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HPH, Infinity Model ... and poor decisions!


Artful69

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A few years back the owners of HPH announced that they were creating a company to produce subjects in injection moulded plastic ... aiming to venture more heavily into the retail market - a move away from their resin subjects.

Within the last 48 hours, I’ve discovered – less than 4 years after that announcement ... and with only 3 subjects released (one of them not really having filtered through into the retail market yet), that they may be inclined to discontinue this venture. This doesn’t leave a great impression - as continual ‘news’ posts from those connected with the company throughout the first couple of years have suggested a myriad of different subjects were to be developed and released … almost like a wish list.

The first I had heard about the shift towards IM was via Mireks' announcement on the HPH Vendors page over on LSP on October 1, 2019.

It was a simple statement - "Plastic age in HpH started :-)" ... along with a link to their post on "Modelforum.CZ" showing one of HPH's most recent resin offerings (the SB2C), recast via injection moulding. Given the actual release date of this kit, I would suggest that sprue photo taken at that time was a test shot from some of the initial moulding.

The business model for HPH appears to me to be quite sound ... Their main focus is in producing large scale, museum quality models for both public museums and private commissions ... It's obviously served them quite well, given that they've been around since long before I jumped back into the hobby in 2008. The ‘scale model’ production is a side business (more of a hobby) and the main medium utilised to date is resin casting - especially for the smaller parts and I'm led to believe that fibreglass is used for a lot of the larger castings. Apparently, this is because, while resin holds detail really well, it is also subject to shrinkage in casting - so the smaller the parts cast in resin, the less problems experienced in assembly.

At whatever point in time - HPH decided that making some of their resin work available for public consumption might be a good idea. Again ... the business model seems quite sound ... produce a limited run of resin cast parts in 1/32 scale for a particular aircraft of esoteric interests, not likely to be produced by injection moulding due to lower demand. Because of their passion for modelling, their focus was on making sure the subject was detailed and done accurately. The other side of that coin was that the process of releasing the kit to market (design, master creation, moulds, casting, QA, presentation, advertising and distribution) is quite expensive and the retail price per item therefore, is quite large.

Part of the reason for this is the effect of what we call in economics, a lack of economies of scale ... in short: the less numbers you produce of an item, the more cost per item you will experience because certain ‘development’ costs at the front end have fewer end products to distribute that cost over. Another reason is the type of design and production used. There is a reason why injection moulded model kits are still the cheapest retail kits on the market on a per-kit basis!

I know that a lot of folk were complaining about the retail price of each resin kit to start with. My philosophy is this - it is what it is - yes it might be steep, but that's the price you pay for a quality kit in limited production (it is produced that way, because of the limited demand for it!). Presentation was sound, instructions were good, detail was excellent and customer service was also pretty decent ... they even provided a chocolate inside the box! Shortly after the first few subject releases however, we started seeing feedback on the forums of the difficulty in assembly ... some kits hit the shelf of doom because parts would simply not fit no matter what you did to them. By and large these complaints were ignored by the community. This is probably because it was more a fault of the medium used rather than the manufacturer ... we know what we're walking into with resin - so it's always a 'buyer beware!' proposition.

The point where I started to change my mind about the company, was when a fellow modeller went to work on one of their more recent releases a few years back ... the F7F Tigercat. The build started full of enthusiasm on 8th Nov 2017 and currently meanders out to an incomplete build thread of 74 pages long in mid 2022 - the kit fighting a desperate rear-guard action with the builder at every step in the process. Significant scratch building work needed to be done to fix some questionable engineering choices - but the main issue to my mind was that the entire moulding of panel-lines on one wing were completely wrong - think Trumpeter 'Z team' out-in-the-alleyway-at-the-back-of-the-factory wrong! ... The issue was pointed out to the team at HPH who just summarily dismissed the complaint. For mine this was completely against their previously displayed values as a company (an accurate representation of a subject, presented in a quality fashion with focus on customer interest and care) ... and I could not reconcile the product provided with the amount of money being charged for it - along with what appeared to be a blasé attitude toward the customer.

