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Airmodel 1/72 scale Piaggio P.108

Scale: 1/72
Kit: No. AM-403
Manufacturer: Airmodel, available from Aviation Usk, 602 Front St., P.O. Box 97, Usk, WA 99180, phone 509-445-1236
Price: $39.95 plus shipping
Comments: Mixed media, 82 parts (30 vacuum formed, 52 injection molded), decals.

Although only a few of them saw service, the Piaggio P.108 was the sole successful Axis heavy bomber of World War II. It was the first operational bomber with remote-controlled gun turrets; a feature of later advanced designs, such as Boeing's B-29.

Airmodel offers modelers a crack at constructing a 1/72 scale version of this flying footnote. The main vacuum-formed components sport crisp detail and beautifully recessed panel lines, but many of the lines don't match up across seams. The asymmetric canopy, gear-door, and side-gun openings don't match from port to starboard. Dozens of small pimples on the parts (caused by the air-evacuation holes in the mold) require tedious removal.

The kit's injection-molded detail parts suffer from flash and mold misalignment. Rather than clean them, I scrounged through my spares box for replacements. Shortened main gear struts from a 1/72 scale Frog Lancaster are perfect replacements for the kit gear. Props and engines from a couple of Supermodel Cant Z.1007bis kits (two each from both the single- and twin-fin versions for proper rotation) work well in a pinch. All but the earliest operational P.108s carried eight prominent flame-damper exhausts, but Airmodel did not include them in this kit.

The model's basic shape is good, but the cowls have too much taper; they should be closer in outline to those of a Cant Z.1007bis. With no step-by-step assembly sequence, simple schematics guide construction. The precise locations of gun-turret sighting domes are not shown, so check your references carefully.

The fit of the parts ranges from excellent to awful. Fuselage attachment points for the horizontal stabilizers are nearly 1/4" too narrow in chord, so I built up trailing-edge extensions. Installing the split bombardier's glazing is difficult.

The decals provide markings for one P.108 (MM.22006) on one particular date; March 28, 1942, the Regia Aeronautica's 19th anniversary. This commemorative oddity really did sport white-on-black dorsal wing markings; the type normally reserved for Italian undersurfaces. But most Piaggios, including those that participated in the famous raids on Gibraltar, wore all-black, stencil-type wing fasces. Airmodel supplies only two of these.

Reference photos are more helpful than Airmodel's color notes. Pay special attention to the wing insignia, nose turret, exhausts placement, and camouflage, all of which varied throughout the Piaggio's service career. The best available references I know of are Air International (Vol. 31, No. 6, and Vol. 32, No. 1) and Wings (Vol. 9, No. 6).

I used Floquil Classic and Polly Scale paints to duplicate the intricate four-color finish of the most famous Piaggio of all: MM22003, the machine in which Benito Mussolini's son, Bruno, lost his life. The proper mix of wing fasces came from Tauro sheet No. 72-510, while spares-box decals helped fill out the markings.

This Italian "heavy" isn't for lightweights. As vacuum-formed projects go, Airmodel's P.108 fits in the "experts only" category. The proof is the 90 hours required for completion of mine.

David L. Veres

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