Academy's 1/72 T-6G Texan
By Chris Bucholtz
The most-produced military trainer of all time, the T-6 Texan belongs to an elite class of aircraft. The 17,096 Texans, SNJs and Harvards built before, during and after World War II taught two generations of American pilots to fly and eventually equipped the air wings of over three dozen nations. Only in recent years has the Texan been retired from use with smaller air forces, including that of South African, and over 600 privately-owned T-6s are on the civil registry of the U.S. alone, evidence of the "Pilot Makerís" timeless quality.
Until recently, the best choice for a T-6 kit was the old Heller kit, repackaged recently by Encore. Continuing its recent trend, Academy has "borrowed" very liberally from this reasonably good old kit, to the extent that the fuselage halves of the two kits can be interchanged with every locating pin and detail matching up precisely. The difference between old and new is in the panel lines; while the Heller kit was detailed with fine, raised lines, Academy has presented them as recessed lines, with some very fine recessed rivets in appropriate spots around the nose area.
Though they use the Heller kit to get a massive head start, Academy has also added some new elements. The cockpit has a much improved floor and sidewall sections of the style common to resin aftermarket sets. To my eye, the detail in these sidewalls is rather simplistic and heavy, worse yet, the parts are so thick that, without some thinning, they will leave noticeable gaps around the canopy sill. The rollover structure is included as part of the sidewalls, complicating construction somewhat.
Unlike the Heller kit, the front seat rests atop the shaft for the control column and the rear seat mounts on the floor of the cockpit. This is obviously incorrect. The seats lack seat belts. While the aft control panel has been given an instrument shroud, the instruments are faintly represented on the panels themselves, and neither is an accurate representation of the Texanís panels. The cockpit is finished off with a featureless aft bulkhead and a shelf to blank off the rear of the cockpit, which is not featureless. It has two very large ejector pin marks, which could have been placed in an out-of-view spot on the finished model had the engineers rotated the part 180 degrees on the tree.
The cowling is a single part, an improvement over the two-piece unit in the Heller kit. The engine is a rather nondescript row of cylinders embedded in a round plate of plastic, and the propeller has no hub detail whatsoever. This is fine if one plans to build a T-6 with a spinner, but many Texans flew without spinners, so a more detailed propeller might be substituted. A collector ring and exhaust pipe is marred by a massive sink mark on the pipeís body.
The landing gear and gear bay carry over the Heller kitís biggest weakness. The gear bays are half-boxed in on their aft sides and center, just about the worst approach, since it looks less realistic than no well walls at all. A plate that partially closes off the top, but this plate is almost devoid of detail and features four prominent ejector pin marks in hard-to-reach areas. The outer halves of the upper wheel wells are formed by flared fairings from the fuselage halves. This assembly presents the modeler with five seams, three large gaps and a noticeable "see-through" hole into what would be the engine accessory area.
The landing gear struts are an improvement over the old Heller kit, being crisp and well defined, as are the tail wheel and gear doors. The wheels themselves would be nice, too, if not for a pair of ejector pin marks that are driven deep into the strut sides of each tire. Academy also includes control horns and air intake scoops; the scoops, while an improvement on the older kit, are flawed by having the inner edge of the scoop missing. A very small piece of styrene strip could help make these look much more realistic. The kit includes the ADF humpback, but omits the ADF "football" option of the Heller kit. Also missing are any ground attack options, which would be helpful for a Co-in or "Mosquito" T-6. The clear parts come in three sections, allowing you to slide back the front cockpit, but gives no provision for the rear canopy to open.
The decals include three aircraft: a natural metal Republic of Korea Air Force aircraft, a USAF "Mosquito" LT-6G named "Night Train" (the same aircraft pictured on the cover of the Squadron/Signal "In Action" book on the T-6), and a camouflaged Israeli T-6. The decals are thin and printed in register, but the blue on the U.S. roundels is too light; Academy took a shortcut and printed them in the same color as the Korean and Heyl Haí Avir insignia.
While itís true that the Academy Texan is now the best 1:72 T-6, it only manages to top the old Heller kit by a hair. This is disappointing; kit engineering, design and tooling has come a long way since the Heller T-6, but this kit shows improvement only in the surface detail. Had Academy put some more effort into this model, it surely would have cost more than the US$9 it sells for, but it would have been much easier to recommend.
1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00
Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.
PO Box 90933