Some aircraft capture the imagination with their streamlined beauty, others with brutal efficiency. The poor old Potez 63.11 loses out on both counts - however you look at it, the aircraft was just plain ugly. What makes this really strange, is that the 63.11 was developed from the attractive Potez 630 and 631 fighters in answer to a requirement for a dedicated reconnaissance/army co-operation aircraft.
The designers' first attempt was the 637 - something of a stop-gap and essentially a 631 with a gondola added under the fuselage for an observer. The next step was the 63.11 with a completely redesigned forward fuselage, allowing a fully-glazed nose. This proved much more popular with observer, being more practical and comfortable, but the downside was that the cockpit had to be moved back and raised, forming a clumsy hump with virtually no visibility for the pilot during take off and landing. Not surprisingly, pilots hated it and there was a degree of opposition when the 63.11 replaced the earlier aircraft in front-line service.
Despite this, over 450 63.11s had been accepted by the Armée de l'Air by mid-March 1940, and almost 300 allotted for operational use. But due to an almost total lack of spare parts, at the time of the German onslaught, around 70% were unserviceable. Those aircraft that did manage to get into action suffered heavily as their crews flew daring low-level missions with almost no air-cover, in a desperate attempt to make sense of the unfolding chaos at the Front.
Following the Armistice, the Germans allowed the Vichy Air Force to continue to use the 63.11 and also seized some themselves for use as a second-line aircraft. A small number escaped to fight on with Free French forces and the RAF's French Flight in the Middle East.
In kit form
As with its full-sized counterpart, Azur's Potez 63.11 is largely based on earlier versions. The Potez 630
and Potez 631
have been covered on Aeroscale by JL and myself, so I'll concentrate on what's new here. Arriving in an attractive, sturdy, top-opening box, the kit comprises:
137 x grey styrene parts
10 x clear injected parts
16 x resin parts
21 x photoetched parts
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
The kit is a short run model , so there's a certain amount of flash and the parts will require more clean-up generally than a mainstream kit. Surface detail consists of finely engraved panel lines and a few raised details.
A new sprue contains the parts for the revised fuselage and interior.The new fuselage halves fit together well and line up nicely with the existing parts. There's some reasonable sidewall detail moulded inside the fuselage, but this is somewhat marred by a few badly placed ejector-pin marks which will need to be carefully removed or they'll be visible on the completed model.
A test fit of the new parts is very encouraging. The new fuselage halves line-up perfectly and the cockpit floor is an excellent fit - surprising good, in fact, in the way the observer's compartment clips snugly into the nose. The wing/fuselage joint is pretty good with a perfect match for chord, but a point to watch out for is at the trailing edge, where the bottom of the wing is flatter than the corresponding area of the fuselage.
The new pilot's and observer's cockpits are nicely kitted out with frame-style and bucket seats (the instructions get in a bit of a muddle over which style goes where...) that come complete with etched harnesses and both crew positions have flying controls. There's a mix of plastic and resin details to add to the cockpit sides and glazed nose. Despite the inclusion of an etched fret, the pilot's instrument panel is moulded in plastic - but don't worry, it's quite well detailed with bezels that will repay careful painting.
As you'd expect, the kit contains a new clear sprue with parts for the glazed nose and new-style pilot's canopy. The transparencies are thin and clear with well defined frames and the instructions show how both the pilot's and observer's entry hatches can be opened - but be careful, both involve some nifty surgery and no spares are included should you slip up...
Instructions and painting
The assembly diagrams are very well drawn and break the construction down into 18 stages. Apart from the afore-mentioned confusion over the seats, everything is very clear and the sequence is mostly logical, but be sure to open the pilot's entry hatch before joining the fuselage halves, rather than at the end of construction as shown. Gunze Sangyo paint numbers are keyed to most parts.
The kit contains a very well printed set of decals for 3 colour schemes:
A. Potez 63.11 No. 156/C6555, GRII/33, 1940.
B. Potez 63.11 No. 641, GAO 515, 1940.
C. Potez 63.11 No. 1138/J963, DIAP, 1940.
The aircraft chosen are all wearing variations of kaki, gris foncé and ombre calcinée topsides, with gris bleu clair undersides. Gunze Sangyo paint matches for Gunze Sanyo paints are included, but note that these are generic "best matches" - I will definitely prefer to use White Ensign Model's specifically produced Armée de l'Air Colourcoats.
The decals are beautifully produced by Aviprint - thin and glossy with a crystal-clear carrier film. The registration on my sheet is spot on, which is lucky because the roundels are printed without separate centres. A nice touch is that the rudder serials are included as both separate items and also printed integrally with the tail stripes.
There's something inexplicably attractive about this true ugly-duckling and it's definitely going to demand attention in any model collection! It's not a kit for beginners, but anyone with some experience of short-run kits should find it an enjoyable and fairly straightforward build.
Azur's Potez 31.11 is available from Modelimex - specialists in Eastern European short run kits.
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