The Zlin Z-526 is a late variant of The Z.26 trainer series started just after World War 2 in Czechoslovakia, which proved highly popular in the aerobatic world. The Z-526 variant featuring a variable pitch propeller was sold in many countries during the late sixties and seventies and is probably the most popular of all variants. The Z-526F was introduced in 1968 and was equipped with a 180 hp Avia M 137A engine.
About every variant of the Z.26 series are now available in 1/72nd scale kit, most of which being recently released in Czech republic under the AZ Models (injected plastic) or Legato (Resin) labels.
The Z-526F AZ Models 1/72 multimedia kit actually features parts for both the Z-326 and Z-526 variants (the Z-326 being formerly released in another box) including a sprue of finely engraved injected plastic parts with accurate shapes and proportions, resin parts, photoetched fret with acetate instrument panels, two vacformed canopies (I have seen injected canopies in review article pictures but that was not the case in my kit) and a nicely printed decal sheet for 4 liveries.
Everything is available in this kit to build a fully detailed interior (except rudder pedals maybe). I even added some placards from a Mike Grant Decal sheet and the first aid box at the back.
Upon joining fuselage halves I rebuilt the warped dorsal fin and glued the canopy on. I had no second chance available with it as one of both canopies provided was crushed during transport, the thin cardboard box offering no real protection for fragile parts.
The wing halves need serious thinning at the trailing edges before assembly, which I neglected to do and realized too late when everything was glued together without test fitting...
There is a significant issue on the wing to fuselage assembly: If one aligns each wing to its fuselage root as suggested by the fuselage parts, the wingtips will show a quite unrealistic high pitch. Of course, when I had noticed that problem, everything was glued together and secured with thin superglue..When applying brutal force to remove the wings from their roots in order to correct the problem, the fuselage halves cracked and the carefully cut and precision-cemented vac canopy popped out... After tidying up all that mess, I finally sanded away the protruding wing roots from their fuselage halves, and made the bottom fuselage slightly deeper using milliput in order to get the wing chord back to a more realistic pitch without getting the leading edge roots lower than the fuselage. In fact the wing roots as moulded by AZ Models do have the right pitch but as on many other aircraft kits, the wings where moulded with the same pitch from root to tip which is far from being the case on real aircraft (tip pitching down on most post 1930 aircraft).
One of both resin engine sections provided belongs to the Z-326 variant. They were of an acceptable quality with a rather grainy surface but the complicated front cowl and their numerous inlets of different architectures were difficult to repair or reshape when needed. The hinge line of the side panels were damaged and all I could do was to sand them off to replace them by less accurate lines using styrene rods. As the lateral fin on the left cowl slightly below the hinge line wasn't represented, I built it from thin plasticart and superglued it in its previously grooved location. Both moulded on small exhaust pipes were removed and replaced by two soldering wire sections which I left unpainted.
The propeller is rather well moulded but the 8 small moving blades typical of the variable pitch system on the Z-526 variants (I believe such system was first designed by Arado) around the spinner were not represented. I attempted to correct this by gluing tiny bits from thin sheet styrene, but I am far from being 100% happy with the result. The prop logos come from the spares box and have nothing to do with the actual ones except a similar shape and size I must confess..
Paint and decalling: I must admit I found very attractive the boxart livery and initially intended to stick with it. But after a closer examination I also found out it was a rather risky and time consuming project... I wanted to represent a standard factory livery of the seventies, the golden age of Zlin Treners I reckon. After a bit of googling I found several pics of F-HAKZ, an aircraft still flying in France within the "Akrozlin" association based Etampes, which was easy to obtain from the decal spares box.
A couple of Tamiya spraycans to prime and obtain the overall white background, and I airbrushed Humbrol 19 for the red patterns following a tedious masking session. To get the matt black anti-glare panel and cowling bottom I sprayed it first using a Tamiya spraycan, but although this was carried out a full week after the red patterns had started to cure, it caused a nasty reaction with the humbrol gloss paint, so I sanded it out and the job was finally completed by airbrushing Humbrol matt black.
The "Zlin Trener" decals came from the kit's decal sheet, and are slightly undersized for the livery represented. The registration letters come from Tally Ho Luftwaffe code lettering. By the way, please Mr. Tally Ho, when are you reissuing that 72043 multiple sheet? It is ssooooo useful for civil registrations!!! and I am close to running out of them!
The landing gear was a bit tricky to assemble as no location device was provided and the bracing struts had to be scratchbuilt as per instructions. I found out that the torque arms provided as photo etched parts were far from easy to mount and looking oversized, so I built my own from thin sheet styrene and added hydraulic lines using metal wire. As the resin wheels were showing some bubbles along the tires grooving and elsewhere, I elected to replace them with plastic spares box items.
This was a less than expected easy build due to some of the kit's flaws combined with my own mistakes. AZ Models has made the transition from resin to injected plastic and has certainly released better quality kits since then. Anyways, my sincere thanks to Mr Petr Muzikant for releasing such interesting general aviation subject against what the media trend may suggest. Please keep going the same way!