Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Skytrex micro-scale WW1 aircraft



Some years ago (quite a few years ago, actually) I became interested in WW1 aerial wargaming, sparked by playing a friend's copy of Knights of the Air. In fact I became so enthused with the game that I laboriously hand-made my own copy, taking a ludicrous amount of labour to do so (after which we played it maybe half a dozen times – bah!)

Knights of the Air is played with counters, but I thought it would be more visually pleasing with models, and I scratch-built a few from wood and cardboard, but I thought it would be easier to let somebody else do all the hard modelling work so I ordered some 1/300 scale metal aircraft models from Skytrex.

When they arrived, I was frankly disappointed in their quality, and two of them (the Albatros D-III and the SE5a) came with the wrong wing pieces — the Albatros was supplied with an upper plane for a Fokker D-VII, and the SE5a was given one for a Sopwith Camel. The wings, fins and tailplanes are all very thick, and the modelling is pretty crude. I thought that I could do a lot better myself, and put them in a drawer where they've stayed for the last twenty years or so.

The models do bear some resemblance to the original machines though, and recently I dragged them out and decided to see how they'd paint up. These two — the Fokker Dr1 on the left, and the SPAD VII to the right — are the results. Although they're not masterpieces of miniaturization, they certainly look better with some paint on. I used piano wire for the inter-plane struts; a process that I would describe as fiddly to the point of torture, but once done it does give the models considerably more strength, an important point when dealing with models intended for wargaming.

Having finished these two models to what I'd call a reasonable wargaming standard, I'd give Skytrex's micro aircraft a rating of adequate. Barely. I'm not impressed, but they're not so bad as to be unuseable.

I've since learned that Heroics & Ros also produce 1:300 scale WW1 aircraft, but have yet to see any in the flesh. C-in-C also make some in 1:285 scale, and I do have one of theirs: a Halberstadt CL-IV, which is really stunningly good, and not too much more expensive than Heroics & Ros. Unfortunately C-in-C's range is pretty small, but they do seem to just cover the main bases.

By the way, here's a photo of the masters I built after getting the shipment from Skytrex. I never did get around to molding or casting them though.