Silver Wings 1/32 FW-44 'Stieglitz'
KIT #: ?
PRICE: $150.00 or so MSRP (See Silver Wings website. No URL provided)
DECALS: None provided. Paint masks for two aircraft.
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Resin kit

HISTORY

            Focke-Wulf was founded in 1929, producing several commercially-unsuccessful designs and being virtually unknown outside Germany, even there its unpretentious products were frequently confused with those of Fokker.  In 1931, the company was forcibly merged with the Albatros Flugzeugwerke and became Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau A. G.  The Fw-44 Stieglitz (Goldfinch) was the company’s first commercially-successful design.  It has long been inaccurately  attributed to Kurt Tank as his first design for Focke-Wulf, but the aircraft was already in development when he joined the company, not to mention he was originally hired as a test pilot, not a design engineer; the actual designer was likely Heinrich Focke.  Tank was responsible for all the detail development of the prototype into a production airplane.  The Fw-44 was the second most-produced Focke-Wulf design after the Fw-190 series.

            The Fw-44 prototype appeared in June 1932, and made its  first flight in August, with Gerd Achgelis at the controls. Powered by a 140 h.p. Siemens Sh.14a radial engine, the Fw-44 was a single bay biplane with a welded steel fabric covered fuselage; the wings were wooden with fabric covering.  The flight characteristics were improved after an extensive flight test program by Professor Kurt Tank, who had joined Focke-Wulf in 1931 from Willy Messerschmitt’s Bayerishe Flugzeug Werke.  Tank took over the design and flight test departments when Heinrich Focke became pre‑occupied with his rotary wing development.

            The Stieglitz had fine harmony of control, great maneuverability and full aerobatic capabilities, and became known as an outstanding aerobatic mount, particularly when flown by Gerd Achgelis, Emil Kropf and Ernest Udet.  At the first ever World Aerobatic Championship, organized by the Aero Club de France in Vincennes, near Paris, Gerd Achgelis finished a respectable third with his Fw-44 behind Michel Detroyat and Gerhard Fieseler.  Otto von Hagenburg won the World Aerobatics Championship in 1936 flying a Fw-44. 

            With this record, the Fw-44 was successfully marketed internationally as a primary trainer, and was exported to Bolivia, Chile, China, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Romania, Switzerland and Turkey, with licence production in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, and Sweden. 

            The Fw-44 was the Luftwaffe’s most common primary trainer during the Second World War and was for the Germans what the Stearman PT-13/17 series was for the U.S. Air forces.  In the aftermath of the German takeover of Czechoslovakia, production of the Fw-44 was transferred to the Aero works in Prague, where all Fw-44 wartime production took place.

            85 Fw-44J Stieglitz aircraft were produced or assembled from German parts by ASJA - the forerunner of SAAB - under license as the SK12 for Flygvapnet and delivered between 1939-43.  The SK12 was powered by a 7‑cylinder Bramo Siemens Halske 14A radial of 145 h.p., which  was manufactured by BMW Flugmotorenwerke. The Stieglitz was replaced in 1946 as the standard trainer by the SK25 (Bücker Bestmann), and the SK12s were then used for liaison, weather flying, etc. and of course training. When the last Air Force SK12 was written off in 1968, many were still in use by flying clubs, where it was a popular tug for sailplanes, or were flown by private owners. These SK12s form the majority of the still-existant Fw-44s, along with a few survivors produced in Argentina and some ex-Finnish airplanes.

            35 Aero-built Fw-44Js were purchased by the Finnish Air Force in 1940.  They served as the main primary trainer of the Finnish Air Force until 1961.  Several of these are also still in existence and flying in Europe. 

