Testors/Hawk 1/48 Ryan PT-20 Trainer

KIT: Testors/Hawk 1/48 Ryan PT-20 Trainer
KIT #: 7510
PRICE: NZ $26.95
DECALS: Two options
NOTES: Both land and floatplane options


The Ryan ST series of aircraft is truly one of those timeless designs that never fails to produce an admiring gasp from the viewer. Originally built to serve as a civil trainer, the Ryan ST (Sport Trainer) was developed into the STA (Aerobatic) and STM (Military) variants, with examples being procured by not only the USAAC but also the air arms of the Netherlands, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Nationalist China. 34 of the surviving Netherlands East Indies aircraft were “evacuated” to Australia, whereupon they joined the Royal Australian Air Force. Many of these machines survive – happily in flying condition – not only in Australia but also the USA and a single example in New Zealand.

 With development of a wider fuselage, stronger undercarriage, wings with slight sweepback and a more powerful Kinner radial engine, the ST-3KR (PT-22 Recruit) came into being, this surviving in far greater numbers than her more shapely older sibling.

 For many people the ST series is pretty much a “trademark” Art Deco design, and thanks to its glamorous image will no doubt be flying well past its hundredth year.


As far as injection-moulded kits go, the Testors PT-20 (or earlier Hawk boxing) is the only game in town. There is a Rareplanes vacuform STM available in 1:72, and judging by another Rareplanes vac I built some time ago would build very nicely. However, this is NOT a review of the RP kit!

 Upon receipt of your sturdy side-opening brown box (with a lovely photo of completed model “on the bench”) you see five sprues of light grey styrene with a fair amount of flash on several parts. One of these sprues is devoted to a single part: a very nice “water” base, complete with cutouts for the optional floats included in the kit. This makes displaying the floatplane a much easier task if, like me, you’ve not made your own water base before. The floats option even comes with beaching wheels, although there are some sink marks on the tires that would likely be very hard to remove. For the other, wheeled option, you get those natty spats which lend that unmistakeable Art Deco mystique to the inline Ryans. Parts count is less than 40, with a one-piece wing (thankfully with dihedral moulded in!) and two small windscreens (mine are crazed for some reason, so I have to scrounge some replacements). The exhausts for the Menasco Pirate engine are four small separate items, about the most fiddly parts in the entire kit!

 For the interior you get two crew members and a floor. That’s it. Now I’ve read one online review of this kit damning Testors for making it so crude. Well, it IS a 1960s mould and to be honest I’m not too sure how well the kit sells. I’d like to imagine it ranks with the Tamiya F-16s in terms of interest and customer base, but I think not. Perhaps one of the European companies could step up to the plate with a new tool version? Anyway, the same reviewer said this kit was quite similar to Eastern European limited-run kits, which is I think a little harsh but still accurate to a degree. So for an accurate cockpit you will have to turn to your spares box and resources, as well as things such as venturi tubes and turnover truss.

 Based on photos and video of STs I’ve seen, this kit appears to be quite accurate. For a kit of its age the rivet detail is pretty much spot on and to scale, and there’s none of that god-awful “fine fabric detail” on the control surfaces and wings. Memo to those who like that sort of “detail”: when you’ve been around fabric-covered aircraft as much as I have, you don’t notice the fabric patterns! Even close up, IT’S SMOOTH! Rant over.

 The instructions have only four, easy-to-follow steps with colour callouts in Testors and Model Master paint numbers. There’s a great little aircraft bio, as well as hints for prep and building. Well done Testors! HOWEVER, one major part of the ST that can’t go unnoticed even on a small kit like this is the rigging. The boxtop and instruction header show this in place, but it is mentioned nowhere in the instructions. Mind you, with the Power Of The Internet this is no biggie as there’s no shortage of top-quality images of the real thing out there.

 The beautifully printed decals give you two options, a USAAC aircraft #65 and a Netherlands East Indies floatplane S11. I doubt there’s any Ryan-specific decal sheets out there, but for most schemes all you’d need would be national marks and serials anyway. Of course, if you want (like me) to do a civil machine then you only require a lettering sheet! 


As part of the lead-up to acquiring this kit, I’ve spent a while researching the real thing. Thanks to magazines, airshow DVDs and the internet – as well as the few occasions I’ve seen REAL Ryans up close! – I have a bit of a grasp for this lovely type, and so the build will be a great exercise in detailing to “get it right”. This kit has it all about right, and at the price (and size – span of less than 7in) would be a great addition to any collection. Bizarrely I’ve only seen two of these built up on the net… She can be built as a weekend project with your young folk, or superdetailed as you see fit.

 I’ll be doing the latter. Watch this space!

Zac Yates

June 2008

 Review kit courtesy of my ATM card.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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