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He-51 Heinkel's Biplane Fighter and Trautloft of the Condor Legion Article & Plans
March-April 1963 American Modeler

March/April 1963 American Modeler

March / April 1963 American Modeler magazine cover Table of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like Flying Aces, Air Trails, American Modeler, American Aircraft Modeler, Young Men, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, R/C Modeler, captured the era. All copyrights acknowledged.

The Heinkel He-1 first appeared on the flight lines of German in 1933, six years before Hitler's forces invaded Poland and began World War II. Its 750 hp BMW engine dragged it along at a respectable 205 mph - a respectable speed for a biplane in that era. The range was 242 miles, which is only 121 out and back, so an auxiliary tank was fitted to extend it to 430 miles. The model in this article from a 1963 edition of American Modeler is based on a version of the He-1 that was used in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). With a 35" wingspan, this fully built-up control-line biplane is powered by a Fox .35 engine. The airframe is very robust - typical of the era - and the original was covered in silk and dope. Really nice plans and a drawing of the assembled airframe are included.

He-51 Heinkel's Biplane Fighter and Trautloft of the Condor Legion

He-51 Heinkel's Biplane Fighter and Trautloft of the Condor Legion - Airplanes and RocketsBy Walter A. Musciano

Considered by many to be one of the "classics" in fighter plane design, along with the Hawker "Fury" and Curtiss P-6E "Hawk," the Heinkel He-51 was the German Luftwaffe's first fighter. This clean biplane appeared in 1933 when the prototype underwent tests which were so successful that the craft was ordered in quantity. By 1935 it had become the standard Luftwaffe single-seat fighter. Jagdgeschwader Richthofen and Jagdgeschwader Horst Wessel were the first wings to be equipped with the He-51.

Powered by a B.M.W. twelve cylinder, Vee type, liquid cooled engine of 750 horsepower the bipe had a maximum speed of 205 miles per hour. Normal range was 242 miles, ceiling was 25,356 feet. The He-51 scaled 4,180 pounds fully loaded. All Luftwaffe Heinkels were painted silvery-gray overall.

The He-51 spearheaded the German forces in the Spanish Civil War and became part of Jagdgruppe 88 which finally consisted of thirty six Heinkels. When hundreds of Russian "Rata" and "Mosca" fighters which could out-perform the He-51 made their appearance the Heinkel was shifted to ground support duties. The Messerschmitt 109 assumed the fighter role in Spain for the Germans during the spring of 1937. When the He-51 was flown as a fighter by Hannes Trautloft it sported a silver gray color scheme. When used by Adolf Galland (see August 1961 American Modeler) as a ground attack weapon his Heinkel was covered with mottled camouflage. Combat experience in Spain dictated the use of an external auxiliary fuel tank which boosted range to 430 miles.

Our plans show the markings which appeared on the He-51 flown by Hannes Trautloft in the Spanish Civil War. In addition to this we have included the Luftwaffe colors as used by one of the Heinkels with the Geschwader Richthofen should the reader want German instead of Spanish markings.

Any glow plug engine size .29 to .49 can be installed in this one inch to the foot scale biplane. The wing area is an ample 292 square inches, so we do not worry much about excessive weight forward. Unless an extremely heavy engine is used with a short crankshaft the model balances tail heavy when completed. Screw lead weights to forward section of engine mounts or cowl interior. It is advisable to use light balsa for the tail surfaces.

Condor Legion He-51 was nosed over by Spanish pilot during landing - Airplanes and Rockets

Condor Legion He-51 was nosed over by Spanish pilot during landing. Insignia is a "black ball."

Line-up of "Richthofen Geschwader" in German Luftwaffe Heinkels - Airplanes and Rockets

Line-up of "Richthofen Geschwader" in German Luftwaffe Heinkels. Alternate color scheme is suggested for modelers flying more than one He-51 in a club.

Begin construction by tracing and cutting fuselage bulkheads and fuselage sides. Bevel inside rear of sides and join with plenty of cement. Fit in bulkheads, cement well to sides. Use clamps or rubber bands to hold the sides against bulkheads until cement dries. Slip in engine mounts followed by landing gear platform - use lotsa cement. Add bellcrank mount.

Bend landing gear struts, join the two with solder after binding joint with soft fine wire. Install gear with "J" bolts, cement around installation.

Attach lead-out wires to bellcrank, bend control rod. Pass rod through fuselage, slip end through bellcrank hole. Bolt bellcrank to mount, pass lead-out wires through fuselage holes.

