Friday, September 4

Review Pt.I: Meng's 1/32nd scale Fokker Dr I Triplane

Today we look at the contents of the long-awaited 1/32nd scale Fokker Dr I Triplane kit from Meng. A surprise for some and a much-wanted subject in the most up to date quality for many, this boxing is interesting to us on many levels. See what we found in the box before we started building the kit in Pt.II.

Review Pt.I: Meng's 32nd scale Fokker Dr I Triplane
From Meng Models
Product No: #QS-002 
1/32nd scale 
Product Dimensions 180.44mm long and 225mm wide
We had been waiting for another company to take on the proposed Fokker and other forthcoming moulds from the now sadly defunct Wingnut Wings for a while now. It seems logical that the team who were involved with the kits in the moulding stage went on to market them, Meng has emerged as that candidate, and now they bring us the kit that everyone wanted, the Dr I Triplane, and this one is in the colours of the Red Baron!
Today we will look at what is in the kit and a little of the history of what makes the Dr I such a special aircraft to many modellers out there.
The Fokker Dr I In History 
In autumn 1917, machine guns, barbed wires and shell craters were all over the quiet and wet Western Europe. Accompanied by death and rats, a soldier who curled up in the muddy trenches looked into the sky. That’s the only pure place he could watch. But even in the sky, there was a dominator. From time to time, the specially shaped German triplanes appeared and fought with British and French planes. 
The Fokker Dr I triplane produced by the Fokker company in 1917. Its three wings were arranged in order from top to bottom with the wing areas reduced sequentially. In this way, the triplane could get more lift than biplanes and monoplanes and wouldn’t suffer too much drag. Most metal bracing wires were hidden inside the aircraft to further reduce the drag. Two MG08 air-cooled machine guns with synchronization gear were installed in front of the cockpit. Its firepower was far better than the British triplanes.
The tiny Fokker Triplane has emerged as the most famous of all German planes of the First World War. The Triplane was created in response to the performance of Great Britain's Sopwith Triplane, which had amazing maneuverability and a startling rate of climb. Anthony Fokker tasked Reinhold Platz to match the Sopwith Triplane.
Despite his disdain for complicated structures, Platz succeeded admirably with the Dr I (Dr for "Driedecker" or triplane). Using the available Oberursel rotary engine of 110 horsepower, Platz created a handsome aircraft with three essentially cantilever wings that exceeded the English Triplane's performance. The Fokker Dr I, while relatively slow, had matchless maneuverability and a rate of climb that amazed opposing Allied pilots.
Among those German triplanes, one red aircraft stood out in the blue sky. By flying excellent maneuvers, this red triplane could always defeat those British and French aircraft which tried to shoot it down. The red triplane was the dominator of the sky, and its pilot called “Red Baron”.
The Red Baron
Manfred von Richthofen (1892- 1918) went down in history under the nickname of the “Red Baron”. The leading ace of German aviation, Richthofen was the most celebrated aviator of the First World War: in less than two years he had 80 confirmed kills, and it was during an air duel where he eventually met his demise: in April 1918, he was struck in a hail of bullets and died soon afterwards. His fame, the gaudy colour of his kite and the fate of the Baron while piloting these aircraft combine to make the fame of the Dr I in many ways and it would be remiss of us not to mention him in this history.

Nicknamed by his comrades and his opponents, the “Red Devil”, the “Red Baron”, “Little Red” or the “Red Knight”, Manfred von Richthofen still remains an aviation legend. When the First World War ended, he scored the most victories in air battles: he had shot down 80 enemy planes (some even say 81). French captain René Fonck came in a close second with 75 planes shot down. However, the two never met in battle.
Baron Manfred von Richthofen was killed, shortly after his 80th, and last, victory.

This kit from Meng:
Now your wishes come true as the latest MENG QS-002 Fokker Dr I Triplane model kits now with us. Coming in two boxings - the standard kit that we have here, and the special edition boxing that features an extra resin bust in 1/10th scale of the Red Baron himself:

What's in the Box?
This 1/32nd scale model kit features five sprues of grey ABS plastic, a transparent sprue, a small sheet of photo-etch metal, Coloured instructions and a decal sheet printed by meng. Not much in there really to make this kit. The kit itself is small, with the finished model being only 180.44mm long by 225mm wide and looking at the plastic I was struck by its diminutive size in 32nd scale. 
An A3 size coloured instruction booklet of nineteen simple steps and only twenty pages long is a brief affair, with none of the garnish that the previous owner of the moulds would have put into them. 
The instructions are simple and to the point in typical Mang fashion, but pretty straight forward and easy enough to follow.

An example of the instructions... (the whole booklet is shown at the end of this review)
Data Cards:
There are four A4 data cards in an old fashioned looking paper stock that looks like it "could" be the original data/ information cards. There are four languages on the cards describing the two illustrations, but these are pretty much for the birds or serious collectors, and only two of the sheets are in English, for me (and I know I am being ignorant but I only speak one language), that's a waste of two data cards and these are only for keepsakes really.
The colour choices in this boxing
Four marking choices are provided in this first boxing of the kit  - and I say first boxing because although I do not know it, there are PLENTY of choices for this bird that will keep modellers turning up for more with a simple decal change and new box art - I would count on it. The choices are marked A, B, C and D in the instructions and you must make choices as to which aircraft you want to make from the parts in the kit as you go along.

