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The FFA P-16
Scratchbuilt in 1/32 Scale

by Frank Mitchell


FFA P-16


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To me, this is one of the best looking aircraft to come out of the postwar period, Hunter included. The Swiss Federal Aviation Factory (FFA) P-16 was the second of two jet fighter prototypes developed in Switzerland during that period, and is my nomination for The-Best-Airplane-Never-To-Make-It-Into-Production. The P-16 was tailored to the needs of the post-war Swiss forces in that it was a transonic design, optimized for the ground-attack role and ability to fly in and out of short strips in narrow, high- mountain valleys. It had a low aspect-ratio wing, large wingtip fuel tanks, and extensive high-lift devices: full-span leading edge flaps, large trailing edge Fowler flaps, and interlinked, drooping ailerons. Probably the one thing that most know about the airplane is that its wing and landing gear were (and are) used, in modified form, for the Learjet business aircraft. 



The first prototype flew in April 1955. Despite an outstanding performance (in many ways equaling the A-10), and a heavy armament of two 20mm cannon, an internal Matra rocket launcher with 44 68mm rockets, and twelve hard points under the wings, the production contract was cancelled due to two crashes, neither the fault of the aircraft. This resulted in a decision to buy the smaller and less capable Hunters. However, two factory-financed additional aircraft were built and flew with civil licenses. After finally giving up hopes for production, these two prototypes were parked outdoors for many years and were ultimately combined to produce a single museum display aircraft.





Having previously built the first of the Swiss prototypes, the FFA N-20, (http://hsfeatures.com/features04/n20fm_1.htm), I decided that I should do the other one as well. A major part of that decision was the fact that Mike Kirk, my provider of Swiss information, outdid himself for this latest effort. Mike is an IPMS-type living in Switzerland, and therefore has access to the museum containing the real airplanes (only one of each survives). I must give full credit to him for coming up with a lot of stuff that made the model much better than it would have been without it.  

For those who might be interested, there are a number of other sources of interest, including a couple of books, and there are even CDs dedicated to each of these aircraft. The main references are listed at the end of the article. 

The model was built pretty much in my usual way; i.e., molds carved from balsa and vacuum-formed. Parts of the wood were left inside the styrene skin for strength and because it is a lot easier to attach wings, tail, landing gear, etc. 

The photos are reasonably self-explanatory, so I will just point out a few highlights.  

If I have a secret weapon in modeling (which I don’t really believe anyone has), it is the time and effort it takes to prepare a solid and flat “building board”. That allows accurate and symmetrical additions and cuts. It is the best and easiest way I know to make sure that wings, tails, tanks, any holes that need to made, etc., are square, in the right places, and in the same places on both sides. The board is shown in several of the photos. I buy a half sheet of high-quality cabinet grade ¾” plywood that is straight and flat, cut it into sections appropriate for the model, and then use a drill press to make sure that the mounting post is vertical. I find that I can generally get two models out of each piece of the board, so maybe six models for each half piece. 

All the molds for the model were carved at one time, along with the parts for a couple of other models. This meant that there was just one massive mess of wood chips and shavings to clean up and just one lengthy vacuum-forming session (and therefore only one episode of my wife watching me make a disaster of the kitchen; I can’t move the oven to the model room). 



The intakes were done first, because they were the one part I was most concerned about. As is seen in the photos, separate molds were made for right and left and each was vacuumed-formed. Slightly curved inner panels were glued in place. They were then fitted to the fuselage through “windows” cut into the outer skin. Fortunately, they are narrow enough that when you look into them, they just appear to curve towards the engine.  



I had to cut the fuselage mold in two because it was too long for my molding frame, but if that is done only after all the other mold-finishing steps are complete, everything fits back together pretty well.  

Sections of the balsa forward fuselage core were removed to add detail to the cockpit, wheel wells, engine intake trunks, etc. I knew that this was going to be a tail-sitter, so I cut up a large auto wheel weight and glued pieces into holes drilled in the balsa ahead of the cockpit.



The plastic outer shells were then epoxied to the core. 



The same techniques were used for the wings and tail, and the control surfaces were cut and re-positioned after the wing was otherwise complete.

The main landing gear was made from brass and aluminum tubing with wheels cast from resin using an RTV mold. The forward gear main leg was carved from basswood with other parts formed from styrene. The remainder of the detailing was typical for any model, but I did use the excellent Eduard colored photoetch sets for the ejection seat detailing.  

After construction was semi-complete, the usual routine of priming, sanding, priming, scribing, etc., was done and rivets were applied with a Rosy The Riveter and a regular old pounce wheel.



Assembly was carried out on the building board and filled epoxy used for the fillets and to fill gaps where necessary.



Painting and Markings


Paint was Alclad using various tints of Testor's enamel, which was also used for the gloss red and gloss black. 

Markings were made on the computer and printed on clear decal film.  



While taking the pictures of the completed model, I could not resist taking photos of both Swiss jets together; I have designated them as my Swiss Duet.  There won't be a trio however, as these two were the end of the line for indigenous Swiss fighter development.  





  • Strehler H. Der Schweizer P-16. Available from http://www.military-books.ch/shop/p-16.htm . In German (which I can’t read). Full of good stuff, if a bit expensive. 

  • A CD: P-16. Same author as the above, and invaluable for anyone modeling the aircraft. Available from www.physikcd.ch. (Also in German, and about $36.00). A CD on the N-20 is available from the same source. 

  • The Aircraft of the Swiss Air Force since 1914. A great book (in English) with lots of three-views and a bunch of not-all-that-well-known aircraft. Published in 1975, which was about when I got mine, but it has become dog-eared over the years. Still Available (I think). 

There have also been some articles over the years in RAF Flying Review, Air International, Aviation Week, and others. 



Additional Images


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2006 by Frank Mitchell
Page Created 22 June, 2006
Last Updated 21 June, 2006

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