Friedrichschafen FF.33E by Techmod
Kit No. 41101
Decals: One version – German Navy
Comments: Includes photo-etch parts and film inserts for cockpit; decals by Techmod
The Friedrichshafen FF.33 was a German single-engined amphibious reconnaissance biplane designed by Flugzeugbau Friedrichshafen in 1914. The initial production version was powered by a Mercedes D.II engine inline water-cooled engine, six examples of this variant were built. The basic design was refined and improved. The FF.33E main production reconnaissance variant was powered by a Benz B.III inline engine. This version had longer twin floats, and the under tail central float was eliminated. A radio transmitter replaced its armament, approximately 180 examples of the FF.33E were built, more than any other variant of the type.
The FF.33E had a crew of 2 and served with the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial German Navy) from 1914. Its Benz B.III inline engine was capable of 150hp and it had a maximum speed of 68 mph, or 112 km/hour, with an endurance of at least four hours. The immediate predecessor to the E version was the FF.33B, which was armed with a single 7.92mm Parabellum machine gun in the rear cockpit, but this weapon was deleted from the E in favor of radio equipment — deemed more important for an aircraft whose primary role was reconnaissance. It could also carry up to eight 12 kg (26.4 lb.) bombs, making it ideal for attacks on light coastal shipping.
The FF.33 served in both the German and Austrio-Hungarian navies. Several other nations purchased the Friedrichshafen FF.33E during the First World War, including Bulgaria, Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden. The Finnish Air Force purchased two FF.33Es from Germany in February 1918. The first one arrived on April 20, 1918 to Vaasa and the other one in the summer of 1918.
The aircraft that is the subject of this kit was deployed with the auxiliary cruiser Wolf on a series of corsair raids in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans from November 1916 to February 1918 — interesting in that most FF33’s were deployed on patrols of either the North or Baltic Seas. It was named “Wolfchen” (Wolf Cub) by the crew, and served as a scout, seeking out Allied shipping and then guiding the Wolf to the enemy vessels.
Several ships were plundered, sunk, or both during this period, with Wolfchen ocassionally engaged in direct combat with Allied crewmen who tried to resist boarding. During these actions, Oberflugmeister (roughly translated as Chief Flight Master) P. Fabeck, from his rear observer’s position, opened fire at enemy crewmen with a rifle, and threw grenades directly onto the decks. Upon completion of the raiding cruise, the Wolf returned to Kiel, Germany in February 1918, and pilot Leutnant sur See M.A. Stein and Oberflugmeister Fabeck were both awarded the Iron Cross.
Techmod’s Friedrichschafen FF-33E is injection molded in metallic grey and consists of 93 parts, including two clear plastic parts for the two windshields. In addition, there is a small photo-etch fret containing nine metal parts, two for windshield frames and two for instrument panels, these latter two parts accompanied by film inserts for the instrument dials.
The assembly instructions, which are in color, start off with the highly detailed engine consisting of 24 parts, 12 of which appear to be rocker arms. This does not include three additional parts attached later, the radiator and the exhaust pipe, which are provided, or a length of wire connecting the engine and radiator – which is not provided. It is here that the modeler’s scratchbuilding skill will come into play.
The cockpit is fairly basic, consisting of a floor, two seats in tandem with a drum between them that can only be a fuel tank, and a control yoke featuring an automobile-type steering wheel. The seats are spartan in appearance and have no straps (a notable omission from the photo-etch fret) or other raised detail. What makes the cockpit stand out are the instrument panels, two parts to which the film inserts and then the metal panel faces with have to be cemented. There is even a small decal sheet providing labels for the pilot’s instrument panel dials. For each step there are painting instructions in the form of the color illustrations, augmented by a legend identifying Humbrol and Federal Standard paint numbers.
The tail assembly consists of seven different parts, allowing for positioning of the rudder and elevators. The upper wings feature separately mounted ailerons. Up to this point construction looks as if it will be pretty simple, but a jig may be needed to attach the upper wing to the lower wing and fuselage, since there are 14 separate support struts at this stage. The floats look equally challenging with their “W” and “V” struts, but a two-view diagram is provided to help with strut positioning prior to cementing the floats to the airframe.
No fewer than eight schematics providing different perspectives of the aircraft are provided to help with the rigging of the wires. This includes a four-view color plate on the last page of the instructions, which gives modelers some guidance on both wire and decal placement and shows the FF33 in a scheme of overall pale blue.
The kit decals not surprisingly are by Techmod, and come sealed in their own clear plastic bag. They are for a single aircraft, Black 814, “Wolfchen” (Wolf Cub), which deployed with the German cruiser Wolf on a series of raids in the Indian Ocean and later the Pacific, in what would be a 15-month cruise. The decals provide a choice of national markings consisting of the standard black coptic cross, or the same coptic cross on a white rectangular background.
This is an interesting kit of one of the lesser known seaplanes of the Great War, all the more intriguing due to the history of the particular aircraft that the kit focuses on. The full color assembly instructions are a nice touch. Highly recommended.
- Techmod instructions