Bronco Models
Airspeed A.S.51 Horsa Glider Mk.I
Bronco Models 1:35 Scale Kit No. CB35195
Review by Terry Ashley
Part 1 the Kit.

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The Airspeed AS.51 Horsa was a British World War II troop-carrying glider with the Mark I having a wingspan of 88 feet (27m) and a length of 67 feet (20m) designed as a high-wing cantilever monoplane with wooden wings and a wooden semi-monocoque fuselage. The fuselage was built in three sections bolted together, the front section for the pilot's compartment and freight loading door while the middle section accommodated troops or freight and the rear tail unit section. It was fitted with a tricycle landing gear for take-off and once in flight this could be jettisoned and landing was by way of the castoring nose wheel and a sprung skid under the fuselage.

Just aft of the pilot's compartment on the port side was the hinged freight loading door that doubled as a loading ramp. 15 troops could be accommodated (or up to 30 on some operations) on benches along the sides of the main compartment with another access door on the starboard side. The fuselage joint at the rear of the main section could be broken on landing to assist in rapid unloading of troops and equipment and additionally three supply containers could be fitted each side under the centre wing section. Alternatively the Horsa could carry a single Jeep or a 6 Pounder Anti-Tank gun.

Horsas were used operationally in the Invasion of Sicily and Battle of Normandy as well as notable operations after the Normandy landings such as Operation Deadstick capturing the Pegasus Bridge and for Operation Dragoon and Operation Market Garden, both in 1944. The final operation for the Horsa was Operation Varsity in March 1945 carrying soldiers of the 6th Airborne Division across the Rhine.

The Kit:
This new kit from Bronco Models represents the initial Mk.1 Horsa with the later Mk.II having a folding nose section to allow easier loading and unloading of larger items while the Mk.I relies on the large port side entry door for loading as well as a rear starboard side troop entry door.  The first impression is the size with the scale dimensions measuring out to an impressive 766mm wingspan, 583mm length and tail height of 170mm and includes the full fuselage interior details such as bulkheads, floor,  stringers, seats as well as a fully detailed forward cockpit which is easily seen with the large front glazing. The kit wingspan measures out to 765.5mm, that was just laying a steel ruler over the taped together wing parts so may be a fraction out, the fuselage length is 583mm so pretty much spot on for sizes.

The kit is broken down into sections with the main fuselage, rear tail section, mid wing and outer wings separate, these sections, the tail and the outer wings will be included in the just announced AB3574 Horsa Glider Wings & Rear Fuselage (Tail Unit) Set for those wishing to incorporate just part of the landed Horsa in a diorama setting. The kit can be built in sub-assemblies much like the real thing and be brought together to make the final glider or left separate either in a diorama or for display purposes.

No additional equipment or stores is included with the kit but Bronco already have an impressive catalogue of Airborne subjects that could be used such as the Airborne Jeep (kit CB35169, CB35170), Airborne 6pdr A/T Gun (kit CB35168, CB 35170), Airborne 75mm Pack Howitzer (kit CB35163), Figures (kit CB35177, CB35192) and Equipment (kit AB3567) sets so you can choose whatever load-out you wish for the kit.

The kit consists of 20 plastic sprue runners with:
279 Parts in light grey plastic
16 Parts in clear plastic
11 PE parts
1 Metal nose weight block
1 Decal sheet
1 Mask sheet for canopy
1 x 15 page instruction booklet
Etched parts
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Clear parts
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Metal nose weight block
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The standard of moulding is very good overall with the usual mould lines and excess plastic nodes common to kits these days, the parts are relatively free of pin parks or flash although there is some very fine flash on a few of the larger parts such as the wings edges that is easy to remove with a pass of a #11 blade and some of the fuselage bulkheads have shallow pin parks as well as some that are slightly raised making them easy to remove, you also need to make sure the larger mating surfaces are perfectly smooth to get the best fit.

