Mirage PZL P-11C

Kit #48103                            MSRP $37.98
Images and text Copyright © 2008 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background
        Zygmunt Pulawski designed an all metal monoplane in 1929 that was to lead to one of the most advanced fighter aircraft of the early 1930s. The initial design the P.1 grew into the P.11 which first flew in August 1931. By 1934 the type was in production and 175 aircraft rolled off the assembly line. The production numbers were so low because the Polish military aviation command was still considering other concepts in fighters and bombers. This combined with limited production facilities and the untimely death of Pulawski in a flying accident resulted in a very unstable future for the aircraft.
        While things were developing in Poland the Rumanians took note of the P.11 and purchased 50 P.11b aircraft. Shortly thereafter the Rumanians purchased a license to build the P.11 at the IAR factory. This production run received an improved engine with 630 horsepower. From here the Rumanians developed the P.24 from the P.11 and produced it for export. Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey all purchased the P.24 fighter. This was a period in history where aircraft were developing in leaps and bounds and by 1939 this aircraft type was obsolete having been replaced by cantilever wing designs and aircraft with retractable landing gear. When the war broke out in 1939 the P.11 was used in the defense of Poland and performed well even though it was outclassed by the Germanís Bf-109. It is estimated that the P.11 tallied at least 110 aerial victories before Poland succumbed to the invasion. Most of the aircraft were destroyed and about three dozen were flown to Rumania. Today there is only one example of the P.11 surviving and it is on display in the Polish Aviation Museum in Cracow.

The Kit
        This is probably the most recent kit issued from Mirage and most likely the best. This kit has been issued in three slightly different variations those being kit #48101 as a fighter version with markings for three aircraft, 48102 as a fighter-bomber that includes four small resin bombs not found in the other two issues and 48103 which includes the Rumanian marking and is the subject of this review. The Mirage kit deals with a couple of issues that previous kits of the P.11 suffered from like the one part upper wing which takes care of the infamous Ďflapping wingí problems found in the two part upper wing designs. Dimensionally this kit seems very accurate with the kit measurements being within .25mm of drawings published by AJ Press.
        The kit consists of two sprues of high pressure injection molded plastic, a small fret of photo etched parts, a single small injection molded windshield, an acetate sheet of instrument markings and a single resin radiator. The plastic parts are all well done with some mold separation seams but surface detail is excellent. The upper and lower wings are very striking in their detail level. Panel lines are crisply engraved and line up fairly well. The main fuselage parts have a single alignment pin at the tail which throws the whole kit off the mark. It is best to simple cut this pin off first and not even suffer that problem. Interior detail is very nice and with the addition of the photo etched instrument panel and acetate details, PE seatbelts and internal tubular framing really comes to life. The power plant is very well represented with good cylinder and exhaust manifold detail.
        Kit parts count is relatively low compared to some other kit of similar size with 42 plastic pieces, a single clear part, one resin radiator and thirty eight photo etched pieces we have only eighty two pieces in the box.


You may click on these small images to view larger pictures

Decals and Instructions
        Kit assembly instructions consist of a single A3 sheet of paper printed on both sides. One side of the sheet includes a brief history of the type in Czech and English along with decal placement and painting guides for two different aircraft. For each aircraft there is also included some individual historical content. The flip side of the page contains seven exploded view assembly steps that include painting codes and some construction notes. Also included on this side is a paint chart with colors listed by name and Humbrol paint codes.
        The decals for this kit by Techmod are very nice with good color density, nice sharp definition and near perfect print registry. They cover a single Polish aircraft and one Rumanian aircraft. The do not include any service stencils or warning markings and there very well may have not been any such markings on the actual aircraft. Iíve used Techmod decals before and they behaved very nicely when used with common decal setting solutions like Micro-Set, Micro-Sol and Mr. Marker Soft.

Conclusions
        While there are two other P.11 kits out there in 1/48, one from LTD and one from Warrior this one (or itís two Mirage counterparts) is the one to get. It is well engineered, easy to assemble, deals with the serious flapping wing issues found on the other kits and has no serious short comings. There are a few aftermarket items available for this such as the True Details replacement wheels and four alternative decals packages from Techmod that would allow the modeler to do virtually any version of the P.11C. Overall I give this kit a very good recommendation.

