The subject
The Piasecki (later Boeing Vertol) H-21 Workhorse/Shawnee was a Tandem rotor helicopter build from 1952 to 1959 and used until 1967. Affectionally called the Flying Banana, or ‘Banana volante’ by the French, it served with the US Army and Air Force, the Luftwaffe, the Swedish Navy, JASDF & JGSDF, the Canadian Navy and all the French Armed forces and several civilian operators like New York Airways and Sabena for the 1956 Belgian world fair.

It served a multitude of missions from it’s original role as Artic rescue helicopter to troop and supply transporter as well as fulfilling ground attack roles in Vietnam and Algeria. Due to it’s original envisioned role the helicopter was outfitted with winterization features, enabling it to operate at temperatures as low as −54 °C or −65 °F and could be maintained at comparable cold environments.



The kit

  • Subject: H-21C Shawnee “Flying Banana”
  • Manufacturer: Italeri
  • Scale: 1/48
  • Parts count: – (- styrene, 22 clear) 1 photo-etch fret (11 parts)
  • Serial: 2733
  • Price: 40EUR – USD
  • Personal rating: ✭✭✭✭ ✭✭✭
  • Pros: Outside well detailed, detailed decal sheet, engine included and can be displayed
  • Cons: Low detail inside and no instrument panel, no optional additions, some flash

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So after 3 years of anticipation Italeri finally delivered it’s long overdue 1/48 H-21C. Italeri provides us with matte and usual open top box with a dramatic yet beautiful box art of a Vietnam H-21C dropping several troops while receiving enemy fire.

Inside the box we can find four styrene frames, of which two are doubles, and one clear frame. Also includes is a photo-etch fret and a large decal sheet, which even includes different stencils for each of the three provided airframes. Last but not least is an A4 instructions sheet with colour painting charts. Overal the detail seems nice, consisting mostly of recessed panel lines.

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A frame
When looking at the A frame the most notable parts are the two fuselage halves found on each side of the sprue. These are riddled with recessed rivet details and engraved panels lines and give a very impressive feeling. The detail overal is very nice, although here and there some rivets seem to not have been fully engraved through, and at the cockpit framing and at the top of the right fuselage where the photo-etch mesh is supposed to go we do find some tiny bits of flash that the builder should address, but removing this should prove no problem to the average builder.


Other parts that we can find are the main rotor hubs, sliding cargo doors, front landing gear wheel, engine cover doors and a few other tiny ‘do-dats’. Overal the detail with these parts is very nice as well and I don’t see anything out of place.

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B frame
The second frame holds the other large parts that come with this kit, which are mainly the cockpit and cargo interior, the engine and its interior and some of the main landing gear parts. Again the parts are well detailed, combining both recessed and raised details. There is also a corner cut out of the frame and an obvious opening in the frame, which makes me assume that there was a part there that we might see in a different kit in the future.

However, I should note that the cockpit instruments in contrary to the rest of the kit is not very detailed, and that the instrument panel is just a flat part that should be covered with a decal. Once build the instrument panel will be hard to see in any way, so for the average builder this shouldn’t be a problem. But even so it is sad that this is the option we get.

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C frame
The last styrene frame is included twice. Also here we can find some larger spaces left open, further convincing me that we will see other, different H-21 kits in the future from Italeri. What we do get besides the obvious openings are the rotor blades, interior details from both the cargo (troop seats) and cockpit section (pilot seats), the horizontal and vertical stabilisers and the main landing wheels.

A nice detail with this frame can be found with the rotor blades. At first I was a bit confused why Italeri designed the attachment points of the rotor blades in such a way that they seemed to bend them upward. Upon examination of the instruction sheet it became clear that this in fact replicated the rotor blades bending downward when stationary, which is a nice touch!

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Clear Frame
The clear frame is bagged separately inside the bag that holds the A & B sprue, and consists of 22 parts of which the main canopy framing stands out the most. Thanks to the careful packaging not a single scratch can be found on any of the parts. Also nice is the option to display the open as sliding canopy sides are included on the sprue as well.

Notable is that the windows are molded clear, while the framing is molded matte and a little bit raised compared to the windows. This helps out tremendously when the builder is masking the canopy in preparation of painting. The last thing is that this very part only has one sprue attachment point, which was already hanging on by a thread when I first opened the kit.

