Azur 1/72 Farman (SNCAC)
NC 223.1, NC 223.3 & NC 223.4

By Alain Bourret

NOTE: Alain Breton and Roger Holden provided extremely valuable assistance with this review and Jim Schubert originally edited the text and provided some of the graphics.

History

In the great book of aviation history, Farman must surely be the champion of ugliness. Angular lines, blunt noses, square fuselages are Farman trademarks. They were nevertheless good airplanes and some of them - the Goliath and the F.190 - are well known for their accomplishments.

The Farman NC 223 series, the subjects of these three kits, were the successors of the F.220/2200 series of four engined monoplanes. There is some confusion in the numbering of this series. It began with the 1936 merger of Farman and Hanriot to form Societe' Nationale de Constructions Aeronautiques du Centre (SNCAC) leading to the designations being mixed in use. For example, Azur use NC 223.1 and others use F.2231 for the same plane. The same is true of the other two in this series. They could be easily distinguished from their predecessors by their trapezoidal wing shape and their slender fuselages. They had, relatively, cleaner lines, improved performance and greater range.

There was only one NC 223.1, c/n 01, F-APUZ. It participated to the Istres - Paris - Damascus race of 1937 where it finished 9th, being completely outclassed by the Italian SM.79s, which placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd. After the race the plane was named Chef-Pilot L. Guerrero. It was then used for an outstanding flight to South America; Paris - Istres - Dakar - Natal - Buenos Aires - Santiago. Its military career was short; it crashed while taking off from Dakar on its way to South America where it was supposed to begin military operations.

During the construction of the NC 223.1, Farman was already designing a long range heavy bomber of the Bn5 class, the NC 223.3. The prototype was first powered by radial engines but subsequently vee-12 Hispano-Suiza 12Y29 engines powered the series.

The Battle of France was well on its way when eight of these bombers were finally accepted by the Armee de l'Air . The prototype was captured by the German forces. Some flew away to the colonies and came back later and one was destroyed at Rabat by Wildcats of VF-9. The military careers of the NC 223.3s was consequently very short. Air France then obtained authorization to use four of them as liaison aircraft between France and French Middle East territories for the Vichy government; they later operated with the Lignes Aeriennes Militaires.

As for the Farman 223.4, it was first designated F.2230 (then NC.2230) and was conceived as a transatlantic postal aircraft using the wings, with the addition of Goodrich-Colombes de-icer boots, and the engines of the 223.3 but with an entirely new fuselage and a new tail. Three aircraft were built and named Camille Flammarion, F-AQJM, Le Verrier, F-AROA and Jules Verne, F-ARIN.

Too late to undertake North Atlantic postal operations, they were modified for use as bombers and taken over by the French Navy. Le Verrier was shot down - by mistake - by Italian fighters over the Mediterranean the 27th of November 1940 claiming the lives of the legendary air mail pilot Henri Guillaumet and his crew. Camille Flammarion made many flights between Marseille - Tunis - Beirut and Marseille - Algiers - Damascus between November 1940 and January 1941 but was then scrapped, due to lack of spare parts after it broke its tailwheel at Beirut. Jules Verne has the distinction of being the first allied aircraft to have bombed Berlin. It was also used in the search for the Graf Spee and the Admiral Scheer. Jules Verne was finally destroyed by the French resistance the 29th of November 1943 so it would not be captured by the advancing German forces.

The Three Kits

NOTE: As this is a long review of three large kits, we have chosen to illustrate the box, parts, and decals of only one, the NC 223.1, as typical of all three.

Each of the three 1/72 AZUR multi-engine Farman kits comes in an 8" x 14" (20 cm x 34 cm) cardboard box. The box art is quite attractive and the box bottoms show color profiles of the decal options. Inside, you find a big plastic bag the size of the box containing around 130 medium gray styrene parts and around ten clear parts (the number varying with each particular version), from two to six resin parts plus one (NC 223.3) or two (NC 223.1 & .4) decal sheet(s).

These are big beasts, slightly larger than the classic Boeing B-17 or Avro Lancaster. There is little noticeable flash and the panel lines are finely engraved. It looks strange (a purely personal opinion) to see these big Farmans without any rivets because they were quite apparent on the real machines. Probably it is better this way because I'll bet these rivets would have been overscale anyway.

