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By: Nik Beavins
This review was written with reference to the construction of the first ‘production’ kit of the LA –7 produced by Warbirds Replica Flying Models. The writer has made two Tempests from the Warbirds range before this kit as well as more than ten other powered aircraft of varied types.
I have always been fascinated by Russian WW2 aircraft and having seen Richard ‘Warbird’ Wills (website www.warbirdsreplica.com) prototype progress through concept, build and flight I was very pleased to be the recipient of the first kit version of this relatively little known aircraft. Although only a few full size examples of this type are documented the La –7 has some good credentials for a model with a distinctive wing and tail shape, a short rear fuselage section and a spacious cowl capable of almost completely hiding a 52 four stroke engine and its exhaust.
The kit comes in a good strong box with a fabulous picture on the label which just urges the builder to get on with the build. Contents are adequately packaged and wrapped as necessary. The kit has a normal level of inclusions with the control horns, torque rods, clevises, fixed undercarriage legs, mylar hinge material and tailwheel being supplied. This leaves the motor, spinner, propeller, fuel tank, snakes or pushrods to be provided by the builder.
Extra packs to make the result more realistic are available from Warbirds. The cockpit kit comprises of Pilot, pilot base moulding, instrument panel print and joystick for £7.95. The retract kit consists of two very useful instruction sheets, one of which is a template for the wheel well cut outs, 2 mechanical retract units with legs, 2 Radio Active wheels, a retract servo, plastic wheel well linings and the ply plates on which the retract units will mount. This kit currently costs £59.95 The decal kit costs £12.95 and comprises of 8 reasonable quality Russian stars, figures ‘93’ and pilot ‘kills’ stars for the port side between cockpit and wing which replicate White 93 which is probably the most widely documented La –7.
The wing is conventional with two sides of ply covered foam to be epoxied and fibreglass taped together. If fitting the retracts it is advised that the angled mount bases are cut into the wing before the leading edges are fitted. Torque rods are used to transmit movement to the ailerons. It is notable that there is no trailing edge to be fitted as the wings have the veneer covering bought to a very neat edge at this point with no other work required.
The retract mount plate cut outs should be done before the leading edges are added allowing good access. The mechanical retract units are fitted to the pre cut ply mount plates which are epoxied into the wing. The u/c legs are heated and bent to the appropriate angle but not before threading the gear door mounts onto the leg. These can be made using the inside of a ‘chocolate block’ cable connector, the plastic having been removed. Moulded wheel wells are supplied on the u/c pack and these are glued into the cutouts to provide a neat finish. Be sure to get them in a deep as possible as this will allow the best run for the actuating rods from servo to retract unit. The servo is then located deep in the wing on the centre line and the push/pull rods are made from a thread ended rod with a ball joint connector used at the servo end and a Z bend at the retract mechanism end.
The fuselage is built around what is referred to as the central crutch, a piece of liteply that runs the length of the fuselage with the sides and the top foam decking glued to it. One of the advantages of this construction method is that the overall alignment is virtually guaranteed to be correct.
This design is a feature of most Warbirds kits and greatly speeds any other models from the extensive range that you may choose to build later. The aft portion of the fuselage/wing fillets are not difficult to make but as their construction is a ply base and 1/16 balsa care must be taken to preserve them till they are covered etc. The main air intake is not such a noticeable feature as a Mustang or the like and this combined with the fact that I felt that all it would do is catch the full mess of the exhaust resulted in the decision not to bother with it.
The pilot is actually a JR Japanese WW2 item but is easy to modify from a ‘Tojo’ into an ‘Ivan’ by dropping some epoxy into the eyes to get a reasonable eye ball shape to paint and by painting on the distinctive white webbing of the standard Russian parachute harness and some other distinctive features onto the figure. The figure is then super-glued to the base that proves the pilot with legs and a mount point for the joystick.
The spacious cowl is made of three sections, two half circular sections and the foremost ring section. I though these were going to be fiddly to glue together with plastic model glue but in the event they went together with no problem and are suprisingly rigid. Do take care however to get the cowl glued together to fit the F1 and F2 bulkheads with minimum clearance as if it ends up too big the spinner may not end up in the centre of the cowl and require extra work to get to an acceptable solution. The cowl runs from the front to about 20 cms back and goes over F1 and finishes on F2 so the whole engine and first 10 cms of open fuselage are revealed when it is removed. It also mounts very rigidly as it is supported for 360 degrees by both F1 and F2 both of which are almost full circles which allows the fixing blocks and screws to be almost out of site underneath.
The tail surfaces are solid balsa and the fin has its sides built up with additional balsa and filler to create a fin that blends in with the aft end of the fuse.
An SC 52 FS was used as recommended and the full cowl makes it possible to hide all but the top of the rocker box. The standard exhaust exits underneath the cowl in the eight o’clock position viewed from the front. I modified my exhaust pipe by blocking the end and then solder/welding a new stub onto the silencer using Techno-weld. It now exits directly downwards. I used a servo mounted between F1 and F2 to control the mixture screw to avoid having another hole in the cowl that would have been at the top and therefore very visible.
Overall the kit offers quite a fast build particularly if the builder has experience of Richard’s design methods which share many common themes. I estimate that it took me five weeks to get to the covered stage working a average of a hour a day.
I have used the brown paper and PVA covering method for 4 models to date after being introduced to it by Richard and it was used with equal success on the Lavochkin. This covering method is covered in the kit instructions. I painted as in the instructions but with a light grey/darker grey camouflage pattern and renumbered the aircraft to be a fictional ’White 36’ based loosely on ‘White 27’ the other reasonably documented La-7. I added PVA rivets on the wing joins as recommended and on the canopy and cowl. The unusual armoured glass section behind the pilot was also added and a gun sight made from scrap and a section of ball point pen. I used the supplied decals but roughed then up for the sake of more realism.
The C of G was fine with the batteries behind F2 and the receiver even further back. Once built and assembled the model sits on the ground very realistically. The noise level with the modified silencer is fine and the model flies cleanly with little tendency to nose over on landing. Overall the flight characteristics are very forgiving and will give no cause for alarm to a modeller who has selected this to be their first scale type kit. To summarise, I really enjoyed building this one and the result is a really nice model that’s great to fly.
By: Nik Beavins