IntroductionH-21C Shawnee "Flying Banana"
is a new 1/48 injection-molded model. It features a photo-etch fret and a large decal sheet.
One of the few helicopters that I have an affinity for is the Piasecki H-21 Work Horse/Shawnee. Looking at one on the ramp from ahead and to the side, where I can see the curvature of the canopy framing, it looks like a happily smiling grasshopper, tensing to leap into the air. Not a very martial reason and yet the war chopper is one of my favorites.
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Work Horse or Shawnee, the "Flying Banana"
In 1949 the U.S. Air Force ordered eighteen examples of the Piasecki Model PD-22 single-engined, tandem-motor helicopter for evaluation in the SAR and general transport roles. The YH-21 Work Horse, as the type was designated, made its maiden flight in April 1952. The Air Force was quite pleased with the YH-21, and eventually purchased thirty-two production H-21A SAR models and 163 of the more powerful H-21B assault transports.
The Army became aware of the H-21's potential as a medium utility helicopter soon after the type's maiden flight, and in 1952 awarded Piasecki a contract for the production of the H-21C variant. This aircraft retained the H-21B's extensive armor plating and ability to carry two external fuel tanks, but had such additional features as increased troop capacity and a 4000-pound capacity belly sling hook. The Army procured 334 H-21C Shawnees, with deliveries beginning in August 1954. In addition, the Army obtained at least sixteen H-21B aircraft from the USAF; the majority of these machines were ultimately brought up to H-21C standard, and all were known as Shawnees despite their origins as Work Horses. The Army also funded Vertol's development of the XH-21D, which was essentially a standard H-21C whose single piston engine had been replaced by two General Electric T58 shaft turbines. Two H-21Cs were so modified and flight tested in 1957 and 1958, but the variant was not adopted for production. In 1962 the H-21B and H-21C were redesignated as, respectively, the CH-21B and CH-21C.
Despite its rather ungainly appearance the H-21 Shawnee was a very capable and well-liked machine, and the type ultimately secured for itself a unique place in post-World War II Army aviation history. It was a Shawnee dubbed 'Amblin' Annie that made the first non-stop helicopter flight from one coast of the United States to the other, being refuelled in flight from a U-1A Otter. More significantly, the H-21 was the first American military helicopter type to be deployed in appreciable numbers to South Vietnam: the first four Shawnee units arrived in that country between December 1961 and September 1962. Inevitably, perhaps, the H-21 also gained the dubious distinction of being the aircraft in which America's first Vietnam casualties were killed; four Army aviators died in July 1962 when their Shawnee was shot down near the Laotian-Vietnamese border. The machine gun-equipped H-21s used in Vietnam were also, of necessity, the first American military helicopters to be fitted with door-mounted defensive weapons as a matter of course. Several additional aircraft were experimentally fitted with a variety of offensive weaponry and used as interim gunships pending the arrival in Southeast Asia of the first units of armed UH-1 Iroquois in the summer of 1963. The H-21 remained the backbone of the Army's aviation effort in South Vietnam until finally supplanted by the UH-1 in 1964, and most Shawnees were withdrawn from the active inventory within the following year.
S.Harding "U.S.Army Aircraft since 1947", 1990
In the box...
...are three sealed bags holding a clear sprue and four gray sprues. A small photo-etched fret is also sealed in a separate pouch. A big decals sheet and booklet-style instructions round out the contents.
Italeri estimates the parts count at 155 and I did not count to confirm it. There are three gray sprues - actually four because there are two of Sprue C - and the clear sprue.
This is marketed as 100% new molds. My first thoughts: good looking model with that weird Italeri mix of nuke-proof sprue connectors and maddeningly delicate parts. Incredibly fine external surface detail and mushy interior parts. Light flash bedevils some pieces and yet there are not many seam lines. But there are some slight sink areas and too many ejector circles. Whether they will be visible when assembled remains to be seen.
