Eduard 1/48 Morane-Saulnier Type N

KIT #: 8090
PRICE: $25.00 or so MSRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Pierre-André Boillat
NOTES:  Improved new mold issued in 2004

HISTORY

 The Morane-Saulnier Type N was the first purpose-built fighter aircraft, and although only 49 were produced and saw active service for a short time, it deserves an important place in aviation history.

 Designed by aviation pioneers Léon Morane (a pilot with flying license #54 issued by the Aéro Club de France) and Louis Saulnier (an engineer who had worked on Louis Blériot’s Channel-crossing Type XI), the Type N was a nimble fighter monoplane powered by a Le Rhône 9C radial engine of 110HP for a weight of 510 Kg, which allowed it to reach a top speed of 165 KmH and a maximal altitude of 4’000 M.

 The most notable feature of the type was its single Hotchkiss 7.9mm machine-gun firing through the propeller arc, the prop blades being protected by two steel deflectors. This early system pre-dating synchronized weapons had been invented and successfully used in combat by the famous pilot Roland Garros on a parasol-winged Morane-Saulnier Type L (and not an N as it’s commonly believed).

 The Type N entered service with the French Air Force in April 1915 in France’s very first fighter squadron, Escadrille M.S.12 under Captain de Bernis. It also equipped three Royal Flying Corps squadrons (the type being named “Bullet” by the British), and a few served with Russia’s 19th squadron.

 With its early wing-warping system instead of ailerons and high landing speed, the Type N wasn’t an easy plane to fly and didn’t prove very popular with its users. However, it performed rather well at the hands of a skilled pilot, like daredevil Jean Navarre, who would later become famous as “The Sentinel of Verdun”. As technical progress advanced at great speed in these days of war, the Morane-Saulnier N quickly became obsolete and was withdrawn from frontline service after a short time.

THE KIT

This model from 2004 is the second Morane-Saulnier Type N produced by Eduard. It was a welcome replacement for the first one, which was one of the brand’s most early (and rather crude) kits. All photo-etched and white metal parts have been replaced by (superior) injected ones, the main plastic parts being reworked. Due to the type’s simple design, there are not many parts, and the kit assembles rather quickly. Two decal options are provided, for French machines (one with a black nose that may be Navarre’s aircraft, and the subject of this review, with more colourful markings). Also, you get a set of “express masks” for the tail plane fillets and wheels (fillets are found on the decal sheet, too, if you don’t want to mask). A Lewis machine-gun is included, which allows to build a British “Bullet” (if you have decals).

CONSTRUCTION

Due to the fragile nature of WWI planes, I decided to work in sub-assemblies. The few cockpit parts (decals are provided for the few instruments) are quickly put together (I only added masking tape seat belts), the engine, cowling and the cover in front of the cockpit being added to the small fuselage. Afterwards, all elements were pre-painted. The express masks come quite handy, especially on the tail planes. After a gloss coat, I added the decals (the red fillets on the fuselage are a bit tricky to get right) and allowed them to dry for 24 hours. At this moment, I drilled little holes in the wings for the final rigging.

All the parts being ready and painted, I then started the final assembly. Here, two things must be said: the locating holes for the landing gear struts are too small/too shallow and have to be drilled out, and the “V” struts supporting the tail skid are too short and touch the rudder – I had to make a new set from stretched sprue - no big deal. Besides this, I had lost one the struts that support the rigging/wing-warping cables under the fuselage, and had to make one from scratch. But this was my mistake.

 Beware of the horizontal stabilizer unit – it’s easily broken and has to be installed before the rudder… which itself is quite fragile, too. I’d say it’s better if you make sure the kit’s tail planes don’t touch anything after they’re glued in place.

 The other parts (rigging struts, machine gun etc.) go on trouble free.

 This being said, everything fits quite well (for once, you don’t have to worry much about the wing/fuselage joint), and the use of Tamiya extra-thin cement was of great help to assemble the airframe and “fiddly bits” without damaging the paint job.

COLORS & MARKINGS

 The Morane-Saulnier Type Ns came in doped linen, with the cowling, wheel covers, prop spinner and struts painted black or (as in this case) red. Some sported black or red fillets on the fuselage and tail planes, some not. My model depicts Morane Nr. 394 as it appeared in 1916 (according to the instructions). All the photographs I could find show extremely dark (or possibly black) prop blades, so these were most probably painted or lacquered. You can spare yourself the wood effect for once.

Weathering + rigging

 The last steps were to spray a matte coat, add a slight dark wash over the red parts (I like my WWI planes rather clean), post-shade the fabric-covered surfaces with pastel powder, gloss-coat the cowling and spinner, and end the project with the rigging session.  After building several biplanes, I still had to rig a monoplane. As for a change, I had decided to drill holes in the wings and use rubber thread instead of my usual stretched sprue, all went rather easily in 30 minutes, the whole rigging being made with a single length of thread. I know I run the risk of seeing the rubber (in fact it’s spandex) turn to dust in a few years, but when it happens, replacing it with a fresh thread won’t be difficult.

CONCLUSIONS

 I hadn’t built a WWI plane for a while, and this one was a great kit for a “comeback”. In a few, mostly trouble-free hours, you get a nice, colourful little model of a plane that’s the grand-grandpa of every fighter aircraft, and that won’t take much room on your shelves, being roughly the size of many WWII fighters… in 1/72.

 Recommended to modellers with some experience, due to the rigging, too-short tailskid struts and general fragility of the model.

REFERENCES

Mach 1 – encyclopédie de l’Aviation, volume 6, Internet research.

Pierre-André Boillat

April 2010

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