Scratch-built 1/72 Voisin III LAS
KIT #:
PRICE: A few tuppence for bits
DECALS: Home printed
REVIEWER: Stephen Foster
NOTES: An important type but not for the beginner

   Gabriel Voisin established the Appareils d'Aviation Les Freres Voisin in 1905 and worked for a short time with L. Bleriot and later with H. Farman to improve designs for early aircraft. In January 1908 H. Farman flew a Voisin design on a 1km closed circuit and won a significant prize for doing so. In 1912 Voisin designed what was to become with some modifications and a 130hp Salmson-Canton-Unne engine, the Voisin III. These early machines were designated LA but on later production aircraft the engine was raised to improve the thrust and these were designated LAS. The type entered service with the French armed forces in 1914 just before the outbreak of war, but due to a shortage of suitable designs the British also ordered them for the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. The first machines were bought form France and entered service with the RFC in February 1915. 50 were ordered from companies in Britain and these were largely supplied to the RNAS where they operated in the Agean, Basra in Iraq, and in East Africa where they were used against the forces of general von Lettow-Vorbeck. Other countries which operated the type included Russia (which also built them under licence), Belgium, Italy, Romania and one which was interned in Switzerland. The type was so successful that it remained in service until the end of the war, although in the later years it was used for night bombing only by the French and British. There is a vacuform kit available from Flashback in this scale but this is a rather rare item which is difficult to find. In any event I consider that by the time that I have cut out and sanded all of the parts and raided the spares box for some items such as engines and wheelsI might just as easily make my own.

The fuselage nacelle was made from 20 thou plastic card for the sides and bottom, the nose top and rear upper fuselage parts were moulded from 30 thou plastic card. The radiators were 40 thou plastic card which had been laminated and scored, and the pipes were from 20 and 30 thou rod. The cockpit interior detail was made up from card and rod. The fuel tank was from 20thou card and filled with lead fishing weights. The engine came from an unknown Roden kit donated by a fellow modeller, and was modified by removing the push rods and replacing them with thin wire. The drive shaft extension was made from 60 thou rod which had been shaped with a file. The propeller was carved from strip wood. The wings were cut from 30 thou card which had been bent in hot water and sanded to an aerofoil profile I made the ribs from Jammy Dog tape and painted them to smooth the edges. The struts were made from rod, and the booms from florists wire. The rudder was from 20 thou plastic card, and the horizontal stabilizer from 30 thou card which had been bent in the same way as the wings. I assembled the lower wing halves to the fuselage nacelle and when this was dry I added the booms to grooves filed in the wings: I used epoxy resin for this joint as it is much stronger than CA. I also added the booms to the top wing in the same way. Holes were drilled in both wings to take the struts later. The radiators were fixed into place and the model was ready for painting.

Painting was straightforward as I used Humbrol enamels with a hairy stick. It is essential to paint biplanes before the top wing is fixed into place because otherwise the small details cannot be reached properly. The markings were hand painted also with Humbrol enamels, and the serial was printed on my home computer.
The engine assembly was added to the rear of the fuselage. I used the following procedure for assembling the wings and booms: I put the forward inner main struts in to the appropriate holes in the lower wing and while these were setting I fixed the rudder to the end of the boom with CA. I lowered the top wing on to the main struts and pushed the rudder on to the upper boom and fixed the latter with CA to make a tripod assembly. This made a stable structure which I left to dry out overnight and then could safely handle while the remaining wing and boom struts were carefully inserted. The engine support struts were next, (so I could get at them), followed by the cabanes at the front of the fuselage. The main wheels came from spares box but the front pair were from Eduard PE with 20 thou rod bent to shape for the tyres. The undercarriage legs were made from wire from a telephone extension cable, with the main axle from plastic rod. The front axle was cut from a pin. The remaining parts were painted at this stage before I  rigged the model with rolled 40 SWG copper wire held in place with CA. The gun mount was made from stretched sprue and the gun came from Aeroclub: these were added after the rigging was completed. Having put quite a lot of lead into the nacelle I hoped that the model would sit on its nose wheels, but after the last parts had been fixed in place, (the horizontal tail stabilisers), the thing sat back on the rudder! This left me with only one option - to make a small base from a block of wood with some felt, and CA on the bottom of all four wheels: it now sits neatly on its own base in my display cabinet and represents an aircraft from No 2 Wing RNAS based at Imbros, (a dried salt lake bed), in the Agean in December 1915. I know that the felt does not look like a salt pan but nobody knows that this is not correct unless I tell them!

I have made several pushers over the years, starting with conversions from kits and later scratch building them. (Articles describing these can be found in the index of this site). This one was unusual because it has a nose wheel undercarriage and so I had to add weight to the nacelle: as described I did not add enough because there was insufficient space to put it. If I had used plastic rod for the booms instead of wire I might just have been able to get sufficient weight into the nacelle, but that would have meant risking bendy booms…… Pusher aircraft formed an important element in the Allied air arms up until 1917, yet they are under - represented by kit manufacturers except as limited run kits which are usually expensive and difficult to assemble for many modellers. This model was not the easiest build I have attempted, but its delicate form and unusual colour scheme made it worthwhile. I do not recommend it as a first scratch build project, but if you do have some experience with biplane conversions or scratch builds it should not be beyond your abilities to make one.

The best source that I found was the Windsock DataFile no 135, Voisin III and V at War by Paulo Varriale which has good drawings in 1/72 and 1/48 scale and lots of good detailed photographs.

Stephen Foster

January 2018


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