The Aerospatiale SA. 365 Dauphin II is a twin engined helicopter produced in France for the French Navy and for export depending on the version. This airframe has been adapted for number of rolls, serving everything from law enforcement and air ambulance services to corporate transport. The first release of this kit from Kitty Hawk was in 2013 and this new release covers a number of different versions, all in a search and rescue roll from around the world.
As I mentioned above the base kit for this release is the original Kitty Hawk kit from 2013. Several new sprues add parts to cover the many options available for this kit. The kit comes in a large and very colorful box that features an image of the helicopter in the colorful French Naval markings. Included in the box are 10 sprues of very light grey styrene, 1 clear sprue, 1 PE fret and a very large decal sheet. Many of these parts will not be used in the build as there are a ton of extra parts included from previous versions.
Before I get into the main build of this kit I do need to mention a couple of things about the instructions. First is that there are a large number of errors in the instructions. I will do my best to call them out as I proceed through the build but take care when following through the instructions. There are errors in which parts are called for and some parts are never mentioned at all. You will need to refer to instructions for previous versions of this aircraft in order to complete the build. I will add screen shots of the appropriate steps in the images below. Lastly, several of the final steps address adding weapons to this aircraft, however all versions covered by this kit are for search and rescue. No weapons would be mounted or carried.
Strangely the first set of steps have you assembling the rotors. For the first step I have no real concerns. All of the parts are well molded, fit well and look great once installed. My only real issue is that I changed all of the paint colors and not enough of the paint colors are called out. You will need to refer to the painting guides in the center of the instructions for guidance on the paint colors for most of the parts. For the parts that are called out I replaced FS35237 with Tamiya XF-53, and most other parts were painted Tamiya XF-54.
Step 2 is the first part of building the interior. The detail of the parts that are used to build out the interior is pretty good. Also the fit of the parts is decent, my only issues were with B22 and B23. The tabs that slot into the deck don’t really fit very well into the slots, I had to trim the tabs down to improve the fit. My main issue with this section is the paint callouts. You will need to refer to reference photos in order to get all of the details right. The main base coat is listed as FS318C/637 and I chose to use Tamiya XF-83. The seats are listed as Flat White but based off my references I chose to use XF-82. Also based on my references, I chose to paint the seat belts Flat Black. The instrument panel is provided in multiple PE parts covered by a decal for the gauges. The detail here is quite nice.
Moving on to Steps 4 and 5, I chose to leave most of the subassemblies off until it was time to close the fuselage. I did dry fit everything and the overall fits are decent but Part C16 is very fragile. It also is supposed to fit into a slot in the front of the instrument shroud, the fit was very tight and I had to sand C16 to fit. The paint called out in this section is FS36622, I chose to replace this with Tamiya XF-55. Also refer to your references again here, both C15 and C16 have instruments on the inside of the cockpit. These are not shown in the instructions, I painted them in Flat Black with details painted in Red, Yellow and White.
In Step 6, I chose to leave the landing gear off until final assembly but I did want to mention a couple of things. First the detail on the landing gear is good and they are easy to work with. The instructions call for the gear to be painted light blue but check your references, this is not necessarily correct for all markings. It was for the markings that I chose, so I painted the gear with Tamiya XF-23.
Next I added the subassemblies from Steps 4 and 5 to the deck and added weight to the nose of the kit. Step 7 shows adding weight to the front of the bottom fuselage but doesn’t mention how much to add. I chose to use steal fishing weights that I had flattened with a hammer, I fit about 4 small weights around the front landing gear bay and into the nose. This proved to be perfect to keep the kit from tail sitting. After the weights had dried, I added the lower fuselage to the build.
The next two steps build out parts of the engine bay and add some parts to the exterior. Step 8 has no real major issues but I did keep the paint colors here consistent with the changes that I made above. Step 9 has a number of issues that I need to cover. This is the first section that shows off the number of optional parts that the kit includes for the number of versions in the kit. Unfortunately, there is no guidance on what parts correspond to the different versions and as far as I can tell several of the parts are not used on any version. Refer to your references closely here. It looks like the nose MA1 and MA2 for the rear fuselage are not used on any versions. The MA1 listed for the rear fuselage is used for marking option #3.
