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Gavia Lavochkin La-7

Manufacturer: Gavia, available from Eduard, Obrnice 170, 435 21 Obrnice, Czech Republic, www.eduard.cz
Price: $29.99
Comments: Injection-molded, 73 parts, decals
Pros: Good detail overall, easy to assemble, good decals and paint masks
Cons: Poor fit between wing and lower fuselage, cockpit turtle deck too small

The Lavochkin La-7 radial-engined fighter had the speed and combat maneuverability to compete with the Luftwaffe's best. Following Soviet policy, this aircraft was built utilizing non-strategic materials (such as wood) wherever possible. This allowed a faster building program, but a shorter operational career. Entering service in the spring of 1944, it went on to become the favored mount of many Soviet aces.

Gavia's La-7 has a lot of detail throughout. The panel lines are recessed with raised detail in the cockpit. I found no ejector pin marks needing cleanup. Excellent decals for three different aircraft, and painting masks for the canopy and cowl designs are provided. The well-molded clear parts are separately bagged.

The 14-page step-by-step instructions include a parts map, paint and markings drawings, and directions on how to apply the masks.

The cockpit area has good detail, but there is flash between the spokes of the trim wheel (part No. 32). No dial faces are represented on the instrument panel, and there is no decal for them, either. The turtle deck (13) behind the pilot's seat was undersized, leaving a gap at the bulkhead. I filled it with Micro Kristal Kleer after assembly of the fuselage halves.

Checking the fuselage-to-wing fit, I found that the opening in the fuselage was too small. Sanding the back end of the wing assembly improved the fit. A gap about one millimeter wide runs fore to aft between the bottom of the fuselage and the wing assembly. I used gap-filling super glue to fill the front and rear mating surfaces, then carefully filled the remaining gap along the side with acrylic latex window glazing and wiped it smooth with a wet cloth. You could also add small strips of plastic to shim the bottom of the fuselage.

The landing gear locating holes are a little too far outboard in the wings, so when the gear doors are attached, they pitch the assemblies inward. I plugged the holes with plastic rod and drilled new holes to solve the problem.

The tires are smooth, not the treaded style that I found in most reference photos. I chose the markings of Maj. F. M. Kosolapov's aircraft, giving me a chance to try out the cowl masks. If you use the painting guide in the instructions, the suggested Tamiya light gray is too dark. I mixed it with white to lighten it.

All the masks were easy to apply, but some problems cropped up. The masks for the wheels did not cover them completely, so I had to repaint them using a circle template. Some of the adhesive on the cowl masks didn't come off the backing sheet, so I had to be careful when painting. You're supposed to edge the frames with the canopy masks, then fill the centers with liquid masking agent. On some of the segments, you can use the centers from the masks.

The decals went on without solvent, but they like to stick. Use plenty of water to float them into position. It was tricky to line up the top and bottom wing stripes.

The model scales close to the dimensions in my reference, Squadron/Signal's La-5/7 in Action, although it stands a little too tall. If you plan on doing Maj. I. N. Kozhedub's plane, white stripes should outline the red triangles on the cowl.

The finished kit is eye-pleasing, and using the masks made it much easier and quicker to paint the striking cowl design. I recommend it to modelers who have experience with filling seams. Gavia's La-7 is a welcome addition to World War II fighter collections.

Tom Foti

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