Bill Geoghegan Reviews

Review of Halinski's Messerschmitt Bf-109E ("Emil")

Halinski Bf-109 Cover art

Bf-109 Starboard View  Bf-109 Port View  Bf-109 Nose View
Bf-109 Profile  Bf-109 Rear view  Bf-109 Cockpit  Bf-109 Bottom View

Click on a thumbnail for a larger image

Model: Messerschmitt Bf-109E-4/N of JG 26, flown by Adolf Galland (Battle of Britain, 1940)
Kit: Halinski Kit No. 1/99
Scale: 1:33
Price: US $6.95 Plus S&H from Paper Models International
Difficulty: Difficult (4 out of 5)
Number of parts:  Approximately 240
Time required: About 75 hours, working slowly and deliberately, and with time allowed for reproducing and practice building some of the trickier components.
Instructions: The instructions are in Polish, and they are very brief. Some of the more important points can be teased out with the aid of material on the translation page at Saul Jacob's Card/Paper Model Pages Web site. Translation assistance by Strange (a member of the CardModelers mailing list) was crucial in helping me understand the unusual wing construction for this model. (I would have gotten it completely wrong without his help.) He has generously offered to make a complete translation of the instructions available on Saul Jacob's Web site.
Diagrams: Good. They occupy two 44cm x 66cm sheets. Cockpit detail is excellent. There is a need for more detailed information on fuselage, propeller, and wing construction, which is almost completely absent.
Fit: Outstanding. The fit is very accurate and extremely tight, requiring careful cutting and dryfitting before assembly. If this is done, almost no adjustment or correction for poor fit or alignment should be needed. The fit is so precise, in fact, that it creates something of a problem when assembling the cockpit canopy, whose design makes no allowance for different possible thicknesses of glazing material. But from an overall engineering standpoint, this is the most impressive aircraft model I've worked with so far.
Coloring and Artwork: Outstanding. The model has incredibly fine detailing, including all labels, panel replacement numbers, latches, etc. There is extensive weathering, including wear and tear on the finish, gunfire residue, oil leaks and stains, etc. The model conveys the impression of a plane that's seen a tremendous amount of action. Row after row of mission markings on the tail bear this out. The cover artwork is worth framing. Jaroslaw Wrobel must be one of the best aviation artists working today.
Printing: Very good, and produced with an excellent quality of cardstock. I did notice a slight variation in color between two of the printed sheets, which creates a slight problem where parts from different sheets butt directly against one another. Color saturation also seems too low throughout, leading to a finish that seems too dull throughout.
Resources: Extensive material on the Bf-109 is available on the Web, including drawings, photos, videos, animations, and detailed write-ups that cover almost every variant produced. A sampling of some of the sites I found useful, either for their content, their links, or both, include a walkaround of the Bf-109-E at Hendon's Battle of Britain museum, courtesy of the Swedish IPMS; Andreas Goldmann's extensive reference material on the BF-109; and, of course, the Virtual Aircraft Museum. Cockpit detail can be found at (which features an interactive cockpit animation), and at the Luftwaffe Resources Group's Bf-109 site (the LRG is part of the Warbirds Resources Group). Printed material on the Bf-109 is widely available through almost any library, hobby shop, or chain bookseller. I did find particularly useful Francis K. Mason's German Warplanes of World War II (Crescent Books, New York, 1983), which has an excellent drawing of an E-7 and a detailed internal construction diagram for an E-4.

Background:   The Messerschmitt Bf-109 was born in response to a design specification issued in 1933 by the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (hence the "Bf" in "Bf-109"). The winning Messerschmitt design first flew in 1935, powered, ironically, by a British Rolls-Royce engine. The Jumo 210A, which had been designated in the design spec, was not available in time for initial flight trials. Between the time it first took off and the end of World War II, some 35,000 Bf-109s in dozens of major and minor variants had been produced, making it one of the most extensively produced planes of the war. The Bf-109 by itself accounted for approximately two-thirds of Germany's single seat fighter production during the conflict.

