Special Hobby 1/48 Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann

KIT #: SH 48120
PRICE: $18.00
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Torben Plesberg
NOTES: Sk 25 Flygvapnet


The Bücker Bü 181 was developed from the Bü 180, and was a monoplane side by side trainer aircraft. The designer was Swedish: Anders Johan Andersson. The Luftwaffe needed a trainer aircraft preparing the students to fly the new monoplane fighter aircraft, just like the Miles Magister in the UK. However, the Bestmann was the first trainer with the teacher and the student sitting side by side in the cockpit. The teacher could simply show the student how to move the rudder, not a possibility in a tandem trainer.

The Bestmann should replace the biplane Focke Wulf FW 44 Stieglitz as the standard trainer of the Luftwaffe. It flew for the first time in February 1939, and the production was started in 1940, by the Bücker Flugzeugbau at Rangsdorf near Berlin. However, the demand was greater than the rate of production of the Bücker plant, and license was issued to Fokker in the Netherlands, and to Zlin in Czechoslovakia. All together more than 3600 aircraft were produced, mostly during the war. Fokker built more than 700 aircraft, and Zlin almost 800. The latter continued production after the war for the Czechoslovak Air Force under the designation C.6 and C.106. The planes for civil use were designated Zlin Z.281 and Z.381, depending on B or C version.

In Sweden, Flygvapnet was looking for a new training aircraft to succeed the obsolete types Focke Wulf Stieglitz (Sk 12) and Klemm Kl 35 (Sk 15). They learned about the Bestmann from the Swedish air attach in Berlin, and this information was of great interest to Flygvapnet. In 1941 a Bü 181 landed at Bromma (Stockholm) to be demonstrated for Flygvapnet. The demonstration was convincing. A single plane was bought from the plant in Rangsdorf, and negotiations for a license agreement were initiated. It was the Swedish intention to let SAAB build the Bestmann for Flygvapnet. However, Carl Bücker would not let SAAB get the license, because he once had a bad experience with this company. The negotiations ended with a license issued to Hägglund & Söner. This company built 120 planes for Flygvapnet with the Swedish designation Sk 25.

The Sk 25 was delivered to the F 5 – Krigsflygskolan. The Bestmann served as standard elementary trainer in Sweden until 1952, when the SAAB 91 Safir was put into production. The Safir was designed by the same person, who had designed the Bestmann: Anders Johan Andersson. The Safir was actually a much improved Bestmann, with a tri cycle landing gear and a more powerful engine, and with accommodation for three or four crew in the cockpit.

The Bücker Bestmann served with 16 air forces, including Luftwaffe and Flygvapnet. The other 14 air forces mostly flew the Bestmann after the war. Some of these aircraft have survived to this day, and can even be seen in the air. The sole German built Swedish Bestmann can be seen in the Flygvapnet Museum at Linköping, and three of the Swedish license built Bestmanns can still be seen in the air. In Denmark, there were two Swedish built Bestmanns on the civil register. One belonged to a friend of mine from the shooting club. It had the Swedish serial no 25014. Unfortunately, my friend made a hard landing, and the aircraft was written off. The other Danish Bestmann has the serial no 25073, and is owned by a veteran Aircraft Museum. It has a civil registration in large black letters on the fuselage sides, otherwise it has the colors of a Swedish trainer from F 5. This aircraft is the subject of my model, the 273. The serial numbers of Swedish aircraft are often abbreviated on the aircraft: the first number being the first number of the type number followed by the two last numbers of the serial number. In short: 25073 = 273.


The kit comes in a strong box with a picture of a Luftwaffe Bestmann on the lid. The instructions is a leaflet with 12 pages printed in full color on quality paper. Page one is a brief history of the Bestmann in Czech and English. Page two shows the sprues, the resin parts and the fret with photo etched parts and a color reference for Gunze. Pages three to six show how to put the model together in 14 steps. Pages seven to nine show, how to paint and decal the three options: two Luftwaffe aircraft and a Swiss Flugwaffe aircraft. Pages ten to twelve show 22 other kits to a 1/48 scale from Special Hobby.

The decal sheet is large and seems to be of good quality. Especially attractive are the colorful markings for the Swiss aircraft, with red and white stripes.

The cockpit is rather detailed with photo etched parts. Normally, I do not apply the photo etched parts of a kit, however, in this case I did, since the canopy is large, and it is possible to see, what is below. The plastic parts are crisp and without flaws, and everything fits very well together.


If you follow the instructions, you will end up with a nice model of the German standard trainer during WWII. It is an easy build without any problems worth mentioning. However, there are some points of interest: The instructions has marked some of the parts with a red cross – do not use this part! There are four Panzerfaust rockets (C4) as an option. Late in the war, Luftwaffe was short of everything. Therefore, some Bestmanns were armed with four Panzerfaust rockets – to deal with enemy tanks.

There are two types of main undercarriage legs, C5 and C7. The C7 legs are marked with red crosses. However, these are the undercarriage legs needed for a Swedish built Bestmann. There are three different types of main wheels, C9 C10 and C11. Since the C10 wheels are marked with red crosses, I guess that they go with the C7 legs.

Photo etched part PP10 is very fragile and this part should not be glued in place until just before the rear part of the canopy CP2 is glued in place. The CP2 will protect the PP10 against deformation by an unintentional touch. When gluing the main undercarriage legs in place, the sketch page six in the top left shows the exact position of the legs as seen from the front. The small photo etched trim tab for the rudder is pushed in place. There is a small gap between the two rudder halves, enough for the fastening of the trim tab – no glue necessary! The very small photo etched parts for the fuselage may be applied – or not – step 12. I did not apply these, since I found them too fragile.


 The Swedish Bestmanns had dark green (RLM 71 Model Master acryl) fuselage and fin, the wings were bright orange (Revell orange 30 Aqua). The orange needed five layers to cover properly, the dark green only two layers. The small rudder trim tab is bright red (Revell fire red 31 Aqua). The propeller is RLM 71 with yellow tips. The undercarriage legs are RLM 71, and the wheels are flat black.

The national insignias with three crowns are from a Flying Colors sheet (1/48). The yellow numbers on the front fuselage and the rudder are from a special Swedish decal sheet covering Dornier Do 24, Heinkel He 115 and Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina. The serial number was taken from a Swedish Mustang 1/48 sheet. All decals are first class and easy to apply. Only the serial number caused some handling problems, because of the small size.


The Special Hobby 1/48 Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann is a nice and, close to perfect kit, and very recommendable to all modelers, who fancy trainer aircraft of the WWII period. Making the Swedish 273 was a challenge – even if it only was a minor one. The main problem was to find the right markings for the Bestmann, which can be seen in the air in Denmark today.


Articles from Wikipedia on the Bücker Bestmann in English and in Swedish.

Björn Karlström: Swedish Air Force trainers 1926-1997 in scale 1/72 pages 66-69. Allt om Hobby, Stockholm ISBN 91-85496-83-9

My own photos of the Swedish Bestmann “273”.

Torben Plesberg

13 January 2020

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