Reviewed: Jan 2021
The Stearman (Boeing) Model 75 is a biplane formerly used as a military trainer aircraft, of which at least 10,626 were built in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. Stearman Aircraft became a subsidiary of Boeing in 1934. Widely known as the Stearman, Boeing Stearman or Kaydet, it served as a primary trainer for the United States Army Air Forces, the United States Navy (as the NS and N2S), and with the Royal Canadian Air Force as the Kaydet throughout World War II. After the conflict was over, thousands of surplus aircraft were sold on the civilian market. In the immediate postwar years they became popular as crop dusters, sports planes, and for aerobatic and wing walking use in air shows. [source: wikipedia]
The Kaydet was a conventional biplane of rugged construction with a large, fixed tailwheel undercarriage, and accommodation for the student and instructor in open cockpits in tandem. The radial engine was usually uncowled, although some Stearman operators choose to cowl the engine, most notably the Red Baron Stearman Squadron.
After World War II, thousands of surplus PT-17s were auctioned off to civilians and former military pilots. Many were modified for cropdusting use, with a hopper for pesticide or fertiliser fitted in place of the front cockpit. Additional equipment included pumps, spray bars, and nozzles mounted below the lower wings. A popular approved modification to increase the maximum takeoff weight and climb performance involved fitting a larger Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior engine and a constant-speed propeller.
ICM have once again come to market with a 100% new tooled kit, this time the iconic Stearman (Boeing) Kaydet trainer in 1:32 scale. Initially released back in July 2020, ICM have since boxed the PT-17 twice and given us most recently the PT-13. The PT-13 was fitted with the Lycoming R-680 engine whilst the PT-17 the Continental R-670-5. Other than this the aircraft were identical.
Consisting of only four sprues, this is a very simple kit for 1:32. Note that I said simple, not basic, because the Stearman Kaydet aircraft itself was by design simple. Hailing from the days of open cockpits, fabric skin and wire rigging the Stearman Kaydet was truely one of the last of the pre-war designs to see service right through WW2 and beyond in civil service. As with any biplane you are going to have to deal with the rigging (leaving rigging off sounds like an easy way out but the finished model just never looks right). ICM includes detailed instructions on how to rig the airframe and even provide templates for making masks for the clear windshield parts.
Eduard have released several sets (32975, 33266 (seatbelts), JX262 (masks)) for this kit already and as I looked closely at where they have focused their attention (just download the PDF's of the assembly instructions from the Eduard website) I believe the model would benefit from the replacement seats (the kit parts are fairly crude and over-scale) and the rigging connectors and perhaps the steel seatbelts. As for the rest I believe you can make do with what is provided in the box, but as always this is a matter of personal preference. I don't think I've ever seen a PE set where I have used everything included.
As usual construction begins with the cockpit. In the case of the Kaydet this consists of a tubular metal frame onto which all the controls are attached. ICM have done a good job of accurately reproducing the framework and the parts assemble easily with just a drop of liquid glue on the attachment points. I may end up regretting doing all the assembly before painting but there does look to be sufficient room to do detail painting with it assembled as the framing is quite open.
The completed cockpit is now slotted into the front of the already joined fuselage halves. There are small locating lugs at the front and rear to ensure correct alignment. I also noticed that ICM do not provide the firewall that separates the front cockpit and the engine compartment.
Based on the photos I could find of restored Stearmans the metal parts of the interior is painted with US Interior Green. I'm not entirely sure if the doped fabric would be also painted on the interior and most photos show it left unpainted with a off-white colouring.
Being a basic flight trainer the instruments in the Stearman minimal. ICM provides decals for the instrument faces I would expect these to work fairly well once applied. As shown the instrument panels themselves are gloss black.
These photos of a restored Stearman show that timber was also used in the cockpit for the foot boards and control columns. Some restored aircraft also have wooden seats (like this one) but I suspect the original WW2 era aircraft would have been metal.
To close up the fuselage, the single piece upper panel is now added. Raised fasteners are moulded into the edge of the upper decking as all these parts are fabricated metal rather than cloth as for the side and rear fuselage.
The fit of all the parts is very good, with ICM providing alignment tabs on both sections to ensure a proper mating. For the nose panels I have noticed on photos that these are a loose fit on the real aircraft so don't be in a hurry to fill and sand any gaps.
The Stearman is fitted with a fixed (non retractable) main landing gear utilising hydraulic struts. ICM provide smooth tread tires and have once again design conical axles, which I am not a big fan of as they seem to make it harder to position the wheel onto the axle as the glue dries. I'd much prefer a more traditional tubular axle.
The fabric ribbing on the rear fuselage and tail is nicely done and looks to my eye very convincing. The elevators are provided separately from the horizontal fins which allows you to display them in a relaxed position.
The lower wing is a single piece which is designed to slot up into the bottom of the fuselage. The ailerons are only fitted to the lower wing on the Stearman with the upper wing not sporting any control surfaces at all.
