||Last Updated: Apr 21st, 2015 - 23:52:06
The Ryan PT-20-two seat basic trainer was produced prior to the outbreak of World War 2 and many of over 100 built flew with several Air Forces, chiefly those of the U.S and the Netherlands. Most of the latter found their way to Australia when the Japanese overran the Indonesian islands in 1942 and were pressed into the service of the RAAF. After a couple of years of service they were placed in storage until disposal to private owners in 1945, some fetching up in Victoria - home state of High Planes Models. It seems likely then that this kit is based on actual preserved examples of the aircraft.
This short-run kit contains 16 plastic parts, a delicate white metal tailwheel, and vac-formed windshields. Construction is well covered by a sheet of drawings and text, backed by 8 profiles showing suggested colour schemes. The small transfer sheet offers the modeller markings for 4 aircraft - one of each of the Dutch Navy and Air Force (both silver overall), an example of the USAAC in yellow and natural metal and finally a green, brown and yellow machine of the RAAF.
This is a small model of a small aircraft and so it should be easy enough to convert it into a decent replica fairly quickly. Well, almost. The thing with this type of kit is to be prepared for a bit of cleaning up and cutting off. This Ryan PT-20 is no exception, indeed High Planes rather sportingly point out a potential problem in the area of the wing to fuselage mating surfaces. Though in this case any such union would prove fruitless as these surfaces barely meet let alone mate! However, before tackling this there is the cockpit to construct. The parts provided allow a decent interior but photographs showing this area in more detail, such as those in Aeroplane Monthly of March 1977, will offer scope for extra work. Remember though that PT-20 cockpits are very small, one reason perhaps why these little aircraft were not used by our erstwhile colonial cousins, big lads all.
With the body assembled itís now fun time! When viewed from the side the PT-20 displays a gently curved, unbroken bottom line (oh goody, a popular phrase correctly used) from nose to tail. Test fit the wings to this body and you get a step for Neil Armstrong to envy. Perhaps thatís a slight exaggeration but you get the gist. The remedy calls for a bit of fiddling with small wedges of plastic to achieve the correct profile and front view. The presence of narrow wing fillets makes the filling of the remaining gaps awkward but with care and filler, all should be well. Note the word ?should?. I eventually used, in this order, superglue (well, they all do now donít they?), Green Stuff, more superglue when the Green Stuff fell out, yet more superglue - this time with baking powder added - and finally, as sense returned, my faithful (just call me old-fashioned) Milliput, prodded into the offending gaps with a matchstick. The following day some wet and dry produced a neat , paintable finish. From here it is pretty much the usual stuff, but attention must be paid to the butt-fitting wheel spats. These need careful chamfering as while the wing is angled upwards the u/c must be perpendicular to the body.
At this point I decided to make a few adjustments to the outline shape of the constructed model. I confess that I could not find a reliable set of drawings to set against the model and so I fell back on photographs, proportional dividers and examination. This showed several areas where the kit does not appear to be accurate. Itís usually worth a few spilt drinks and not so genteel expletives on club nights but then perhaps one modellerís accuracy is anotherís pedantry. (Have a care Sir Roger, the pedants are revolting!) Either way, I can say that my little collection of photographs show that the High Planes kit lacks the subtle fin leading edge curve of the Ryan, and that the rudder trailing edge and the lower bulged section need reducing to a less rounded profile. I have some doubts too about the actual position and depth of the cockpit canopies, and this matters if you follow the kit instructions advice to run the forward upper flying wires through the front canopy. I didnít, because I believe that the early PT20ís had narrower glazing than later Aussie private versions. The upper nose contours need to be amended by removing 1mm in height from the extreme upper front to provide a more sharply curved outline. I know that 1mm may sound petty, but this shape is a characteristic of the type and at this or any scale it should show. Since we are up at the front end, I also think there is a small problem with the length to depth ratio of the engine cowling. The side view of the model shows these proportions to be about equal but in my collection of photographs the length is definitely the greater measurement. However, since the modelís length is perfect, who really knows? These aircraft had small handholds cut through the extreme wingtips for ground handling, so thereís a job for a bad TV night. While youíre at it, you could also drill out the exhaust location holes, mark and drill the rigging points - making sure you take your measurements from the fuselage centre to avoid embarrassment later on when the model is viewed head on. Also excavate a series of squarish holes towards the rear of each wheel spat to take the four wires which lead up to the lower wing surface.