            There are three SK12s in the United States.  35 years ago, I made the acquaintance of one which had been restored by a group of antique airplane enthusiasts in the San Jose area who called themselves the Swedish-American Aviation Bunch (SAAB).  Their SK12 regularly showed up at the Watsonville West Coast Antique Airplane Fly-In - the concours d’elegance of American antique aviation - where my then 9-year old step-daughter was a master at convincing pilots they should give her a ride in their airplanes.  As a result, I had the chance to accumulate about 10 hours in the airplane.  What a difference there is between the “German Stearman” and the actual item! The Stearman is heavy on the controls, and damned difficult to fly at first, with landing always being problematic (the Stearman flying club I belonged to had a Chief Pilot who had 10,000 hours in Stearmans as an instructor; he was the first club member to prang the lower left wing on landing).  The Fw-44, by comparison, is an airplane that wants to fly, and flies easily. With ailerons on all four wings, it is the essence of maneuverability, and snap rolls so tight, one loses all sense of forward motion; when it loops, it wants to climb over that back half of the loop.  Landing is easy. I would rank the Fw-44 as one of the most enjoyable airplanes it was ever my privilege to fly and an airplane that would provide the best introduction to flight I can think of, which is why it was such a popular primary trainer for so many years.

THE KIT

            The only other kit of a Fw-44 is a limited-run 1/72 plastic kit by Huma, which “needs work” to be brought up to an acceptable standard.  I have to say I do not know what possessed Wojciech Kulakowski to create this model, which is the second 1/32 kit released by his company Silver Wings (he is also the designer of all the kits released by Montex), but the result is probably the most beautiful all-resin kit I have ever seen.  The design is flawless, the assembly is easy, the parts want to fit.  The kit is truly the “Tamiya kit” of all-resin kits.  The kit comes with a complete interior, though it lacks seatbelts.  Markings for two different Luftwaffe Fw-44C trainers are provided with masks.

CONSTRUCTION

            Construction definitely starts with the cockpit.  I painted everything in RLM Grey, then proceeded to follow the instructions for assembly.  I used Eduard photoetch Luftwaffe seatbelts.  Once the cockpit was finished, it slipped into the fuselage half without problem, and the fuselage was closed up. This was the only place where I used any seam filler, with some cyanoacrylate glue along the centerline, which was then sanded smooth.  I also attached the cabane struts and closed up the side flaps for the cockpits, other than the one side flap for the rear cockpit which I decided to leave open to display the detail within.

             After I assembled and attached the landing gear, I assembled the wings with their ailerons.  One should exercise care here to be certain the correct ailerons are being used, since there is a slight difference between the upper wing and lower wing ailerons, to provide a cutout on the lower aileron for a control horn.  I realized after test-fitting the wing and horizontal stabilizer that these would attach to the fuselage with no problem, so I decided I would leave off final assembly of the airframe until I was finished painting, and just attached the elevators to the stabilizers as I had already attached the ailerons to the wings.

             I also assembled the beautifully-detailed Siemens-Halske engine and painted it.

COLORS & MARKINGS

 Painting:

             In researching the Fw-44, I found several good photos of Swedish and Finnish airplanes.  I had a set of Finnish insignia for a Hawk-75, which I determined would be the right size from studying photos of the Fw-144 in the Finnish Air Force Museum, so I decided to do that airplane.

             I painted the model white, for backing of the light colors.  I then used some artists letters to make masks for the serial number.  I then painted the yellow areas of the wings and fuselage with Tamiya “Flat Yellow.”  I then masked off those bands, and painted the wings and horizontal stabilizers with Gunze-Sangyo “Orange Yellow.” The fuselage, landing gear, vertical fin and rudder were painted with Tamiya “Semi-Gloss Black.”

 Decals:

            The decals went down without problem.  When they were dry, I gave the entire model a coat of Xtracrylix “Satin” Varnish.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

             I attached the horizontal stabilizers and lower wing, then attached the upper wing.  I carefully fitted the outer interplane struts.  I finished off with .008 wire for the rigging.

CONCLUSIONS

            A beautiful kit of an airplane I have personal fond memories of.  This kit is so good, I would recommend it to any intermediate/advanced modeler as both a first all-resin kit and a first biplane model. There are an endless number of markings possibilities, given all the air forces the Stieglitz served with, and all the various civil markings these airplanes have carried over the past 70 years.  For the overall superb quality of the model in both design and production, it is a bargain at this price.  It’s highly unlikely anyone else will ever do a kit of this airplane.  Highly recommended.

Review kit courtesy of Silver Wings.

Tom Cleaver

April 2010

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