Sud Aviation SE 210 Caravelle by MisterCraft
Kit No. D-28
Decals: One version – Air France
Comments: Old kit; raised panel lines; re-box of 1960’s-era Ruch kit
The Sud Aviation SE 210 Caravelle was the world’s first short/medium-range jet airliner. Its maiden flight occurred in 1955 when the company was known as SNCASE. The Caravelle was one of the most successful European first-generation jetliners, selling throughout Europe and even penetrating the American market, landing an order for 20 from United Airlines. The Caravelle pioneered the aft-mounted engine, clean-wing design that has since been used on a wide variety of aircraft.
On October 12,1951, the Comité du Matériel Civil (Civil Aircraft Committee) published a specification for a medium-range aircraft, which was later sent to the aviation industry by the Direction Technique et Industrielle. It called for an aircraft carrying 55 to 65 passengers and 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) of cargo on routes up to 2,000 km (1,100 nmi; 1,200 mi) with a cruising speed of about 600 km/h (320 kn; 370 mph). The type and number of engines were not specified. Various design studies for aircraft in this category had been underway since 1946 by several of the leading French aircraft manufacturing organisations, but in the immediate post-World War II economic climate, none had the financial ability to start construction.
Response from the French industry was strong, with every major manufacturer sending in at least one proposal, and a total of 20 different designs were received. Most of the proposals used all-turbojet power. After studying the various entries, the Comité du Matériel Civil cut the list to three entrants on March 28, 1952: the four-engined Avon/Marbore S.0.60, the twin-Avon Hurel-Dubois project, and the three-Avon Sud-Est X-210. At this point Rolls-Royce developed a new version of the Avon turbojet that could develop 9,000 lbf (40 kN) thrust, making the auxiliary engines on the S.O.60 and the third engine on the X-210 unnecessary.
The Committee requested SNCASE to re-submit the X-210 as a twin-Avon design. In doing so, SNCASE decided not to bother moving the remaining engines from their rear-mounted position; most designs placed the engines under the wing where they could be mounted on the spar for lower overall weight, but SNCASE felt the savings were not worth the effort. This turned out to be a benefit to the design, as the cabin noise was greatly reduced. The revised X-210 design with twin Avons was re-submitted to the Committee in July 1952. The unusual cockpit window arrangement of the Caravelle, and the entire cockpit design were licensed directly from de Havilland’s Comet jetliner.
Two months later SNCASE was officially notified that its design had been accepted. On July 6, 1953 the Committee ordered two prototypes and two static airframes for stress testing. Sud’s design licensed several fuselage features from de Havilland, a company with which Sud had had dealings for several earlier designs. The nose area and cockpit layout were both taken directly from the de Havilland Comet, while the rest of the plane was locally designed. A distinctive design feature was the cabin windows in the shape of a curved triangle which were smaller than conventional windows but gave the same field of view downwards.
The first prototype of the Caravelle (F-WHHH), christened by Madame de Gaulle, the First Lady of France, was rolled out on April 21,1955 and flew on May 27, powered by two British Rolls-Royce RA-26 Mk.522 with 4,536 kgf (44,480 N; 10,000 lbf) of thrust. The crew consisted of Pierre Nadot (first officer), André Moynot (second officer), Jean Avril (mechanic), André Préneron (radio operator) and Roger Beteille. The flight lasted 41 minutes. The second prototype flew a year later on May 6, 1956. That year Sud-Est merged with Sud-Ouest to become Sud Aviation, but the original SE naming was retained. More orders followed, mainly triggered by presentations at airshows and demonstrations to potential customers. The Caravelle was certified in May 1959 and shortly afterwards entered service with SAS and Air France.
Several models were produced over the lifetime of the production run, as the power of the available engines grew and allowed for higher takeoff weights. By this time most of Sud Aviation’s design department had turned to working on a supersonic transport of the same general size and range as the Caravelle, naturally naming it the Super-Caravelle; however, this work would later be merged with similar work at Britain’s Bristol Aeroplane Company to produce the Concorde. In some configurations, Caravelles had a number of rearward-facing passenger seats, an uncommon arrangement for civil aircraft. In total, 282 Caravelles of all types were built (2 prototypes or pre-production aircraft and 280 production aircraft), with Sud Aviation’s break-even point at around the 200 mark.
The last version of the Caravelle to appear was the Caravelle 12, or Super Caravelle, which flew for the first time on March 12, 1971. It had a longer fuselage and more powerful engines than any of its predecessors, and could carry up to 140 passengers over a shorter distance. It was primarily intended for the charter market, and might have seen wider service but for the fact that the Concorde was flying by the time it entered service in 1972. The Sud Aviation Super Caravelle, the last of a line of iconic airliners invoking the debonair 1960’s, remained in service in Europe until October 1996.
MisterCraft’s Sud Aviation SE 210 Caravelle is a vintage kit, originally released by a Polish company called Ruch in the 1960’s, since re-boxed by RPM in the 1990’s, and most recently MisterCraft. The kit consists of 46 parts, not including the two-part Airfix-style display stand. It has no interior of any kind, but oddly features a rear ramp, as did the actual Caravelle, which can be cemented open or closed. If built with the gear down, the deployment of the rear ramp might just take the place of a nose weight.
The instructions consist of two exploded drawings which, while crude, get the job done. It is not made explicitly clear, but the display stand opens the possibility of the kit being displayed in flight, although this might require some minor alteration of the landing gear doors. The landing gear and engines, as might be expected, are not especially detailed.
The highlight of the kit is likely the Air France decals, which are relatively new with vibrant color and have a nice glossy sheen. There is an attempt to recreate the Air France seahorse logo, but in 1/144 scale it is roughly recognizable and lacks detail. In contrast to the crudeness of the exploded drawing, which was clearly done by hand, the four-view schematic of the Caravelle on the opposite side of the one-page instruction sheet to assist with decal placement was thankfully done by a professional draftsman. It provides crisp renditions of the Caravelle’s various profiles and leaves no doubt as to what markings go where.
Highly recommended for die-hard Caravelle fans, although newer kits — if they can be found — might provide greater satisfaction.