Avia B.534 IV. serie

Published: May 12th, 2015     
Product Image
Box art
Reviewed by: 
Brian R. Baker, IPMS# 43146
Scale: 1/72
Company: Eduard
Price: $16.95
Product / Stock #: 7428

History

The Avia B-534 was one of the classic biplane fighters of the 1930's, and served with several Eastern European air forces, some lasting almost to the end of World War II. When the nation of Czechoslovakia was formed by the Treaty of Versailles, the Czech part was much more industrialized than the Slovak section, and it wasn't long until a company, Avia, was formed, and began producing different types of aircraft for military and civilian use. In the early thirties, a biplane fighter was developed, eventually evolving into the B.534 series. Prototypes were powered by various radial and in-line engines, and the first B.534 has a License built Hispano Suiza 12 Vprs 12 cylinder liquid cooled engine. Several production batches followed, differing mainly in fuselage configuration, armament, landing gear arrangement, and the location of various engine components.

The main production models were as follows:

  • Series I - Open cockpit, wooden prop, 2 machine guns in fuselage, and 2 in wings.
  • Series II - Open cockpit, 4 guns in fuselage, wooden prop. Some Luftwaffe aircraft had a small "bubble" canopy over the open cockpit.
  • Series III - 1936 refinement of Series II. Wheel pants replacing exposed wheels.
  • Series IV - 1937 Model. Enclosed, faired, fully enclosed cockpit. Metal prop, 4 fuselage mounted machineguns, under wing racks for 6 light bombs, wheel pants. Some had tail wheels replacing the tailskids.
  • Series IV - Avia Bk-534 originally had a cannon mounted in the nose, but these were later replaced with another machine gun in the same position.

The B-534 in all versions first equipped the Czech Air Force squadrons, but the German occupation in 1939 as a result of the Munich Agreement resulted in the Luftwaffe taking over nearly all of these fighters. A few had been exported to Greece. After the takeover, many Czech pilots went to Poland, France, and later England, where they distinguished themselves in combat against the Luftwaffe. The Germans, however, incorporated many B.534's in to the Luftwaffe, while others were issued to the newly formed Slovak Air Force. They operated as a German ally in the invasion of Poland in 1939, as the Slovaks wanted to recover some territory given to Poland when Czechoslovakia was dismembered. The aircraft operated in German markings with special Slovak insignia. Later, the Slovaks operated a large number against the Russians after the German invasion of that country in 1941. Some were used just before that against the Hungarians when that country went to war with Slovakia, and one B.534 was captured in flying condition by the Hungarians, who used it for civil and military purposes for while. The Germans also supplied the Bulgarians with 48 B.534's for use against the Russians. In addition, a few B.534's were sold to Yugoslavia, and some of these may have been seconded to the Croatian Air Force.

Today, only one original B.534 survives in a Prague museum, although it is rumored that a full-scale replica exists in another European museum. The airplane certainly had a colorful history, and presents many variations for the modeler wishing to build representative models of the aircraft.

Looking at the aircraft, it was certainly one of the classic biplane fighters of its era, and must have been a lot of fun to fly. Visibility was good everywhere except over the nose, It shared a drawback common to most fighters of the period, however, as it was high centered and not very stable on the ground, a feature still found on some tail wheel airplanes today, especially vintage types like the Stearman PT-17. Quite a few photos show the results of ground loops, which could be the result of rough or soft landing surfaces, mud, flat tires, or just inattention. The photos do give us good views of the tops of the wings, something you don't see often on level photos.

Reference Materials

There is a lot of reference material available on this aircraft. Aside from the treatment of the type in various "Famous Aircraft of World War II" publications, the old Profile Publication, Avia B.534, #152, contains an excellent overview. William Green's "Warplanes of the Second World War, Fighters, Vol. 1, has good coverage. One of the Osprey offerings, Bulgarian and Slovakian Aces of World War II, provides excellent material. Even Googling "Avia B.534" produces a wealth of data. There is certainly a lot of information available on this aircraft, if you know where to dig.

The Kit

Packaged in a box that seems much too large considering the size of the kit, the Avia B.534 kit consists of three sprues of light grey plastic parts, one circular unit with the clear parts, and one set of excellent decals, suitable for two different airplanes. Sprue A has one unneeded vertical fin, sprue B has two halves of a drop tank for discard, sprue E has a wooden prop and spinner assembly, and four major clear parts are not needed. This provides evidence that Eduard plans to issue kits of different versions of the aircraft in the future, which is a good thing, since it will make modeling the earlier variants much easier.

Previously, all we had was the old KP kit, which has been around for at least 20 years, and which shows its age. It can, however, still be made into a presentable model, although it is a lot more work cleaning up the structure.

Instructions

The instruction sheet that comes with the kit is one of the best I've seen in a kit of this nature. Beginning with a historical section in English and Czech, it provides a sprue diagram with assembly symbols and the dire attorney warnings to keep the kit away from children under 35, and to keep the plastic bags away from everyone. Staring with page 3, a series of exploded assembly drawings clearly explains how the parts go together, and what colors they should be. Pages 8 and 9 provide rigging instructions, while 10 and 11 provide color and marking details for two aircraft, a Czech B.534 of the Czech air Force in April, 1938, and another of a Bulgarian Avia B.534 in snow camouflage. The back cover page shows details of the instructional stenciling common to most military aircraft, although this is understandably all in the Czech language.

