by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Originally published on:
BackgroundIf you were tasked with designing a new floatplane fighter, basing it closely on an existing two-seat biplane reconnaissance aircraft might not be the most obvious solution. Nevertheless, that is the path that Giovani Gallasso chose in developing his successful IMAM Ro.43 into the Ro.44. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the new fighter could hardly claim to be a stellar performer, with a top speed of around 197 mph (only 8 mph faster than its predecessor) - and this in 1937, when its first 300 mph monoplane opponents of the future were entering service.
With the onset of WW2, the Ro.44 was clearly obsolete, and it was largely relegated to second line duties and patrolling the relatively safe skies of the Aegean, before seeing out its days as a trainer.
The KitSpecial Hobby’s new Ro.44 arrives in a very attractive conventional box, with the main sprues and various accessories bagged separately for protection in transit. The kit comprises:
76 x grey styrene parts (plus 16 unused)
1 x clear styrene part
17 x grey resin parts (plus 2 spare)
41 x etched brass parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
It’s important to note at the outset that this kit is produced with limited-run technology, so it would be unrealistic to expect the kind of precision the best of the “majors” are capable of. That said, it’s actually more cleanly moulded than some mainstream kits I’ve seen, and boasts a delicate fabric-effect finish that CAD-produced models struggle to emulate. The engraved panel lines are neatly done and embossed detail is good and crisp.
I haven’t spotted any sink-marks on my kit, while the ejector pins look to have been kept pretty much out of sight (the only potentially nasty ones in the cockpit being (hopefully) hidden by the pilot’s seat.
Test FitThe kit clearly shares a number of parts with the Ro.43 released alongside it - hence the number of spare parts - so the following should largely apply to both kits.
The fuselage halves clip together neatly and the detail lines up perfectly. The wings are perfectly straight in my kit with nicely sharp trailing edges. both the top and bottom wings are moulded as full-span lower surfaces with separate upper panels. The joints to the fuselage are good, promising a sound basis for the rest of the build.
The fin and rudder are integral on the Ro.44 (separate on the 2-seater), while the stabilizers attach with sturdy locating pins.
Attaching the large central float is likely to be the trickiest part of the build, so Special Hobby supply a moulded template to help establish the correct position while the struts are put in place. Nevertheless, I’d still recommending using an extra jig of some kind to keep the model securely held while tackling this stage, as I expect there’ll inevitably be some adjustment needed to get everything symmetrical and true. Having tripped up on similar subjects in the past, I will double- (and triple-) check the length of the struts and replace their locating pins with brass rod to ensure a solid assembly.
A Few Details The cockpit is very effectively detailed with a mix of 28 styrene, resin and etched parts, plus an elaborate 8-part etched seat harness. The resin guns and radio equipment look excellent, so it’s a little disappointing that the instrument panel is styrene and less well detailed. Either resin or etched would have been superior, so it’s something of a missed opportunity.
The floats are neatly moulded, and the large central pontoon is enhanced with plenty of etched details. There’s even an etched water-rudder, which will look much more realistic than the clumsy styrene ones usually included in kits.
The engine is mostly styrene, but should look excellent as it’s very crisply moulded. There’s a resin oil cooler and exhausts - the latter featuring hollowed out ends. The propeller is one-piece and is one of the only parts in my kit to show a tad of flash, but it should be quick and simple to clean up, and will look fine.
Instructions & DecalsThe assembly guide is nicely printed in colour on glossy stock as a 12-page A-5 booklet. Construction is broken down into 18 logical stages, and the clear diagrams are backed up by a number of “info views”. Sadly there’s no rigging guide, so you’re left to figure things out from the excellent boxtop illustration.
Colour matches are provided for Gunze Sangyo paints, and decals are included for a pair of machines:
The decals are beautifully printed by Cartograf to their usual impeccable standard, with perfect registration on the thin, glossy items. To my eyes, though, the colours look a little dark on the sheet (ironically, they look better in the photo here), so I’ll mask and spray the rudder and the spectacular red “sunburst” on the top wing.
ConclusionWith its wonderfully “Porco Rosso” looks, Special Hobby’s Ro.44 should be a very enjoyable build. It may well prove more challenging than its apparent simplicity and low part-count might suggest, so I think beginners could struggle (particularly with aligning the float neatly), so I’d say it's most suitable for fairly experienced modellers.
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