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AEROCLUB'S 1/48 FE2b

By: Tom Cleaver

THE AIRPLANE

Of all the awful airplanes the Royal Flying Corps went to war with, it is a tossup whether the FE series or the BE series can take the title of Worst of All. The two airplanes had difficulty getting out of their own way, and were considered "meat on the table" to any Jagdflieger who ran across them, yet it was a 'Fee' crew from No. 20 Squadron, pilot (Captain D.C. Cuddell) and observer (2/LT A.E. Woodbridge) who turned the tables on Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen on July 6, 1917. When von Richthofen dove to attack their FE2d, Woodbridge opened fire at long range and creased the Red Baron's skull with a Lewis round. Loosing conciousness, and with his Albatros in a spin, it was only his last second return to reality that allowed the Baron to effect a crash landing; the Red Baron never really fully recovered from that wound, and it is said that the effects of it on his judgement contributed to his taking the chances that led to his death nine months later.

The FE2 series (it stood for "Farman Experimental," not "Fighting Experimental" as many have believed) was the epitome of the World War I "birdcage," a two-seat pusher with a forest of struts and a webbing of wires, with a top speed somewhere around 85 m.p.h. and maneuverability that can only be called "clumsy." Yet in 1915 and 1916 - until the introduction of the Albatros scout flown by pilots following Boelcke's Dicta - it held its own and contributed to the eradication of the "Fokker scourge." When one considers that the observer had to climb out of the cockpit and stand on the sill to aim the rear-firing Lewis gun - fully exposed to the elements and enemy fire - one gets a sense of the gallantry of the young men who flew it, so many of them going to their deaths in it in the skies over the Somme Valley in 1916 and early 1917; it is a shame the airplane did not measure up to the quality of the men who flew it. By late 1916, when the FE2 had been shown to have no chance at all in the daylight skies over the Western Front, it became a night bomber, attacking German supply and ammo dumps behind the lines, and making life miserable for the flyers of the German Air Service as it attacked their airfields with nearly-total impunity. Squadrons were still equipped with the type for this role as late as summer 1918 before it was finally replaced by the ever-so-superior de Havilland DH4.

Whatever its technical and performance shortcomings, the FE2b is truly one of the immortals of the first war in the air, and fully worthy of memorialization in kit form.

THE KIT

Aeroclub has been known for many years as one of the best vacuform kit manufacturers around. The FE2b, first released in 1995, was their first assay into a full limited-run injection molded kit in 1/48.

Looking at the ten light tan plastic parts, one can see the vacuform heritage. The surface detail is a bit heavy, but having built one of these previously, I can assure you that it looks fine under a coat of paint. The sprues are heavy, as are many limited-run kits, and it is a good idea to cut the parts free of the sprues with a razor saw.

The struts, engine, weapons and landing gear are all made of white metal, of which Aeroclub is likely the best manufacturer in the world. There is a minimum of flash on all metal parts.

One very nice bit is the inclusion of a vacuformed jig for the assembly of the tail struts, which is one place where even an experienced modeler would have difficulty.

The decals provided are a bit dark for RFC decals of the First World War, but are entirely useable if one elects to modify the airplane into a night bomber. Included are markings for "Zanzibar No. 9"/"The Scotch Express," an airplane that arrived on the front in late April 1916 and by mid-May had been shot down and captured by the Germans without apparently inflicting much damage on the enemy prior to its departure from British service.

SUMMARY

This is a model for advanced World War 1 modelers, due to the difficulty of assembly and rigging, and I strongly suggest you find the Windsock Datafile on the FE2b before commencing work on the model.

I built one of these when it first came out, and I can assure you that, if you take your time, you can make a world-class model straight out of the box without going nuts in super-detailing.

MSRP is USD $41.95, and is good value for what is here and also as the FE2b is unlikely to appear in 1/48 from any other manufacturer. The RAF FE 2b is available directly from Aeroclub

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Air Intelligence
1999 Modelers'
Reference Guides

1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00

Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.

TacAir Publications

PO Box 90933
Albuquerque NM
87199-0933
USA
(505) 881-9621

E-Mail Us!

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