Planet 1/72 Focke-Wulf A 16

By Tim Nelson

Background

The Focke-Wulf A 16 (there is a space, not a dot, between the “A” and the “16”) was the first production airplane by that soon-to-be legendary company. Approximately 30 A 16s were built between 1924 – 1927, and they helped establish the fledgling airline industry in Germany. This kit represents what appears to be a late model A 16d, with a Mercedes D II inline engine.

Reference 2 is a charming monograph on this aircraft and is THE quintessential reference on it. It is full of photographs, drawings, and history. Unfortunately for this monolinguistic builder, the history is in German. However, this publication exceeds all other A 16 sources combined as a resource for configuration and livery information. A striking aspect of the book is the large number of photos of stricken A 16s lying inverted on the ground. These accidents appear to be caused by the airplane nosing over during takeoff or landing, and resulted in retrofit of an unsightly “roll cage” (really more aptly described as a “pitch cage”) to protect the pilot.

References 3 and 4 are also useful to anyone contemplating a build of this kit.

Preliminaries

Tracy Hancock provided a concise review of this 1/72 scale kit in its in-box state in Reference 1. Some issues become apparent only during the build process, and I’ll discuss those below.

Building

After generally routine cleanup of the resin parts, I was pleasantly surprised by the fit. For example, the cabin door actually fits snugly in the opening. I would be displaying the model with an open door, but still took advantage of the nice fit of the door for filling the opening during painting.

The two most significant fit problem areas were a step along the fuselage bottom join and a gap on the right wing-to-body joint. These were dealt with by normal filling techniques. Since the wings are butt-joined to the fuselage, I beefed things up with brass rod.

There are two bigger problems for the purists out there: 1) the right wing is visibly thicker than the left wing at the root and 2) the fuselage has a subtle twist as you go aft. I chose to ignore Problem 1) and corrected Problem 2) as best I could with hot water warping and selective sanding.

The kit wheels look nice, but at 9 mm diameter, I judged them to be way too small relative to most A 16 photos and drawings. An Aeroclub 12 mm wheel set seemed a perfect replacement.

The kit cockpit consists of the basic simple elements: seat, floor, side bulkhead (really a firewall between the pilot and laterally adjacent engine compartment), stick, rudder pedals, and a flat piece for use as an instrument panel. I could find no photos of an A 16 cockpit, even in the wonderful Ref. 2, so I fashioned an instrument panel using Reheat decals and bezels to resemble other contemporary designs. The molded cockpit coaming is rough, so I sanded it off to be replaced later by a simple ring of white glue; this technique works well (at least in 1/72 scale) to suggest a wrinkled leather surface once it is painted a suitable color. Warning: the cockpit is installed in the left half of the fuselage, and alignment of this asymmetric configuration is disorienting. After what I thought was very careful placement prior to joining the fuselage halves, I realized late in assembly that I installed my instrument panel at a slight angle off horizontal. It will be that way in perpetuity…

The passenger cabin is formed from floor and ceiling pieces, and fore and aft bulkhead pieces. A bit of sanding is necessary to allow for the fuselage sides to join. The cabin is quaint and begs to be visible through the opened door, so I scratchbuilt a simple bud vase and fabricated a “carpet” design to provide some visual interest. I emulated dark plywood walls by hand brushing raw umber oil paint over the yellowish natural resin. Three passenger chairs are provided. Cabin photos from Ref. 2 were used as a painting and positioning guide. There is space between the cabin ceiling and the top of the fuselage for the brass rods I installed to reinforce the wing / body joints.

A unique aspect of vintage civil aircraft modeling, which I am just beginning to experience, is the need to install window curtains in the passenger cabin. I made mine by laying wet tissue, pre-cut to shape, over thin wire. After laying on a glass surface, I bunched each wet tissue strip at the “waist” and then let dry. Once dry, the tissue holds this shape. Then, I airbrushed each segment in a light tan. Crude, but effective, especially in 1/72 scale. Each A 16 window had a leather pull strap, which I made from Tamiya tape strips hand painted with a leathery brown. In hindsight, I probably made my straps too wide.

The kit radiator assembly is not bad, but I removed the molded piping and replaced with appropriate gauge wire. My kit was missing the tail skid shown in the instructions, so I fabricated one from strip styrene.

A 16 photos typically show a post mounted horizontally across two rods in the pilot’s line of sight. Fellow Seattle area modeler Jim Schubert and I speculate that this device is some sort of an aiming rail for the pilot, however, at times I have wondered if it had any function as a handhold for the pilot to climb up the port side for cockpit access. Regardless, I fashioned this device out of thin brass wire and it is a nice detail touch beyond the basic kit.

