Socrate JMGT 1/48 Scale Potez 63/11 Reconnaissance Aircraft

Kit #1006                                                        MSRP $139.98
Images and text Copyright © 2004 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background
       The prototype of this plane goes back to 1934 at which time the French Air Force organized a contest for a three-seat reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft. The Bréguet-690, Romano-110, Loire-Nieuport-200 and the Hanriot-220 all resulted from this program but the Potez-63 is the most famous. The prototype of the major production version of the Potez 63 series, the 63/11 first flew on the December 31st, 1936, production commenced soon after that in 1937 and it arrived for active duty during November 1939. The 63/11 was assigned to the 14/2nd GAA and made its first operational forays at the beginning of December in that same year. During the next perilous and desperate 5 months they were engaged in 248 sorties during which 8 enemy planes were cut down while the French lost 16 men and 11 were wounded.
       A low wing monoplane of entirely metal construction the 63 series was powered by two 700 hp Gnome-Rhone 14 cylinder radial engines and had a wingspan of 16m and a length of 10.93m. Two major versions of the aircraft were produced, the 631 two-seat hunter with a solid nose containing 20mm cannons and the three seat 63/11 with its "panoramic muzzle". This plane quickly exceeded in the field of speed and maneuverability and was the more popular of the two with 748 examples being manufactured. When the war broke out only 291 of both versions were available. Due to its similar profile to the Messerschmitt Me-110 it suffered losses from friendly fire as well as from the predations of 109’s.
       Production continued after the German occupation and the 63/11 saw service with Italy and Romania as well as the Luftwaffe and Vichy forces. The 63/11 variant of the Potez was used for reconnaissance and liaison by the Vichy government and even the Free French took hold of some of them. The Luftwaffe used many as flight instruction aircraft. After the armistice about 637 aircraft remained in France and Northern Africa. These aircraft changed ownership many times over the next few years. Following the defeat of Germany many 63/11s were used in the small air force that Germany was allowed to maintain. Many continued in service with the Romanian air force as well.

The Kit
        Ah, the smell of freshly cast resin in the morning. This is a multi-media kit consisting of many resin pieces, a few vacuform canopy pieces, white metal and photo-etched parts. All of this comes in a very compact box that fits the parts very well. My first concern with any resin model is about warpage in the large parts. The four primary large pieces are the first to be examined; these are the wings, fuselage and tail plane. These all appear to be in very good condition and it seems apparent that the parts were allowed to cure fully before being packed. One of the first things to catch my attention is the cockpit area of the fuselage, the sidewalls are not cast in place and the interior sidewall pieces do not include exterior fuselage panels. In fact as I look through the kit I cannot find any exterior panels for this area and I began to worry that parts were missing when I looked at the clear parts. They fuselage side panels for the cockpit are molded into the same piece that has the upper nose glazing. This is a very strange arrangement and I am curious as to how it will work out during construction.
        All the resin pieces (click on the image to the right to view a larger picture) are cast in a fine quality light tan resin. Panel lines all appear to be crisply engraved and interior details on the cockpit and flap areas are very nice. The outer surface areas of the fuselage and wings are very smooth to the touch. Large tabs are molded in place on the wings with corresponding fuselage slots, which contribute to a good solid connection during assembly. Beyond these initial large pieces there is a small bag of smaller items including some very nicely detailed engines, engine nacelles, cockpit sidewalls, landing gear pieces and additional engine pieces. All of these have little or no flash, minimal casting stubs and excellent cast detail. The parts test fit together fairly well but it is aparent that some fill will be required during construction. Overall there are 34 resin pieces in the box.
        Let’s take a look at some of the other goodies included in this package. We have a small bag full of white metal parts that include our propeller blades; four exhaust shrouds, landing gear struts, and alternate propeller hubs, seat bases for the crew, a machine gun and a few other odd detail pieces. There are some definite mold separation lines on these parts that will need to be shaved off and some other minor pieces of flash but overall they are all nicely detailed and in good condition. The bag contains 33 white metal pieces. We also have some rather interesting vacuformed clear pieces. JMGT gives us a complete duplicate set of these pieces so if you screw up you are not lost; all of these are formed from very heavy clear plastic. First is a large piece that includes the top half of the nose glazing and the cockpit sidewalls. This piece looks like it will be the most involved part of the construction process as it will have to fit overtop the inner cockpit sidewalls and meet the resin fuselage without creating a step. Next is a smaller piece for the lower half of the nose and then there is a conventional cockpit windshield piece. While we have 6 pieces only three will ultimately be used for construction.

        Parts wise the last thing to look at are the photo-etched pieces. We have a single tree of PE that covers the dash, seat backs for the crew, various interior controls as well as exterior flight control hinges and engine wiring harnesses. There are thirty PE pieces on the tree. Looking back over all these wonderfully detailed parts the total count in the box comes to 103 pieces.
        Below are a couple of up-close and personal detail pictures, on the left we have one of the engines and on the right is the underside of the wing where you can see the excellent detail cast into the lower flap area and just a bit into the wheel well. Also take note of the quality of the recessed panel lines and the small vent scoops cast into the landing gear nacelle.

Decals and Instructions
        Let’s talk about the decals first, these appear to be very thin on the sheet and there is hardly any carrier film evident. The color density looks to be fairly good and the print registry looks to be right on the mark. We have markings here for three different aircraft; two post occupation French aircraft and one Polish aircraft. While the decal sheet seems to cover the national markings and squadron markings well there are no service stencils included.
        The instructions are somewhat brief on this kit. There is no historical background on the aircraft; I guess if you are at the level of modeling where you purchase one of these kits you can find your own background information. We have a full size two page fold-out consisting of four panels, the front panel covers painting and decal placement for the Polish aircraft, the two inside panels include a complete parts listing in French and English and several exploded view construction steps. There are also some very, very brief interior color codes. The last panel covers exterior color schemes for the two French aircraft and decal placement for them and covers the clear parts installation – very briefly. It is imperative that the modeler studies these instructions very carefully and compares them to the actual parts prior to beginning construction. The last two items to be covered here are a simple warning from JMGT concerning the use of glues on the clear polystyrene parts and that wet sanding is the recommended method of sanding. There is also a listing of other kits available from JMGT.

        Let there be no doubt this is an advanced modeler only type of kit. The construction process is very different from your typical model. Even compared to many other resin kits this one presents some unusual assembly features, especially with that large clear nose assembly. The overall quality of the kit is more than apparent, engineering looks to be very good, parts quality is top notch, decals look good but the instructions could be a little more comprehensive and this adds some level of difficulty to the model. The subject itself is pretty unusual and at this time only Pend Oreille is the only other manufacture making a kit of it but that is resin as well. I have heard rumors that there may be something coming soon from other French manufactures but we will have to wait and see on that score. There are a few items on the aftermarket that can be added to this like replacement Gnome-Rhone engines from Engines and Things but those really are not necessary. JMGT also makes a fighter version of this, the 631 and it is slightly less expensive.
        An unusual aircraft and an unusual and potentially difficult build it makes a nice addition to your collection but is not for all modelers.

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