction- between aeroplanes and Lysanders.

It was successful, however, in the role for which it was designed in the mid 1930's- close army support. It was slow and ungainly looking but the design allowed excellent visibility and low speed handling characteristics. Nevertheless, it will live on in history mainly for the part it played in covert operations- picking up and dropping off spies, radios, counterfeit currency, and still untold bundles in the quiet moonlit fields of occupied France. In this role the ability to take off and land in the length of a football field, even in clearings in woods, made it invaluable.

One of my friends knows a fellow who used to fly in the back seat of a "Lizzie"during such operations. One story the vetran tells is of a nocturnal flight into France to pick up three packages. They landed in a field, he hopped out and loaded two of the bundles in while the pilot waited. He went back to a barn to get the third, and returned to a dark, empty field only to hear the drone of the radial engine diminishing into the distance, heading back to England. He had just started reviewing how he was supposed to handle himself in enemy territory and make his way back home when the pilot apparently noticed his absence and returned for him. Whew!

About 20 Lysanders survive today, and good photo references can be found online at the Canadian Aviation Museum and IPMS Stockholm.

--The Kit--

The Lizzie can be modeled in any of the major scales: in 1/32nd there has long been the Matchbox/Revell kit, in 1/72nd the ancient Airfix and modern AML, and in 1/48th a relatively crude and long out-of-production Hawk/Testors/Italeri kit. There is now also an excellent new 1/48th release from Gavia- a sister company to Eduard- mostly noted for their WWI offerings. The model represents a later Mk.III or Mk.IIIa but with some changes in armament, addition of a ladder and so on many variants can be come up with- and a Mk. IIISD (Special Duties) variant has since been issued.

This is a limited run kit but, like recent Eduard kits, has been obviously made in fine metal molds and has every intention of competing with the quality we have come to expect from Japanese kits. Very small and detailed parts are included, there is no flash present, the molds are precisely aligned, and surface quality is very good. A finely done 5-piece injection molded canopy is provided and no resin or photoetched brass.

Two PE brass detail sets have been simultaneously released by Part, a Czech company, one for overall details and one to replace the kit canopies and framework. Engines And Things also has a Bristol Mercury engine appropriate for this kit. Each of these products will be reviewed here.

If you want to get right to the bottom line, this is a great kit to represent the subject, although not without a bit of fiddling and some fit quirks. It is fairly easy to build (even with the complex cockpit and canopy arrangement), accurate and well done. If you are interested in the subject, go out and buy it- you won't be disappointed.

If you'd like to know (much) more, please read on. Although I did the "full nine yards" job on this one, this ended up being quite difficult and time-consuming (and gratuitous?). If you build one, please feel free to pick and choose the extent of extra detailing you might want to do, based on my experiences. If I can provide some inspiration, help you through some of the rough spots, and give a few useful tips, I will have done my job. You may want to refer to Randy Lutz's excellent review in Scale Aviation Modeler Internationall vol. 8 no. 3 for a more "straight" build. (Ed. or look at Modeldad's article right here)

What you get

The box is small but well packed with parts. They are molded in a soft, light grey plastic which is easy to work (but which has an odd smell when you sand it). The first impression is of a quality product: shapes are refined and accurate and surface detail is crisp with nice, even, recessed panel lines and raised ribs on the fabric covered areas. The leading edges of the wings were metal covered on the prototype, by the way, with the remainder of the wings in fabric. Unfortunately, the prominent leading edge slats are molded closed, and the separation line here should at least be deepened (I forgot to do this).

Surface texture is quite smooth with a slight satin texture which will disappear with a light sanding or under a coat of primer. Parts are somewhat thicker than a standard injection-molded kit but this only shows up in one place in the finished product, the rear edge of the cockpit opening (which is addressed in the Part detail set). Raised and sunk surface detailing, such as instrument panel bezels, are a bit shallow and soft as are locator pins- where they do exist they are often just rounded bumps and depressions.

