Trumpeter 1/35 Mil Mi-8MT/Mi-17 Hip-H

Kit #5102                                            MSRP $119.95
Images and text Copyright © 2007 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background
        In January of 1960 a huge helicopter lifted off from a Russian test field and began the long career of the Mil Mi-8 and Mi-17. From this rugged multi-role helicopter the infamous Mi-24 was spawned as well. Originally the Mi-8 was intended as a transport helicopter to carry troops and supplies. Utilizing cable extensions and a weight measuring device the Mi-8 could carry loads weighing up to three tons. Given the NATO code name Hip this helicopter was quickly converted to attack configurations with external stores of four and six points depending of variation. The large aft clamshell doors facilitated use for cargo handling but also made the Hip an attractive vehicle for ambulance use. The type was very rugged and could be serviced in the field. The twin turbine engines and five blade rotor system included a high level of Titanium construction reducing their vulnerability in combat. This system was so tough that it was copied for use in the Mi-24 attack helicopter.
        The Mi-8 was so successful in the Russian military application that is soon began to appear in civilian roles as well as in an export version, the Mi-17. The Mi-17 was exported to Czechoslovakia, Algeria, East Germany, Hungary, Bolivia, Poland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Finland, and Ethiopia. Early versions of the Mi-8 showed the tail rotor on the right hand side of the aircraft while later versions had it on the left hand side. Since production began in 1960 over 15000 examples of the Mi-8 and Mi-17 have been manufactured. With a selling price around 3.2 million US dollars versions of this helicopter are in use in approximately fifty four different countries today in both military and civilian roles. It has become one of the most produced helicopters in the world and holds the distinction of being one of the most heavily armed helicopters in the world.

The Kit
        This kit arrives in a large heavy duty corrugated cardboard box that provides plenty of protection during shipment and in your stash should you be able to resist its call and not build it right away. When I first opened the box all I could think was ‘wow!’ The kit consists of seven large parts sprues done in light gray high pressure injection molded polystyrene along with two sprues of clear parts and a single fret of photo etched pieces. The first impression you get of this kit is simple the size – this thing is huge! Exterior surfaces are well done with smooth surfaces and no visible flash or sink marks. Interior surfaces suffer from multiple light injector pin markings with some light flash around them. Unfortunately these pin markings are all over inside the cargo bay and cockpit. I shaved them down with a razor knife but some additional filling maybe required to make them completely disappear.
        With all the different versions fo Mi-8s and Mi-17s produced I would have expected to see this kit with some modular design or at least flashed over mounting holes for alternative versions down the road but it looks like this is the only version Trumpeter intended. This does not mean the modeler cannot get creative and make some changes themselves. The tail rotor can be mounted to Port or Starboard and the rotor blades can be reversed so it is possible to model virtually any version of this helicopter series with just a little work. On other interior detail we have two fairly well detailed turbine engines that just beg for additional wiring detail from the modeler. The cockpit features a very busy upper instrument panel and acetate instruments to place behind clear cover panels for the main IPs. The photo etched fret includes seatbelts for the front two seats along with some other exterior details and exhaust vents. While the front office initially looks okay once the pieces are in place it looks very Spartan, some additional work will be needed here to make things look right including some fixes to the basic seats. The cargo compartment is completely empty with only stringer detail in the walls and ceiling. There is no evidence of the flight engineer’s station back here or any other details.
        The clear parts come on two sprues and for the most part show good clarity. On my example I have some shipping damage on the main cockpit glazing where one sprue gate tore loose from the part taking a piece of the frame line with it. Fortunately it did not extend into the clear panel and was repairable. I also noted some swirls in the plastic within the forward clear panels, I don’t know yet if a treatment of Future will cure it or not. This kit contains two hundred forty three light gray plastic pieces, twenty one clear parts and nineteen photo etched pieces for a total of two hundred eighty three pieces in the box.

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Decals and Instructions
        The instructions for this kit come as a twenty page booklet that opens with a profile of the helicopter and some basic general construction notes. Two pages are consumed with complete parts maps and the rest of the booklet consists of fifty one exploded view construction steps. There are some color call-outs listed within the assembly instructions but they are by color name only with no FS numbers or paint manufacture codes. A second A-3 sized full color sheet is provided that covers exterior paint schemes for three helicopters; two Mi-17s and one Mi-8. This sheet also takes care of decal placement instructions.
        The decals come on a medium sized sheet and contain all the basic markings for one Russian Mi-8MT, a Czech Mi-17 and a Slovakian Mi-17. The decals all look very good with good color density and print registry. They include a variety of service stencils and warning markings. They appear to be nicely thin and previous experience with Trumpeter decals indicates they should behave well with standard setting solutions.