These kits are of the short-run variety with slightly rough finish to the parts. There are some items which will have to be scratchbuilt and some window apertures will have to be opened up. The fit of the parts is generally good, but the wings have no locating tongues.

The positions of the struts are indicated on both engine halves, which is a bit confusing. The struts joining the engine nacelles to the fuselage are well rendered except the forward upper diagonal strut requires modification of its streamlined fairing with the fuselage to a smooth concave section merging with the fuselage skin rather than a convex one like the other struts.

No details are given concerning the bracing wires between the engine nacelle struts. On the 223.3 and 223.4, there are two sets of bracing wires between the nacelles and the fuselage. The lower pair are quite unusual, because one of the wires is doubled, with one wire vertically above the other, sandwiching the other single wire. The upper pair is made of single wires. The 223.1 only has a single lower X of wires.

You should also thin the landing gear doors as they are a bit thick. You will have to make a small pitot tube and install it at mid-length on the right wing strut. Engine nacelles have their radiator air intakes divided in two by a molded baffle (resin part). This solid splitter in the intake is not correct. Instead, it was a metal rod fixed behind the base of the spinner and the upper intake lip. The box art of NC 223.3 shows this reinforcing rod very clearly. You will also have to add reinforcing rods inside the radiator outlets. You must check the nacelles for all the small gizmos visible all around.

The propeller blades are molded separately so you will have to take great care to give the same pitch to all of them. Note that all four propellers were turning in the same direction, the front engines turning anti-clockwise and the rear engines being installed in the opposite direction turning clockwise when seen by an observer posted at rear of the aircraft and looking forward. In the 223.1 kit specifically reviewed, the 12 propeller blades were of varying lengths!

The ailerons should have different chords on upper and lower surfaces and they must have visible hinges on the underside with the hinge line well back from the lower leading edge as these are Friese type ailerons. The underside aileron chord should also be a bit greater than the chord of the simple hinged flaps. You must consequently correct the scribing of these parts. The trim tabs, mass balances, all hinges and actuators are also missing.

The fuel tank wing stiffeners under the wings must be sanded away and new ones glued in place. There are none on the NC 223.4 and they are different for the NC 223.1 and .3. Refer to the individual kit reviews here below for more explanations. It was impossible to find close-up photos showing the wing upper surface but there were surely fuel caps, inspection panels, fuel vents, lifting lugs etc. Clearly, further research is required. The kits lack lots of little details, especially on the engine nacelles and the landing gear necessitating a thorough study of photos from every angle possible which will keep you busy for many weeks if you add them all.

The same wheels are provided in all three kits, which is not correct. They are almost correct for the 223.1 but lack the brake drums, but the 223.3 and .4 had more complicated wheels with slots in the center. With such heavy aircraft it will be important to flatten the tires to avoid a "tip toe" effect. The two vertical struts holding the rear of the mudguards are OK for the NC 223.1 but the NC 223.3 and .4 had only one vertical strut instead of the two shown on the instruction diagram.

Internal detail is good but sparse for the nose sections of the three kits. The thick transparencies are a big disappointment and greatly inferior to the vacuforms AZUR have provided hitherto. All the fuselage windows are moulded solid and must be cut out and your own furnished or use Clear Fix or a similar product for other small hand drilled openings.

The 13 page instruction booklet comprises a short history, nine pages of parts layout and assembly notes which are illustrated by 14 assembly steps and three pages of detailed decal instruction drawings. Nevertheless, the instructions are not all that clear but will not cause major problems. The colors referenced are all Gunze Sangyo. The suggested cockpit color is bleu nuit, a dark blue. There is a controversy about the cockpit color used on French aircraft of this period. A slightly pinkish beige color was also used in this period on military aircraft. The choice is up to you but take care of the scale effect and darken the beige slightly if you choose this color.

Each kit provides markings for three aircraft. The decals are very well printed, being sharp, clear and in register but on the NC 223.4 they present some accuracy problems. The documentation on these big machines is not exactly abundant. Please consult the bibliography at the end of this article for sources of information. Most of the sources are in French but happily photos speak for themselves.

The Farman NC 223.1

Only one aircraft of this version was built which eases the research quite a bit. Nevertheless, the aircraft changed during its life and you must pay attention to these modifications to build an accurate model.