The cockpit is a complex tubular framework, well depicted with a multitude of well-designed parts. The clear parts are separately bagged and very shiny and cleanly molded with only a slight waviness and minor scuffing on my example. The decals, with markings for two British and one Finnish example, are thin and in register and include stencilling (with extras) and seat belts with silver buckles but no instrument panel- although the gray codes are an odd off shade of tan.

The instructions (in Czech and English) are very professionally done, with good quality drawings in 22 steps (11 of which deal with the cockpit alone!). Some part placements are ambiguous, with parts shown from the rear- a problem made worse by the dearth of locator pins. It took me a while to notice that they are drawn so that the viewpoint is consistent throughout the instruction sheet- i.e., you are always looking at the assembly from the port front high viewpoint. Knowing this will help keep you oriented, particularly with the cockpit.

A separate sheet is included with part tree diagrams and color chart- convenient for reference during the build. Colors are called out for Humbrol, Revell, Tamiya,and Agama paint brands but the letter codes were accidentally left off the list. If you start lettering the list with "A" alphabetically from top to bottom you will get it right- then add "M- clear green" and "O- Linen". Three complete 4-view painting diagrams, one for each decal scheme included, as well as a stencil placement drawing and a flyer for the 4+ reference book round out a very nice documentation package.

--Aftermarket Parts--

The Part brand PE brass detail set (S48-091) must be purchased seperately but meshes so well with the kit and helps overcome some problem areas so well that I would recommend buying it, hiding the bill, and telling yourself (or your wife) that it was included in the kit. Specifically, it includes the instrument panel and various auxiliary panels- with film instrument faces for each, both seat bottoms and belts for each, machine gun feeds and ammo, gunsight ring and bead, both sides of the wheels, separate individual cowl flaps, rudder pedals, and various tidbits. Of particular importance is the excellent 38-piece bombrack which is totally omitted from the kit- a major omission, especially considering it is prominently displayed on the boxtop art!

The other Part detail set (S48-092) is dedicated solely to replacing the canopy framework with PE brass and the glass with film. This one I had a harder time justifying- as I said, there is nothing particularly wrong with the clear parts as they are- although one reviewer had problems fitting the side pieces, which do seem to have a greater curve than the fuselage does. This set makes you cut out several pieces of film (plus some of your own clear plastic not supplied) and carefully bend and glue on a delicate lacework of frames. It doesn't include any vacuum formed parts nor anything for the windscreen. I used some of it for the purposes of this review but would recommend it only for the dedicated contest-winners out there.

I also looked over the resin Engines and Things engine #48021, the "Bristol Mercury 9 cyl 840 HP". This is molded as one piece, which greatly simplifies construction, but therein also lies its downfall. While the very visible gear case has sharper detail, tubular parts like the ignition harness are molded solidly to the parts behind them and just can't compare to the separate parts included with the kit. The cylinders are also about 1/16" shorter each, which makes it a very loose fit into the cowling (the kit engine actually touches the cowl insides, making the bumps on the outside more understandable). For these reasons I saved the engine for the LTD Models PZL P.11c, which could really use it. It does include full accessories at the back so should be considered if you wish to open the cowling.

Also on the market are parts designed for the older Hawk kit but which will probably work well for this one: a set of resin wheels from True Details and a Falcon vac canopy. I used neither so can't comment.

--Building the Model--

Building this model was, surprisingly, really a pleasure. Surprisingly because I had expected that the cockpit would be a real pain and that the concessions to short-run technology would make matters worse. As it turned out parts fit very well and the molds were precisely aligned, needing only a few swipes of a knife blade to clean the edges up. The plastic is soft, however, and smaller parts are more easily broken than in other kits (spilt lacquer thinner also dissolves the plastic- don't ask).

