This article originally appeared in the December 1999 issue of Internet Modeler.
The name "Il'ya Muromets" derives from a Russian legendary folk hero who counts the single handed destruction of the Tartar Army among his great feats. Igor Sikorsky, no less an over-achiever, designed the Il'ya Muromets aeroplane, a massive World War One bomber, the largest four-engined aeroplane in the world, able to carry a significant bomb load and to engage in long distance reconnaissance missions. The Il'ya's record in World War One was excellent, apparently only three were lost, and they accounted for a fair number of enemy planes shot down, aside from the bombs dropped. The name "Il'ya Muromets" refers to a class of aeroplane (Woodman, Airfix Magazine, May 1985, p.352) of which the 'Veh' was one type; that which the ICM most resembles. Other types included the A, B and the G series. First built in 1913, the RBVZ production plant stepped up production when war broke out. In February 1915 the Eskadra Vozdushnykh (Air Ships Squadron) was formed, and the type 'Veh' appeared shortly thereafter. Production of these aeroplanes continued throughout the war and into the Soviet era. The "Il'ya Muromets" aeroplane itself became a legend, and its design and achievements are a true landmark in aviation history.
The kit comprises no fewer than nine sprues of material, including one containing six clear parts; a daunting amount of plastic. Most of the parts, especially the smaller pieces, require a considerable amount of cleaning up due to flash material and an oily coating on the surface; possibly a mold-releasing agent, which meant I had to clean the kit thoroughly. Once the cleaning is completed, however, most of the parts are well detailed, although the overall model itself contains several inaccuracies that have been dealt with in prior publications (Woodman in Windsock, and Internet Modeler review by me). Many variants of this aeroplane were built, each with their own fuselage shapes, tail construction and engine configuration. As I explained in an earlier edition of Internet Modeler, correcting Harry Woodman's list of inaccuracies would require scratchbuilding some of the main parts, including the fuselage. Although I was able to make a few corrections recommended by Mr. Woodman, my limited skill and time constraints did not permit me to deal with all the kit's shortcomings. Another issue is that without the most substantial conversion, the kit can really only be built as number 150 or 151. I chose to build it as 150, since I had a few photographs of that machine and it presented the easiest option; even then, several inaccuracies remain.
The engine parts are one of the kit's highlights and, according to Harry Woodman, a fairly accurate rendition of the Argus engines used by the Il'ya. I began sanding and cleaning the engine parts on sprue (E). I painted the engines Engine Grey, then I drybrushed them with Gun Metal, Burnt Aluminum, Brown Violet and finally Aluminum; the latter on the raised surfaces. The engines fit together well, although care needs to be taken when assembling some of the smaller parts; for example, the six exhausts on each engine need to carefully aligned. The radiators were also painted at this point using gun metal, and brass and aluminium for the edges and bands. Before adhering any of the engine pipes, I was careful to drill holes at the point of contact and dry fit each component to ensure that the parts went in correctly. After assembly, all four engines were set aside to await the construction of the fuselage and lower wing. Note that the kit provides eight engine shields but they should only be used on the port side, so you have four spare. Another inaccuracy of this kit is that the two engines closest to the fuselage should be further forward than the outer engines. I chose not to engage in what might have been a major correction task to fix one of the kit's lesser problems.
The fuel tanks in the kit are supposed to sit atop the front part of the fuselage under the top wing, however, they are too wide in circumference to permit the diagonal rigging to go through the space between the fuselage and the top wing. I used plastic tube, cut off the ends of the kit's fuel tanks, sanded the ends down to reduce their circumference and glued them to the thinner plastic tubes. These were painted Brass, and paper bands painted Aluminium were stuck around the tanks at one-third intervals.
The propellers were painted Leather and then drybrushed with various browns, black and grey to give a wood grain effect; the centres of the propellers were painted Silver.
The Fuselage and Cabin Interior
According to Harry Woodman, and all the pictures I looked at, the attractive fuselage cross-bracing on the kit is incorrect since the fabric skinning is absolutely smooth. The first task before assembling the fuselage was to remove this diagonal cross bracing. Following this I sprayed the interior of the fuselage Dirty White, which I used as CDL (Clear Doped Linen) in this kit.
