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KIT REVIEW


Eduard Evolution: L-39C/ZO Albatros Limited Edition
1:48 Scale



The Aero L-39 Albatros is a high-performance jet trainer and light attack aircraft first developed for Warsaw Pact nations.  After the Cold War, the L-39 became quite popular in the civil aviation market in the West.  It’s a little hot-rod – a sports coupe of single-engine jet aircraft.  Here, we take a look at Eduard’s limited edition kit Evolution featuring L-39s with paint schemes that take inspiration from nature.  The plastic is based the MPM/Special Hobby tooling, but it has a lot of new superdetail parts, a masking set,  and some amazing decals. 

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In 1964, Czechoslovakian aircraft manufacturer Aero Vodochody began to look at designs to replace their first-generation Warsaw Pact jet trainer, the Aero L-29 Delfín.  This new airplane drew on the L-29’s strengths but was certainly more advanced.  It would emphasize operational flexibility, simplicity, affordability, and be easy to fly.  The aircraft’s engineering was streamlined to avoid excessive levels of maintenance, and the new plane’s rugged landing gear and low take-off and landing speeds would allow it to operate from unimproved settings such as grass airstrips and frozen lakes.  The final design employed a low-set, straight wing with fuel tanks permanently attached to the wingtips.  The long, pointed nose led back to a tandem cockpit for student and instructor.  Individual canopies would be opened manually and are hinged on the right.  An Ivchenko AI-25TL engine delivered some 3,000 pounds of thrust.

On 4 November 1969, "Prototype X-02" flew for the first time, and production versions designated as the L-39C commenced deliveries in 1971.  In 1972, the Warsaw Pact designated the L-39 as their primary jet trainer and the orders started to roll in.  The same year saw the rollout of the L-39V (a target tug) and in 1975, the L-39ZO appeared and was equipped with four underwing hardpoints for ground attack munitions.  In 1977, the first L-39ZA light combat variant was fitted with a GSh-23 cannon under the fuselage.

Until the early 1990s, Aero Vodochody produced roughly 200 L-39 airframes annually.  L-39s were operated by more than 30 air forces around the world.  With the end of the Cold War, sales dropped precipitously.  In 1996, production of the L-39 came to an end after some 2,900 airframes had been produced.  Since then, Aero Vodochody has developed or otherwise proposed several improved variants of the L-39 including the Aero L-159 Alca light attack aircraft.

Many L-39s have been sold to private owners in the West, given their average $250,000 price tag.  Today there are some 250 L-39s registered to civilian owners in the United States.  Display teams such as the Warrior Jet Flight Team, the Patriots Jet Team, and the Breitling Jet Team fly L-39s.  Their popularity even led to an L-39 Jet class introduced at the Reno Air Races in 2002.

The L-39C was the mainstream trainer variant that can be found around the world.  The ZO variant was employed as an armed trainer and light attack jet.  The Z stood for Zbraně (Weapons) and added four underwing pylons. The inboard hardpoints were rated at 1,100 pounds while the outboard pylons could carry 550 pounds of ordnance.  The first L-39ZO flew in June 1975, and the first of the 377 ZOs built were delivered to Iraq in 1977.

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The Eduard Evolution is a multimedia limited edition kit that contains parts and markings for either an L-39C or L-39ZO.  It features three injection molded polystyrene sprues containing 95 parts, seven clear parts on one sprue, 99 photoetched metal parts on one fret (many prepainted), 27 resin parts, one sheet of clear acetate containing three clear elements, and a diet-cut, self-adhesive masking sets.  Cartograf did the decal sheet.  The full color instruction booklet organizes the build over some 19 steps.  Markings for two paint schemes are provided: 

Strengths:  Whenever I see an L-39 kit, I get pretty interested - they are neat airplanes and for me, the L-39 represents perennially interesting subject matter.  Here, we have a really exceptional L-39 kit.

The plastic parts are based on the late 1990s MPM tooling.  MPM, of course, evolved into Special Hobby.  It's a solid tooling with accurate shapes, recessed panel lines, and other features (but see below for few caveats).  The parts breakdown is conventional and fairly simplified for ease of relatively rapid construction (e.g., upper and lower wing halves, left and right fuselage halves, and so forth).  The Eduard resin and photoetched metal parts really elevate this kit – just as the decals do, but we’ll get to that.