Although you are supposed to start with the cockpit, I actually began by gluing up the large parts first- wings, elevators, wheels, etc. The control surface division lines (including leading edge slats) are a bit shallow- you may choose to deepen them by rescribing as I did, or at least enhance them afterwards with a black wash. Since there are no alignment pins on these parts, care must be taken in proper alignment. I taped the ends of the wings together and glued away with MEK (methyl ethyl ketone, a lot cheaper than Tenax), and was rewarded by an excellent fit, with panel lines precisely aligned (they did not align well on the tail pieces, however). I suppose the trailing edges could use thinning but I didn't bother.

The wingtip lights are molded solidly, so I chose to remove them and detail the area a little as per the boxtop art: I added CMK red and blue lights, covered the area with a couple of coats of 5-minute epoxy, and filed, sanded, and polished to shape.

Interior
The cockpit looks intimidating but I just followed the instructions step-by-step, with the Part PE instructions to the side, and all went smoothly. The pilots seat is like a pipe basket- a bit heavy and unrealistic as molded in plastic, fiddly but very effective when done in PE. What to do with the now orphaned wheel to the right side of the seat is not covered by the Part instructions, so I cut off the mount from the kit seat and glued it to the bottom of the PE seat basket. (Unfortunately, the excellent online cockpit photos of the Canadian museum craft are marred by the fact that the ones of the front office are actually a Spitfire! I wrote the webmaster but as of this date they are still up and the real Lizzie front office pix are MIA).

Since you can see the back of the instrument panel through the windscreen, it is best to combine the PE panel with the kit one, which has the rear of the instruments molded on. I filed the detail from the front of the kit panel, glued on the completed PE/film panel, and detailed the back with wires and hoses.

The fabric structure is well handled on the interior with the exception of the area above the rear machine gun deck, which is thick and undetailed. This area is best handled using the Part set, thinning the area out (I used a burr bit in the Dremel), painting it linen, and adding the PE parts (sprayed grey-green) to replace the stringer detail. Painting the fabric and stringers inside the cockpit was a bit more problematic- you should theoretically paint the fabric a linen color (with a red tint) and the stringers and formers Interior Grey-Green. I solved the problem by spraying the area linen, masking the entire fabric area off and spraying grey-green on the perimeters, then layed down narrow strips of self-adhesive Mylar which I had also sprayed grey-green. For the little that can be seen (mainly the rear port side), I recommend leaving it plain linen with an Umber wash unless you're a stickler.

 

There are couple of other things to note about the interior. If you choose to use the fuel tank straps from the PE set, you should lower the tank 1/8" or so. The top of the straps should be flush with the top of the tank and below the horizontal structural members, from which they were suspended by cords. Also, the rear deck is poor, missing ammunition bins and apparently the MG mount is not quite right (I lacked references on this area so chose to leave it be- my version should also have had a single Lewis machine gun anyway!). Next, testfit the assembly carefully and you may find that the four corners of the upper deck need to be angled off considerably with a file in order to get the fuselage to close up properly.

Look carefully at what will be seen when you're done so you don't waste as much time as I did on invisible things like the sides of the fuel tank or the back of the radio.

The windscreen was coated with Future and when cured it was masked with Bare-Metal black chrome foil and frames cut out with a new no.11 blade. It had to be filed down about half of the width of the framework on the bottom edges to fit well, and held in from the sides while drying to keep it from being a little too splayed out. I used CA glue, which has given me no fogging problems if the clear parts are Futured. By the way, I always run a Sharpie marker over the edges of my canopies before painting to cut down on the light refractions. In the event, this was the only kit clear part I used.

Engine and Cowling
The cowl is a bit of a problem to assemble as you get three curved butt-jointed pieces with no locating pins and must form a perfect cylinder with them. While this allows the cowl bumps (a bit oversized, I sanded them down) to be molded cleanly, it is a pain to get together properly. My solution was to find a bottle cap of the correct diameter (Testors cement), line up the parts against it, put a rubber band around them, then remove the bottle cap. Once tension was put on the joints with the rubber band it fell into a perfect cylinder and I could tweak it until the details lined up, then run liquid cement in from the inside.

