One wonderful by-product of the desktop decal revolution that the ALPS printer has spawned is the emergence of small producers like Whirlybird Decals from the British town of Barnsley. Freed from the need to sell 500 or more sheets to get into the realm of profitability, small printers can create offbeat subjects in very short runs and ensure that both they and their customers get their money’s worth.
Whirlybird’s first releases point out both the pros and cons of ALPS decals. The subjects span the years: a P-51B captured by the Germans and used to provide dissimilar air combat training to Hungarian pilots in 1944, and a Kiowa in Canadian service painted in a commemorative D-Day 50th anniversary scheme in 1994.
The Mustang is natural metal, with yellow tail, spinner and undersurfaces and a red band at the back of the spinner and forward fuselage. The markings are relatively spare: a set of oversize crosses and swastikas and codes for the lower wings and fuselage sides. The sheet also has four manufacturers’ decals for the propellers and three fuel filler markings. These markings point out one of the limitations of the ALPS printer: reds and yellows are very difficult to work with, often showing up as a series of colored lines that, from a distance, blend to form a color. Up close, though, they lend the decal a slightly fuzzy look. The crosses’ white sections also have extremely faint black lines running across them, but these are exceptionally hard to see with the naked eye. The prop markings and fuel fillers can be found elsewhere, if they don’t meet your standards. Otherwise, this sheet is a nice one for those looking for a slightly different Mustang.
The CH-136 sheet depicts a helicopter painted to commemorate 403 “City of Calgary” Squadron’s participation in D-Day at the Open Day at Middle Wallop in May 1994. The helicopter is painted in a two-tone green camouflage, whose colors are called out on the sheet as close to FS34031 and FS34084. The modeler must mask and paint the invasion stripes on the boom, but it you like heavily marked-up aircraft, this is a small price to pay. Not only does the helicopter have Canadian Armed Forces markings, it also bears RAF-style roundels, codes and fin flashes! Again, the reds and yellows are a problem, with the flashes and roundels again having that fuzzy appearance to them. The same goes for the squadron logo on the front door. However, the Canadian markings are excellent, right down to the “Cut here for emergency rescue” stencils. The sheet also provides two full sets of markings, “to allow for problems in application.” A nice touch!
As is the case with most ALPS sheets, the designs are printed on a single piece of carrier film, so trim the designs closely!
Whirlybird certainly seems to be on the right track with these releases. They’ll satisfy most modelers, and nitpicking nerds like yours truly can substitute or modify markings without having to start from scratch. With luck and time, expect more offbeat subjects to emerge from their desktop decal factories!