Farman NC 223.4 by Azur

1/72 scale
Kit No. AIR006
Cost: $28.00
Decals: Three versions – “Jules Verne,” an NC 223.4 converted for use as a bomber by the Aeronavale which bombed Berlin on June 6-7, 1940; “Le Verrier” (the Glassmaker) in Air France livery, circa 1942; and “Camille Flammarion” also in Air France livery, circa 1942
Comments: Engraved panel lines; detailed cockpit and pusher-puller engine nacelle assemblies; highly detailed historic aircraft; no ordnance included; decals by Aviprint

History

The Farman/SNCAC (Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques du Centre) NC 223.4 was initially the mail plane variant of the Farman 220 series of large, twin-engined aircraft that served France between the world wars as everything from airliners to cargo transports to maritime patrol aircraft and finally, as bombers. The Farman NC.223 was the most advanced version of this family of aircraft to see active service during the Second World War, and earned a place in aviation history as the first Allied aircraft to bomb Berlin during World War II.

 

The F.223 (redesignated NC.223 when Farman was absorbed into SNCAC) incorporated significant changes compared to its predecessors, including a twin tail and a considerably refined fuselage. The first prototype was ordered as a long range mail plane and in October 1937 established a record, flying 621 miles with a 22,046 lb. payload. The French Air Ministry ordered a production run of 8 of the NC 223.3 variant which began during 1939.

Only three of the NC 223.4 variant were built, and were initially designated as mail planes and sold to Air France. At the request of Air France inspector general Paul Codos, the NC 223.4 coded F-AJQM took the name “Camille Flammarion.” The second, coded F-ARIN took the name “Jules Verne,” while the third and last, coded F-AROA, was called “Le Verrier.” Commissioned in 1937 by Air France, the aircraft had been designated NC 223.4 since after the French government nationalized its arms industry, including the aviation concerns, in 1936, the Farman Company was a fraction of the aircraft production of SNCAC (National Aerial Vehicle Consortium).

By May 1940, with the changes wrought by another World War, Air France no longer had need of long distance air transports. The trio of 223.4’s, deemed to slow for use by the French Air Force, were transferred to the Aéronavale, forming Escadrille B5, based at Orly. Curiously, the Air France deal selling the planes to the French Navy included their civilian crews. The three aircraft were to be used as long range reconnaissance and bomber aircraft, although only one, the Jules Verne, would be converted to carry bombs. But the Jules Verne was first pressed into service for maritime patrol, deployed to protect a convoy leaving Bordeaux for Casablanca on April 4, 1940. Soon afterwards it was modified for use as a bomber. The modifications included a bombardier’s station in the nose of the aircraft, additional fuel tanks, a 7.5mm machine gun on the right side of the aircraft, and an application of matt black camouflage on the underside of the fuselage.

The 223.4 ‘s were stationed at the Lenvéoc-Poulmic airfield, which became their operational base during the German offensive starting on May 10, 1940. The first mission took place on the night of May 13-14, in which the “Jules Verne” bombed the railway junctions of Aachen and Maastricht. Other missions followed to bombard Middelburg and other cities. On the night of June 7-8, 1940, the Jules Verne became the first Allied aircraft to bomb Berlin, dropping 2 tons of bombs on the city. This operation was more in the nature of psychological-warfare than an effort to achieve any meaningful military result (as was the subsequent American raid on Tokyo in April 1942 in the wake of the Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor), for although it was repeated three days later (a raid attacking the Heinkel factories at Rostock), these attacks did not alter the outcome of the Battle of France or the Allied collapse at Dunkirk which concluded on June 4, 1940.

After Italy declared war on France on June 10, 1940, the Jules Verne three nights later bombed the petrol refineries of Porto Maghera, Italy and released leaflets over Rome. After one final bombing raid on Livorno, Italy, it was called upon for a final leaflet drop. Following these raids, the Jules Verne and its sister aircraft were transferred to North Africa. All three aircraft were subsequently relegated to transport roles, seeing service with both the Vichy regime and the Free French. Ultimately the Jules Verne was returned to civilian service and flown back to Marignane, France where it sat out the war until destroyed by fire in November 1942.

