SWISS AIR FORCE 1918-1929 in 1:48 SCALE


by George Grasse


22 July 2011
This photo and the caption below were taken from the the Swiss modeling forum www.modellbaustammtisch.ch/forum/index.php?topic=754.0 but the photo is credited to the Czech Republic website www.feudal.cz/files/bela_mayer.jpg) and also appears on page 55 of Albatros D.II & D.III (Oeffag), JaPo; see bibliography below.
Caption from the Swiss modeling forum:
Am 21. November 1918 landeten in Schlieren zwei Albatros D.III der k.u.k. (kaiserliche und königliche Österreichisch-Ungarische Monarchie). Eine der beiden Maschinen, diejenige von STFW Bela Mayer, verblieb in der Schweiz und wurde mit der Nummer 611 in der Luftwaffe immatrikuliert. Im Einsatz für die Schweizer Luftwaffe stand die Albatros D.III nur etwa 6 Monate, danach wurde sie verschrottet.

Translation: On 21 November 1918 landed in Schlieren, Switzerland (about 8 km northwest of Zurich), two Albatros D.III of the k.u.k.  One of the machines was flown by Stfw Bela Mayer and was given the serial Nummer 611 (Nr. 611) in the Swiss Air Force to which it was transferred.  It remained in Swiss service for six months after which is was scraped.

Caption from the JaPo publication:  On 21st November 1918 a Flik 3J pilot Stfw (Stabsfeldwebel) Béla Mayer landed Albatros D.III (Oef) 253.114 at Schlieren airfield, Switzerland. 

k.u.k. FLIK 3J PILOT Stfw Béla Mayer
22 July 2011
This is a cockpit view of Stabsfeldwebel Béla Mayer sitting in the cockpit of Albatros D.III (Oef) 253.114 at Schlieren airfield on 21 November 1918.  The cockpit detail of this aircraft is important in correctly modeling Nr. 611 of the Swiss Air Force.  Note the Schwarzlose M7/12 machine guns entering blast tubes attached to either side of the 225hp Austro-Daimler engine and the instrument panel detail.  Note also the mottling on the side of the fuselage.
ALBATROS D.III (Oef) Nr. 611
22 July 2011
This is the color profile of Nr. 611 that will be the basis for finishing the model.  In this reconstruction, the fuselage and fin are completely over-painted in dark green.  However, if you look at the cockpit photo of Stfw Béla Mayer, above, the fuselage appears to be mottled as was the case in every 253 Series D.III photo I have seen.
9 August 2011
The beginning of the Albatros D.III (Oeffag) Series 253 1:48 scale Eduard kit to be built as Nr. 611 of the Swiss Air Force.  The key to the Albatros fuselage is its three-ply wood construction so the inside walls had to be finished to look like wood.  I used Vallejo VC0913 Yellow Ochre as the base coat and a combination of slightly darker shades and color pencils to achieve an approximation of grained wood.  The ribs and main formers started off with a darker Vallejo VC0824 German Camouflage Orange Ochre with appropriate color pencil work.

The kit did not include seatbelts so I made my own using strips of lead sheet to which were glued extra seatbelt buckles from a Copper State kit.  The kit's decals for the instruments were applied and included the compass in front of the seat sub-assembly, two small gauge decals on the square instrument panel, and three more gauge decals on the main instrument panel. 

The 225 hp Austro Daimler inline engine was built up from about twelve Eduard detailed parts.  The cylinder section was painted in dark gray mixed with semi-gloss black.  The crankcase was painted in natural metal.  The propeller was primed and painted in a base color of Vallejo VC0913 Yellow Ochre over which was painted several stripes in Andrea ANAC17 Medium Brown to render a laminated look.  Over this was applied a number of color pencil shades and rubbing each into the surface.  Propeller logo decals and a Copper State PE propeller boss were added.  Not shown are four small parts that will be added during the next step of assembly the cockpit interior.

19 August 2011
All of the cockpit details have been added to the right fuselage half.  The engine is resting on the engine mount not yet glued in place.  The two items sticking up at the rear of the cockpit are the shoulder seat belts.  The kit did not provide seat belts an this pair plus the lap seat belts were scratch-built from strips of lead sheet to which were glued PE seat belt pieces from a Copper State Models 1:48 scale kit in my spare parts inventory.

Some of the formers and instrument panel boards were painted in different shades of "wood" but all were covered in a thin wash of Vallejo VC0872 Chocolate Brown to show aging.

