Somehow the Heinkel He 51 has always looked even better to my eyes as a floatplane than in its original configuration. The "longer legs" seem to improve the proportions and give a degree of delicacy that was previously absent.
Developed from an He 51A-1 converted to have float landing gear, between 38 and 46 (depending on which source you read) of the new version were built, the type being equipped for ship-board catapult launching, and joining Baltic coastal defence units in 1936.
Special Hobby's kit arrives in a very attractive and study box with the parts and accessories bagged separately, and comprises:
73 x grey styrene parts
1 x clear styrene parts
3 x resin parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
Now, the first thing to make clear is that this limited run model is essentially the same kit as released by Classic Airframes in 2008 and reviewed HERE
- the difference is the addition of a new sprue for the floats along with slightly revised resin parts (and new decals, of course). (In case you're wondering if you can build a standard He 51 from the present kit, the only parts not included are the original resin wheels.)
Overall, the moulding is very good, with little flash to worry about; ironically, considering that the moulds for such kits have a shorter life than a mainstream model, comparing the new with the old shows one or two areas where the parts are actually cleaner than in the original release I have. The floats do seem to be one notch better still, perhaps a sign of MPM's continuing strides in production. Panel lines are neatly engraved throughout, while the rear fuselage and flying surfaces boast the excellent fabric effect that is something of a distinguishing feature in MPM kits.
The relatively few number of parts doesn't translate into a "shake 'n bake" build. There's not an awful lot that you can test-fit on a kit of this configuration, but the fuselage halves line up very neatly. As moulded, the lower wing in the sample kit has touch of anhedral, but the plastic is pliable enough to allow this to be corrected easily. The wing roots needed a little bit of a clean up and adjustment, but the resulting fit was quite good. The float halves match up perfectly.
I think using a construction jig will definitely pay dividends, both for keeping the wings square and true, but also for the floats. The one real weakness in the instructions is that no dimensions are provided for the spacing and angles of the floats' supporting struts, the only reference being the painting guides. There's a small locating pin at the top of the forward struts, but all the other attachments are simply butt-joints, so adding metal pins and possibly rigid rigging wires between the floats could be a good idea.
Sadly, no beaching gear or stand is included on which to display the finshed model.
A few details
With most parts identical to the Classic Airframes' kit, there are few surprises. As before, the cockpit is neatly detailed with 15 parts, including nicely detailed styrene control panels and a resin seat with a cast-on harness. The exhausts are styrene with hollowed out openings. To be honest, resin parts would probably have been better, but they should look fine when cleaned up.
The windscreen is thin and crystal clear - but watch out for the sprue attachment, because it's right on the edge the clear section, so some very careful sanding will be needed to remove it.
Instructions and decals
Barring the lack of guidance over the floats, the instructions are well laid out and clearly drawn. There are useful layouts for the rigging and colour matches for Gunze Sangyo paints are keyed to most details.
Very good quality decals for two aircraft are provided:
A. White 12, 1./Küstenjagdgruppe 136, Kiel-Holtenau floatplane base, late 1936.
B. 60 B41, 2./Küstenjagdgruppe 136, Kiel-Holtenau floatplane base, spring 1936.
The sample sheet is printed in perfect register, with crystal clear carrier film on the thin glossy items. The swastikas are printed integrally with the tail stripe, split at the rudder hinge-line. I must admit I'd have also liked to see them separate as option to all you to paint the red band.
Special Hobby's He 51 floatplane should build into a very attractive model, but isn't it suitable for beginners despite its apparent simplicity. Experience building short-run kits, in particular biplanes, is recommended, but the result will be an eye-catching addition to any quarterscale collection of German aircraft.
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