The Il'ya Muromets had an enclosed cabin and the kit contains a fair amount of interior detail including seat, steering wheel, bombs, fire extinguisher, instrument panels and various table surfaces. Unfortunately, the kit's instructions would have the builder adhere these items directly to the fuselage belly; there is no interior flooring. My first task with respect to the cabin interior, therefore, was to construct a floor with a wood-like appearance. This was done using thin plastic card and fitting it from the window opening in the front to the rear wall (part A3). The floor was painted Sand and then drybrushed with various browns, greys and blacks to give a woodgrain appearance. It was also necessary to cut out a rectangular hole in this floor on the starboard side, where there is a window. The various interior parts were then painted and adhered into position. I attempted to make a decent job of this, especially in the front of the cabin since there is a large window on the 'chin' of the fuselage and numerous other windows on the sides. The interior of the fuselage contains molded-on formers and longerons that were painted a wood colour; other struts were added to the interior using plastic rod. Dale Beamish kindly provided some Aeromaster wood grain decal, which I used to cover the cabin door.
The port fuselage half had a distinct warp that caused the underside to curve inward giving it a mildly concave surface near the front. Not wishing to risk the 'Plastic in Hot Water Treatment', I glued the fuselage halves together using brute force. I attempted to coat this concave warp with a thin plastic skin but the result was not successful. I ended up using as much Squadron White putty and super glue as I could lay on the surface to fill it in; the flaw remained but it was reduced somewhat. Half a tube of CA and putty later, the fuselage was smoothed out and the join made invisible. Note that according to Harry Woodman's review of this kit, the upper rear gun position is fictitious, so this was covered over with the plastic kit part and sanded flat. At this point, the instructions would have you put the clear parts into the fuselage. This can be done, but they should be masked. I preferred to wait until the model was virtually complete. One exception are the windows either side between the wings; these have to be done prior to rigging since they will be inaccessible thereafter.
Wings and tail parts
The wings' surfaces are one of the kit's highlights, especially on the lower wing, which has raised surfaces for the plywood foot panels. The ribbing, however, is subtle and while they show up fairly well 'in the flesh', so to speak, it is difficult to capture them well in a photograph. Ideally, one should use some sort of weathering and highlighting technique on the ribbing to bring these out. My skills are, unfortunately, somewhat lacking in this area. The lower wing had a number of molding flaws on its undersurface that I did my best to fill and correct, although I was only partially successful. This was then glued to the fuselage.
The tail parts came in for significant criticism from Harry Woodman. Although he says the rudders and vertical tail piece as incorrect, they were not too undersized compared to his drawings. The forward part of the horizontal tail was more than one-third too short in chord. At first, I attempted to correct this by adding a strip of plastic card, however, this was unsatisfactory. I found it far simpler to replace the entire part using 2 mm plastic card. I placed two number eleven X-acto blades in the X-acto holder and scored the tail parts to create the ribs. I then sanded these down until they were barely visible. I also re-scored the struts that showed thorough the fuselage skin; these had been removed during the extensive sanding-and-filling phase. The horizontal tail was attached by gluing two small pieces of plastic rod into the inner edge each of the scratchbuilt horizontal tail parts, and corresponding holes were drilled into the sides of the rear fuselage. The centre rudder was then attached. After stuffing small pieces of Kleenex tissue paper into the windows, the assembly was painted Dirty White. The same colour was applied to the other tail parts and the upper wing.
The lower wing's upper surface has raised parts that, according to Harry Woodman's drawings, are wood. These parts support the engines and were painted and dry-brushed (see above) to give a wood grain effect, and similarly for the wooden engine mountings. The engines were then mounted onto the wing.
