The Avia B.534 originated with the B.34 fighter prototype and first appeared in 1934. After several engine changes, the type was approved for production for the Czech Air Force with an initial order of 34 aircraft. With detail development over a period of several years, a total of 568 was finally produced. Series I and II, the subjects of this kit, had open cockpits, with the Series II having a total of four machine guns in the fuselage, firing through the propeller arc.
The plane was thoroughly up to date in the biplane fighter era, and the type remained in service with various military organizations well past the time that most biplanes had been replaced by monoplanes. First used by the Czech Air Force, the type was denied an opportunity for combat by that service by the Munich Crisis, only entering operations with the Slovakian Air Force in their campaign against the Soviets in the 1941 German invasion. Other B.534’s were used by the Bulgarian Air Force, and some were used during the Slovak National Uprising in August through November, 1944. A few ex-Czech B.534’s were used by the Luftwaffe as trainers and glider tugs, and some were also sold to Yugoslavia, and several possibly found their way to the Croatian Air Force. A B.534 of the Slovak managed to shoot down a Luftwaffe JU-52 transport during the Slovak National Uprising in 1944, and this is believed to have been the last combat victory scored by a biplane fighter. Only one B.534 has survived, and it is on display in a museum in Prague.
I reviewed the Eduard kit of the later series in May, 2015, and February, 2016, and an extensive description of the type’s history appears in those reviews.
There is quite a bit of information on this aircraft in the numerous fighter aircraft books. In addition, some useful information is presented in the little William Green series, War Planes of the Second World War, Fighters, Vol. 1. In addition, the Profile No. 152, The Avia B.534, by Josef Krybus, has some useful information, especially on later variants. So there is plenty of information available on this aircraft. Even Google will have some coverage, so turn on your computer and see what develops.
This kit is essentially similar to the previous Eduard issues of the Series IV fighter, although providing parts for the earlier versions. The kit consists of 150 grey plastic parts and 16 clear parts for the windshields and canopy, although only the small windscreen ahead of the cockpit will be used for series I and II. There is a small enclosed canopy which could be used for the Luftwaffe version with a cockpit cover, but there are no decals for this version. I expect that a later issue will provide for this variant . Molding is crisp, detail is excellent, and very little trimming is needed. I snipped the parts off the sprue with a pair of wire cutters, and trimming away the excess was easy with a sharp Xacto knife. There is a total of 53 parts marked “Do Not Use”, and these can be saved for later conversions.
The kit also includes two photo etch detail pieces and two Eduard masks which I found very useful. The PE sheets contain many interior cockpit details, as well as such items as a gunsight and pitot tube, which are very nicely done. These are all included in the kit, and do not have to be obtained separately, although their list prices for the PE sheet are $9.95 peer sheet, and the masks list for $10.95 each. So buying the kit in this issue is certainly a bargain, as the extras are all included.
The instructions are very nicely done, printed on five 81/2 x 11 inch sheets folded over to provide 20 pages of extensive detail. These include a one page historical sketch, a sprue and color diagram which provides excellent color information, 6 pages of assembly instructions (drawings only) and 8 pages of color four views showing all of the aircraft depicted in the decal sheet. One page at the end provides detail decal maintenance markings, and the last page shows the box art for two upcoming issues, Series III and Series IV fighters.
The decal sheet contains markings for 6 Czech B.534’s and 2 Luftwaffe aircraft. These decals are of very good quality, and although I trimmed them, as is my standard operating procedure, they probably could be applied without trimming. They needed no decal setting solution. Decals are provided for eight aircraft, three Czech and one Luftwaffe aircraft of each Series, I & II.
It should be stated at the beginning that this kit is highly detailed, and is probably beyond the capabilities of novice modelers, although everything seemed to fit quite well, and I experiences few problems The interior included sidewall detail, with some photo etch details. The machine gun breeches are also included, and must be pre-painted gun metal grey before installation. The interior detailing is extensive, with side wall structural sections, a floor, seat, instrument panel, control stick, and rudder pedals. There is also a rear bulkhead that is supposed to fit right behind the seat back, but the seat is located on the floor in such a way that the rear bulkhead is too far forward. It is mounted on the fuselage top section, so it can be moved backwards, although it can’t be seen from outside the cockpit. The good thing is that all interior parts are silver, so they can mostly be installed and painted before the fuselage halves are joined. There are a couple of PE parts that go on the sidewall, but I neglected to install them. The instrument panel can be used as is or you can use the PE unit with the instruments. The PE part looks great. The rudder pedals also look fine, although they are very hard to see on the finished product.
