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B-17F Kit

Academy 1/72 B-17F Flying Fortress 'Memphis Belle' Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review June 2005 Manufacturer Academy
Subject B-17F Flying Fortress 'Memphis Belle' Scale 1/72
Kit Number 2188 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Interior and exterior fuselage are separate parts, excellent detailing Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $29.00

First Look

B-17F Kit
B-17F Kit
B-17F Kit
B-17F Kit
B-17F Kit
B-17F Kit
B-17F Kit

The Boeing B-17 is easily the most famous bomber to emerge from the Second World War. Its ability to withstand the punishment of sustained operations and aggressive German air defenses helped to bring many an aircrewman home. It was this robust airframe that forced Luftwaffe pilots to develop more aggressive tactics in order to achieve a 'kill', while the German defense industry built fighters with heavier fire power and even pioneered the air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles to try and keep the B-17 (and others) out of their skies.

First flown as the Model 299 in the late 1930s, the B-17B would become the first operational version in 1940. As the US entered the war in the Pacific and the Atlantic, the B-17 would be the only operational long-range bomber (and in short supply) until the Consolidated B-24 production could get underway.

The B-17F received a number of incremental engineering improvements based on operational experience. It also received the last major engine upgrade in the Flying Fortress lineage with the Wright Cyclone R1820-97 rated at 1,200 horsepower. One of the more interesting variants of the B-17F was the YB-40 escort gunship.

While not as successful as hoped, one of the YB-40 modifications would become a permanent fixture on the B-17, the chin turret. When the production B-17Fs began receiving the chin turret, these aircraft were redesignated as B-17G.

One B-17F became famous in its own right, the 'Memphis Belle'. This aircraft had the distinction of being the first B-17 to take its crew into harm's way and safely home 25 times. The Memphis Belle and her crew returned to the US for a Savings Bond and morale tour to show that the war was starting to turn.

Academy has re-released their B-17F in 1/72 scale, this time featuring the historic markings of the 'Memphis Belle'. Molded in light gray and clear plastic, the Academy B-17 series feature scribed panel lines and flash-free molding. While there are a few ejector-pin marks on a few visible interior surfaces, these are minor and should be easily sanded away.

The kit features a nicely detailed cockpit and nose section for this scale. Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator and Bombardier seats are all provided, along with control yokes and a decal-based instrument panel in the cockpit, a map table for the Navigator, and a Norden bombsight and control panel for the Bombardier.

The bomb bay doors are positionable, and there is a nicely represented catwalk that spans the forward and aft bulkheads. The two bomb racks that mount on either side of the catwalk are also present along with eight bombs to arm the racks. The corresponding bomb racks that mount against the inside of the fuselage are not provided in the kit.

The top and ball turrets are provided, as well as waist guns that are stowed inside of the waist windows.

Assembly of the fuselage appears to be straightforward, as long as you remember to dry-fit the interior sections first. The tail gunner's position is a separate assembly, so care should be exercised in achieving a solid fit in order to minimize any filling.

The four R1820s are nicely molded and will look great on the kit. The exhaust stacks and turbo superchargers are separately molded as well, which will make painting and weathering a whole lot easier.

While the kit features the markings of the 'Memphis Belle', marking are also provided for another B-17F, 'Miss Ouachita' of the 322 BS/91 BG/8 AF. Both aircraft are camouflaged, so this should not cause a problem for those of us who are intimidated by bare metal finishes.

Its great to see this kit re-issued. This is one of the better B-17F kits available in 1/72 and one of the best for the price as well. For those of you who like to keep spare parts for future projects, then this kit will also be useful there, as there are nacelles, turret fairings and other details that are intended for use on other B-17s in Academy's lineup. I recommend this kit to any B-17 lover in 1/72.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!