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Potez 540

SMER 1/72 Potez 540 Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review September 2007 Manufacturer SMER
Subject Potez 540 Scale 1/72
Kit Number SR846 (167) Primary Media Styrene
Pros All-styrene kit, nice detailing throughout Cons  
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $13.95

First Look

Potez 540
Potez 540
Potez 540
Potez 540
Potez 540
Potez 540
Potez 540

The Potez 540 was a French multipurpose aircraft. The first aircraft of the series was a Potez 540, built by aircraft constructor Henry Potez as a private venture, which first flew on November 14, 1933. It had two 690-hp Hispano-Suiza 12Xbrs liquid-cooled engines, a high parasol metal wing with fabric covering and all-wood fuselage. There were twin fins and rudders, and the undercarriage retracted into the engine nacelles. Three defensive gun positions, including a manually operated nose turret were claimed to give an all-around field of fire.

All Potez 54 series aircraft were distinguished by a sharp dihedral at the wingtips. Potez had anticipated the Armee de l’Air’s “Plan 1” requiring a large number of modern types and his impressive new aircraft was easily the best in the field. Production orders followed, the main change in production aircraft being the introduction of a single fin and rudder and of dorsal and ventral gun turrets, the later being retractable. The first aircraft of the production order, powered by later-model Hispano-Suiza engines, was delivered on November 25, 1934. A total of 240 Potez 540 and 542 (the later with 780-hp Lorraine petrel engines) were built for the Armee de l’Air, the majority going to the long-range groupes de recconnaissance. Several 450’s were converted to liaison aircraft and used for VIP transport to the Escadrille Ministerielle at Villacoubly, carrying seven passengers.

In December 1935, the prototype Potez 541 bomber with Gnome-Rhone radials was sold to Romania, which bought nine similarly powered Potez 543’s in 1936, and a VIP transport for Prince Bibesco, Romanian president of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

Combat activities of the type, which could carry up to 900 kg (1,984 lbs) of bombs, were confined to the Spanish Civil War. Six Potez 540’s were sold officially to the Spanish Republican Government; they were followed by six ex-Armee de l’Air Potez 542’s, delivered clandestinely, seven Potez 540’s ostensibly bought by the Hedjaz government, and a single VIP version. The bombers all fought to the last and a number were shot down. The Spaniards found them robust, though already outmoded, and perhaps the nickname “Widow Maker” bestowed on them after several crews had been lost was a little unfair.

At the end of the Civil War in 1939, two surviving Potez 549’s were returned to France. At the outbreak of WWII, all French Potez 540’s and 542’s had been relegated to training. During the “Phony War” period of 1939-40, 21 wooden mock-up Potez 54’s were distributed among a number of aerodromes in north-east France to mislead enemy reconnaissance aircraft, although it is not clear how successful that tactic was.

The kit comes in a tray and lid type box. The box art shows a Potez 540 in an overall khaki paint scheme with bright bare metal cowlings. There is a white swan insignia on the fuselage sides, a white numeral 4 on the rudder and white lettering “X 133” that goes on the underside of the wings. This is the only marking option on the decal sheet. We are not told what squadron it would have been. Some Spanish markings, for the only country that used them in combat would have been welcome in the kit.

Inside the box are 3 large cello bags of parts.

The first cello holds two chalk white trees of all the small parts in the kit, plus the top and bottom pieces of the fuselage. The box shaped fuselage is assembled from 4 pieces; bottom, top and sides.

The second cello holds the wing halves, fuselage sides and two clear parts that make up a stand.

The third cello holds all the clear parts for the windows and turrets.

The decal sheet and instructions complete the contents.

The instructions consist of a large sheet that is folded into 4 pages.

Page one of the instructions begins with a color repeat of the box art. This is followed by the history of the Potez 540 in Czech only.

Pages two and three give us a total of 12 assembly steps. To the left of these drawings is a blow by blow instructions of how to assemble the kit part number by part number. This is only in Czech too and would have been very welcome to have been in English too.

Page 4 has a color 3 view of the only marking and painting option offered in the kit and already mentioned above. This is followed by a customer service coupon and a list of what each of the part numbers is…also in Czech. SMER needed to get some English into their kits.

The first large white parts tree holds: the main wheels, tail wheel, langing gear oleos and struts, pilot seats, cockpit floor, machine guns, main gear fenders, rudder halves, propellers, control yokes, pitot tube etc. (52 parts)

The second large white parts tree holds: cowling parts, wing struts, exhaust pipes, engine support fairings, 2 interior bulkheads etc. ( 36 parts)

Next is the white fuselage top piece on a tree with the horizontal tail surfaces and the single fuselage bottom part.

The white fuselage side pieces and the wing halves complete the white parts.

There is a 2 piece clear stand in the kit, if you care to mount your model in the “in-flight” condition on it. The clear window and turret transparencies complete the parts in the kit. (27 parts).

This kit has a few interior parts, but could perhaps stand a few more. However, for state of the art for 20+ years ago it isn’t half bad. Although a boxy looking aircraft, it’s ugly lines do have a certain charm.

It will sure be an attention getter on your shelf. It has a real skinny fuselage, almost pencil-like and a real trellis work of wing and engine supports.

Highly recommended to those modelers that want something different on their shelf.