by: Tim Hatton [ ]
The Renard R-31 was designed as a reconnaissance aircraft, but is notable for being the only Belgian designed aircraft used by Aéronautique Militaire used against the German invasion of 1940. Alfred Renard designed the R-31 in 1931. The prototype flown by Charles Rooms on 16th October 1932 was powered by a Rolls Royce kestrel engine. The second prototype was fitted with a Lorraine Pétrel engine, but it proved unsuccessful during tests. An initial order for 28 aircraft was placed in march 1932. The production aircraft varied slightly from the prototype having a 2° dihedral and an improved oil tank. Production started in 1934 and a further six aircraft were ordered.
At least one airframe N21 was fitted with a hook beneath the fuselage to retrieve pouches from the ground. Airfames N2 and N 18 were modified as trainers and were based at Wewelgem Flight School. The two aircraft were probably later re-modified back to the standard cockpit configuration. Airframe N10 and another unidentified airframe were modified and designated R-32.They had more powerful Gnome et Rhône and Hispano-Suiza engines to improve high altitude performance. Also for crew comfort the cockpits were enclosed. Problems with engine fires meant that the trial was abandoned and the airframes reverted back to standard. The R-32 was never produced.
The R-31 served with the 9th Escadrille “Blue Sioux” and the 11th Escadrille “Red Sioux” based at Bierset, Liege in 1940. They had eleven and twelve R-31’s each respectively. May 1940 saw the “Blue Sioux” moving over to Duras, before moving to Steenokkerzeel. With the invasion the squadron utilised many bases including Grimbergen, Hemiksem, Nieuwkerken-Wass and Zwevezeel. Finally while based at Lombarsijde on May 26th two aircraft were lost on landing. Inevitably when Belgium surrendered the remaining four R-31’s were destroyed by their crews. The “Red Sioux” left Bierset for Hannut on May 10th, then relocated to Hingene and Peutie on the 11th, Ursel on the 16th, Zwevezeele on the 20th and finally to Steene, Ostende by the 26th. Two days later Belgian troops sabotaged the five remaining R-31’s following the nations surrender. The 9th and 11th Escadrilles completed twenty six and twenty three operational missions respectively in support of the allied forces.
Whilst no Renard R-31 survived the May 1940 campaign, construction of a replica aircraft commenced in 2018 using original Renard plans.
Source Azur Frrom
Inside the top opening box you will find:
●2 x grey injected plastic sprues.
●1 x small clear plastic sprue.
●1 x small photo etched fret.
●1 x decal sheet..
●1 x 12 page instruction manual.
The cockpit consists of separate parts for the floor, two seats, rudder bars, control sticks and instrument panels. The instrument panel has raised and indented detail representing the instruments. The seats have unpainted photo etched harnesses which is a great inclusion. Gilles Fontaine from Frrom informs me that the R-31 had dual controls. The control stick for the observer was removed and placed somewhere on the side of the fuselage for storage. The inside of the fuselage halves have raised detail representing the frame. There are four recessed ejector pin marks around the cockpit sides, but they won’t look obvious once the fuselage halves are joined. The machine gun for the observer is nicely represented. There are photo etched details such as sights and handles to attach. There is also a gun sight for the pilot created as a photo etched part. The cockpit area is finished off with a couple of windscreens made from injected clear plastic. There are also a couple photo etched steps for crew access into the cockpit.
The fuselage is well moulded with some fine raised and recessed detail. The finesse of the exhaust stubs and fasteners are worth noting. The large under fuselage radiator is broken down into four parts. The front and rear of the radiator grill is detailed in plastic. One disappointment with my sample is that the shape of the propeller blades is inconsistent. Some light sanding may rectify the problem.
The parasol wing is full span and is split into upper and lower halves. The tape is represented by raised lines and thankfully the canvas wing does not have the scalloped look that many manufactures seem to think represents the look of stretched fabric on an aircraft. There is a good indentation where the single fuselage attachment point locates. The area where the wing struts fit is designed to provide plenty of contact area when gluing. The struts for both the main wing and horizontal stabilisers are paired making life a lot easier when attaching them. There are a couple of photo etched aileron actuators to attach. The horizontal stabilisers are both one piece as is the separate rudder. There is photo etched part that forms the attachment point for the cables to the rudder. You may want to attach a couple of control cables for the rudder, the instructions provides details for their fitting.
The under carriage on the real thing is quite chunky and it is represented very well here. The wheels are one piece and there is some good detail on the hubs. The tail has a skid. Attention to detail is obvious; there is even a plastic turbine with a choice of alternate photo etched blades to attach to the leg.
The small piece of brass has many of the smaller details on it. The straps for the seats look very good as do the gun sights.
The instructions are in colour making for a much easier build. The build guide takes you through twenty three stages so there are no diagrams with masses of parts to sort out and decipher where they go. The markings instructions are in colour so that’s handy for differentiating your brushed aluminium from your brushed dope. Colour callouts are for Mr Color and Mr Hobby / Gunze Sangyo.
Marking Options and Decals
There are three marking options including:
●Renard R-31 – N12 9th Escadrille, January to May 1940
●Renard R-31 – N9 personal aircraft of Cne Paul Henry de la Lindi. Commander of 11th Escadrille. January to May 1940. Paul Henry de la Lindi managed to escape to England. He later returned to Belgium to set up the resistance fight. He was executed by the Germans May 31st 1943 in Liége.
●Renard R-31 – N18 Wewelghem flying school. Training aircraft with dual controls.
Gilles Fontaine the owner of Frrom contacted Aeroscale as there needs to be an adjustment to the application of the Squadron badges on options one and two. The badge with the red surround should be on 11th Escadrille aircraft [opt 2] not on the 9th Escadrille one [opt 1]. The opposite is also true: the badge with the blue surround should be on the 9th Escadrille R-31 [opt 1] not the 11th Escadrille aircraft [opt 2].
The decals are unbranded, the colour density looks good and they look thin and glossy. The definition of the white coloured stencils is not great; it looks as if the colour has bled.
Fairly straight forward really, I did start off by soaking all the sprues and the photo etched fret in soapy warm water overnight. The plastic is quite soft so be careful when separating the parts from the sprue. Don’t make the cut too close to the parts and sand off the excess. The one thing worth noting is the part for the cockpit illustrated [Part B1] doesn’t not bare much resemblance to the actual part. The windscreen for the pilot was bit vague so not sure if that’s in the right position. Because of the scale some of the photo etched parts can be challenging to use. I have to admit I did not use them all. Other than that the kit went together very well. I used only extra thin cement for the plastic parts and super glue for the photo etched parts.
You will be hard pushed to spot the difference between this short run kit compared to some of the kits from the bigger manufactures. The only real difference is the lack of locating pins. The quality of the detail is very good indeed; I particularly like the look of the exhausts and the tape on the wing surfaces rather than the usual scalloped look to represent stretched canvas. The fit of parts is generally very good. All in all this is a very good looking release of an unusual subject.