Cut tail surfaces, sand to streamline section after cementing elevator halves to hardwood spar. Add control horn. Hinge elevator assembly to stab. Cement stab in cut-out atop fuselage sides. Connect rod to control horn, solder washer to both ends to hold rod in place.

Fuel tank is strapped in place, or wedged with balsa, then well cemented. Add plastic fuel line extensions - tape ends to keep out dust.

Cut lower wing ribs, cement to leading and trailing edges- lower wing can be built over plan. Cut leading edge from one solid piece of balsa for maximum strength. Cover center section with 1/16" sheet balsa; laminate tips. Cement tips and plywood strut supports to wing. Scale rib spacing enhances model's appearance and imparts strength.

Carve and sandpaper wing tips, leading edge, and trailing edge to shape; re-cement all rib joints. Cover lower wing with silk then apply four coats of clear dope. Sand lightly with fine Flex-I-Grit.

Cement lower wing to fuselage with zero incidence by fitting it into fuselage side cut-outs. When installation is dry plank fuselage top and bottom. Taper and bevel strips for good fit, use ample cement to hold strips to bulkheads and each other. Rough carve cowl block and hollow to clear engine mounts. Cement block to bulkhead. When dry, carve cowl and fuselage to sections shown. Sand smooth. Add fin and rudder; offset rudder. Fillet lower wing and tail with several coats of cement.

Wheel covers are optional. Some Heinkel Staffels often flew without them. Cut landing gear- fairing from 1/4" sheet balsa, cement in place. Carve radiator, attach to fuselage between landing gear fairings. Fillet with several coats of cement. Apply three coats of Filler Coat to all wood parts then sand well.

Cut hardwood cabane struts then sand to streamlined section. Sharpen ends, mark locations on fuselage. Pierce the fuselage until struts are in place. Remove, cement, replace. Add several cement coats around strut attachments. Add Balsa Filler Coat to the fuselage and tail. While each coat is drying work on upper wing.

Unlike lower one, upper wing has dihedral so three-section leading edge is cemented to plywood joiner. When dry cement in ribs. Construction continues as for lower wing except a lead weight is firmly cemented in outboard tip. Dope four coats of clear over silk covering.

When wood surfaces of fuselage and tail have been well sealed, sand smooth with 10/0 Flex-I-Grit. Upper wing is attached. Its main supports are 1/16" music wire struts. Bend accurately with small loops on ends for screws. Cut a small section of silk on upper surfaces of both wings to reach plywood strut supports. Attach wire to lower wing with round head wood screws. Mark off cabane strut locations on underside of upper wing. Make holes to receive sharpened ends of cabane struts.

Additional construction data appears on Hobby Helpers' plans.


The cooperation of Mr. A. E. Ferko and his extensive knowledge of military aviation history was indispensable in the preparation of this article and is sincerely appreciated by the author.

Heinkel He-1 Biplane Assembly Drawing - Airplanes and Rockets

Heinkel He-1 Biplane Assembly Drawing

<click for larger version>

Heinkel He-1 Biplane Plans - Airplanes and Rockets

Heinkel He-1 Biplane Plans

<click for larger version>


Trautloft of the Condor Region

When the government of Spain fell into the hands of Communists, Francisco Franco launched a military revolution from Morocco in an attempt to seize control of the country. This civil war action expanded into international proportions as the then Fascist nations of Germany and Italy supported the revolution and Communist Russia helped the Loyalist government. The three parties poured men and machines into Spain on a "voluntary" basis. Thus the Spanish Civil War became the testing ground for military equipment and tactical theory of three major European powers.

As was to be expected much secrecy surrounded the movement of foreign soldiers into Spain. Luftwaffe personnel drafted for service in Spain were sent to Special Branch "W" in Berlin where they were given civilian clothes, papers, and Spanish money. Upon their arrival in Spain they were issued olive brown uniforms which resembled the outfits worn by the insurgents. All mail to these men was addressed to "Max Winkler, Berlin S.W. 68" then secretly forwarded to German bases in Spain. Length of service in the combat area was three to six months. Many Luftwaffe leaders such as Galland, Moelders, Lutzow, and Trautloft received "for real" training while aiding General Franco. It was the German policy to send only their most promising officers to Spain. When these battle veterans returned home they became combat instructors and leaders.

The German "voluntary" contingent in Spain was called the "Condor Legion," aircraft and pilots were its most important part. On August 7, 1936 the freighter "Usaramo' from Hamburg steamed into the harbor at Cadiz with the first German pilots of the "Condor Legion." Also aboard were six crated Heinkel He-51 fighter planes of the new Luftwaffe. In addition the "Usararno" carried spare parts for Junkers transports (flown to Spain via Italy). As the six pilots went ashore they were identified as Leutnants von Houwald, Hester, and Kleine, and Oberleutnants Eberhard, Knuppel and Trautloft. The last was destined for fame.