After the fuselage is joined, and the upper deck is installed, the seams can be filled. Only a little filler is needed. Then the tail unit can be installed. This consists of six pieces, including stabilizers are a rudder and elevators. They fit pretty tightly into place, but seem to line up perfectly. The lower wings are tab fitted onto the fuselage, assuming the correct dihedral angle on their own. This is one of the best assemblies I’ve seen in a small biplane kit.
At this point, I would suggest masking off the cockpit interior (I used small bits of foam rubber) and painting the basic parts. All of the versions are silver underneath and dark green above. I used Luftwaffe RLM 70 green, which looks pretty good. After painting the basic fuselage and wing undersides silver and masking them off, I painted the topsides, struts, and landing gear RLM 70.
When painted, I attached the “N” struts to the upper wings in the little slots provided. The tabs needed a little trimming, as they did not fit at first, but this was a minor glitch. I used super glue throughout. I then attached the strut bottoms to the upper surfaces of the lower wings, and they fit perfectly. Once dry, I attached the cabane struts to the upper wing undersides in the slots provided, and then put a dab of superglue where the struts attached to the fuselage. Everything lined up perfectly, and the next step was the landing gear. The units consist of side struts and a center oleo strut structure. I attached the center section to the mounting bump with super glue, and when was dry, I attached the gear struts to the sides. After painting the wheels, I glued them to the gear legs as per instructions. The wheel pants would fit the same way, but I didn’t use these. The tailskids or tailwheels can then be glued into place,
Once basic assembly is completed, all that is needed is the mounting of the propeller, which requires a bit of trimming and masking, and the addition of the windshield and the mounting step. A plastic one is provided, but so is a PE unit. I used one of each, but I think I like the plastic part better. In front of the windshield is a ring and bead gunsight, and a PE pitot tube is also on the sheet. Be sure to use a dot of red and green paint on the navigation lights. Red is left, and green is right. On this kit, one of the tail bracing struts was broken off, so I just replaced them with very thin plastic rod. No big deal.
Decals go on easily, and they don’t really need much trimming, although I trimmed them fairly closely. I applied a coat of Glosscote first, although I don’t know if this was entirely necessary. After decals, I attached the rigging wires, using my tried and true method of using electronic wire, carefully stripped of insulation and rolled straight on a flat surface. Rigging both models was fairly simple, as there are only four wires in between the cabanes, and two parallel landing wires and two individual flying wires. On most biplanes I’ve seen, flying wires are grouped in pairs, but these wires appear to be separate. The whole process too no longer than 15 minutes for each airplane. Rigging diagrams and given in the instructions, so this is a no-brainer. Then add the pitot tube and the model is finished. I don’t think these airplanes require much weathering, as they were probably operated in pristine condition, especially by the Czechs. Later types operated by the Slovaks and Bulgarians might have operated in more grungy conditions, but those types aren’t represented here.
This kit, including two aircraft, is a little jewel. It is highly detailed, very accurate, and well designed to go together with little frustration. I was very impressed with the kit, as I have been with both of the later models I built within the past few years. It far surpasses the old KP kit, and from the looks of things, we can now model every variant of the B.534. The inclusion of the canopy used by Luftwaffe types means that a German enclosed canopy aircraft can be modeled. This is one kit where the “Do Not Use” parts are quite valuable. Be sure to put them in an envelope and set them aside, as you’ll want them sooner or later.
All in all, this kit is a little gem. Buy several, as there are lots of possibilities. I look upon this aircraft as a Czech Hawker Fury. It is a classic in every respect. Don’t miss out on this one if you like aircraft of this vintage. In fact, I’d like to see someone build a full scale flying replica of the type. That would really wow ‘em at Oshkosh.
Thanks to Eduard, Dave Morrissette, and David Montgomery for the opportunity to spend some time on a really classic set of models.