The top wing
Each side contains twelve interplane struts. Instead of cabane struts, there are two solid vertical supports on either side of the top of the fuselage. The upper wing comes in three parts; the port and starboard wings, and a central connecting piece. I opted to attach the central piece first, which connects to the supports on top of the fuselage. The wings were then attached in turn. Unfortunately, I could not do this without there being an unequal gap for each strut. Unless the wing is adhered at precisely the correct angle, unequal gaps will occur. This is a problem on any biplane kit but is obviously exacerbated by the size of this kit. Each side's wing is approximately 19 cm, so an error of one degree can result in a difference of 3.3 mm (3.3 = 19 x tan(1)). I found the struts that needed to be the longest and attached them first. I then proceeded to glue the rest of the struts, trimming them as necessary. The outer diagonal sloped struts were glued on after all the other struts were in place.
The landing gear is nicely detailed, however, the wheels are incorrect, according to Harry Woodman's review. I chose to ignore this problem, although it can be solved by using the wheels from the Maquette Ilya Muromets kit. Naturally, this presents another problem; namely, what to do with the Maquette kit minus its wheels, and possibly its fuel tanks, which can also be used to replace those in the ICM kit. My only problem in assembling the landing gear was the fragile attachments that hold the rigging in place above the wheels. They are gossamer-thin and I broke them both at various stages of construction. Fortunately, they are situated in a position that is not easily viewed.
The tailskid is about 1.5 cm too small but it was straightforward to scratchbuild a new piece from 2 mm card. The remaining parts were added without too much difficulty, including the frame on top of the rear fuselage, just in front of the tail.
At this point the entire kit was covered with Future floor enamel to provide some protection and prepare the surface for the decals.
According to Harry Woodman (I keep using that phrase!), only the Imperial Russian decals are correct for the 150, which is the version that the kit resembles most. When I built my first ICM Il'ya, the decals disintegrated in the water. That may have been due to an error on my part, but this time I took a more cautious approach. I cut out one of the decals I was not going to use (a Ukrainian emblem) and tested it; it was fine, and I even salvaged it by putting it back on the backing paper. Using a combination of Micro Sol, which softens and allows you to slide the decals, and Micro Set, which dissolves the decal film - leaving only the decal colours - the decals went on well.
The rigging on this subject is going to make or break the model. Use the method that you prefer; I used straight .005" stainless steel wire from SmallParts. Whereas it is more difficult to use this for interplane rigging, it is easier to use this material for the tail, landing gear and aileron rigging. This time, I used Elmers glue rather than super glue. Elmers has the disadvantage of not being quite as strong but it has some great advantages; primarily, if you make a mistake and get some glue on the paint work, it comes off with water and a cotton bud. This stands in contrast to super glue, the removal of which requires sanding and probably repainting. Elmers also has greater sheer strength; its rubbery end-state allows it to absorb shocks and knocks without sheering off, and it dries clear and any excess can easily be removed with water. Finally, Elmers is cheap and safe; you can leave a blob of it on a piece of paper and not worry about the kit touching it or your 5-year old dipping his finger in it.
The kit was then covered with a clear Aeromaster water-based acrylic coat; half semi-gloss and half flat. Finally, the windows were installed, except for those between the wings on the fuselage sides. The latter would have been impossible to install after the interplane rigging and were, therefore, covered with Parafilm to protect them from the final clear coating process. The clear parts fit tolerably well, although some sanding of the edges was required for a snug fit.
It would be most helpful for a builder to have a few decent references when building this kit. In particular, any drawings by Harry Woodman are invaluable, as are the pictures to be found in the Armada book. The rigging would have been almost impossible without these sources since the diagrams in the kit provide severe eye-strain potential. Building this kit is a project probably best drawn out and savoured over several months, possibly being completed simultaneously with one or two less ambitious projects. Regardless, the end-product is most unusual and pleasing. I recommend this kit to those modellers who enjoy a challenge and who are not put off by various inaccuracies. Such persons will find this a rewarding and enjoyable experience.
My thanks to several people who helped me with advice, encouragement and sources of information. Steve Perry was more than helpful; I copied loads of his ideas and did not do half as good a job. His truly amazing ICM Il'ya can be seen on his website . I would also like to thank Dale Beamish, Matt Bittner, Bob Pearson, and Dennis Ugulano. Also, many thanks to Barry Stettler of Rosemont Hobby Shop for providing the kit.