The ailerons are delicately molded but require a bit of cleanup to remove overly rough texture. Aileron and rudder control horns are rendered rather well, but my elevators just had crude stubs. I sanded those smooth, cut small slots in the appropriate location, and installed replacement elevator control horns from strip styrene. Drooping the elevators and installing the ailerons and rudder with small deflection represent “low hanging fruit”; relatively easy to do, while providing a significant boost to realism and interest.

I used the kit prop on the model as rendered in the accompanying photos. It is a bit crude and inaccurate, and I will likely replace it in the future. I gave the prop the same sort of brush-streaked raw umber oil treatment as the cabin and cockpit walls, with special emphasis on trying to suggest lamination lines. A Copper State Models prop boss adds a needed detail touch.

Painting and Finishing

German civil aircraft of the 1920s were often painted in a doped silver / gray (“silbergrau”) color. After some experimentation, I chose to render this color with a mix of 70% Floquil SP Lettering Gray, 15% Floquil Old Silver, and 15% Floquil Reefer White. I think it is an effective emulation of “silbergrau”, but the effect is subdued following various clear coats, and totally lost in photographs. I will use a higher percentage of silver in future efforts to compensate for clear coating.

I mixed a very dark gray for all black surfaces, essentially the same as Floquil Grimy Black, in keeping with scale effect.

The Propagteam decals which come with the kit are crisp and very thin. However, they gave me a devil of a time because of their tendency to stick immediately upon contact with any surface. I ruined several of mine and was bailed out by Jim Schubert. who generously donated the set from his kit. I made duplicates (at least of the dark registration and logo markings) on Supercal clear film, and the combination of these sets allowed me to finish. Jim even donated a weight table decal for the rear port side of the fuselage. I buried the decals with several iterations of Duracryl clear and sanding, followed by a final coat of Duracryl/Testors Dullcote semi-gloss.

After painting, I removed masks and installed cabin curtains and windows. The big opening where the cabin door goes allows for relatively easy access to the cabin even in the final stages of assembly. I installed the curtains, and the shelf with the bud vase, then followed with windows made from viewgraph material (the kit clear acetate stock seems way too thick, and has an unsightly yellow tint). I created a door hinge from a thin strip of styrene and mounted the door in an open position to welcome viewers into the cabin.

A segment of small diameter tubing was lifted from the spares bin to represent a simple pitot tube. Pitot tube configurations seem to vary among A 16 variants, and I did not split hairs over rendering any particular version.

A 16 photos typically show a small windscreen in front of the hapless pilot’s cockpit opening. I fashioned a tiny screen from a scrap of viewgraph material and painted a very thin, dark frame around the perimeter. After some shaping over a piece of brass rod, I installed it with white glue. This windscreen is another “high value added” extra detail in the interest of both accuracy and visual interest.

The final phase of the project was installation of 10 runs of control rigging for ailerons, elevators, and rudder. I used 2 lb monofilament line on my first try, but lost tension on most of the runs before getting the CA glue to set. After setting it aside for a couple of weeks, I stripped the monofilament off (carefully!) and installed 0.005 thou steel wire, which is a vast improvement.

A final enhancement to the basic kit would be the pilot’s protective “pitch cage”. Most A 16s seemed to eventually get these devices, but they were quite ugly and totally ruin the look of the airplane to my eye. I omitted it for aesthetic reasons, and the savings of a couple of hours of scratchbuilding was a nice bonus.

Conclusion

This was a pleasant build of a delightful and charming subject. Anyone interested in this genre of aviation who has a little experience with resin will enjoy it. My A 16 was fortunate to place 3rd in the recently completed inaugural “Wings of Peace” contest. The Wings of Peace internet discussion group and web site is an invaluable and highly recommended resource for those interested in civil aviation in the inter-war years.

A special thanks to Jim Schubert for his counsel, and his generous donation of parts and decals in support of this project. Almost every after-market part noted above came from him, and the project literally could not have been completed without his kind assistance.

References

1. Quick Looks Review, Internet Modeler, January 2005, “Planet Models 1/72 Focke Wulf A.16”, by Tracy Hancock

2. Jet & Prop Typen-Chronik, Focke-Wulf A 16, by Gunter Frost, VDM Heinz Nickel, Zweibrucken

3. “Wings of Peace” article, Aeroplane Monthly magazine, January 1987, by John Stroud

4. Build Review, Scale Aircraft Model International, July 1999, by Mike Jerram

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