Background"For some indefinable reason certain aircraft fire the imagination of certain pilots. Such pulse-quickeners are not necessarily aesthetically-appealing hot rods flaunting artistic contours that owe nothing to utilitarian considerations, or way out aberrations from the mainstream of aeronautical design, bristling with innovatory features. Such racier forms of seductive hardware are, it is to be admitted, usually the stuff of which dreams are made. But there are also the quieter seducers; those aeroplanes offering little in terms of conventional beauty, exoticism or scintillating performance; that possess an aura which, defying analysis, renders them quite irresistible to some. To me, one such aeroplane was Germany's "eye in the sky", the Focke-Wulf Fw 189.
This product of the drawing board of Dipl.Ing Kurt Tank had little claim to glamour. Indeed, by some standards it was considered a caprice of aeronautical design, with its match-stick-like tailbooms, tiny powerplant and bulbous nose; a supreme example of utilitarianism overcoming aeronautical artistry. Yet, as the old adage asserts: "Handsome is as handsome does"; the Fw 189 was to prove itself supremely versatile, outstandingly reliable and almost universally popular with its pilots.
Capt. Eric "Winkle" Brown - Wings Of The Luftwaffe
The preparation of Great Wall Hobby's Fw 189 must rate among the best kept modelling secrets of recent years. Not only had the company managed to keep a very tight lid on the development of this particularly kit, but the modelling world at large was unaware that they were even working on aircraft models at all!
The packaging and presentation are very good. The kit arrives in an attractive and sturdy top-opening box, with the sprues bagged separately, and the model's delicate accessories packed with a sheet of card for extra protection. The Fw 189 comprises:
175 x grey styrene parts (6 spare)
19 x clear styrene parts (1 spare)
32 x etched brass parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
I've never seen any of Great Wall Hobby's armour kits, but I understand they have an excellent reputation. Seeing the parts for their first aircraft model, I can understand why - basically, the moulding is quite superb. There's not a hint of flash anywhere and, try as I might, I couldn't find any sign of sink marks despite the fact that a few of the parts are quite thick. The only flies in the proverbial ointment are a number of awkwardly placed ejector pin marks in the cockpit and wheel wells. They are mostly only quite light, but the ones in the cockpit will be visible on the finished model unless dealt with, especially if you use a wash that will only serve to highlight them.
The exterior finish is very nice, with the main parts displaying a fine silky sheen, with crisply engraved panel lines and fasteners, with neatly raised hinges. There seems to be to weights of engraving - one depth for the aircraft's basic skinning, and heavier for access panels. There's no attempt at depicting rivets - either flush or raised. The fabric covered control surfaces are rather heavily done for my liking, the rudders and elevator particularly so. I realise it is very much a matter of taste, but I'll definitely reduce the saggy look when I build the kit. A slight disappointment is that the prominent grab-handles on the crew's nacelle are moulded solid. That's fair enough for the sake of simplicity, but considering that an etched fret is included in the kit, it would be nice to have metal parts as alternatives.
All the control surfaces are separate - hinged, in fact - and the kit allows the landing flaps to be built raised or lowered, with etched liners for the interior of the wings in the latter configuration.
A test fit of the major parts is very encouraging, with a good positive fit. The crucial thing with any twin-boom aircraft is getting everything lined up to sit square, and it looks like the designers have done a good job ensuring a trouble free build from this point of view. The tail booms themselves interlock with the wings and stabilizer very cleverly to form the interior of the wheel wells, but I was surprised to find that the distinctive flange along the spine of each boom has only been included on the top, whereas photos clearly show it both top and bottom. Still, it'll be simple enough to add the missing ones with a fine strip of plastic card.
Turning to the crew compartment, the floor locks firmly into the wing lower centre section and gives a solid foundation for the nacelle sides. These are a little unusual, with a bevelled insert each side on the interior. This avoids hollow wing roots, but disguising the joints may take a little work.
A Few Highlights
With all that glazing, the Fw 189 is an open invitation for a really detailed cockpit, and Great Wall Hobby have done a fine job straight out of the box. Over 40 parts include beautifully moulded consoles and instrument panels, a camera and machine guns. Photoetched seat harnesses, rudder pedals and gunsights are included, and individual instrument faces are provided as decals. Oddly, considering that there's an etched fret, there are no throttle levers for the quadrants that have neat little slots all ready and waiting for them.
One point to watch out for is the ammunition stowage - the kit includes very neat drum-canister's suitable for MG 15s, as per the Fw 189A-1 - but this is an 'A-2, armed with MG 81Zs which were belt-fed. Likewise, the exterior ejectors for the spent cartridges from the MG 81Zs are absent.
