by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Originally published on:
The latest addition to Valiant Wings’ Airframe Album collection covers arguably the most famous liaison aircraft of WW2 - the Fieseler Storch.
Richard Franks follows the now familiar format that has proved so successful in this popular series, combining elements that will appeal equally to modellers and aviation enthusiasts. So, in one volume we have a concise history of the Storch, a highly detailed walkaround, a type-by-type easy reference of the many variants, coverage of the camouflage and markings, plus a modelling section boasting excellent builds.
To call the opening section the Introduction hardly does it justice, because the author covers a lot of territory in its twenty or so pages. The coverage traces the Storch’s roots back to the Fieseler 5 in the early 1930s, through the trials against the competing Si 201 and Bf 163, before arriving at the iconic design that remained in production until the 1960s in licence-built form. It's fascinating to see the early appearance of the Storch with upturned wingtips, a huge dorsal fillet and a much lighter (and flimsy) undercarriage, before it emerged as the aircraft that we all know.
Moving on from the prototypes to full production, the type's wartime service is described, including some of the aircraft's famous exploits, such taking off from the Place de la Concorde, the mountain-top rescue of Mussolini and the desparate flight into beliguered Berlin to reach Hitler's bunker at the very end of the war in Europe.
The Storch's use by other air forces is outlined in some detail, be that with captured arframes or aircraft bought or built under licence, and the section ends with an interesting look at the intended successor to the Storch - the very promising Fi 256 that was cancelled as the war situation deteriorated.
Many people will purchase this book purely for the Technical Description, which takes the form of a 50-page "walkaround", that combines modern colour photos with vintage shots and illustrations from original technical manuals. The use of the servicing diagrams is inspired, because it reveals the inner workings of items that are often otherwise hidden.
The coverage is broken down logically into 8 main sections that are easy to navigate through, and no less than 20 sub-sections. The main sections are:
Group 1 - Fuselage
Group 2 - Undercarriage
Group 3 - Tail
Group 4 - Wings & Controls
Group 5 - Engine
Group 6 - Fuel, Oil & Electrics
Group 7 - Equipment
Group 8 - Miscellaneous
The depth of coverage is excellent - a real super-detailer's treasure trove of information. To give you some idea of the extent of the coverage, if we take a section at random, say Group 5 - Engine, that breaks down further into Engine, Cowlings, Exhausts and Propeller - with 5 pages of photos devoted to the engine, 3 pages to the cowlings, 2 pages to the exhausts and, finally, a single page (still six illustrations) to the propeller.
The Evolution section centres around excellent 3-D isometric views by Chris Sandham-Bailey to illustrate the differences between the various versions of the Storch and its post-war offspring. It's very hand quick-reference, ideal for modellers wanting to ensure they get the basic details correct for a given subject.
Camouflage & Markings covers the rich variety of factory and field-applied schemes sported by the Storch in German service from the Spanish Civil War through WWII, plus very helpful sections outlining the many schemes applied in foreign use, be that among Germany's wartime allies or captured machines, or the myriad of post war schemes. Backing up the text, Richard Caruana provides plenty of fine quality profiles and top views to whet the appetite for some unusual builds. How about a Vietnamese Storch from the 1950s?
The Models section is on of the main attractions for me in any Airframe Album, showcasing the talents of some of the best modellers around. In this case Libor Jekl and Steve Evans build a trio of Storchs:
Směr (ex-Heller) 1:72 Fi 156C-3
Academy 1:72 Fi 156C converted to a K-56 Čáp
Tamaiya 1:48 Fi 156
The builds, as usual, are excellent and will be a real inspiration to go buy a kit or to dig into the Stash. It's a timely reminder for me that I've had Tamiya's beauty tucked away since it was first released.
Finally, the Appendices give useful lists of the many Fi 156 kits that have been released over the years (far more than I would have guessed if you count all the obscure re-boxings), the plentiful upgrade sets and decals, plus a comprehensive line-up of further reading.
ConclusionValiant Wings' study of the Fi 156 is very well balanced in its coverage and will be a very useful addition to the library of anyone interested in the aircraft. For modellers it's an ideal one-stop reference that will be a huge boon if you're tackling any kit of the Storch. Recommended.
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