Roden 1/32 Nieuport 24bis
KIT #: 611
PRICE: $74.99 SRP
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


            The Nieuport series of sesquiplane fighters were designed by Gustave Delage.  The first single-seater was the Nieuport 11, known as the Bébé for its small size - being a single-seat development of the two-seat Nieuport 10 - first appeared as a prototype in 1915 and became famous as one of the aircraft that ended the “Fokker Scourge” in 1916.   

            The design was known as a “sesquiplane,” having a standard two-spar upper wing, and a single-spar lower wing with less than half the wing area of the upper wing.  This was originally developed in the Nieuport 10 to provide the maneuverability of a biplane with the downward visibility of a “parasol” monoplane.  The primary drawback of the design is that the lower wing can twist under aerodynamic forces and break off unless strongly built.  Powered originally by an 80 h.p. Gnome-LeRhone rotary and later by 110 h.p. Gnome rotaries, the Nieuport fighters were constructed as lightly as possible to give them the performance they had with this low power.

            The Nieuport 11 was followed by the Nieuport 16 and then the well-known “classic” of the type, the Nieuport 17 (all these numbers related to the square meters of flying surface).

            By early 1917 it was evident the Nieuport 17 was obsolescent in comparison with the German Albatros D.III and later D.V, though both paid the Nieuport the compliment of copying its sesquiplane design, though such was inappropriate for such comparatively heavy and highly-loaded fighters and was eventually their aerodynamic downfall.

            The Nieuport 23, 24, 24bis and 27 were attempts to extend the life of the basic sesquiplane design, appearing in the last summer and fall of 1917.  They fell far below the contemporary SPAD VII in performance and had largely been replaced in first-line service by late 1917, though some were still at the front in early 1918; this was due to the inability of the French aviation industry to produce enough SPAD fighters to meet demand.  Future American film director William Wellman flew a Nieuport 27 with the Lafayette Escadrille, where he learned what he would need to know to make the movie “Wings.”  Most went to French flying schools, with some used by the American Air Service as trainers.  The RAF used the Nieuport 24 and 27 as late as the spring of 1918 due to a shortage of S.E.5a aircraft.  The Russian Air Service used Nieuport 23s and 24s in 1917, and they were later flown by both sides in the Civil War.  The Nieuport 11, built under license by Macchi, was used by the Italian Air Force until the end of the war.

Charles Nungesser:

            One of the most prominent pilots of the First World War, Charles Nungesser was the epitome of the French warrior-adventurer, and was the third-ranked French ace after Fonck and Guynemer. 

            Born March 15, 1892 in Paris, Nungesser was an indifferent student, though he excelled in athletics.  At age 18 he went to South America to search for a lost uncle in Rio de Janeiro, then went on to Buenos Aires where he worked as an auto mechanic and became involved in racing.  His love of racing led to an interest in aviation, learning to fly a Bleriot owned by a friend.

            At the outbreak of the Great War, Nungesser returned to France and enlisted in the cavalry.  On one patrol, he and three fellow cavalrymen ambushed a German motorized patrol, killed the car’s occupants and took it over, returning it to their lines.  His commander was impressed and approved Guynemer’s request to be transferred to aviation duty.

            Flying a Voisin with Escadrille VB106, he shot down his first German plane on July 5, 1915, a German Albatros C.III, for which he was awarded the Croix de Guerre.  On July 31, 1915, he and his mechanic Roger Pochon two took off in a Voisin 3LAS despite his assignment to non‑flying duties.  Running across five Albatros two‑seaters, the two shot down one Albatros near Nancy.  Upon return to his field, Nungesser was put under house arrest for eight days for insubordination. After serving his sentence He was decorated with the Medaille Militaire and sent on for training in Nieuport fighters.

            In November 1915 he was assigned to Escadrille N65.  Shortly thereafter he met the Americans of the Escadrille Lafayette and joined them whenever possible, finding them similar spirits.  Recuperating from wounds again, he borrowed one of their planes, went out and scored his third victory, for which he was made a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur.  By March 1916 he was an ace, and had a score of 21 by the end of 1916.  By the summer of 1916 he had created his own insignia: a black heart with a coffin flanked by funerary candles, above a skull and crossbones, which he carried on his Nieuport 17, number N1895; he would keep the rudder from this, his “lucky” Nieuport on all other aircraft of the type he flew.  (His definition of “luck” was that when he crashed this airplane he was so badly injured he was first thought dead, and later told he would never fly again, though he was back in the air within two months with his mechanic helping him into the cockpit.)

            Nungesser became renowned for being both a leading ace and an irrepressible bon vivant who would not follow the rules.  Wounded several times and injured in crashes, Nungesser repeatedly returned to flying and was frequently placed under arrest for doing so.  The authorities could not keep him down, since nearly every time he was arrested it was following another victory over le Boche.  He was lionized by the press and the people of Paris.  With his rugged good looks and flamboyant personality, combined with an appetite for danger, beautiful women, wine and fast cars, he was the living embodiment of the mythological flying ace.  Unlike the  unsocial René Fonck, Nungesser was popular with his fellow pilots.