The windshields (E1 & E2) are cleanly moulded by ICM and drop into pre-cut recesses on the fuselage. At this point the model started to feel a bit like a Stearman but we need that upper wing and externally mounted engine to complete the job.
Having built very few (ie zero) biplanes I was not really sure of the best way to approach the fitting of the upper wing to the model. I figured I needed to leave it off until its painted but wanted to have the struts attached to either the wing or fuselage before then. In the end I followed the advice of ICM and glued the stuts to the bottom of the upper wing. In truth the central four struts which connect the upper wing to the fuselage will bear all the weight. Once I worked this out I decided that these four struts needed a more solid method to attach to the fuselage than the basic dimples provided by ICM. I could have used brass rod for maximum strength but went with a cheaper option of some stretched sprue glued into holes drilled into the base of the struts.
As this boxing is for the PT-17/NS2-3 variant, the provided D sprue contains parts for a Continental R-670 seven cylinder radial engine. The visible parts of the engine consist of the cylinders, push rods (at the rear of the cylinders) and the exhaust tubing.
I think that ICM have done a very credible job with the engine cylinder parts. You could choose to deepen the cooling fins with a saw blade or scriber but I suspect that with an appropriate wash the detail will provided in the kit will be adequate.
When comparing the ICM kit parts to this detailed photo of the front and more importantly rear of the R-670 I believe that you would only need to add the ignition wires (perhaps using copper wire or from the Eduard PE set) to end up with a pretty accurate engine for your Stearman.
The main parts of the engine are sandwiched together using a keying system which ensures all the parts are correctly aligned. All the exhaust tubing leads to a single outlet found on the starboard side. It's certainly worth spending a couple of minutes to drill out the end of the one exhaust stub to lend a little more realism to your model.
Original engines installed on the Stearman airframes included the Lycoming R-680 (225 hp); Continental R-670 (220 hp) and the Jacobs R-755 (225 hp). Post-war modifications include the Lycoming R-680 (300 hp); Pratt & Whitney R-985 (450 hp) and the Jacobs R-775 (275 hp). The propellers generally in use on Stearmans were the Sensenich fixed pitch wooden prop, the ground adjustable McCauley steel blade prop and the ground adjustable Hamilton Standard and 2B20 counter weight Hamilton Standard propellers. Also a rare exception of the ERCO COMPREG blade, installed in a constant speed counter weight Hamilton Standard 2B20 hub. [source: notplanejane.com]. ICM provide both a wooden fixed pitch prop as well as a variable (constant speed) metal prop in the box.
A quick comparison of the assembled ICM engine and prop convinced me that the kit needs little more than some ignition wiring and hollowing out of the exhaust to get the job done. With some careful painting I'm convinced this will more than look the part.
Confident with my beefed up upper wing struts I was now able to fit them into the drilled out mounting holes on the upper fuselage. The outer wing struts are basically needed to hold up the lower wing on the model. On the real aircraft the rigging is then needed to provide lateral rigidity to the wing box section. We don't get that luxury on a model hence why those four upper stuts are so important to bear the weight.
Speaking of rigging, ICM has done the homework for you and provide detailed drawing showing where the wing and tail rigging is needed. I would still advise you to refer to reference photos before committing any glue to the wire.
The last thing worth mentioning is the set of masking templates (printed on the assembly instructions) that ICM have provided. I did not get a chance to test these for sizing and accuracy but you have to expect they would be pretty spot on given this is ICM's kit after-all. You would use these printed templates to trace out your own masks from tape and apply to the windshields.
ICM provide a total of three (3) marking options in the kit. Two of the three schemes are for US Air Force operated aircraft including a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) aircraft based out of Avenger Field in Texas circa 1943. The third scheme is for an NS2-3 operated by the US Navy in 1944. Much like the air force WASPs, the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) trained in the Kaydet
Each paint scheme is provided in full color on glossy A4 pages and color callouts are provided using Tamiya and Revell (??) paints.
The kit decals seem to be well printed with no obvious registration issues. Though not as thin as you would expect from a set printed by say Cartograph or Microscale, I can confirm from previous builds, that the kit decals do work well and respond as expected to setting & softening solutions.
I've never had the pleasure of flying in a Stearman but have seen them up close at airshows. They represent an important chapter in aviation history and you will rarely see a Stearman in a boring color scheme. These two things alone make then a worthy subject for my modelling bench.
Whilst there have been models of Stearmans in 1:48 and 1:72 for some time now, I feel that given the size of the aircraft that 1:32 is the perfect scale for this subject. I note that Roden has also recently released a "new tooled" Stearman in 1:32 and given the timing wondered if this and the ICM kit had some shared development? I don't know but suspect it's just a coincidence.
Given the quality of this new ICM tooling and the overall fit of the parts I have no hesitation in recommending this kit to modellers of all skills levels.