by: Darren Baker [ ]
The Bücker Bü 131 was the training aircraft that all German pilots learnt to fly in from 1936 until the end of World War 2. This aircraft was the last biplane built for German military use and served faithfully throughout its life, even today there are 100’s of Bücker Bü 131 aircraft still flying after production was continued in Spain well after the end of the war. Many of these aircraft are in the USA providing a sturdy and reliable aircraft even to this day. The Bücker Bü 131 is built from a tubular steel frame covered with material and metal, the aircraft has a fixed undercarriage and powered by a Hirth HM 504 engine that is an inverted four cylinder offering. ICM has now released another 1/32nd scale offering of this aircraft; a nice scale for a model of this size.
This offering from ICM is packaged in the usual way of a flip top cardboard tray and an additional card lid with all of the artwork on it; this approach means that the model has a very good chance of reaching you in the condition it was meant to regardless of how it is sent. Inside of the box you will find a re-sealable plastic bag containing three grey sprues and the clear parts. There is also an instruction booklet covering assembly of the product and a decal sheet protected inside the booklet.
An examination of the sprues reveals a very well moulded offering with no obvious issues in the process. Taking a look at the back of the mouldings does reveal a number of ejector pin marks, but these are shallow and so should not be overly difficult to remedy. There are some flow marks present on larger mouldings that are clearly seen, but to both my eyes and sense of touch I detected no physical issues to the moulded parts.
As is usual with ICM an engine has been included with this model and it is a very nicely rendered Hirth HM 504 engine that will benefit from the addition of some wire detail should you wish to make it seen in the finished model. The engine is finished with the addition of a well done fixed pitch wooden propeller. The detail present looks good to me as regards the attachment point and correctly there is no wood grain present as it would be smooth, the wood grain will need to be mimicked during the painting process that I have seen done to great effect. I have to say that finding information on a D type aircraft and what made it a D resulted in no results’ I suspect it is the engine due to the new engine cowlings; I can only find good information on an A and B variant.
The cockpit area of the model is a fairly simple affair as would be the case in the real aircraft. A reasonable amount of the tubular steel frame work is supplied, but skilled modellers in the art of scratch building may wish to extend this detail further. Another aspect that will improve this area is the addition of cable detail for the control surfaces and the like. The seats are simple affairs as the pilots would be sat on the parachutes, but I would have liked to see ICM supply the harness detail, I am lead to understand that the seats are not accurate and resin replacements have been released for the model. The instrument panels look good and are detailed using decals that are supplied in the kit; however these could be improved with aftermarket items.
The fabric skinned fuselage and flight surfaces have been well tackled by ICM, but I have found the joint between the upper and lower wing portions to be slightly miss aligned and in need of the locaters to be cut away to get a good clean and aligned joint; this issue is near the fuselage end of the wings. I also had a nasty joint on the rear lower fuselage that requires some work. In all other respects I am happy with the results. The detail of the fabric skin has been well done and so should satisfy everyone. The new parts in this offering cover the engine cowlings and as I have said I have been stumped by the D prefix. ICM has supplied a very nice set of instructions when it comes to adding cables to the model; while this has been well done I do feel that locating holes for cables would have been a high; due to the absence I suggest the modeller plan ahead and drill the anchoring points for the cables ahead of time.
Moving onto the undercarriage and the level of detail is very good, but I do wish that ICM had provided the option of a weighted undercarriage. The wheels have a nice level of detail but again they are not weighted. The tail wheel has been moulded as a single piece and as many will know that is a pet hate of mine, but on this occasion I do find it an acceptable compromise.
The decals supplied by ICM are for four aircraft, two based in Germany and two based in Russia. The decals are well done having good colour and thin due to me being unable to feel them on the carrier sheet. The letters on the decal sheet do have a good amount of film around them and so may benefit from some trimming. I was disappointed not to see any attempt at providing swastikas for the tail as it is an important element; I do understand the issues with some countries, but they could be supplied as multi part decals as many companies now do.
The four options are:
Bücker Bü 131D, 2,/JG 54, Russia, March 1942 (My favourite)
Bücker Bü 131D, 2,/JG 54, Russia, Summer 1942
Bücker Bü 131D, Stab III/NJG 1, Germany 1943
Bücker Bü 131D, Bad Abling, Germany 1944
There are three figures included with this release from ICM which are listed as cadets; now when I think of cadets it as kids being trained to enter the Navy, Army or Air Force, these are trainee pilots I believe and that would account for the age appearance of the figures. The artwork depicts two persons helping a pilot get his chute and everything on, but I would suggest that the figure who is bent over be used inspecting an aspect of the aircraft while the other helps the pilot; I feel this would create a more pleasing scene and integration of the provided elements.
The uniform such as it is consists of one piece coveralls and cloth cap with a leather flying hat for the pilot. The faces are very good for injection moulded plastic and should prove acceptable to most. The hand detail is especially well done by ICM in both form and feature. The five point harness has good detail as does the parachute and the result of all this is a very pleasing offering.
This is a very pleasing model in most respects with only the lack harness detail being something that I feel should be present. I have to congratulate ICM for covering installation of the cables present on this aircraft type. The figures provided in this offering from ICM really step this up as a one purchase product. The only thing I would have liked to see included was a pilot figure in the aircraft as an instructor.