Hannes Trautloft was born on March 3, 1912 in Thuringia, a large expanse of fertile farmland known as the "Green Heart" of Germany. After attending high school and technical school he joined the army. Hannes soon transferred to the secret Luftwaffe which was being organized despite World War One treaties. By the time Hitler revealed his new air force to the world, Trautloft had reached the rank of Oberleutnant. Then he was sent to Spain for combat experience.

Under the comman dof Eberhard the six man air force went into action on August 25. On this day Trautloft scored his "team's" first kill by shooting down a Breguet. The staffers leader also scored during this encounter. On the following day two more Loyalists were downed by these "Condor Legion" pilots. From August through October 1936 these six Germans plus a handful of poorly trained and equipped Spaniards bore the brunt of the aerial fighting for General Franco's revolutionary government. Five days after going into combat Trautloft was forced to bail out of his Heinkel. Two days later, back in action with another He-51, he destroyed a Nieuport fighter.

The arrival in Spain of scores of new Russian "Mosca" and "Rata" fighters spelled the doom of the Heinkel He-51.

On December 9 the first Messerschmitt 109B arrived in Spain and was assigned to Trautloft. He promptly had his mechanic paint a green heart on its fuselage as symbolic of his native Thuringia. This new type Messerschmitt was plagued by many mechanical malfunctions but Trautloft patiently tested the craft on combat patrols. His reports paved the way for the 109's later success. He returned to Germany in Spring 1937 to resume his work in the Luftwaffe. It was at this time that the Messerschmitt appeared in Spain in substantial quantity.

Trautloft was commanding Gruppe III of Geschwader No. 51 at the outbreak of World War Two. His unit saw extensive action throughout the campaign in the low countries and the defeat of France. During one encounter Trautloft's Gruppe III destroyed seven Boulton-Paul Defiants and the myth about the effectiveness of these battle planes.

Trautloft was advanced to the command of his own Geschwader and became the Kommodore of Jg-54 on August 25, 1940. After serving through the "Battle of Britain," he and his Geschwader moved to the Eastern Front for the attack on Russia. The unit was equipped with Messerschmitt 109F fighters; each plane sported a green heart with a white outline painted on its fuselage under the cockpit. When the signal to attack was given on June 22, 1941 the, "Green Hearts" were the first to cross the border at 3 :00 A.M. By late afternoon many missions had been flown and the Kommodore had bagged his first Russian bomber. During the first four days of battle 500 Russian planes were destroyed. By September 17 the "Green Hearts" destroyed 1,300 Red planes and by April 1942, 2,000. Trautloft had been awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross on July 27, 1941 after his twentieth victory.

Under Major Trautloft's leadership Jg-54 continued its phenomenal record and attained four thousand victories by February 1943. Hans Phillip with 205 victories and Walter Nowotny with 258 enemy planes destroyed were among the high scorers of Jg-54. The "Green Hearts" had shot down 9,200 opposition aircraft by the end of the war; they were second only to Jg-77.

In Fall 1943 Oberst Trautloft had been promoted to the office of "Inspector of Fighters East." Along with General Galland and Major Lutzow he tried everything to stem the tide of destructive Allied bombings which were increasing daily. During this period Trautloft was able to do little combat flying but he did fly on inspection patrols with Gen. Galland. Early in 1945 the three leaders were aghast at the manner in which Hermann Goering and Hitler took charge of Germany's fighter force mismanaging the entire aerial defense operation.

When Hitler and Goering assigned the Messerschmitt 262 Jet Fighter to bombing duties the trio protested vigorously in what was called the "mutiny of the fighters". Result was that Galland, Lutzow and Trautloft were removed from their posts by Goering.

Trautloft emerged from the conflict with 53 official victories. Today Gen. Hannes Trautloft, Inspector General of the West German Air Force, is applying his skill - for the third time in three decades - against the threat of Communist air armadas!



The AMA Plans Service offers a full-size version of many of the plans show here at a very reasonable cost. They will scale the plans any size for you. It is always best to buy printed plans because my scanner versions often have distortions that can cause parts to fit poorly. Purchasing plans also help to support the operation of the Academy of Model Aeronautics - the #1 advocate for model aviation throughout the world. If the AMA no longer has this plan on file, I will be glad to send you my higher resolution version.

Try my Scale Calculator for Model Airplane Plans.



Posted November 24, 2012

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