SMER 1/50 Macchi Castoldi MC 72
KIT #: 112
PRICE: $15.00  long out of production
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Mark Hiott
NOTES: Ex Artiplast kit

HISTORY

The Macchi Castoldi MC 72 was an experimental seaplane designed and built by the Italian aircraft company Macchi Aeronautica. The M.C. 72 held the world speed record for all aircraft for five years. In 1934, it set a world record speed for internal combustion powered seaplanes which still stands to this day. The M.C. 72 design was unique with a fuselage partly metal to the cockpit and wood monocoque bolted to the front tubular portion by four bolts. The streamlined nose contours enclosed an oil tank with its outside wall exposed to the airstream. The wing was all metal with flat tubular water radiators smoothly faired into the wings. The twin pontoons had three smoothly-faired radiators on the outer surfaces, the forward radiator for water and the centre and rear radiators for oil cooling. The float struts also featured water radiators and another radiator was fitted during hot conditions under the fuselage running from cockpit to tail.

The M.C. 72 was built in 1931 with the idea of competing for what turned out to be the final Schneider Trophy race, but due to engine problems, the M.C. 72 was unable to compete. For two years, the M.C. 72 suffered from many mechanical defects, as well as the loss of two test pilots who died trying to coax world class speed out of the M.C. 72 (first Monti and then Bellini). The final design of M.C. 72 used double, contra-rotating propellers powered by a modified FIAT AS-6 engine V24 engine generating some 1,900-2,300 kW (2,500-3,100 hp) thanks to supercharging.

After 35 flights, the engines were overhauled in preparation for a record attempt. The aircraft finally lived up to expectations when it set a new world speed record (over water) on 10 April 1933, with a speed of 682 km/h (424 mph). It was piloted by Warrant Officer Francesco Agello (the last qualified test pilot). Not satisfied, development continued as the aircraft's designers thought they could break 700 km/h (430 mph) with the M.C. 72. This feat was in fact achieved on 23 October 1934, when Agello piloted the M.C. 72 for an average speed of 709 km/h (440 mph) over three passes. This record remains (as of 2012) the fastest speed ever attained by a piston-engine seaplane. After this success, the M.C.72 was never flown again.

One M.C. 72, the aircraft that took the world record, survives. It is on display at the Italian Air Force Museum, near Rome.

THE KIT

Crudely molded in a light crème plastic, detail is somewhat lacking. It looks, at first, to be a simple kit with just 21 parts. Later I found out it is typical SMER. There is flash on most of the parts and they will require work to clean up. Although there are numbers on the instructions, there are no part numbers on the sprues. Holes are predrilled for the rigging.

The instructions are typical SMER... a simple exploded view showing where the parts go. All the typing is in Czech, so I have no idea what any of it says. The back page has a out-of-register color 3 view drawing. A small piece of acetate is included for the windscreen.

A small decal sheet contains Tricolors for the tail and Macchi ID's for the fuselage. It also has a decal for the included stand. Unfortunately, the decals in my kit were unusable.

CONSTRUCTION

First thing I did was remove all the parts from the sprues and clean them up. I found that the long brace parts were not going to be usable, so I made new ones out of round stock. Careful test fitting is required to get all the parts to fit together reasonable well, but filler will still be needed.

I decided to start with the floats. I squared up the holes for the strut mounts as best I could, then glued the 2 halves together. Be careful when fitting the float struts, because they are left, right and front, rear handed. It took me awhile to figure out which one when where. After attaching them, I filled the gaps with 3M Spot and Glazing Putty... and there are a LOT of gaps!

Turning to the fuselage, I glue the 2 halves together, leaving the prop until later. There is no interior to speak of and I didn't bother to add one. Some folks will want to remedy this, but I am more interested in the aircraft then the details. The 2 one piece wings were then added. More filler was required here as well.

Joining the floats to the fuselage is a study in dexterity. It's times like this one wishes they had 4 hands. There are 4 small holes in the lower fuselage that accept small pins on the float struts. I had to open these holes with micro files to even come close how they should fit. Even then, I had to work slowly and carefully fitting the floats. I made a simple jig out of paint bottles to hold the plane while the glue set. Out came the 3M here as well.

COLORS & MARKINGS

When the plane was fully assembled, I shot it with Krylon Italian Red. Being assembled makes it a bit harder to paint, but doing so beforehand, would have made mounting the floats even more of a job. Once the red had dried a few days, I painted the bottoms of the floats light gray. I painted the surface radiators MM Copper. I suppose brass would have been a better choice, but I thought the copper just looked nicer. I have seen photos of other models with the radiators outlined in white, but shots of the plane on display do not show the white. You can't really tell from period photos, but I chose not to add the white stripes. Exhaust details were painted MM Flat Black. The props were painted with MM Chrome.

FINAL BITS

The rigging was done with .8mil nylon monofilament. There should be more rigging between the float struts, but I forgot to set the rigging holes before installing them, so, no rigging. After the rigging was all in place, I tightened it with a bit of heat and painted it flat black. The 2 props were glued together and the press fitted to the nose. (you can see one of the down sides to monofilament in the photos. I took the photos outside and it was bit chilly and one of the lines began to sag. It tightened back up when I bought the model back inside)

CONCLUSIONS

 

This is not a kit for the novice builder, but then most SMER kits are like that. The amount of filling and sanding that is required would drive them out of the hobby. However, it does build into a very nice looking MC72 and I believe the only other choice is a rather expensive resin kit.

Mark Hiott

December 2012

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