Heller 1/48 Alouette II
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
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
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one withdrawn in 1996.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
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
Rotor shaft assembly, main hub (sans blades, which were painted airframe
color), engine driving shafts and rear transfer gearbox were painted Hu140
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
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
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,
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.
12 October 2021
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