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Sixth-Annual 1/72 Scale Tribute

by Charles P. Kalina

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  Czech National Day 2007 

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Ahoj Kamarádi!  Time again for my annual tribute to Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, rendered through one of the traditional art forms of my people:  the plastic model kit.

Share and enjoy,

Na Shledanou, 

-CPK

Avia BH-3:  The BH-3 (named for designers Pavel Benes and Miroslav Hajn) was the Avia’s company’s first fighter.  The Defense Ministry bought ten in 1923, which were assigned to the 1st Air Regiment in Prague.  The early monoplane proved difficult to handle and the BH-3s were soon relegated to the military flying school at Cheb.  (This model depicts an aircraft at Cheb.)  After two fatal crashes, it was withdrawn from service in 1926.  (KP kit with pilot figure from spares.  KP’s earlier kits had poor-quality decals;  for this model I scanned them, fixed them on the computer, and reprinted them on blank decal paper.)   

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Tatra T-97:   Tatra introduced the T-97 in 1936, as a smaller version of their streamlined T-77 and T-87 sedans.  The company sued Volkswagen in the 1930s because of the similarities between the T-97 and the VW Beetle.  When the Germans occupied the country, they quashed the suit and shut down production:  only 508 T-97’s were produced (although a surprising number still exist in museums and owned by vintage auto collectors).  Tatra revived the suit after the war and finally settled in 1961 for three million marks.  (Attack Hobby kit with homemade decals.  I moved the steering wheel to the right to reflect pre-war Czech driving practice. The maroon T-87 shown for comparison is also by Attack Hobby.) 

S.92 Turbína (Messerschmitt Me.262A):  Czechoslovakia’s first jets were actually German Me.262 fighters, built from parts and factory tooling left over from the occupation.  Avia assembled nine under the designation S.92 (stihaci, “fighter”) plus with three unarmed.  The Fifth Fighter Squadron at Brno-Turany airfield flew them from 1948-1951, when they were replaced by first-generation Soviet-made jets.  PL-01” was a retired aircraft repainted in a spurious high-visibility scheme, photographed at Olomouc in 1957 (shown in the inset), probably on display at the air defense school there.  (Hasegawa’s “Postwar Me.262” kit built out of the box.)

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S.95 (Lavochkin La-5FN):  In early 1944, the Soviets organized exiled Czechoslovak pilots into the 1st Independent Fighter Regiment with two dozen La-5FN fighters.  As part of the Second Air Army in Ukraine, it flew in support of the Slovak National Uprising in September 1944.  It was subsequently folded into the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Mixed Air Division, flying in support of the Red Army’s liberation of Slovakia and the Czech “Protectorate”.  The La-5FN was retained in the postwar Czechoslovak Air Force, but the wooden airframe had a short lifespan, and they were grounded at the end of 1946 due to fatigue.  Twenty-three (including some two-seat trainers) were returned to limited service in 1947-1948.  “IW-6” belonged to the postwar 1st Air Regiment and crashed while landing at Piešťany, Slovakia on 1 September 1948.  (Revell kit with Extratech roundels and homemade serials based on a Jan Máče profile in Letectví a Kosmonautika issue 5/2001.  Although it’s generally a good kit, I had to add doors for the tailwheel as well as an aft part for the cockpit.)

Additional References:  

  • Zdenek Titz and Richard Ward, Czechoslovakian Air Force 1918-1970  (Arco Publishing, 1971)

  • International Streamlined Tatra Site

  • Army of the Czech Republic Air Museum, Kbely

  • Hans-Heiri Stapfer, La-5/7 Fighters in Action (Squadron, 1998)

  • Model and decal brochures  

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Photos and text © by Charles P. Kalina

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