The Fa 330 Bachstelze (Water Wagtail) was produced to allow a greater search radius for U-Boats. The gyro-kite could be towed aloft to a height of just under 400 ft, which gave an observation range of about 25 miles. The pilot remained in touch with the submarine by telephone and, in an emergency, he could jettison the rotor, which pulled out a parachute mounted on the pylon behind him. The parachute itself was attached to the pilot, who then undid his seat straps and let the remains of the Fa 330 fall clear while he floated down to be rescued.
About 200 Fa 330s were built and variation on the basic design included a larger diameter rotor and small wheels on the landing skids. There was also a plan to fit the Fa 330 with a 60 hp engine.
Fly's packaging for this little kit is certainly distinctive - almost like a large packet of pencils, with a perforated tab at on end so it can be hung on a display rack. The end-opening box features a couple of useful reference photos. The kit comprises:
32 x beige styrene parts
11 x grey resin parts
39 x etched brass parts
A small sheet of decals
As you'd expect with a limited-run kit, some of the styrene parts need a bit of extra clean-up. There's a little flash, but my kit shows no sign of sinkage. There are no ejector pin marks on any of the parts. Meanwhile, the resin parts are very well cast, with not a bubble in sight.
A test fit is impractical but, hardly surprisingly, comparison with photos shows a bit of a compromise in terms of scale thickness of some of the parts, such as the tubular "fuselage" structure. Skilled modellers might use the kit parts as a template for scratchbuilding a new framework from plastic rod or soldered wire, but the kit parts should look fine with a little time spent refining them. The tail fins do look very heavy as supplied.
The kit is nicely detailed and the clearly drawn instructions are very helpful, with colour notes are keyed to most parts. Some items need to be made from scratch, such as the wiring for the instruments perched on the "nose" of the machine and a diagram is included to show this. The etched fret supplies a seat harness, toe straps for the rudder bar, plus a lot of small handles and fasteners.
Constructing the rotor is going to be interesting! Each blade has just a single spigot to attach it to the resin hub, with further support coming from a series of cables running between the blades and a triangular frame above the hub. Unfortunately, no dimensions are given, and while the painting diagram gives an idea of the angle of the blades, beware - the real blades pivoted and are usually seen drooped in photos of Fa 330s on the ground. Lining everything up certainly looks like a good job for a simple jig.
Main painting couldn't be much simpler - the instructions call for RLM76 overall. There's a choice of crosses, with or without a white outline. No swastikas are provided, but that matches photos of captured examples and museum exhibits.
Overall, this is a charming little kit and it's definitely worth buying for a truly unusual addition to the ranks of 1/48 scale German WW2 types. Like any mixed media kit, it's not suitable for beginners and even experienced modellers will have something to get their teeth into in constructing the rotor and its attendant cables. But the effort should be well worth it.
Fly's Fa 330 is available from Modelimex - specialists in Eastern European short run kits.
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