Now I know we all complain about something like the Hobby Boss A-26 Invader ... But here's the deal - It's relatively cheap as a starting base ... I mean, there's a whole lot of plastic there for a lot less than $200 AUD ... Yes, I know that a lot of that plastic is inaccurate and that there are plenty of shape issues with the aircraft. But just stop for a second here and look at the market for it ... Price is always a consideration for a purchase. It's mass produced - which also means it's mass marketed ... it's not specifically targeted at A-26 fans – never mind SIG 1/32. To a lot of people (let's be honest - most people) taking a quick look at a few period photos - it's a Douglas A-26 Invader ... a cool subject with guns and turrets and stuff. To a very select few of us (and I am not really 100% in this category!) the kit is a half hearted abomination of what an A-26 should be! - Yet it's probably sold really well due to the balance of cheap retail price (compared to similar sized model kits at between a third extra and double the price) and the availability across a huge network of advertisers, retail outlets and so on, world wide. I bought it ... and will probably build it as is ... Same with their B-24 ... a shame that they mucked it up - but far from unbuildable (especially with a couple of AM clear resin turrets thrown in!)

The point is ... with the retail of model kits ... your marketing, product detailing, medium(s), packaging etc needs to reflect what you are actually trying to achieve. In HB's case above ... Sales, sales, sales to a blanket market who really don't necessarily know (or care about) the subject on an intimate level in order to make a profit on the initial investment cost. Every company out there has variation on this business model ... 

ZM has a quality production method with a unique assembly style as their point of difference. Their kits are expensive but have created a large fan base in a short space of time because of their attention to detail and overall quality of product ... Tamiya are known for presentation, quality, detail, accuracy and fit (pretty much the full package) ... but again - you're paying for it! Note that they selected fairly popular subjects of WWII aircraft as well (John alone is probably responsible for half the Corsair sales!). HKM's point of difference is BIG (and detailed) aircraft ... Starting with the B-25 (a bomber FFS!) and then doubling down with the B-17 and the Lancaster ... again, these products are expensive - but there is a lot of plastic for the price paid ... and all of it quality! ... Their Mosquito bombed (no pun intended – but it seems to be a bit of a retail shelf queen) with some HB type inaccuracies (and I seriously hope that one day they can afford to go back and revise the kit – because Tamiya stopped with the FB (when they could have so easily re-boxed the kit with the modular sprue for the B.Mk.IV or the PR.Mk.IV)

And ... Just so we know a sound business plan isn't limited to injection moulded subjects - look at what Jetmads has achieved ... Absolutely stunning kits where presentation, accuracy, detail, engineering, fit and finish come together wonderfully ... Yes they are extravagantly priced - but not that much more than a good IM offering, while based on a very similar business model to HPH. Esoteric subjects that are popular enough to sell in a limited production run. If you Really want that subject in 1/32 - here's your option.

To enter the the 1/32 market for Aircraft at this point, you need to be aware of one thing always ... Customer perception ... above all - you need to be offering 'bang for buck'. For every dollar spent a customer will be expecting 'more' in return ... but more of what exactly? ... More accuracy, more engineering quality, more detail (or plastic), better fit and finish ... more options in the build. Basically 'more' of any one thing (or a combination of things) that conveys value for money to them - NOT to you - the manufacturer. You need to spend a day in your customers shoes ... regularly! Obviously the cheaper the kit, the more inclined people will be to buy it ... so for every incremental increase in price point, you need to be offering something that makes the extra expense worth the outlay! We've covered a few of those value points above. But does anyone here believe for even a second, that ZM sells as many Bf.109's as Revell - in the same scale?? I know I don't ... and I would much rather buy the ZM kit any day of the week over the Revell offering ...

But why is this so? ... Two different target markets! ... Revell is the mass produced 'looks-pretty-much-like-a-109' kit ... that may, in fact, be a fairly accurate representation. Designed from the outset to be a mass seller to the worldwide market - and priced accordingly. ZM's customer base is a lot more focused and discerning box-to-finished product, expecting quality, accuracy and detail all the way.

Infinity started with a subject in 1/32 that had already been done in HPH's resin line up – of an esoteric subject ... and apparently wasn't a great seller in that regard either - customer perceptions that I picked up in a variety of forum conversations were that it was: overpriced and an absolute mission to assemble ... something that had been a constant in feedback from previously released subjects already. So why start the IM line up with this particular subject? We can speculate until the cows arrive home from their daily constitutional in the paddock, but I dare say it would have something to do - at least in part - with the amount of pre-existing research and design already completed for the resin kit (a cost saving concern). The kit was always going to be limited run moulds ... but let's face it ... even these are expensive!! ... 

