Morane Type N Reborn
Building the New Tool Eduard Morane N in 1/48 Scale

By Will Hendriks

History

In an era when biplane types were generally considered the norm, the aircraft designed by Raymond Saulnier and Leon Morane were monoplane types that enjoyed considerable success prior to the outbreak of the Great War and during its early years. Popular participants in the pre-war Air Salons and cross-country air races of the time included the company's Types G, H, and the parasol type L, all monoplanes. The Type N was developed just in time for the air meet at Aspern, Vienna in July 1914.

Following the outbreak of WWI, Morane Saulnier aircraft were among the very first to be armed with forward firing machine gun weapons. The problem of firing a machine gun through the whirling disc of a propeller was addressed in a number of ways, the most famous of which was the use of a synchronizer as per the Fokker Eindeckers. In fact, Raymond Saulnier designed and patented a gun synchronizing mechanism as early as April 1914, but this failed to work chiefly because the gun he used was a Hotchkiss machine gun, which was a gas-operated weapon. The long cyclic action (the time between when the trigger is pulled to when the round fires) made synchronization impossible for this type of weapon. This was overcome by installing steel wedges to the rear face of the propeller to deflect errant machine gun bullets. While seemingly crude, this worked well enough for the time being, at least.

The Morane Saulnier Type N was used by France and also by the British Royal Flying Corps where it earned the nickname "Bullet". The type saw service on the Western Front during the grim battles of 1915 and 1916. The RFC version was equipped with a Lewis gun, another gas-operated weapon.

Construction

A review of the kit contents can be found in the First Look Preview by Matt Bittner in the November 2004 issue of Internet Modeler. This is the Non-Profipack version (or "Eduard Lite" as some like to call them), and is an all new kit, not a reissue of the 1995 original. Construction started with the cockpit, and like Matt, I shall defer any references to its accuracy. All the cockpit parts were prepared by prepainting as many of the components as possible before assembly. A nice touch is the inclusion of instruments along with decals for the dial faces. The assembled instruments are quite convincing. The interior framework was painted light gray, the floor given a wood finish, and the fabric areas were painted Tamiya XF-57 Buff. Brass instrument cases and the handpump were colored with Citadel Brazen Brass, while aluminum areas were painted Citadel Chainmail. Photoetched seatbelts were added from Eduard set 48-318, French WWI Seatbelts. All was given a light wash of thinned Raw Umber enamel.

The completed cockpit structure is a tidy assembly that fits very snugly between the fuselage halves. A little trimming was necessary to get a good fit. Once together, the completed cockpit really looks convincing. At this point, I also added the front cockpit coaming, minus the gun installation, as the instructions would have you install this much later. The perforated metal framework along the cockpit opening visible in photos was simulated by drilling rows of small holes with a no.79 twist drill. All joints were cleaned up with some light sanding and a few applications of Gunze Mr. Surfacer 500 in a few locations. The engine was dry fitted at this stage so that the completed engine could be installed from the front later on, instead of being sandwiched between the fuselage halves as called for in the instructions. Fit of the excellent engine was very tight, the cowl actually fouling the cylinder heads enough to prevent it turning. The cylinders and the inside surface of the cowling was sanded to allow free rotation of the engine when in place. The engine was painted with a mixture of steel and copper shades, and set aside to be installed later. The propeller with its huge spinner was assembled, with a length of stretched sprue added between the rear hub and the deflector plates to represent the radius rods found on the original.

The wings are installed with the help of a pair of fairly large locating pins on each side at the roots. The geometry of the wing joint requires that special care be taken so that the wing panels are level and that the leading edge is square when viewed from above. A fairly unsightly gap resulted at the roots, which was filled with a little Squadron White Putty, blended in with a cotton bud soaked in Cutex nail polish remover. This results in a smooth clean joint that still indicates separate panels.

Exterior Finish and Markings

In preparation for painting, the remaining parts were removed from the sprue and cleaned up as required, which generally only meant a few strokes with a sanding stick here and there to remove mould seam lines. Many of the small parts are very delicate, especially the braces for the Hotchkiss machine gun. Another part that requires special care is the horizontal tailplane assembly, which is connected with a very thin shaft of plastic. It would be worthwhile to improve this by removing this shaft and replacing it with brass rod or some other, stronger material. The tailplane as it is remains very fragile, and on several occasions nearly broke off, despite very careful handling.

The kit comes with a choice of markings for two very early production Morane N's, a black-trimmed machine bearing the tail code MS 393 (there is a photo of this aircraft on p.10 in the Datafile), and a red-trimmed MS 394. I chose to do the black adorned version.

The color scheme is simple enough, doped linen fabric surfaces with black metal panels and fittings. For the shade of doped linen I referred to the excellent article by Harry Woodman in Windsock magazine Vol. 11, No. 5, "Was There Life Before the Plastic Kit?" In this article Mr. Woodman states "clear doped did not always mean a bright cream color", and contends that the shade of fabric varied greatly, from a pale brown (fawn) color to greyish shades. Armed with this information, I chose Tamiya Buff XF-57 for the fabric surfaces (which happens to be the same color as the plastic!). Examination of photos shows that this finish was fairly opaque on these aircraft, so I chose not to do any preshading of ribs and stringers. The wing and fuselage assembly as well as the horizontal and vertical tail were sprayed this color.

