Frog 1/72 Fokker F.VIIA/3m
KIT #: ?
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Brian Baker


 Most kits generally represent some historical article, be it an airplane, vehicle, ship, or figure.  Instructions often have a diagram or color scheme, accompanied by a set of decals which, if applied correctly, produce a reasonable representation of the subject.  However, sometimes kit-provided information is incorrect, or downright fictional.  One example, to pick on Hasegawa here, is their recent issue of the Focke Wulf FW-190G-8, which including painting instructions which described a G-8 of an “unknown unit”, and another listed as “in markings that would have appeared on an FW-190G-8 assigned to II/SG.2”. Translated, that means that they didn’t have any documentation, and that these schemes were an educated guess.  Another goof is Hasegawa’s Brewster F2A-1 Buffalo, which is presented in the markings of VF-3, USS Saratoga, during 1941,  The aircraft still carried the yellow wing upper surface and the tail, fuselage, and cowling color codes for aircraft in that particular unit.  However, their decals are for ”3-F-18”, which would be the last airplane in the squadron.  According to my references,  the sequence of color codes for Navy units at the time were red, white, true blue,  black, willow green, and lemon yellow.  In this case, “3-F-18” should have lemon yellow markings, not white as stated on the Aeromaster decal sheet included in the kit.  Granted, in old photos, it would be difficult to tell lemon yellow from white, especially with difficult lighting, but the numbers should have made it obvious that lemon yellow, not white, were the correct colors.  They just didn’t do their homework.  They got this right on their ”yellow wing” Grumman F4F-3, but not on the Buffalo. So you have to check the references you have to be sure.

 Information Sources

 Years ago, I used to wonder why I built models, and why kids of my generation all built them.  Granted, there were no computer games, and we had a lot more time on our hands, but my conclusion was that we built model airplanes to learn about them.  We weren’t old enough to fly them, or work on them, but we could certainly read about them, watch them when they were available,  go to airplane movies, watch airplane TV programs, and certainly build models. When I was fairly young, I began accumulating a library of aviation books, periodicals, and materials that I have kept for well over 50 years, keeping a policy (that drives my wife nuts) of not throwing anything away.  I might need it someday.  So this is my first axiom of model building:  Accumulate the best possible library.  That is not to say that you should buy every book you can, because this is not economical, and we’re not the government;  we can’t print money.  But you will find, over the years, that there are some good references that have stood the test of time, and they will be useful over and over again. I started with the old Profile Publications, and bought every issue I thought I would ever need.  Squadron-Signal  In- Actions and Walkarounds fall into the same category.  And today, publishers like Osprey and Midland Publications produce some very useful material.  But there are many other publishers who produce books that have a lot of useful information, and sometimes you can borrow materials if you can’t shell out $50 for every new book that you drool over as it becomes available. Read the on-line reviews and see if the publication fits your needs.  Then shell out the bucks, if you have any.

 Another source, of course, is the internet.  In the past ten years, an infinite amount of information has become available on line, and merely googling a topic will bring hundreds of sources that might contain useful information.  And if you are building a particular model, google the model, as you will get any available kit reviews that will point out the strengths and weaknesses of a particular kit.  There are literally hundreds of websites, including Modeling Madness and the IPMS-USA site, where kit reviews and articles of interest are available on line, and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble by reading all available sources.

 The Research Process

 When I build a model, I like to know as much about the airplane as possible before I begin.  This means that I usually read anything I can get my hands on concerning the airplane, who used it, and how it was operated.  I consider this recreational reading, and it sure beats the heck out of watching TV.  An example is the project I am working on now.  I’ve always been attracted to Fokker aircraft, especially the older ones, and have built over a dozen Fokker D.VII’s, E-III’s, and Dr.1 Triplanes.  I’ve also kit bashed a number of prototypes, including the five winged V.8 monstrosity that was only flown once, and these require references for accuracy.  But the other day, I obtained a copy of a book entitled “Southern Cloud” by I.R. Carter, published in England by Angus & Robertson, London, in 1964. I spent less than a day reading it, and was fascinated by the story.  It tells of a trimotor Fokker F.VII, actually one of the British-built Avro Tens that was operated by Australian National Airways.  ANA was founded by Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm after their successful flight from Oakland, California,  to Australia via Hawaii and Fiji in 1928. Another similar Fokker F.VII, piloted by Lts. Hegenberger and Maitland of the U.S. Army Air Corps, made the first flight from Oakland to Wheeler Field, Hawaii, in 1926, but that is another story.  Smith and Ulm were impressed enough with the Fokkers to order five British-built F.VII’s, called Avro Tens, from England and start an airline flying between the major cities in Australia, including Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane.  Five Avro Ten’s were used by ANA beginning in 1930, along with the original Southern Cross.  At that time, there were no navigational aids, and instrument flying was in its infancy, and weather forecasting was very primitive. The planes did not carry radios.  Pilots were on their own, usually flying over rough terrain in unpredictable weather conditions.  In 1931, one of the F.VII’s, VH-UMF, crashed on flight between Sydney and Melbourne in atrocious weather conditions.  The pilot apparently got into severe weather conditions in the mountains,  and flew into terrain not very far off course.  A long search was unsuccessful, and the wreckage was not found until 1958. When the plane was lost, the airline stopped operations, and the airplanes went their separate ways. The “Southern Cross” survived,  and was flown around Australia and to New Zealand before it was retired. It is currently displayed in a glassed-in hangar at Brisbane. Later, in the mid-thirties, another firm operated as Australian National Airways, but this was a different group of people.