That being said ... Initially, you need to have a product priced low enough, of a subject matter popular enough, to attract sales in the first place ... If your pricing is set too high (in order to recoup costs invested over a limited run) you immediately restrict your sales away from the average affordability levels of most ... add to that (again), an esoteric subject? - you've dropped more potential sales again ... and then there's the quality of your product ... If you don't hit the nail on the head with a certain amount of 'wow' factor on your first 2-3 subjects, your projections for business success are not looking good ... 

So … look back to their comment history around start up and have a look at their originally announced line up. Out of 8 subjects projected, there are only 2 subjects that would have had a reasonable chance of making some solid profit margins (the Me.410 and the Beaufighter TF.X) … and both of these are slated to be released LAST!  

Of course the line up has changed a few times since – but this list sheds some light on the thought processes being applied. An Aichi D3A1 Val was announced for late 2023 … Interest levels started high and only grew from there … Sure, the subject is a little more esoteric than others … but not even half as much as the SB2C and the Vampire … If most people were to name the top 6 single engine aircraft from the early stages of the PTO, surrounding the first three major (and famous!!) actions involving the US: Pearl Harbour, Coral Sea and Midway (slot Guadalcanal in there if you like!) … you would have:

A6M2b Zeke, D3A1 Val, B5N2 Kate, TBD-1 Devastator, SBD Dauntless, F4F Wildcat …

Every other aircraft type is a cameo … P.40’s, B-26’s, B-17’s, TBF Avengers etc etc

It probably sucks … but just as race wins and sales create interest in certain performance car models, famous battles create interest in military vehicles … more so than other military vehicles and civilian types.

The point is … To illustrate how popular this particular choice of subject was - people everywhere, having seen the line-up, started asking: “what about the Kate?” … I mean … if you’re going to make a Val why not make its combat partner - after all, they were always used in tandem. I think it took them less than a month to announce the Kate into their line up after the Val announcement was posted up on the forums … and more importantly, it was bumped in ahead of a few of the other previously announced and more questionable choices. 

Better late than never, I guess … but the attitude is most obviously reactive! In the initial set up of a brand new business and business model – you must be pro-active … set up opinion polls on multiple forums … put up a list of 10 subjects you’re thinking of making and see which are the most popular … out of the 8 initially put forward by infinity, I’d wager that the Beaufighter would have scored best (by quite a margin) over the others … with either the Val or the Me.410 coming in second (most likely the Me.410)… so then, lead with that one! … On a variety of forums people had been crying out for ages for a new tooled large scale Beau to replace the ancient Revell offering that had been re-popped so many times it must be an all time winner in the ROI stakes! … Do that one first … do it right …. 

Even if your product standard on the first couple of kits with fit and finish slips a little (no-one gets it completely right the first time) people move past that because the subject matter is so attractive it distracts them. Any potential loss of sales is countered by the people who just want that subject!! … Look at Fly Models new tooled Hurricanes as an example – not a perfect assembly by any stretch, but because the demand for a new tooled detailed and accurate product was in high demand, they sold like hotcakes!

Meanwhile if you are passionate about getting it right and being successful, you take the various commentary and build review feedback around the place, refine current processes and learn new ones for subsequent releases … à-la ZM … and before you know it you are in a position where you can release one esoteric subject for every three popular subjects – all of notable quality in production … Before Kotare came to light they could have even announced a Spitfire Mk.Vb! There a so many popular choices that would have given them a great product launch.

I don’t so much have a problem with the resin cast detail parts … why not? … Fly Model did it for their Hurricanes, Special Hobby did it for their Tempest etc … But with each release the subject was popular and the option of an all in one kit or a ‘budget’ kit was offered. And for crying out loud - check your pricing!! … Selling a short run IM kit of a single engined bomber even with resin detailing should be vaguely comparable to similar products out there … such as a Trumpeter TBF or SBD with some AM details added. If I’m going to be paying more than that, there must be some justification as to why that is!