        This kit showed up at my doorstep during a moment when my defenses were at their lowest. I had just seen some really nice stuff that a modeler (Ted) in Sweden was doing with the Mi-8 and had just cleared a few other projects off my workbench. Usually when a new kit arrives at Swanny’s Models it will be examined then sit in the stash for some time getting a good aging process on before construction begins but not this time, in the door and right to the work bench (guess the Br.20 build will wait a little longer).
        I differed in my construction process slightly and began work with the engine compartment rather than the front office. I had been playing around with some different Alclad lacquers and they seemed like a natural choice for this area of the build. The basic turbine area was done with burnt iron, exterior plumbing was done with aluminum, steel, magnesium and copper Alclad paints. When looking at the kit directions for this area it seemed like things would be pretty busy with all the plumbing offered but once these basic pieces were together I was not impressed with how the space was filled. In the pictures below (you can click on them to see larger images) #1 shows what the basic turbine looks like before any exterior detailing goes in place. #2 shows the kit plumbing installed and some very fine radio soldier added to the base piece. This was only a beginning. #3 is the same stage as #2 only rolled over. By time we get to #4 more radio soldier is going in place.

        Now I needed to add some wiring harnesses to these engines. In my parts stash I had a small spool of 16 gauge thin strand wire which I called into play now. I took a short length of wire and stripped the insulation from it. I left a small piece of insulation as a handle on one end. Pinching this handle between thumb and forefinger and holding the other end secure I gave the whole bundle a twist then painted it white. With some black acrylic paint I painted wire straps on the bundle that actually look like I made little bands to hold it together – work smarter, not harder. Once this was dry I cut it to length and attached it to the engines. A second section was stripped and separated into smaller bundles, twisted, painted and added to the engines. Next some larger single strand copper wire was called into play and added to the engines. Some of the insulation from the 16 gauge wire was utilized as heavy cables running deeper into the body of the craft. Another small piece of wire insulation was attached up front to the intakes and the whole thing got some sludge wash (#5 and #6). It’s still not as busy as I would have liked to see it but much better than the original kit offering. I think once the engine doors are in place it will look even better.
        Early on in the build I had painted all the interior areas with a light gull gray. Sources show these helicopters with either bright blue/green interiors or light gray interiors – I obviously chose the light gray. Following the kit directions I assembled and painted the crew seats black and the control panels black. The back sides of the clear instrument face panels were painted with my own mix of bright blue/green and then assembled with the acetate pieces sandwiched inside. The photo etch seat belts were attached to the seats and all these pieces were dry fitted to the cockpit floor. Like with the engine compartment I was disappointed with the results – things were very Spartan. I was looking at some of the stuff Ted Wikman was doing with his Mi-8 in the front office and took it as inspiration. I always am on the prowl for odd pieces of fine wire for the modeling room. A few years ago I was about to throw away an old computer mouse that had failed when I examined the wire cable on it. This was found to be a great source of very fine strand wire and plastic tubing so that was removed from the mouse and saved. Today it came out of the parts stash and became useful.
        In the series of clickable images below #1 shows you what the base kit provided cockpit looks like. Now using the mouse wire in the same manner as I had the 16 gauge wire in the engine compartment I painted up lengths of wire dark tan with black acrylic wire tires. This was then added to the back of the instrument panels and along the cockpit floor. Additional pieces of wire were painted with white and yellow and added into the panels. The rear bulkhead had some extra pieces of plastic added to replicate a first aid box and an instrument piece that was prominent in reference pictures of cockpit interiors. More wire cables were added to the back wall. All these wire cables are being attached with fine spots of medium superglue. Next I made a sludge wash based on ink rather than acrylic paint. This is a trick I picked up off the forum from yet another modeler. Basically I made a sludge wash but instead of using acrylic paint I added a few drops of water soluble Higgins brown and black ink. The cockpit was treated with this and all the pieces were once again dry fit – image #2 shows this result.