The fuselage has slight surface texturing mixed with smooth areas. However, Italeri is not consistent - one half is textured and the other half is smooth. I expected more from a modern new-tool kit from a major manufacturer. Most of the interior pieces are smooth. Italeri used a mix of raised and recessed panels and access hatches.
Test-fitting indicates there will be some challenges. Honestly I expected better from a new release by a major model company in 2016.
Molding is mostly sharp but not as crisp as I expected it to be. In fact, detail on some interior parts like the radios is soft. I suspect that parts buried int he fuselage were not tooled to the same degree as more visible components.
The transparent parts are clear and without distortion. Framing is simulated with light texturing.
Assembly is conventional with fuselage halves, two-piece left and right stabilizers, separate landing gear, and multi-piece rotor assemblies. Italeri molded positionable doors for the engine bay and fuselage doors, as well as the cabin windows. Modelers even have the option for a cargo sling.
There is at least one disappointment. US Army and USAF H-21s were equipped to carry external fuel tanks. Neither the tanks nor their pylons are included in this kit.
Lets look more at those 155 parts.
Even though it won't be very visible when the fuselage is buttoned up, I was expecting stringers and formers molded into the sides. There aren't. They did make the model with several bulkheads and a cockpit/cargo deck. Some of the bulkheads have simulated fabric insulation molded onto them. Those interesting canvas benches with webbing backings are provided for each side of the interior. An avionics suite is included with several radios. The roof has a conduit that shield the transmission shaft to the forward rotor unit.
The cockpit is assembled with two seats, cyclics and collectives, anti-torque pedals, control sticks and and instrument console. No instrument details are molded into the panel; it is flat and requires a decals. While there are a few other cockpit parts, each seat is a 6-piece assembly: the seat, three photo-etched belts, two side braces. While there are no belts for the cargo seats, I doubt anyone will notice.
An engine is included with P/E screens for the fuselage intakes. H-21 had an open belly to allow the engine to "breath". That gaping access is ripe for detailing with conduits and piping.
Lofting the airframe upwards were the two rotor heads. Those are nicely detailed. All six rotor blades are nicely molded and thin. They are even molded with "droop".
All of that is supported on the ground by spindly undercarriage. The tires simulate weigh upon them. Amazingly, Italeri molded separate brake pads for the wheels! I have to wonder if those parts are sturdy enough to support the weight of the model.
Italeri put a good amount of detail into this Work Horse. It isn't super-detailed but it is a good starting point for really enhance the model.
Decals and instructions
Italeri's instructions are very good. A combination of clearly drawn line art and gradated gray scale guides assembly through clear and uncluttered steps. Simple markings show the part number and color guidance. A sprue diagram shows the modeler the layout of the parts. Italeri includes full-color artwork for each of the helicopters that can be built from this kit.
Decals for three aircraft are included:
1. H-21C, 51-5051, 93 Transport Company, US Army, Da Nang, Vietnam, 1963
2. H-21B, 53-4327, MATS, USAF, NAS Turner Field, 1960
3. H-21, 18, Flottille 31F, French Navy, Algeria, 1956
Decals are thin and sharply printed in fine register. I don't think there is excessive clear film around the printing. Colors look accurate. Dozens of stencilings are included and most are legible.
Those decals afford the modeler a choice of Shawnees from the drab to the colorful.
I know of three other 1/48 H-21s: Aurora; Fonderie Miniature; Special Hobby. I have never seen one in person although Aeroscale member DougCohen built and super-detailed one of FM or SH models.
The pros are good molding and detail, including a photo-etch fret, and a large decals sheet. I appreciate the positionable doors, too.
Drawbacks are ejector circles, minor flash, some soft detail, and inconsistently textured fuselage halves. Honestly I expected better from a new release by a major model company in 2016. C'mon Italeri, pay attention to quality control - you have done better.
Italeri's new-tool H-21 is a good model although I think their quality has not advanced as far as other major model manufacturers has over the past decade. Regardless, I believe it to be an overall good model and this 1/48 H-21 may be the standard bearer of quarterscale Shawnees today.
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