1/72 Farman Flying Fish

KIT #:  
REVIEWER: Chris Peachment
NOTES: Scratch-built using 10 and 20 thou plastic card, rod, and strut. 


My search to find the ugliest aircraft of all time took me to the Farman Jabiru, which I scratch built for this website some months ago. I then idly began to surf  for other examples of the three Farman brothers' work, and what emerged was the fact that here was a very great aviation company, who had produced more than 200 different types of aircraft right from the early pioneering days through to the end of 1941, and is seriously under-represented by kit manufacturers. Off the top of my head, I can think of only one Farman mainstream kit, and that is the Azur Farman 223, which I would dearly like to make, but stands at an eye-watering £50 here in the UK. There are a few other kits either in vacform which are rare, or resin, which I don't like.

Well, if the mountain won't come to Muhammad, then scratch building is the only solution.  And so here is one that I don't think any mainstream manufacturer is going to enrage me by releasing just two weeks after I have completed it.

It isn't quite the earliest Farman ever made but dates from around 1908. While it was built by Farman, it was patented by their close colleague Voisin. A glance at the pictures will tell you that it had 3 widely staggered rectangular wings with considerable dihedral, and 2 more in the rear. And that it follows the highly unusual idea of having wings which are shorter than the fuselage. A few other aircraft followed this pattern, notably the Wight Quadruplane, but none of them were successful

The long fuselage was rectangular in section and arched. The nose was pointed with the inline 4 cylinder Renault engine set inside the fuselage, complete with a crank handle facing the pilot. The purpose of the layout was to have less resistance from bracing wires. Photos at the factory suggest that at least three were made, and possibly six. Later in life one was rebuilt with 2 sets of wings and a new tail. It was then sold to a German Lieutenant Fritsche, and after that is lost to history.

What isn't apparent from a first glance is that the fuselage, described at the time as banana shaped, does in fact follow the aerofoil section of wings of that period. This would suggest that Farman was onto the idea of a lifting body. Indeed this may well be the first aircraft to explore notion.  


Plans were found on one of the websites 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. A rudimentary bench seat was made from card, and painted leather. A rod was glued to the upper cockpit panel and a steering wheel from rod and circular rod was added, only to break off during handling, rattle around inside with an insolent noise. It was finally fished out with a dental pick after much cursing and rootling around.

The wings are easy enough, and best done in pairs sharing a common spar. Mount the spar on the lower wing, then curve the upper wing around it, after having marked the inside ribs with a biro and steel rule. The fin and rudder are made of two pieces of thin card, with the ribs marked on the inside, then sandwiched together, so that the ribs show through. Everything got blasted with white at this stage.

 Then the wings were mounted. As far as I can tell, the forward pair of wings, and possible more, were able to be rotated about their spar.  What Farman hoped to achieve with this early attempt at variable camber is anybody's guess. But the few photos definitely show them to be sitting at varying angles of incidence. And even with differing amounts of dihedral. One can only shrug and mutter “God help the poor bemused pilot.” But it does relieve you of worrying too much about symmetry and alignment. If they look a little at  odds with each other, well, that is all there in the pictures. The forward pair of wings sit on a mount of struts. The rest either sit on top of the fuselage, or in holes drilled though the sides.  

Now comes the fiddly stuff. The plans show the undercarriage positioned between the second and third wings. There is one photo that shows it aft of the forward wing and I did dry fit that layout, but it just didn't look right, so I went with what is shown on the plans. There is an old engineers' piece of wisdom which goes: when it looks right, it is right. Hence the 1955 Maserati 250F. Which looks a lot more right than any of last year's Grand Prix cars.  

The undercarriage was made of plastic rod to the shape you see in the pictures. When I say made, I mean several evenings of cutting rod to length, marrying it up, then dismantling again when found to be too short or too long. The wheels are Eduard photo-etched WWI spokes, which come in varying sizes on the same sheet. The tail wheel is the smallest size, the main wheels the biggest.

I have discovered a handy new way to make tyres, which is old fashioned solder, from you local hardware store. It comes in varying thickness, is very pliable and can be wrapped round a pencil or paint brush of right diameter, cut with an old blunt blade and the join sealed with superglue. It is an excellent discovery because it saves using up my dwindling supply of wheels in the Big Bag of Wheels in the spares box. It also saves having to file out the wheel centres, a chore which will save your finger tips being stored in ice and rushed to the casualty department of your local hospital.

After that it is all over bar the shouting. Holes were drilled in the rudder and rear wings to take some plain rod as control horns. These were then rigged to near the cockpit on positions carefully plotted by looking at the photos and then, when nothing could seen at all about where they emerged, it was done by pure speculation. 

As you can see the propeller is a four blade fan which are simply flat paddles mounted at an angle on steel rods. Note that each rod is mounted to a square spinner plate asymmetrically. Rather than joining at the centre, the rods form a square around the centre. I imagine this might have set up a vibration which could have shivered the whole nose to fragments, but once again, history has shrouded the whole enterprise with a decorous veil.

And that is it. No decals, no windscreen, no masking, one colour and hardly any rigging.


  So there you have at least one more Farman to add to your collection of one. It wasn't a hard scratch build by any means, and the rigging is minimal. From an era when the first faltering steps in aviation were taken by men willing to try out any new layout in the hope of discovering a whole new world. I am now looking at the Farman 190, a very comely looking passenger and general utility aircraft of the 1930s.  And will report on that soon.  





Chris Peachment

August 2014

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