1/72 Farman F-121 Jabiru
KIT #:
REVIEWER: Chris Peachment
NOTES: Scratch built


In my long and arduous search to find the ugliest aircraft of all time, I have frequently comes across blogs about the Farman Jabiru containing such phrases “horrible” or “the flying whale” and even “that is just plain butt ugly”. Now if they were talking about an earlier incarnation, the F-120 Jabiru tri-motor, which has an uncowled radial engine on the nose, then I might have to agree that that beast was homely.  But there were in fact many different Jabirus, and this one, the Farman F-121, is my favourite. That rounded nose, with curved windows in it, is so obviously copied from art deco architecture of the period that it looks like Le Corbusier has got at an aircraft. If it were British, it would probably have been called the Farman Odeon, from the many Odeon cinemas of that period in Britain which all adopted the curved corner and gave their name to the “Odeon style” of building. They call it ugly. I say it is beautiful.

 Jabiru in French means 'Stork', and while it has some of that bird's tall stance, its nose suggests 'Rhino' would be more appropriate. It was derived from the  Goliath biplane bomber, with which it shared the panoramic view from the cabin front. The clipped elliptical wing sits on the shoulders of a massive, deep fuselage which could carry nine passengers. The pilot and co-pilot commanded the thing from on high, hanging out in the breeze from a tiny cockpit. I don't know if there was any internal connection between cockpit and cabin. On long flights, I would hope so.

 There are four 180 hp Hispano-Suiza 8Ac inline engines in tandem pairs at each side of the cabin at the end of small stub-wing which also served as the base for the landing gear. The colossus won several competitions for transport in France, serving Northern and Eastern European routes, including the 1923 French Grand Prix des Avions Transports and 500,000 Francs. Four of the beasts cruised the skies of Europe for the Farman airline in the late 1920s. Heavy bomber types, torpedo bombers and even escort fighters were proposed. And I am surprised it didn't turn up in one form or other during the Spanish civil war. Just about every other type of aircraft did. However the Jabiru was never successful and was being outdone by Fokker F-VIIs by the late 1920s.


Is in fact straightforward, although it is best to lay in several extra sheets of plastic card before beginning. This beast is guzzles plastic like dogs pouncing on boxes of fried chicken. Plans were found on one of the website below, and scaled to 1/72, before printing off half a dozen to cut up for templates. The fuselage floor is first, followed by the two slab sides and top, supported by some internal frames. The nose section is best done separately, the dividing line being just behind the most rearward window.

The nose is best cut from a continuous sheet to be folded around that elegant nose, and the windows must be measured and cut through very carefully with a sharp scalpel blade. What little information I could find of the interior showed a few scattered wicker chairs, and a bulkhead toward the nose. I painted the interior Eau de Nil (Waters of the Nile), a colour which was fashionable in the 1920s, and Italian cockpit green comes close. The bulkhead is brown wood. Paint the exterior ahead of time, and once dry, insert a strip of clear plastic around the nose, cemented with Humbril Clearfix, or any PVA wood glue.

This is delicate and since you are going to be handling the nose, cover the windows with masking tape. Don't press down too heavily, or you will be rewarded with a rattling sound from inside, and no windows once tape is removed. A dispiriting sight if the fuselage is closed off and finished. Then turn to that barricade called the wing. The underside is the easy part. I then put together a few internal ribs in aerofoil shape for support, and also the flat end plates.

Now take a sheet of the thinnest plastic card you have, and cut it out roughly to plan, sticking to the trailing edge,  but with an overlap of at least two inches in front and at the tips. Score the ribs on the underside, using a steel rule and biro, according to plan. Then  glue the trailing edge down, and leave to set. Once dry, you can start folding the upper skin over the ribs and down onto the leading edge. This is tricky because you are dealing with a compound curve, and if it starts to create wrinkles at the front, try to make them all converge at the centre section, where they will be hidden by the cockpit hump. Once happy, trim all the excess off, and sand smooth.

If you see any aircraft from that period in museums, you will note that any thin aluminium skin takes on all sorts of lumps and dents from being handled, not least around the edges of the wing where ground crew have been wading in a little heavy-handedly. Don't try to replicate this. It will happen automatically as you handle the model. My wing looks nicely battered, with the odd rib showing through the skin here and there, and a leading edge that resembles a tortoise. Turtle to you.

So too with the upper nose. If I had one of those nice vacuum forming machines, I would have used that. Instead I built up layers of thick plastic card, with an opening at the back for the cockpit and sanded it all to shape, while singing the Lumberjack Song from Monty Python. This is not a hard and fast rule, so please feel free to improvise. Handel's Messiah often proves just as successful, no doubt due to divine intervention. La Marseillaise might be appropriate for this particular aircraft. Once done, glue the wing on top, and the Rhino nose on top of that.