The Bf-109 E series ("Emil"), upon which the Halinski kit is based, first appeared in 1938; and it became the mainstay of the Luftwaffe until the end of the Battle of Britain, when it was superseded by the much improved F series. The Emil was severely handicapped by its limited range (about 450 miles, or 660 km), and by a relative lack of manoeuverability compared to the Spitfire that it encountered over England. The Bf-109E faced a very different situation in Britain than it did against the Eastern European airforces it fought against in the opening days of the war.

Armament of the Bf-109E-4 consisted of two nose-mounted 7.9mm machine guns, two wing-mounted 20mm cannon and, optionally, a 250 kg bomb. It was powered by a DB601N engine developing 1200 hp, and had a top speed of about 350 mph (555 kph) with a ceiling of 34500 feet (10500 meters).

The Halinski kit:   Halinski's Bf-109 is nothing less than a work of art. Andrzej Domadzierski has designed other fine models for Halinski (including a very nicely done U.S. submarine), but this one is a true masterpiece. The subject is perfect: a Battle of Britain Bf-109E flown by Adolf Galland, one of the most innovative and successful Luftwaffe officers of World War II. The fit of the components is as close to perfect as one could want, thanks to computer-aided design techniques; the sophisticated detailing outclasses anything one can find in the plastic world; and the weathering is of a quality that would be nearly impossible to reproduce in any other medium. The kit represents an amazing combination of technology and art. Of course, the builder is necessarily constrained by the designer's rendering of detail, coloring and weathering; and one's creativity will have to be expressed through the quality of construction, finishing details, and presentation. Halinski's kit gives the experienced modeler more than enough to work with in these areas.

If it is not already obvious, this is not a kit for the beginner. The part count (about 240) may seem insignificant for those whose card modeling addiction runs toward maritime subjects, where a single model may require several thousands of parts. But this number of parts is on the high side for a World War II single engine fighter, and the precise design and detailing require extreme care in cutting, shaping and fitting in order to achieve optimum results. The surface of the Bf-109 was covered with a myriad of small bumps and bulges, for example, especially on the nose and wings; and this kit reproduces them faithfully in the form of numerous small parts that need to be cut, shaped and mated to otherwise smooth surfaces. Beveling the cut edges with fine sandpaper, for example, is a good way to avoid the appearance of a "paper bump" glued to another paper surface; but it's probably not something for a beginner to start with.

In general, I would recommend this kit only to someone who has built at least two or three other aircraft models in the same scale, and who feels comfortable working with numerous small parts that build up into similarly miniature sub-assemblies. The gun sight, for example, is about 2-3mm wide, 4mm deep and perhaps 5mm tall. It is built out of five paper components (all but one of which have to be carefully folded, rounded and glued), along with a tiny piece of clear film (not included) for the half-silvered mirror! I was ready for a tweezer implant by the time I was done with it.

Construction notes:   A full set of illustrated construction notes covering the Halinski Bf-109E can be found on my Card Model Reviews Web site.

Summary:   Halinski's Bf-109E is a delightful model to build, and is about as true to the original as any aircraft kit I have built to date -- paper, wood or plastic. It is immensely satisfying to complete a kit like this, and to reflect on the fact that it is made out of nothing but paper, along with a few pieces of well-hidden wire, some clear film lifted from an envelope, and a few inches of thread. If I have a complaint, it's that I wish the printing had been up to the level of the design and artwork. Not that there's anything seriously wrong with the printing. It's rather that the artwork and design together demand superb reproduction, and for this kit the printing is "merely" excellent.

This is not a kit for the novice. But it will reward the experienced builder -- and it will reward him or her very, very handsomely.

Bill Geoghegan

Copyright © 2001 by William H. Geoghegan

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This page was created by:
Saul H. Jacobs M.Ed.
Avionics Specialist, United States Air Force (Retired)
Microcomputer Technology, Pima Community College (Retired)
Tucson Arizona
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