Supermodel 1/72 CANT Z.506B
Airone (Heron)
by Richard Mendes


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The Cantieri Aeronautici e Navali Triestini (CANT) Z.506 Airone (Heron) was amongst the largest wooden aircraft to see combat during the 20th Century. Designed by Filippo Zappata (1894-1994) as a transport and postal aircraft, militarized Airones were amongst the best WWII seaplanes, flying reconnaissance, bomber and air-sea rescue missions with the Regia Aeronautica Italia (RAI), Regia Marina (RM), Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (ANR), Aeronautica Cobelligerante del Sud, Aviación Nacional Espania, the Luftwaffe and the British Royal Air Force, some Z.506S’ flying air-sea rescue missions till 1959.

The Z.506 derived from the larger and heavier Z.505 seaplane sole example which first flew on July 10, 1935 powered by three Isotta Fraschini Asso XI in-lines was designed as a 12 to 14-seat transport first flying on August 19, 1935 powered by three Piaggio Stella IX radials production commencing in 1936 as the Z.506A powered by Alfa Romeo 126 radials. The wooden fuselage was covered in tulipier lamellas, mainwings three box-type wood spars linked by wooden wing-ribs covered in plywood, duraluminum floats covered in chitonal.

The first civil Z.506A Airones flew with Ala Littoria militarized Z.506Bs entering service in 1939 with the RAI and RM powered by Alfa Romeo 127 radials manufactured by Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico and CANT as well as Piaggio under license. Total Airone production between 1935 and 1943 was approximately 346 aircraft including the prototype, 314 Z.506Bs and Z.506S’ (some Bs were converted to S’), civil Z.506As and Z.506Cs constituting the balance. One Z.506 was converted into a land plane for CANT Chief Test Pilot Mario Stoppani (1895-1959) to attempt an endurance record but was aborted because of bad weather.

The militarized CANT Z.506B had a crew of five; defensive armament one dorsal mounted 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT, one ventral, two fuselage beam mounted 7.7mm machine guns, offensive 2,600lbs bombs, mines or one 1,800lb torpedo in an internal bomb bay.







Operational History
The Airone saw more than 20 years of service, Z.506Bs were first employed as reconnaissance and torpedo bombers during the Spanish Civil War. Soon after WWII began four RAI Air-Sea Rescue Squadriglie were formed in Orbetello, Italy some being civil registered aircraft; 612a at Stagnoni with I-BUIE, I-CANT (Z.506 prototype), I-DAMB, I-GORO, I-POLA, 614a at Benghazi with I-ALA, I-DAIM, I-DUCO, I-DODO, two other sections with two aircraft each at Torre del Lago in Tuscany and Leros in the Aegean latter soon transferred to Rhodes. When Italy entered WWII on June 10, 1940 ninety-seven Airones were operational with two Stormi da Bombardamento Marittimo (BM-Sea Bombing) and some Squadriglia da Ricognizione Marittima units; 31° Stormo BM (22 at Cagliari-Elmas, Sardinia) and 35° Stormo BM (25 at Brindisi, Puglia) against France and Greece during 1940-41.

The Airone first saw action on June 17, 1940 after Armée de l'Air Française bombers attacked Cagliari Elmas airbase in Sardinia killing 21 airmen and destroying some CANT Z.501s, four 31° Stormo Z.506Bs attacking targets in French North Africa that evening. Airones also participated in the inconclusive Battle of Calabria on July 9, 1940 against British Empire naval forces as reeces. During the 1940-41 Italo-German Greek Campaign Airones were employed as reeces and bombers against coastal targets and the Corinth canal participating in the conquests of Corfu, Cephalonia, Zante et. al. Greek islands, but were vulnerable to fighter attack and were later restricted to reece duty.

Later in WWII Airones were employed as maritime patrol and air-sea rescue aircraft the Z.506S (Soccorso-Rescue) built specifically for the latter operational role although some were attacked by Allied fighters. The Luftwaffe employed small numbers of Airones as well as the British Royal Air Force (captured) and Aviación Nacional Espania (interned) before and after the September 8, 1943 Italian Armistice, one even being hijacked by Allied prisoners of war and flown to Malta.

When the Italian Armistice was announced approximately 70 RAI and RM Airones were available, thirty Z.506S’ subsequently going to the newly formed Aeronautica Cobelligerante del Sud. The Luftwaffe flew Airones in Italy, Germany, France, Poland and Yugoslavia, as well as to surviving Greek island Wehrmacht garrisons, some ex-RAI 171a Squadriglia crews flying air-sea rescue and patrol missions from Toulon, France with mixed Italian/German crews. A few Luftwaffe Airones flown by Italian volunteer crews patrolled the Baltic Sea adjacent to the Heeresversuchsanstalt Peenemünde (Peenemünde Army Research Centre) in 1944 whilst rocket research and launchings were being conducted.