        I was still not happy with the seats, they did not look anything like what was going on in real Mi-8s and Mi-17s. Now Ted was doing some very interesting stuff with his seats using Tamiya putty but I felt that his process was beyond anything I wanted to or was maybe even able to attempt. In comes Jens Jenson, a modeler in Denmark who was also working on this kit. Jens showed me what he was doing to his seats using copper foil. While I do not have any copper foil his process looked like something that could be replicated with masking tape – more inspiration. Now I tackled the seats, one at a time spending about fours hours per seat to work them over. Image #3 shows the first seat completed and #4 shows both seats completed – don’t they look much better now?
        Okay, now just how did I do that with masking tape? Here is the step-by-step process. Looking at the clickable images below this is what happened. First I removed the PE seatbelts and set them aside. The black seat cushions were repainted leather. I measured the backside of the seat and found the central area to be about 13mm. I cut a long rectangle of tape at 9mm to form my main harness piece. Next I cut a thin 1mm strip of tape. This thin strip was then laid on top of the first rectangle of tape to form padding (see #1). Next I cut the rectangle of tape in half and overlaid the second piece on top of the thin strips of tape and pressed it down. A second 1mm strip was laid across the harness centered from left to right. A 3mm wide strip of tape was placed over that as a harness sleeve (see #2). This was painted Olive Drab and placed on the seat back. Some fine spots of medium superglue were used to help hold the corners in place. Now I made a 12mm wide seat pad of layered masking tape. This was painted dark tan and had some holes chopped in the center to pass through seat belts (see #3). A third 1mm strip of OD painted tape was laid across the bottom crease of the seat and the dark tan seat pad was placed. The original PE seat belts had the outside attachment cut off then were slid into the holes in the seat pad and secured with spots of superglue (see #4). Finally the OD straps are overlapped and secured with more superglue. With a fresh razor knife I opened the backrest seat harness opening and reinstalled the kit shoulder harnesses (see #5). A coating of ink based sludge wash finished off the process. When you look at the final effect you may want to say ‘Wow, I could never do that’ but the truth of the matter is you can. You just have a picture in mind and take it one step at a time. Someone once asked me what the three most important things were to have in order to achieve this level of detail and my response was #1 a good set of Omni-visors (magnifying glasses), #2 a good set of electronics tweezers (real pointy ones) and #3 lots of patience. Funny thing was the guy that asked me this has me in awe of his kit building skills!

        Finally happy with that aspect of the cockpit I started working on the upper instrument panel. Trumpeter did a very nice job here and the only things I added to this part were two short lengths of wire to the fans as electrical cables. Everything else was simply painted and detailed right from the box. The inner sidewalls of the cockpit have no detail at all. Using Evergreen stock plastic card I added a couple of panels to the sidewalls placing these where they would cover injector pin markings in the plastic. More bundled and painted wire was added to the sidewalls along with a few Mike Grant instrument decals. Another coat of ink sludge wash finished off this area. There is a small panel that holds the main rotor shaft and like everything else with this kit was lacking in detail. A yellow painted wire umbilical and some large wire insulation was placed there to improve the view and more sludge wash was applied. Next I need to start building the missing flight engineer’s station and adding some detail to the big empty cargo area.

        For the flight engineer’s station I began with a strip of Evergreen sheet stock that featured uniform groves running through it. I simply cut out a long rectangle and attached it to the aft side of the bulkhead. The fold-down seat was made from some thicker styrene strip and the seat legs are from copper wire. I chopped up some thin round rod and made some warning light fixtures and instrument housings. More wire salvaged from that Mouse cable was used for the various cables. Additional squares of stock plastic were attached to the bulkhead on the other side of the door. Things will not be very visible on this side so I’m not spending a lot of time detailing that area.
        I’m starting to get a little tired of working on the interior so will divert to the main rotor for a few moments. The primary rotor head was done with Alclad white aluminum then assembled. The rotor blades were done with neutral gray and the leading edges are German Sand. Some black and white details were added and the rotor blades were attached. Each blade has three small alignment holes that show underneath, these were filled with spots of Mr. Surfacer 500, sanded smooth and brush painted to blend in. The rotor head was washed with an ink wash and the blades were brush painted with Future in preparation for a wash. Heavy cables were fashioned from more of the mouse cable but with the black insulation left in place. You can click on either of those two small images to view larger pictures.

        This has been a very busy summer for me with the shooting of the second Swanny’s Models video going on, a trip out West to check out some aircraft museums and Yosemite National Park along with all the normal summer activities here in the Roller Coaster Capitol of the World so actual modeling time has suffered somewhat. Things are starting to settle down a bit, college is starting soon and the kids are focusing on getting back to school and I can look at modeling once again.
        While this build has been collecting dust I have been keeping my eyes open for different pictures of Mi-17 cargo areas. I have seen several with a large internal fuel tank mounted on the left side as well as several configured for troop transport and as air ambulances. Ultimately I settled on one image that showed two large canvas like benches running along each side and a variety of odd stuff strewn about the cargo area. To build the benches I made the leg structure from thin Evergreen rod and the bench seat from a single wide strip of plastic. This was then enhanced with a wider piece of rod along the backside of the seat. Next I simple laid a wide piece of masking tape over the seat top and painted it canvas. It looked like a canvas seat now with some sag in the center section. Next I painted a piece of tape Olive Drab and cut it into thin strips. I had acquired a set of 1/35 Apache seat belts earlier and used these for buckles on the tape. The tape was attached to the seat top with spots of superglue in random patterns. With the floor pan resting in the fuselage the seats were glued to the floor with more superglue.
        I had also found a set of rolled tarps from Great Models that were intended for use with a tank, they work just fine with a helo. A crew set was purchased from CMK of a modern Russian helicopter crew and painted up. A few additional resin crates were scavenged from the spares box and the cargo area was ready to get busy. I did just a little test fitting to ensure that crew figure heads were going to clear the ceiling and the positioning of various pieces then everything was locked down with spots of superglue. Now the floor pan, ceiling and rotor head plate could all be glued in place and the fuselage secured. The tweo fuselage pieces were glued with Tenax 7r working from front to back and the whole thing was set aside to dry for a few hours.

