|KIT:||Heller 1/72 Fi-156 Storch|
There is no such thing as an elegant looking STOL aircraft. They are gangly, floppy looking planes that look like, well, storks. Hence the aptly named “Storch”, designed by the imaginative team under Gerhard Fiesler in the mid 1930’s, it took to the sky in ’36, and quickly proved itself to be an indispensable forward air control and reconnaissance aircraft, able to take off in 160 feet, and land in less than half of that ! ( The Heller instructions have it printed at landing in “5 yards”, but I could not find any solid verification of that, and fifteen feet does seem a little short.) The ingenious leading edge flaps gave the wide winged beastie it’s abilities, increasing the surface area so much so that it could float like a kestrel above the battlefield, and the huge greenhouse of a cockpit enabling the pilot and guest (or two) to take in the huge panorama. The Desert Fox himself preferred this little gutsy bird for observation, as did a number of Allied commanders, using captured 156’s frequently over the larger Lysanders and Piper Grasshoppers.
After the defeat of the nazi regime, the Morane-Saulnier plant of world war one fame began to churn out the MS 500 Criquet, a modified version with a tail wheel, and slightly different tail surfaces. For a bunch of fabric stretched over a tubular skeleton, the 500 proved to be a workhorse in the Indochina war, able to pick up wounded and deliver critical information in almost any condition, from rice paddy to paved runway. There are still a few of these wonderful planes flying, and if you are lucky, you might run into one at an airshow…just look for the pilot with a big grin on his face !
When you first open the box, and take a look at the instructions, it looks like a fairly simple build. This is very misleading! You do get to choose which craft you would like to reproduce, the armed German version, or the scout French version. More than 50 parts assemble into a dinky aircraft, with struts all over the place…including a mass of windows, so make sure you have clear parts cement handy !
The instructions are a one page fold out, with 7 total steps, with frequent optional choices depending on which version you build. Molded in light grey styrene, the sprues are flash free, and the plastic is easy to cut and sand, thank god.
Leaving the propeller off until the final assembly, I started in on the cockpit, made up of four pieces, the two seats, one control stick, and the cabin floor. Masking tape seatbelts were added to give the interior some detail, as well as some folded paper maps on the bench behind the rear seat. In step two, you have to pick your canopy, either with a gun mount or not, and whatever you do, remember to cement in the frame to the clear canopy (part 12) ! I didn’t, and had a dickens of a time fitting the thing in later. I left off the antennae’s until final assembly, in case of rough handling and a hunger from the carpet monster. Step 3 is something of a mystery, the tail surfaces are supposed to be different from the German to the French version, but in my kit, they were identical. The assembly of the fuselage is a little tricky, test fitting is a must as the cockpit section is too wide for the halves to meet up, some sanding will be necessary. Carefully gluing the parts together, the whole thing was mummified in rubber bands and blue tape , to be left overnight to dry. Like it’s cousin, the Lysander, the 156’s wings attach to the canopy frame, meaning that you will want to spend some time making sure that everything mates very well, so break out those sanding sticks and file, file, file. It took me several hours to get a good fit between the canopies and the main body, then using clear plastic adhesive, the conglomeration of glass was put into place and set aside once again to dry for a night. I did leave the door, part 45, off at this time, as I wanted it to be displayed in the open position.
The next morning, the tail surfaces were added one at a time using c/a glue, the struts (part 8) forcing the correct angle…this bit was tricky too, cool and calm wins the race here, that, and a pair of hemostats. When you are filling and sanding the fuselage, remember that the bottom rough detail is intentional, as this is where the fabric was stitched together…it does need to be knocked down a bit though, as it is way to heavy handed for 1/72nd scale. In step 5, you get to build the wings, with the clever forward slats being rather difficult to properly locate, plan on doing some photo research prior to gluing here, there are no angle tabs at all. The fit of the wings to the canopy is surprisingly (after all the other misfits) good, but don’t cement them in place just yet. Slide the wings onto the mating tabs, then glue in the underneath strutwork, starting from the inside (parts 18), and then the longer outside struts (parts 10 and 11). Nope, don’t glue the wings on yet ! Skip over to step 7, and glue on the landing gear carefully, there are almost no attachment points and everything has to line up perfectly, so test fit a couple of times until you are comfortable with how it looks. Once you have the spaghetti all in place, and the glue has FIRMLY set up, gently turn the plane over, and THEN you can glue the upper wings with clear part cement, using a capillary action. Now, without breathing too hard on to the fragile structure, set it aside to dry. Whew! All set up? Great, now it is time to glue on all of the do-dads, control horns, doohickies and the like, beginning with the under surfaces, then the tender antennas on top. Pick out either your tail skid or wheel, pop on the propeller and your plane is assembled! Now it’s time to paint…
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
The colour schemes for the French Criquets were rather dull, unfortunately. There is one profile of a naval plane that is stunning, and I was contemplating building that version, when a fellow modeler, Ollie, posted some information about a friend of his who flew Criquets in Indochina, landing them in rice paddies and rough runways…right then and there, I knew it had to be a diorama, and the plane would have to be good old olive drab, my least favourite colour. Ah well. The plane was sprayed with Testor’s Model Master OD, then a thinner coat of Field Drab was applied. After drying for a day or so, some light sanding with 200 grit paper really brought out the fabric and control details, and lent some life to the little bird. Of course, much of the painting was done in stages during construction, trying to mask off the undersides of the clear canopy would have been too Orwellian for me, so as I went along, parts were sprayed as necessary. I also painted the interior of the cockpit glass before gluing it to the fuselage, using a light grey to simulate the weathered steel, as the metallic paints would have been just too bright for a combat weary FAC.
The diorama idea was conceived right after reading a post by Ollie, I immediately saw the potential for a water based scene, with some figures arguing about the landing. Once the plane was placed on the base, a ridge of Bondo was made to simulate the small hillock above the rice paddy. I like using a fast setting resin for this sort of thing, as I don’t have to wait for it to dry. Having sanded the platform down to where I wanted it, a wash of white glue was applied, and artificial turf in three colours were sprinkled on. After letting that dry, I wrapped the entire base with a heavy duct tape to contain the clear resin during the pour. Now, I made a huge mistake: I did not glue the figures in place prior to casting, thinking that it would be thick enough to hold them upright, so I mixed up some common fiberglass resin with the minimum amount of MEK9 (didn’t want to melt the model or the figures!) and gently streamed it in, using a Popsicle stick to work out the air bubbles. Surprise, surprise…one figure after another went face first into the quagmire, while I yelled and pulled them out time after time. One pilot figure suffered the most, and is still adhered to my circular recycling bin (the trash) in a rather sad upside down pose. The two others were cleaned off, and propped up using small clamps and a series of jigs that would have made Dr. Goldberg proud. The clear resin set up in about two hours, and the tape was removed, with the new pilot figure relocated to the upper ridge near the motorcycle messenger. Some sanding was necessary to get rid of the surface tension ridges where the resin met the tape (it will tend to rise up slightly there) and then the whole surface was covered in Future. The water wake lines were painted in with clear gel, and the oak side panels were added, and viola! A little story of the French war in Indochina.
This is not the easiest kit off the shelf, in fact, I have built many limited runs that were simpler…but, truth be told, this is a very rewarding aircraft to add to the collection, and I highly recommend it, if only for the practice for gaining patience.
http://www.airbum.com/pireps/PirepStorch.html (this is a fun one !)
Review kit courtesy of: A gift from a fellow modeler.
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