HPH 1/32 Avia B.534 Series
Resin, photo etch and vacuformed parts
It is hard to believe nowadays,
but 70 years ago, there was a vibrant aviation industry in both Poland and
Czechoslovakia, the original designs of which rivaled anything created in
Germany, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, the United States, or
Perhaps the one thing that hurt both was their failure to
build on early success in the first half of the decade of the 1930s, so they
could stay competitive when the great aeronautical revolution that began in
1934 hit the scene.
For both the Czechs and the Poles, had their air
forces fought the pre-1938 Luftwaffe,
they would have given an excellent account of themselves.
However, the revolution in aircraft design and the
creation of high powered engines left them woefully in the
Luftwaffe’s dust when push came to shove in
1938 and 1939.
While the B.534 may be obscure
to westerners, in the Czech and Slovak Republics it is looked on in the same
was the Spitfire is revered in the British Commonwealth. Developed from the
B.34 biplane fighter of the late 1920s, the B.534 first flew on May 25,
1933, powered by an imported Hispano-Suiza HS-12Ybrs.
The design showed no bad tendencies and it was
decided to power the production airplanes with a Hispano-Suiza HS-12Ydrs,
which be manufactured under license in Czechoslovakia.
The prototype was first displayed publically on Army
Air Day, September 10, 1933 at Army air day, which was five days after the
second prototype had taken flight. The B.534 had better performance than
either the He-51 pr Ar-68 fighters that were equipping the Luftwaffe at the
time, and was considered one of the best fighters of the early 1930s.
The Ministry of National
Defense ordered the B.534 into production on July 17, 1934, with an order
for 147 aircraft, which were delivered to the Air Force by the fall of 1935,
known as the Serie I.
A second order for 46 Serie II
aircraft was placed in 1936, with the aircraft reaching their units in March
and April, 1937.
The third order was for 134 Serie III aircraft;
however, due to the growing German threat, this was increased by 50, which
were the first Serie IV which were distinguished by an enclosed cockpit.
68 more Serie IV were ordered in August 1938, the
first of which were just arriving at their units as the Munich Crisis that
led to the Sudetenland Partition broke out.
A total of 445 Avia B.534s of all sub-types were
Following the German invasion
of what was left of Czechoslovakia at the end of March, 1939, the country
was divided into the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia, and the Slovak
The Slovak Republic allied with Germany, and the 79 B.534s
and 11 Bk.534s (a version with an engine-mounted 20mm cannon) became the
main fighter equipment of the Slovenské Vzdusné Zbrane
- the Slovak Air Arm.
These came from the former 3rd air Regiment of the
Czechoslovak Air Force.
These aircraft saw combat against the Hungarians in
the Carpathians in the summer of 1939 and were flown in support of the
Luftwaffe during the invasion of Poland that September.
They were also used on the Eastern Front after the
invasion of the USSR on June 22, 1941.
They were returned to Slovakia in late 1942, where
they were used for training and anti-Partisan activities.
During the Slovakian National Rising in august 1944,
four B.534s joined the insurgents, and Sgt. Frantisek scored the final
biplane victory when he shot down a Hungarian air Force Ju-52 enroute across
Slovakia to Poland.
Other B.534s were sold by the
Germans to Bulgaria when that nation joined the Axis in 1939.
These aircraft saw action in August 1943 against the
B-24s of Operation Tidal Wave, the mission against Ploesti.
A few shot-up B-24s were shot down over Bulgaria.
The majority of B.534s were
used as advanced trainers by the Luftwaffe, where they were highly prized
for their very good performance.
When I opened the box to see
what was there, I was truly amazed at the quality of this kit.
The kit contains 163 resin parts, 101 photoetched
parts, three rubber parts, mask for both canopy and markings if you choose
to paint them rather than use decals, and decals for four different
aircraft, including the airplane flown by Sgt. Frantisek during the Slovak
National Rising in 1944, when he scored the last aerial victory by a
The quality of the surface
detail is astounding.
The kit really is “museum quality.” I have never
seen a kit - in injection plastic or resin - that has the quality of this
The parts are more than enough to build the entire fuselage
structure, with a fully detail cockpit.
HPH has announced an upcoming model of the Hispano
Suiza 12Y engine that will likely be a full model in itself and almost too
much to put inside this model.
The MSRP of $285.00 is
sufficient to induce heart palpitations among the overwhelming majority of
modelers, but if you are someone who wants to build a truly “museum quality”
model out of the box, who enjoys a challenge, the kit is worth every penny.
I think I should say at the
outset that this kit was almost more than I could accomplish, and what I did
accomplish here - after “shooting the project in the foot” by a bad
strategic choice at the outset - was only done by some extreme
not a kit for someone who is building on a
schedule for weekly reviews.
It’s a kit for a “Labor of love” where the modeler
commits to doing nothing else for the entire period of the project.
I began with the fuselage, and
here was where the major mistake was made at the outset.
The model provides a complete airframe interior,
which involves a lot of work that ultimately won’t be seen.
