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First Look Review
Heinkel He 51B
  • CA_He51_Boxtop

by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Originally published on:

Classic Airframes has revisited old territory with an all-new tooling replacement for one of their earliest kits - the Heinkel He 51B. Comparing the two models shows just how much semi-short run technology has progressed since the original kit appeared in 1996, with new kit being moulded much more cleanly in more easily worked styrene - all in all, it promises to be a simpler build, relying less on mixed-media parts and comparing closer to mainstream kits. That said, it's important to underline that this is still a limited run kit, so it will require some extra skill and patience on the part of the modeller.

Classic Airframes' new He 51B comprises:

73 x grey styrene parts
5 x resin
1 x injected windscreen
Decals for 6 x colour schemes

The kit appears to have been produced for Classic Airframes by the MPM group, which is a great choice in my opinion because, if nothing else, they are past-masters at handling fabric surfaces. This is a really fine example with a drum-tight rear fuselage and subtle flying surfaces. Panel detail is neatly engraved with a few embossed fasteners. The moulding is pretty clean with just a whisper of flash here and there on some of the smaller parts. I couldn't find any sinkage or other flaws on my kit and preparation should largely be restricted to trimming off a few raised ejector pin marks that will otherwise interfere with the fit.

A full test fit was impossible, but the fuselage halves line up perfectly and the full span lower wing should provide a sturdy foundation for the biplane. I couldn't resist digging Classic Airframe's original kit out of the stash and, in terms of overall dimensions and exterior finish, the two models are remarkably similar - a good sign that they did a good job first time around. Where the kits do differ is that the old fuselage halves were rather warped in my kit. There's no such problem in the new tooling - everything is dead straight.

The cockpit is simply, but effectively, detailed. The instruments are styrene, but with quite good detail and the resin seat features a moulded-on harness. Oddly, the old kit had etched instrument panels and a separate seat harness which many modellers might prefer to the items provided here.

Assembly seems quite simple for a kit of this nature. Nice touches are separate ailerons and rudder and the exhausts which feature hollow ends to the individual stacks. There's an optional long-range fuel tank and the undercarriage with resin mainwheels is a definite improvement over the rather "clunky" moulded parts in the old kit.

Instructions and decals
The assembly diagrams are clearly drawn and laid out, and a pair of very helpful rigging diagrams are included. Classic Airframes don't recommend any particular brand of model paints, including generic colour names and RLM matches where appropriate.

A real stand-out point of the kit is the set of decal options - a virtual who's who of Kondor Legion pilots and their mounts. All the schemes are included in Classic Airframes' "Jagdwaffe - Vol. 1, Section 2 - The Spanish Civil War" and, barring occasional minor details, the kit camouflage diagrams match the photos closely.

1.He 51B, 2-98, Lt. Kurt Strümpell, 3.J/88, circa February 1938
2.He 51B, 2-64, Oblt. Harro Harder, 1.J/88, summer 1938
3.He 51B, 2-78, Oblt. Adolf Galland, 3.J/88, spring 1938
4.He 51B, 2-102, Dr. Heinrich Neumann, 3.J/88, early 1938
5.He 51B, 2-85, Dr. Heinrich Neumann, 3.J/88, circa December 1937
6.He 51B, 2-94, Oblt. Hannes Trautloft, Escalona, circa August 1936

The decals are beautifully printed in Italy. The items are thin and glossy with crystal-clear carrier film and the registration is spot-on in my kit.

Classic Airframes' new Heinkel He 51B is a fine limited-run kit that should appeal to modellers with a bit of experience who are interested in Golden Age aircraft and the Spanish Civil War. A second kit, # 4143 is available featuring the spectacular "traditional colours" worn by early units in the reborn Luftwaffe.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.

Highs: A cleanly moulded and nicely detailed semi-short run kit. A set of beautifully printed decals for really great Kondor Legion schemes.
Lows: Like any kit of this type, it's not suitable for beginners.
Verdict: Perhaps with the exception of the moulded instrument panels and harness (as against the etched parts of the original), Classic Airframes' new-tooling He 51B improves over their old version and it's great to see this important aircraft available again.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: 4149
  Suggested Retail: £25.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Aug 25, 2008

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 ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


What a beautiful aircraft ... man I hope I find a possibility to raise some money in the near future. The kit looks good too ... woohoo (sorry just became aware of the excessive use of "oo" in my short sentence ) As always very good review .. have you dropped the percentage quotation (not that it makes the review better or worse, just curious) all the best Steffen
AUG 25, 2008 - 06:34 AM
Hi Steffen Thanks for spotting that - I simply forgot. It is a neat kit - but sitting it side by side with the original version shows that really wasn't bad either, and I wish the designers had included the nice etched instrument panel etc. again. I can't wait to have a crack at some Spanish Civil War camo! All the best Rowan
AUG 25, 2008 - 06:45 AM

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Click image to enlarge
  • CA_He51_Parts_2
  • CA_He51_Parts_1
  • CA_He51_Clear
  • CA_He51_Seat
  • CA_He51_Wheels
  • CA_He51_Decals
  • CA_He51_Colour_1
  • CA_He51_Colour_2
  • CA_He51_Surface
  • CA_He51_Floor
  • CA_He51_Instruments_1
  • CA_He51_Instruments_2
  • CA_He51_Propeller
  • CA_He51_Exhausts