19 August 2011
Details of the cockpit shown close up.  Just behind and attached to the engine "firewall" is the ammunition box for the Schwarzlose M7/12 machine guns. Kit detail is excellent and fit is superb.  Each part in the cockpit was "dry fitted" with the left fuselage mated to the right fuselage to make sure alignment of the "to-be-glued" part was perfect.  Only one component was added at a time with the fuselage halves closed up for fit but not glued. 
19 August 2011
Another close up view from an elevated rear position.  The main instrument panel shows the dial faces which were kit-supplied-decals and they fit perfectly.  Each gauge cover plate was painted in steel.
6 September 2011
The top forward deck is in place and covers the engine and cockpit.  Just a little bit of putty and sanding with 400 grit paper cleans up the fuselage.  All fuselage details have to be finished now before the lower wings and landing gear are installed.
12 September 2011
This view shows the fuselage and fin painted in Vallejo VC0912 Tan Yellow over which artist oils will be applied to simulate the natural wood finish.   The same Vallejo color was painted on the upper and under surfaces of the wings and tail unit (except the rudder which will be red).  The "sworl" printed camouflage fabric decals will be applied over these flying surfaces after a coat of clear satin polyurethane has been applied.
2 October 2011
This view shows the results of the application of artist oils to the fuselage and fin painted over the base coat of Vallejo VC0912 Tan Yellow.  Parts added at this stage were the Schwarzlose M7/12 machine guns to which were added the gun tube extensions, not the kit-supplied plastic pieces, but brass tubes cut to size from Griffon Models GMBH05 1.2mm OD, .96mm ID.  There is a small curved piece that resembles a spent cartridge ejection chute located on the flat side of the fuselage below the left machine gun.
2 October 2011
The right side of the fuselage shows the metal components painted in Misterkit MKAH05 Austrian Albatros Dark Green.  The machine gun extension tube is clearly visible in this view.  One regret is having glued the tail plane to the fuselage.  These surfaces will have to be covered in printed sworl camouflage decals which would have been a lot easier to apply if they were detached.  There are a lot of panel lines on the fuselage that I have not yet highlighted with a a brown-black liner because they top and some of the side areas of the fuselage will be mottled.
29 October 2011
I finally received a set of Techmod TMD002 1:48 Austrian Sworl Camouflage Decals.  When researching this pre-printed fabric, several ideas about application and actual colors rose out of my library materials and the conclusion is that no one knows for sure the exact shades used or all of the few Albatros D.III (Oef) aircraft received this covering.  It is known that this particular aircraft, 253.114, was covered with the sworl pattern at least on the upper side of the flying surfaces.  My research suggests that the under surface may have been covered but it is likely that they were covered in clear doped linen (CDL).  Based on the illustration at the top of this article, the under flying surfaces will be covered in the sworl pattern.  There exist a few photographs of the upper surface but to my knowledge there are none showing the under surface. 
30 October 2011
All flying surfaces were painted in two coats of Vallejo VC0912 Tan Yellow.  This shade had a marked effect on the overall finish of the decal application.  The Techmod decals are thin and  conform to the super raised detail of this Eduard kit.  The decals have a distinct greenish tone but when applied over the Tan Yellow gave, to me, the correct olive-brown shade.  As an aside, rolls of the printed sworl camouflage, produced by J. Backhausen & Söhne in Vienna, were silk screened and not roller printed.  This took quite a bit of manual labor so few batches were produced.  More than likely, each batch must have been slightly different.  All batches took a great amount of time and this accounts for the irregular application to relatively small Albatros D.III (Oef) batches spread out over time.  See the bibliography and link to an interesting article written by Stephen T. Lawson for Aeroscale as a review of the Mirage 1:48 scale Printed Sworl Camouflage strips.  The references in Lawson's article are worth noting for modelers not familiar with Austrian printed sworl camouflage.

The size of the Techmod 1:48 scale sheets (2 per pack) measured 4-5/8"wide x 6-1/2" long and this was another reason for using this brand.  The Mirage brand could only cover the upper surfaces on one single 1:48 scale model.  It took the entire Techmod pack of two sheets to cover this model top and bottom.  The Swiss insignia red field was painted in two coats of a mix of Vallejo VC0946 Dark Red and VC0947 Red.  Then, the decals were applied in sections to the left and right of each red field top and bottom as shown in the photo.

As mentioned in an earlier construction photo step above, I should not have glued the tailplane to the fuselage.  However, in retrospect, here's how I solved (what turned out to be a simple problem).   I printed one page of a 1:48 scale drawing showing the wings and tailplane layout.  I cut out the upper wing because I needed to cut away a part of the decal that did not need to cover the wing-mounted radiator.  Next, I cut out the left and right tailplane.  I positioned each piece on the decal sheet and cut out each section needed: two sets of tailplane decals (left and right, top and bottom) and two sets of upper wing decals (left and right, one set for the top and one for the bottom).  The lower wings were simply positioned over the decal sheet and a rough cut was made four times.

When it came it came time to cover the tailplane, the pieces fit quite well with the excess sanded off with high grade (fine) sandpaper.  The wings with the red Swiss insignia field had their decals cut off so each "panel" fit on either side.

