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KIT REVIEW


Airfix Eighth Air Force: Boeing B-17G and Bomber
Re-Supply Set -- 1:72 Scale

The Boeing B-17G was one of the most iconic and legendary aircraft of the 20th century, as its singular role in the Second World War shaped the very course of the conflict.  There have been many kits of the mighty Flying Fortress over the years, and the most recent new-tool 1:72 scale B-17G was produced by Airfix with its initial release in 2016.  Very quickly, it started to build a reputation as the best B-17G in this scale.  The third boxing of this kit is the Eighth Air Force: Boeing B-17G & Bomber Re-Supply Set.  It combines the Airfix B-17G kit with a range of unique ground service equipment that holds particular appeal for the diorama builder.  A review sample of this set recently landed on our review bench.  Let’s check it out.  

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The B-17 Flying Fortress needs no introduction.  This four-engine heavy bomber was developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps.  During WWII, the B-17 was primarily employed by the USAAF in daylight strategic bombing against German industrial and military targets.  The Eighth Air Force, arrayed across airfields in central and southern England, took the fight to the skies over Axis-occupied Europe, marking the shift in the direction of the air war over Europe to favor the Allies.  In the face of intense German resistance and initially nearly untenable losses, B-17 and B-24 daylight bombing progressively contributed to the degradation of German industrial activity, war production output, and overall warfighting capability all the way to VE-Day.  B-17s also participated in the Pacific theater where they conducted raids against Japanese airfields and surface ships, and other targets.

The B-17G was the definitive Flying Fortress, incorporating improvements upon the B-17F.  Crews of ten men were carried aloft by four Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone turbosupercharged radial engines.  The B-17G could reach speeds up to 287 mph, though it cruised about 100 mph slower.  The Fort had a range of about 1,700 miles with a full bomb load and a service ceiling of 35,000 feet.  Externally, the B-17G was characterized by its distinctive Bendix twin machine gun chin turret, bringing defensive armament to 13 M2 Browning .50 caliber machine guns distributed across nine positions around the airplane.  Late production blocks also featured a revised tail gun position known as the Cheyenne turret that provided a reflector sight and an expanded field of fire.  In all, 12,731 B-17s were produced, and nearly 8,700 of them were B-17Gs.  Today, less than 10 B-17Gs remain airworthy, but the Flying Fortress will forever hold an unforgettable place in the history of aviation and air warfare.

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The 1:72 scale Airfix Eighth Air Force: Boeing B-17G & Bomber Re-Supply Set has a lot of plastic inside of it.  It contains, by my count, 444 parts.  The B-17G itself consists of 212 parts on 10 light gray sprues and another 28 clear parts on one sprue.  The bomber re-supply component has 195 light gray parts and nine clear pars on five sprues.  Here, you’ll find a Cushman Model 39 Package Car, a Chevrolet M6 Bomb Service Truck pulling an M5 Bomb Trailer, four 500-lb. bombs, two 1,000-lb. bombs, and an Autocar U-7144-T 4x4 Tractor Unit towing a F-1 Fuel Trailer.  The full color instruction booklet organizes the build of the B-17G over 137 steps while the ground equipment elements are completed following between six to 17 steps each.  Markings are provided for one airplane:

Strengths:  For several years now, Airfix has been conducting a comeback, producing increasingly sophisticated, highlight detailed, and expertly engineered kits.  They now stand as one of industry’s best manufacturers and keep on producing consistently excellent work.  Their B-17G is a part of this production quality arc.  It is by far superior to the old Revell, Academy, and Hasegawa kits and even outshines the more recent (and very good) Revell of Germany kit.  It’s the best 1:72 scale B-17G out there.

Parts breakdown is fairly traditional and straightforward.  If you’ve built a B-17 in any scale, you’ll have a little déjà vu with the standard left and right fuselage halves, upper and lower wing halves, and so on.  I test fit the major assemblies (fuselage and wings) and found a virtually perfect airtight fit.  There was just a little bit of flash on the wing root seams that needed the slightest degree of cleanup.  A big spar extends out from the wing roots, not only insuring a solid, strong fit, but it makes sure you get the right dihedral as well.  

Exterior surface detail is excellent (though see below) and features thin, restrained, and very crisp recessed panel lines.  The plastic is a smooth as glass.  Also note that fabric covered control surfaces have just a bit of a subtly distinct surface texture compared to the smooth metal surfaces of the airframe.