 Another interesting footnote is that the original Fokker F.VII was a single engine airplane, with the second and third engines only installed by Fokker for the Ford reliability Tour of the United States in 1925. The idea caught on, and most F.VII’s were trimotors.  Ford even took the idea and built his all-metal Ford Trimotor, but this is another story.


 In the seventies, Frog issued a kit of the “Southern Cross” in 1/72 scale, and this is the kit I plan to use for my models.  I’m sure the molds for this kit went to Russia during that episode, and  it was issued by Nova and several other manufacturers over the years. The kit has been recently reissued by Zvezda, but it is the same kit. My first question was, of course, which airplane to build.  The Southern Cross went through several markings changes.  When it made its famous flight  in 1928, the airplane carried an abbreviated U.S. registration, NC-1985, shortened to “1985” as shown on the airplane, but later, for operations in Australia, it was reregistered VH-USU.  The kit decals give the 1985 marking, and this is the marking carried by the airplane in its restored state.

 Since I actually have five kits, I plan to do several.  Fortunately, there is quite a bit of information available on these airplanes, as they were probably the most important airliners of the early 20th century, along with the Ford tri-Motors, Boeing 247’s, and Douglas DC-3’s.  Here are some of the sources I consulted:

Hegener, Genri  “Fokker-The Man and the Aircraft”  Fallbrook, CA: Aero Publishers Inc. (Harleyford) 1961.  ()Good account, with photos and a three view drawings.)

Gunston, Bill (Ed.) “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Propeller Airliners”   New York: Exeter Books,  1980 (Good historical material, along with a three view drawing and an excellent cutaway drawing.)

Smith, Myron J.  Passenger Airliners of the United States, 1926-1986.  Missoula, MT:  Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1987. (Not much on the F.VII, but some information on later models.)

I also checked Juptner’s U.S. Civil Aircraft Series, but apparently the F.VII never received a U. S. Approved Type Certificate, so the airplane is not listed there.  This is probably why it only carried the number “1985” instead of the more usual “NC1985”. It was fairly common to see airplanes from the late twenties  registered with the Department of Commerce, predecessor to the CAA and FAA, with registration numbers but no “NC” included. Another very useful source of information was the website of a very good friend, Ed Coates, an English-Australian American who was a prolific  aircraft photographer and historian.  His website,, contains a tremendous amount of information, photos, and historical data, mainly on civil aircraft.  I obtained a lot of information on all of the Fokker F.VII’s used in Australia, and I could spend weeks going through it and not get it all.  Even googling the notation provided a lot of information,  as the Fokker was operated throughout the world, and was used for military as well as civilian purposes.

 One interesting postscript about the Fokker airliners is that some of them were manufactured in the United States during the twenties, and used by some of the major airlines of their day.  Fokker built some of their planes in New Jersey, including the massive four engined F.X.  On one flight, a Fokker airliner was evidently flown into a thunderstorm, and it shed its wings, as planes will do in that kind of turbulence. Unfortunately,  Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne was aboard the plane when it crashed, and this prompted the Federal Government to ground all wooden winged Fokkers as unsafe.  This was probably a political move to benefit American manufacturers, who were now building metal airplanes, but it caused Fokker to retreat back to Holland and continue building airplanes there.  Ironically, later Fokker became the European distributor for the all metal Douglas DC-2 airliner.

Preparation for Modeling

 My objective was to get as much information about the airplanes as possible.  As these airplanes flew in a variety of markings, I have a lot of choices of which plane to model.  One advantage of having a lot of photos is that I can check for details to make sure that I have everything right. There were differences in window arrangement, engine nacelles, landing gear, and, of course, markings.  There was even one F.VII that operated with a large tailwheel, although most had tailskids. And, of course, the American F.VII used American Wright engines, while the British-built Avro Ten used Siddeley Lynx radials instead, with the expected opposite rotation  wooden propellers.

 Now that I have amassed more information than I could possibly use, I will begin my project.

After some thought and consideration, I decided to build a later development of Kingsford-Smith’s “Southern Cross”.  When I discovered that, although I had four unbuilt Frog kits in my stash, and one I had built years ago and scrapped for spares,  I did not have a good set of decals (they were at least thirty years old),  I decided to do the airplane in one of its later color schemes.  After arrival in Australia in June,  1928, the plane was re-registered VH-USU, and with this registration, it was flown to New Zealand, where it made several local flights before returning to Australia.  Later the plane made a tour of Australia before eventually being saved as a museum exhibit. It is now in an air-conditioned, fully glass enclosed hangar in Brisbane, when it can be seen by the public. It also now carries the US registration that it carried when it made its record breaking flight, “1985”.

