Seventy years ago last May, Royal Air Force Lancasters from No. 617 Squadron flew the famous raid against the hydroelectric dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley. Operation Chastise was conducted to disrupt electrical power for Germany’s war industry. It seems fitting, then, that during this anniversary year Airfix’s new Lancaster kit should be the B.III “Dambuster” version, with the special “Upkeep” bomb.
The box is jampacked with 266 parts molded in blue-gray plastic. About 60 of those parts go unused, and I think you can build a B.I version with them.
The instruction booklet takes you through 110 steps to completion. Decals cover two aircraft from the raid, and there is a painting/decaling guide for each. This is an involved build, so I stayed close to the instructions. Airfix did a nice job of engineering with the modeler in mind, but some parts will need adjustment.
Construction begins with the fuselage interior. The bomb bay forms the foundation for all interior parts, including two wing spars. These are unique in that they have the highly detailed wheel wells added to them. You must then glue the upper and lower wing sections to this subassembly; they will not slide over the wheel wells. Evidently, I didn’t get these steps exactly right, and I had to do lots of scraping and sanding to get the lower wings to fit properly. Then, as a result, I had trouble fitting the inboard engine nacelles. These are critical steps, so take your time. You must install the main gear from the top of the wing midway in the construction. Since they are in scale (read flimsy), I was concerned about breakage. But once all the components were glued, I was pleased with their sturdiness. The four panels covering the aft engine nacelles needed filling along their seams.
In steps 30 and 32, the horizontal stabilizer parts B8 and A6 are mislabeled.
The focal point of this Lancaster is the trapeze assembly supporting the barrel-shaped bomb. I followed the assembly steps, but in the end the V arms were too wide to hold the bomb. Test-fit as you go along and make the necessary corrections if you want to pose the bomb in the aircraft.
Painting is straightforward, but be prepared for lots of masking on the clear parts. While the canopy frames are distinct, those on the turrets are less so, particularly near the curved portions. A quick check of your references will help. The painting guide shows Humbrol paints, but I painted the model with Tamiya and Gunze Sangyo equivalents.
There are only a few decals, and they went on easily. However, due to the flat carrier film, I had some silvering on the walkways and between the serial numbers and the call letters, despite two coats of Alclad Aqua Clear. I used a sharp hobby knife to remove these silvered areas where they were most noticeable. Another gloss coat helped further reduce the silvering.
I spent about 50 hours on the model, with a lot of time getting the smaller, sub-assemblies in place and, of course, masking. Given the parts count and involved construction, I would recommend this kit for experienced modelers.
Airfix’s kit yields an impressive model that is a fitting tribute to the brave aircrews who flew this dangerous mission. Airfix has produced another winner; now I look forward to the B.II version.
Note: A version of this review appeared in the November 2013 FineScale Modeler.