Czech Master Resin - Sikorsky S-38 Kit Review
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Czech Master Resin's 1:72 Sikorsky S-38

By Chris Bucholtz


Igor Sikorsky's first big success in the U.S. came with the S-38, an ungainly-looking amphibian that was rugged, dependable and boasted very good performance for its time.
The S-38 came about after the crash of the S-36 'Dawn' during its trans-Atlantic attempt of 1927. In May 1928, the redesigned aircraft, the S-38 rolled out and Sikorsky immediately had orders from Pan American Airways and the U.S. Navy. The first two series of 10 aircraft each quickly sold out, and soon Sikorsky had more business than it could handle. The S-38 funded the construction of Sikorsky's Stratford, Conn. headquarters, where the company is still based.

About 133 S-38s were manufactured, about a third of which went to Pan Am. The rest served in myriad roles for the next 20 years. This effectiveness stands in contrast to the looks of the S-38, a conglomeration of wings, wires, struts and booms. A shoe-shaped sesquiplane, the S-38 was designed well for its environment, with self-draining struts, floats and fuselage divided into watertight compartments, and a fuselage-top entrance that eliminated the chances of a side door leaking or warping. Vern Carsterns, a pilot for the famous Martin and Osa Johnson expeditions, said that the ruggedness of the S-38 would make it "very useful for bush operations even today."

The Kit

Czech Master's kit is a rather daunting-looking piece of work in the bag, a collection of struts, engine components, floats and airfoil surfaces. Looking at the trees rather than the forest makes it all seem a little more buildable, and once it ís boiled down to its individual steps, the S-38 seems within the grasp of modelers with a bit of biplane experience.
Two fuselage halves are provided, one for a standard S-38 and the other for Johnson Wax's 'Carnauba' These are split vertically and differ only in the shape of the rearmost passenger window. The windscreen and windows are provided as vacuformed parts. The side windows insert from the inside on a large sheet; it might be wise to install these and then paint the interior colors on the vacuform parts rather than to paint the resin sidewalls, thus avoiding a high-gloss interior!

The interior floor is a single large piece that includes the control panel and the bulkhead between the cockpit and passenger compartment. A decal provides the control panel detail, and a control yoke and two chairs (which were wicker in real life) complete the front office. Back aft, four chairs and a boarding ladder add detail to the passenger space; since S-38s could accommodate as many as eight passengers, some research may be needed to outfit your S-38 accurately.
Once the fuselage is together, a fuselage-top boarding hatch can be added in either an opened or closed position. Boarding handles and other fiddly bits around the aft complete the fuselage.

The wing - all 10 inches of it - is a marvel of casting. It's a single piece and is remarkably straight along the trailing edge, a difficult feat in a thin piece of resin. My example had a very slight twist to it; this can be cured by putting the model in very hot water and physically twisting the part back into shape.
Butt-joining the fuselage are two stub wings, which will take careful thought to position since there are no locating aids. Getting these in place will be vital to the success of the model; if they are not symmetrical, the attachment of the upper wing will be thrown off, and with a big wing any error will be magnified.

Two engine options are provided: the S-38'ís uncovered crankcase and the S-38BC's covered crankcase. In either case, the engines are very well molded, and they attach to an exhaust collector that comes complete with a drilled out exhaust pipe. These join t0 'power eggs' that mount to a large central cross brace that also supports the center of the wing. There are no NACA-style cowl rings, which were frequently seen on S-38BCs.
The tail is a multi-piece affair, with two booms (again, cast as very straight pieces) sliding into slots in the wing. The horizontal stabilizer slides into slots in the vertical fins, which are included on the tail booms. A set of cross-braces then go on the booms about midway to the wing, and some additional detail parts go on the tail, although their placement is difficult to determine from the instructions. All the parts are exceptionally well-cast and care will be needed to avoid breaking them during construction.

At this stage, the instructions suggest you build the struts below the upper wing before adding it to the fuselage. I suggest having some flat metal stock available at this stage, as the resin struts do not seem capable of supporting the heavy wing over the long haul. At the very least, I suggest substituting metal rod for the tail supports; these and the center brace will be able to take the weight of the wing/tail combo, and the rest of the struts can be added with confidence since they won't have a structural role in the model. The power eggs join the center brace and upper wing and have their own set of complicated bracing.
Also in need of structural help is the landing gear. The tail skid should be fine, but the main gear struts could use an assist; some telescoping metal tube in place of the strut extending from the power eggs and some metal rod for the fuselage-to-wheel struts could help avoid drooping over time. The wheels have the wire wheel pattern on them, but are unconvincing; some World War I-era photoetch might help this situation. The floats attach to the bottom of the stub wings. Once the construction is done, it ís time to rig the control wires and struts; these are clearly called out in the last assembly step. Kit also includes two pages of period detail photos and a page of color images of Johnson Wax's recently-built replica for aid in placing these details.

Before the addition of the wing, the model should be painted, and to do so means picking one of the five schemes provided for on the decal sheet. Martin and Osa Johnson's 'Osa's Ark' is included, although unlike the S-39 kit by Czech Master, no zebra stripes are provided, only registrations and the plane's name.

Next is a U.S. Navy PS-2, finished with a chrome yellow wing, light gray and black fuselage and the red-white-blue rudder of the period. The third option is the 'Carnauba' in its gaudy red, yellow black and gray finish and S.C. Johnson and Son Inc. markings. Another colorful option is an S-38 from 1929 operated by the New York, Rio and Buenos Aires line, featuring a yellow and gray wing and a gray and black fuselage with a large airline logo prominently displayed and the nickname 'Porto Allegre' in jaunty yellow script on the fuselage side. Last is a comparatively drab but historically important Pan American Airways aircraft; Pan Am was a major operator of the S-38 on its various Caribbean and South American routes.


While not as well-engineered as their S-39, the Czech Master S-38 fills an important niche in Golden Age aircraft, and the spectacular decal sheet will make choosing which aircraft to build a tough one. Experience modelers who have built biplanes will enjoy the challenges posed by the S-38.