 During the course of the plane’s career in Australia, it was modified and repainted several times, and photos show not only the new registration but also revised exhausts.  In addition, some photos show it with a three bladed prop on the nose engine. I suspect that additional windows were installed in the sides of the fuselage, so the detail differences have to be detected from available photos.  Fortunately, there are quite a few photos available of this airplane, so it is mainly a question of picking one and going for it.  I found several photos on Ed Coates’ website that were very useful.


With several new kits available, I still decided to rebuild the scrapped kit I originally built in the early seventies.  I have done this several times in the past, and it is a lot of fun to restore an old model. The kit I had was pretty complete and well preserved (I store them with all of the parts in plastic bags) , so I started by disassembling everything I could and removing all of the paint with automotive brake fluid.  A little soaking and workover with an old toothbrush worked wonders, and shortly I had a model worth rebuilding.  The model is fairly accurate in outline, although there are some issues.  A major problem is the shape of the engine nacelles, which should probably be cone shaped rather than squared off and tapered.  This may have been the type of nacelle used during the record breaking flight, but I’m not sure. Photos of later F.VII’s show the later nacelle, so I’ll make that correction on future models.  I used the kit nacelles on this one.  The F.VII used Wright J/6 radials which are not done well on the kit, so I replaced them with the extra  front engine sections from  old Hasegawa Zero kits , which provide two engines of different types, and these look much better.  The props were OK, so I used these, although some later English-powered F.VII’s used British engines that rotated in the opposite direction, so they’ll have to be replaced when I build one of the Avro Tens.

 One major problem is the height of the cockpit floor.  It needs to be raised about three feet in scale to allow the pilots’ seats to be high enough so they could actually see out of the cockpit.  Instrument panel detail is minimal, and the control wheels are merely stamped into the instrument panel, and these need to be scratchbuilt to be completely accurate.  However,  the way the wing is set against the fuselage, it is virtually impossible to see inside the cockpit anyway, and the only thing you really need is the seats and a built up rear cockpit bulkhead behind the seats.  But mine has the control wheels anyway, but you can’t see them from any angle.  The instrument panel and cockpit floor come in one piece, so the floor needs to be cut off and reattached about halfway up on the panel.  The side windows fit into the fuselage sides easily.

 Once the fuselage interior is done, the fuselage halves can be joined.   A small window aft of the wing root needs to be installed at this point. A problem I encountered here is the join line, which resists filling in for some reason.  I’d fill and sand, refill and sand again, and finally got it after about the tenth attempt.  There are also a few indentations where the molding sags at the attachment points, and these need filling also.  The tail unit lines up easily, and this should be done after the wing is attached so it can be lined up perfectly.  The engine nacelles look like a difficult chore, but they are relatively simple to attach, although the kit instructions are a little vague on exactly how the parts are placed.  I’d leave off the wheels until later, as they have a decided inward cant, although this is not provided in the kit.


The airplane was basically “true blue” and silver.  The wings, struts, engine nacelles and nose section were silver doped or aluminum, and I painted these first.  The fuselage, tail section, tailskid, and stabilizer struts were true blue, and these can be painted last.  The nacelles are a little hard to keep aligned properly, and for the engines I used, I had to extend the nacelles slightly with small piece of card plastic trimmed to the shape of the forward part of the nacelle.  This way, the engines stuck out far enough for the exhaust system.  The stacks were constructed using a couple of plastic rings from the spares box, along with two pieces of bent plastic rod which go over the top of the engine and bend backwards above the wing surface.  These are not on the record breaking version, but they do show in photos of the airplane later in its career. I painted these RAF Dark Sea Grey, as they probably wouldn’t have flown the airplane with rusty stacks.


Once the airplane was assembled and painted, it was time for the details.  The windshield fits into its position perfectly, and I used white glue for this.  In addition, and it’s not mentioned in the kit, the control cables on this airplane were external, and ran along the upper portion of the fuselage sides. I attached six small pieces of plastic rod in three positions, simulating the rings that the cables ran through.  I also made a small control horn for the front cockpit, and, of course, made control horns for the ailerons, elevators, and rudder.  I ran electronic wire in sections along the sides to simulate the elevator control cables.  The rudder cables were probably internal, so I ran these into the fuselage.   I also attached wingtip lights.  I could not find information on the location of the fuel tank filler caps that must have been on the top section of the wing, so I excluded these, as they don’t show in photos.


Although this is an old kit, it does build up into an impressive model, and it is relatively cheap, especially since there is the new Valom kit now available.  I have read reviews on it, and I hear it is good, but it is probably much expensive that the old Frog kit. And besides, I like doing the older kits; they are more of a challenge, and to my way of thinking, a lot more fun.  Try one. Now I’ve got to get started on an Avro Ten.

Brian Baker

October 2010

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