An important modification will have to be made to the upper aft fuselage because the upper corners of the 223.1 fuselage aft of the wing should be radiused, not sharp. Fortunately the plastic is thick enough for you to deal with this. There should also be sliding hatches and their rails over the nose and behind the cockpit.

The kit gives only one pilot seat while there were two seats in reality. Also no mention is made in the kit instructions of the fact that the 223.1 had only one row of windows around the lower nose in the Istres-Damascus -Paris- race but two in its Chef-Pilot L. Guerrero guise. The box top art shows this correctly.

The kit has the correct number, seven, of fuel tank stiffeners under the wing but they must be sanded away and new ones glued in place because they aren't the correct shape on the kit and should be narrower and deeper than they have been moulded.

You must also add single X bracing wires to the lower engine-to-fuselage struts (an arrangement which is different from the 223.3 and .4). No mention is made of these wires in the instructions. There is also no mention of the aerials, D/F loop and wind-driven generator on the Air France Chef Pilote L. Guerrero. You should also add a landing light just under the nose.

The kit provides markings for three aircraft: one in the Istres - Damascus - Paris race of August 1937, one when in service with Air France and a camouflaged Aeronavale machine. I disagree with the ivory color suggested for the civil machines. I think they were painted silver but this is only a personal opinion.

It is also suggested to paint the front and back of the propeller blades in black which is correct for the military machine but wrong for the civil version. The spinners and the fronts of the blades were silver and only the backs of the propeller blades were painted black; the propellers manufacturer's logos go on the front side of all the blades.

The Aeronavale color scheme suggested is inexact. I found only three photos of the camouflaged machine in Avions No.134 but we can clearly see a different camouflage pattern from the one suggested. The underside of the military bomber was not repainted and should be silver rather than the suggested light blue-gray. The registration was not repainted on the wing upper surfaces as indicated; at least not on the photos I have seen . Don't forget to add an antenna mast over the cockpit.

Since there was only one NC 223.1 built, there are not a lot of color possibilities . If you want to be original, I would suggest you to modify your Farman like it appeared during its series of high altitude tests. Some modifications were brought to the aircraft, the most important being the installation of Hispano-Suiza 12 X-13 and 12 X-14 enignes in different and more streamlined engine nacelles. The top and fuselage sides and the wings were maroon and the engine nacelles silver.

The Farman NC 223.3 kit

Like the NC 223.1, the 223.3 must be modified so as to have a radiused upper rear fuselage behind the wing trailing edge, the angular lower corners being grossly incorrect. Here, as on the 223.1 you need to add hatches and their rails over the nose and behind the cockpit. The kit has the wrong number of fuel tank stiffeners under the wing and those moulded are too wide and are not deep enough. You will have to sand them away and add 11 new ones made of fine styrene strips.

You must also add the two sets of bracing wires between the nacelles and fuselage. All the NC 223.3 seem to have nacelles where the upper profile of the nacelle is a smooth curve, without a prominent step behind the radiator flaps, as later on the NC 223.4, which seems to have been originally built with the smooth top nacelle also. The NC 223.3 nacelles, therefore, require modification to give this smooth top shape. The later stepped nacelles surely gave a better airflow through the radiator.

If you installed the flush spinners on your model, as seen on the S. Lieutenant Casse machine, you must drill a circular hole on the forward part of the engine nacelle just under and behind each propeller spinner. This hole replaces the annular opening around the smaller spinner. These openings were suggested by the engine manufacturer to help cooling and can be seen on numerous aircraft equipped with Hispano-Suiza engine between 1937-39. You must also add a lot of scoops and holes all around the nacelles. Don't forget to add the two small symmetrical air intakes behind the spinner which are peculiar to the 223.3

As was mentioned in the general review, the transparencies are rather thick and this is particularly true for the dorsal turret which must be vacuformed. There are no interior parts for the upper turret and you will have to add all the interior details which will be quite visible once the model is finished. I found no details for the lower turret, presumably it was a retractable "dustbin" type, so it is best to model it retracted. You must add the lower nose window protection grill inside the bomber position.

The cockpit needs some attention too. I think the big bomber was equipped with pilot and co-pilot seats but I found no photo to prove this. In fact, this was the standard arrangement for the French night bombers of this period like the Bloch 200 and 210, the Farman 2222 etc., of which the 223 series are the descendants.