To show off the nicely detailed interior, the kit includes a crystal clear set of canopy parts that allow for open entry/exit panels. The framing is arguably a tad heavy, but the clarity is really excellent. Of course, with so many individual panes, painting the canopies would normally be a total nightmare - but the designers have thought of this and included a set of pre-cut painting masks. These are gummed paper (not kabuki tape, so they might not stretch much) and a nice touch is that each mask has its number printed on it to avoid confusion - and to give you an idea just how big a time-saver the masks should prove, there are no less than 77 of them!
Staying with the transparencies, a clear RDF cover is included as an alternative to the solid version moulded onto the bottom of the nacelle. It's nice, but maybe it's an a last minute addition, because it will require some very careful surgery to fit without damaging the surrounding detail. One point that the designers seem to have missed is the landing lamp under the port wing, which is engraved but moulded solid.
The next highlights of the kit are the engines. In terms of the number of parts they are only simple - just 6 per engine (including the exhausts and engine-bearers), plus an etched ignition harness - but the moulding is amongst the best I've seen. Each engine crankcase is just 2 pieces, split vertically with the cylinders already in place, yet the detail is fully up to what I'd expect to see if it was built up from multiple parts. The propellers are equally nice, crisply moulded with pitch control vanes on the spinners.
The cowls feature separate inspection panels to show off the engines, but a sacrifice to simplicity of construction is that they are moulded integrally with the tail booms, so the cooling vents at the rear are only hinted at. If you like a challenge, it should be possible to slice off the parts, thin the edges and sort out a means to support the cowls, but I think average modellers will be happy (and probably well-advised) to leave things alone.
The main undercarriage and tailwheel are designed to give plenty of detail despite their simple construction (the tailwheel is moulded integrally with its strut). The wheel wells are boxed-in with the interior structure depicted. The mainwheels are "weighted" with quite a prominent tread on the tyres - both arguably a little overdone, but I'm personally really pleased to see the weighted wheels, and the tread should look fine if filled a little.
For underwing stores there are 4 x 50Kg bombs on simple, but very effectively detailed racks. Remember what I said about the absence of sink-marks? - well, it's on the bombs that you really notice it, because they are moulded solid, which would be just asking for trouble in many kits. The fins are good and thin despite being integral with the body of each bomb.
By way of bonuses, Great Wall Hobby have included some very welcome extras that will really appeal to anyone wanting to build a diorama or vignette around their Fw 189. First off is quite a well sculpted multi-part standing pilot figure (I suppose some people may regret that there's not a full crew, but that does seem a little carping), but what I think will prove most useful are a pair of wheeled inspection platforms and a set of wheel chocks.
Instructions and decals
The assembly guide takes the form of an 11-page A4 booklet. A correction sheet is included for one of the sections where the original drawing was incomplete. The construction stages aren't numbered, but are clearly laid out and the sequence looks straightforward and mostly logical. Where a little experimentation could be in order is with the construction of the wings and nacelles, because the way Great Wall Hobby show it is goes against standard practice. Of course, their method may work perfectly well, but it could also be a case of showing things in the most convenient way for the layout of the diagrams, rather than ease of construction. No painting details are included in the main instructions, so you'll need to find your own references for the interior (MBI's book on the Fw 189 is a very good place to start).
Decals are included for a pair of aircraft, depicted in colour on a separate sheet. This time, Gunze Sangyo paint matches are included:
1. 5D FH, 1(H)/31, Russia, 1942, in standard splinter camouflage.
2. W.Nr 2317, 5D CK, 2(H)/31, Russia, 1943. This is shown in a scuffed temporary winter finish, with the white extending across the undersides. Without seeing a photo of the actual aircraft, I would have thought bare RLM 65 would be more standard.
The decal sheet is quite small and looks very good quality. The items are printed in perfect register on the sample sheet and have a high-gloss finish with minimal carrier film. Swastikas are included in a split form, but aftermarket alternatives are easy to find if you prefer.
Great Wall Hobby's Fw 189 is quite a superb kit - all the more so because it's the company's first attempt at an aircraft model. The model is beautifully moulded and detailed, and seems straightforward enough for modellers of most abilities to enjoy an easy build. Despite the couple of points noted above, it's easily the best kit of the Fw 189 yet to appear in this scale - in a different league to the old MPM multi-media kit and the Karo-As vacuform before that - and Luftwaffe enthusiasts should love it.
Overall. it's probably one of the most impressive debuts you could hope for, and I really hope the model is sufficiently successful for Great Wall Hobby to continue to produce model aircraft. Encouragingly, the spare parts on the sprues make it pretty clear a nightfighter version will appear at some point, and the kit is number L4803, so who knows what else is planned. Highly recommended.
Great Wall Hobby's Fw 189 is due for release in the UK in mid December and will be available from The Airbrush Company
, the UK distributors for all Great Wall Hobby / Lion Roar kits and accessories.
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