Once this coat of Tamiya Buff was dry, the black metal panels were masked off with Tamiya tape and sprayed Testors Acryl Flat Black. Express masks for the purpose are supplied in the kit, which were used to mask the tailplanes to paint the trim edging, which worked very well. All the struttery was painted with a coat of black at this time as well, as were the wheels. Paint chipping, which apparently resulted from exposure to castor oil in this case, was simulated with a Berol Prismacolor silver pencil crayon. Eduard actually provides paint chip decals on the sheet for this purpose, but I chose not to use them. The MS logo on the sides of the cowling are very well done in relief which were picked out by careful drybrushing with brass acrylic. The structure in the tailplanes was indicated by drawing thin lines along the ribs and spacers with a Derwent Burnt Sienna water color pencil. Everything was then given several light coats of Future to provide a glossy surface for decals.

The decals went on with no trouble whatsoever, being very thin and in register. Only a little setting solution was required around the edges of the rudder tricolour to get them to conform. My only question is about the shade of blue used, I suspect it should be a paler shade. Another light coat of Future was applied to seal the decals.

Final Assembly and Rigging

The struts and braces were attached to the airframe in preparation for rigging, and this is where the first problems arose. The lower rear "A" frame parts B3/B4 has locating pins that do not fit the holes provided and are at the wrong angle. These are best removed entirely. The landing gear assembly fits and assembles well enough, but the center "V" strut part B15 is too short by several millimetres, and was replaced with lengths of Pend Oreille styrene strut stock. The illustrations in the instructions indicate that the center of the axle is angled upwards to meet this V strut, but this is incorrect, based on photos of the real airplanes.

The tail skid assembly turned into another problem area. The parts that make the frame for the tailskid mount B13/B14 are too short, fouling the bottom of the rudder. A replacement assembly was fabricated with stretched sprue. The instructions would have you install the tailskid with the end inserted into a hole provided, but this is incorrect. The end of the tailskid is supported by a pair of bungee shock cords that enter the fuselage between the skid struts. This was fabricated by twisting fine copper armature wire to represent the bungee chord, which was painted a pale brown color. The tailskid itself was given a wood-like finish with a few strokes of Burnt Sienna enamel.

Rigging was accomplished with heat stretched sprue, painted Citadel Boltgun Metal by running the stretched sprue between my fingers wet with paint. A pair of dividers was used to measure the lengths, and each was attached with white carpenter's glue. Any slack lines were tightened with a glowing matchstick held close by. Turnbuckles were simulated in appropriate locations with thick Testors PLA Gold enamel paint from the small square bottle, applied with a small brush. A fitting had to be fabricated out of styrene stock and installed between the V strut on the landing gear to accept rigging as per photos. The small pulley on a cable on the rear of the upper mast was simulated by twisting thin copper wire around a pin, then filling the loop with paint, to which the upper control cables were attached.

The tyres were painted light grey with a touch of red to give a pinkish shade. Weathering was accomplished with very light washes of thinned Testors Model Master Raw Umber enamel. The engine and propeller were inserted and the model was complete.

The figure of the happy Aviateur comes from the Eduard Nieuport 11 kit, painted with acrylics and highlighted/weathered with oils. The base was made from a left-over trophy plaque from our latest local model contest (Hope they don't find out!), decorated with static grass and various earthy materials.

Conclusion

Notwithstanding the few problems encountered above, the kit assembles easily and captures the look of the original. While I never had the good fortune to build Eduard's first kit back in the 90's, I am sure this one would be quite a bit easier. The short struts and the misleading instructions could cause problems for some builders. It appears the Profipack version will supply additional detail parts as well as markings for several RFC versions. Dimensions and overall shape and outline compare favourably to Ian Stair's drawings in Windsock Datafile 58.

Recommended for modelers with some experience.

Eduard is planning a retool of at least one other of their classic firsts, the ever popular Fokker E.III Eindecker. The future is bright indeed for WWI aircraft modelers!

Special thanks to Eduard for supplying the model, and to Matt Bittner for allowing me the chance to build this kit. Also thanks to the good folks on the WWI Modeler's Forum for their happily shared knowledge and inspiration.

References and Further Reading

Morane-Saulnier Types N, I, V. By J.M. Bruce. Windsock Datafile 58, Albatros Productions, 1996.

"The Mother of Invention: The Morane Saulnier 'Bullets' and Their Armament", Harry Woodman, Windsock Magazine Vol.11, No.5, Oct. 1995.

"Was There Life Before the Plastic Kit?", Harry Woodman, Windsock Magazine Vol.11, No.5, Oct. 1995.

Colours & Markings of the World's Air Forces, CD, Bob Pearson, 2000.

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