Building the Rosemont 1/72 Spad SA.2

By Steve Perry

Introduction

The Spad SA.2 was designed as an observation machine in 1915. It was not intended as a solution to lack of synchronizer gear and a gun was added as a defensive measure only after operational experience warranted it. Noseovers were invariably fatal to the observers and less than stellar performance in the air resulted in a rather short service life with the Aviation Millitare.

One story has it that an SA.2 landed at the N.124 airfield and the Americans serving there with the Layfayette Escadrille said that there was no way they would fly in one. The French unloaded a fair number of SA.2 and SA.4 machines on the Imperial Russian Air Service. The IRAS was desperate for airframes and while they liked them no better than the French, they put them to good use until better machines became available.

I was fascinated to see a photo of an SA.2 in Bolshevik markings and captioned as taken in 1918. The machine was obviously recovered and refurbished as there was no sign of covered over IRAS markings and the U/C struts had been painted over. I chose to model this machine as it must have had a fascinating story to have remained in service so long. Russian mechanics must have been masters at the art of improvising in order to keep planes in the air as long as they did and under such hard field conditions.

The Kit

The Rosemont Spad SA.2 kit is all resin and beautifully cast. The parts cleaned up very easily. This is due to Rosemont's mold design. It leaves a uniforn and very thin wafer of resin flash between the small parts. It is easily removed from even the smallest parts. A pleasure to work with. I didn't find any air holes in my copy, Then again, I've never seen any in any of Rosemont's resin castings.

Dry fitting revealed some fit problems with the lower wing/ fuselage / engine area. If the kit has a weak area it is the nacelle. There is no window in the floor, you are left to your own devices for the screen behind the observer's head and the air intake, there is no channel on the bottom of the nacelle and ducting through the nacelle to the engine is up to the builder to represent.

I won't fault Rosemont on this because all the above omissions were obviously concessions to the mold making and result in a cleaner basic part. Nothing here that an experienced builder cannot scratch up to his or her own AMS standards. The kit won't suffer greatly if the missing details are omitted completely. I mention this first because you need to decide how you will represent these areas before you begin. The screen behind the observer is best done as the instructions suggest, out of fine wire. The window in the floor can be cut easily enough, though some thought must be given about the nacelle floor part. I have seen no photos of this, but would feel safe in assuming a hole cut in the floor slightly bigger than the window would suffice along with thinning the floor piece on the bottom. Framing around the window on the bottom side of the nacelle was simulated with plasticard strip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The air ducts through the nacelle are a bit tricky. In order to get sufficient cooling air to the Le Rhone, the designers put an intake on each side of the nacelle with ducting running beside and under the seat. There were openings in the rear wall of the nacelle for the air to pass through the prop disc and into the engine. The openings on the side of the nacelle were covered with a mesh. The Albatros Productions Mini Data File on the Spad A.2 / A.4 is an excellent reference as it has a closeup photo of the mesh and the drawings indicate the structute of the ducting.

I'm not so sure that this provided the most efficient cooling and may have been one of the reasons why the A.2 and A.4 aircraft in Russian and later Soviet hands saw longer service in that cold climate

One could easily cut away the molded mesh and replace it with some very fine screen, then create the ducting out of plasticard and cut the openings in the rear wall. This would be a good idea if you were to model the plane with the nacelle in the dropped position for engine maintenance.

I chose to make mine with the nacelle up in flying position, and so I cut openings in a piece of 10 thou plasticard and stuck it to the rear wall of the nacelle. Painted a dark color, they will represent the rear duct openings.

I enhanced the molded mesh with a special wash rather than replacing it. The ducting inside the nacelle can be simulated with 5 thou plasticard. I didn't do that because it is hardly noticeable.

There was a channel running along the bottom of the nacelle which also enhanced airflow to the engine. The nacelle bottom is too thin to carve very much, so I added two strips of 10 thou card that had been sanded to a taper. After sanding them in place and scraping a 45 deg angle on the inside edges, I got a reasonable representation of the channel.

Those issues resolved, I began construction with whatever has to happen before the fuselage and nacelle halves are closed, in this case it is the interiors and the engine.

The interior of the fuselage bears little resemblance to the sketches on Colin Owers' drawings in the Albatros Publications Mini Datafile #4. I used the kit pieces for outline templates and then scratched the assembly out of styrene card and rod to look like the sketches. I did use the kit seat. (kit instructions show two seats, but I only found one in the box). Seatbelts were cut out of thin copper foil.

I had no reference for the sidewall detail, so I added wooden structure with strips of brown decal material and bracing wire out of fine surgical steel wire. A tiny throttle quadrant out of strip & wire and an air pump out of rod with a wire handle and foil strip mounting bracket completed the sidewall detail. I painted the instrument panel wood and the raised instrument faces white. I added fine black needles and markings with a 4 hair brush I keep around for the purpose, (just take an old brush and whittle the hairs at the base with a sharp #11 blade till there are 4-6 left).

The nacelle interior needed to be modified so the window in the floor could be shown. I cut off the floor at the front of the seat support. The cut off piece served as a template for a new piece out of 5 thou card with the window hole cut in it. A seat from the spares box and coper foil belts made up the rest of the interior assembly. More decal strip structure and a Lewis drum on one side and a 'black box' with panel and knobs on the other wall made the sidewall details. There is also a front panel for the nacelle which has an excellently molded map case, one of the nicest features of this kit.

I did not represent the interior ducting, but it can easily be made out of plasticard. I assume it would be natural metal.

