PZL.43 Czajka was an export version of the Polish light-bomber and reconnaissance PZL.23 Karaś airplane. In 1936 Bulgaria wanted to buy Polish PZL.23 Karaś but equipped with larger and more powerful engine Gnôme-Rhône 14 Kfs. This request forced a major change in the fuselage which had to be longer, cockpit compartment had to be moved slightly backward and pilot machine guns in the fuselage had to be relocated as could not shoot between engine cylinders anymore. Glazing of the cockpit was redesigned and reshaped. As this changes improved overall airplane characteristics two years later Bulgaria bought another 40 machines but this time with the Gnôme-Rhône 14N01 engine. At the outbreak of war six planes were still in Poland ready for shipping to Bulgaria. These machines were quickly unpacked, put together and sent to 41st Reconnaissance Squadron. All of these machines were lost in action. Two more planes, almost airworthy (which are depicted in this model kit), were found by the German forces. After running some tests these two planes were sold to Bulgaria in 1940 and early 1941.
As can be seen on the photographs parts are moulded in grey plastic. I have not noticed any significant misalignments of the moulds or serious flashes though some can be seen. Kit contains a lot of parts dedicated to the Karaś kit, which will not be used for building this model kit. In the PZL.43 kit we get absolutely new fuselage, cockpit interior and engine with its cowling and equipment (exhaust pipes, radiators). Two sprues are common with the earlier PZL.23 Karaś kits. These refers to the parts of the wings, undercarriage and some internal details. Few parts, previously casted in resin, are now made in plastic and represents much better shape and quality.
The overall quality of the plastic parts depends on the factor on which part we look at. Its surface is nice and smooth. Side walls of the fuselage are very thin what causes that the whole halve is flexible. The fuselage and its internal compartment is very nice with many details and subtle, engraved panel lines. When we look at the wings we can easily notice that panel lines are much wider and deeper and definitely not subtle. What's surprising to me, panel lines on the upper sides are heavier than on the lower. What I really like in this kit are separate ailerons and flaps.
Between new sprues we will also find the cockpit and belly-gunner glazings. Cockpit glazing is absolutely new as it had to reshaped in the real plane in comparison to the PZL.23. In the box we have two small sprues of the clear parts. Mirage have provided two variations of the cockpit glass: with the closed and opened entrances for pilot and bombardier. Movable segments are given as separate parts. Although these parts are still too thick for my eye in comparison to the top-notch companies transparency of the plastic is still satisfying. What I don't like, and this probably will not look good on the model, are coarse frame ribs of the clear parts, as if the moulds were not polished or catched some tiny chips. This will surely require some sanding. A big “thumb up” to Mirage for making separate movable window vents in the pilot section.
I think that Czajka model kit represents better level of details in comparison to its predecessors, especially when we take a look at the engine or into the cockpit interior.
Assembly and painting instructions
Assembly process is shown in the booklet containing nice and plain 3D drawing of that particular parts. What is surprising, first step is not related to the cockpit interior but the engine – I don't remember the kit which does not start with the cockpit. New parts for each step are drawn in the blue colour while parts used or assembled in the previous step are grey, so it is a bit easier to orientate while building. Drawings are described with Polish and English hints and clues useful for the builder because it saves a lot of time and makes easier to keep your nerves in good shape.
Painting instruction is a separate A4 sheet, printed in colour. Producer have provided two painting options for the planes found by Germans at Mielec, used for different trials and later sold to Bulgarian Air Force. Both planes are shown in four views depicting each side of the plane supported by the painting scheme of the whole cockpit interior. Planes histories are briefly described in two-three sentences under the side profiles. I have found three most significant differences between both planes: individual number on the vertical stabilizer, size and position of swastikas on the rudder and types of balkenkreuzes on the wings. This sheet is also an instruction of the decals placement.
Photo-etched fret is bigger than I expected. Fret is made from brass. We will find here a lot of useful details which could not be made in plastic with this level of detail. One of the details which we get on the fret are circular inspection hatches, however I find it very difficult to locate them in the assembly instruction, I found just two of them. Other details are gun-sights for machine guns, imitations of machine gun radiators on the barrels, few handles and crew seat-belts of course. One of the belts have an imitation of leather skin – it looks interesting and should ease achieving different tones and shades of leather during painting.
Decals in my model kit consists of three sheets. One of them are just two balkenkreuzes. On the second we can find Bulgarian stencils and producer emblems together with few decals for cockpit instruments. The biggest decal contains other remaining balkenkreuzes, sliced swastikas and red decorative details for the fuselage. What I'm already afraid is a problem of matching the right colour for the engine cowling with the colour of these decals.
Carrier film is very thin and hard to see. You can't even feel it under a finger. This is an advantage of course as it should nicely settle down on the kit surface.
My first dry fittings showed quite nice match of the main parts. I suppose this kit will be very similar in building to its predecessor. Although it still lacks the quality of the best world producers it still represents a very solid “good” level of details. It's a pity that Mirage decided to release the kit only with the Luftwaffe markings. I think three or four options would be perfect (say one for Polish and German and two for Bulgarian machines). Let us hope that Mirage will soon release this kit in the “Bulgarian only” boxing, as it was done with P-11c or P-24.
To sum up this kit is in my opinion one of the best model kits ever released of the Polish designed and produced airplane. It's really worth building.
Related reviews published on Aeroscale
Below you can find some reviews of the kits related to PZL.43 published by other Aeroscalers.
PZL-23A Karaś review by Rowan Baylis.
PZL-23B Karaś review by Rowan Baylis.
German WW1 & Polish WW2 Bombs review by Jean-Luc Formery.
German WWI & Polish WWII Pt.I review by Stephen T. Lawson.
German WWI & Polish WWII Pt.II review by Stephen T. Lawson.
”PZL.23 Karaś” - Mushroom Model Publishing book review by Jean-Luc Formery
PZL-23A Karaś – Eduard details review by Rowan Baylis.