Wednesday, February 13

Construction Review: 1/32nd scale VVS RKKA Pilots (1939-1942) from ICM

Aircraft in 1/32nd scale injection moulding are rare enough, but pilots and ground-crew kits in the same scale for aircraft are even rarer. It is good then to see ICM put their money where their mouth is and make a trio of figures to go along with their new 1/32nd scale aircraft of  2018/ 2019. See what they look like and what Gary Wickham thought about the kits after he made them up in his review...

Construction Review: VVS RKKA Pilots (1939-1942)
Scale: 1:32
Manufacturer: ICM 
Kit no #32102
Reviewed: February 2019
Available from:
Price: US$15
ICM have always been well known for their dedication to 1:48 figures suited to aircraft (pilots and ground crew). As they have now started to push into releasing 1:32 scale aircraft they have begun to release figure sets to match. The figure set I'll examine in detail today is clearly designed to pair up with one of their new I-16 kits (as even shown on the boxart). 
The set provides three figures who represent pilots/officers of the VVS (Voyenno-Vozdushnyye Sily) "Soviet Air Force" and RKKA (Raboche Krestyanskaya Krasnaya Armiya) "Red Army of of Workers and Peasants" during the early WW2 era (1939-1942).
As you would expect the kit is very simple with a single sprue containing the parts for all three figures. The body parts (legs, arms, torso and head) for each figure are conveniently grouped together on the sprue. Using the colour assembly (and painting) guide it takes virtually no time at all to cut out and glue the parts together. I found no excessive gaps or misalignment in any of the body parts.
The raised detail on each part is sharply defined and will help even bumblers like me once we get to the painting stage to "stay within the lines" when painting the straps and belts that cover these guys. The ICM plastic is really nice to work with, being soft enough to sculpt and sand easily whilst being resilient enough to handle stray glue placement. I know its a little thing but I also like the colour of the plastic being a smidgen on the light side of neutral grey. Finally the sprue attachment points on each part are minimal allowing for easy separation from the tree and subsequent cleanup.
It only took my a couple of hours to assemble the three figures and here we see them posed for a group shot (no selfie sticks seen here).
Always on the lookout for inspiring reference material I found this period photo of ground crew and pilot relaxing near their charges to be interesting. It confirmed for me that when at rest the little cockpit side doors where left open (to allow ease of pilot entry no doubt). This would prove to be an important detail when it came time later to display the seated pilot in the cockpit.
The two standing figures were assembled with Tamiya liquid glue and because the joins are mostly on natural seam lines (waist, shoulder etc) there is little or no need for filler or putty (none has been used here). One thing I generally find agreeable about ICM figures are the choice of stance. They look animated without looking awkward or stilted. I've taken a bunch of photos from different angles to let you get a feel for the finished product. The only thing I added was some lead foil for the rear parachute straps as I felt the supplied plastic parts looked too stiff and unrealistic.
The third figure took a bit more effort to get right as he has to conform to the cockpit of whatever aircraft you put him in. As I had the ICM I-16 kit on hand I decided to see how he looked when installed. Once again to give me some inspiration and reference I tracked down several photos of I-16's with pilots such as this one. A couple of things worth noting here are a) the side doors are down and b) the pilots head sits below the height of the windshield.
ICM provide some marketing photos on their website of the made up figure. A couple of things that struck me about this photo was that a) his head is sitting well about the height of the windshield and b) his left arm is sitting awkwardly on the half opened side door. Both of these things looked wrong to me.
I began by assembling the figure with glue (except for that left arm) and placed him in the cockpit tub of the I-16. So far everything looked OK, his feet touched the rudder pedals and the parachute acted nicely as a seat cushion, just like the real thing.
Things started to get a bit awkward when I placed the cockpit (and pilot) into the fuselage. To start with I tried getting him to sit properly with the side doors up and closed. As these pictures show this would not work as he had to sit way too high to allow that left arm to extend over the side of the sill and once it did extend looks awkward hanging out like that.
Next step was to lower the side cockpit access doors as shown here. This helped some but he still sat too high for my liking and his left arm was still hanging out their in space. Unlike ICM's solution of attached the side door half open I wanted to find a better solution to both these problems.
First up I needed to get him sitting lower in the cockpit. I removed the parachute and then needed to cut out the front edge of the seat pan so that his legs would still sit properly out straight. Minor adjustments which I hoped would deliver the desired result.
Now the pilot sat at a much more realistic height and his left arm was properly resting on the open door sill. So far so good.
With the height issue dealt with I had to work out what could be done to get the left arm to sit more realistically on the fuselage side.
The basic problem with the left arm was that it extended about 2mm to far and his hand was at just the wrong angle in relation to the sloped fuselage.
My solution was two-fold. First, trim about 2-3mm off the end of his arm (closest to the shoulder) before gluing it. Secondly, cut through the arm just behind the glove, then rotate the hand (glove) to a position that better matched the angle of the fuselage side before gluing it back on.
The result after these couple of small adjustments was quite noticeable, with the pilot looking far more at home than previously.
Obviously we will need to attach the small side doors to the fuselage below the sill where his arm is sitting here, but I probably will replace the over-scale kit parts with some thinner plastic card replacements and am confident these will not interfere with his new arm.
CONCLUSION - ICM 1:32 VVS RKKA Pilots "1939-1942" (32102)
I really like these new figure sets from ICM. Yes I did a bit of tweaking to the guy in the cockpit, but it really was minor and is to be expected when trying to marry one kit up with another like this. They are easy to assemble, have interesting poses and will add a touch of life to any 1:32 aircraft. 
I've made a point of collecting the other figure sets that ICM are now releasing as they are excellent quality and represent good value for money (especially when compared to resin alternatives).

Gary Wickham 

Thanks To ICM for sending these figures for Gary to build and review