The NC 223.3 has extra parts for the S. Lieutenant Casse - the larger more pointed flush spinners, long exhaust pipes for the front engines and one side fuselage intake) which is shown in the instructions and which was shown on the pre-production box art, but this is not now one of the three options in the kit decals!? AZUR probably changed their mind at the last minute to propose a different livery.

If you want to build the S. Lieutenant Casse aircraft anyway, you must install a side fuselage intake on both sides and there is only one offered in the kit. Fortunately this part is also provided, but not used, in the 223.1 kit. This intake is probably an oil cooler with the same function as the cylindrical nacelle intake seen on the civil 223.3.

There is no mention of the civil aircraft registered FL-AFM in the constructional part of the instructions. It should use the NC 223.1 nose piece (which is included with the NC 223.3 kit) but you must scrape and sand the frames of the top window row which was metal skinned on the real aircraft. There is no circular piece to fill the upper turret hole but surprisingly this piece (# H8) was provided in the NC 223.1 kit!

The "Free France" livery looks ok but remember that modifications were made to the markings with the passage of time. As an example, the Cross of Lorraine adorning each wingtip was not always there and at the end of the war the wing and tail struts were repainted a dark color, most probably black. The FAFL aircraft was equipped with D/F antenna, a long pitot boom in the nose and other antenna masts over and under the fuselage.

You must also add a big cylindrical scoop on the outboard side and more or less in the middle of each engine. These scoops are probably oil coolers which may have been added for service in desert regions (probably by some local workshop) and are seen only on the aircraft with smooth top nacelles.

There is also an additional lump visible on top of each nacelle with the installation of these big scoops which you must make by hand. Curiously, we can see the oil cooler on the painting illustrating the back of the box but the part is not offered in the kit. All these modifications are not indicated on the instruction sheet.

Since this aircraft has been transformed to accommodate passengers there were also many small rectangular windows each side of the fuselage that must be drilled out and small scoops added. It is difficult to find photos showing all the windows because they are hidden by the engine nacelles. There is possibly a different door arrangement on the right side but the photos I have aren't clear on this point. I didn't find any photos of the passenger seat arrangement. Air Magazine No. 22 indicates the installation of eight seats and Icare No.102 reports that up to 30 passengers were sometimes transported without any comfort! The windows being small, no one will see inside a fuselage painted dark gray anyway.

The Farman NC 223.4 kit

This is my favorite version but unhappily AZUR completely missed it. The kit looks very attractive at first sight but it was not long before my collaborators, Roger Holden and Alain Breton, and I noted many flaws which raised our eyebrows many centimeters. There are many problems common to all versions mentioned in the general review of the kits but there are also many others specific to this version.

You don't have to study the NC 223.4 shapes very long to find out many major mistakes. The most flagrant is the entire fuselage profile, forward of the trailing edge of the wing which is wrong - see attached sketch. The nose is definitely too streamlined. In particular, the belly should be a straight line from just forward of the wing trailing edge to just behind the nose windows. The kit is curved, with the result that the underside of the nose sweeps up too much. The top line of the nose also slopes down too steeply. The incorrect nose means that the flat window in the underside of the nose is at the wrong angle completely and is also too wide.

It means major nose surgery is required and it also means you will have to vacuform new clear parts for the nose or do some research and finish your aircraft with a solid nose like seen at the beginning of its career. If you do this, you must add a landing light at the tip of the solid nose version; the landing light is just behind the transparent nose for the other planes.

You must drill out and install home made transparencies for the two molded-in side-by-side windows located half way on the left side of the fuselage between the nose and the cockpit at the radio operator's station. Contrary to the kit moulding, there was only one window on the right side, which is not identical in shape on all the machines. You must also add a top hatch with a two-part window on the forward part of the nose which doesn't appear on the kit; unlike the previous planes these hatches were side hinged. There is also a top hatch with a two-part window just behind the cockpit.

The cross-section of the forward fuselage is also wrong. The bottom should not be flat, but a curve. Furthermore, the transition point between the very lightly curved dorsal fuselage line and the straight rear fuselage dorsal spine is located back at 2/3rd of the wing chord on the kit while the break must be located at the wing trailing edge. All these gross errors will be unpleasant to correct.