By itself, the kit’s plastic cockpit is somewhat basic, and that's to be kind.  Yet, Eduard’s PE and resin parts in this kit are so comprehensive so as to re-define the cockpit and make it really stand out, from the awesome pre-painted instrument panels to outstanding ejection seat harnesses, ejection handles, resin ejection seat headrests, and LOTS of other small details such as various handles, knobs, and the rudder pedals.  Also, the cockpit sill is a single piece and drops down onto the cockpit. For those not into the photoetched metal parts, alternate decals are provided for the instrument panels and side consoles.

Regarding the exterior, the main gear well doors are typically closed when the jet is on the ground, and that's how they are represented in the kit.  There are various resin and photoetched metal parts that are added to the exterior of the kit, from various antennas, static wicks, fairing covers, flap actuators, and more.  The replacement resin wheels, engine nozzle, flap actuator fairings, and other small airframe detail parts are excellent.  External stores include only a pair of drop tanks.  

While there are only two sets of markings in this kit, the options are outstanding.  The Russian jet club L-39C was adorned with an extraordinary Chinese dragon motif that may go down in history as the most ornate and detailed paint job ever flown on an L-39.  Reportedly, Vladimir Putin took a ride in this particular jet in 2005.  They are singular and iconic markings, and the Cartograf decals capture all the detail, nuance, and color of the original.  The Hungarian L-39ZO has an extraordinary 3D-style Hungarian flag on the tail, while a shark head was painted as though “ripping out” of the paint on the nose of the jet.  Again, the Cartograf decals representing both schemes are just flat-out gorgeous.  They are seriously breathtaking in terms of their resolution, detail, and colors.  You also get all the necessary airframe stencils.  Also, the pre-cut self-adhesive masks will provide a great help with precise masking of the windscreen, canopies, wheel hubs, and the front the Hungarian scheme’s nose.

Weaknesses:  Since the plastic parts are based on a late-1990s era MPM kit, a lot of the plastic parts are characteristic of that era's limited run injection molded kits.  Watch out for large sprue gates attaching to even small parts, and additional cleanup will be needed in many places.  The texture of the fuselage halves is a bit rough and grainy, and I would recommend polishing it down with 3000+ grit sandpaper/MicroMesh so as to match the smoothness of the wing parts.  There are no alignment tabs or pins.  My solution is to make your own tabs using plastic stock and use a slow setting superglue to allow yourself to find the best fit and alignment between fuselage and wing halves.  The intakes lead to a blanked-off intake channel far forward of the first stage compressor blades.  In other words, the intakes call for the use of intake covers.  

The control surfaces are not separate parts.  For a realistic L-39, you'll want to remove and reposition the elevators at the very least.  When the power is off, the elevators defect upward when the Albatros is just sitting on the ground.  Also, the airplane should have a series of small vortex generators on the bottom of the horizontal stabilizers.  I can't find them in this kit.

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Eduard has taken a very nice kit limited run plastic kit and added exceptional resin and photoetched metal detail parts along with some of the most impressive decals you’ve ever seen.  Take your time with parts prep and alignment. If you have some experience building limited run multimedia kits, you’ll really enjoy this impressive L-39 kit.  Eduard also has a few other items available for their L-39s, and if you’re a member of their Bunny Fighter Club, you can get this limited edition kit packaged along with Eduard’s 1:48 scale “Famous Bear Rider” figure set that is technically (or tongue-in-cheek?) described as a pilot figure.  Based on the Photoshopped image that became an internet meme, it’s a cast resin Putin (shirtless, of course) riding atop a cast resin bear, presumably on the way to the aerodrome for a hop in an Albatros...   

Sincere thanks are owed to everyone at Revell for the review sample.  You can find them on the web at https://www.revell.de/en/home/

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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Detail & Scale Special Edition Books

U. S. Navy and Marine Carrier-Based Aircraft of World War II
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Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan Awakens a Sleeping Giant

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Colors & Markings Series



Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 1: Atlantic
Coast Squadrons
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Colors & Markings of the F-102
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Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
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