I hope their Val sells well … I made up my mind well before I saw ANY of their design work that I was going to buy one … and the same with the Kate, the Me.410 (even though I already have the HPH resin version) and the Beaufighter TF.X … When they enquired about a German Bomber, the Do.17z was mentioned - the only one still missing from the Polish Campaign, BOF or BOB line up (and from what I remember, taken up by them as a future subject). I might have eventually bought a Vampire … but only because it was used in RAAF service at one point.

None of the other subjects hold any interest for me and I would dare say that goes for a lot of other potential customers out there although I believe that an SM.79 Sparviero was mentioned at some point, somewhere - drawing some interest. It certainly looks interesting!

Given that your production and maybe even your marketing chain is going to need some tweaking no matter what you do initially … in order to give your business the best possible launch, the subject needs to be chosen well. Hype generates hype.

As stated previously, HPH seem to view this Infinity set up as a side business to their main passion. I feel that their initial subject choice was a reflection of the lack of understanding of the particular market segment focus that was needed. In the marketplace it is demand that sets supply. If you are moving out of a ‘niche’ style system toward a ‘mass production’ model - changes in your target market and approach to that market are required … gone is the flexibility in choice of subject matter … Even Peter Jackson with his millions couldn’t escape this reality!

If the crew at HPH have decided that running an IM company is too much trouble for them purely because it’s taking their attention away from their main focus or they have discovered that they do not have the staffing capacity to service the business – fair enough. Annoying that the cost was not properly counted before 'announcing' place holders on a stack of kits, but a fair call nonetheless. But if the main reason for abandoning the business is the low sales results - then that is something that only they can control … there’s no point bemoaning it and making the suggestion that customers can save the company by buying product that they don’t like or want and is drastically overpriced for the quality or quantity of product delivered when compared to competitors in the marketplace that they have chosen. Instead of rejecting feedback, take it on board … self examine … make adjustments where necessary (they may not necessarily have to be large ones) and evolve … It’s what every successful organisation does!

Rog :)

 

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Rog, nice thoughts. You hit the nail on the head.   But HPH’s main business is aerospace.  They produce components for Boeing, Airbus, and various other manufacturers, as well as produce and sell their own complete line of full scale sailplanes.  
https://hph.cz

The entire model business is a sideshow.

I tend to differ in opinion on the Helldiver. It, quite simply, is not a bad kit, and other than the one huge mistake with the rear canopy, it’s pretty buildable. 
But you need to go in with a short run mindset, and dammit, you better have built a few short run kits already, or you’ll be caught short. You know on these types of kits: treat them like a resin kit that’s already had the parts trimmed off their blocks. Prefit EVERYTHING and sand to fit. Don’t assume a single, solitary thing. Do that, deal with the canopy, and you’ll have a decent representation of a parked, closed up Helldiver. Which, by the way, is the only mid to late war US carrier based bomber we didn’t have in 1/32. The Helldiver, in prototype form and in a model, is an extremely complex aircraft  keep that in mind  just adding an open rear gun position is a major job  

Smitty built the Vampire and had no difficulty. His looks stunning.  I have the kit and will eventually build it.

The feedback is coming in on the Val, and so far, it appears to be a game changer for Infinity. The word is that it needs little to no AM, although I’ll throw the book at it just because I enjoy that stuff.

I’m hoping they don’t give up on the market. If the Val is as good as it sounds, it’ll be a good seller, and I expect the Kate will be just as good. Only time will tell. 

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The Val and Kate will be goldmines for HPH/Infinity. I’ve wanted these right up there with the Helldiver. I’d dig a Beau, but a Firefly is my FAA gotta get  

I would also love an L-39. To me, it and the L-29 are the most important Czech designs to come out, after the CZ75 and Bren Gun. 
The L-39 and the upgraded L-139 are flown literally everywhere in the world, including the USAF as an aggressor. And it’s bloody gorgeous!  The BAE Hawk is about the only jet even close to the L-39.

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5 hours ago, Clunkmeister said:

Rog, nice thoughts. You hit the nail on the head.   But HPH’s main business is aerospace.  They produce components for Boeing, Airbus, and various other manufacturers, as well as produce and sell their own complete line of full scale sailplanes.  
https://hph.cz

The entire model business is a sideshow.

