Nord 1000/1001/1002 Pingouin

Interestingly, this kit is marketed by Heller strictly as a Messerschmitt Bf-108 Taifun, with no option to build a French version. As I understand it, the main difference between the 108 and the 1000/1001/1002 is in the engines, with the 108 (and the 1000) using the German Argus engine, while the 1001/1002 used alternate French (Renault) engines. To convert from one to the other requires the addition of a scoop to the engine. All 3 examples I've seen of Pingouins in Indochina are the original Nord 1000 variant.

This kit is pretty typical Heller. The parts are cleanly moulded, with minimal fine raised panel detail. The control surfaces and flaps feature the standard overdone fabric simulation. The cockpit is simple (like the original!), and includes front seats, the rear bench seat, an instrument panel (which doesn't quite match the Bf-108 panel in photos I've seen), and two crude sticks. The main gear struts are featureless, as are the main wheels. Once again, the original parts were quite simple. Heller managed to inprove their molding over the Storch/MS.500 by moulding the small check intake slots open this time, instead of representing them with raised areas.

My example is marred by a mismolded canopy - there is grey plastic swirled into the clear part. The kit canopy in general is a bit of a letdown - I would suggest tracking down the Falcon vacuform replacement from their Clear Vax set 21, Luftwaffe Part 4 (which also includes a canopy for the Siebel 204/NC.701).

References for Indochina-based Pingouins, are scarce. I've found a handful of poor quality photos of operational aircraft. These appear to be simply marked with a single code letter on the rear fuselage or tail. I have seen natural metal and overall olive drab(?) examples. Those of you lucky enough to have a copy of L'Aviation Militaire Francaise en Indochine 1946-1954 might be able to shed some light on this issue.

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Noratlas

Only Heller would ever release a kit of a Noratlas. Despite the planes wide use in NATO and other airforces it remains largely unknown in North America. Heller's kit would look great next to a C-119. This is a pretty typical Heller release, with fairly heavy raised detail, but good shape. The engines (Bristol Hercules if I remember correctly) are faceless, but little can be seen behind the big spinners. One tip to improve the interior would be to drill out the section below the instrument panel containing the foot pedals, as this area is visible through the lower nose windows. Optional parts allow you to build early or late aircraft, with two styles of canopy and short and long fin fillets. The Noratlas appeared right at the tail end of the conflict, and the early variant is the appropriate one. Several sets of markings for French and foreign a/c are included (mine are badly yellowed, par for the course it seems), but none are appropriate. From what I can tell the aircraft used were in overall natural metal, without the white upper surface, but my references are pretty equivocal on this question.

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