In-Box Review
Stearman-Northrop Alpha 4
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by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

"Introduced in 1930, the Northrop Alpha represents a transitional air transport design, a blend of old and new aircraft technology. The Alpha could enclose six passengers in a snug, comfortable cabin, but the pilot remained exposed to the elements. The aircraft was all metal and streamlined, but had fixed landing gear and only one engine.

Designed by John K. "Jack" Northrop, the Alpha was a great step forward in metal aircraft. Many of its features, particularly the multicellular wing design, were later used in the Douglas DC-2 and DC-3. Although more powerful twin-engine aircraft rendered the Alpha obsolete for passenger service, it continued to serve as a fast express cargo plane."

Source: National Air And Space Museum

The kit
Dekno Models' Alpha arives in an attractive and compact flip-top box, with the parts well protected by being sealed in individual pouches on a larger sheet to prevent them rattling around in transit. The kit comprises:

29 x mid blue resin parts
6 x clear resin parts
1 x vacuformed canopy (plus spare)
Decals for 2 x colour schemes

The resin casting is very good in the review sample, and the striking blue parts (I've never seen this colour resin used elsewhere) show minimal flash. I found one or two very small bubbles, but nothing that will need more than a few moments preparation. The surface finish consists of neatly scribed panel lines and access panels, with a few raised details. (Note: Looking at photos of the preserved Alpha in the National Air And Space Museum, some of the kit's "panel lines" strictly speaking seem to be rows of rivets on larger panels, so purists may wish to depict these instead.)

Test fit
All the maon components are cast perfectly straight in my kit and line up very neatly. The fuselage clips onto the one-piece wing, while the stabilzers are butt-joints to the rear fuselage. The spatted undercarriage legs slot into deeply recessed locations under the wings providing a very solid fit.

A few details
The interior of the fuselage halves is neatly detailed with ribs and stringers. The floors of both the pilot's cockpit and the passenger cabin are cast integrally, with a joint running down the centre. You may want hide this with a piece of thin styrene card but, to be honest, I doubt whether much will be visible once the fuselage is completed.

The cockpit features a seat with mouldd-on harness, control column and a neatly detailed instrument panel. Rudder pedals and a small console are cast in place on the floor. The passenger compartment has separate seats, again with lap belts. A peculiarity of the original aircraft was that the rear seat could be folded to allow direct contact with the pilot - a scary thought in these days of heightened security on airliners! (Note: According to several online references, the Alpha 4 and 4A were used as cargo versions, so I don't know if the seats were removed for this role.)

The fuselage windows are flashed over and clear resin inserts are provided. These are pretty good quality, although the resin does look a little yellow-tinted where it's thicker on the casting plinths. Fitting the windows neatly could require patience, but the window openings look small enough to try using a glazing fluid such as Krystal Klear as a simpler alternative. Landing lamp covers are also provided for the streamlined mountings under the wings, and again you could glaze them with drops of liquid if you prefer.

The one-piece Pratt & Whitney Wasp is very nicely detailed, with crisply defined cylinders with pushrods and even ignition wiring. A separate slotted cover sits over the crankcase and the propeller is cast with impressivelly thin blades. A long exhaust extends under the fuselage.

The main undercarriage spats have the wheels cast in place - which might lead you to expect a rather "clunky" appearance. Not so here - the deep engraving around the wheels really makes them seem to be separate parts.

Finally, there's a vacuformed windscreen for the pilot's cockpit. This is good quality and free of any blemishes and should sparkle after a dip in Future/Kleer. A nice touch is the inclusion of a spare in case you slip up.

Instructions and decals
The assembly and painting guide is printed on both sides of an A-4 sheet. The construction is broken down into four easy to follow stages. The assembly drawings are very clear and are backed up by descriptions in Spanish and English.

Decals are provided for two TWA aircraft - NC992Y and NCIIY. The former is n/m overall, while the second machine sports light gray under the wings. I've read elsewhere that Dekno's decals are "home made"; if so, they are really very good, being thin and glossy, with minimal carrier film. On the sample sheet, the small black-outlined "TWA" lettering is a little out of register, but this should be correctable with care. More importantly for me, the spectacular red, black and gold art-deco indian head motif for the fuelage is spot on - so I know which colour scheme I'll be going for!

This is the first Dekno Models kit I've had the opportunity and I've found it a really unexpected pleasure. The Alpha is a great little kit of an unusual subject that should delight Golden Age enthusiasts. It's simple enough to make a good choice for newcomers to resin kits, while providing plenty of scope for experieced modellers to go to town on. Recommended for anyone with a bit of experience interested in modelling the pioneering aircraft of the inter-war period.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Well moulded and very nicely detailed. Straightforward assembly.
Lows: A couple of the attractive decals are a tad out of register in the review sample.
Verdict: Dekno Model's Alpha is a delightful model of an historically important aircraft. Its simple construction makes it a good choice as a first resin kit, while also providing a great basis for a superdetailed build.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:72
  Mfg. ID: GA.720200
  Suggested Retail: 36.50 Euros
  PUBLISHED: Jul 05, 2012
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Dekno Models!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright 2021 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Nice kit and they are an advertizer here!
JUL 05, 2012 - 12:03 PM
Good review of a nice kit -- me want one -- Merlin, you know what a fan of "Jack" I am
AUG 04, 2012 - 04:43 AM

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