Version A Jagdgeschwader (JG) I, #425/17 (Freiherr von Richthofen, Manfred Albrecht) 1 March 1918. Of course, the aircraft of the famous Red Barron needs no introduction, but just in case you missed it we have included him in the history of the aircraft at the start of this article...

 Version B Jagdstaffel (Jasta) 10 103/17 (Leutnant Werner Voss) September 1917.  Werner Voss (German: Werner Voß) was a World War I German flying ace credited with 48 aerial victories and awarded Germany's highest award, the Pour le Mérite. Voss died on the 23rd September 1917, just hours after his 48th victory. After he fell in solo opposition to eight British aces, he was described by his preeminent foe, James McCudden, as "the bravest German airman".

Version C Jagdstaffel (Jasta) 27 206/17 (Oberleutnant Hermann Göring) 1 May 1918. A well-known figure to a lot of modellers for being the commander of the Luftwaffe during WWII. Hermann Göring was also veteran World War I fighter pilot ace, he was a recipient of the Pour le Mérite ("The Blue Max"). On 7 July 1918, following the death of Wilhelm Reinhard, the successor to Manfred von Richthofen, Göring was made commander of the "Flying Circus", Jagdgeschwader 1.Göring finished the war with 22 victories. A thorough post-war examination of Allied loss records showed that only two of his awarded victories were doubtful. Three were possible and 17 were certain, or highly likely.

Version D Jagdstaffel (Jasta) 19 202/17 (Leutnant Walter Göttsch) 1 February 1918. Leutnant Walter Göttsch HoH, IC was a German World War I flying ace who was credited with 20 aerial victories. His final combat assignment was commanding Jagdstaffel 19 in Jagdgeschwader II. Göttsch was killed in action on 10 April 1918 over Gentelles either by return fire from the observer of an RE-8 (his final victim) or by ground fire. His Fokker Dr I triplane was marked with a white swastika and yellow "2" and tail markings fell behind British lines and it was salvaged. Walter Göttsch's 20 victories included seven from 20th Squadron RAF; the score of victories would also have qualified him for a Blue Max had he survived.
The decal sheet hosts four different choices of markings, of course, one of those being the Red Triplane on the cover but several other notable German pilots of WWI we have just seen. The decal sheet is printed by Meng, and the carrier film seems minimal, the whites are not opaque and the register of the dials and the smaller details seem good to me. 
Of course, the proof is in the pudding here as to how they go on, but I have used Meng's decals before and found them to be quite reliable.
One thing I noted about the decals was that the face of Werner Voss' aircraft seems pretty off to me compared to the photo below - especially int he eyebrows and the position of the pupils. The comparison of the eyes and face just do not seem to be of the same shape. a pretty basic thing to miss I would think.
Colour call-outs for this kit are provided in a few variations, both Acrysion and AK Interactive which are in a partnership with Meng in distribution. I would have liked to have seen the Real Color range of AK's listed in there as they are suited to aircraft more, or other brands shock horror. The colours are of course listed also for those who will hunt them down sing alternate paints which is a starting block.
Photo-Etch Parts.
Included is a small sheet of photo-etch parts. These are of course the details that are too small or thin to be replicated in plastic and they are pretty useful to the modeller. Included are the seatbelts, buckles, covers and the largest parts being the cooling jackets of the twin Spandau MG08/15 8mm machine guns in a forward-firing position. You have the choice of rolling this metal or using the plastic ones in the kit. We will look at the plastic later, but I think I would be using these and they are a great inclusion. The other nice thing about this sheet of Photo-etch is the plastic backing sheet that it is placed on. It holds the pieces on place once you peel off the front plastic sticky sheet and there are no connection points that you need to remove and sand off - great stuff!
The Plastic
Five sprues of Grey ABS and a transparent sprue come wrapped in their own plastic bags in this kit. The plastic is a light grey and there is a fair amount of flash evident on some edges, sink makers on the bottom winglet/wheel brace, and seam lines are evident on most pieces of the kit. Generally, the plastic of the kit has a slightly rough texture to it which I suppose works for a cloth-covered aircraft.

There is a large seamline on the leading edge of all the wings which is a bummer. Connection points could also do with a revision in future kits.
The plastic is a little too tough at times, with several parts broken from the sprues and so especially on the fuselage these leaving divots that need to be filled before you progress to the next part of your build.  The platform for the guns also has broken on a few people's kits I have noticed. Mine broke only on one side so thankfully the part was safe. 
We will now go through the sprues one by one, first the sprue, then the parts of each in detail.

