1/72 Phoenix Type A
KIT #:  
DECALS: Home printed for the most part
REVIEWER: Stephen Foster
NOTES: Some scratch building experience advisable


The Phoenix Type A was a Hansa Brandenburg design (the W18) which was manufactured under licence for the Austro-Hungarian navy: one was supplied to the German navy but as German pilots preferred floatplanes rather than flying boats the type was not used by them. By contrast the Austro-Hungarian navy used flying boats in considerable numbers for the defence of port and other coastal installations, and for offensive operations and reconnaissance. The Phoenix Type A entered service in the summer of 1917 for the defence of Trieste, Pola, Kumbor and Parenzo (Porec) - all on the Adriatic Sea, where it was capable of holding its own against the Nieuport 11 being used by their Italian opponents. Machines were powered by either a 200hp or 230hp Heiro engine (the German machine was powered by a Benz III), and there were variations in the tail structures and radiators mounted on the top wing. In 1918 these machines were generally withdrawn from front line service as their relatively limited range and lack of manoeuvrability meant that they were outclassed by the newer aircraft being employed by the Italians.

There is a vacuform kit of this aircraft by Formaplane which can be found sometimes on e-bay and at model sales, but regular readers will know that I have an aversion to vacuforms so I decided to assemble some plastic card and rod, a set of plans which were kindly sent to me by Dan Smith, (who gave me the inspiration to build this model by showing his Formaplane model on another website), and make one of my own. This is the result.

I started with the hull which was push moulded from 30 thou plastic card using a male mould from balsa wood and a female from plywood. This was one of the larger moulds which I had made to date so I had to make three hulls before I achieved an acceptable unit. The underside of the front end of the hull is curved upwards so I moulded that as a separate piece. I glued the hull halves together and then removed the bottom so that I could attach the curved underside at the front end. The rear underside was made from 15 thou card which had been scored with a sharp point and then bent gently to give the correct cross section behind the hull step. The cockpit opening was cut out as per normal and cleaned with a file: the cockpit details were vague because I had little information so I made a standard instrument panel, seat and controls from card and rod.

The wings were cut as blanks from 30 thou card bent in a piece of plastic waste pipe which had been sealed at one end and filled with boiling water. After 10 seconds the water was drained off and the sheet of newly curved plastic taken out. The wing blanks were sanded to aerofoil section before the ribs were glued into place. Ribs were made from 10 x 20 thou Evergreen strip which was gently sanded when the glue had dried. The horizontal tail surfaces and the fin and rudder were likewise made from 30 thou card and strip ribs. The lower wings were attached one at a time: care must be taken with these as they are butt joints and therefore not very strong. I then added the tail unit with the support struts made from 20 x 30 thou Evergreen strip shaped to aerofoil section. The engine frame was made from 30 thou card with holes drilled in the sides, and was supported on sections of more 20 x 30 thou strip also shaped to aerofoil section. The engine was made in the usual way with laminated card for the block and rod for the cylinders. I added small pieces of 60 thou card to the tops of the cylinders to help represent the valve gear, and various inlet pipes, pumps carburettor and exhausts were made from scrap, thin rod and stretched sprue. The engine mounts on the sides of the block were from 15 thou card. The engine was painted before it was glued into place.

PaintingI normally paint my biplanes before I add the top wing because it is easier to get to all of the surfaces. In this case it was even more important because the engine is on a platform above the fuselage and below the top wing. Austro-Hungarian flying boats at this time were often left with natural wood hulls, so I primed the hull with Revell acrylic Ocker (88) before applying a mix of burnt sienna and raw sienna oil paints. These can take a long time to dry so to speed things up I placed the model in my airing cupboard for three days, after which I was able to apply several very thin coats of Revell acrylic clear orange varnish (730). I had already painted the white areas on the fuselage where the crosses were to go - these had been masked when I painted the remainder of the hull. The engine mount was Humbrol matt light grey (64) and the linen surfaces on the wings and tail were mixed from Humbrol clear doped linen (103) mixed with white and a touch of light grey. The red was Humbrol matt red (60). The wing and fuselage crosses and serial number were printed on my home computer and the nose cross was hand painted. The badges on the rudder were from a Pegasus set and were kindly given to me by fellow modeller Ian Brand. 

The top wing could now be fitted. The struts were from 20 x 30 thou evergreen strip: the outer struts were fixed first. This was a slightly tricky operation because the struts are angled slightly outwards and forwards, so the top wing must be supported on jigs while the glue sets. I made a pair of simple jigs from thin cardboard and supported the top wing with these. When the wing struts were dry I could measure and cut the struts from the engine platform to the wing. The struts were painted when in place. Finally I made the wing floats from laminated card which was filed to shape, and struts from thin rod and glued these under the wings. The propeller was carved from wood. The model was completed by rigging it with 40 SWG rolled copper wire. 

This is a flying boat and it will not sit properly on the ground unless supported. I am not a diorama builder so I made a simple trolley and stand for the rear from card and strip: the wheels were shaped from card. This provides the model with stability and its own little stand and saved me having to try to make a base with simulated water.

This is not one of the better known WW1 types but it is interesting because it is a small flying boat which is not often seen in collections. Making it would not be difficult for a modeller who has some experience with biplanes, but I would not advise it as a first project. 

Stephen Foster

4 May 2017

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