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KIT REVIEW


AvantGarde Model Kits, (AMK) #88002
Aero L-29 Delfín 1:48 Scale

In this review, we'll take a close look at the second model produced by the emerging injection molded kit manufacturer AvantGarde Model Kits (AMK): the 1:48 Aero L-29 Delfín. Outside of a resin L-29 produced by Planet Models, this airplane has been a long-neglected subject in any scale. Its release really does represent something new in the world of 1:48 model kits. But just how does this model measure up?

(Return to top of page)The Aero L-29 Delfín (or Dolphin; NATO reporting name “Maya”) was the first indigenously produced jet aircraft in Czechoslovakia, and it served as a mainstay jet trainer across the Warsaw Pact throughout the Cold War. The prototype XL-29 airframe first flew in 1959.  In 1961, the Soviet Union chose the L-29 as their primary trainer for the Warsaw Pact, beating out the Yak-30 and a Polish design. The production run of the L-29 began in 1963 and ended in 1974 with a total of 3,500-plus aircraft being manufactured by Aero Vodochody.  The L-29 was the trainer variant. The L-29A was purpose built for aerobatic flight, and the L-29R was a recce platform with cameras installed in the nose.  It’s an interesting exercise to study the L-29 and see how much of its “DNA” was passed along to its direct successor, the L-39 Albatross.

The design philosophy underscoring the Delfín involved making it as simple and reliable as possible, such that it was both easy to manufacture and friendly to student pilots. Aerodynamically, it was a very stable design, hard to spin, and forgiving.  It was also rugged, capable of operating from unimproved runways, grass landing strips, and even sandy surfaces.  The L-29 was adopted by all of the Warsaw Pact nations and the Soviet Air Force. Further exports were made to various Middle Eastern and African air forces.

One role the Delfín served in was the training of pilots in the delivery of air-to-ground weapons.  It indeed was capable of carrying a range of bombs, gun pods, and unguided rockets. Delfín trainers were pressed into combat by Egypt during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, tasked to go after Israeli armor. L-29s also saw combat in more recent conflicts, being flown by the Georgian Air Force during the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. In 2015, at least one L-29 was reported as operational by separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. In the West, the L-29 is a popular civilian air racer.  In 2007, an L-29 was the first unmodified aircraft in history to be powered completely by biodiesel on a flight from Reno, Nevada, to Leesberg, Florida. Even the University of Iowa and Ohio University employ L-29s as research and teaching platforms.

(Return to top of page)AMK’s L-29 comes attractively and efficiently packaged in sturdy box just as with their first kit, the IAI Kfir. Some might argue that the L-29 is not necessarily the most elegant looking airplane – so hats off to the artist who does AMK’s box art. They earned their paycheck, as they found a very engaging and interesting angle in which to depict the Delfín.  

The kit consists of 94 gray-colored injection molded parts –featuring finely recessed panel lines and screw details – spread across five sprues, nine clear parts, and a small photoetched fret containing 27 pieces. All parts are in re-sealable, self-adhesive clear plastic bags.  The high-quality instruction booklet is printed in full color.

Strengths:  This is a very interesting kit. Firstly, it is a very high-quality injection molded kit. Test fitting of the fuselage and wings to fuselage revealed a perfect fit, perfect panel line alignments between fuselage halves, and so forth. As with the other AMK kits I have reviewed, it was a little hard not to start building it as soon as all my notes for the review were completed! This represents the fact that the L-29 really is that nice of a kit.  It is also relatively simple – there are “Weekend Edition” kits from Eduard with greater complexity. A beginning-level modeler will have a very positive experience building this kit, just as will more experienced modelers.

While relatively simple in its parts breakdown, AMK did not sacrifice the quality of detail. For instance, the cockpit and ejection seats are relatively well detailed, including very nicely executed cockpit sidewalls.  The nitrogen bay in the nose can be positioned open to display the hardware underneath, and the quality of the integrally molded surface details, including cable bundles, is very impressive for any plastic kit.  The flaps can be dropped, speedbrakes opened, and rudder deflected, should a builder choose. The only ‘fiddly’ part of this model’s construction would seem to involve the 20 photoetch metal flap hinges divided evenly between both wings should the builder position the flaps down. These are small photoetched parts, but they will fit and align very smartly in the placement grooves molded into each wing.       

It is once again impressive to see such high fidelity of detail: AMK’s second kit demonstrates that they really do have a knack for molding very fine detail and making very fine parts, from gear bay door actuators to antennas. Clear parts are crystal clear, and no mold seams are present. In nearly all cases, ejection pin markings are strategically hidden, out of sight and out of mind, with the exception of the front and aft cockpit side panels. In the built-up model, these may be very hard to see, regardless.  

The model comes with markings for seven airplanes – four natural metal schemes worn by Soviet, Czech, and Iraqi L-29s, two multi-color camouflage schemes on Slovak and East German jets, and one overall gray scheme on an Indonesian Air Force Delfín. The decal sheet for these schemes is awesome. It is flawlessly printed.

Weaknesses:  There are only a few criticisms I can entertain for this model, and none are particularly important. In a previous review of AMK’s first kit, the Kfir, I argued that the instrument panels were molded in low relief and suffered from somewhat indistinct detail.  In this kit, instrument panels are indeed improved, with raised and distinct bezels, switches, and buttons.  Still, the instrument faces are flat, and you’ll have to use the (very nicely printed) instrument face decals.  There are no shoulder harnesses or lap belts for the ejection seat.  This is too bad, especially considering that AMK could have perhaps added them to the photoetched parts fret. Maybe they were anticipating aftermarket manufactures such as Eduard to step in (which Eduard surely did!). The kit comes with a pair of underwing drop tanks, but no munitions.  If you want to do a combat training-capable or combat-capable L-29, then it’s off to spare parts bin or the world of Soviet-era 1:48 aftermarket munitions.

AMK's L-29 Delfín looks like a hit. Whether you want to build a very nicely detailed model, build something unique for the contest table, or simply to make something outside of your usual subject matter, this model can do all of that. Even modelers such as myself who rarely build Soviet or Warsaw Pact subjects will find this kit very seriously appealing on such levels. Further, there's now a range of aftermarket detail sets for the AMK L-29 that will only continue to enhance the kit if the modeler wishes, including several offerings from Eduard with new instrument panels, seatbelts, and exterior details, a resin nose nitrogen bay by Aires, early L-29 ejection seats (with molded-on belts) by Quickboost, and pylons, air scoops, and even a L-29R conversion set also by Quickboost. However I choose to outfit my AMK L-29 in the near future, one thing is certain – it's going to be fun.

Sincere thanks to AMK for the review sample. You can find them on the web at http://amkhobby.com/home/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/avantgardemodelkits.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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