by: Mecenas [ ]
A bit of history
The “Norman Thompson Flight Company” was certainly the pioneer in designing and production of seaplanes. It was founded in the 1912 as the “White and Thompson Company” as a result of the Grahame White and Norman Thompson partnership. Despite the first setback of the unsuccessful Thompson-Lanchaster No.1 Gray Angel aircraft which left the ground for just few jumps and was quickly scraped, the company carried on to the next project. The Company managed to sign the contract for maintaining the Curtiss Model F flying boats and got the lucrative contract for being the exclusive European agents for Curtiss. In 1914 the Company had designed the single engined flying boat for the Circuit of Britain race organised by the Daily Mail. The race was canceled due the outbreak of the war but the construction proved to be successful and became known as the White-Thompson No.3. In the following year White left the Company to join the Royal Army Medical Corps and Norman Thompson had to re-organise and it was at this moment when the "Norman Thompson Flight Company" had emerged in the final shape. By then Norman Thompson, after building the 20 machines of the FBA type B flying boats, proposed to the Admirality to design and build the trainers for the Curtiss America or Felixstowe F.2 future pilots. The idea was accepted and the first order for 10 machines from the initial series was placed. The designed aircraft became to be known as the N.T.2B, a single engined pusher biplane. The trainee pilot and his instructor sat side by side in the closed cockpit. The plane proved to be successful and the following orders were placed, in total for another 295 planes. Some of the work had to be handed over to the subcontractors like Saunders or Supermarine as the Norman Thompson's Company capacity was fully committed. Unfortunately due to the unloyalty of the Curtiss company in the past years, who disobeyed the exclusive agent rights of Thompson and entangled his Company in the bribery scandal and at the end of war any further contracts were canceled. Unfortunately the Company had made some investments in enlarging their workshop, bought the materials for the production and was simply out of money at that time. The Company was finally liquidated in the 1919 and most of the assets were bought by the Handley-Page. The Norman Thompson's history is a great example of the innovative business who was wasted by the dishonest treatment by the Government.
The Tenzan's N.T.2b is a full resin kit. It is boxed in the few variants, depending on the engine version, cockpit variant and the owner or user of the particular machine. Bearing this in mind we can choose our N.T.2b from the following kits:
#72021 – British, "N-1181", 120/160h.p. Beardmore Austro-Daimler engine
#72022 – Estonian, "8", 200 h.p Sunbeam Arab engine, 1919
#72023 – British, "N2294", 200 h.p Sunbeam Arab engine, 1918
#72024 – Japanese, 200 h.p Sunbeam Arab engine, 1920
#72025 – Canadian, "G-CACG" with the open cockpit, 200 h.p. Hispano Suiza/Wolseley Viper engine, 1924
#72026 – British, "N2569", 200 h.p. Hispano Suiza/Wolseley Viper engine, 1918
#72027 – Norwegian, "N12" with the open cockpit, 200 h.p. Hispano Suiza/Wolseley Viper engine, 1920
All these kits are shown on the back side of the box as a side profiles in colour with the kit catalogue number and a brief description of the version, similar to the list above.
Each model is packed into a cardboard box with a slided cover made of thick paper. Inside the box I have found five zip-bags with the resin parts, small decals sheet and a short assembly instruction. In total we have ca.120 resin parts and a thick plastic wrap to cut out the wind shields and side windows of the cockpit housing. As for the 1/72 scale kit 120 parts is a pretty much in my opinion. Most of this number are tiny details like levers, exhaust pipes (separate for each cylinder!), rudder pedals etc. and a really impressive amount of different "struts".
What's the quality, you may ask? Although it's a market debut TENZAN has absolutely no reason to be ashamed. Although it's a full resin kit most of the parts do not have any flash. It relates to all big and major parts. There are some very light flash in the cockpit housing (in the places for glass), at the beaching trolley and few small details. A small, sharp knife should do the cleaning work without any problems.