Note that the the fasteners running across these joins should have their seams removed, while the rest of the join should remain as-is. The inside was painted aluminum and given an "oily" wash. I also testfit the exhaust-collecting cowl ring but it fit so well that I left it off until later to make painting easier. This was painted various shades of "burnt bronze": magnesium buffing metallizer, platinum mist metallic, sable brown metallic, burnt iron non-buffing metallizer, etc.

Separate cowl flaps are included on the Part set but the kit ones are fine left alone as well. In preparation for using the PE parts, I cut the kit parts back about 1/8" (Make sure to leave the little pins on the inside alone, as they are the only guides you have for fitting the cowl later!), filed off the raised detail, scored the division line deeper and angled this into a notch. Then each PE flap was rolled over a large marker with my thumb to give it the proper curve, pressed against the cowl to double-check the curve, and CA glued into place. Please check and double-check before gluing- the cowl panels are assymmetrical (i.e. the top division line is off-center- check the plans in the instructions) and I ended up getting off by a few mm, necessitating the ripping of them off later (thank you, CA debonder!). After all the cowl flaps are in place you must glue a little PE strip on the gap between each pair (perhaps a strip of tape or vinyl would do better?). Oh joy- only for the masochists, but the end results do look excellent.

The kit engine is really well done. Each crisply-ribbed cylinder is separately molded in a clever three-way mold which leaves just the usual top-to-bottom seam plus a hollow interior. It was such a tight fit in the cowl that I had to file a bit off the top of each cylinder to get it to fit. I recommend filing about 1/2-to-one cooling ring off the bottom of each cylinder before assembly to avoid this problem. You must supply 9 small rods from sprue or wire, but this is pointed out in the instructions. As mentioned earlier, the Engines And Things engine rattled around quite loosely in the cowl so shouldn't be considered for this model unless you need the rear detail.

Not included in either the kit or PE set are the prominent engine-to-cowling braces which I faked from stretched sprue. Also not included if you're a nitpicker is any indication that the engine exhausts connect to the cowl ring collector (i.e., each cylinder should have 2 short pipes connecting it to the inside of the cowl ring- I've never yet seen a kit which includes this). I added them from stretched sprue, faired in with gap-filling CA and snipped off to length. The two intakes inside the cowl are cleverly done, however, with the scoops molded to the cowl ring and separate pieces for the ducting. I drilled and reamed each out, managing to destroy one in the process. It took some clever scratchbuilding to bring it back from the dead. Yes, sometimes things can get too thin.

Unfortunately, aligning all this took some detective and guess work. A simple notch here and there to ensure the correct orientation of the engine and sturdier attachment of the cowling would have helped a lot. In the end I securely glued the engine in place with the top cylinder pointed straight up, then later affixed the cowl to the engine cylinder heads.

The prop hub was a bit misshapen, with each half bowing out from the other. The prop blades are separate and must be carefully aligned by eye or jig. I would have preferred a one-piece prop/hub assembly or some locating pins, but it came out OK.

Landing Gear

The complex shape of each wheel pant is well rendered with two pieces for the pant, two wheel halves, and two landing light parts each. The prominent landing lights are molded as concave lights, which can be painted chrome silver, and clear lens covers. The light is nicely enhanced by a PE part which sits on the front of the light and a ring surrounding each lens cover.

I chose to open up the wheel pants, as this was often done in service and I thought it would look cool since some detail is provided for this area in the detail set. I sawed the shapes out roughly with a scroll saw on low speed, then carved away at the soft plastic with a scalpel until reaching the panel line. The little mounting lugs were left on and drilled out (in retrospect it would have been easier to remove them and replace them later with scratchbuilt parts). I also left the landing gear strut, molded on the inside of the kit part, in place by sawing on either side of it and just bracing it at the top with a little sheet aluminum. Yes, the plastic is so thick that the strut looks right when left as is. After gluing in the light (see below), a sheet of Mylar was curved and CA glued around the inside of the wheel pant to block it off, with the mounting lugs notched out on-the-fly with surgical scissors. Braces were made from music wire.