Following my philosophy of “if you can’t see it, I
didn’t do it,” I decided to do the cockpit detail only where it would be
visible when completed.
Thus, I did not make the entire airframe, which was
the major mistake.
Even with cutting things down,
the cockpit was a long project in itself to suss out what went where, figure
out what the part was on the mold blocks, etc.
This was definitely one of the most detailed
cockpits I had done.
I then installed the cockpit
and the rest of the internal parts I was using, and glued the fuselage
About halfway through that process, I realized that
I ad managed to put a slight twist into the process.
When I tried to bend it back before the
cyanoacrylate set, I was rewarded by a cracking sound in the rear fuselage.
A quick inspection revealed
that the fear fuselage area - the section with the really petite fabric rib
detail - now had several cracks in it, as did the forward fuselage ahead of
It was now immediately apparent to me why the instructions
called for the completion of the entire interior structure - to prevent
exactly this kind of mistake.
I managed to get the areas of
the fuselage that I had glued together cut apart, but in the process a lot
of the really nice little detail bits in the cockpit were ruined, though
fortunately the very nice photoetch instrument panel popped out without
After deciding not to throw
myself in front of the local
train, and not having the guts to throw away a $285
model, I put the remains back in their box and put things aside for further
contemplation as to how this could be salvaged.
Things remained in stasis until
I read Les Dorr’s review of the 1/32 1930s Naval Aviator.
Put a pilot in the cockpit! I realized I had several
Luftwaffe figures from the various 21st
Century Toys kits I had, so I decided I would rebuild the cockpit structure
as well as I could, and hide all the problems by putting the figure in the
First, I had to solve the
problem of the cracks.
Working carefully from inside and out, I managed to
push things together so that the cracks were about 95% fixed.
I used cyanoacrylate from the inside to set things,
then applied Mr. Surfacer on the external
side of the cracks. Once that was
solidly set, I then very carefully filed away with a couple different
rat-tail files, to smooth things out as much as possible without losing the
This was not unlike what had to be done to rescue the early
Accurate Miniatures Vindicator models, with their sunken moldings.
I then reassembled the fuselage
after painting the pilot and putting him in his seat.
When installed in the fuselage, things looked quite
No one would be able to see everything that was missing.
Finishing the fuselage required
use of cyanoacrylate glue and Mr. Surfacer to get all the seams smooth.
I airbrushed on a coat of light grey to see if
things truly were as well fixed as I hoped - they were.
From there on, assembly of the
model was quite easy, attaching the lower wings tail parts, landing gear and
Fit was excellent and I did not have to use any filler on the
attachment seams of wings and horizontal stabilizers.
I attached the cabane struts and test-fitted the
upper wing to see that they were properly located.
I then attached the ailerons, elevators and rudder
in dynamic positions.
At this point, things were ready to paint.
The model was painted overall
with Tamiya “Flat Aluminum,” then I went over the lower surfaces with Talon
acrylic “Aluminum,” which have a bit more of a sheen than the Tamiya paint
The lower surfaces were masked off, and the upper surfaces
were painted with Tamiya “Khaki,” which I lightened a bit and then went over
everything to post-shade it.
I decided to do the model on
The decals went on without any problem, under a coat of
The model was given a coat of
Xtracrylix “Satin” varnish, then the cockpit canopy was unmasked.
I then attached the separate exhausts, and next
attached the interp
lane struts and the upper wing, which fell into place
The sliding section of the canopy was posed in the
The wheels were assembled and inserted in the wheel
pants - I had cut off the axles so I could do this, since I didn’t want the
wheels inside the pants while I was painting the model.
I finished by attaching the tailwheel, and the prop.
I attempted to use the very
nice photoetch interplane rigging but the attachment of the various bits to
each wire was complicated and didn’t fitting in such a way that I could get
nice taut wiring (it is apparent from the photos of completed models at the
HPH website that this is a common problem).
I elected to rig the model with .010 brass wire.
At that point, I declared the battle over and
repaired to the club for celebratory libations.
As I said at the outset, this
is not a kit for the casual modeler.
Completing it successfully requires an abundance of
patience and a concentrated attention span while doing the fuselage.
Like it or not, all that detail you will never see
must be assembled, to
assure yourself you won’t have the problems I did,
which were all self-induced.
That said, HPH could have done things like the
photoetched flying wires in a simplified manner, with each wire and its
attachments in one piece, which would not have detracted from the overall
This is definitely a project for someone with a lot of
experience in scratchbuilding, since that fuselage interior is basically
scratchbuilt with the parts provided.
Despite all my mistakes, the completed model looks
very good sitting next to my other 1930s airplanes.
However, if you like the Avia B.534, I strongly
suggest you get the Eduard 1/48 kits.
If you really really really like the airplane, or
like a really significant challenge, and Chicken Little’s cry that “the sky
is falling” still hasn’t hit your piggy bank, then this HPH kit is one that
will give you a lot of satisfaction when you say “it’s finished.”
If you commit the radical act of following the
instructions, it should be a show-stopper right out of the box.
Review kit courtesy
of Cooper’s Models.
Get yours at
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