Hellenic Hero:
Building Mirage's PZL P.24F of the Greek Air Force in 1/48 Scale

By Will Hendriks

History

The PZL P.24 (PZL - Panstwowe Zaklady Lotnicze - National Aviation Works) was a descendant of the earlier PZL P.7 and P.11 fighters developed by Zygmunt Pulawski in Poland. All featured the "Pulawski Wing" design, a high gull-wing structure with chordwise corrugated surfaces. The P.24 Series were only developed for export, because the P.11 was powered by a license-built Bristol engine, which could not be sold abroad. Gnome Rhone powerplants were adapted to the design instead, resulting in the PZL P.24 Series. Hence, none flew with the Polish Airforce.

The aircraft was displayed at the Paris Airshow in November 1934, raising considerable international interest. One reason for this was that the aircraft was among the first that could be equipped from the outset with two 20mm cannon. Orders were placed by Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece.

Greece obtained twelve P.24F's and twenty-four P.24G's, the difference being that the F's were armed with two 20mm cannon. The aircraft were initially delivered in natural metal or silver finish, but were painted in camouflage colours shortly after Italy's Army of Albania invaded Greece in October 1940. The P.24's of the Royal Hellenic Airforce gave as good as they got or better, putting up a spirited and stubborn defense, contributing in no small way to Nazi Germany's intervention on Mussolini's behalf. Despite overwhelming odds, Greek pilots flying P.24's downed 40 enemy aircraft prior to the Greek surrender in April 1941.

Construction

This is a multi-media kit including styrene, resin, and photo-etched (PE) parts. Instructions are of the exploded view type on one side of a folded 11 x 17 inch sheet in nine steps, the other side has a history in Polish, Greek, and English as well as color schemes and markings for two options. Color call-outs include Humbrol and the new Vallejo line of acrylics. For a further description of the kit's contents, see the First Look Preview by Chris Banyai-Riepl in the May 2004 issue of Internet Modeler.

All sprues were first washed thoroughly by spraying with Windex ammonia cleaner and rinsing in cold water to remove any release agents. This step is especially important when dealing with kits from Eastern Europe. The kit was built in sub-assemblies more or less at the same time, and everything was eventually brought together. The kit is molded in a fairly soft, gray plastic that responds well to liquid cement and sands and cuts easily. A word of caution: you really need a primary reference while building this kit. The instructions actually recommend it.

The wing was one of the first items to be assembled, as it was the easiest. Everything fit well, with only a little filler required at the front of the 20mm gun pods. The joints were cleaned up with sanding sticks and this assembly set aside.

While preparing the fuselage halves, I noticed that the left half had a crack in the styrene at the aft corner of the cockpit opening, and the right half had a crack at the top of the vertical fin. These were repaired easily with Tamiya Extra Thin Cement and sanding sticks. The cockpit interior was painted with Citadel Chain Mail (silver) acrylic. The floor complete with stick and rudder pedals and the seat were assembled and look very convincing (sorry for the poor photos). The seat's PE braces were replaced with lengths of Evergreen strip. The seat was painted Testors Acryl Burnt Umber, then drybrushed with a little Burnt Sienna to simulate leather. The PE seatbelts were painted Testors Acryl Field Drab with silver hardware. The floor mounts on the fuselage halves do not come out far enough, so bits of Evergreen strip were used to shim the floor to fit. Part 6B, some kind of cylinder, is not shown in the instructions, though my references show it to be there. This was painted a copper color and mounted on the pins provided inside the fuselage. A valve assembly on the right side was painted brass. All the interior bits were given a light wash of Raw Umber oil color to accentuate the detail. The instrument panel is of the PE and film type. The back of the film was painted white and then the PE panel was glued on with clear gloss acrylic after a coat of Testors Aircraft Interior Black, with yellow knobs and silver placards. Drops of clear gloss simulated the instrument glass. This assembly was then mounted on the styrene panel provided. The fuselages halves were cemented together and the joints cleaned up with sandpaper and sanding sticks and any damaged panel lines rescribed. Various PE panels and details were added to the exterior. A canopy release handle on the left side was made with a short piece of stretched sprue, instead of the PE part provided. The air scoop was added to the front lower center after this item was dug out with a drill to give it a hollow look. I broke off the tailskid extension, which was replaced with brass rod of the same length. Two very nice resin radiators are included in the kit that go on the left side behind the engine cowling. One had some air bubbles along the front side, but this was filled with white glue later on. The radiators were painted black and drybrushed with brass. These were left off for now. The wing assembly was now glued on, with a little filler needed at the junction of the lower wing and fuselage.

I thought that the wing struts were a little too oblong in section, so I replaced these with lengths of Contrail strut material. I also replaced the kit MG and cannon barrels with appropriate lengths of telescoping brass tubing. I think the result is far better than what the kit provides. The very small aileron hangers, part PE15, were added at this time. The instructions are not altogether clear as to their location, and my references were a little sketchy, so I took my best guess.

The horizontal tail was installed. This takes some care, as there are no positive locating points. The stabilizers go right through the fuselage sides and meet in the middle, so careful alignment is required. There was also a fairly large gap that had to be filled using my good old Squadron Putty and Cutex method. Just smear on some putty, and then wipe away the excess with a cotton bud soaked in Cutex nail polish remover. Most of the offending joints on this model were treated in this manner.