Your need to take care as there are quite a few small delicate parts as well as the larger wings parts and care is needed removing these smaller parts from the sprues and during assembly. The kit also includes some PE and canopy masks for painting as well as a large 73g metal block to use as a nose weight to keep it sitting nose down on the tricycle undercarriage, plus the large decal sheet includes 3 marking options all for the Normandy landings in June 1944, 2 RAF and 1 USAAF

This is a separate sub-assembly and is quite comprehensive although the actual glider didn’t have a lot of controls compared to a powered aircraft, the main instrument panel is nicely done and has moulded on dials correctly depicting the instruments with additional decals for the dial faces and data blocks but the small Instrument panel light is missing, this can be made with a small length of plastic rod.

The two seats have separate cushions with moulded on belts along with the control columns, the control wheels have two very small wing nuts to add in the centre and these will need care using. The pilot foot pedals are separate as well as central console with the Elevator Trim Tab wheel (part C13), the two Air Brake control levers (parts F10, F18),  Compass (part C12) as well as the Tow release control lever (part C26), Undercarriage jettison control lever and Flaps control lever (part C21) although these levers are a bit on the thick side and could be improved using thinner card of etched brass for the levers (something for the aftermarket people no doubt?)

The three large compressed air bottles are included, two on the starboard side and one forward but the small switch but the small switch panel (with switches and the fuse box) on the port sidewall is not included, as well as the battery box and signal cartridge stowage panel are also not included alongside the port pilot seat, these items can easily be made from thin plastic card to complete the cockpit layout.

The large cockpit glazing is moulded as one large part and is very clear and includes the two clear vision panels in the closed position. You get a set of paint masks for both the inside and outside of the canopy to aid in painting with the cockpit trapped between the two front nose halves to complete the sub-assembly.

The main fuselage is not like most aircraft kits where it is split in two but the outer fuselage is made up of seven separate curved panels for the bottom, sides and top fuselage sections with all of these being positioned around the full interior made up of ten individual circular bulkheads along with the major connecting stringers and the two doorways plus the front port equipment loading ramp, the outer and forward top panels also include the smaller stringers and fuselage structures.

The inside floor sections in two parts are moulded commendably thin and have walkway ridges included with the bulkheads fitting around the floor sections, you have to pay very careful attention as to where exactly the bulkheads fit as some of the location is a little confusing in the instructions so make sure and test fit first comparing the bulkhead position and orientation to the illustrations before gluing. It could be an idea to mark the part numbers with a fine felt pen as you remove them from the sprues as some look similar but need to be in the correct positions.

The large top stringers have smaller attachment fillets added and you have a choice of adding the troop seats or leaving them out if you wish to load up larger equipment such as a Jeep, the seat locating holes are open in the rear floor section but not in the forward floor section and you will need to drill out the seat locating holes here if using the seats, something the instructions don’t show to do unfortuately? The seats themselves have moulded on seat belts and separate perforated end brackets plus the support legs to give a good appearance overall.

The side panels have the windows as small separate frames with clear port windows and the nose wheel is added under the front underside panel. The large cargo loading door on the port side has a separate smaller troop door that allows you to have the main door closed and just the troop door open or the full large cargo door lowered in the open position, there are two nicely moulded perforated wheel channels used for loading wheeled vehicles such as a 6-pounder or Jeep along with the support stand for the door that makes for a nicely detailed entrance ramp/doorway.

An interesting feature with the two curved troop doors is the bulkhead channels are provided allowing the door to slide up inside the roof like the real thing if you have the door open also allowing you to slide these back down to close the doors, a nice touch.

The main landing gear is added under the central lower fuselage section and this the main legs, supports with the two part tyres having nice hub details as well as a pronounced flat spot on the bottom of the wheels, this means you have to position the wheels correctly so the flat bulged spot makes ground contact evenly.

The separate fuselage panels as mentioned have the internal stringer details and these are attached to the outside of the bulkheads in the same manner as the original and you could even leave these off to display the interior if you so wished?

The completed fuselage is attached to the forward cockpit sub-assembly to complete the main fuselage section.

