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The Fall of a Prototype

The Messerschmitt Me 309 was a prototype German fighter designed to replace the Messerschmitt Bf 109. The project began in mid-1940, just as the Bf 109 was having its first encounters with the Spitfire, the first aircraft to match the 109 in speed and performance. Willy Messerschmitt anticipated the need for a better aircraft and the new design was finalized until the end of 1941. But low government interest in the project delayed completion of the first prototype until spring 1942 and trouble with the nosewheel pushed back the 309's first flight to July. When it did fly, the Me 309's performance was satisfactory but not exemplary. In fact, the Bf 109G could outturn its intended replacement!

Although it had many advanced features, such as tricycle landing gear and a pressurized cockpit which would have given it comfortable high-altitude performance, the Me 309 suffered from so many problems that the project was cancelled with only four prototypes built.
Designing a diorama of any kind is most of the time a solitary adventure. Usually it implies a thorough research and the need for planning ones work in advance to know exactely what to do and to avoid any nasty surprises during the build. However, if this in general constitutes the good manners to proceed, sometimes other ways are possible. For this "Fall of a Prototype" project I choosed another path which finally carried me to an equally satisfactory result.

The project started the day when Mark Toillié, owner of Mark58, proposed me to test some products of his forthcoming range of aircraft display accessories. I didn't asked him for something in particular and it was mere chance that he gave me some planking and wooden walls to do a Luftwaffe diorama. At this time I didn't knew at all what I was going to do, but having a decent amount of German WW2 subjects in my stash and with the "Power of Aeroscale" I was pretty confident I would find something suitable.
What to do?
First, I gathered some boxes of Luftwaffe figurines, vehicles and accessories from my stash (picture 1): ICM and Eduard's Luftwaffe personal sets, Tamiya's new Power Supply Unit and Volkswagen kits, Verlinden's Airfield Carts etc... Of course my intention wasn't to use them all, but to see them spread out like that over my workbench, I thought they could act as "idea starters".

Secondly, I had to choose the main subject. It was obvious for me that I had to be a single engined aircraft. This decision was simply motivated by the fact that the planking base would have been to small to accomodate anything bigger. I finally reduced the number of candidate to two: MPM's Fw 190 S and Czech Model's Me 309 (picture 2). It is at this time that I requested the assistance of my Aeroscale fellows for the first time. I asked them what model they would prefer to see me build and they choosed the Me 309.

Now that I knew which plane I was about to model, it was time to think of an appropriate "Mise ne scène". I searched for references in the internet and found two interesting photos (picture 3). The first one was obviously taken during the earlier tests of the Messerschmitt and shows the prototype in a perfect state. This could have been a good starting point for the diorama but I didn't liked the fact that the ground was concrete on the picture. I don't think a prototype would have been serviced on wooden planking, and it is however what I had at disposal. So I started to show more interest at the second picture showing the Me 309, obviously at the end of his life, abandoned somewhere in the corner of an airfield. Finally I got my idea: the "Fall of a Prototype" it would be!
Starting construction
With a basic idea now in mind, I started the construction. The Czech Model kit being a short run multimedia model, I first started to clean the resin parts. This produced a lot of garbage as you can see on picture 4. After that I assembled the interior (cockpit and wheel bays), wich was painted in RLM 66. Then it was time to join the two fuselage halves, but not before having added 20 gr. of ballast in the nose! Remember, the Me 309 has a tricycle landing gear! Finally the wings and ailerons were glued in place, the seams were filled with Tamiya putty and the model was put aside to let everything to harden.

A good thing when you are building a diorama, is that you can work on something else from time to time. The miniature aircraft needing some rest, I decided to concentrate on the display base. I had a little idea of the setup in mind so I played with paperboard and "Jake", my dummy model, to find an appropriate composition (picture 6). I choosed to put the planking in an offset position to give more life to the otherwise static diorama. A free area was left in front of the plane for the "Käfer" and the figures. I think it's always important, for esthetic reasons, to leave some space in front of a model. To make the base and the area behind the Me 309, I used styrodur (yellow stuff in the pics). This material is some kind of polystyrene, but with greater density, and is used as roof insulation. You can easily cut it with knifes and even sand it smooth with sanding paper. After a few minutes I managed to make my basic layout and I placed the model on it to see if everything was alright (picture 7). Being satisfied, I applied some sand on the foam using PVA glue (picture 8) and now it was the diorama base that needed some drying time.
  • Me309-01
  • Me309-02
  • Me309-03
  • Me309-04
  • Me309-05
  • Me309-06
  • Me309-07
  • Me309-08

About the Author

About Jean-Luc Formery (TedMamere)

I'm mainly interested in WW2 aircraft and I build them in 1/48 scale.


Jean - Luc! Very interesting I like the historical details of your build.
NOV 10, 2006 - 05:53 PM
I agree with Stephen, Jean-Luc. Very interesting and informative read. Great looking diorama....
NOV 10, 2006 - 06:07 PM
Great read and very realistic dio. I could look at it for hours at a time. Thanks for writing and posting a feature of it. Andy
NOV 10, 2006 - 09:03 PM
Jean-Luc, Great build and an excellent article. i really look forward to seeing your completed projects. This one is very original and well executed. Cheers, Justen
NOV 14, 2006 - 01:43 AM
Perfect............... raf1@post.ru
NOV 17, 2006 - 02:16 AM