Heller 1/48 Alouette II

KIT #: 80479
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Spiros Pendedekas
NOTES: New tool kit


The Alouette II is a French light helicopter, originally manufactured by Sud Aviation and later Aérospatiale. Performing its maiden flight On 12 March 1955, it was the first production helicopter powered by a gas turbine engine.

The Alouette II was a widely used type and popular with operators, with over 1,300 rotorcraft eventually being constructed between 1956 and 1975. The type was predominantly used for military purposes in observation, photography, air-sea rescue, liaison and training, but it has also carried anti-tank missiles and homing torpedoes. It has additionally been used for casualty evacuation (with two external stretcher panniers), crop-spraying and as a flying crane, with a 500-kilogram (1,100 lb) external underslung load.

Successfully developed into the larger and more powerful Alouette III, its production was terminated in 1975. A high-altitude derivative, the SA 315B Lama, was developed and entered service in 1971. Despite it being long out of production, considerable numbers of Alouette II were still in service at the start of the 21st century.

The French Army Light Aviation (Aviation légère de l’armée de Terre – ALAT) operated the Alouette II from 1956 onwards. The ALAT formed two Air Force helicopter squadrons, which participated in operations in Algeria, not without some adaptation problems, with the Alouette IIs mainly used as flying command posts. In total, the ALAT received 139 of the type, the last one withdrawn in 1996.

First appearing in 1967, as a 1/50 SA 313B “Lama”, this kit was reboxed in 1979 and reissued in 1989 as a 1/48 SE313 “Alouette II”, which looks to be an updated/retooled version of the initial 1/50 mold with a few extra parts to account for the SE version. This copy is the one I built. It comes at the standard top-opening Heller box with a nice box art, portraying an Alouette II, flying over a seemingly Algerian landscape.

Upon opening the box, you are greeted with almost 90 well molded flash free pieces in two olive styrene sprues and a nice clear fret. The number of parts is not small, indicating Heller’s commitment to realistically render the Alouette II “all exposed” distinctive posture. Especially if one considers the 1967 kit origins, cockpit, exposed turboshaft engine, rotor hub and blades, rear rotor and driving shaft, structural framing and various supports, skis, all are adequately represented (leaving room for a lot of super detailing, for sure). The characteristic bubble canopy is very wisely split along its middle frame line and, with a little extra modeler’s attention, the assembled canopy will almost look seamless. Finally, for making the three rod antennas, a piece of fine wire is included.

Instructions come in the typical Heller double-sided A3 size style, with the first page containing a type description and 16 dense assembly steps, and the other side depicting the paint scheme, all nice and clear, and a tad sweet nostalgic, I may say. Only one scheme option is provided, an olive green ALAT bird, coded “BTF”, as it stood in Les Mureaux airport, 1988. The 1989 printed decals look good, opaque and, thankfully, adequately registered.

I started by attaching the cabin floor onto the underbelly part, trapping a flattened lead weight in between, just to be safe (the only worse thing from a tail sitting plane is a tail sitting chopper!) The two navigation lights bases and central pitot were attached as well. This kit is a classic example of a sub assembler’s Paradise. Apart from the 18-piece cabin (addressed in “Final Construction” chapter below), the main sub-assemblies put together were: the 3-piece fuel tank, 12-piece boom, 6-piece main frame support, 10-piece engine, 8-piece rotor shaft, 5-piece front rotor (including the three main blades) and 6-piece canopy assembly (including wire antennas base)!

Rotor shaft assembly, main hub (sans blades, which were painted airframe color), engine driving shafts and rear transfer gearbox were painted Hu140 Gull Gray.

The “Turbomeca Artouste” turboshaft engine had its main structure painted Hu140, with Testors Burned Metal exhaust, black generator, light olive starboard air hose and Hu56 Aluminum side air intakes. I did not like the solid look of the kit provided intake covers, so I cut suitable pieces of fine mesh and attached them with cyanoacrylate, painted Aluminum as well.

Then it was a decision point: in order to facilitate painting, since the main color of the helicopter would be olive green, I decided to attach as many parts as possible that would receive this color.

I thus attached the fuel tank to the rear boom, followed by the mainframe support, with the cabin structure onto it and the bottom beacon base under. I also attached the four top supporting struts at correct angles, in order to be able to attach the hub and engine at later stages. Having a complete “basic” structure I carefully went on micro-sanding and cleaning the bazillion glued joints. Not a lot of effort was required, though, as the nice fit and my sparingly applied thin glue, resulted in minimal discrepancies. Off to the paint shop then!

Basic color would be Hu86 Light Olive, as per instructions. I was very tempted to start airbrushing the complex basic structure, but, fearing that airbrushed paint will not reach all “hidden” areas, I restrained myself and proceeded to hand brushing, using relatively thin paint, with my trusty Humbrol #2 senator paint brush. I have to admit that I have always been very pleased with the brush painted results of Humbrol green (among others) enamels, as it was the case here. Even the front blades and rear rotor were hand painted and, among drying, it was difficult to tell if they were hand- or air brush- painted. The assembled canopy had its frame lines and rest of details carefully hand painted too, with my 10/0 Springer Pinsel synthetic brush.

A coat of Future was applied to the sensitive matt paint (including the whole canopy, inside and out), followed by application of the mere 7 decals that behaved nicely and, as said above, were luckily well registered. I then returned my basic frame to the workshop for more construction and final assembly

The cabin interior was assembled (front and rear seats, instrument panels and consoles, sticks, foot pedals and collectives). Everything was painted black, with seat cushions and collective handles light gray and “knob” details picked up in red.

I attached the engine and rotor shaft assy on top, followed by the hub/blades assy. Then I attached the rear driving shaft, the rear rotor (which had its tips painted red and white beforehand), the battery (aluminum with red details), and the nice fire extinguisher (red with black details). The three wire antennas were fabricated from the supplied wire piece and affixed in position with cyanoacrylate. The starboard one was painted yellow, whereas the front ones frame color.

The boxart showed the Alouette in pristine condition, so I did not do any weathering and a final satin coat sealed everything in. I then attached the canopy assy. Fit was ok, with the small gaps faired with white glue. After representing the lights and beacons with blobs of Humbrol clear colors, I called this petite helicopter with the bare looks done!

This was a very enjoyable build of that charming chopper. The offered detail level is good, especially when one considers the 1967 kit origins. Areas that could benefit from extra detailing include the cabin interior and exposed engine busying up. Apart from decals, dedicated aftermarket stuff does not seem to exist, so the willing modeler will have to follow the scratch building path (something that yours truly, regretfully, did not: I should have at least added seat belts and some engine hosing/wiring…oh well, next time…).

Due to the chopper’s “everything exposed” looks, parts count is quite high, with many of them being small sized, meaning that it is not the simplest of builds, so the novice modeler should accumulate some experience before tackling it. The good parts fit and (in this case) one color scheme are the modeler’s allies. I would risk to recommend it as the first helicopter kit to the average modeler: patiently put together, a nice model will emerge.

This is a good kit of this iconic, and widely used beauty. It is reissued from time to time, with the latest reissue in 2017 (as of 2021). If you are privileged to own a kit, or find one online, grab it and put it together! You will be rewarded with a beautiful result.

Happy modeling!

Spiros Pendedekas

12 October 2021

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