In-Box Review
Messerschmitt Me 309

by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

The Me 309 was planned to have 85% greater range and 25% higher speed than the Bf 109F. The new aircraft also incorporated a retractable radiator and a pressurised cockpit with better visibility than its predecessor. As well as a new thin wing, the new aircraft featured a wide-track tricycle landing gear which, it was hoped, would overcome the inherent weakness of the Bf 109's undercarriage.

From the first taxi-ing trials in June 1942, the Me 309 was beset with problems. The new landing gear was directionally unstable, while the fin and rudder needed redesign. A month later, a short first flight revealed that the new cooling system was also inadequate and, to add to the problems, the undercarriage hydraulics failed.

Further flights highlighted serious instability problems and a series of alterations was made to try to improve the aircraft. These included the tailplane, ailerons and undercarriage but, despite the effort, Fritz Wendel, Messerschmitt's chief test-pilot, still thought the Me 309 was unsuitable for service and offered few advantages over the Bf 109. His opinions were confirmed by trials at E-Stelle Rechlin in November 1942 and a mock dogfight, in which a Bf 109G easily out-turned the new fighter, only added to the embarrassment.

Following a series of accidents, by 1943 the Me 309 was seen as little more than a flying test-bed. It was clear that the amount of re-design needed was totally impractical and there was no longer any realistic chance it would replace the Bf 109. Anyway, Messerschmitt had something far more potent in development - the Me 262...

The Kit
Bear in mind that this a short-run kit, so it won't "build itself", but this is pretty much at the cutting edge of low-pressure injection moulding. The model includes two styles of vertical tail; the later, large, tail is moulded integrally with the fuselage, while the 1st prototype's smaller fin and rudder are separate parts.

34 x Plastic Parts
20 x Resin Parts
1 x Vacuformed Canopy (plus spare)
Decals for 2 aircraft

Plastic Parts
The main parts are well moulded in mid-grey plastic. The surface is very clean, with beautifully engraved panel lines that make some of the "major's" look clumsy by comparison. There is very little flash on the review sample and the sprue attachments are impressively thin for a kit of this type. I found just two flaws on my model; the spinner has a small sink mark and an ejector pin causes a slight blemish on the fuselage - neither problem will take more than a minute or two to fix.

The smaller parts are neatly detailed and clean-up should be quick and easy. The landing gear legs look good and the doors are nice and thin with rib and rivet detail on the inside. The wheels are neatly moulded and it's really just a matter of personal preference whether to use these or the resin replacements provided.

Test Fit
A quick test-fit of the plastic parts is very encouraging. The fuselage halves are moulded perfectly straight and the fit is excellent. As far as I can tell by eye, the alternative tail will match the fuselage well enough but, obviously, fitting it isn't a job to be hurried. The wings have a couple of ejector pins which look like they'll interfere with the wheel-well inserts but the trailing edges are nice and thin. The wings attach to the fuselage with a simple butt-joint, so a little extra care will be necessary to ensure the correct dihedral.

Resin Parts
The kit includes a neat set of True Details resin parts.The cockpit consists of a finely detailed tub, which fits the fuselage without trimming off its moulding-block, plus a seat with moulded-on harness and separate control column and rudder pedals. The instrument panel has very nice detail which should look great when painted.

The resin exhausts are "hollowed out" - very impressive, although one stack was so thin it was in danger of breaking open.

The nosewheel well is beautifully cast with hose-lines and clamping mechanism, along with a delicate retraction strut. The mainwheel-well inserts have some sidewall detail moulded on and will probably need sanding down before they'll fit.

As mentioned earlier, resin wheels are included. These are "weighted" and have slightly different hub detail to the plastic parts. I have no references to say which are correct - maybe both are, as the original aircraft underwent a number of modifications in its lifetime.

Clear Parts
The kit includes a very clear vacuformed canopy (and Czech Model thoughtfully provide a spare in case of accidents). Compared with the reference photo included in the instructions, the kit canopy looks a little too square head-on and lacks the central frame running front-to-back on the top of the hinged section. A strip of decal or tape will provide an easy fix for the missing frame, and many modellers may just "leave well alone" concerning the shape - although it's tempting to use the spare provided as a basis for a vacuformed or plug-moulded replacement.

Instructions & decals
The assembly diagrams are easy to follow. No mention is made of weighting the nose, but I'd err on the safe side and add some weight to avoid tail-siting. The colour notes give RLM references throughout and the painting diagrams are very clear. The decals look excellent; they are printed in perfect register and are glossy and very thin with minimal carrier film. The swastikas are "politically correct" and are broken into halves - a bit of a pain, but still better than none.

While the original aircraft was fairly dismal, Czech Model's kit of the Me 309 is a very neat indeed. The good quality plastic and resin parts make it an ideal starter for anyone trying a short-run model for the first time. Luftwaffe fans should love this as a chance to fill a gap in the ranks - even just tacked together, the model looks great sat next to a Bf 109.

Thank you to MMD-Squadron for kindly supplying the review sample.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on ARMORAMA
Messerschmitt began work on a replacement for the Bf 109 in early 1941. At that time the Bf 109F was entering service and it's shortcomings of limited range and relatively light armament were already apparent. It was already clear that the Bf 109 was reaching the limit of its design potential, so the development of a successor was becoming something of a priority.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: 4807
  Suggested Retail: $21.92
  PUBLISHED: Nov 16, 2004

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright 2021 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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