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KIT REVIEW


Eduard Avia Bk.534 Graf Zeppelin - Weekend Edition
1:72 Scale

The Avia BK.534 was one of the last of the biplane fighter designs of the interwar years, and on many levels, it was one of the most distinctive.  This aircraft held its own against nearly all of the early monoplane fighters and despite the fact that it was obsolete by the beginning of the war, it flew on in various support roles until 1944.  Personally, it is one of my favorite biplane fighters of all time from an aerodynamic and design perspective.  Eduard’s family of 1:72 scale B-534 kits have a great reputation.  Here, we take a look at Eduard’s Avia Bk.534 Graf Zeppelin Weekend Edition kit to see how it stacks up.

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In 1932, Avia designers led by František Novotný began work on a high-performance single-engine biplane fighter aircraft originally designated as the B.34.  The design eventually settled on the Hispano-Suiza 12Y powerplant, fixed landing gear, and an enclosed cockpit.  Following the first flights of the prototypes and subsequent attainment of a Czech national speed record, production Bk.534s started to reach the Czechoslovak Air Force in October 1935.

The B.534 featured impressive maneuverability in addition to its speed.  In later trials, it outflew every competitor except the early Bf 109.  Naturally, it attracted a good deal of foreign attention that translated into sales to several European air arms, from Bulgaria to Greece, Croatia, and Romania, among others.  There were four variants of the -534 designated as Series I thru IV.  Series I airframes were armed with two 7.92mm Vz.28 wing-mounted guns and one 20 mm Oerlikon FFS-20 cannon firing through the nose.  Series II aircraft featured a bubble canopy and saw the wing-mounted guns relocated to the sides of the fuselage and were then synchronized to fire through the propeller.  Bk.534/III airframes saw multiple aerodynamic refinements including streamlining of the front carburetor air intake and main landing gear spats.  Series IV airplanes were the most numerous of the Bk.534s and featured a fully enclosed cockpit, a metal propeller, deletion of the spats, and a tail wheel.

When Germany forced annexation of the remaining parts of Czechoslovakia as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939, large numbers of captured Series IV Bk.534s were forced into Luftwaffe service.  The Germans also sold Bk.534s to allied nations at substantially reduced prices.  In German service, the type was frequently used as a trainer.  Others were glider and target tugs.  Perhaps the most unique use of the Bk.534 was as a testbed for carrier-based German fighters.  Germany experimented with aircraft carriers and the Graf Zeppelin was to be the lead ship in a class of German flattops that would project Nazi power far beyond the North Sea and the Baltic.  Graf Zeppelin was to be outfitted with navalized Ju 87s and Bf 109Ts. 

Between 1940 and 1941, three Bk.534s were painted with civil registry numbers and fitted with arresting gear and other features destined for the Bf 109T.  While the tests were successful, a variety of complex factors killed Germany’s incipient carrier development program.  While the Graf Zeppelin was indeed launched in 1938, she never reached operational status.  The ship was scuttled in 1945 off the coast of Poland.  In something of an ironic (if not ignominious) turn of events, the Soviets actually raised the wreck in 1947 and then promptly sank it (again) in tests of new anti-surface ship weapons.

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Eduard’s 1:72 scale Bk.534 Graf Zeppelin Weekend Edition kit contains three injection molded polystyrene sprues containing 83 parts.  Eight clear parts are present on a single sprue.  Of these, 36 parts are not used on this version of the kit.  Panel lines, rivets, and fasteners are all delicately represented by engraved, recessed details, while ribbing on the wings is delicately raised.  The mixed black-and-white/color instruction booklet organizes the build over 21 (unnumbered) steps.  The instructions include a very clear and well-rendered rigging diagram.  Decals and the markings guide cover two of the three Bk.534 testbeds in German naval service:

Strengths:  Eduard’s 1:72 scale Bk.534 is a beautiful kit, especially in 1:72 scale.  Just sitting on the sprues, it’s a beautiful set of plastic parts with lots of excellent detail and solid kit engineering to make it a relatively simple, straightforward, and easy build.  It does live up to its billing as a potential weekend build.  You can get it done relatively quickly.     
As usual, I snipped off the fuselage and lower wing parts, and found a great fit that will not require much (if any) filler.  The cockpit is nicely done (but see below), with left and right sidewall frames, floor, and pilot seat.  There are also a good number of parts for earlier and alternate versions of the Bk.534 not used in this version of the kit.  To build this navalized version, a tailhook assembly comes in the kit, and just a little cutting and modification is needed to get the tailhook assembly integrated into the lower fuselage.

Eduard printed the decals in-house, and for all intents and purposes, they appear flawless.  Colors look great, everything is in register, and carrier film is nicely restrained.

Weaknesses:  I looked hard to find meaningful critiques here, and all I can offer are comments in the range of “observations.”  As a “Weekend Edition” kit from Eduard, this is really a no-frills offering.  The cockpit is nice, but simplified.  You get seatbelts, but they are decals.  Likewise, the plastic instrument panel is very basic, but decals do provide instrument dial faces for you to work with.  Since the fuselage guns are not separate parts, just be sure to mask them off and use your preferred gunmetal color.  Likewise, the compound curve that separates the wheel hubs from the tires will be challenging to mask.   

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Any and all of Eduard’s 1:72 scale Bk.534s are great kits, and this Weekend Edition version of their Graf Zeppelin testbed Bk.534 is no exception.  Further, Eduard and Brengun offer various additional aftermarket sets that can add even more detail and fidelity to the kit.  A wide range of scale modelers, from fans of naval aviation, German aircraft, and biplanes will truly enjoy this kit.  Between my big current and upcoming 1:32 scale projects, I think the Eduard Bk.534 kit will be an excellent interlude for me!        

Sincere thanks are owed to everyone at Eduard for the review sample.  You can visit them on the web at http://www.eduard.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EduardCompany

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
Delta Dagger

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Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 2: Pacific
Coast Squadrons

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