I tend to differ in opinion on the Helldiver. It, quite simply, is not a bad kit, and other than the one huge mistake with the rear canopy, it’s pretty buildable. 
But you need to go in with a short run mindset, and dammit, you better have built a few short run kits already, or you’ll be caught short. You know on these types of kits: treat them like a resin kit that’s already had the parts trimmed off their blocks. Prefit EVERYTHING and sand to fit. Don’t assume a single, solitary thing. Do that, deal with the canopy, and you’ll have a decent representation of a parked, closed up Helldiver. Which, by the way, is the only mid to late war US carrier based bomber we didn’t have in 1/32. The Helldiver, in prototype form and in a model, is an extremely complex aircraft  keep that in mind  just adding an open rear gun position is a major job  

Smitty built the Vampire and had no difficulty. His looks stunning.  I have the kit and will eventually build it.

The feedback is coming in on the Val, and so far, it appears to be a game changer for Infinity. The word is that it needs little to no AM, although I’ll throw the book at it just because I enjoy that stuff.

I’m hoping they don’t give up on the market. If the Val is as good as it sounds, it’ll be a good seller, and I expect the Kate will be just as good. Only time will tell. 

Heya Ern ...

Thanks for the feedback!!

I must have been a little vague with my comments about HPH's business ... I was specifically referring to their involvement with the manufacture of models ... not the entire company ... The main focus of their model building is museum and private contracts ... My bad lol.

I don't think the IM version of the SB2C is necessarily bad ... just poor in relation to its competition at that price point. It's certainly better than the resin version of the same subject! The overall point was: IM type kits are very rarely manufactured to perfection - especially on the first go ... Even ZM kits can provide a struggle to some ... So if you're going to charge that much money? - produce something popular and done as well as can be done as your first subject.

I, too, hope they don't go sooky-sooky-la-la and throw the toys out of the pram... take the 'L' for the poor choices initially and keep progressing ... Besides the Me.410 and the Beau ... I want that bloody Do.17 !!!!

Rog :)

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Do.17 is certainly high on my list, but the kit maker that keeps popping into my head for no apparent earthly reason is ICM for that one.  
As for Infinity, today should tell the tale. I’m anxious to have a peek at it. 

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Rog & Ernie

Well said. I've shied away from the Helldiver and have very little interest in the Val or Kate but that's just me. A Beaufighter would have been a whole different story and an absolute purchase. Add a SB2U Vindicator to the initial release list and I would have been all over it and bought at least two! Knowing and understanding your market is the issue as to the necessary building skills is something quite different. 

I was a very active member of LSP when Brian's lifetime dream kit, the Grumman F7F Tigercat (resin) was released and he jumped all over it and Brian's skills are second to none. I was almost ready to buy the kit but when Brian's troubles and nightmares began (still exist to this day), I decided not to purchase the kit. Adding to Rog's list of Brian's war: the gear and specifically the nose gear is a dog. The nose wheel was terribly weak, needed a wire brace extending out the bottom of the strut and is inserted into the nose wheel: come on guys. For a kit of this cost the gear should have been engineered to a higher standard, cast from brass and included with the kit, not AM from another company. Enough said.

The issue here are IM releases. Yes, the Helldiver is a limited run kit and has all the 'building virtues' we have come to expect from such type of kits. Infinity was fresh out of the box and to help purchasers see beyond these fit issues and costs, HPH could have reduced the buyers cost and made it a much more attractive purchase by including a lot of the AM extras with the kit rather then as extras and adding to the final cost of the kit. I'm sure the actual cost put off a percentage of purchasers. 

I'm an average builder and do not enjoy a good fight to build a model, I enjoy building the kit - there is a big difference. I've been accused as being a Tamiya fan boy and proud of it. For my money it's what a high-end kit should be. Presently, I have two ZM kits underway: their new Bf109 and the out of production Skyraider. Which kit so far has been more rewarding to build up to this point of construction: the Skyraider by a mile. I could go on and on but that's not important. Let's just leave it at as ZM engineering has advanced and the 109 does have a number of fit issues, of which a good deal are mine, trying to figure out the correct part orientation and fit. The Skyraider has folding wings, so the difficulty/fit issues are there but solvable with an addendum instruction page on their web site. Am I going to buy the Fw190, right now I haven't decided but leaning towards the "no" right now. Rog compared the Revell kits to the ZM kits and for my money and enjoyment, I would still go Revell.  Revell does have fit issues, nowhere near the details but at their price point, for me, it's a better value when all is said and done.  I recently built the Revell Spitfire Mk IIa and was very happy with the kit. 

