The Heinkel He 177 was a German WW2 four-engined heavy bomber, built by Ernst Heinkel's aircraft company. What was unusual about this machine was the arrangement of the engines - with two coupled-Daimler Benz engines, each side driving a single propeller through a shared gearbox. Because of this, the He 177 - although in fact four-engined - looked like a twin-engined aircraft.
In 1938 the RLM issued a specification for a long-range heavy bomber suitable for anti-shipping operations. Heinkel's submission included many advanced features, including paired-engines driving a single propeller shaft and remote-controlled gun turrets. These were later abandoned in favour of manned turrets and, together with structural changes which increased the weight (stemming from the requirement for this large aircraft to perform dive-bombing), caused major adverse effects on the original optimistic performance predictions for the He 177.
The advanced design and construction of the He 177 looked good on paper, but that was about all. The aircraft proved extremely delicate and unpleasant to fly for its crews, and the most serious problems were only solved after it had entered service. The first prototype was powered by 2 x 2700hp BMW 606 (paired BMW 601s) and made its maiden flight in November 1939. Soon engine overheating problems set in; the 2nd and 4th machines broke up in the air, while the engines of the 5th caught fire and caused the aircraft to crash. Similar faults in later prototypes earned the He 177 the nicknames "Flaming Coffin", "Reich's Torch", or "Reich's Cigarette Lighter".
Despite its unreliable powerplants and other faults, work proceeded on the pre-production He 177A-0 and series production He 177A. Recommendations for changes to the powerplants were ignored until more than 100 aircraft had been completed. Around a thousand He 177s of all versions were built. Along with the bomber versions, a few machines were employed for long range reconnaissance.
The problems with the coupled engines were never entirely overcome and this technology proved beyond the practical reach of all the various attempts of the period (e.g. Bristol Brabazon or Saunders Roe Princess). In 1944 a version was proposed with a conventional arrangement of four engines and few test aircraft built. However it didn't enter production. In France, Farman undertook further development of the He 177 as the He 274 High-Altitude Bomber. The maiden flight only took place after liberation as the A.A.D-01A in July 1945.
Source: Wikipedia http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinkel_He_177. I also recommend Helmut Stubner's book "Das Kampfflugzeug Heinkel He 177" (German text). Although it's very dry reading - I'm not far into it - it's very informative.
The kit shows clearly how much MPM have improved over recent years. Almost all parts are produced in styrene, with only the air intakes under the engines and two MG 151s cast in resin. I was particularly impressed by the fuselage and wing parts. They are absolutely free of warping - and the wing already has a nice built-in dihedral (beginning outboard of the engine nacelles) . The thickness of the plastic is about 1mm, but I prefer that. Quality ranges from good to very good. It's only a small criticism, but the surface feels slightly rough. To avoid any misunderstanding here: the parts are absolutely even and smooth, but one can feel a feel a roughness with one's finger. If it's annoying, you can polish the model in a few minutes with fine steel wool.
Although they might appear somewhat distorted, the proportions of the pictures are correct! Each wing has a length of approximately 3/4 the length of the fuselage, so the total span is huge.
The cockpit (to which 9 of the 29 building steps are devoted ) looks good - certainly better than Trumpeter kits, but not quite up to the quality of Revell's Ju 52. Because of the "all plastic" assembly, you can't help but be curious what accessories the MPM group CMK will bring out. All that's really needed are seat belts, but in the interests of a good appearance, I'll definitely buy a resin cockpit (should there ever be one).
Back to the kit. The small parts are well moulded, but without the finesse of Far Eastern manufacturers. As already mentioned, the quality is a quantum leap over, for example, MPM's Fw 189. The kit also includes a few parts which are destined for further versions (maybe He 177 A-3 or earlier). Illustrated in the instructions is another tail turret which, but it isn't included in the kit (parts D1 & D2).
One should pay attention to separating the parts from the sprues. It's preferable to cut some distance away from each part and then clean up with a scalpel or file. This causes no problems, since the plastic is quite soft and easily worked.
The kit includes decals by AviPrint for two colour schemes:
1. Heinkel He 177 A-5 of 6./KG 100, Toulouse-Blagnc 1944
2. Heinkel He 177 A-5, in night camouflage, of 5./KG 100, 1944
A colour illustration is included for these on which the camouflage schemes are well illustrated. Decal sheet 1 is well printed and shows no mis-registration (it's only the Balkenkreuzen which could show this). Unfortunately, Sheet 2 - predominantly red - is rather different. Both the fuel and oil symbols are badly mis-aligned. Their colours are rather strange too. Fuel-type markings should be yellow, but here they are orange. Similarly, the oil triangles, which should be brown but are are printed olive green, but this is easier to get over than the octane symbols.
Since no after market decals have appeared for the Fw 200 yet, I hold out no great hopes of seeing anything for the Greif in the future. At least a nice version is included in "Nachtbomber W.Nr 001" by Owl, and you can read the accompanying history for it in Jet und Prop 6/97 (German text).
So far I've taken no measurements for scale. I'm slightly afraid of discovering a similar disaster to the (Trumpeter) Condor. I'm a bit worried by the very short wing supporting tabs and the lack of any sort of spar running right through. You'll really have to do something here to be on the safe side.
The kit makes a very good impression straight from the box. If accessories do come out for the Greif, it's scary to think what price bracket they'll push the kit into. But since a beautiful model can be built from the kit as it stands, it is definitely worthy of recommendation!
(Editor's note: This article can be read in its original form complete with a list of German references on IPMS.de
. While I've tried hard to translate the text correctly, I apologise for any errors.)