Let's go to the fitting now. As it's just an in-box review I can't say very much although I did some fitting of course. The result is also positive in this area. I have tried to fit the fuselage halves of course, just after taking the parts out of the bag. Each fuselage halve has positioning points. This makes things much easier but doesn't make perfection. Before assembly you will have to remove three of four squares sticking out at the joining edges. It took me two minutes. The upper side of the fuselage and the internal walls fit very well. You have probably noticed the gap in front of the cockpit. Don't worry about it at all – this is the result of taping the halves too tight by me for taking the photographs. If you would remove the tape the gap would disappear. All you will have to do will be just light sanding, much like in the plastic kits. Unfortunately the belly side of the fuselage doesn't look so nice. The gap is significant enough to use some filler or stretched sprue and the sanding paper. I have also tried to fit the cockpit housing and the centre section of the lower wing to the fuselage. The result was also very positive here. I have noticed just a tiny gap between fuselage and the housing which will probably disappear when glued. Another point for Tenzan goes for the joining points of the wings and their centre sections. I'm a bit afraid about the joint strength. The original wings had a small clearance between the wings and central sections. It is nicely shown in the instruction. If you want to replicate it in your model I advice to drill the proper holes and use a stiff wire to strengthen the joint, otherwise I'm afraid the construction will collapse under the tension while operating the wings, for example for rigging. If we talk about wings I have to mention about the inter-plane struts. Each wing has the holes for placing the struts and each strut has the tip for placing in these holes. I didn't try to fit them so I can't say much here. Everything looks good and seems to be obvious. One of the modellers who has already built this model has replaced the original resin struts with steel wire to strengthen the construction. It was reasonable but you have to decide for yourself whether it is necessary.
Ok, let's go to the details now. Fuselage halves have some pipes and wires replicated on the sides. Although the cockpit looks simplified at the first glimpse, it is just as it should be. All you may add are cables to the rudder pedals or the control columns. Some sources says there should also be a single passenger seat behind the pilots but I did not confirmed that in this particular N.T.2b version. You will have to install a fuel tank with the floor before closing the fuselage. A very good point of the kit is the engine with its bearing. You will find the pre-drilled exhaust pipes in the kit, separate for each cylinder. Also the radiator looks very nice with the subtle texture. You may add some pipes in this area from the main fuel tank through the auxiliary tank to the engine and between the radiator and the engine. It shouldn't be difficult but may give a great result. Tenzan has supplied us with a lot of the different control levers of the ailerons, stabilizers and the rudder. You will have to carefully study the instructions before the assembly.
What may be a bit tricky and discourage with difficulties is surely the rigging. Tenzan has supplied us with the few drawings and rigging schemes in the instructions so you don't have to worry about the references. The diagrams show you everything that's needed. The technique used or the sequence of rigging is up to you.
The instruction sheets are two A4 pages with the black-white drawings. The assembly sequence is shown in the nine steps, separate for the cockpit, engine, wings etc. What is not typical amongst the producers Tenzan suggests not to start the build with the cockpit but with the beaching trolley, cockpit is the next step. Time to say few words about the trolley. The references which I got do not show or mention about use of the trolley of any type. N.T.2b had two small holes in the fuselage, down to the leading edge, for the axle which was pushed trough and the large spokes wheels were fitted that axle. Be careful here if you intend to build a diorama or show the plane on the stand.
The decals are on a small sheet with just the individual numbers, four roundels and the rudder stripes. A small problem may occur here to the inexperienced modellers as the decal for the rudder has the rectangular shape while the rudder is rather curved. The decal will have to be cut to the shape if you don't want to paint the stripes and mix the paints to match the other decals.
To sum up everything Tenzan's N.T.2b looks like a very pleasant model to build. It demands a careful study of the instruction, patience and some experience. I'm afraid it is not recommended for the faint-hearted modellers. As there is a lot of delicate struts which have to be aligned in many directions I think that the biplane assembly jig may be very useful. A serious advantage of the kit is that it simply is available on the market as, what's surprising to me, none other company has decided to release the N.T.2b kit before. British wings enthusiasts have another good opportunity to enrich their collections with the model of one of the important and pioneer seaplanes in the Empire. The kit will surely repay the effort put into the build. Mr Andrzej Boniukiewicz has won the 1st place at the IPMS Norway competition in the end of 2009 with the Tenzan kit built in the Norwegian configuration (plane N.12 #72027) so it's a good proof of the quality of the kit supported with the scratch-built details.
1. "The Norman Thompson file", Michael H. Goodall, An Air-Britain Publication, 1995
2. "Norman Thompson N.T.2b", Andrzej Boniukiewicz, miniReplika no.66 (2/2010)
Thanks to Tenzan for providing the review sample!
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