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        After applying some Mr. Surfacer 500 to the glue seam and wet sanding it smooth I added the various small detail pieces to the fuselage. I replaced a couple plastic pieces with photo etched parts. Masking this beast is the next challenge. First the screened areas just forward of the main rotor shaft need to be dealt with. I tore small pieces of note card and slid them into the space beneath the screens then filled the remainder of the area with damp tissue paper. The forward canopy was masked with tape and attached with superglue. Of course this part was treated with Future before hand to prevent fogging and to help clear the frames up. The main cargo door area and the upper crew door area were masked with more tape. The side windows were attached using very small spots of clear parts cement in the corners because I plan on opening them up after painting. The side cargo door was attached the same way. Folded pieces of paper towel were slid into the engine compartment to cover the ends of the turbines then more tissue paper was used to mask the engines. It is almost ready for some primer.

        Next the kit is primed with Mr. Surfacer 1200 thinned about 50% with lacquer thinner. A few minor defects were discovered especially around the seam of the cockpit glazing to the fuselage. Once this was sanded down the primer was touched up and she was ready for preshading. The kit is preshaded with heavily thinned Testors flat black. Once this had dried for a few hours I painted the lower areas RLM-65. I know this is not your standard Russian sky blue which I did not have and it looked to be a fairly close match.

        Now I mask off the lower areas with medium width strips of masking tape. The base top color is stone and the entire upper area is airbrushed with it. This dries overnight then I begin to mask off the tortoise pattern with Silly Putty. Silly Putty makes for a good fine feather mask in that it will just barely stick to your model and leaves no residue when it’s removed. And just like Blue Tac you can just kneed the material to mix in paint overspray and then reuse it. Working with just a couple sections at a time I painted the dark green patterns working down the fuselage. I kept a small cap of lightened dark green at hand so that I could do a little panel fading before removing each set of masks. Once the pattern was complete the last round of masking tape was removed and a few small bleed through areas were touched up. The turbine exhaust tubes were installed and the landing gear were added. Now she is ready for Future.

You may click on the small images above to view larger pictures.
Below is the kit ready for Future. Note that this kit now measures about 2 feet in length.

       Now that the basic paint job is done and the Future is laid down I can apply the decals. Next the really tedious task of washing this kit is at hand. I spent five evenings of modeling time applying a sludge wash to this in sections and wiping it down. Finally that task is completed and the model can be dull coated. I’m using Polly Scale clear flat cut 50% with Windex. I had to get some new clear flat because I was having some difficulty with my last bottle. Here is what was happening, the last shipment I received had a thick texture to the paint and a slightly brown tint. When I would thin and airbrush it I would get a really nasty white haze when it dried. This was repairable by adding another coat of Future. Why was this happening? Turns out that I received these two bottles in early March which means they were shipped from the factory to the distributor sometime in late winter or early spring. What does this have to do with anything??? These bottles were frozen in shipment! Okay, this is just a theory at this point but a little testing on ‘good’ clear flat by freezing it and then trying to use it turned the same result – a heavy white haze. So be warned fellow modeler, if your clear flat looks thick and slightly brown or leaves a white haze then you most likely have a bottle that was frozen in shipment and should be disposed of.
       Back onto the subject now, with good clear flat the model is sealed and the paint masks are removed from the clear parts. I did have some slight bleed on a few of these masks but because I had treated my clear parts well with Future before installing them I was able to remove the bleed with a toothpick soaked in Windex then could apply a little fresh Future with a paint brush. A few accessory items were added like the rear view mirrors and the side windows and crew door were popped off for repositioning. Remember prior to painting I had attached these parts with very small spots of clear parts cement so now with just a little leverage from my razor knife each piece popped right off without any trouble at all. I’m still not done with this build, engine doors and troop doors are yet to be completed but I am very close. I am already thinking about how to display the model.

       The final details are taken care of now like the troop doors are painted, decaled and weathered. The engine doors are opened up and the hinge pistons are attached. The celestial door is attached and the armor plating around the cockpit is superglued in place. The PE windshield wipers are painted and glued in place and the final little clear parker lights are placed. I started this is February of this year, took a bit of a break during the mid-summer period and picked it back up about six weeks ago. It’s been a long build and I’m very happy to have it ready for display. This really was a trouble free build; the time was all in the detailing. The model without the main rotor attached measures almost twenty four inches from nose to tail, with the main rotor in place it measures nearly 29 inches in total length. I did not glue the main rotor shaft in place to facilitate transporting the model to shows.

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