You know, for a monoplane, this machine was well endowed with rigging - having no fewer than 20 wires, all those underneath being doubled. Regarding rigging; the kit instructions suggest that some modellers may prefer to rig their model first and then paint it. Now, thereís a thought to strike terror into the heart of the most fearless modeller! I wonder what these good people then do by way of relaxation after performing this minor miracle? Knit a working model of the Eiffel Tower - after all youíd need lifts for it!? Or perhaps the simpler solution of slamming oneís fingers in a heavy door would offer enough pain to keep them happy. Answers on a postcard to: Mark E. D. Sard, c/o the Editor, M3.
After sharpening up the flying surface trailing edges an overall white primer was applied to give the right support for my chosen colour scheme, that of a USAAC aircraft circa 1941 in yellow and natural metal. Do not attach the spats at this stage, as they will be metal and silver dope on a yellow wing. The official shade of yellow used at this time by the USAAC is quoted as FS 13432 or FS 11302 by Dana Bell. A bit of research led me naturally to a paint mixture of West Midlands Public Transport Executive Yellow, No 231, with just a few dashes of Signal Yellow, No 401, both from the Railmatch range. An obvious choice I felt!
Oh yes, I am sure that out there are matched paints for every conceivable man made object but I donít possess them so itís mix and match time, and Iíll be in Scotland afore ye.... A few fine passes with a Badger 200 carrying diluted Liquitex mixed slightly darker than the basic yellow helped to liven up otherwise blank mono-colour surfaces. The rudder and all yellow bits were masked and S.N.J sprayed over the rest in several very light coats. Some careful polishing, a spot of soft graphite rubbed where I fancied and the whole thing was misted with dilute Johnsonís Klear (what else?) to accept the transfers. These really are a delight - solid colour, well printed and flexible enough to be shifted around. Some trimming will be needed with the rudder stripes, but itís not a problem for a sharp blade.
Itís these stripes which are my one gripe with the transfers. US aircraft of this period usually carried 13 stripes, red at top and bottom, this number being divided equally into the height of the rudder to be so marked. The kit items number 10 stripes and reach from the rudder tip down to the bulbous fairing at the bottom but do not include it. Lots of exceptions must exist but I chose to add the three extra stripes and cover the whole rudder. I offer a photograph on page 51 of Dana Bellís ?Air Force Colours : Vol. 1, 1926-1942? as evidence for my little addition , which I am bound to say, looks OK. With all the transfers bedded down, a few coats of Johnsonís Klear were sprayed over the ?metal? and a couple over the wings and tails with semi-matt acrylic varnish. The engine cowling will be improved by careful extra coats of Johnsonís Klear applied with a brush.
The undercarriage can now be fitted, as can the canopies after the painting of any necessary anti-glare panels. Now for the final tricky part. The aircraft often had an anti-roll pylon fitted ahead of the front cockpit, passing through the windshield; so drill in hand and heart in mouth ask yourself this question - do you feel lucky?
You may not have guessed but I really enjoyed making this little model. Itís the first kit that I have really wanted to finish in 4 years, and looking at it once completed I feel chuffed with the result. Having had to work a bit made completion even more satisfying. Of course, I am biased, but this particular PT-20 is, I think, a little gem. Neat, colourful and pretty, it attracts attention despite its size and my limitations. So very well done High Planes, an excellent release.
P.S - In case anyone should think I am trying to cadge some Antipodean brownie points from High Planes, remind me one day to tell of my encounters with their Beaufighter II, (coincidentally around 4 years ago!) and my subsequent heavy defeat on points. The Beast still resides at the back of my model cupboard, black and brooding, an affront to light and decency!
Aeroplane Monthly, January 1977 - Photos of Aussie Ryan
Aeroplane Monthly, October 1987 - PT-22 (still useful)
Wings No 99 - Good rear detail shot
SAM, Oct 1992 - Ian Huntley - USAAC Training Colours
Wingspan August 1991
Flypast October 1992
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