Assembly - Interior

After removing parts from the sprue, they should all be painted before assembly. The cockpit interior has some very nicely done detail, including sidewall structure and even the machine gun breeches. The instrument panel is provided in two forms, and the cockpit floor, control stick, seat, and seat cushion are easy to assemble and they actually fit into place without trimming. I used the PE rudder pedals, one control lever, and some other PE parts, and they add to the detail. The PE seat belts and harness are very nice, and they look very realistic in the finished cockpit. Once the cockpit is assembled, the radiator parts, both kit supplied and PE, can be installed. At this point, the fuselage can be joined, and this required very little putty, as the fit is spectacular.

Assembly - Exterior

The tail unit consists of individual fun, rudder, horizontals, and elevators, all of which snap together with military precision in perfect position. The wings also snap into place with small tabs holding them in the right position. No putty is required, as fit is excellent.

Assembling the wings and landing gear can be done in a couple of ways. The problem here is that the attachment points for the cabane and N struts have no tabs to force a positive fit, so getting them in the proper position can be a bit dicey. You could assemble them unpainted and then figure out how to paint them once on the airplane. I used a different method, however. I painted the main airframe, wings, and struts. I then attached the cabane struts, using small dabs of slow drying superglue, measuring closely how far apart the tops had to be to fit in their wing attachment locations. Next, I attached the upper wing to the tops of the cabanes, making sure that the wing was directionally straight and at the right angle so that the N struts would line up. Strangely, the system worked, and placing a dab of glue on the location points, I merely located the N struts and let them sit until they were dry. I used the same method for the landing gear, which consists of three major strut assemblies plus the wheel units. The kit provides exposed wheels for the Bulgarian plane plus wheel pants for the Czech version. They are all nicely done. However, I used the Brassin epoxy units, which are also very good and easier to use. They couldn't be used on the Bulgarian plane with exposed wheels. The units lined up pretty much by themselves. The sprue also includes six small bombs to be mounted on under wing racks. The PE set includes fin assemblies for these bombs, which would require trimming off the plastic fins and replacing them with PE units, which are to be folded and glued onto the rear portion of the bombs. It's bound to look good, but I usually don't include any ordnance on my models, so I pass on those. Maybe I'll make a small cart and stack them on the cart next to the model.

Final Assembly

Once the plane is assembled, the cockpit glass should be attached. There is a one-piece canopy that fits perfectly, but I would consider it sinful to use it even though all of the interior detail can be clearly seen. This kit is really designed to have the canopy slid back (sometimes, these planes were flown with the main canopy section removed) and the cockpit interior of this kit is very impressive. Why hide it?

Finishing Touches

Obviously, by now you have decided which model you will be completing. The Czech version has a tailskid, while the Bulgarian uses a tail wheel. The Czech plane has wheel pants, while the Bulgarian has exposed wheels. There are a lot of variations in these aircraft, such as skis, armament, bomb racks, etc., so some research is in order if you want to stray very far off the beaten track. Of course, you'll need to rig the biplane, which in this case is rather simple. Each wing bay has four wires, two flying wires and two parallel landing wires. This arrangement is clearly shown in the instructions on pages 8 and 9, and there are no tail plane bracing wires, only struts. Decals can be applied at almost any point after painting is completed. I gave mine a coat of Testors' Glosscote, and then applied the decals. Another coat of Glosscote finished the job, and the results were very satisfying.

Recommendations

Although this kit is marketed as a "Weekend Edition", don't believe it, unless you're going to work 24 hours a day. This may be true without the PE parts, but this kit, to do it justice, will require some time and effort to do it right. However, the finished product will be well worth the effort, so be patient, or maybe work on one or two other kits at the same time. I pulled out an old KP Avia B.534 kit to build as a comparison, and although it looks pretty good, it in no way compares with the Eduard kit. Eduard really hit the nail on the head with this kit. They've created a classic, and I can't imagine a kit reviewer in the next fifty years saying, "This kit is much better than the old Eduard kit". This one should be around for a long time, but don't miss out. Get several, and wait for the different versions to come out. This is a historic airplane, and should be well represented in and serious model collection. Very highly recommended.

Thanks to David Montgomery and Eduard for the fine kit to review, and for the hours of modeling pleasure that I spent building it.

  • Decals
    Decals
  • Sprue
    Sprue
  • Sprue
    Sprue
  • Clear parts
    Clear parts
  • Cockpit interior
    Cockpit interior
  • Cockpit interior
    Cockpit interior
  • Completed model, left side
    Completed model, left side
  • Completed model, overhead
    Completed model, overhead
  • Completed cockpit
    Completed cockpit
  • Completed model. right side
    Completed model. right side
  • Completed model, front
    Completed model, front

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