Monday, September 17

Airframe Album No.1 - The Heinkel He 219 'Uhu' by Richard A. Franks in review

I will be getting lovely kit of the He 219 in the post soon, but gee I need a good – all-in –one reference for it. There are a few books around on the subject but I want – like many modellers – a lot of detail. This new and very well timed title from Valiant Wings Publishing hopes to fill the void and give us an all in one which leaves us full instead of wanting more – let’s look to see if it fulfils us…..

Airframe Album No.1 - The Heinkel He 219 'Uhu'
Written by: Richard A. Franks
English text, Full colour & B/W Photos
Pages: 98
RRP: £15.95

Valliant Wings has a short but good record in the military aircraft book scene and has proved to be a popular publisher with modellers. After their excellent first release of their book on the Me-262 and their second title on the Hawker Typhoon and tornado to the thierd excellent airframe series book on the Fw-190D. These guys haven’t been around long but there is great quality in their work for armchair historians and modellers alike.

This, the fourth book in their portfolio, covers a very timely subject. The soon to be kitted in 1/32 scale (twice) the much hyped Heinkel He 219. The kits from Revell and Zoukei-Mura are hotly anticipated, and many people are going to be needing a lot of reference very soon, and when you are modelling you cannot always have the internet on hand. We need a book on the subject, in great detail to help us super detail our new kits. This is what Valiant Wings are trying to attempt in this publication. Let’s look a little closer at the sum of its parts.
Physically this book is a softcover ninety eight page book divided up into five parts,
·         A technical description and explanation of the aircraft with pictures and diagrams.
·         A detailed and illustrated history of the production and prototypes of this airframe.
·         The story of the restoration of the He 219 by the NASM in America.
·         A section on camouflage and markings with text and side profiles.
·         And a modelling section with a special preview of the new Revell kit of the He 219 just about to hit the shelves in 1/32nd scale. (- Bit of a scoop that, but more on that later)

The 98 pages are of a glossy type and the book is a portrait style layout of just a little deeper than an A-4. It is 21 cm wide by 29.5cm long. So it had plenty of room on each page to be crammed full of info and pictures
This is the first in Valiant Wing’s new “Airframe Album “series. These books has at it’s bare bones many features that modellers especially will like – with research taken from historical and modern day references this book has walkaround images from a partially restored airframe and historical data with new and old photographs. There are pictures, diagrams and information sourced from original handbooks on the aircraft and other reputable sources like flight manuals. As well as all of this you have the addition of modern elements like the excellent profiles by none other than Richard .j. Caruana and the revealing 3D isometric views by Jacek Jackiewicz which proved so popular in previous books from this publisher. There is certainly a lot jammed into the 98 pages.

We will have a look at the real meat of the chapters now.

After a brief introduction this book goes straight into the technical details and explanation of the aircraft. Using shots of the aircraft and images and text from the technical flying manuals we go from the front to the back. Starting at the nose section and working right through the whole airframe section by section this is reminiscent of the much loved Japanese published “Aero Detail” books we all love as modellers but find hard to get. They certainly never did a book on the “Uhu”.
Every part of the airframe is examined in minute detail. It is like the author has pulled apart the aircraft in front of you with all of the detail on display. The captions to explain the pictures are concise and written in an honest and easy to relate to way. There is no talking down or dishonesty in the research as it is helpful as it is insightful.

 The evolution of the aircraft is explained next. From the “V” series of aircraft which were prototypes to the A-0 pre-production machines to the serving “Uhu’s” and the Owls which never got off the ground (the paper products they are called here) every evolutionary step is covered here. “Luft 46” fans will love the variants that never left a drawing board and the line drawings from historical sources add more detail to this section for the modeller wanting to check accuracy.

The difference between variants is thoughtfully represented in both text which tells you the difference between type sand sub-types at each step, as well as the addition of the part that I like the isometric drawings in a 3D style by Jacek Jackiewicz. I liked these in the Me 262 book and I am glad that Valliant Wings has kept with them and I see them as almost a trademark of this publisher. They help give visual cues to what you are reading when sometimes the difference is hard to discern from words alone.
In the chapter called “The Survivor” this book really shines. The book benefits magnificently from the help of the access and information gained in the restoration of the Heinkel He 219 A-2/R4 that is currently being restored by the National Air and Space Museum and displayed in the World War II German Aviation exhibition station at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly Vigrinia in the US. The author Mr. Richard Franks has had good acces to information of this airframe from a source within the museum and by far and away this is the gem of this publication.
This book would be only half as good I think without the pictures of this bird as it currently stands and throughout it’s restoration. These revealing shots in colour really add meat to the story of the “Uhu” as they show the aircraft stripped to its bare bones for restoration. There are invaluable specks of information gleaned by the team of restorers (Col. Scott Wiley (Ret.) is mentioned in the thanks) that only time spent with an airframe like this can provide.

There were such a lot of false ideas and half truths about aircraft from so long ago that the detective work gleaned by the restoration team really made this input into a coup for the author and his team. There are a lot of books on this aircraft but none I know of with such a variety of good sources. The research gleaned from this surviving aircraft is spread not just through this small part but throughout the whole book.
In “Camouflage and Markings” we go through the known schemes the aircraft wore. Seventy years passed and the proliferation of black and white photography has blurred the lines if you like on what colours and patterns  the markings of this aircraft wore in real life. The author tells the truth and does not make assumptions when he is not 100% sure. The science of colour identification is explained here to be that of research, interpretation, evidence and educated guesswork. I like the way this part is written. No doubt some will judge the author to be not 100% correct but that seems to be the nature of modelling, someone always says they know the EXACT colour! I like the research here it makes sense to me.
Along with extensive research gleaned from the restoration of the NASM aircraft there are several profiles of colour schemes by the well-known profiler Richard Caruana. These serve as great inspiration for a modeller. One thing I might suggest is maybe links to the pictures of these aircraft on the Valliant Wings website? This would maybe be a bridge too far but it could only help prove a point.

“The Big Owl” gives us a nice pre-production (can we call it a “V” series?”) preview of one of the most anticipated new models of the Uhu the Revell 1/32nd scale version. About to hit our shelves around Christmas this kit will more than likely be one of the great inspirations of people to look for He 219 references. Deiter Wengmar’s build up test shot gives us a great idea of how the model will look once completed. For people wanting to know a side by side comparison of the new Zoukei Mura A-0 version I am not sure one was available – I think otherwise it would be included in this book knowing the author’s care taken within these pages.
The book is rounded out with details of kits of the aircraft in all major scales and add on parts and decals supplied by manufacturers. Again with the fluid status of model making there will always be more things available in the near future that are not covered but there is a LOT of stuff here you may not be aware of. Maybe the full list can be again kept on their website and updated? I don't know if they owe us any more than what is here.
And that is the book – I must say I am impressed. As far as books go this gives me pictures of the real thing and the difference between the variants, explanation of what all of the internal parts do and how they work and shows me colours and schemes to set my juices flowing and to get me onto the modelling bench. Well written researched and illustrated, a good book should inspire you to want to build a subject and now I cannot wait to see that “Owl” come flying through my door.

A really well executed book and my first port of call when it comes to building my forthcoming kit. Well done guys.

Thanks to Valiant Wings Publications for supplying us with this book.