Curiously only one pilot seat is given in the kit which is doubtful. Yvon Yonnet, the pilot of Jules Verne, described the aircraft as being equipped with two pilot's seats, the pilot being on the left and the co-pilot (normally the commanding officer) on the right.

Furthermore, it is mentioned in Icare No.157, p.97, that there were seats for the captain and his assistant and the aircraft was equipped with an autopilot but the controls were not duplicated. This is quite surprising and may be this was only correct for the prototype. Once again, it will be up to you to decide to add a second control column or not but I think there were two control columns as there were two seats.

It is very important to move the cockpit bulkhead (part #B8) forward. The bulkhead must be located just forward of the small round fuselage window that you drilled out behind the cockpit. This small window was for light in the mechanical compartment. If you don't move the bulkhead you will be able to see the cockpit through the small round window, which is not correct.

As emphasized before, the main wheels are not correct and must be modified to show slots in the center and brake drums. There is no sign of the octagonal retractable navigation turret (an astrodome where the navigator could use his sextant) in the upper rear fuselage.

There are also a good number of corrections to make to the tail. The lower portions of the 223.4 fins, below the stabilizer, are completely wrong in shape and the trim tabs and actuators on the elevator are missing. Jules Verne did not have the lower part of the fin and AZUR has correctly given an alternate set of fins and warned the modeler of this particularity on the instruction sheet. Curiuously the box art shows Jules Verne with the extended (wrong) fins!

The Alkan bomb shackles on the underside of Jules Verne's bomber fuselage are missing. Also missing from Jules Verne are the bombsight installed in the nose and the 7.5 mm Darne machine gun installed in the right rear access door. By the way, don't forget to scribe this "Horse Race Track" shaped door, which does not appear on the kit part. You must also make a small rectangular window in this door. Note that this door was hinged to the rear cabin bulkhead to swing inside the airplane.

The wing undersurface external reinforcement stringers located at the wing root must be sanded away. AZUR kept them on the NC 223.4 while they are not supposed to appear there because on this version the fuel tanks had been moved inside the fuselage. The NC 223.4 was originally designed as a transatlantic postal plane and the empty fuselage fuel tanks were intended to help the airplane to float in the unpleasant event of a ditching. AZUR omitted the nine longitudinal fuselage fuel tank stringers which must be represented with thin plastic strips. The highest stringers are in-line with the nacelle strut attachment points on the fuselage and were used as the demarcation line for the upper and lower camouflage colors on Jules Verne.

I can't ascertain the exact shape of the gondola under the rear fuselage (absent on the prototype). Perhaps it contains flares or water safety equipment. Add a mast under the forward fuselage and add the lead weight, a tiny drop of white glue, at the end for the trailing antenna. There was also a mast fixed over the cockpit with antenna wires going to each fin.

The engine nacelles are correctly shaped but need some detailing. You must add, amongst other things, the transmission shaft cooling air intake on the left side of each nacelle for the forward Hispano 12X or 12Y just under the first exhaust pipe. The same air intake is located on the right side of each rear engine towards the rear of the nacelle. Don't forget to add the two sets of peculiar X bracing wires between the engine nacelles and the fuselage (see the general remarks at the beginning of the article).

All the precedent comments are of a general nature. Each of the 223.4s had small differences (engine nacelles, nose etc.) from the others and other changes took place during their respective careers. Be careful and check all your sources very thoroughly.

Markings are provided for three aircraft. Those for Jules Verne are military, while the other two have very colorful civil liveries. The 1942 date for the Le Verrier markings is not correct but the aircraft was indeed wearing this scheme when it was shot down over the Mediterranean in November 1940. The yellow areas for Vichy government civil aircraft were only introduced in 1941 so it is not certain that Le Verrier wore the yellow markings. Camille Flammarion probably wore them in the last few weeks of its life.

Note also, there are many differences between the three aircraft in the marking changes which took place. Originally, they had the Seagull logo of Air France Transatlantique, which was disbanded in late 1940 and thereafter replaced by the standard "Crevette" (Shrimp) of Air France. Sometimes they had the national "F" on the outer fins, sometimes not. There are differences in the Nord Centre lettering on top of the rudders. Sometimes they had a vertical fuselage stripe, sometimes roundels. The aircraft names are in different positions/styles. Le Verrier, had "Air France Transatlantique" surrounding the logo, the others didn't . Camille Flammarion had the aircraft designation on the forward fuselage, the others didn't. Once again, be careful.

