Review: New World War I Airplane Model Kits

1/72-scale Morane-Saulnier Type I, Tiemens Models, injection molded, price n/a.

The Morane-Saulnier firm produced a series of monoplane fighters throughout the first World War, most of which are known for their very clean, aerodynamic design. However, in this case, looks can be deceiving, for pilots in the British Royal Flying Corps the MS Type I monoplane proved difficult to fly and quite ineffectual in aerial combat. More RFC pilots using this type were killed or injured in accidents than lost to enemy action during mid-1916, and the type was quickly withdrawn from squadron use. This Russian model kit is the only one of the MS Type I yet produced.

The kit is crisply molded in light grey plastic on two sprues, with very little flash. It contains a total of 26 pieces. The basic airframe components, fuselage, wings, tail and landing gear are well molded. However, detail parts are lacking. When compared with scale drawings in Windsock Datafile #58, the fuselage, wings and vertical tail surfaces are generally accurate in outline. The elevators are more the shape of those found on a Morane Saulnier Type N, but can easily be modified to the proper shape The engine is a very basic molded piece, lacking cooling fin detail on the cylinders. The propeller is molded in several pieces, the blades being little more than paddle shaped blobs of plastic. There are no interior pieces or pilot figure. While the brief instruction sheet shows markings for two different machines and instructions for decal application, no decals came with my example of this kit.

This kit could result in a good replica of this rather ineffectual aircraft. You would need to scratch build interior details, carve a propellor, and fit an aftermarket rotary engine to produce a nice model. But all of these tasks are well within the skills of modelers with limited experience. The kit should be a rewarding project for honing those skills. Highly recommended.

1/72-scale Hansa Brandenburg W.29, Pegasus Models, injection-molded white-metal, 13.99.

Pegasus models has been producing a number of fine kits of First World War aircraft in recent years. This latest example continues that tradition. The Hansa Brandenburg W.29 was a two place fighter monoplane on floats which proved to be a very effective in attacking Royal Navy patrol aircraft and shipping in the North Sea during 1918. This aircraft has been the subject of a couple of resin or short-run injection releases with very limited production runs. But the Pegasus kit should prove more widely available than earlier products.

The kit consists of 10 cast, white-metal parts and 15 injection-molded, plastic pieces. The plastic parts are formed in rather soft grey styrene. Two lengths of fine plastic rod are supplied for producing detail parts. Overall the molding of the parts is generally accurate compared with scale drawings in Windsock Datafile #55. However, the floats are several millimeters too short when compared with dimensional drawings prepared in 1918. The wings are commendably thin in their section, but again, comparisons with contemporary drawings show them to be slightly too thin. Certainly, the distinctive "hump" found on the actual aircraft's wings at about 2/3- span, where the underwing struts attach to the spar, is under-represented. Two alternative radiators are provided. One is a rectangular pattern that appears to be mostly standard in photos of this machine. However, the alternative pattern, found on a machine captured by the British as far as photographs show, is also included.

The molding on all parts is quite crisp. Interior parts and a very nicely molded white-metal machine gun are supplied. The well-printed decals represent national insignia and serials for serial number 2670, a machine evaluated by the RAF. Pegasus supplies enough naval hexagon camouflage decals are for all upper surfaces, though the available photographs show few, if any, W.29s with hexagons on thee floats. The color guide with the instructions suggests that these be painted as varnished wood.

The kit offers all the ingredients of a finely detailed replica of this little-known maritime aircraft. The only challenge in its construction may be producing struts to support the wing panels. The extruded strut material provided is rather weak. Yet, while the moldings and decals are of very high quality, the small number of parts makes the cost of this kit relatively high (roughly US $23.00, direct purchase from the manufacturer). The kit is thus appropriate for the builder who has some experience with producing struts from scratch or extruded strut stock and with kits that lack locating pins or guides. Recommended, with some reservations regarding its high sticker price.

1/72-scale Morane-Saulnier Type AC, Airkit Models, resin, price n/a.

This design was the ultimate in the line of shoulder-winged monoplane fighters produced by Morane Saulnier during WW 1. Its clean lines are disrupted by the rather ungainly looking arrangement of supporting struts found beneath the wings. However, this series of struts eliminated the need for bracing wires. Since the control cables were contained within the airframe, this made for for a very clean design. The MS Type AC produced very good performance in tests and a small number of machines were produced. Unfortunately, few of these saw combat with the French air service during the latter half of 1916.

The kit is produced by a small French manufacturer of resin kits called Airkit. It was previously released in very small numbers by another manufacturer, the now defunct Veterans 72. The Airkit rendering features 15 resin pieces and lengths of styrene rod.

Quite simply, this kit is the finest example of resin casting yet seen by this reviewer. The wing and tail pieces are remarkably thin. The detail parts are cleanly cast with little, if any, flash. Removing thick molding sprues was the biggest part of preparing the pieces for use. The shoulder- mounted wings are supported by tabs that fit into fuselage slots. The spindly support struts do not have to support the model's wings. Building the landing gear is the major challenge, since it has to support the weight of the entire model.

Unfortunately, there are no decals.

The high quality of the parts should guarantee an excellent model of this rather obscure machine. But the builder will need some skill and experience with scratch-built strut structure. Hopefully, Airkit will continue to re-issue Veterans 72 kits. Recommended.

Thanks to Francois Portier for obtaining the review copy of this excellent little kit.

1/72-scale 1912 Fokker "Spinne" III, V.L.E. Models, mixed-media, $24.95.

This kit is the first V.L.E. Models offering that this reviewer has seen. The kit consists of a single, 5" x 5" sheet of female vacuum-formed plastic parts, several lengths of brass wire, a small sheet of photo-etched spoked wheels, a small spool of nylon thread, and 13 cast-metal parts.

Spinne is the German word for "spider." Judging from the kit-supplied drawings, a spider might be useful for completing the rigging on this small and delicate model. The Spinne was one of Anthony Fokker's earliest successful designs. There is little more to it than a framework fuselage, a pair of delicate wings and an equally delicate empenage, all held together with a substantial quantity of rigging.

You build the fuselage from a combination of brass wire segments and cast metal frames. The resulting structure not only has to support the wings and tail structures but also holds the white metal engine, radiator and detail pieces. All of this rests on a pair of open, spoked wheels constructed from photo etched brass spokes and white metal tires. All of the flying surfaces vac-formed plastic, though they might easily have been constructed from scrap styrene sheet.

The instructions are well illustrated with three view drawings. This is fortunate, since other references for this aircraft are difficult to find. This scarcity of references also makes it difficult to comment on the overall accuracy of this model.

The materials provided in the kit demand a great deal of skill from the builder. The weight of the various metal parts will require some consideration of stress and structure during assembly. V.L.E. Models have provided excellent materials, though the tiny resultant model and small number of custom white metal castings do not fully justify the high retail price. This model could have easily been rendered in 1/48 or even 1/32 with appropriate materials at nearly the same cost. Recommended for very experienced builders.

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Text © 1997 by Charles Hart.