6/15/08
Construction

        Iíve actually been working on this kit off and on for about six weeks now. Itís difficult to find lots of hobby time during the nice summer weather but Iíve managed to fit a little building time into the schedule. As with most aircraft models construction begins with the interior which is mostly bare metal. I used Alclad Aluminum for my basic color here with some khaki for the seat and dark green for the seat belts. I bent some fine wire to make the rudder straps and attached them with superglue. Once it was all dry it was attached to one side of the inner fuselage with the sides taped together to hold its position while the glue set up. The instrument panel was painted and assembled and set aside for later installation.
        Basic construction of the model went fairly well with only a little bit of filler needed on the fuselage seam. The wings went together nicely and were set aside to be painted separately. Before painting the entire model was preshaded with black enamel. I painted all the under surfaces with RLM 65 light blue then used Russian Khaki for the upper colors. I lightened the Khaki a little and highlighted panels with it for a sun fade effect. Once the basic paint was dry I attached the wing and elevator and the associated support struts. The engine was painted and assembled and the cowling collective ring was done with Model Master Burnt Metal. This stuff was all attached to the front of the fuselage and the propeller was placed. After a little brush touch-up of the seams I was thinking about some decals.


You may click on the small images above to view larger pictures

        This is my first Mirage kit and things have been going along quite well, I am somewhat surprised. Next I will be sealing the model with Future then applying the decals. This is where things started to go awry. The decals are somewhat brittle, not real bad but care is required, a lot more than with most decals. This was the good, next came the bad. The decals will not respond to setting solution and conform to the surface of the model. This is not a problem with the upper wing markings or the fuselage markings but the lower wing and rudder markings have to conform to some pretty serious ridging. First I tried Micro-Sol decal solvent Ė no effect. Next I moved up to Mr. Marker Soft and still I was getting nowhere. I ended up having to cut each decal at every ridge with a razor knife, treating it heavily with Mr. Marker Soft then painting the cut areas. This next series of images shows the overall view which is still shiny from the Future (no weathering has been done yet) then a shot of the rudder after the decals have been touched-up with paint but more importantly is the last image. This is the underwing marking still wet with Mr. Marker Soft and cut with a razor knife. Note how jagged the decal edges are. This has been soaking in Mr. Marker Soft for twenty freaking minutes already!!!!!

        That little spot of red on the elevator? Iím not sure if it is red paint or my blood!

7/9/2008
       After jerking around with these decals for a week or two I finally have them looking good enough to satisfy me. Next the model is sealed with Future floor polish then a black sludge wash is applied to the panel lines. Since this model has lots of fine ridge like surface detail on the wings and elevators the wash had a tendency to flow all over the place so some extra effort was needed to wipe the excess off. Once that was completed the model was sealed with a combination of Micro-Flat and Polly Scale Clear Flat. I did this because the Micro-Flat looks a little to much like satin to me and the Polly Scale stuff has had a tendency to get chalky. About a 50/50 blend with some Windex as thinner seemed to produce a nice flat finish for me. The wind screen is so small that I decided to simply paint the framework freehand rather than mask and airbrush. The windscreen was attached with some Crystal Clear applied with a toothpick.
       The propeller was brushed with some Future to give it some shine and the various access panels were rubbed with some burnt sienna chalk. The large aerial has had me concerned right from the beginning and now I have to tackle it. I attached one end of some colored invisible thread to one wing post then held the thread near the rudder post and measured it off to the next wing post and cut it off. The opposite end was superglued to the second wing post. Now I took a short length of thread and simply looped it over the main aerial and pulled it back to the rudder post. This allowed the aerial to find a natural center point at which time I added a small drop of superglue to that center point to lock the thread and trimmed off the excess at the rudder. The glue point was painted white to simulate an insulator and the model was complete, or so I thought.



You may click on the small images above to view larger pictures

       This model was built as a commission project for a friend of mine in Brussels. He already has a large collection of Yellow Nose Rumanian aircraft and wanted this one to match those as a demonstration of the development of Rumanian airpower during the war Ė all with King Michaelís Cross. At his request I repainted the nose RLM-04 Yellow and added yellow identification bands to the wings. While later model P.11s did indeed carry these markings the early model Cs like this one did not. There is little external difference between these models so you could look at this as a model E or F P.11 or simply a C type repainted later during the war years. So anyway, after some careful masking here is the final version of this kit.

       Other than the really crappy decals this model was a pleasure to build, it went together very nicely, the directions were more than adequate to get the job done. Very little filler was needed and no real adjustment of parts was required to get the end product. If you are going to build this kit I would strongly suggest looking for some aftermarket decals like maybe some Bf-109 in Rumanian service markings or some Mike Grant King Michaelís Crosses, Yes Mike does make a very nice set of Rumanian crosses but they are not displayed on his website, you have to ask specifically for them.





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