Roden 1/32 Nieuport 28

KIT #: ?
PRICE: $59.95 MSRP
DECALS: Two Options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


     The Nieuport line had been established with the Nieuport 10 as a light-weight, rotary-powered airplane with a sesquiplane layout in which the lower wing is less than half the area of the upper wing.  The design was solidified with the Nieuport 11 "Bebe," which appeared in late 1915 and did much to erase the "Fokker Scourge" in early 1916.  The Nieuport design became "classic" with the Nieuport 17, the mount of such aces as Guynemer, Nungesser, Ball and Bishop in 1916-17.  However, by 1917 it was obvious the design had seen better days, with the Nieuports 23, 24 and 27 being essentially variations on the theme of the Nieuport 17.  The heavier and faster SPAD VII and the later XIII paved the way for the fighters of the last year of the Great War.

     Nieuport answered the SPAD VII with the Nieuport 28, which maintained the tradition of light weight and rotary power, but changed to a biplane design with upper and lower wings of equal area and a hefty increase in speed.  Aesthetically, the Nieuport 28 was among the best-looking fighters of the war, with its gracefully rounded wingtips and curvaceous tail, mated to a slim cigar-shaped fuselage.  Unfortunately, the design was not as robust as the SPAD series.  France had to concentrate its limited aeronautical and industrial resources, and the French Air Force chose the SPAD, rejecting the Nieuport in late 1917.

     This left Nieuport with the choice of becoming a sub-contractor for SPADs, or trying for a new design (which they did with an unsuccessful design known as the Nightjar). The Imperial Russian Air Service had earlier ordered 200 Nieuport 28s, though deliveries had been delayed and then stopped by the events of 1917 that led to the October Revolution, leaving the Nieuports finished in their crates.  Fortunately, there was another customer - the United States - anxious to find a single-seat fighter for its new air force, and experiencing difficulty in obtaining the main fighters of its British and French allies.  The United States had entered the war in April 1917 with essentially no air force, and no domestic designs capable of competing successfully with European designs.  Nieuport had the ability to deliver the Nieuport 28 quickly; in fact, it was this availability of these fighters that was the reason why the United States adopted what had previously been the Imperial Russian cockade as the US insignia for aircraft during the war.  The deal was struck in early 1918, and the Nieuport 28 became the first single-seat fighter of the U.S. Army Air Service.

     Force Majeure stepped in to decide that the little Nieuport would become the first fighting scout of the new United States Army Air Service. By March, 1918, as American flying personnel finished their training in the United States and France, 297 Nieuport 28s were transferred to the U.S.A.S. and became the initial equipment of the 94th and 95th Aero Squadrons, as well as the 103rd Aero Squadron, formerly the Lafayette Escadrille, which formed the First Pursuit Group of the U.S. Army air Service. It would also be original equipment for squadrons of the Second Pursuit Group, though they would not take it into combat, having equipped with the SPAD XIII by the time they went to the front in July 1918.  

     The squadrons of the First Pursuit Group, received their airplanes beginning in late April 1918.  Initially, the airplanes were delivered without armament, due to shortages of Vickers machine guns, and in fact most of the airplanes flown by the three American units only carried one machine gun until shortly before they were re-equipped with the SPAD XIII in the late summer of 1918, though most pilots continued to use only one gun due to the deleterious effect on performance of the weight of the second weapon.  As they began to fly their new mounts, the Americans were forced to discover for themselves the things that had led to the French rejection of the airplane, such as its propensity for shedding the fabric of the upper wing in a prolonged dive.  After several unexplained fatal crashes, Eddie Rickenbacker experienced this on May 11, 1918, and was able through superior flying ability and luck to bring the badly-damaged airplane back to Toul airdrome, where subsequent investigation was able to finally find the cause of what to then had been mysterious and unexplained crashes, this being insufficient attachment of the upper wing fabric on the upper surface (it was tacked to the ribs), which allowed the fabric to “balloon” from the internal air pressure differential, leading to bursting or ripping of the fabric and loss of the aerodynamic surface. The First Pursuit Group never liked the Nieuport, though other U.S. units who learned to fly the airplane within its limits did like it and several were actually reluctant to trade it in for the (comparatively) heavy SPAD XIII; it must be remembered, however, that the experience of the First Pursuit Group involved green pilots flying combat against a highly-experienced foe. 