Finally, there is also a problem with the Air France Transatlantique logo. The land areas of the logo should be beige not the dark green provided. There is a good illustration of this logo in Icare No.157. I have also seen the logo with the land painted in yellow on Gerard Hartmann's site (Internet address in the bibliography section). The Air France logo has the "Crevette" (the flying seahorse nicknamed "shrimp") in purple on a yellow background. It is possible; but blue seems more probable but I don't want to be dogmatic.

The leading edges of the wings and tail must be painted flat black to represent the Goodrich-Colombes de-icing boots. The instruction sheet suggests painting the lower part of the fuselage in black but some people around me think it could have been painted "standard" Air France dark blue instead . It is possible but I think black is the right color but the explanation is too long to go into here. French color schemes are enduringly controversial and it is consequently up to you to do your homework.

A big job is waiting you with this kit and what is really disturbing is to realize that the box top painting of Jules Verne is much more correct, except for the tail, than the kit!

Conclusion

AZUR must be congratulated to for releasing limited run kits of these loveable, ugly, unusual four-engined beasts, which were used in both military and civil roles. While the kits are impressive, they would have benefited from more serious research. The kits appear to be based on the inaccurate plans published in Air Magazine Nos. 21 and 22 . The factory plan published on p.26 of Air Magazine No. 22 shows a more accurate profile but this was evidently not used by AZUR.

I think it is possible to obtain very satisfying results with the Farman NC 223.1 and NC 223.3 kits if you take the time to correct the little flaws and to add the numerous small missing details. The clear parts will have to be vacuformed if you want a first class model. The NC 223.4 is very problematic and involves a major surgery. I recommend this kit only for those who like big challenges.

I would have expected a better quality product for such expensive (US$66.50) kits. It is true that these three Farman models are very similar in appearance at first sight but, in reality, they are quite different. The commonality of the components is only apparent, and not actual, in many cases. AZUR probably wanted to reduce its production costs but has done so at the expense of accuracy. With such expensive kits, the purchasers are entitled to better accuracy.

Ironically, the two main reference sources used to review these products are Air Magazine Nos.21 and 22 ,which are published by the manufacturer to promote the sales of the kits! Nevertheless, these kits are a happy change from the classical warbirds and F-whatever kits flooding the market. They are very original subjects worth considering for inclusion in your collection if you are ready to invest money, time and effort - especially effort.

Bibliography

1. Air Magazine No. 21, September 2004 - article on NC 223.1 with many photos.

2. Aero Journal No.15, October/November 2000 - Right side view of NC 223.3, S. Lieutenant Casseí.

3. Aero Journal No.18, April/May 2001 - Jules Verne's bombing missions and a good color profile.

4. Aeroplane Monthly, May 1991, pp 305 - 309, NC.223.1, NC 223.4, text and photos

5. Air magazine No. 22 , November 2004 - article on the NC 223.3 and.4 with many photos.

6. Avions magazine No.134 (date unknown)- article on the NC 223.1 with photos.

7. European Transport Aircraft Since 1910: John Stroud, Putnam, London,1966, Library of Congress #66-28846. pp125, 126, 127 - NC 223.1 and NC 223.4, text and photos.

8. Icare No.102, pp 52, 90, 101, 102, 107, 116 - NC 223.3.

9. Icare No.157, pp 42, 43, 44, 70, 71, 82, 83, 86, 96 - 99, 160 - NC 223.1, NC 223.4, text and photos.

10. Icare No.162, pp138,142 - three big photos of NC.223.4.

11. Les Avions Farman, Docavia No. 21, 1984, by Jean Liron (NC 223.1, .3 and .4 with photos.

12. War Planes of the Second World War - Bombers and Reconnaissance Aircraft, Voume 8: William Green, Doubleday, New York, 1967.

13. Avions magazine No. 30, September 1995, pp 36-43 - mainly about the NC 223.4.

14. www.hydroretro.net/etudegh/index.html (The article is titled Les derniers avions Farman)

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