To enhance the light, I snipped off the light bulb, burnished a disk of chrome mylar into the part, painted the bulb on with a dab of yellow paint, then covered it with some amber clear enamel. The 3-armed PE part was painted black and attached with more clear enamel, a tiny disk of chrome mylar was glued to the center and a dab of 5-min epoxy was placed on each disk. I then reamed the hole in the wheel pants perfectly circular with a burr bit in the Dremel and painted the edge bronze, and the light assembly was glued in from the inside.

 

The clear parts were replaced with Vac-U-Formed copies, just to reduce the "magnifying glass" effect of the kit parts (which really are fine, but I'm a stickler) and glued in place with Kristal Kleer. Now a ring from the PE set was glued to the front of each with CA glue. This might seem like a lot of work for a small area, but it is one of those prominent focal points which really added a lot of realism and visual interest to the project.

Painting

Because of its biplane-like design, the model was painted at this point- with fuselage, wings, wheel spats, tailplanes and struts all separate. I decided to go with a Finnish scheme similar to the one on the decal sheet. A source in Finland sent me these details: some 13 Lysander Mk.I's and early Mk.III's were sent to Finland and served with both wheels and skis. The overall "Continuation War" paint scheme was German RLM 65 light blue undersides (called DN Blue by the Finns because it was surplus Dornier bomber stock), olive green and black, with yellow ID band and wingtips. This was sprayed over the factory delivery scheme of aluminum undersides, dark green/dark earth uppers.

The lights were masked with Microscale liquid mask. The model was primed and trouble areas were repaired. Using Floquil and ModelMaster enamels cut with mineral spirits throughout (I usually use lacquer thinner but ran out- perhaps serendipitously since the plastic is susceptible to softening with "hot" solvents) , I started with Floquil Military colors British Interior Grey-green on the wheel pant interior, windscreen, and PE canopy framework. These were masked and Floquil Reefer White was sprayed on the undersides and under the yellow band area. Next MM Deep Yellow was sprayed on the wingtips and band. When dry, these were masked off and MM RLM65 was sprayed lightly over the white to build up the correct value (in relation to the white and blue of the national insignia) shown in B/W photos. This was sprayed well up the sides.

The light blue was masked with Blu-Tak, rolled into "worms" and pressed into place- this gives a nice "hard/soft" edge. The Olive Green was Floquil Military Colors German RLM 82 with a drop of Testors Beret Green added, as this was an excellent match to the FS34096 color chip called out at the IPMS Stockholm site. When dry, this was in turn masked with Blu-Tak and a mix of Floquil Grimy Black and black was applied. My application technique was to "simulshade", i.e. build up the very thin color slowly in several passes, going over the ribs and panel lines more often for a more solid color.

When cured the masks were removed, the wheel spats and elevators were glued on (small cracks were filled with a mix of acrylic paint and white glue). Next Future was sprayed overall and allowed to cure. Decals were applied and were nice and thin and settled down well using ordinary setting solutions- two thumbs up. This was a very simple scheme to decal, as all the (english!) stencils were apparently painted over. Another coat of Future was followed by MM Acryl flat varnish. I would later paint on the code letters with a custom-made paintmask, but the kit decal is designed in such a way that it can be applied over the green for the proper green plus black appearance.