     The 94th “Hat in the Ring” squadron (the insignia represented Uncle Sam’s hat “thrown into the ring” of combat) was initially commanded by Lafayette Flying Corps ace Major Raoul Lufbery, who managed to transmit what he had learned in two years of combat over the Western Front to such untried Americans as Douglas Campbell, Alan Winslow and Eddie Rickenbacker before he was killed in combat in June 1918, falling to his death to escape his burning fighter.

     Rickenbacker, Campbell and Winslow accompanied Lufbery on the first combat air patrol over enemy lines on March 19th, 1918. Several more patrols were flown by other members of the unit during the course of the rest of that month and early April, without seeing major combat. On April 14th, Campbell and Winslow shot down two German observation airplanes, these being the first victories by Americans flying in the American Air Service of the First World War.

Eddie Rickenbacker: America’s “Ace of Aces”:

     Born October 8, 1890, Eddie Rickenbacher was famous in America before the war as a race car driver for the Duesenberg Corporation, and was the first to drive faster than “a mile a minute,” which led to his becoming the first to have the nickname “Fast Eddie” (from which all others descend).  On the outbreak of war, with the official policy of promoting anti-German feeling, he changed the spelling of his name to “Rickenbacker” to “take the Hun out of it.” He joined the Army when war was declared, and came to France on June 26, 1917, with the rank of Sergeant First Class in one of the first American units to go to war. He was soon taken on as chauffeur for General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces. Though he was considered “too old” (at 27) to fly, and lacked the necessary educational background demanded by the U.S. Air Service for a commission, he  managed to convince the General to approve his transfer to the Air Service. He took flight training under the French at Issoudun, as had Campbell, Winslow, and the other original members of the 94th, all of whom had enlisted shortly after the U.S. entry into the war and been sent to France for training since the U.S.A.S. was still setting up its flight schools. Rickenbacker’s well-known mechanical skills led to his being assigned as engineering officer at Issoudun, and he had to fight to obtain an assignment to the 94th Aero Squadron.

     Rickenbacker scored his first victory on April 29th when he shot down an Albatros D.V, and his fifth on May 30th, to be recognized as America’s second ace. He very nearly did not survive to make that fifth kill; in combat a week previous, he put his airplane in a dive to escape the enemy, and the fabric on the upper surface of the right wing came loose as described above. The fact that Rickenbacker was the only pilot to survive such an event, managing to bring the airplane in to a “hot” landing at Tours field despite losing half of the upper wing, was a demonstration of flying skill that singled him out as being head and shoulders above the others in regard to ability, despite being “too old.”

     Shortly after his fifth victory, an ear infection sent him to the hospital for several months, and he did not return to operations until the latter part of September 1918, just in time to participate in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, America’s major contribution to victory over Germany. In six weeks of almost-daily combat, Rickenbacker scored an additional 21 official victories (he may have scored twice that number, though they happened behind enemy lines and could not be confirmed) while rising to lead the 94th Aero Squadron. Such performance clearly demonstrated he was worthy to be considered alongside Mannock and McCudden, Guynemer and Nungesser, or Richtofen and Udet as one of the truly great combat pilots of the First World War.  His autobiography - “Fighting the Flying Circus” - is one of the best accounts of air combat in the First World War I ever read. The book is now in the public domain and available online at - I recommend it highly.

     Rickenbacker’s actual totals were 23 whole kills, two “half kills” shared with another aviator, and one shared with two other pilots, or 24.33 by modern measurements. While the US Air Service credited "out of control" and other non-fatal victories, in terms of aircraft destroyed, Rickenbacker's tally was six airplanes and three balloons in the air, plus two balloons on the ground. Several other Americans have more enemy aircraft destroyed but fewer credited victories, including Frank Luke.  Raoul Lufbery flew with the French and has no official U.S. Air Service credits. Rickenbacker’s total of 300 combat hours is reportedly more than any other American pilot in the war.

     After the war, Rickenbacker started a car company which introduced the first vehicle with four-wheel brakes, which is now the world standard, but which was resisted by the automobile industry at the time with such vehemence that the company went bankrupt.  He bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1927 and was responsible for all the modernization, such as banking curves, at the course.

     In 1932, Rickenbacker combined Eastern Air Transport with Florida Air Lines to create Eastern Air Lines, becoming one of the leaders responsible for the introduction of nearly every modern technological development in air transport from the DC-3 to the DC-8.