I also had some fit issues here. Part D19 did not fit well to the lower fuselage and needed filler to clean up. Parts MB19 and MB20 fit around the rear part of fuselage and the fit there is rough. Once these were installed, I noted that these parts were longer than the lower fuselage. This created a serious gap and some steps once the tail was installed. This required a serious amount of putty to fill and correct. The last fit issue that I have here is with Part F24, I found later in the build that this part interfered with the ability of the engine doors to close. It is easier to leave these parts out as they will not been seen in the final build. The last thing for this step is for Part GP6, this is a clear part that I left off until it was time to install the wind shield. Also I painted the inside of this part with Tamiya Clear green prior to installation.
Moving on to Steps 10 and 11, in these steps you will be adding the rest of the cockpit glass and several of the doors. I had a few minor fit issues here as well. First Parts C8/C7 were a little iffy, they needed a little filler to hid a seam in-between the parts and more filler where they attached to the fuselage. Next I installed the first set of doors, I made sure to paint the interior of the doors with XF-55. Both doors had sink marks on the inside that needed sanding and filling. There were also some minor fit problems with the glass parts, GP4/GP5. Both needed a little trimming to fit perfectly.
I had two minor issues with the rest of the cockpit glass. First, the main screen GP1, has a small attachment point that is supposed to fit into Part C16 but I found this shifted to windscreen way out of position, so I had to cut the attachment point off. In this step there is also more optional parts with no explanation of the use or which version they are for, GP11 and GP13 are shown but I see no markings that match these parts. The last part of the cockpit glass that needed to be installed were the cockpit doors and these are provided in clear plastic. The fit of the cockpit parts is decent but there are a lot of parts that go into the cockpit glass, so patience and time are required to get the alignment right.
I treated the full tail as a separate subassembly and left the boom off until I had attached the rear rotor to it. There are two options for assembling the rear rotor housing, all markings except #2 for the China Marine Surveillance use parts D1/D2 for the tail and housing. The alternate parts for #2 are C1/C2, refer to you references as the instructions do not make this clear. Overall, the fit of the parts here is good, though I did leave the rear rotor and PE parts off until later in the build.
In Step 13 the horizontal parts of the tail are added and the tail is attached to the boom. I found the fit of the horizontal parts to be extremely vague and the were molding issues with the mounting points. On the parts for the boom, several of the mounting holes were molded closed including the mounting holes for parts D26/D27. None of the parts in Steps 12 and 13 fit particularly well to the boom, they all required some filling and sanding to hide seams. Once all these parts were dry I attached the tail subassembly to the main fuselage and as mentioned above there were some serious fit issues. I had a very large seam and a gap on the underside of the fuselage, both of these issues required a lot of sanding and filling to correct.
I skipped over Step 14 until after final painting to make painting easier. But I do have a recommendation here, I would remove the rotor from the drive portion and set it aside. The drive portion had trouble fitting through the hole in the engine housing after final painting. In Step 15 the rest of the engines are completed. I had two issues here with the parts of the intakes, the first of which were two misprints. Parts B13 and B14 are swapped in the instructions, B14 needs to attach to B15 and B13 needs to attach to B12. Also the fit of these parts around the drive housing is not great, I actually found it easier to install them directly in their cowling rather than in the engine compartment. In Steps 17 and 18 the engines are closed off by installing the doors/cowlings. The fit of all these parts is extremely fiddly, especially with the crowded engine bays, so work slowly while installing these parts. I did end up having to sand down some steps between parts and fill some gaps but nothing to crazy.
The next five steps from 18 to 22 need to be ignored, they are all for assembling the included weapons and none of the airframes covered in this kit would be carrying any weapons. Steps 24, 25 and 29 also include instructions for the weapons that need to be ignored. Before moving on to the next part of the instructions I want to bring up a few parts that are missing from the underside of the airframe. If you review the painting guides there are a few options that show parts that are not mentioned in the instructions. Specifically options 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 all show something that looks like a search light and flat piece of ducting. I will include screen shots of how to add these parts from instructions of a different version of this kit below. I did leave these parts off until after final painting but I did want to bring them up now.
