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Sword 1/72 scale Beech T-34C Turbo Mentor

Kit: No. 72007
Scale: 1/72
Manufacturer: Sword, available from Squadron Mail Order, 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX 75011-5010, 972-242-8663, www.squadron.com
Price: $14.96
Comments: Injection-molded, 45 parts (2 resin), decals
Pros: One-piece resin cockpit tub has excellent detail, external detail is crisply molded, decals are well printed
Cons: Poor fit, poor propeller, canopy was cloudy and can only be posed closed, instructions were vague, nose shape too skinny


The T-34 "Charlie" is the primary trainer for the U.S. Navy and Marines. Basically, it's the old Beechcraft T-34 Mentor (descended from the classic Bonanza) with a turboprop engine and updated avionics. Its homeliness belies its importance, as nearly every Naval aviator has earned his wings in the "Charlie."

Sword's kit is molded in light gray styrene with a clear injection-molded canopy. The recessed panel lines and corrugated control surfaces are well molded, but the edges of all the parts require cleanup. Typical of a Czech limited-run kit, there are no alignment pins.

My sample's main gear wheels had unsightly sink marks and no holes for the strut axles. The propeller, molded on one corner of a sprue, had two of the three small prop blades broken off. One of them disappeared into my part-eating carpet, so I ended up fashioning three new blades from strip styrene. This allowed me to pose the props in the feathered position, typical of a parked turboprop aircraft.

The injection-molded canopy was shaped well, but the inside surface was a bit rough and cloudy, so. I polished it vigorously with Novus 2 on a cotton swab, cleaned the plastic with ammonia, then dipped it in Future floor polish. That process significantly improved its clarity.

The cockpit tub and nose gear bay are molded in resin. The tub is a gem; the side consoles, seats (with harnesses), rudder pedals, and control sticks are molded in one large piece. All you have to do to finish the interior is place the plastic instrument panels and paint.

Putting the kit together didn't take long, but the fit of the resin cockpit tub and nose-gear well was not good. I had to sand the sides of the tub to get the fuselage halves to close around it. The nose-gear well didn't fit flush with the well opening in the fuselage, so I had to grind away the insides of the fuselage and adjust the fit. I also had to adjust the fit of the fuselage to the wing assembly.

Even with its ungainly long nose, the model's center of gravity is well aft of the main gear, so I added lead shot around the nose gear well. I figured loading lead around one side would do it, but when the model finally came together, it plopped back on its tail. When you build yours, pack as much weight as you can into the nose.

The kit's instructions require a bit of modeler's intuition, as parts placement is vague. Without part numbers on the instructions or sprues, you have to compare the shape of the part with the shape of the drawing to figure things out. A case in point is the prominent jet exhausts on either side of the nose. The instructions show these as one-piece units, but each is molded in halves.

Painting the gaudy U.S. Navy trainer markings was perhaps the toughest part of the project; there are a lot of angles and the model is pretty small (less than 5" long). After spraying on a flat white coat, I masked for the International Orange makings. Instead of using the proper FS 12197, I decided to use Testor Boyd Sunburst enamel - it looks more like International Orange under fluorescent lights. Photos show some of the T-34Cs with prop blades that have white-red-white tips on the front of the blade, and yellow on the back; that's the way I painted mine.

The decals are well printed but resisted most setting solutions. I found the central part of the grinning shark mouth didn't fit, so I cut it in half and after adjusting the fit, touched up the "teeth" with paint. Don't forget to add flat black wing walks - I did!

While the model measures to scale, the forward fuselage seems too long and skinny compared with photos in U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Air Power Directory (Aerospace). After 19 hours, it makes a colorful addition to my Navy collection.

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