Thursday, April 9, 2009

Arado 234 Madness

Somehow I ended up in possession of no less than three Arado 234 kits - the conventional bomber, the Ar 234P night fighter, and the B29/X1-like contraption with the "Julia" rocket fighter riding under the Ar 234 bomber. Just to get them out of the way so I could move on to my project of modeling big chunks of the Finnish Air Force during the Continuation War, I built them assembly-line fashion, and the same basic remarks apply to all of them.

Fit is good, with the exception of the clear piece that houses the reconnaissance cameras in the rear fuselage, if you use that option. Assembly of the cockpit is fiddly; I found the tiny offset instrument panel and the rudder pedal mounts particularly difficult (in the end, I had to carve the mounting slots for the rudder pedal mounts wider as no end of shoving seemed to get the mounts to lock into place). There's a lot of glass and the quality of said glass is good, however, so the cockpit does repay the effort. The only thing I really did cockpit-wise, other than painting, was add seat belts. (It is my reasoned belief that the only thing I can ever really see through the canopies of 1/72nd scale aircraft are light-colored seat belts against darker-colored seats. Everything else, including film-and-photoetch instrument panels, may as well not even exist.)

I had to use a little filler where the fronts of the engine nacelles met the wings; otherwise the fit was good enough that only mild sanding was required. The clear light on the top of the rudder wouldn't fit and I had to widen its mounting recess. I knocked every one of the rudder and elevator control horns off every one models during painting, and frankly, I think the planes look better without them (better, but inaccurate).

I painted the bombers in the standard RLM 65/70/71 scheme using Model Master acrylics, and did the Julia in RLM 74 and 75 (I think; it's lichtblau and grauviolett, whatever those RLM numbers are). The night fighter was done with hellgrau with darker-grey mottle; I color I chose for the mottle was too dark and stark, but I decided that since the Ar 234P is pretty provisional to start with, my botched color scheme is no more wrong than any other. The paint worked pretty well and left a nice gloss finish for the decals, which also worked pretty well. Some of them had gotten pretty fragile in storage but I managed to stitch the broken ones back together, all except for the ones on the sheet for the Julia, which fell apart entirely (of course). The sheets don't include swastikas, so I added them from an aftermarket sheet, and put entirely fictional unit markings on the Julia. The Ar 234P includes small "Englandblitz" shields, but the red lightning bolt and stooping eagle seem to have encountered problems; the eagle looks like a squiggle and the lightning bolt seems to go sideways, but you get the idea anyway.

Here's a curiosity. As molded, the Ar 234 cannot extend its landing gear with the Julia attached, and that's a shame because the kits do feature nice landing gear. In the end I cobbled up a stand using what I think are VEB/Plastikart parts from an ancient Tu-20. I cut a slot in the transparent panel and glued the combination atop the stand, which doesn't look bad. It's a little overbalanced so I had to put a dot of 3M double-sided foam tape under the back of the stand to prevent the Ar 234/Julia from taking a header off the shelf. It looks better than all the chopping and changing that would be required to move the Julia far enough for the Ar 234's main landing gear to extend, and that's a fact. One minor irritation is that I couldn't find crew figures that would fit in either the Ar 234 or the Julia, so they're flying ghost planes.

Here's another curiosity. No nose weight is required to get them to sit on their landing gear properly. They seem perfectly inclined to behave like "real aeroplanes" without resorting to coarseness like lead sinkers or handfuls of air rifle pellets.

But can I say, I'm getting pretty sick of Arado 234s at this point. That Fokker D.XXI in Finnish marking is starting to look better and better every day.