Back to Step 23, here there are more parts that are not used on any version. Specifically, MB4/MB15/MB23 are listed as being installed on the roof if the cockpit but are not shown on any painting guide. Also there are parts shown for the rear door rails that are incorrect, MB12/13 and MB26/27 are only used for versions with the small rear door and none of the marking options in this kit use the small rear door. The correct door rails are covered in Step 27. In Step 24, only install Part MB14. The weapons parts are not used and the gear doors shown here are incorrect, they are not used on any of the marking options covered in this kit. Also skip Step 25 completely, as stated above neither the weapons or the small rear doors are used on any of the markings in this kit.
Steps 23 and 27 do cover the options for the different noses for this kit. Option 1 in Step 23 is used for 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 while Option 2 in Step 27 is used for 3 and 5. I had chosen to build an airframe with the short nose from Step 23. I had some minor fit issues with the nose to the rest of the fuselage, which were easy to correct with some light filler. The only other issue of note is that while I did leave parts MB32/33 off until final assembly, I did notice that there are no location holes or any markings of where these parts should attach. As mentioned above, Step 27 covers the installation of the correct door rails and the fit was a little rough. I did need a little filer to hide some gaps and holes.
In Step 28 the only parts that are used for the markings in the kit are the rear gear doors, Parts B25 and B24. I left these off until final assembly but their fit was good. All other parts in Step 28 need to be left off. The final parts to be added from these instructions were the rear doors in Step 29. I had a little trouble getting the glass to fit without trimming and again I painted the interiors of the doors XF-55. I did leave parts MB31/MB30 off of the doors until final assembly and left the doors off to use as masks while painting.
Next up is painting the aircraft. There are a total of 7 different options provided by this kit: SA. 365N French Marine, SA. 365N China Marine Surveillance, SA. 365N U.S. Coast Guard, SA. 365N Netherlands Coast Guard, SA. 365N Malaysia, SA.365N Japan, and final SN 365N for an unspecified country. I chose the bright yellow aircraft for the Netherlands Coast Guard and painted the aircraft Tamiya XF-3 over a base coat of Model Master Flat White. I would recommend checking your references to ensure accuracy while painting. I chose to paint the rotors XF-54 over white to represent the white stripes. I used XF-20 to paint the grey panels on the underside of the aircraft.
After the paint had cured it was time to apply the decals. The decals are very well printed and easy to work with. The color is perfect and I had no issues with register. The decals settled down very well over two coats of Future with the help of some Micro Sol. The only issue I had was with the decals that go over the door handles, I found that is was necessary to cut a small hole in the center of these decals to help them settle over the molded handles.
After the final gloss coat had cured it was time to add the final details. I had no issues adding the landing gear, PE parts or rotors to the finished aircraft. I did want to mention another error in the instructions that I noticed at this stage. Every single marking option in this kit shows that there needs to be a rescue winch installed on the right side of the aircraft. This is not shown anywhere in the instructions but I will include a screen shot of the this below. I do not see any locating holes for these parts, so I did the best I could with the location. In most cases based on the markings, these parts should be the overall body color but check your references. Once the rescue winch is added and all remaining parts are added the build is complete.
This is an interesting kit. I am very happy with the final product and it is my first helicopter kit. While there was a lot of work I had to put in to fix a number of fit issues, nothing was egregious. My main issue with this kit is the state of the instructions. There are a number of issues with misprints or incorrect options that require the builder to find external references to complete the build. With this in mind I can recommend this kit only to an experienced builder that is used to addressing issues like this. If the instructions were in a better state I could recommend this kit to a wider audience, the base kit is fun and will net you an extremely nice result with some patience.
My thanks to Kitty Hawk Models and IMPS USA for giving me the opportunity to review this kit.