The Transparent sprue
Include dare a few clear parts fo the kit, these are very clear with no problems that I can see.
Sprue A
Sprue A houses many of the detail of the internal parts of the aircraft, with internal steel frame, cockpit framing and floor, seat and pilot's controls. Machine guns of both types (plastic and the ones that the PE is added to), wing struts, skids and the straight horizontal tailplane are included here

Sprue B

The main parts of the exterior of the aircraft are provided on this sprue. The three main wings ( the fourth of course being between the mainwheels) two of the three propeller choices, the mainwheel struts and of course the two fuselage sides. Mine, as I said, had fallen off the stiff sprues and made four large gouges on the top of the that needed to be filled.

Sprue D contains some parts for the aerofoil (or fourth wing) between the mainwheels, the control stick and one of the three front cowls (for version A Richthofen's aircraft), along with a propeller that is not for any of the aircraft picked in the decal choices (which hits at more boxings of this kit to come in the future).

Sprue E
The lovely Oberursel Ur.II 9-cylinder air-cooled rotary piston (82 kW / 110 hp)  or the La Rhone engines are included as choices here. The sprue also has the piston covers and engine plumbing that slips neatly on top of the engine.

The reverse side of this sprue shows more detail of the two types of crank covers in this boxing and the difference between them. This engine will look good - but I do wish that companies would make rotary engines with piston each individual piston cover a one-part piece instead of them being split down the centre thus making an unnecessary seam.

Sprue F
Other major parts of the aircraft are on this runner, with the rounded horizontal tail for Verner Voss' aircraft. the vertical tail which nicely can be posed at an angle if you wish. Two of the three cowlings, the fabric ailerons and the two halves of the main wheels all here.

Important parts of the kit in detail
The fuselage is split into two halves vertically down the centre. The tabs inside locate these two halves of course, but the seam has a little issue as we will look at in our build.

The internal cockpit wall has locating circles that the cockpit frame locks inside. On the rear locating pin there are ejector pin marks that need to be removed for the tail to squeeze together and there is some flash on the front support/ brace under the cockpit that I noticed.

There are two different types of tyre and wheel supplied in this kit, and for the life of me, I do not know the difference. The two types look VERY similar in these photos

Of course, the best place to get authentic pictures of the wheels is on the WNW website.
Each of the wheels has in internal hubcap that sits neatly inside the tyre.

There are two choices of machine gun in this kit. Both are the same Spandau MG08/15 8mm machine guns but with different difficulty degrees. With the Parts 35/36 are the all-plastic versions with the slightly recessed cooling jackets of the guns evident, these are OK, but parts 37/ 38 have the guns without the cooling jacket. The Photo-etch we looked at earlier is bent in a circle to cover these and it is this more difficult but scale accurate version that I think many modellers will go for.
The real gun below showing the almost see-thru cooling jacket of the real gun. Meng has done well to provide the photo-etch solution option in the kit.

The Pilot's seat and seat cushion are provided in a simple but effective two parts. The seat cushion is of course optional.

Three front cowling faces are provided in this boxing, you can see the slight differences make a large change to the look of the aircraft and I am glad that Meng wen to the effort and made these three versions.

There were two versions of the tail of the Dr I. The slightly rounded option and the straight horizontal tails. Both of these have the lovely thin edges to them, and the slightest of slits in the rigid / moving parts of the tail. Very nicely done. I do wish, however, that they were posable, you will have to do some surgery and make your one actuators to accomplish that.

On the part on the left below (it is very hard to see) the aerofoil between the wheels has a sink line across it, nothing a little putty won't fix.

There are three propellers included in this kit, all different types, but as I was saying earlier only two can be applied to the aircraft in the box. Either that is Meng being generous and helping you make aircraft that are not in this boxing, or they plan more version of this kit int he future. We think the latter.

The biggest and most attention-seeking parts of the kit are the wings. These are all done very nicely, with not only posable ailerons included n the box, but each wing is given the ribbed look with the higher and lower points of the fabric where it meets the wood to where it stretches between the braces nicely.

The wings are of a single part construction in that the lower and bottom halves are eliminated and just a single part for each wing is provided. the wings also are a single span each which strengthens your kit and eliminates errors of alignment.

...And that is all there is to show you in this boxing...

From what we can see already the kit looks like an easy build with a low parts count and some great options with four very famous aircraft to be depicted.

There are a few pit-stops - the brittle plastic joints from the parts to the sprues, a few bits of flash and sink marks in a few places. All of which can be overcome with a little good ol' fashioned modelling elbow grease. You will have to source your own rigging plans for the wires that criss-cross in from of the cockpit, and the ones that cross to brace the landing gear as nothing is provided in the instructions.

Wingnutters might be upset about the lack of detail in the instruction manual and some of the embellishments they feel they might have missed out on with this kit, but I for one am happy to see this iconic kite on our modelling benches. Be thankful for what you have got is a song that I recall when thinking about that...

Easy to build, a compact in size and with interesting subjects - I like this kit.

We have already started to dry-fit build this kit to show you how it goes together. Link to that article is right here...
Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Meng for sending this kit to us to build, For more on this kit, you can visit the Meng Website

Appendix: Instruction Manual