10 December 2011
Two views of progress to date.  The photos tell the story.  I would have to say that although this is one of Eduard's most detailed Great War aircraft, the attachment points for the landing gear, lower wings, cabane "N" struts, and the wing "V" struts is poor.  Not much adhesion surface.  The wings and landing gear struts had to be pinned with very small diameter brass rod and that took some careful drilling.  I'm not sure just how sturdy this model will be even if it is just slightly bumped around.  Not clearly visible are the wire turnbuckles at the nose (two on each side of the cowling) and four at the wing root.  The landing gear wires are actually .007 piano wire and not the usual .005 monofilament thread which I prefer.  It was done for added strength.  Also barely visible are the elevator control horns and control cables going into the fuselage.  Swiss national markings were printed on white decal paper.  They had a red surround which was cut out.  The decals were applied to a pre-painted surface applied with a mix of 1/2 Vallejo VC0909 Vermillion and 1/2 Vallejo VC0946 Dark Red, oversprayed with poly satin.
16 December 2011
The Austrians were quick to apply some sort of camouflage to the upper part of the fuselage especially with the sworl camouflage pattern on flying surfaces.  One can only guess as to how the dark olive green paint was applied but it appears to have be sponged or ragged onto the surface with heavy coverage at the spine and less along the sides.  Contemporary photos are not known for this aircraft after it entered Swiss service.  
16 December 2011
This side view will be used to describe progress to date with regard to construction.  The white metal line between the struts is a piece of .010 solder wire that will represent the gravity tank fuel line.  Before gluing the struts in place, all wire bracing holes were checked and a couple were added, namely, for the aileron wires.

The "253.114" black decals were printed from my laser inkjet using Euphemia size 14 font the spacing of which I should have made a little tighter as was Austrian practice.  Too late now!  The small white "611" Swiss serial number was taken from Archer Fine Transfers 1/35 scale sheet AR35086W.  As you know, you cannot print white from an laser inkjet so I have to rely on someone's else's creation. 

19 December 2011
The top wing has been secured in the following steps: 1) the top wing was glued to the cabane struts only; 2) when that dried, the right wing strut was glued to the underside of the top right wing, all the time checking for alignment; 3) the left wing strut was glued to the underside of the top left wing.  In the right photo above (13b), you can see that the wing is supported at this time only on the cabane struts.  The arrangement for gluing is poor at best being a simple square peg at the end of the strut that fits into a shallow depression on the underside of the top wing.  This peg shows up in 13c at the top end of the wing strut.  Knowing this ahead of time, I looked for ways to strengthen the structure short of actually making new struts in brass tubing.  One aid was to replace the centerline water line which has an oval cross-section with a piece of brass Strutz.  At least the center section of the top wing was now secure.  Notice all the dangling .005 monofilament threads which would be a second line defense for strength when they are connected.
23 December 2011
These two photos and all that follow show the completed model.  After the top wing was glued to the wing and cabane struts, I carefully started the rigging process which did not take too much time with the aid of turnbuckles and just passing a few select wires though the bottom wing, gluing them in place with a weight, and cutting them off.  The last reinforcement stage was using .012 piano wire for the two aileron control cables on each outer wing panel.  
23 December 2011
These rear aspect photos show how the drab green camouflage was dabbed from the spine along the sides to near the bottom of the fuselage.  It was difficult making out the exact pattern and extent of the camouflage application from the few photos of 253.114.  I used Misterkit MKAH05 Albatros Green for all of the metal parts and panels.  I did not use it for the camouflage because it was too gray compared to the printed sworl camouflage.  Instead, I used Misterkit MKAH06 Phoenix Dark Green. 
27 December 2011
These "in flight" photos are interesting views illustrating the camouflage.  After all wiring was completed, I finished by adding engine details including the exhaust stack, the return radiator water line, and a gun sight (not visible).
27 December 2011
A final photograph.
------------------------------------------  FINIS  --------------------------------------------
This 1:48 scale model is based on photographs at the top of this article and a color profile sent in by a collector for whom this model is being built.  Substantial research information, detailed photo close-ups, and technical data was provided in Windsock Datafile 19 Albatros D.III (Oef) and Albatros D.II & D.III (Oeffag); see bibliography below. 



Grosz, P. M. Albatros D.III (OEF) Windsock Datafile 19, Colours and Markings section by Ray Rimmel, scale drawings by Ian R. Stair, color profiles by Ray Rimmel.  Berkhamsted, UK: Albatros Publications Ltd, 2000.

Lawson, Stephen T.  Printed Sworl Camouflage (1:48) - An Orchard in an Oriental Rug.  Originally published on Aeroscale.  http://www.aeroscale.co.uk/modules.php?op=modload&name=Reviews&file=index&req=showcontent&id=6279op=modload&name=Reviews&file=index&req=showcontent&id=6279

Rimmel, Ray and editors, Turning the Spotlight on. . .Eduard's Oeffag D.III (253), a 1:48 scale kit review appearing in Windsock Worldwide, Vol. 26, No. 4, July/August 2010.  Berkhamsted, UK: Albatros Publications, Ltd, 2010.

Tesař, Mgr. Petr Aharon.  Albatros D.II & D.III Oeffag, translation by Petr Janda, scale drawings by Mgr. Petr A. Tesař, color art work by Ing. TomᚠPoruba.  Hradec Králové, Czech Republic: JaPo, 1998.