1/144 VLE Models  

Wibault -Penhoët 283T-12

by Alex Bigey



The Wibault 283T is to France what the Ford Trimotor is to USA, or the Savoia Marchetti S.73 to Italy. In another way, just like today's Airbus A320, the Wibault was Air France’s standard medium range airliner for European destinations in 1933, up to the start of WWII, with an accommodation of 10 passengers and 3 crew (including a flight attendant) and powered by 340 hp Gnome & Rhone “Titan Major” supercharged radial engines for a dramatic cruise speed of 230 km/h (143 mph).


VLE models by Bob Wheeler from USA, produces a limited range of 1/144 and 1/72 scale vacformed kits with quite esoteric similar subjects, and I elected to purchase a Wibault for my Airfix Handley Page HP.42 not to feel too lonely in his showcase. The Wibault 282/283T is also produced in 1/72 scale. My kit included resin engines, metal props, and good decals for two variants / liveries: The Air Union Gold & Red 282T without nose cowling / wheel pants, and the Air France early 283T.

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I used as main reference material, the following french publications: 

-         “Icare” issues106 &107: Air France 1933-1983. (SNPL editions) 

-         “Le Fana de l’Aviation” issues 187-188-189, featuring a comprehensive monography about the subject, including detailed scale drawings and color profiles. (Editions Larivière) 

“MiniDocavia” number 3 (« Les Avions de Transport Civil Français » - Editions Larivière).

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I started construction in the usual way for a vacformed kit, by cutting each vacformed part (except engine cowlings) in respect of a tight margin outlined with a fine marker, then sanded until it would break off loose. However, this turned out to be inappropriate for the fuselage halves, when I test fit them together for the first time: The fuselage was definitely too narrow, although the squared fuselage section of the real aircraft is taller than wide. But more about that later…


I did not follow the kit’s instructions by waiting the fuselage parts to be cut out before working the cabin windows.

For that, I first used a gradual range of drills before cutting out plastic excess, to finally rend the particular shapes with a Dremel tool and sand smooth.

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The cockpit windows had to be entirely reworked in order to get a model that looks like the real airplane. For instance, the side windows were placed too high, so I added a piece of evergreen stick on top and removed plastic down.

After interior received an overall coat of flat black, both half fuselages were glued together inserting a two vacform sheet thick sandwich, to recover the appropriate fuselage width. This was a bit tricky as both halves may come slightly offset. Some plastic bits were also added forward the wings at bottom fuselage, as I expected much sanding here, once the wings would be glued in.

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Then, I recovered the unpainted inner fuselage joint lines with flat black again, before I removed the excess plastic sandwich of the outer joint lines and sanded them smooth. 

The roof’s too sharp edges were round sanded and square holes were cut out at the cockpit and fuselage hatch places. 

On left rear fuselage, the round window was superglue filled, and an access door was engraved accordingly to the references available. 

Cockpit framing was completed using Evergreen stuff.

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The wings are made of 4 parts: 3 for the upper wing (left – center – right), and one for the underwing. The dihedral of the outer wings has to be obtained by bending the underwing first, then by trimming the upper left and right panels at the mating surfaces, to join the center panel at proper angle. 

The dihedral is pronounced underwing, but very light upperwing.

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The wing has to be inserted with trailing edge mating the back of fuselage slot in order to obtain a correct angle of attack, however, it leaves a wide gap to fill at the  leading edge, and implies a lot of trimming at the bottom of forward fuselage, the reason why I had previously inserted plasticard inside. 

A fair amount of superglue, mixed with talcum powder, was used to fill the forward gap, as standard Tamiya putty was enough for the upper wing root.

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Landing Gear

Wheels are moulded with pants (for the earlier variant, a set of metal wheels are provided with the kit). Once the halves were glued together and trimmed down, I inserted plugs and drilled the respective holes underwing, in order to test-fit them properly. It then appeared that forward corners needed trimming for a correct attitude. Supergluing and sanding would do the rest.

The tailwheel was not provided with the kit, and had to be  scratchbuilt from sprue bits.  

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The resin engines were cleaned up, painted gunmetal, and dry brushed with aluminium Humbrol.

All 3 engine cowlings had to be used for the Air France version.  They were cut out in a quite straightforward way with the help of a punch & die set, thus allowing the maximum length to be worked. The trick is that resin engines are too small for the inner cowling diameter. In addition, the center engine cowling must have a different shape than the others. So, I inserted 2 rings of Dymo tape per cowling, and filled the gaps with superglue. This way, the cowlings could be suitably shaped and the resin engines inserted (and centered) with the help of plastic bits. The cowling lips are a bit thick but not much could be done in regard to the resin engines diameter.

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Prior to painting, cockpit and fuselage hatches were made of clear plastic, masked and white glued in place. The roof’s raised structure, which disappeared during trimming process, was reshaped using a stripe of ScotchBrand tape. The cockpit and side windows were masked inside one by one using a toothpick, and small holes were drilled all around the engine firewall sections.

The model received a coat of Tamiya AS-12 “Bare Metal Silver” spray and a toothpick inserted in the nose firewall, which was enough to hold the model in place during painting process.

After a couple of days and a masking session, a coat of Tamiya TS-15 “Blue” was sprayed. I’m not sure about the exact shade of blue but it seems fairly dark, Tamiya’s “French Blue” appearing definitely too light for that job.

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The decals are very nice and a piece of cake to apply. However, the “Pegasus” logo is way too wide, so I cut plain yellow decal discs of the suitable size, using a punch & die set, then added the “shrimp” which I had cut tight from a Welsh Models Constellation / Starliner sheet. 

Upon decalling, the model received a brushed coat of Future floor polish.

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The cockpit and cabin glazing was made of Micro Krystal Klear.

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Prior to glue the engines on, the cowlings were given a “bronze” ring from a mix of Humbrol 9 “tan”; aluminium and flat black, which was used for the exhaust pipes as well.

The metal props were cleaned up, painted silver, given orange decals stripes  (I’m not sure about the color), and brushed with Future.

I made 3 antennas and probes from stretched sprue for:

  • Right Wing

  • Radio Mast

  • Under fuselage

2 small sections of stretched sprue were added to the wingtips as navigation lights, with a touch of their respective side color.

Finally, my girlfriend kindly provided me hairs for the aerial and the amazingly mounted external tail control cables on the left fuselage.  

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1935: Croydon or Le Bourget?

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More of my building at: http://www.freewebs.com/aeroscale 

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All the shots were made using a Nikon Coolpix 4300 digital camera with manual settings and a tripod, indoor without flash.


Photos and text © by Alex Bigey