The bombardier and navigator nose side windows are not hard-to-install inserts but integrated into a larger clear section of the nose that requires the builder to simply mask off those windows – no bad fits, glue marks, or unsightly seams here.  The engine faces are also very nicely detailed in their individual cylinders, ignition wires, and exhaust pipes.  There are also optional open and closed cowl flaps.  The engine oil cooler air intakes are provided as single-piece inserts (no seam cleanup required on the inside of the intakes).  The landing gear look very nice, the main gear tires have both a well-defined diamond tread and they are also subtly flattened on the bottom.  There are also basic main gear wells.  Landing flaps and elevators are separate parts that can be positioned neutral or dropped.  The aft fuselage crew door can be positioned open or closed.  In this version of the kit, the Cheyanne tail turret is provided.

Any B-17 build comes with the promise to build this famous aircraft’s interior, and here, you’re in for a treat, especially for 1:72 scale.  Airfix has done a great job with the Flying Fortress’s interior, from the Norden bombsight, the navigator’s table, cockpit details (e.g., instrument panel, seats, throttle, and sidewalls), a full bomb bay with four 500-lb. bombs, radio operator’s compartments, the ball turret (including the rig that attaches it to the interior ceiling) waist section, and tail gunner’s position.  The machine guns are also well done and feature finely perforated cooling jackets surrounding the barrels).  Various ammo boxes are also provided.  Even the canvass boot covering the top the tailwheel assembly (between the waist gunners and the tail gunner) is here.  Bottom line - virtually all the key interior details are present (though again, see below for a few exceptions).  

While only one markings option is available in the box – it’s a unique one.  Thundermug was originally in the overall olive drab-over-gray scheme, but at some point, the entire left wing was removed and replaced by a unpainted silver wing. Presumably, this was done in the effort to repair flak damage.  There was also a swap-out of the tail turret, belied by a slightly different tone and degree of faded paint.  The decals are gorgeous.  I’m not sure who printed them, but they are of Cartograf-level quality.  All the colors look great, everything is in register, and the carrier film is thin and restrained.

The same kind of fidelity and attention to detail is seen with the re-supply element in this set.  The Cushman Model 39 Package Car, a Chevrolet M6 Bomb Service Truck/M5 Bomb Trailer, and the Autocar U-7144-T 4x4 Tractor/F-1 Fuel Trailer rival the detail seen in cast resin aftermarket items.  They are highly detailed, from their chassis to suspension, exhaust pipes and mufflers, windshields, spare tire, vehicle transmissions, and so forth.  I’m not a subject matter expert on the 8th AF ground equipment, but these items sure do compare very well to the references I do have.  These parts have a ton of detail and a few building options, such as the extra ordnance to load up the M5 bomb trailer and the fuel hose and reel assembly details that can be displayed open or closed in the back of F-1 fuel truck.  These elements can add lots of additional accent to your B-17G display to be sure, and diorama builders will have a number of great opportunities to tell a memorable story with these items.

Weaknesses:  Only a few critiques can be considered.  The airframe surfaces details are simplified, as there are no rivet details anywhere (and on the B-17G, they would be of the raised, domed-head variety).  Granted, in 1:72 scale, such detail rendered to scale would probably push tooling to its limit.  Also note that there are no surface details delineating the location of the de-icer boots, so you’ll have to mask off and paint them without a physical surface guide.  There are no harnesses or lap belts on any of the seats from the nose to the radio operator’s chairs.  The big yellow cylinders of breathing oxygen found throughout the interior appear to be absent.  The main gear wells are good for what’s there, but they are also basic and lack a variety of the finer details.  And keep your eyes out for wayward ejection pin marks, such as on the bomb bay doors, bulkheads, and inside of the waist section.  The marks aren’t too egregious, but they are visible. 

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Airfix has done a great job with their Eighth Air Force: Boeing B-17G & Bomber Re-Supply Set.  They have combined a great kit of the Flying Fortress with some outstanding ground equipment.  There’s a ton of appeal here for many scale modelers, especially those interested in building a diorama.  And for folks interested in adding even more detail to the Airfix B-17G, Eduard and CMK produce a considerable range of aftermarket detail sets that are very well done and worth considering.    

Sincere thanks are owed to Dave Kennedy and everyone at Hornby America, Inc., for the review sample.  You can find this kit set and all of Airfix’s other products for sale on the web at https://www.airfix.com/us-en/ and at your favorite hobby retailer. 

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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Just Released!

JET FIGHTERS
OF THE U. S. NAVY AND MARINE CORPS
PART 1: THE FIRST TEN YEARS
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