Our Muse, that will guide us through these times of political darkness

Sunday, July 20, 2014

TEMA 1/72 KHAI-1

From the archive (2009):

The KHAI-1 was the first Russian passenger plane to operate with a retractable landing gear. It was fast for the time and had some degree of comfort, including a restroom. Its design premises were advanced, although did not include extensive metal construction for the airframe. They aimed to streamlining and to an easy and affordable construction, a must at that time for Russian aeronautic endeavors. The plane was mostly made of wood and covered in plywood and received treated fabric on top of the wood skin, creating a smooth surface.
   The KHAI-1 was designed as a supervised student project at the Kharkov Aviation Institute. After approval one prototype was built and was found to meet and exceed expectations. 43 of these 6-seat wooden wonders were built in total with some modifications and used in regular passenger services.
   Later modifications of the type included –among others- a change in engine (M-22 for the production versions), repositioning of the access door, different location and number of windows, revision of the rudder/fin shape, addition of one more piece to the wheel covers in order to completely hide the gear in the retracted position, moving forward the tail skid, extension of the cockpit turtledeck and the deletion of one seat to make up for the increase in weight due to structure strengthening. I am pretty sure these other versions could be done with some mods. The first two configurations of the plane are what can be built with the kit. The initial one had no Townend ring and a wood prop; the second is depicted on the box with Townend ring and variable-pitch prop
   TEMA’s 1/72 rendition of the Neman KHAI-1 contributed to reveal to the modeling world the beauty of a Russian plane which not many modelers were aware of.
   If you never heard before of TEMA, do not panic. Now we have also in the market AModel’s release (marketed as HAI-1, not quite the Russian pronunciation), which seems to have used basically the same mold and add an extra, much more complete sprue for the engine. The parts look cleaner in this Amodel release too.  
   Construction started by cleaning up some rough spots and flash present in some of the parts, as per photos, but that was accomplished without trouble. Otherwise the molds have a reasonable quality and even some subtle details on the parts, like the ribbing on the control surfaces. Unlike other short-run kits, most of parts are keyed and not just butt-joined. The fit wasn’t perfect, and needed some work. Areas to be careful (meaning you will have to sand and check for the fit a few times) are the cabin floor (as it is, it doesn’t fit inside the fuselage comfortably –surprise!) and the dreaded wing to fuselage joint. The latter being the worst on my kit.
   I found some references on the Net, among them a detailed plan, but photos were not of a good quality in general. Nevertheless enough was gathered to proceed.
   Part #16 on the sprues –the instrument panel- is not present in the building sequence instructions.      
   The kit could be assembled “as is” after some minor refinement but also more could be done if so you wish. An aft bulkhead could be added, perhaps a few details in the cockpit like rudder pedals, may be the landing gear doors could be refined a tad. Perhaps the decals’ carrier could be trimmed closer to the images. The real plane had a simple toilet located opposite the access door, on the right hand side of the fuselage. Transparencies are good enough and have a reasonable fit. Beware that the fuselage door is included in the transparencies’ sprue, so you have to mask the door window and paint the part with the rest of the fuselage. White styrene sometimes fools you because it makes it difficult to catch mistakes and gaps. So, in spite of the above-mentioned reasonable fit of the transparencies, I managed to glue them too far “inland”, and not flush with the fuselage exterior. By the time I realized it, they were fantastically glued. That no doubt should be attributed to the fact that they were in the wrong position. Then I put too much Future in a hopeless intent to gain some thickness but instead I achieved a sticky cake of dubious transparency. That, also, should be attributed to the fact that I spent a lot of time detailing the interior, now barely visible.
   Some small additions were made on the engine area to make it a bit more detailed, like pushrods, modification of the front “shield” and exhaust tubes (18!) that had very personal ideas regarding which way they should go. Cockpit and cabin received uplifting home-made addendums –toilet included- as per images in this article. A toilet paper roll –made of real tissue paper- was also added. I always wanted to do that.
   The vertical stabilizer is molded complete on one fuselage side, not exactly in the middle which is correct, as the real plane had it so to compensate for engine torque.
What is not correct is the building sequence diagram (by the way, not the most brilliant I have seen) which shows the fork of the landing gear going along the short leg of the cover. It goes along the long leg of the cover. If this is true for the real plane too, I can’t tell from the photos I have, but if assembled as per instructions, you will be in trouble.
Parts that were metal in the original were given a gloss black base and painted with Alclad II. The rest was model railroad acrylic alu paint over a white primer. Color trim was also acrylic. The kit box shows the painting scheme on the back..
   The decals’s carrier was trimmed a bit closer to the images, but in applying them (fortunately under the wing) I discovered that the carrier was way too much evident. The usual tricks didn’t render an acceptable result, so I scanned the decal sheet and printed it on a laser printer on a decent decal paper. I have no idea how good the decals are on the Amodel release, but I hope they are better.
    Now, we have here a situation that is common in the hobby: I very nice subject that the mainstream manufacturers are very unlikely to touch and the limitations of a given media (whatever that happen to be, short run, vac, etc). So yes, you have to exercise those modeling skills and learn new ones. Hey, isn’t that remarkable similar to life itself?

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