The engine is one of the nicest rotaries I've seen cast in 1/72 scale. It has a nice frontplate, crisp cyls., distinct intake pipes, somewhat thickish single push rods and even sharp spark plugs. Only the pushrods are on the back which IIRC would make this a 110 hp LeRhone instead of the 80 HP Gnome that powered the A.2

The fix was easy. Just add pushrods to the front out of fine wire and in this model you cannot see the back of the cylinders so you don't even have to remove the molded on ones.

Once all the interior parts were finished it was time to start dry fitting everything. The fit is very good except for the front of the fuselage. There should have been a notch cut in each side to allow the cyl. heads to protrude through the side. The spar of the lower wing sticks up too high inside the fuselage and needs to be trimmed down so the cyl. heads will clear it when the engine is set in place.

Once the fuselage halves are joined and the seam tended to, the cowl cheeks can be added together with the front support piece. A strip of card needs to be added over the notches cut in the front of each fuselage side. After the cowl cheeks are in place, don't forget to drill out the air intake pipes. Small strips of card can be added to the gap in the front of the cowl cheeks forming a grille. Sand the whole front end of the fuselage flush. At this point I attached the lower wing and also sanded the spar flush where it passes across the bottom of the fiselage. The spar will have to be whittled on in order to get the engine to fit. Take care to ensure the incidence of the lower wing is both correct and equal.

Since the model was nearing the painting stage, I cut , dressed and re-posed the control surfaces. The horizontal stab and the fin and rudder fit well with only minor trimming.

The light tan resin was light enough to mark the rib stations directly with watercolor pencil. I used a mid brown on the top and a dark brown on the undersides. The wings were sprayed, misted actually, with clear doped linen color paint. The color was built up over several coats until the marked ribs were just barely visible.

On the original the paneled areas around the front of the fuselage and the nacelle were painted with a paint mixed to nearly but not quite match the CDL color of the fabric covered airframe. I mixed a portion of the CDL paint to be a little darker / grayer than the CDL. This Bolshie airframe has obviously been recovered from the photo I have of it. The U/C struts have been painted over and the fishplate fittings are hardly visible.

A coat of Future over the painted pieces will prepare the surface for decals. It also allows you to carefully scribe panel lines and then paint them with india ink. The ink wipes off the Futured surface but stays as a dark line in the scribed panel lines. A final light coat of Future will seal the highly soluble ink in the lines.

The kit struts left a lot to be desired shape wise. I scratchbuilt the mainplanes out of basswood, (bamboo is better). The mid-bay supports were cut from card and scraped to shape. I pinned the ends of the mainplanes with brass wire. The supports were left unpinned. The drawings in the mini datafile gave a correct strut length. I used the kit cabanes and the wing fit perfectly with the scratched struts.

The rear mainplane struts had the aileron control rods running up through a sheet metal fairing attached to the strut's trailing edge. I simulated this with surgical steel wire rods running through a foil fairing that was folded over them.

The top wing fit very well and the U/C was the next job at hand. The kit spreader bar is pretty generic and nothing at all like what is shown on the drawings. I scratched one by gluing two to plastic rods between the U/C struts. The SA.2 had two half axles running between the two spreader bars. They have forked ends that pivot on a pin between the spreader bars. I used sewing needles with the end clipped of the eyes to make the forks.

Great care is needed to get the correct angles on the U/C struts because the nacelle struts must meet them and any difference will misalign not only the sit of the model but the nacelle as well. The nacelle and U/C struts are about as thin as you can get and still drill the ends for a brass wire mounting pin. It's worth the effort as a pin on the strut will allow you to tack it and then precisely adjust the angle before gluing it permanently.

Mounting the nacelle wasn't too hard, but I found that the kit pylon piece was too short and needed a mm or so added. Check against the drawings for exact length. The Vee support that runs from the pylon to the wing was too small so I replaced it with pieces of stretched sprue. The wire guard behind the pilots head has to be made by the builder. I drilled a hole at the correct height up the pylon and another hole each place on the nacelle where the guard ended. I fed a curved piece of brass wire through the pylon hole and inserted the ends into the holes in the nacelle. After fiddling the shape just right, vertical pieces of stretched sprue were added. The new Part PE set has an etched guard and is recommended on this strength alone.

Rigging the model is pretty straight forward and typical of Spads. I gave it double flying wires which were a nuisance. The extra cross braces between the mid-bay supports were also a pain, but that comes with the Spad territory. There was a final part I slap bang forgot to add until I was writing this piece. The aileron rod actuator mechanism. This is the little rectangle looking thing on the inside of the mainplane struts on the lower wings. These are best made out of strips of 5 thou card and applied after the model is rigged.

Conclusion

This is an unusual design and does not lend itself to being kitted easily. The parts in the Rosemont kit are exceptionally fine and well detailed, but the kit does require a bit of work beyond simple assembly. That being the case, it's best viewed as an excellent starting point for a detailed model. The beautifully cast parts are a pleasure to work with and all your efforts can be applied to adding to what is there rather than correcting what you bought. This makes the extra effort required worthwhile in my opinion. I can recommend this kit to the detail minded and experienced WWI modeler without hesitation. It is a challenging build that will yield an excellent SA.2 as a reward.

Thanks to Barry at Rosemont for the opportunity to enjoy building this kit. References were the Albatros Productions Mini Datafile #4 on the SA.2 / SA.4 and a photo from Red Stars 3 showing the Bolshevik version I modeled. Additional invaluable help came from Matt Bittner and Pedro Soares of the WWI Modeling List.

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