Construction

The 1983-vintage SUPERMODEL CANT Z.506B was amongst the last kits issued by this Italian firm prior to Italeri acquiring them and along with the 2015-vintage retooled Italeri kit are the only 1/72 scale injection-molded offerings of these shapely Italian seaplanes. Several reviews have been written about these kits over the decades so I won’t repeat them other than in conjunction with building my SUPERMODEL kit.

The SUPERMODEL kit first came to my attention the year it was released, excited over it being the company’s first new kit release of an WWII Italian warbird since 1973 I nevertheless passed on buying any. In early 2010 I purchased one intending to build it in mimetico livery as seen in the accompanying photos. The SUPERMODEL kit decal sheet doesn’t include many mimetico livery options so I bought the Tauro Decal Sheet 72-554 that included a few, after SEM Model issued their CANT Z.506C resin conversion kit I purchased one retooled Italeri kit as a parts donor, the decal sheet included many Mimetico livery options so I extensively incorporated them in with my SUPERMODEL kit build.

The SUPERMODEL CANT Z.506B kit though well molded was difficult to build, with poor mainwing-fuselage collar and tailplane-rudder sail joins being particularly troublesome, puttying and sanding them in would have ruined surface detail so I aligned them as best as possible to minimize gaps. Fuselage Interior detail was spartan ala the SUPERMODEL Z.1007bis Monoderiva and Bideriva kits though three options for the dorsal machine gun station were provided, fitting any in entailed difficult putty and sanding work. Fuselage, mainwing, tailplane-rudder, engine-cowling-propeller, float et. al. component painting and assembly work was straightforward though transparent parts required extensive puttying and sanding work. Gluing float pylons and spar braces on to mainwings and fuselage was fraught with anxiety, near everything went well except all spar braces had to be extended with glued-on plastic sheet sandpapered to shape, painted then glued in place with considerable difficulty. Airones had cable stays for the spar braces so these were replicated with black EZ-Line rubberized thread, several tries were necessary gluing them all in.




Painting and Decals
Painting the SUPERMODEL Airone kit part interiors with a 50/50 mix of Humbrol 78 Matt Cockpit Green and Testors Flat White replicating Verde Anticorrosione, exteriors Humbrol 125 U.S. Satin Dark Gray replicating Giorgio Azzurro Scuro 3 and Testors Model Master 1726 Light Sea Gray replicating Grigio Azzurro Chiaro 1 each lightened 36% with Testors Flat White enamels was straightforward. Testors Aluminum, Black, Bronze, Olive Green, Red, Rubber, Rust et. al. flat enamels were employed as detailing colors.

The SUPERMODEL Airone was my first RAI model build in Giorgio Azzurro Scuro 3 + Grigio Azzurro Chiaro 1 livery requiring extensive surface weathering paint work - the first employing extensive single and multiple color line shading effects. Some hours of Internet research was conducted over how to go about weathering the model, several approaches to line shading were evaluated brush and/or spraying on wide and/or narrow lines on with acrylics and/or enamels in particular. Brushing and/or spraying on acrylics over enamel paint would be difficult spraying on enamels would be easier as with correcting mistakes.

Having weathered other models with shaded base colors chose to spray on out of bottle Humbrol 125 and Model Master 1726 enamels along molded-in Mainwing longerons, spars et. al. locations in a symmetrical manner per Internet research to replicate weathering. To replicate fuselage and rudder sail weathering out of bottle paints were sprayed along the bulkhead and longeron locations per internet photos, due to insufficient research information none was sprayed on the tailplanes. The floats were also line sprayed with out of bottle paints along bulkhead and longeron locations several shades of spot-mixed out of bottle paints with Testors Flat Rust and White sprayed along seams, waterlines and undersides.

All spray work was accomplished with Testors Aztek A320 Single and A470 Double Action airbrushes, 9304CX 0.30mm, 9305CX 0.40mm, 9306CX 0.50mm spray nozzles. Large-area spraying was accomplished with 0.50mm & 0.40mm nozzles. Enamel paints have distinctive behaviors requiring different solutions to achieve smooth flow with as few "spits" possible, an ever persistent issue associated with building RAI airplane models.

I used the decals from Italeri Kit No. 1360, RAI 171a Squadriglia "Red-White 8", gray engine cowling fasci and rudder Distintivo di Guerra House of Savoy Crests from Tauro Decal Sheet 72-554.

Technical Data

Aircraft: CANT Z.506B
Manufacturer: Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico
Type: Bomber
Year: 1937
Engine: Three Alfa Romeo, A.R. 126 RC 34 9-cylinder radial, air-cooled, 750 hp each
Wingspan: 86 ft 11 in (26.50 m)
Length: 63 ft 1 1/2 in (19.24 m)
Height: 24 ft 3 in (7.39 m)
Weight: 27,115 lb (12,299 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum Speed: 226 mph (364 km/h) at 13,120 ft (4,000 m)
Ceiling: 26,240 ft (7,997 m)
Range: 1,700 miles (2,745 km)
Armament: 4 machine guns; 2,650 lb (1,200 kg) of bombs
Crew: 5

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November, 2018
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