The release of Trumpeter’s 1/48 scale HU-16A comes as a pleasant surprise. Previously, the only ones available were Monogram’s 1/72 scale “toy” from 60 years ago and a couple of 1/144 scale kits from Amodel. In addition to being a modern release in a larger scale, this one depicts the early A model with the short wingspan.
I was impressed with the size and complexity of the kit: The 15 sprues in bags, 16-page instructions, decal sheets, and color plates looked challenging.
The gear wells are amazingly detailed. I chose the optional metal struts, knowing they would be supporting a heavy kit with 2 ounces of nose ballast.
The cockpit and cabin features are thorough, but there are no interior doors to the flight deck, the auxiliary power unit room, and the privy. The directions simply state “interior green” for the floors, walls, and ceiling, but a more-authentic effect for the soundproofing can be achieved with wrinkled foil attached with double-stick tape and painted a two-tone light sage green and kelly green.
I was generally impressed with the precise fits, but the cabin subassembly needed a lot of test-fitting and trimming before the fuselage halves could be joined.
It was at this point that I began to find technical errors. For one, the kit has a window in the APU room and an exhaust port in the privy which should be filled. The little ventilator scoops at the aft end of the cabin are about a scale 2½' too far aft, and the array of antennas under the wingtips, at the top of the stabilizer and on the upper deck, must be added. There should be a porthole for the radio operator’s position on the right side, just behind the copilot’s side window. The one-piece, clear cockpit roof and windscreen has a faint outline of a porthole, but it is in the wrong position; I drilled a 7⁄32" hole and repaired it with Micro-Mark Micro-Glaze.
The control surfaces, which are fabric-covered, are represented with scribed lines and rivets instead of subtle rib tapes.
The cockpit roof does not conform to the adjacent fuselage assembly and requires some filling. So does the top center wing section where it joins the fuselage. For ease of handling during assembly, I left the outer wing panels, engines, and control surfaces off as long as I could.
To my surprise, when I went to insert the engines into the cowlings they didn’t fit. I had to clip off the valve covers from the cylinders I had so painstakingly added earlier.
The hatch on the nose is the wrong shape, wrong size, and in the wrong position. It was a simple matter of filing it off and scribing a new one. Also, the angle of the windscreen looks too steep: The aircraft’s has a 45-degree rake, but the kit is closer to 55 degrees.
I painted my model with Testors aluminum non-buffing Metalizer, Metalizer sealer, Glosscote, flat black, and chrome yellow (FS13538). Since it is not possible to mask Metalizers, I had to paint the de-icer boots and yellow markings first, then mask them before painting the aluminum.
The decals are delicate and do not like to be moved once in position. The kit includes markings for two Nationalist China birds as well as the U.S. Air Force Albatross displayed at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Ariz. It would have been nice if the kit had included decals for the walkway stripes and the black borders of the yellow fuselage and wing bands. Besides a misspelled jack point stencil under the nose, the RESCUE band on the tail should be blue and yellow, not black. And the propeller warning band is too wide.
While the scale dimensions of the finished model are right on, it sits a bit tail high, as if the main gear legs are too long or the nose wheel is too short. The keel line should slope downward toward the rear, not parallel to the ground.
I spent about 70 hours on this Albatross, including a lot of time on the interior details and double-masking the de-icer boots and yellow markings.
Note: A version of this review appeared in the November 2013 FineScale Modeler.