The Pause That Refreshes

At this frustratingly late point the project was shelved while I took care of some personal issues (separation, divorce- yeccch). When I got up the will to finally return to it, I was faced with some formidable and intimidating challenges. The cockpit and wheels were of such a high standard that I doubted my ability to carry off the rest of it as well. The wing assembly scared me- and those clear parts! But do you know how to eat an elephant? That's right, one forkful at a time. Sometimes if you break a tough job up into small bites, you can physically and psychologically accomplish a great deal.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear-

I started by figuring out how to make the side windows from the Part brand canopy PE set. The first thing I did was separate the little triangular window from the rear part and affix it to the top of the side glazing with CA. This is one way in which the earlier Lizzies differed from the later marks.

I had already sprayed the framework at the time I painted the rest of the airframe, so now the problem was how to glue a clear sheet onto this lacy framework neatly. I was pleased with my solution- I laid the framework (interior side down) on an oversized sheet of clear .05" plastic film stock, aligned one edge, taped it down with Scotch removable tape, and proceeded to "glue" them together with Future along all the frames, applied with a pointed brush. Capillary action sucked the liquid under the frames and the next day I had a good, solid, very thin side glazing. Sloppy messes were either removed with ammonia (if on the "glass") or covered over with flat varnish (if on the framework.). Repeated scoring with a sharp blade along the PE framework separated the clear part from the sheet. They fit perfectly in place.

The rear sliding part was done the same way, with the exception that the glazing was cut first to shape using the printed pattern as a guide (but remembering to remove the little triangles) and it was clamped together in a curved shape before the application of Future. When this sprang apart once it was reglued and reinforced with some Testors Clear Parts Cement. Later, gluing it to the sides of the aircraft with CA would be the only way to keep it from springing apart.

Finally, since I'd gone this far already, the framework was sanded off the upper clear part and it was used as a Vac-U-Form pattern for an 0.020" clear Butyrate replacement. The PE framework was bent to shape over the kit part and glued on to the vac replacement with Testors Clear Parts Cement. This part was left off until after the wings were installed.

Overall, while I was impressed by the engineering of the Part canopy set and it does make a marked improvement, it would be useful only to very advanced modellers looking to get that last little tidbit of quality from their build. The difficulty level is high and the absence of even vacuformed parts and a windscreen makes the set less than desirable.

I decided to leave the front, side windows off to show off the interior detail. As near as I can figure, they slid down into the cockpit sidewall on the real thing.

She has wings! She can fly! She can fly!


I knew I'd feel better about the project once those pesky wings and struts were solidly in place. After reading other reviews I checked and, sure enough, if you build the kit as intended the wings will not have any dihedral. I filled the holes in the wing undersides with stretched sprue and managed not to do too much damage to the surrounding paint in the meantime. Then I glued the wings onto the spar unit with (misnamed) Testors liquid cement, giving time for positioning. The goal at this stage was to ensure that the inboard trailing edges were in a straight line across and perpendicular to the fuselage- don't worry about dihedral yet.

 

Next, after curing overnight, I affixed the gear pants to the workbench with Blu-Tak and propped up the tail until the wings were horizontal. I propped the same size bottle under each wing until the dihedral looked right against plans and photos, and measured to make sure it was even from side to side (It may be a hair high, but measured 7.1 cm). Now the struts, with locator pins removed, were glued on with 5 minute epoxy.

After that it was pretty much finishing up work and pulling all the subassemblies together. I reinforced the antenna post with a wire brace to prevent future breakage. The tailwheel seems to sit a bit high, but I left it alone.

 

Overall I was quite pleased with this kit (My own build got bogged down but that was mostly my own doing- and in the end I am very pleased with the results anyway). It presents a few challenges but nothing a moderately skilled builder can't handle. Just remember to trim the cockpit deck to fit and move the upper attachment points on the wing struts and the rest should go well although the side windows may be bowed out. The Part set is the best way of correcting the seats and adding the noticeably absent bombracks. These are finnicky but I think the net effect is quite positive. You can add as much detail as you want, but built from the box it is also a nice 1/48th Lysander to help round out anyones WWII aircraft collection. If the subject interests you, buy one- you won't be dissapointed.

 


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