Start filling and sanding.  Then make the little stub wings on either side, using the same technique as the main wing. Note that engines vary a lot from aircraft to aircraft. Some have no covers on top, leaving the cylinder heads exposed. Some are completely covered. Some use two Lamblin lobster pot radiators on top, some use free standing radiators like mine. Since I didn't have four spare engines, I decided to cover mine. Exhausts came from gardening wire, bent with pliers.  The radiators from an old car.  The tail planes are a cinch, made from thick card and sanded down to the right aerofoil shape.

 The cockpit needs hollowing out, and this is the chance to get rid of the corrugated bit of the forward wing surface. Box in the square hole, make an instrument panel from an old etched set, a couple of control columns with wheels, and some comfy leather clad seats for the poor pilots, stranded fifteen feet above the passengers, heads out in the freezing cold.

 The wing and undercarriage struts proved a nice occasion to use some of that very wide strut which had been hanging around for a long time, looking forlorn as the thinner stuff got used up.  Taper the edges where the struts connect to the wing and engine. Wheels came from the Big Bag of Wheels in the spares box, and were a couple of 1/32 WWI fighter wheels, whose hour had come around at last. The props likewise, trimmed and painted wood, with a coat of Vallejo Clear Orange which dries matt rather than the Tamiya version which is a thick gluey gloss finish.


The rest of the beast got at least four coats of Lifecolor Italian Mimetic Yellow 3, which is a pleasing shade and deepens to a sandy brow with advancing coats. The lettering is about the limit of my decal making skills, and should cause no problem to anyone with a scanner and printer. It is done in Gill Sans, which is a sans serif font devised in this period by Eric Gill for the new BBC. The BBC building in London has mottos carved in this very font around its interior stone walls. Some of them are very rude. The windscreen was cut from clear plastic and the frame painted. And finally the master stroke of ingenuity, the spinners. They were sawn off the tips of two plastic golf tees. I don't spend my time hitting small balls around the countryside, but they had popped out of a Christmas cracker, and since I am one of the afflicted, I looked at them and wondered if they could be used on a future model aircraft.  

Like all afflicted people, I do this all the time. Many of my models with tricycle undercarriages have nose weights inside made from odd nuts and bolts picked up while pounding the pavements. Garages are especially useful for automotive detritus, which piles up in odd corners of the man-cave.


I could think of nothing nicer than being inside this beast as it flew through the night, high above the French midi, en route from Paris to Nice in the South of France. In a dinner jacket and bow tie, I would pause beside the grand piano, where Hoagy Carmichael was playing a selection of Cole Porter before taking a large Martini and sauntering to the nose, where Ernest Hemingway and Hadley, a boyish looking girl, are looking out at the stars.  They are on their way to Antibes where they will take up the new idea of “sun-bathing”.  As the sun began to rise, Hemingway scribbled a small idea in his notebook, a phrase which reads:  “The Sun... erm...  Rises. Not bad, but it needs a little something extra.”

Meanwhile high above them in the tiny cockpit, Antoine de St-Exupery sat in the pilot's seat, his eyes fixed on the horizon, while he listened for any variation to the steady note of the engines and the roaring of the wind about his ears. Beside him in the co-pilot's seat was a 15 year old boy who had begged a ride from Paris called Albert Camus.

“You say you want to be a writer” said St-Exupery. The young man nodded. “I am writing something about night flying,” he continued. “But I don't know what to call it yet.”

The boy shrugged and said, “Night Flight, what else?” St-Ex took out a pencil, and jotted down on his knee pad “Vol de Nuit”.

“Perfect,” he said.

“Do you ever wonder what all the passengers are doing down below?” said Camus.

“No, I don't think about them much,” said St Ex.

“I feel very cut off from them up here,” said Camus, “not just by distance, but they feel like a foreign tribe. Very remote.”

“Are you writing about that feeling,” said St Ex

“Trying to,” said Camus. “But it is hard.”

“You could call it The Outsider,” said St Ex.

And the young Camus made a mental note: “L'Etranger”.

Down below Hemingway had finished his fifth martini and started on his hip flask brandy. “Inspiring, isn't it?” he said to Hadley, gazing down at the ever-brightening landscape beneath. He scored through “The Sun... erm... Rises” in his notebook, and wrote instead “The Garden of Eden”.







http://www.mission4today.com/index.php?name=ForumsPro&file=viewtopic&p=133245 for some good three view graphics.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926, Scribners)

The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway (1986, Scribners)

Night Flight (Vol de Nuit) by Antoine de St-Exupery (1932, Harmsworth)

The Outsider (L'Etranger) by Albert Camus (1942, Gallimard)

Chris Peachment

June 2014

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