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Airfix B-17G Flying Fortress

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/72 scale plastic model aircraft kit
This is not Airfix’s rivet-encrusted classic from the early 1960s, nor its interim reboxing of the Academy kit — you can retire those. While not as detailed as the recent Revell kit, Airfix’s new Flying Fortress may be the best choice for most 1/72 scale modelers. The kit depicts the late B-17G model with the “Cheyenne” tail gun and staggered waist-gun positions (which was done to ease movement of the two standing gunners there).

Options include raised or lowered landing gear, opened or closed bomb-bay doors, and movable rudder, elevators, and ailerons. However, flaps are molded shut. Unused parts for a slightly different flight deck window arrangement, a radome in place of the ball turret, and a nose-mounted radome for a future RAF Fortress are also on the sprues.

The parts are molded in Airfix’s now standard soft, light gray plastic. Exterior panel detail is engraved, but not too deeply. Most small parts show mold-parting seams that need cleanup. Clear parts are well done. I can’t think of another company that produces instruction sheets better than Airfix’s. I really like how they show the previous step’s additions in place and tinted; great assurance for easily confused builders.

Decals provide markings for two 8th Air Force bombers in (mostly) natural metal: Skyway Chariot and Mah Ideel, the one I chose.

The interior features a detailed flight deck, bombardier’s compartment, radio compartment, bomb bay, waist, and tail-gunner’s station, but you won’t see much once the model is assembled. The ball turret is suspended from the ceiling of the waist compartment so the guns can be traversed and elevated.

The bomb bay has the trellis structure and bomb racks, but is equipped with only four 500-pound bombs.

Study the instructions when it comes to adding the machine guns; most must be installed from inside, but the waist guns can be installed from the outside.

In an effort to better detail the engines and nacelles, the parts breakdown and installation is pretty complex and will require careful study of the illustrations and dry-fitting. The engines show good detail, with separate castings for intake and exhaust manifolds, but most of it is invisible on the finished model. Optional opened or closed cowl flaps are a nice touch.

The main landing gear is sturdy, and optional struts allow either raised or lowered gear. One of the best things about modeling the B-17 — no landing gear doors to repeatedly break off!

You can pose the bomb-bay doors opened or closed, but watch out; you need to cut out a piece of each door-opening mechanism before installation (step 112 and 113). Look closely at the diagrams.

The fit overall was very good. The clear cover for the flight deck fit well, but I found the clear side panels in the nose fit sloppily. The tiny window (K6) just behind and above the bombardier wouldn’t fit into its opening without some adjustment.

I painted my model with Alclad polished aluminum and Mr. Color lacquers. The decals are beautifully printed and went on without a hitch.

I spent 26 hours on my new B-17, and the finished model looks correct. Experienced builders should have no trouble with it, but beginners may be daunted by the high parts count and involved assembly. Airfix has already brought out a second issue, this time with ground equipment, and it will be interesting to see if other variants will be coming. With a different set of fuselage halves, an early G, F, and E should be possible!

Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2017 issue.
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