     During the Second World War, he was a consultant to the Army Air Forces, In October 1942, he was aboard a B-17 bound to Canton Island from Pearl Harbor that went down due to a navigation error. Everyone was injured to varying degrees in the crash, and food ran our after three days.  For 24 days Rickenbacker, his business associate Hans Adamson and the surviving crew drifted in a rubber raft.  On day 8, a seagull landed on his head, and he captured it.  They ate it and used the remains for fishing bait. After two weeks of unsuccessful search, the USAAF was ready to call of further effort, but Rickenbacker's wife, Adelaide, convinced Hap Arnold to extend the search another week. For the second time in his life (the first being a crash in 1941) the press reported that Rickenbacker was dead.  On November 13, 1942,

Navy pilots rescued the survivors - all suffering from exposure, dehydration, and starvation - off the coast of Nukufetau near Samoa. One crew member had died and been buried at sea.  All credited Rickenbacker - who wrote a book about the incident in 1943, “Seven Came Through” - for their survival.

     In 1963, Eddie Rickenbacker retired as Chairman of Eastern Airlines.  He died from the complications of a stroke in 1973.   The Rickenbacker Causeway connecting Key Biscayne to the mainland is named in his honor.  He was the cousin of Adolph Rickenbacker, co-founder of Rickenbacker Guitars. 


     There have been several Nieuport 28 kits released over the past 50 years in 1/48 and 1/32 scale, beginning with the release of the Aurora Nieuport 28 in the fall of 1957.  Until 1997, this was the only 1/48 Nieuport 28, though Revell released one in 1/72 in the mid-1960s.  Blue Max released a limited-run 1/48 Nieuport 28 in 1997, which is still the best kit in that scale for overall shape and surface detail accuracy.  Roden released a Nieuport 28 in 1/48 in 2005.  

     This 1/32 kit is the first Nieuport 28 in this scale, and it is also easily the best Nieuport 28 in any scale.  Crisply molded in medium-grey plastic, all flying surfaces are thin with sharp trailing edges, and highly accurate fabric detail - no “hills and valleys,” and the underside of the wing done right.  The fuselage fabric area is also right: faceted with only very slight concave curves between the stringers.

     Essentially the kit is the 1/48 kit scaled up, which is not a bad thing.  Detail is sufficient that a modeler can do the project OOB, while a super detailer has the essential basics to start a project.  The kit is simple to construct and the rigging is basic enough that this would be a good kit for a first-time biplane modeler.


     Construction is the essence of simplicity, to the point where if you are considering your first World War I biplane project and have been put off by their alleged difficulty, then this is the kit for you.

     Some of the more “serious” WW1 modelers I know say that the kit-supplied cockpit needs more detail. I guess I must not be very serious, since I operate on the theory that “if you can’t see it, I don’t care about it.” The cockpit opening is small enough that all you’re going to see is the seat and a bit of the side frame detail. Thus, to me, using the kit-supplied cockpit without worrying about super-detailing resulted in a good-looking model.

     The kit instructions are easy to follow, and doing so will result in a model that is assembled to the point of being ready to paint in an evening. By that, I mean the fuselage, lower wings and tail surfaces are assembled together. Depending on which airplane you’re going to do, you may or may not wish to attach the engine and the cowling at this point; since I was doing the Rickenbacker airplane with a simple white cowling, I attached the nicely-detailed engine and cowling at this point, to assure a good fit.



     I used Tamiya “Buff” for the clear doped linen lower surfaces, with the upper camouflage done with Tamiya “Desert Tan,” “Dark Green,” “Flat Brown,” and Gunze-Sangyo “Light Green.”  I used Xtracrylix “White” for the cowling, prop, and rudder.  The camouflage pattern was masked for a hard edge.  I finished off with a coat of Xtracrylix “Gloss” varnish. 


     The kit decals went on without problems under a coat of Micro-Sol.  I then gave the model a second coat of Xtracrylix “Gloss” varnish. 



 I used the Tamiya weathering set to apply “mud” to the wheels.   The simple rigging was done with .010 wire painted black. 



The Nieuport 28 is definitely one of the most beautiful World War I airplanes in terms of its design aesthetics. Having built models of this airplane in 1/72 and 1/48, I am even more convinced that 1/32 is the best scale for World War I fighters.  Overall, this is an easy model for someone who hasn’t done a World War I biplane before.  It is easy to assemble and the rigging is relatively simple.  Highly recommended.

Review copy courtesy Roden. 

 Tom Cleaver

October 2008


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