Tail Section:
The tail section is split into three main parts, the two sides and top fuselage section with all three having inner stringer details as well as additional bulkheads within the tail section, five in total from the larger forward bulkhead with doorway opening to the progressively smaller bulkheads as you move back to the tapered tail section.

The tail is in two halves with a separate two part rudder attached so it is movable, the same for the two part tail planes with two elevators again trapped between the tailplanes to allow movement. The tail and tailplane assembly is attached to the rear of the fuselage section and the supports added under the tailplanes to complete this sub-assembly.

The central wing box has the large top surface with six separate spar sections added along with the separate outer surfaces and rear flaps for a fairly quick and easy sub-assembly.

The outer sing sections are quite conventional for aircraft kit with the top and bottom wing sections if two halves, note the wing surfaces are completely smooth as they should be with the main wings made from wood so there are no rivet or other details to add.
The two part ailerons are movable and there is separate main landing flaps and extendable air brakes that can be positioned as you wish along with the undercarriage support arms attached from the underside of the wings to the main undercarriage once the wings are attached to the fuselage.

The outer wing sections are designed to glue to the inner wing box but you could leave these separate again for diorama purposes if you wished, the forthcoming Tail and Wing section kit will include the tail section as described above and the outer wing panels from this assembly when released in any case.

Final Assembly:
With the wings assembled these are attached to the top of the central fuselage and you also get three alternate arrangements for the main port side loading door, 1 with just the troop door open, 2 with the main door and vehicle loading channels in place and 3 with the main door open resting on the support legs used as a loading ramp for smaller equipment items man loaded into the fuselage. This plus the option of the open or closed starboard side troop door gives plenty of options for the finished model.

These are the usual exploded view drawings for the assembly step and are mostly clear and easy to follow, as mentioned above the placement of the fuselage bulkheads is a little confusing in parts so pay careful attention to get this right before gluing. One in particular in step 6 it shows for bulkheads D7 and J3 to be sandwiched together but in subsequent illustrations only D7 is shown in the drawings.

But other than that there should be any problems and the marking and paint options are printed in colour which is always a nice inclusion.

The large decal sheet is nicely printed with good colour register and provides the RAF roundels and USAAF star and bar plus serial numbers and additional aircraft call sign and name ‘Churchill’s reply’ this being a well-documented Horsa from the time.  The USAAF option has no other marking apart from the insignia and serial with all three carrying the large black/white Normandy invasions strips with the instructions giving you with widths and position of the strips to be pained on by the modeller, this is an option most prefer over decals for these strips in any case.

Option 1: RZ108 of RAF 'Operation Overlord', Normandy, France, 6th June 1944
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Option 2: PW773 of RAF 'Operation Mallard', Normandy, France, 6th June 1944
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Option 3: RF141 of USAAF 'Operation Overlord', Normandy, France, 6th June 1944
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Canopy masks
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Overall this is big and impressive kit, not just for the size but the excellent details included in the main fuselage with the numerous bulkheads and other details, the cockpit is well done with just a couple of smaller items to add. The design of the fuselage outer panels not only includes additional details but allows options for displaying model with the interior visible or full closing up, the main loading door is again  well designed and detailed and again offering options for the final position.

The quality of the moulding is excellent overall with just a few minor blemished and as with any kit you can add as much additional detail as you wish or build as it comes, the possibilities for the kit are endless with there being a large selection of additional Airborne equipment and troops available already to make an impressive diorama or to just display the kit as a standalone.

Rating: 9/10.

Part 2 , the kit Build.

The Sprues:

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Sprue detail images
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There are a number of books that include references to the Horsa but not a lot of books specifically dealing with the Horsa on it's own sadly.
Air Speed Horsa I Glider
Pilot's No
originally produced by the Air Ministry and reprinted by Crecy Publications
British Airborne Jeeps
by Rob & Monica van Meel

Thanks to Bronco Models for the review kit.
to help the reviews continue, thank you

Page created August 25, 2015

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