ESCI 1/48 MS.502 Criquet
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
Immediately after the liberation of France in 1944, the production of Fi 156 at the Morane-Saulnier factory was continued at the request of the Armée de l'Air and designated MS 500 for the batch of aircraft produced with the remaining stock of Argus air-cooled inverted V8 engines. Further modifications and use of different engines (inline and radial) are known under different type numbers. The use of the aircraft in Indochina highlighted the weakness of the wood in the construction of the airframe; it was then decided to build the wings of metal. Among the modifications, the defensive weapon aiming through the back window was dropped, although some aircraft were modified in the field to take a MAC 34T machine gun firing through one of the side windows. Some 141 aircraft were built before the end of World War II, and a total of 925 aircraft were built before the end of the production of all types of Criquet by Morane-Saulnier in 1965. The MS-502 was a liaison version. It was identical to the MS-500, with the Argus engine replaced by a 230 hp Salmson 9ab radial engine.
The kit is molded in a dark green plastic, as it was the norm at the time to mold kits close to the color of the finished model to help with painting (or not).The molding is quite good with minimal flash and no visible molding flaws that I could see through the sealed bag. It was during this inspection that I notice the sprue was missing one of the landing gear struts that contains the wheel axle. A small hole in the bag shows that this item has undoubtedly escaped in the past and explains the low selling price. Not surprisingly, there are spaces in the sprues for the Argus engine cowling and exhaust. The fabric representation is a bit heavy handed by today's standards and the flight surfaces have the 'hills and valleys' typical of the time.
The interior has some sidewall detail and there is a standard seat for the front and a stool for the rear. No belts and the instrument panel is a decal, something that may be problematic thanks to the age and condition of the decals. Framework is quite prominent in this plane and ESCI provides enough of it to show through the large clear areas to make it believable. The clear bits are well done and though perhaps a bit thick, should provide no issues when attaching them. Unlike the 156, the 502 does not have a gun mount in the clear upper section between the wings.
Wings are an upper and lower half on each side with separate flaps and slats. These fit onto large tabs on the upper fuselage clear piece. The rudder and elevators are also separate with small slats fitting on the underside of the elevators. Attaching the wing struts should be easy as there are only two assemblies per side. Each main gear assembly is three parts and the main missing piece from my kit pretty well ensures it will never be built. A completely new engine mount, cowling and engine are provided for the 502 version with the gear housing containing the engine push rods.
Instructions are well drawn with some detail illustrations to help with construction. Color information is all generic. For instance the interior is 'light grey'. The plane itself has a single set of markings for an aircraft that is olive green over light blue. I'd paint the rudder stripes, though these are provided on the rather beat up decal sheet. Aftermarket roundels should not be a problem. These planes often had unit badges of some sort on the fin and while one is shown on the box art, the decals are devoid of this item.
One sees the Fi-156 built with some frequency, but I have yet to see a 502 on the model tables. This one looks like it would be a pretty straight-forward build, though I'm not sure if mine will ever be constructed, thanks to the loss of the gear strut.
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