Kit: No. 72-003
Manufacturer: AML (Czech Republic), available from Squadron Mail Order, 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX 75011-5010, &972-242-8663
Comments: Mixed media, 84 parts (50 injection-molded plastic, 6 vacuum-formed plastic, 26 photoetched brass, 2 printed paper), decals.
Pros: Interesting subject matter, photoetched details, recessed panel lines, spare vacuum-formed canopy
Cons: Confusing instructions, poor fit of some parts, drab choice of color/markings scheme.
North American's O-47 was the brainchild of J.H. "Dutch" Kindelberger, who went on to fame for designing the vaunted P-51 Mustang. While the O-47 was state-of-the-art when it first flew in 1935, the concept of dedicated observation planes was obsolete by the time World War II started. Still, the O-47 was used during WWII, notably by National Guard units patrolling for submarines off U.S. shores.
AML's O-47 is the first injection-molded kit of a pre-war observation type and makes a welcome addition to my collection. The plastic moldings feature fine recessed panel detail, a great engine, and enough interior detail to keep most modelers happy. This detail helps you to better understand how the crew worked in this airplane: The observer, seated in the middle of the long greenhouse canopy, could fold his seat down to enter the observation/camera bay in the belly. Both observer's seats, an aerial camera, bulkheads, control sticks, and seats for the pilot and gunner are provided. A two-layered photoetched instrument panel features gauge faces printed on white paper. The scarf-ring-mounted .30-caliber gun carries photoetched handles and ring-and-bead sight.
Two identical vacuum-formed canopies are provided (in case you mess up), and with careful trimming, the canopy fits well on the cockpit opening. Observation windows are also provided, but their shape is difficult to understand from the assembly instructions. The side-looking transparencies are bay windows that have sheet-metal fairings to streamline them into the wing roots. The kit parts are not well defined, so I cut them "fat" and repeatedly dry-fitted them to the openings and adjusted them with sanding sticks.
Assembly involves some special handling. First, you must remove all of the prominent ejector-pin stumps inside the fuselage halves. A rub-down on coarse sandpaper prepared the mating surfaces of all parts. With these preparations, the parts fit well.
The assembly of the cockpit also went well, but the diagrams in the instructions need careful study. The brace behind the pilot's station holds the radio compass and the wireless antennas. Two plastic "Vs" hold a platform, and you are supposed to add two pieces of .8mm stretched sprue to the structure; no lengths are given. After figuring out where they were supposed to go, I found they wouldn't fit, so I left them off. The exploded-view diagrams don't show how the finished assemblies should appear.
There are no tabs and slots to attach the wings to the fuselage, but carefully sanding the wing roots will allow the wings to fit flush with the flat mating surface on the fuselage. The landing gear struts are simple, and the interiors of the gear bays and doors have excellent detail. The strut mounting hole in the left wing is too far forward compared with the right, so I drilled a new shallow hole behind it.
The last assembly drawing is confusing. It includes the installation of . . . well, everything. Install all the big parts (wings, tails, engine, and cowl), then go through the diagram and check off each small part as you go. I never did figure out the correct aspect of the long exhaust pipe along the right side of the fuselage. Do the two small pins face inward (there are no holes for them)? Up? Down? I turned it all around, and it doesn't seem to fit in any direction.
Only one marking scheme is provided on the decal sheet: Olive Drab over Neutral Gray camouflage with simple insignias and tail number. I painted the model with Floquil enamels. The decals liked to stick and were difficult to move into position.
I spent 27 hours on my pot-bellied patrol plane, a little more than usual. The hardest part of the project is masking and painting the immense greenhouse canopy - aaargh! You'll need experience working with photoetched parts and refining fit to work on this O-47.
The finished model measures within a few scale inches of the data in Swanborough & Bowers' United States Military Aircraft Since 1908, but comparison with photos indicates the fuselage isn't deep enough and the canopy is too tall. Still, the unique shape and subject matter make it an eyecatcher.
- Paul Boyer