(Reproduced from Scale Aircraft Modelling magazine: Vol 21 Number 11 - January 2000 Author: Bryan Ribbans)

The Aichi E11A1 biplane flying boat was flown for the first time in June 1937 having been built in response to a requirement by the Japanese Navy for a night reconnaissance seaplane to operate from their light cruisers. It entered production as the type 98 and like it's predecessor, the E10A1 of which only fifteen examples were built, it was a three seat biplane, powered by a single Hiro type 91 engine, mounting a pusher propeller.

Defensive armament consisted of a single 7.7mm machine gun mounted on a scarff-type ring in the nose.

Production ceased in 1940 after only seventeen examples had been built. These were used together with the earlier E10A1's primarily for short range night patrols.

In line with my usual thinking that major manufacturers largely ignore us poor flying boat nuts, I usually make a point of perusing very closely the 'cottage type' traders stands at some of the larger model shows, as you never know what you may find. This I did recently and on the Czech Masters kit stand at the IPMS (UK) Nationals, found this little beauty in my favourite 1:72 scale, kit number PLT056.

Contained within a stout box were 39 resin parts all contained in a plastic bag separated by heat-sealed compartments, one clear vacform canopy and a single side of A4 instructions consisting of an exploded view to show where all the parts go. No decals or five-views are included.

The kit cost 13.00 and you may be forgiven for thinking that on first look one was not going to get much in this box for such expense. However, a close look at the parts revealed engraved panel lines and details which are exquisite in their rendering, with the wings moulded whole and designed to butt-join to the hull for the lowers and engine/centre section for the uppers. They carried superb rib detail together with flap and aileron scribing which is very precise. Indeed, it became obvious that this kit once undercoated would be hardly discernable from a mainstream injection-moulded kit and later I was proved right! The hull is a hollow moulding, the sides of which are very thin. The tailplanes and fin are moulded as one-piece each.

CONSTRUCTION COMMENCES

All of the smaller parts such as the wing struts, cockpit seat and others of the like, were contained on a resin membrane, so the first job was to separate these and clean them up. I had already made up my mind to bin the struts, keeping just one example of each for its length, and replace them with Contrail stock as the time it would take to clean them is not worth the hassle of sanding them to a round section. I did, however, decide to use the inner 'N' shaped struts, as these would be very difficult to construct from rod. There are hardly any moulding blocks to clean off the larger components and in a very short time I was ready to glue. All the parts appeared to be warp-free. The hull is split in the conventional, vertical way and I began by gluing the cockpit floor into the starboard hull side. This floor even showed representations of the rudder pedals but you will not see this when it is finished. The rear bulkhead was glued into place together with a very dainty seat with very thin sides.

The instrument panel was next, before I painted the whole interior in Cockpit Green using the Testors model Master Acrylic 'bag' paints. After a bit of weathering, I added representation of the seatbelts from painted wine bottle foil, and glued the hull halves together using superglue. They matched perfectly. At this time I also mounted the tail fin and sanded all the join lines down with 'wet & dry'. I did not need to use any filler on the hull.

WINGS, ENGINE N' OTHER STUFF

The upper wing was dealt with first. The centre-section had the engine cowling moulding consisting of upper and lower halves glued around it after slight adjustments with a scalpel blade. there were very slight gaps which were filled with Squadron green Stuff ensuring that it was applied very sparingly to avoid sanding off all that detail. After the wings had their ends sanded to ensure they are square, I came to the point of gluing them. There is not much surface area to form the butt join and I was worried that the joint would be weak and fracture subsequently, so I drilled and pinned them with small lengths of brass rod taking care to maintain the dihedral.

The underwing radiators were next, being careful to check their positioning against the strut mounting holes as too far either way will interfere with one set or the other outer set.

The lower wings were treated similarly, noting that they were a very good fit, which is just as well, as filling and sanding under this wing next to the hull would have proved very difficult. The trailing edges of each wing are very fine and close enough to scale for my liking.

At this stage I drilled out all the rigging holes, which caused some problems as I broke two or three drill bits doing this. They did not seem to penetrate the resin that well, certainly not as well as plastic, and you will have to be very patient when doing this. Guess I wasn't patient enough!! I cut out and fitted the canopy now, noting that it was a good fit, clear, with well defined frames. I glued it with water-thinned Micro Scale Kristal Kleer

PAINTING AND PRAYING

Knowing what was coming next, I decided to paint and finish the hull before proceeding to mount the upper wing. With no guide in the kit, or decals, you are on your own, but I guess that if you have purchased a kit of this type then you will be able to finish it. I consulted what little reference i had and they all seemed to show the same pictures of two airframes. Even my new-found interest in the 'Web' proved disappointing, so it was a case of picking one of these two, and the one I went for was the most colourful reported, having flown from the light cruiser 'Sendai' in 1941/42. No doubt there is someone out there that knows more. come on, let us all know!

