by: Tim Hatton [ ]
Originally published on:
The Caudron Simoun was a 1930s French four-seat touring monoplane designed by Marcel Riffard. It was used as a mail plane by Air Bleu, flew record-setting long range flights, and was also used as a liaison aircraft by the Armée de l'Air during World War II.
C.500 Simoun I - experimental, one built.
C.520 Simoun - experimental, one built.
C.620 Simoun IV - experimental, one built.
C.630 Simoun - initial production version with Renault Bengali 6Pri engine, 20 built.
C.631 Simoun - modified version with a Renault Bengali 6Q-01 engine, three built.
C.632 Simoun - similar to C.631, one built.
C.633 Simoun - modified fuselage with a Renault Bengali 6Q-07 engine, 6 built.
C.634 Simoun - modified wing and take-off weight with either a Renault Bengali 6Q 01 or Renault Bengali 6Q-09 engine, 3 built.
C.635 Simoun - improved cabin layout and either a Renault Bengali 6Q-01 or Renault Bengali 6Q-09 engine, 46 built and conversions from earlier versions.
C.635M Simoun - military version with either a Renault Bengali 6Q-09 or Renault Bengali 6Q-19 engine, 489 built.
On 30 December 1935, at 14:45, the legendary French pilot and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, en route to Saigon with his navigator, André Prévot, crashed in or around the Wadi Natrun in the Libyan Sahara desert. The plane was a Caudron C-630 Simoun n°7042 (Registration F-ANRY). The team was attempting to fly from Paris to Saigon faster than any previous aviators, for a prize of 150,000 francs. Both survived the crash landing, but were faced with the prospect of rapid dehydration in the Sahara. They had no idea of their location. According to his memoir, Wind, Sand and Stars, their sole supplies were grapes, two oranges, and a small ration of wine. What Saint-Exupéry himself told the press shortly after rescue was that the men only had a thermos of sweet coffee, chocolate, and a handful of crackers, enough to sustain them for one day. They experienced visual and auditory hallucinations; by the third day, they were so dehydrated that they ceased to sweat. Finally, on the fourth day, a Bedouin on a camel discovered them and saved their lives. Saint-Exupéry's fable The Little Prince, which begins with a pilot being marooned in the desert, is in part a reference to this experience.
The parts are contained in a newly designed top opening hinged box. The box is shrink wrapped for extra security. The rear of the box is illustrated with side profiles of each of the three choices of markings with this release. The inside of the box has printed on it, illustrated and written [in eight languages] tips on building techniques.
3 x light grey plastic sprues with 28 parts.
1 x clear plastic sprue with 4 parts.
1 x sheet of decals.
1 x double sided A5 sheet of instructions, painting and decal guide.
Cockpit/Cabin: comprises of a cabin floor, four seats, two control sticks, rear bulkhead and instrument panel. The cockpit floor has what could be the wing spars moulded onto it. Two of the seats are placed on each of the spars and the other two seats have their own pillars. Attached to the floor on the pilots side are some not very convincing rudder pedals. The seats themselves are nicely done, with canvas or leather straps represented on the seat backs. There is a control stick plus another stick directly in front and these are inserted into the floor. A rear bulkhead is attached to the inside of the fuselage. There are five fairly obvious ejection marks on each side of the inside of the fuselage where the cockpit and cabin is located. It should not be a huge problem filling them and rubbing the area down, as there is no internal detail to damage. The control panel has some low relief detail on it and this is attached to the two part windscreen. The inside of the cabin is painted red and the floor is brown. I can't be more specific than that as the colour references are very vague.
Glazing: as already mentioned the windscreen is made up from two parts and is split vertically along the centre frame. Although the split windscreen is not ideal, Heller have made the transparencies in a way that they include part of the nose and the roof of the cabin. This will make the task of blending in the windscreen with the fuselage much easier. The side windows, two on each side of the cabin are moulded in two pieces. I really like the fact that Heller have reproduced the sliding side window by the pilots left.
Fuselage: is split vertically with raised panel lines. The representation of the stretched fabric on the rudder is delicately reproduced. The door on the port side has a raised frame around it which looks overdone. It would benefit a light rubbing down to make it less prominent. There are three tiny exhaust pipes protruding from the underneath of the nose cowl. Each pipe has the smallest of depressions in them to give a sense of depth. The front of the nose with the air vent for the three cylinder engine is separate. Looking at images of F-ANRO [one of the marking choices with this kit] in the Museum of Air and Space in Paris, the first cylinder can be seen through the vent. Although there is no representation of the engine, I think at this scale this can be excused. The fit of the two fuselage halves is very good. Location is aided by two tiny pins.
Wings: are moulded in four pieces, the upper halves have a stub that fixes into the slots in the fuselage. A dry fit of the wings into the fuselage results in a very good fit. Panel lines are raised, but the outline of the ailerons and the flaps are recessed. The representation of the stretched canvas on the ailerons looks very good. There are four holes in the wing under surfaces where the spatted undercarriage is located. A pitot tube is moulded to the upper port wing and looks a good candidate to be knocked off during construction. The wings fit together really well, but some care will be needed when lining up the halves together for gluing as there are no location pins. Both tailplanes are moulded in one piece and as with the rest of the control surfaces the representation of the stretched canvas elevators is nicely done.
Undercarriage: the spats for the main undercarriage are split in two to allow the fitting of the separate wheel. The shape of the spats are well captured. The tiny tail wheel and fairing is moulded in one piece.
Dry fit: I spent a few minutes dry fitting this little gem using masking tape. The results are very good indeed. The horizontal tail surfaces are a little loose and may need a tiny bit of filler once they are attached. Bare in mind that the very minor gaps will respond much better to liquid glue than masking tape.
Decals are newly designed and printed by FFSMC Productions. Decals look very good and are matt with excellent colour depth, perfect register and minimal carrier film. There are decals for the red stripes for the wings and tailplanes. There are also a number of small decals for the serial numbers, type of engine, names and even the odd instruction stencil.
Markings: for three aircraft:
C-635, No 7090, F-ANXM, Raid Paris – Tokyo, 1937. Yellow overall with red stripes on the upper wings and tailplane and a red stripe down the fuselage.
C-635, No 7017, F-ANRO, Air Bleu, 1st April 1936. Metalic baltic blue overall with white arrow painted either side of the fuselage.
C-635M, No7400 “43”, Armée de l'Air, 1938. Aluminum overall.
Instructions: the exploded line drawings are very clear on what goes where. Also included are painting instructions for the various internal parts that will be seen. On the rear of the construction instructions is the painting guide. There upper and lower plan views as well as port and starboard profile images of each of the three aircraft. These are backed up with colour profile views of the three aircraft on the rear of the box. Heller not surprisingly reference their own paint in the instructions.
This is a real gem of a kit, it looks accurate, it fits well and construction is very straightforward. In fact you could probably start and finish it in a few days. The raised panel lines as far as I am concerned are not a issue and are the only hint at the age of this kit. There are only a few and if they bother you too much they could easily be re-scribed. This release makes a change from the usual military aircraft kits released by the main stream manufacturers. If you really need to add cockades to your build, then this kit has that option. I am really pleased that Heller have re-released this excellent kit of this delightful aircraft. Nice one Heller.