The engine in the kit is a little soft on detail. The cylinder fins are understated, and the front and back molds were out of alignment considerably. The pushrod covers are of a square-ish cross section, so these were replaced with bits of Evergreen rod. I also made an ignition conduit out of styrene rod bent in a circle and dipped in hot water while jammed in a circle template. This was added together with harness made from brass wire. The cowling was assembled and detailed with latches made of strip, instead of the very small PE parts. The engine and inside the cowling was painted with Citadel Bolt Gun Metal (a steel shade) and given a wash of flat black mixed with burnt umber enamels. The resin exhaust collectors were prepared by cleaning off a fair bit of flash and painting a dark brown. These have to be trimmed very carefully to fit on the cylinders. The finished engine assembly was set aside until later.

I decided I wanted to have the fairings on the main wheels, even though these were removed shortly after hostilities commenced with the Italians. I just liked the look of them, so decided to keep them on. The wheels were painted completely and installed between the spat halves. The main gear struts have a very positive attachment to the fuselage. Each gear strut has a rod attached to the axle that goes into the fuselage, I believe to a snubber or shock absorbing device within. The instructions would have you attach them on the same side as the struts, but in fact they go to the opposite side in each case. Check your references. I used brass rod for these items, instead of the two-dimensional PE ones. The spatted wheels were mounted on the gear struts. These joints were reinforced with thin superglue.

The canopy pieces are clear and the framing well defined. These were masked with Gunze Mr. Mask Sol and cemented in place with white glue. I usually keep the canopies open on my models, but in this case I did not want to break up the unique outline of this aircraft.

Exterior Finish and Decals

I decided to finish this P.24F in the markings provided in the kit for D106 of 22 Mira Dioxe (Fighting Squadron), based at Thessalonika. I matched up the colors I had on hand as best I could to those described. The model was painted with Testors Acryl RLM 78 Light Blue underneath. These surfaces were masked as required with Tamiya tape and a coat of Testors Acryl RLM 78 Sandgelb applied to the upper surfaces. These paints were sprayed on with an Aztec 470 airbrush using the white acrylic (medium) tip. The camouflage pattern was applied with Pollyscale RAF Dark Green applied free hand to get a feathered edge, again using the Aztec but this time with the black (fine) acrylic tip. The pattern in the instruction sheet was used as a guide. A brush was used in a few areas to touch up as required. The cowl ring and nose cone were treated in the same way. The propeller was hand brushed with Testors Acryl Interior Black, with the tips masked off and sprayed Insignia Yellow. Some paint chipping was added at this stage with a silver Berol Prismacolor pencil crayon. After all painted surfaces dried overnight, the model was given several coats of Future thinned with rubbing alcohol to get a glossy surface for decals. The decals, by Techmod, have good color density and are in perfect register. The lower wing roundels appear to be too large compared to some of my references. The blue roundels have a very narrow film around them, minimizing the risk of silvering. I found them to be a little thick, however, and they were reluctant to conform to the corrugated wing surfaces and panel lines without generous applications of Walther's Solvaset and pressure with a hot wet cloth. A unique feature visible in the color illustration on the box as well as in some photos I examined, is that the lower roundels appear to have been oversprayed with blue paint, I suppose to make them less starkly visible. This was recreated using a thin coat of the RLM 78 blue mixed with a little Future to get a transparent effect, sprayed on in a random blotchy fashion. The decals were sealed with another coat of Future applied with a brush. A thin wash of Raw Umber and Flat Black enamel was applied to panel lines and recesses. I had to be careful not to overdo this stage, as the corrugated wings wanted to soak up the wash considerably. Finally a few light coats of Testors Acryl clear flat acrylic varnish was applied to seal all surfaces and to kill the shine.

Final Assembly

The engine assembly was mounted inside the cowl ring and cemented in place. The fit was fairly tight, and I damaged the silver finish slightly during this maneuver. This was touched up with a bit of silver on the brush. Call it hangar rash, I guess. The nose cone was cemented on followed by the resin exhaust collectors. The completed powerplant was glued to the front of the fuselage - now the model was looking much more like its sinister prototype. The resin radiators were installed on the left front fuselage with superglue gel. The final step was adding the brass PE gunsight and ring. Each is composed of a very small triangular piece and the ring or sight. The holes in the wing for these are very large. I filled them with white glue and attached these very fragile parts. Right after all the photos were taken for this article I promptly squashed the ring sight with my ham-fisted handling. Sheesh! Oh, and don't forget to add the propeller!

Conclusion

While this is not a kit for the beginner, it certainly builds up into a fine model as long as one does not mind a little extra work. As mentioned, references are a must if one wishes an accurate model of this unusual aircraft. The use of photoetched and resin parts adds a challenging aspect to the build while enhancing detail. In some areas, I found that the PE could be better replaced with strip or rod, as I find this much easier to work with, with similar results as far as detail goes. Subsequently I ended up using only about half of the parts on the fret. The finished model looks good, though, imparting that sinister gull-wing aspect that must have chilled the blood of many Italian (and some German) airmen.

Thanks to Squadron Mail Order for the review sample and to Chris Banyai-Riepl and Matt Bittner for the opportunity to build this kit. All errors are mine.

References and Further Reading

Books:

PZL P.24A-G Monographie #7 By Andrzej Glass, Kagero, 2004. Excellent "One Stop" resource for the type. Contains drawings, photos, and decals!

On the Internet:

PZL P.24G

An overview of the P.24G, with some photos and drawings. Also a build up of a 1/72 vacform kit by Modelland. By Lukasz Kedzierski.

Greek PZL P.24 Fighters

An excellent website devoted to the history of the P.24 in Greek service in particular. Contains some photos and well executed profile illustrations. A superb overview. By Kristjan Runarsson.

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