The Kit

Azur’s Farman NC 223.4 is injection molded in grey plastic and consists of 142 parts, 9 of which are clear plastic. There are an additional six resin detail parts for the kit’s engines. Modelers may choose from one of three glazed noses, although only one, which is depicted on the box art and is somewhat pointed, was used on the 223.4 series; the other two represent earlier versions of the Farman 220 family, and the instructions do not reference these parts. The cockpit is quite detailed, with a pilot’s seat featuring raised relief to represent upholstery, a control yoke with a separately mounted wheel, detailed rudder pedals, and a main instrument panel with raised details. The cockpit also features a floor, and front and rear bulkheads with raised details. The instructions call out colors for interior painting by name without reference to paint brand: interior surfaces are dark blue, rudders silver, seats brown, and any equipment, including sidewall details and the main instrument panel, are black.

The bombardier’s compartment features interior sidewall detail, as well as an upholstered seat. The glazed nose which must be cemented to the front of the NC 223.4’s fuselage is clear plastic but is somewhat clouded. A significant portion of this part will have to be painted, and there is a section on its ventral surface that will have to be removed with a hobby knife so that a separate, truly clear plastic part — representing the bombardier’s main window — may be cemented in, in its place. Hopefully an application of clear lacquer will serve to make the portion of this part that is left glazed look a bit less translucent.  The twin tail assembly is interesting in that there are two different types of tail fins that can be used, one of which has a noticeably larger surface area — but fortunately the instructions make clear that the Jules Verne aircraft was fitted with the smaller fins. There are a series of support struts for this assembly that will have to be carefully positioned, and there is a three-view schematic included to help with this, in addition to small locator holes in the very rear of either side of the fuselage. There is no attempt at an internal bomb bay, no wing racks, and no bombs.

As a reminder that Azur kits require a bit of scratchbuilding skill, there are small windows, one on either side of the fuselage just below the rear of the wing roots, that must be created by the modeler, if he or she is so inclined. Their dimensions are part of the airframe’s engraved detail, and if you choose to create these windows, be advised you will have to find your own clear plastic for them, for it is not included in the kit. These small windows will have to be drilled out, sanded smooth and symmetrical, and then Clear Fix, or some other liquid that will dry clear must be applied — or you can scratchbuild your own windows from any clear plastic in your spares box.

A cautionary note is that the large wings, like the rest of the kit, have no locator pins, or holes of any kind in the fuselage to assist with placement. Aligning the wings properly will be up to you, and as usual when cementing smooth surface to smooth surface, it is recommended that you rough both of them up a bit by sanding beforehand to assist adhesion, and then use only cyanoacrylate glue.

The engine nacelles, housing pusher-puller type engines, feature propellers at both ends and are quite detailed. They have front and rear interior bulkheads for the landing gear, resin parts for the intakes and cooling gills, as well as individually mounted propeller blades and separately mounted spinners for the front and rear engines in each nacelle. The main landing gear are rather detailed, consisting of seven parts for each individual gear, not including two struts for what appears to be a rear mud flap for each gear, which the instructions make clear must be fashioned by the modeler — and the length of the struts is not specified. However, a side view schematic is provided to show what the completed nacelle assemblies should look like. Once completed, the nacelles become the subject of the complex final step of the kit, which requires connecting them to both the wings and the fuselage via a series of larger struts – seven per nacelle.


For the exterior painting, the instructions include four-view schematics for each version, and call out colors using Gunze Sangyo numbers. “Jules Verne” sports a camouflage scheme of dark brown, blue grey, and dark green over matt black; “Le Verrier” and “Camille Flammarion” have identical paint schemes often seen on civilian airliners of the late 1930’s — overall silver with a broad orange flash running nearly the full length of the span of the wing’s upper surface, a black fuselage bottom, and — perhaps unique to French aircraft — the horizontal stabilizer portion of the twin tail assembly is painted entirely in yellow.

Markings
Decals are by Aviprint and live up to the brand’s usual excellent quality, featuring realistic colors and markings fully in register, including the trademark Air France logo for the civilian wartime versions of this aircraft, “Le Verrier” and “Camille Flammarion.” The decals include the actual names of all three aircraft, as well as the registration letters for the civilian airliners.

Conclusion

This is a detailed short-run kit of an unusual and historic aircraft that will require a small amount of scratchbuilding skill, and provides a challenge for those looking for something out of the ordinary. Highly recommended.

References

  • La Bataille de France ~ http://batailles-1939-1940.historyboard.net/t322-   le-farman-223-4-le-jules-verne-bombarde-berlin
  • www.militaryfactory.com
  • www.historyofwar.org

 

 

 

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