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Fiesler Fi-156 Storch

Luftwaffe Wüstennotstaffel

North Africa, 1942.

Airfix 1/72

The Fiesler Fi-156 Storch served with the Luftwaffe in all theatres during WW2.  Used as an observation/spotter aircraft and as a VIP liaison/transport, it entered service in 1937 and continued to be manufactured until 1965 (in France as the Morane-Saulnier Criquet).  Although large and heavy, with less manoeuvrability than its Allied equivalents, the Storch had a remarkable short take-off and landing performance, with heavy duty landing gear allowing it to land in very small spaces of rough ground.  Over 3,000 were built by the Germans with another 1,000 by the French, Soviets, Romanians and Czechoslovakia.

Building the Airfix Storch Kit:

This is another old Airfix kit that modellers of my age will remember well. First issued in 1967, in its current "vintage classic" form it seems to have worn well, with minimal flash and a reasonable fit. The otherwise superb box-art is one of the famous Airfix / Roy Cross "anachronisms" in as far as it shows a Storch in the desert, dated 1942, but with a Panther tank (first service early 1943) and an Elefant tank destroyer (first service summer 1943), neither of which ever served in Africa.  Plastic is the typical soft grey used for Airfix' current kits, which is easy to work with.  The sprue is the old fashioned open frame, which does leave the parts somewhat vulnerable to damage.  The kit has little in the way of fine surface detail, but what it does have is a lot of struts, many of which are quite delicate and fragile.  Several of the locating holes are either a little too small or too large, so a dry fit is essential.  The tailplanes have asymmetrical location tabs, which does ensure you fit the right one on the right side, but leaves them a little wobbly in their holes and despite the supporting struts, I found it quite difficult to get them to stay symmetrical in either plane.

The kit's cockpit is quite bare, with a floor, radio box/bench (?), two seats a stick and an instrument panel.  The real thing has many tubes and internal mechanisms that are potentially quite attractive to the super detailer, but although the canopy is very large its copious frames will hide much of the interior so I left it as is.  Two figures are provided, one of whom (the pilot) looks a bit like Davey Jones from "Pirates of the Caribbean", whilst the other (the passenger) is, I suspect intended to be German, but his uniform could easily pass as British if required (e.g. for one of the many captured Storchs). Both have severely clipped arms to allow them to fit in the narrow cockpit.

Parts fit is, as I have already said, reasonable, but you do need to bear in mind that this is a kit from a 1960s mould, almost certainly pantographed from a larger master model and as such its fit will never match today's CAD assisted models. Some sprue attachment points are in awkward places, e.g. on the large wing slats. To that end, tidying up each part and dry fitting before the glue gets anywhere near it is essential. The undercarriage assembly is quite complex and delicate whilst the ailerons have very small balancing weights that are perfect fodder for the "carpet monster", so handle with extreme care!.  Two different main undercarriage struts are provided, one unloaded for in the air and the other for on the ground, taking account of the 30cm free movement in the strut before its dampers came into action. There are also two different canopy configurations, one with a machine gun at the rear intended for the North African version.  Airfix give no hint as to the interior colours; whilst I can see several references that are black or dark grey, the aircraft at the RAF Museum is light grey and this does seem to match some of the period pictures I could find.

The canopy comes in three parts and these are supposed to be joined before they are attached. This is an assembly step that is almost guaranteed to end in clear part fogging, loud swearing and sticky fingerprints. After several tries I settled on assembling the separate parts in place on the model.  They are commendably thin and clear, but do have a lot more flash than  the rest of the kit, which needs to be trimmed away very carefully, given the innate fragility and brittleness of transparent plastic. The framing lines are very light, having either worn away with mould use or perhaps never having been there in the first place.  This does pose a problem for what is a very complex frame which also has a number of obvious internal tubes. I added some of these internal tubes using styrene tube with clear PVA glue to attach them.  

Part 2

October 2023 - Lockheed Hudson

October 2023

Lockheed Hudson Mk.III

Fi-156 Storch

Background picture: A Storch at the RAF Museum

Assembling the flimsy undercarriage requires a lot of care and patience.  The real thing is quite spindly and delicate looking (it was the dangling legs in flight that led to the aircraft's nickname "Stork").  Airfix have moulded an equally spindly assembly, whose attachment points are both delicate and less than obvious.  If I were doing this again I think I would attach the legs before the wings, just to help with access.  I used the landed main strut configuration (the short ones).  The struts themselves had a lot of flash and a few awkward sink holes.  I also added the missing smaller struts at the top of the undercarriage leg, for 2 reasons - firstly they were obviously missing and secondly they add some much needed strength to the rest of the structure! There is no explanation for the larger "hole" in the underside just aft of the rear undercarriage strut. I thought perhaps it might have been a landing light, but I can't see it on any of my references. The Airfix kit seems to have been modelled on a private Storch that used to reside just outside London.  This was thought have been an aircraft originally delivered to Sweden, so may have differed. Alternatively, I guess it may just be a legacy hole for one of the newer Airfix stands!

Decals look nice in the box.  As expected there is no Swastika and I have no problem with this since the kit is supposedly suitable for 8+ years old and this symbol has no place on a toy.  Those who want one for historical accuracy can easily obtain them from other sources (mine are ex-FROG).  As mentioned the markings seem to represent a post-war private aircraft and may not be accurate. Nevertheless, they appear to cover an aircraft of the Luftwaffe Wüstennotstaffel (Emergency Sqn) of the Afrika Korps, which undertook general liaison missions as well as VIP transport, and most famously, rescue missions for downed airmen (sometimes of both sides). The green swirls were applied over the base brown using a thin paint brush.

The completed model is remarkably large (picture with Spitfire below to compare) and although it is quite a simple kit it looks good on completion, but this is definitely one for the more confident and patient modeller.

Above and below  A Storch at the RAF Museum Cosford

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With this month’s other build - the Lockheed Hudson