Huma 1/72 Grunau 9 and SG 38 Gliders

KIT #: ?
REVIEWER: Brian Baker


The primary glider was developed in Germany during the 1920s to provide low cost flight training because powered flight was prohibited at the time due to the provisions of the Versailles Treaty.  They were an outgrowth of the hang glider movement, and the formula that evolved into the primary was a wooden, wire braced, open fuselage monoplane glider with the pilot sitting out in front to balance the aircraft.  Controls were entirely conventional, and the glider was launched and landed on a wooden skid located underneath the fuselage.  Small metal skids protected the wingtips from damage when they touched the ground. Sometimes wheeled dollies were used to aid movement on the ground.

 In Europe, primary gliding was always a group activity, with young men serving a protracted period of apprenticeship assisting in the launch and recovery of the gliders before getting a chance to actually fly the aircraft.  Gliders were usually launched from hilltops using a bungee cord, with a large group of people literally propelling the glider into the air like a giant slingshot, with the aircraft gliding downhill, sometimes actually in ground effect, rarely more than eight to ten feet above the hillside.  Eventually the glider would land on its skid, and the crew had to walk downhill and muscle the glider back uphill for the next launch sometimes using a winch.

 Obviously, this highly labor-intensive activity encouraged strictly conformist behavior, and few deviated from the standard procedures if they wanted to remain in the program and actually get to fly. In Germany, this system worked very well, and primary gliders were operated by glider clubs, and later by organizations like the Hitler Youth, throughout the 1930s.

 When primary gliders were introduced into the United States in the late twenties, the aircraft were not accompanied by the group activity concept. They were built or bought outright by individuals, who sometimes built them from plans published in magazines such as Popular Mechanics. More innovative methods of launching were developed, notably the car tow, with often disastrous results.  The people involved often knew little about aviation, and fatalities mounted.  Soon the primary gliding phase died out in the U.S., with the only primaries today being exhibition gliders or museum displays.

 In Germany, by 1928, two major primary glider types had evolved: Alexander Lippisch’s “Zogling” and Espenlaub’s Grunau  9 “Schadelspalter”, or “headsplitter”, named for the strut located directly in front of the pilot’s head, in which he would invariably bury his face in  the event of a rough landing. These are the aircraft represented by the Huma kit.  Later models of both gliders were sometimes fitted with streamlined fairings which increased the efficiency somewhat.  Most of these gliders had rather pleasant and forgiving flight characteristics, and they were used for the flight training of many World War II Luftwaffe pilots.  About 5,000 were built in Germany, Austria, and Holland before World War II. 



 One hallmark of Huma kits,  even the earlier ones, has been a very complete and useful set of instructions.  Excellent drawings are provided, and the text is in German, English, and French. Color information and even rigging information is included.  Some technical data is given, along with several photos of the aircraft in various configurations.

 The instructions are somewhat unclear as to the identify of one of the gliders.  They mention Lippisch’s “Zogling,” but the glider represented by the kit is apparently a development known as the SG-38, so designated because of the year of its appearance.

It had the capability of being able to be launched by winches from level ground, and these became part of the Luftwaffe’s primary pilot training program.


 The kit includes parts for two complete aircraft, one of each type.  Each glider can be built in the open version or the model with the enclosed cockpit fairing.  The actual models are very basic, but so were the real gliders.  The parts are molded all on one sprue, but they are easily distinguishable, so the modeler should have no problems telling which part goes on which model.  The S.G. 38 wings are molded in two pieces, whereas the Grunau 9 is a single piece wing.

 Included in this kit are basic cockpit details, including seats, control sticks, rudder pedals, and a towing dolly.  A photo included in the instructions shows what appears to be a Grunau 9 glider mounted on a bicycle wheel, but this wheel is not included in the kit.


The parts should be taken off the sprue carefully, although the plastic is soft enough that

nothing should break under normal pressure.  Flash is almost non-existent, so the is little trimming necessary.  However, before basic assembly, paint all of the components.  The wooden parts should simulate a varnished surface, while the fabric covered parts, including the wings, tail unit, and covered aft fuselage sections should the beige color associated with unpainted fabric. 

 For the Grunau 9, attach the wing section to the fuselage.  This model has a one piece wing, and alignment is the only problem.  Make sure that the wing is straight and square.

Then attach the horizontal tail unit, again making sure of alignment.  The forward bracing strut should then be attached to the nose section, along with the seat, rudder pedals, and control stick.  If you decide to use the streamlined pod, attach it after painting it the appropriate color, which is brown. There might be some filling required, but there is no way to avoid it, as it has to be installed after major assemblies are completed. 

 Once basic assembly is complete, there is little to do except apply the rigging wires.  These are absolutely necessary for the realistic appearance of this kind of model, and also the wires will add somewhat to the strength of the model.  I used unstranded electronic wire, but stretched sprue could also be used, but it won’t have the strength of the wire.

The instructions contain three view drawings that show the exact rigging wire positions.

 For the Schulgleiter SG 38, the problems are a little different.  The painting sequence is the same, but the  wings are molded in two pieces, meaning that the structure will be much weaker. Checking the drawings, the glider has a degree or two of dihedral, and when the wing sections are attached, this angle should be represented.  This is quite difficult to do, since each wing has to be attached separately.  The only way to do it is to attach one wing,  let it dry thoroughly, estimating the proper angle, and then attaching the other wing using the same method.  I laid the fuselage on a flat surface and glued the wing on, letting it set until the glue had hardened.  The second panel was harder,  although I did this by holding it in place until it set up.  Once the wings were in position, I attached the tail unit, making sure that it was lined up properly.  Then the cockpit details were added, followed by the cockpit enclosure, which was finished the same way at the Grunau 9.   I added the rigging wires as soon as possible, mainly to strengthen the model, because the wings will inevitably droop without some kind of structural support.  Just like the real thing!


 Decals are provided for no less than eight gliders, dating from the thirties until one still being operated in France in the 1980’s.  Decisions, decisions, decisions.


 Although these kits are quite old, they are excellently done, and represent a type of aircraft produced by no other modeling company. It would be worth getting several of these if you can find them.  There are eight to be built if you take your modeling seriously, so go for it.

May 2005

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page 2022