Latecoere 290 & 298
This book is the first of a series on French aircraft, and follows the excellent format developed by this publisher’s Polish Wings series of books on Polish aircraft. Since Azur produces kit of the Latecoere 298 in both 1/72 and 1/48 scales, this book will serve as a good reference for these aircraft. An 8 ½ x 11” paperback consisting of 80 pages, this book tells the development and service history of the two major French Navy torpedo bombers of the 1930’s. Strangely, the Latecoere 298 is covered before its predecessor, the 290 is described, and to get things into perspective, I began reading about the earlier type, then progressing to its replacement at the beginning of the text, as I wanted to read the story in sequence.
And what a story it is. The Latecoere 290 was a development of a high wing commercial aircraft which set some records in the 1920’s. It was easily adapted to naval use as a torpedo bomber, with floats and military equipment installed, and was ordered into production in 1932, achieving service status the following year. Only 29 were built, and while successful, they suffered a number of accidents, mainly involving water landings in which the touchdown was at too high a speed, resulting in cartwheeling, destroying the airplane and sometimes trapping the crews inside. Since the Latecoere 290 was only seen as an interim torpedo bomber anyway, the planes were not replaced, but its successor, the Latecoere 298, was seen as the torpedo bomber they were looking for.
The Model 298 was designed and ordered in 1935, and a mockup was quickly constructed. This was a more modern, cantilever low wing, 2 or 3 place floatplane torpedo bomber powered by a Hispano Suiza 12 liquid cooled engine of 835 hp. Flight testing in 1936 led to production orders, with 129 eventually delivered by several manufacturers. The plane had a good service record, although stall-spin accidents seemed to be more common than with other types. The type was operated by French units at the beginning of the war, and after the German invasion, some escaped to North Africa and unoccupied Southern France. A few were captured by the Germans, and used by the Luftwaffe. At the end of the war, surviving examples continued in service, lasting until 1950, when the last one was retired. The book provides a detailed account of the development and service of the type.
Comments and Recommendations
If you are interested in this phase of aviation history, or if you are building models of these aircraft, this book is a “must have”. The photos are drawings are excellently reproduced, and the detail photos and diagrams will be especially useful in the modeling process. I am not aware of a kit of the Latecoere 290 in any scale, but with this book available, I’m sure that one will appear shortly. The Model 298 is available from Azur. The book is enjoyable reading, and I found the captions on the photos to be very informative. Don’t miss out on this one. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Dr. Roger M. Wallsgrove of Mushroom Model Publications, and IPMS/USA for the review copy.