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Airfix 1/72 Curtiss Hawk 81-A-2

Kit:A01003 // Scale:1/72 // Price:$6.99
Hornby America, 253-922-7203
Good outlines; good fit; excellent decals; "weighted" tires; optional pitot tubes, cowl flaps, and raised landing gear
Thick, one-piece canopy
Injection-molded, 47 parts, decals
Airfix continues its program of issuing newly tooled 1/72 scale classic warplanes with a much-needed early P-40. This boxing includes markings for the famous “Flying Tigers,” with others already issued and planned that portray other examples of the Curtiss Warhawk, or, as the British and Soviets called it, Tomahawk.

Molded in its now-standard soft, light gray plastic, Airfix’s kit features separate castings for raised or lowered landing gear, alternate pitot tubes, opened and closed cowl flaps, a decent interior and pilot figure, and “weighted” tires for the main gear. Airfix has done a good job of capturing the complicated shapes of the forward fuselage. Inserts provide a good set of “nostrils” for the ventral intakes, as well as the upper intake and gun fairings. Cockpit detail includes a separate instrument panel, stick, seat, and pilot figure, with some detail molded into the insides of the fuselage halves. The detail on the instrument panel is provided as a decal. The cockpit appears deep enough; shallow cockpit renditions have been the bane of recent P-40 kits.

The one-piece lower wing surface establishes the dihedral, and with the two upper-wing surfaces attached, the assembly fits well to the fuselage. Watch out for those fine machine-gun barrels molded to the wings’ leading edges.

I like Airfix’s penchant for providing separate castings to pose the model on its landing gear or with the gear retracted. On this model, the retracted main gear has the door, strut, and a half-wheel molded together for simple assembly. I chose to plant the model on its gear. The struts are realistically thin, but that also means they are easy to bend and break.

The main canopy is molded with the windscreen. Although not suggested in the instructions, you could probably saw it apart and pose the retracting section in the open position. That section is rather thick, though, with prominent raised framing that looks a bit too large for the scale.

I was impressed with the fit and encountered no assembly problems. I painted the model with Testors Model Master RAF dark green and dark earth, and used FS36622 light gray tinted with a touch of olive drab for the underside sky gray. After a couple of coats of Pledge Future floor polish, I applied the decals. They’re well printed and fit fine, but the sheet provides only one subject — Charles Older’s well-documented mount of the American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers.” I think the Chinese national insignias are too pale, though.

Interestingly, the instructions have you mount the straight pitot tube on the left wing, while the box art and photos of Older’s plane show the “cranked” tube that is also provided in the kit.

Assembly took only a few hours, and I may have spent more time on masking and painting the camouflage scheme than I did building the kit. Call it a 12-hour model.

I applaud Airfix for issuing new kits with fairly accurate shapes, adequate details, easy assembly, and affordable prices. Keep ’em comin’!
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