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Photo-etch fret
As with other recent Italeri helicopter kits, we’re also provided with a photo-etch fret. In total we can find 11 parts including several seat belts as well as structural detail found in the engine compartment and a mesh that goes on top of the fuselage section that houses the engine.

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The decal sheet provided with the kit is quite large and rather impressive. In total we get three marking options for aircraft, which even includes different stencilling for each the three different machines and different stencilling for both the US and French rotor blades. Even the large black and yellow band of paint on the USAF fuselage is included as decal (although personally I would paint this).

The only thing that I’m not sure about is the silvering, as the decals (and blue backing) appear to be very shiny.

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In total we get the choice between three markings options, a Vietnam era US Army version, a NAS Turner Field based USAF and a French Navy machine from the Algerian conflict . These are the following.

  • U.S. Army, 93rd Transport Company, Crew chief John Beatty, Da Nang, Vietnam, 1963
  • B. U.S.A.F., M.A.T.S., NAS Turner Field, Albany (Ga), USA, 1960
  • C. Aeronavale, flottille 31F, Algeria, 1956

Two out of the three of these markings are the same as some of the markings included with the previous Italeri 1/72 boxing (serial 1315), being the French Navy and the US Air Force airframes.

Below is an image of a comparable U.S. Air Force H-21C of the 10th Rescue Group which is painted in the same way, being overal Silver with gloss orange upper surfaces and tail combined with a black bordered yellow band around the aft fuselage. The only thing differing from the provided markings is the serial number found on the tail. Also noteable on both the photograph and the marking option is the depiction of the drop tank found on the bottom of the fuselage. However, no drop tanks or even hard points are included with this kit.


The second marking option is that depicted on the box cover, showing a machine serving with the 93rd Transport Company dropping some troops during the Vietnam war. This machine is painted in overal ‘flat olive drab’, with grey/black walkways found on the top of the fuselage.

Although the machine on the picture below is not entirely the same, we’re again faced with the fact that some of these machines used drop tanks. Also very noteable are the white stencils found all over the fuselage, for which decals are included.


The last marking option is the French Navy machine FR106 in overal ‘Gloss French blue’. This very airframe is presented as how it would have appeared in 1956 during the Algerian War of Independence. At this moment this very aircraft can be found on display at the “Ailes Anciennes” Museum at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport.

It might be worth noting that with the last version that although the aircraft was mainly used as a troop transport, the French also attempted to use the H-21 in ground attack roles during this same period. Mounting them with fixed, forward-firing rockets and machine guns was not an uncommon practise. However, it was also quickly determined that the aircraft did not posses the features needed for this role. Eventually it was far more successful as a troop transport using flexible door-mounted guns like 50.cals or 20mm cannons.

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The instructions sheet is presented a booklet the size of an A4 sheet of paper. The instructions themselves are presented in the classical Italeri way with photographs. In total these are divided into 15 steps with several sub-steps between them. Overal the steps look clear, yet the information seemed to be packed together at times.

The conclusion
When this kit was officially announced I was full of anticipation and had to wait 3 years for it to arrive. Now that it is here I’m happy to see it, but I do feel like Italeri dropped the ball here and there. Especially considering they worked on it for 3+ years. Near the edges of the fuselage the detail hasn’t been engraved all the way through or is engraved double, while the instrument panels aren’t all that detailed or not even there and on a few places there already are some tiny traces of flash. The kit is also not that cheap with a price tag of at least 40euros.

However, it is still a lot cheaper compared to the 2005/2006 Special Hobby kit which is roughly 1,3-1,5x times that price (in Europe). The Italeri kit also provides a detailed cargo interior and an engine that we can display, the latter being an option that wasn’t available with that other kit. We also get a small photo-etch fret, just like the Special Hobby kit.

Looking at the empty holes on some of the frames I feel like Italeri is going to release more versions of the H-21 in the future as they did with their Westland Wessex kits, so I’m very excited to see some more float or ski equipped H-21 versions soon! All round this is a kit providing a basic H-21 that any tandem whirlybird, SAR or Vietnam era fan should add to to their collection. However, it is also a kit that is far from perfect and will need some work if you are hoping to win some awards with it.

I wouldn’t recommend this for someone who’s new to the hobby, but any average modeller should not have to many problems making this kit look amazing!

For those interested to build the kit and use some references there is this walk around of the Piasecki H-21 found at Tokorozawa Aviation Museum near Tokyo, Japan.