The lower hull and wings were sprayed light grey, the upper surfaces were dark green, all colours coming from the Testors Model master Acrylic 'bag' paint range. These went on smoothly, and provided a good surface for a coat of Johnsons Kleer/Future, followed by decals from my spare file. The stripes were Micro Scale sheets cut to size. A final matt varnish coat was applied overall, and then it was time to mount the upper wing. This is always a time where if it all goes well, fine, but if it all goes wrong, then it can put you off building biplanes for life! My advice is to take your time, as in my experience the problems I have encountered have all stemmed from rushing to see the wing on. That means not allowing enough time for the struts to fully harden off and thus collapsing as work continues. So, having made your struts from Contrail rod, start by gluing the inner 'N'-shaped ones to the marked locations on the exploded diagram. There are no holes marked in the hull for these, so trial and error is called for. You also have to ensure that they are sufficiently angled outwards to miss the under-slung radiators. Get this bit right and the rest is easy (by comparison). I also found a three-view drawing in 'Warplanes of the Second World War' Volume 5, by William Green, which I enlarged on a photocopier which helped a lot at this point. I let these dry off before proceeding.

When I was happy, I placed the hull over the graduations on my cutting mat, and cut out a piece of cardboard with the correct wing stagger and gingerly offered up the wing, using just the minutest amount of superglue. I actually got it right first time, and after a while went back and applied more glue. I was not worried about marking the paintwork, because it will only show as glossy against the matt, but I knew I would have to spray a dusting of matt again and it would be taken care of then. Once this whole assembly had cured I proceeded to fit the other struts by doing one strut on each side at a time, and when done, do the other opposite corresponding one. That way I seemed to avoid building in a twist in the wing. The tailplane struts were also fitted, and no problems here.

GRRRRRRR, RIGGING

I hate this bit. Trying to get a microscopic nylon monofilament off the reel and onto my model always gets to me and proves to be the slowest part of the whole process, whilst giving the model every opportunity to bite back, as one has to handle it so much.

However, I have over the years established a method , which goes something like this. Firstly, when you pull the monofilament off the cotton reel, wrap it around your hands and pull them apart stretching it. This takes the curl out of it and leaves it straight and much more user-friendly. Cut it into separate lengths longer than required for the amount of threading you are about to do and establish on the model where the first gluing (anchor) point will be. In this case, it is the inner forward strut exiting at the opposite top (rear) corner, and then threading you way out along the wing to the wing tips. You MUST make sure that this first anchor point is ABSOLUTELY cured before you attempt to continue as you only get one chance at gluing this into what is a clean drilled hole. Should it come out after you have started, and this has happened to me many times due to my haste to see the finished article, then you will have the devil's own job to re-drill this hole, and get it back in. Ugh! I dread to think, this is bringing back some nasty memories. I usually leave these anchor holes overnight to be sure.

Each time you poke a thread through the wing, hang the thread on a couple of clothes pegs to tension it and apply a small amount of superglue to the hole. I put mine on BOTH sides of this hole. I know some modelers only apply it to the outside of the wing so as to avoid spoiling the paint finish, but I take the belt and braces approach to make sure that when I cut the thread it stays put. I find that glue cures quickly, but I still allow a couple of minutes between each piece of thread. To make life easier, when attempting to push this thread through the wing, I glue a short length of miniature copper wire to the end of it to form a 'stiff end' to stop it curling over on you. Just hold the two pieces together a dip in a puddle of THIN superglue. They will bond together instantly and you can cut the wire back to a useable length.

When you have finished all of this, then go back over the outside of each wing with a new scalpel blade and cut off the thread close to the wing surface. Fill any blemishes with Tippex or similar and gently sand back. You will have to mask up and repaint these areas but if you are careful, using a hand-held cardboard mask should be enough. When done turn your attention to the floats.

These are well moulded with the struts already mounted. I resisted the urge to cut these off and replace them, deciding instead to pare them down and file them to a better cross section. In most, if not all biplanes, you will find that it is impossible to affix these using the thread method as of course one would have to drill right back through the wing we have just finished. So, this time you have to use clear stretched sprue. Drill on the floats a small locating hole for each wire then do the same on the wing, or finds the ones you did earlier when you drilled all the holes and dip the sprue into thin superglue and place it into the float hole. If you have cut it to the right length, then it will fall straight into position, just leaving you to apply a small amount to this end to secure it. I have found that once a light dusting of matt is applied, then it is impossible to distinguish sprue from thread.

YIPPEE!

The propeller was cleaned up and painted, and the navigation lights were fitted to the leading edges of the wings. Some weathering was added together with some 'chipping' using a Betol Verithin Silver pencil, and I built a plastic display stand which I sprayed gloss black and that's it. All done. Yippee!

CONCLUSIONS

What a nice kit. You really cannot tell that this is a resin hand-made kit except when you hold it in your hand. It is heavier than one would expect a plastic kit to be. It is a shame that decals were not included, or even a set of plans, but as I said in the beginning, if you have bought this kit (and I hope you do), then you will have already considered this.

POSTSCRIPT

Well, would you believe it! Fujimi have gone and released not one, but TWO injection-moulded kits of the 'Laura'. Having had a quick look at each one, I believe they only differ in colour schemes and decals. They appear exactly like like resin with finely engraved panel lines and delicate detailing. You will still build it more or less as the above, as the parts breakdown appears similar. At least you won't have to go through the research I did for the colour scheme as it is all done for you. Did I say that I had a quick look at them? Yes, all was well until I was told the price - 24.95 EACH. 25.00 for a 1:72 scale biplane the size of the Supermarine Walrus. Someone once said that I must be mad to build flying boats when there are so many other super kits around, look at what you are missing. Well, I guess I'm not that mad. I left them on the shelf. I can get two Czech Master kits for nearly that price. And they are GORGEOUS!!.