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Fondere Miniature 1/48 scale Piasecki H-21 "Flying Banana"

Kit: No. 6017
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer: Fonderie Miniature, available from Squadron Mail Order, 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX 75011-5010, 972-242-8663,
Price: $69.95
Comments: Multimedia, 186 parts (99 injection-molded, 7 resin, 55 white metal, 27 photoetched, 2 vacuum-formed), decals
Pros: Needed subject in this scale, good photoetched details
Cons: Poor fit, soft plastic, all parts needed cleanup, poor instructions, vacuum-formed canopy left gap at bottom, no windows for doors, incorrect insignias
The predecessor of today's Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-47 Chinook, the Piasecki H-21 Shawnee (Workhorse in the U.S. Air Force), pioneered the tandem main rotor system. There's never been a kit of this classic chopper in 1/48 scale, so I was looking forward to this release.

Looking back, though, it was a struggle. Assembly is complicated by flash and the soft plastic for the main components. It took me hours to clean them up, especially the web seats for the interior. The white-metal parts are better, but need to have mold-parting lines filed away. The vacuum-formed nose transparency pieces are molded well, as are the photoetched grills and grab handles.

The biggest hurdle was the instructions, printed in French and broken English. The diagrams are rough with hand-written callouts, and I often found it difficult to see the aspect of the assembly being shown.

All of the interior bulkheads and the floor are oversize, preventing the fuselage halves from closing. I had to grind down every part there. The initial step in the instruction have you drill holes in a resin transmission case to mount drive-shaft couplings, but all of them are hidden when the fuselage is closed; I left them out.

Building the cockpit was tricky, too. Instead of trying to straighten the yaw pedals, I replaced them with .025" styrene rod. Most of the photoetched parts go in the cockpit, used for foot rails, pedal braces, seat mounts, and harnesses.

Be sure all the photoetched mounting hardware is spaced properly - too close together and you'll interfere with the instrument panel shroud, too far apart and the pedals will interfere with the canopy glass. I suggest that you tack the center console and instrument panel in place and install the foot rails and rudder pedal accordingly.

The white-metal rotor heads have separate pitch linkages. They're all molded the same, and you have to trim one side of each depending on whether it is mounted on the front or rear rotor.

The white-metal landing gear fit well after clean up.

My sample's vacuum-formed canopy didn't fit well. It took me nine hours to get it to fit on the injection-molded internal center brace, and even then there was a 1/16" gap at the bottom. Either the bottom of the fuselage is too flat or the canopy is too rounded. There was no easy fix, so I left it alone.

Once the fitting is done, the model starts to look like an H-21. A nice touch is the fine photoetched screening over the openings in the spine. The side windows are too thick and none are given for the windows in the doors. You'll have to cut them out of your stock of clear plastic if you want them.

The decals went on nicely, but the insignias are the wrong shape and color; I substituted AeroMaster insignias.

It took me about 25 hours to complete the kit; it would have been less if everything had fit. This one is a project for experienced modelers.

- Larry Schramm


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