Smer/Heller 1/72 MS.225

KIT #: 0838
PRICE: About £5
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Chris Peachment
NOTES: As flown by Michel Detroyat


This particular conversion of the MS 225 came about after my friend Angus MacKinnon gave me the book Les Rois du Parasol, Morane-Saulnier 1918-1968, which is published in French by Revue de L'Aviation Icare.

On reflection, Icarus does not seem an auspicious name for a publisher of aviation matters. You will recall that Icarus was the the ancient Greek who, in attempt to flee the island of Crete, flew too near the sun, which melted the wax holding his feathers on, and he plunged to his doom into the sea. Just south of the island of Samos, his resting place is still known as the Icarean sea.

Those modellers whose French is as rusty as mine can take heart. The book is mainly composed of large well detailed pictures, and the technical French captions are easily guessed at by anyone with a working knowledge of aeronautical terms.

The legendary Michel Detroyat was chief pilot for Morane, and is described in the book as a “voltigeur incomparable”. He used this modified MS 225 as his personal mount for stunt flying and also for taking part in the famous aerobatics contest of 1934, which he lost to the German pilot Gerhard Fieseler, later famous as a designer of aircraft such as the low-speed Storch.  

There is also footage on Youtube of him teaching Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam, or Annam as it then was, to fly. Bao Dai can be seen smiling happily in his white overalls as Detroyat lifts him out of the cockpit.  

You can find good descriptions of the Morane fighter elsewhere on this website. The only real differences that Detroyat's machine had from the fighter is the removal of the twin gun armament, and his personal paint scheme. I had an old Morane sitting on the shelf of doom, getting dusty and awaiting some further use. I was about to start dismantling it, but it was saved from the boneyard by my discovering the Smer reboxing at a model shop, and I am glad that I bought it because you get a very nice new decal sheet for the spares box. It would cost you as much as the kit to buy it separately . So the old Heller Morane continues to sit there in trepidation awaiting a different fate. Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

I am fond of parasol fighters, they look so dainty.  Although a very high wing on an aircraft will make it naturally very stable, a characteristic not always desirable in a fighter, which ought to have some instability to quicken its manoeuvres. However, if you look on Youtube you will find some old grainy footage of that famous 1934 Aerobatics contest, and it is clear that Detroyat could throw it around the sky with hair raising abandon. There is one sequence of him doing the “Falling Leaf” move, which makes me airsick just to look at it.

You should also note that Detroyat also used the two seater MS 230 trainer as a personal mount. It has a wider chord wing, a deeper engine cowl, and he modified it to have one cockpit, and a paint scheme of red and black but with a large white arrow down the side of the fuselage. Heller also do a kit of this aircraft, and it would make a good choice for a slightly harder modification. The scratch builder Gabriel Stern has done both, and very nice they look too together.


Heller kits were good for their time, and this one still stands up well. The only glaring error I could see was that the underside of the wing has no aileron line, a mistake which is easy to rectify.


I used the standard cockpit, although there is some evidence that Detroyat lightened it by cutting away some of the excess flooring. It isn't worth doing as it would be invisible. More pedantic modellers than I could go to work with extra stringers and throttles and such, but my life is in its autumn now, and time has become too valuable to waste on details which won't be seen without the aid of a flashlight and dental mirror. Neither of which I carry with me when surveying my models.  The interior was painted aluminium, with the seat in the same colour.

 All the pieces go together with no trouble at all, and there is nothing to take extra care over. Bar the struts, which need a good scraping and polishing to remove moulding seams, a simple task.

 Take the engine cowl and fill the gun troughs. In fact this simple task caused me some extra work, as I tried using simple filler putty. When used in this amount however it takes a while to dry. And then it is hard to sand it into a complex curve. What happens is that it inevitably flattens out, so that the original outline of the troughs can still be seen. I dug it all out and filled the troughs with soft scrap plastic left over from a vacform. It was then easy to sand to the proper curves. The moral of which is: throw nothing away. And the result of that is a study knee deep in old packagings, lengths of copper wiring, bent coat hangars, and chunks of plastic. All of which is good insulation for the British winter, and provides a good hunting ground for my cat. My wife is less pleased, but then it isn't her study.


I kept the fuselage separate from the wing, struts undercarriage and tailplanes. I blasted on the red first, and tried using some of the new Revell Ferrari red aerosol cans. It is a nice shade all right, though the cans are small and I would guess lacking in  propellant, as orange peel and running resulted. Take note, if using, to make your sweeps across the aircraft quick and light. This will save you a lot of re-sanding and cursing.  Alternatively use my usual favourite, which is Tamiya red X-7, a lovely shade.

 Once the red is on to your satisfaction and properly dried, then duly mask the right areas, and paint on your chosen black. I used Vallejo gloss black, because when dried it is in fact closer to a satin finish. I dislike too glossy a finish on any aircraft as it makes for unwanted reflections. And in fact, on this aircraft it is especially noticeable because of the accentuated ribs. The demarcation lines between red and black are often across the line of ribbing, and you will get an optical illusion of a very crooked line, if you look at it obliquely. That is visible in some of the photographs, and with hindsight, I would say it would be worth sanding down some of the rubbing to something less prominent. A quick blast of Humbrol satin varnish, which errs on the side of gloss rather than matt, evened everything out. 

 Once everything was dry, you can fit the wing to the cabanes and turn attention to the main wing struts, which fit nicely. Once in place, rig them with elastic thread, coloured with silver gel pen, and held in place with superglue gel. The same for the cabanes. Once the tailplanes are in place, they will need rigging lines, two from the upper side of the tailplanes to the fin, and one beneath to the fuselage, just ahead of the skid.


The engine and oil cooler can be duly painted in the style of your choice. I favour black dry-brushed with gunmetal, though others reverse the process. They fit neatly into the cowl. After I had finished I found some pictures suggesting that the oil cooler ring, behind the propellor, was perforated with small square air intakes around its perimeter. You might like to consider that if you have tiny fingers, good sight and a more pedantic frame of mind than I.  The propellor needs sanding a little, and then painting in dark brown with a coat of clear orange and a silver hub.

 The front exhaust collector ring I painted dark copper and didn't blacken, reasoning that an aerobatic racer would keep it polished. The two exhaust outlets on either side are square, and so I painted these matt black with a thin line of copper around the edge to suggest the square exhaust stubs, which the aircraft had. They can barely be seen. The two MS logos are provided by the decal sheet, but they are black outlines only, as they were originally to be seen on a green background. So two small   discs were cut from a white decal sheet and laid down before the two logos. A nice touch for a machine otherwise devoid of marking. Then add the small final details such as the upper aileron actuators, and the pilot's step, both silver.


Voila. You have a familiar fighter aircraft from the golden age of aviation, but in a racer's markings. And you also have an hommage to a great pilot, Michel Detroyat, who died in his bed in 1956.  There is an old joke among pilots which goes “I don't want to be a great pilot, I want to be an old pilot.” In fact he was only 51 when he died of a stroke, but in an era of danger, when all flights were a throw of the dice, he was a survivor.


Chris Peachment

January 2014

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