Piaggo P.108B

As a result of the advanced development work carried on by Piaggio during the 1930's the company had the distinction of building the only four engine heavy bomber to be employed by the Regia Aeronautica during the Second World War. Although the production figures were insignificant compared to the number of heavy bombers built by the United States and Great Britain, The P.108B was an excellent machine bearing a strong resemblance to the B-17, but differing greatly in detail. The prototype flew in 1939 powered by four 1500 hp, eighteen cylinder engines. An outstanding innovation was the use of two wing mounted turrets, each with two 12.7-mm machine guns operated by remote control from sighting domes atop the fuselage. Two additional 12.7-mm guns were in the nose and semi-retractable ventral turrets, while two more guns were operated from lateral hatches, making a total defensive armament of eight weapons, extremely heavy by Italian standards. The maximum bomb load was 7.720 lb. Alternatively, three torpedoes could be carried.

So successful was the prototype that an initial batch of twelve pre-production machines was followed by substantial orders (by Italian standards) were placed and 163 aircraft were eventually produced. The P.108B's took part in night raids on Gibraltar, having been fitted with flame dampers on the exhausts and having the nose turret removed. The surprise had a great effect psychologically as it was not know at that time that Italy possessed bombers with that range. The P.108B later served in the North African and Russian theaters and in all operations over the Mediterranean Sea. At the end of the war only three P.108B's survived. Large numbers were lost during wartime operations although it's open to debate whether the majority were lost due to enemy action or to possible failures of the bombers themselves.

The Kit

The Special Hobby Piaggo P.108 comes in one of their standard end flap boxes that everyone loves to hate. On the front of the box is nice artwork of the aircraft in flight. Inside the box is one bag which contains all of the parts except for the resin parts which are bagged separately in a zip lock bag. The clear parts are injection molded but were mixed in with the rest of the injection molded parts, never a good thing but in my kit they were unscathed. The parts are molded in a dark gray plastic and feature recessed panel lines. The panel lines are uniform and typical size wise for the scale. The surface has a matte finish but is quite smooth and I found no sink marks or other surface irregularities on any of the parts. There was some minor scuffing on the parts from shipping.
The control surfaces are all fixed and the fabric areas were light and very nicely done. The demarcation lines around the control surfaces were a little shallow for my liking but that's easy enough to fix. The parts had a light amount of flash on them but not bad for a limited run kit and as usual no alignment pins. There were no ejector pin marks that will show after assembly. The propellers are the assemble yourself variety that the European manufacturers seem to like. The tires have nice hub detail, no tread and are not weighted.
The flight deck has a reasonable amount of detail for the scale. The engines are rather shallow in detail but should look OK once painted up. The wing to fuselage join has a spar that fits through the fuselage and into a groove in each wing which should provide a good solid wing to fuselage joint. The tail planes however are just butt joints and would benefit from some additional strengthening. The box states that the kit is a Series II aircraft which appears to mean that it has the flame dampers and the modified nose used on the Gibraltar raids, a standard aircraft can be built as well as both noses are supplied and the flame dampers are separate parts that can be left off. Altogether there are 88 parts in gray. See photos below.

The resin parts are cast in a tan color resin and include seats for the flight deck with belts and harnesses molded in, forward bulkheads for the gear bays, instrument panels, guns, propeller hubs, turrets and bases and a nice set of flame dampers for the exhausts. Unfortunately one of mine was missing in action but since I plan on building a series one aircraft they are not needed anyway. The parts were nicely molded and I found no short shots or pin holes in my parts. There are a total of 40 resin parts. See photo below.

The clear parts are injection molded and are thin and clear. Areas to be painted have a rough surface. As mentioned above both noses are supplied so either version of the aircraft can be built. Altogether there are 12 clear parts.

The decals are thin and in register and include markings for two aircraft, one of which was taken over by the U.S. at the end of hostilities. Some stenciling is supplied including propeller data decals and other squadron badges. See photo below.

The instructions are in the form of a small 14 page booklet. Page one has the history and specifications in two languages, page two and part of page three are parts map and icon chart. Starting on the balance of page three and continuing through page nine are assembly diagrams. Pages ten through thirteen are paint and marking instruction and page fourteen is an ad for other kits.

This is a very nice kit for a limited run kit. The usual caveats apply as far as test fitting parts but it looks like it will go together nicely. I would recommend the kit to anyone who has a few limited run kits under their belt.

Links to kit build or reviews
A build / review can be found here

"Italian Civil and Military Aircraft 1930 - 1945" by Jonathan Thompson

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Updated 6/22/08