Getting back to HPH/Infinity, the kits need to be more strongly marketed as limited production and purchasers need to understand the shortcomings. Online builds and conversations that I've read, the issues of fit have put many buyers off, including me. The Helldiver for the average modeler (which is where I stand in the modeling fraternity), it's a lot to take on and I'm sure there are a lot of Shelf Queens out there residing on the SOD, as the builders were just overwhelmed.

Ernie and John are both way beyond the level of the average modeler and I am guessing, the average builder would/will find the kit more then they bargained for.

I do hope HPH sells enough Vals and Kate's to stay in the game and learn from all the comments over the web on how to improve their kits.

 

 

  

  .

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Peter, good take on that. In all honesty, I’d say that John, even though he’s stopped chasing problems and now just builds mostly for fun and to fill his case, is a more accomplished builder than I am. He has built THREE HPH P-63s, where I built barely one. 
I enjoy the challenge of resin and short run kits.

My big thing now is to work a problem kit and try to find ways to do work around a that’d be easy for an average builder to accomplish. 
I’m of the opinion that nobody at Infinity actually sat down and built the Helldiver from start to finish, using only the kit parts without modification, because I know for an absolute fact that can’t be done. 
The little triangular bulkhead in the fin root behind the gunner does not fit without a stretching machine, and yes, the famous canopy issue. Both are fixable: for the bulkhead, make one from Evergreen card stock, and the canopy can either be sectioned or use the resin kit parts. 
The rest is easy peasy, just measure and sand stuff to fit, as the airframe basics fit beautifully.  

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Ernie

Right on the money and completely agree that no way did anyone at Infinity actually build the kit OOB and if they did, must have come to the exact same conclusions as you. The real question is why? Being their first kit out of the box and first impressions are so important, they should have gone the extra mile and made sure a beautiful model could be built straight out of the box and just as you said; it can't. Shame on them. 

I've said for years you love a good fight and will always find a way to win. Geez, talk about difficult, I remember your WNW Felixstowe F.2a build is at the head of the pack!  A few of the flying wires had issues and somehow you did figure it out. It's called, never giving in and working out a solution, no matter what. :wallbash:

 

 

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2 hours ago, Peterpools said:

Ernie

Right on the money and completely agree that no way did anyone at Infinity actually build the kit OOB and if they did, must have come to the exact same conclusions as you. The real question is why? Being their first kit out of the box and first impressions are so important, they should have gone the extra mile and made sure a beautiful model could be built straight out of the box and just as you said; it can't. Shame on them. 

I've said for years you love a good fight and will always find a way to win. Geez, talk about difficult, I remember your WNW Felixstowe F.2a build is at the head of the pack!  A few of the flying wires had issues and somehow you did figure it out. It's called, never giving in and working out a solution, no matter what. :wallbash:

 

 

Peter, the Felix was a really easy build.  It’s just that there’s a whole lot of it there.   That kit NEEDS structural flying and landing wires. EZ line won’t cut it on that one. It’ll just fall in on itself.

The Helldiver kit is very much like the prototype aircraft. (And I use “prototype” as used in Model Railroading, it refers to the full size machines)

The prototype aircraft were very complicated, squirrelly, and hard to master, but once crews learned how to fight the aircraft, it became the most potent weapon system the USN had in WW2.  In its short front line Service Life, the SB2C sank more tonnage than any other aircraft in the entire war.  Crews and aircraft working together were positively lethal towards the enemy.

It’d reward competence with amazing results, but fight you every step of the way, and simply kill, no questions asked, no second chances, the incompetent or poorly trained. 

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Ernie

The Felixstowe was an amazing. 🏆

I've heard that about the Helldiver and any airplanes in the hands of a good pilot, who is at one and at home with his airplane, always gets the best out of her. 

 

 

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