MPM 1/48 Aero Vochody L-39ZO Albatross

By Michael Benolkin

Background

During the post WW2 years of the Soviet Union, Soviet designers were focused on building combat aircraft to answer the perceived threat from NATO and the US. As more capable aircraft came online, the older aircraft were either exported or scrapped. Not so with the two-seat MiG-15UTI trainer, as this was to be the closest thing that Soviet pilots would have to an indigenous intermediate-level jet trainer.

But as the MiG-15UTI started to age, a more modern trainer was required. Aero Vochody of Czechoslovakia developed the L-39 Albatross as a logical next step from their widely fielded L-29 Delfin basic jet trainer. Like the L-29, the L-39 would be a tandem-seat, single engine, low-wing trainer. Unlike the L-29, however, the L-39 would feature a more powerful engine, ejection seats, and the capability to carry weapons for advanced combat training

The L-39 is also an easy to fly, easy to maintain aircraft with relatively low operating costs. The aircraft is equipped with two ejection seats and modern (at that time) instrumentation. Aero is currently marketing upgraded versions of the L-39 with multi-function displays and more advanced avionics.

Now that the iron curtain has fallen, the L-39 has become one of the more popular warbirds in western skies. There are even several schools in the US that will provide training in the L-39 (as well as other warbird types).

The Kit

MPM has released the first injection-molded kit of the L-39 in 1/48 scale, and it is a beauty. Molded in dark gray plastic, the kit features scribed panel lines and details. There are 97 injection-molded parts, two perfectly clear vacuformed canopies and four resin parts included. The resin parts are evidently corrections to the corresponding parts on the plastic trees.

The cockpit is a detailed work of art. Each ejection seat is comprised of seven parts, not bad considering that trainer ejection seats are far less complex than the higher performance fighters. The only thing missing on these seats are the seat belts and shoulder harnesses. The complete cockpit alone is 45 parts, so there is no lack of detail here. You will need to add throttles to complete the office.

The trailing link landing gear is similar in design to the FA-18 Hornet and is nicely represented in the kit. While there are no optional flattened tires in the kit, it was never difficult to flatten the round tires.

Construction is very straightforward in this kit, with only six steps illustrated in the instructions. The only real attention will need to be at the wing/fuselage joint and at the aft of the fuselage where the exhaust fairing is attached. With a little filing and dry-fitting, you should be able to get a great fit. Externals are limited to four underwing pylons and two underwing fuel tanks.

The greatest amount of time will be taken with trying to select a color scheme and placing all of the decals. Markings are provided for two Libyan aircraft, one Syrian, and one East German machine. In addition to the national and unit markings, the decal sheet features extensive maintenance stenciling in several languages to correspond to your aircraft's selected home.

Conclusion

This is a great kit of an important subject. If you like to have a 1/48 scale collection of advanced combat trainers from around the world, this L-39 will definitely compliment the Frems MB.339 and Hasegawa T-4. I can easily recommend this kit to modelers with intermediate and advanced skills, as well as the more experienced basic modeler.


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