KP Models 1/72 Sopwith Swallow & Sopwith Scooter
By Tom Ruprecht
In the summer of 1918, the Sopwith Company created a parasol Monoplane Number 1, later called the Scooter, utilizing a standard Camel fuselage but without the hump where the guns would normally be. It was powered by a 130hp Clerget rotary. At this time, thin British non-cantilever wings required flying and landing wires much like the Bristol M.1, and hence had a pyramidal support above the wing. This aircraft was apparently built as a private venture by Sopwith, and proved to be very maneuverable. It was a favorite mount of Sopwith test pilot Harry Hawker for several years and he and others were reported to have performed thrilling aerobatics in this aircraft. It survived the war as an exhibition and racing aircraft in at least three color schemes until around 1927.
Apparently officialdom noticed, and a military version was built, the Swallow, just prior to the Armistice. It was different from the Scooter in a number of ways. These included larger-span wings mounted further above the fuselage, twin guns set wider than on the Camel, and a 110hp LeRhone engine. It was considered as a shipboard fighter, but was abandoned after trials in May of 1919. I have found no convincing explanation why the later Swallow had a lower-power engine with that aircraft's greater size and military load, but engine availability may have had something to do with it. J.M. Bruce states that the LeRhone could actually produce more power than the Clerget when tuned well.
Many of us have probably planned over the years to convert a Camel kit to one or both of these aircraft. That is no longer necessary for the Swallow with the KP Models (kit. For the Scooter, however, one must do a little bit more work as noted below.
These Kovozavody Prostejov (KP Model) kits appear to have strong similarities to AZ Model, also from Czech Republic. The end-opening boxes of these kits are attractive and details of the various color schemes are crisply printed on the backs. The instructions appear to be adequate.
The two kits have identical sprues in soft gray plastic. The rib detail is a bit heavy and the rib tapes seem too wide. The areas between the ribs, are not depressed, so there is no gross "starved cow," look and should be easily sanded/refined as needed. There is no attempted fabric detail (thank you for both of these excellent decisions, KP!). There is very little flash. Overall quality is good- roughly on a par with early/middle Roden/Toko kits but with more crisp detail. The distinctive chordwise reinforcing ribs of the Swallow are depicted in the upper center section. There are parts for the two alternate aircraft: cockpit/deck sections, guns, separate ailerons, props and engines. More on that below. There is no PE.
Decals are in register and include the tiny 'lift here' and 'Swallow, Scooter' stencils barely visible against the blue carrier background. They appear to be very thin, much like Microscale decals. Decal manufacturer is unknown, the sheets have the KP logo, so their predicted behavior is unknown at this writing.
Overall, I am pleased with the kit, which nicely depicts the Swallow only. KP can be forgiven, as no references I have found have adequately described the exact wing size and shape of the Scooter. The kit accords well with the Ian Stair plans of the Swallow in the Windsock article below. No alternative cabanes are given in the kit for the Scooter, in which the wing was set so close to the fuselage that the pilot had to actually drop through the wing cutout to enter. The photos in my references also suggest that that cutout may have been rounder, rather than the trapezoidal shape of the Swallow. The wing of the Swallow was of a wider span than that of the Scooter, and the ailerons were longer. The kit depicts the ailerons as the same size, but with correctly differing tips.
Here's what I plan to do for the Scooter: With the assumption that the rib spacing was the same, I counted the spaces/bays between ribs (not including end and center) as 15 on each side from photographs. I confirmed that the same counting on the photos of the Swallow and the Stair plans were 17 spaces. My references differ slightly on wing areas. The Swallow was 162-165.5 square feet (181 sq ft in the Harleyford Sopwith Man/Aircraft book) and the Scooter as "about" 135 square feet. Further assuming that the chord is the same (I think it looks the same in the photos), simply cutting two rib spaces from each end of the wing will give the approximate wing area for the Scooter.
Modifying or fabricating ailerons for the Scooter which are one rib bay shorter at seven bays (the kit has 8 rib bays for the Swallow) looks like it will do the trick for that part. Note that the Scooter's ailerons are a bit rounder at the outer trailing edge as is correctly depicted in the kit parts. I will also modify the trailing edge cutout. If you care about trailing edge thickness, you could fix that. The references make a point of noting that the wing sweepback of the Swallow was 6 degrees. They mention no such detail about the Scooter's sweepback, but it looks the same to me in the photos. Making shorter cabane struts should complete the job.
Overall, these kits appear quite buildable, with the caveats regarding the Scooter's dimensions and required simple modifications. I love the Harry Hawker red/black scheme depicted on the box, even though we don't really know what color it was. These will look great next to each other when finished.
I obtained the kits from Art Scale in the Czech Republic- They were 8.33 euros each including VAT (I thought overseas customers didn't have to pay VAT?) The total with shipping via DML was 23.95 euro, took 2 weeks, they were packaged securely, I would do business with them again. They accepted PayPal.
My thanks to Tod Poirer for image cleanup. Photography clumsiness is entirely mine.
J.M. Bruce, British Aeroplanes 1914-1918, Putnam 1957
H.F. King, Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920, Putnam 1980
Windsock International Vol.14, No.4 July/August 1998