Royal Hawk:
Building Mirage's 1/48 Scale PZL P.24B in Bulgarian Service

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.

Bulgaria took delivery of twelve PZL P.24B's in 1937. Named "Jastreb" (Goshawk), these aircraft were strikingly adorned with red trim on a dark green and light blue finish. The aircraft often flew unarmed, and with the canopy removed. Later the wheel pants were removed as well.

During this time Bulgaria was still a monarchy under Tsar Boris III. When the heir to the throne was born on June 27, 1937, "Simeon Kniaz Trnowski" was painted on the side of airplane 1 of 1(11) Squadron to commemorate the event.

In 1940 the Bulgarian P.24B's were relegated to training units, where they served until destroyed by American bombers in 1944 at an airfield near Karlovo.

Construction

For a description of the kit contents, please see the First Look Preview in the December 2004 issue of Internet Modeler.

The majority of the kit is similar to the Greek Airforce P.24F that was reviewed in the September 2004 issue of Internet Modeler. As the majority of the build is the same, I will just touch on some of the differences. The engine in this kit is a little soft on detail, and there was a prominent seam line running along the cylinders, which were also misaligned somewhat. I replaced the kit engine with one from Engines and Things, which fits very well after some modification. The front bell housing was also removed to accommodate the kit front engine fairing. While cleaning up these parts for painting the front engine cover, part B3, went down the drain! After several hours of Do-It-Yourself plumbing, it became apparent that the part was gone forever, probably now floating somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Eventually I managed to obtain a replacement from another kit. What a relaxing hobby!

The resin exhaust collectors are a fussy fit, requiring a fair bit of trimming and dry fitting to get it right. The front engine braces, which come as a photoetched part are not correct compared to photos so these were replaced with stretched sprue.

The fuselage and wings of the P.24B are similar to the P.24F, except that the cockpit has a leather headrest and some photoetched side panels are provided for the interior. The only major differences in the wings are the resin ejector chutes and the longer struts. Instead of using Contrail strut stock, I used the kit items, which were a little short. Each strut was lengthened by grafting on a short piece of styrene, then sanding to shape and trimming to length.

The wing to fuselage joint needed filler, as shown in the photos. This was accomplished with Squadron White Putty, then primed with Gunze Mr. Surfacer 1000 and rescribed as required. The rather large holes for the gunsights were filled with sprue then redrilled. Some sink marks around the vertical tail needed filling as well.

Painting and Decals

The primary source of reference for this build was the excellent Kagero book by Andrzej Glass. This book is packed with photos, drawings, profiles, and even comes with a decal sheet in both 1/72 and 1/48 from Techmod and a set of vinyl canopy masks in 1/48 scale! The book contains photos of the Royal Heir's commemorative aircraft, "Simeon Kniaz Trnowski", as well as decals for this aircraft. I was struck by this colourful scheme and decided to finish the kit in these markings.

The airframe was painted Testors Acryl Blue RLM 78 on all lower surfaces. This was masked with Tamiya tape and the upper surfaces were sprayed with Gunze Green H302 FS34092. The windscreen was masked with the masks provided with the Kagero book, which fit perfectly. When dry, all was given several coats of Future clear gloss varnish in preparation for decals.

I was unsure how to deal with the vivid red trim, especially around the compound curves of the wheel pants. My first instinct was to discard the red trim decals provided and mask it all off and spray it. But I decided to give the decals a try. I could always go back to Plan A if things went awry.

The kit decals are very opaque and in perfect register, and show off the colourful Bulgarian national markings very well. While applying them to the model, they tended to be somewhat brittle, cracking and breaking in places. These decals are reluctant to snuggle down around detail, but several applications of Walther's Solvaset and pressure with a hot wet cloth settled them down nicely. The red trim is opaque, and did not lose its intensity over the dark green finish. The wheel pants were tricky, with the red trim decals wrinkling at the edges where they curved down, and little bits of decal breaking off here and there. It looked like a disaster at first, but some touching up with Citadel Blood Red and Gunze Flat Red acrylics blended all together nicely. The fuselage trim flashes were trimmed to fit around the forward struts, which was then touched up with the red acrylics as above. The white, green and red tricolour was applied to the rudder, trimming the excess decal as required, and touching up with Citadel acrylics. The cowling was sprayed Gunze Flat Red H13. The finished "power egg" was glued to the fuselage with Lepage's five-minute epoxy.

The decals provided with the Kagero Book were used to supply the PZL logos and numbers on the tail, as well as the Cyrillic inscription along the fuselage sides. These went on easily with no silvering, using Future as a setting solution. This is amazing, given the amount of clear carrier film around the fuselage lettering. Thumbs up, Techmod! The white lettering was also surprisingly opaque, none of the underlying red trim bled through the white lettering.

Weathering on this model was kept to a bare minimum, as I wanted to portray a well-maintained peacetime airplane fit for a Prince. Some subtle washes of dark grey oils were applied to highlight the control surfaces, and a very little dark umber applied around the engine and landing gear areas. A light coat of Testors Acryl Semi Gloss varnish was sprayed on to kill the shine.

Conclusion

The same comments regarding the Greek P.24F apply here. This kit is not for beginners, but does form the basis of an accurate model with some extra work. The Kagero book is a definite "must have" if planning an accurate replica of this esoteric yet elegant aeroplane.

With its vivid red trim and colourful markings, to me this aircraft resembles a pylon racer of the thirties rather than a fighter. She also looks good parked next to her Greek cousin.

Thanks to Squadron Mail Order for the review sample and to Chris Banyai-Riepl and Matt Bittner for the opportunity to build this kit. Also thanks to Mr. Marcin Wreczycki of Mirage Hobby. 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! Kindly supplied by Chris Banyai-Riepl. Thanks, Chris!

"The Last Polish Gull Wing Fighter", by Przemyslew Skulski, Scale Aviation Modeller International, Volume 10, Issue 9 (SAM Publications, September, 2004). Good article with history, period photos, drawings and "Walk Around" photos.

On The Internet:

Mirage Hobby's Homepage

Roll Models

Sandle Hobbies

Profile Art EN Banyai-Riepl Illustrations