            Nungesser continued to fly the Nieuport sesquiplanes, even as they became progressively obsolescent throughout 1917 and early 1918, moving from the Nieuport 17 to a Nieuport 24bis, a Nieuport 24 and finally a special Nieuport 25 with a larger, more powerful engine.  By May 1918 he had 35 victories and became an Officier de la Legion d’Honneur.  In June and July he only scored three victories and finally bowed to the realities of air combat in August, changing to the SPAD XIII.  On August 14, he exploded four observation balloons for victories 39 through 42. The next day he shared a victory with Marcel Henriot and another pilot and finished the war with 43 official victories, behind René Fonck and Georges Guynemer. 

            At the end of the war, the official summary of his wounds and injuries read:  "Skull fracture, brain concussion, internal injuries (multiple), five fractures of the upper jaw, two fractures of lower jaw, piece of anti‑aircraft shrapnel imbedded in right arm, dislocation of knees (left and right), re‑dislocation of left knee, bullet wound in mouth, bullet wound in ear, atrophy of tendons in left leg, atrophy of muscles in calf, dislocated clavicle, dislocated wrist, dislocated right ankle, loss of teeth, contusions too numerous to mention."

            After the war, Nungesser continued flying, with difficulty.  An attempt to start a flying school ended due to lack of students, and he caused an international incident in Cuba in 1923 when he brought several SPAD fighters into the country and attempted to get the Cuban Army to buy them and 40 more from him.  In 1926 he came to the United States for a series of air shows across the country in which he flew a Hanriot H.D.1 fighter.  He left the airplane behind at Los Angeles’ Mines Field after flying in the motion picture “The Dawn Patrol.”  

            Nungesser joined his wartime comrade, navigator Francois Coli, after Coli’s partner the French ace Paul Tarascon was forced to drop out of a proposed trans-Atlantic attempt to win the Orteig Prize, flying from Paris to New York, the most difficult choice given the prevailing winds in the northern hemisphere. On May 8, 1927, flying a specially-modified Levasseur PL 8, L’Oiseau Blanc” (“The White Bird”), Nungesser and Coli left Paris for New York.  They were last seen passing Ireland, and were thought to have gone down in a storm over the Atlantic.  In the 1990s, what may be the remains of the engine from L’Oiseau Blanc” were found in the northern woods of Maine where they may have crashed in a storm after successfully crossing the Atlantic. 

            Two weeks after the disappearance of Nungesser and Coli, Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in the Spirit of St. Louis.  The more difficult east-west crossing was first made April 12–13, 1928, when Gunther von Huenfeld and Captain Hermann Köhl of Germany and Commander James Fitzmaurice of Ireland flew the Junkers W33 “Bremen” 2,070 statute miles from Baldonnell near Dublin, Ireland to Labrador, in 36.5 hours.  It would not be until September 1–2, 1930, that Dieudonne Costes and Maurice Bellonte successfully flew the Breguet 19 Super Bidon “Point d'Interrogation” (“Question Mark”)from Paris to New York City. 

            The Hanriot H.D.1 that Nungesser flew on his 1926 American tour is today displayed with his singular insignia at The Air Museum, Planes of Fame, in Chino, California.  You can see this airplane, with Nungesser flying it, in the 1930 version of “The Dawn Patrol,” which was finally finished and released four years after the flying sequences had originally been filmed.


Scott  gave a full review of the kit here


            This kit presents problems due to the fact it is scaled up from the 1/72 kit, with all the problems that kit had and some new ones.

            The cockpit area is well-detailed, but given the limited-run aspect of the kit, there is lots of test-fitting necessary before gluing the parts.  I limited my efforts to those items which would be seen when the fuselage was glued together and one could only look in the open cockpit. 

            After gluing the lower wings in position, I made the horrible discovery that the two wings are not the same dimension!  Not knowing which was which, I ended up assembling the upper wing after gluing the cabane struts in position.  I then tacked the interplane “V” struts in their proper position on the upper wing, then took each lower wing and “eyeball measured” them to fit. Neither was actually right, and I ended up cutting differing amounts off the inboard tips and then shaping that area to fit the fuselage.


             After assembling the entire model, I painted it with Tamiya “Flat Aluminum.”  I then painted the foward fuselage area that was not fabric-covered with Talon Aluminum, and then used SNJ polishing powder to polish out the engine cowling.

            I then painted the French tricolor stripes on the upper and lower wings using Tamiya paints.

            I decided to use the very nice Academy decals from the very bad Hobbycraft Nieuport 17 kit, which had Nungesser’s markings, since he had flown a Nieuport 24 for about a month in the fall of 1917.  I used the Roden decals for the French cocardes and the rudder stripes.  I realized I had to cut the “V” struts loose from the upper wing so I could apply the underwing insignia.


             I gave the model an overall coat of Xtracrylix Satin clear coat.  I hand-painted the V-struts to look like wood, and “muddied” the wheels and the lower surface of the lower wing.  The model was rigged with .010 wire painted black.


             I have to say this was the worst of the 1/32 Roden World War I airplane kits I have built, due to all the problems with the lower wings.  The end result is worth the effort if you like the Nieuport, and looks a lot better as an OOB project than does the Hobbycraft/Academy Nieuport 17.  The good news is that both the Nieuport 24 and 24bis kits have all the parts necessary to make any Nieuport 23, 24, 24bis or 27 (with the Nieuport 28-type tail surfaces).  Pheon Decals has a sheet out that allows you to do any of these sub-types.  The kit is recommended to those with experience of building limited-run World War I models.

 Tom Cleaver

April 2012

Review kit courtesy HobbyLink Japan: order yours here

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