Thursday, May 19, 2022
Home » Product Reviews » Vario Helicopter’s Aerospatiale SA 315B Lama

Vario Helicopter’s Aerospatiale SA 315B Lama

A 1/4-scale

rotary-wing masterpiece

Editors note: once in a while, a model comes across our desks that words cannot describe. Such was the case with Gonzalo Martinezs ¼-scale Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama from Vario; when we saw the photos and the level of detail in the building process, we agreed that the photos spoke for themselves. So, feast your eyes on the next six pages and imagine what it was like to build this masterpiece.

The inspiration for my building Varios Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama came from the full-size version I saw in Trontano, Italy. Serial number I-BXWB is owned and operated by Air Walser and flies all kinds of sorties in the Italian Alps. To me, it is truly a unique machine and I love its lines. It took me 1.5 years to complete it and I added a few items that are not found on the basic Lama kit, such as: skis, a bubble side-canopy and a utility canister. The model flies like a dream and sounds very realistic with its turbine engine.


First flown on March 17, 1969, the SA 315B was originally designed to meet a requirement put forth by the Indian Armed Forces, who wanted helicopter that would be able operate in hot temperatures and at high altitudes. It combines a T Alouette II airframe with the Artouste powerplant and rotor system of the Alouette III. In 1970, it received its airworthiness certificate, and in July 1971, its manufacturers gave it the name Lama. It was licensed built in India where it was known as Cheetah.

The Aérospatiale SA 315Bs military roles include air/sea rescue, observation, liaison, ambulance duties, photography and transport. In civilian applications, the Lama can be seen performing agricultural tasks and transporting passengers. Owing to its performance, the SA315B is particularly suited to mountainous areas and can carry an underslung load of up to 2,205 pounds.

I started out with the two-blade system and flew 33 very successful flights. I then switched to the 3-blade system and Im happy to report that it flies just as well, even in windy conditions. I was also careful to monitor the tank level as supposedly more jet fuel is consumed, owing to the drag of another blade.
I decided to put in those two extra bottom plywood plates to strengthen the fuselage, as I would need to add about six pounds of weight in the nose for balance. The front of those rectangular- shape cabinets was the perfect place to add the batteries: one for turbine ECU, two for receiver and one more for the navigation lights. The small rectangular shapes at the bottom are for the insertion of Velcro straps. The box behind the batteries holds the receiver.
The doors hinges, magnetic door stop and handle are in place and they work very well.
I just put the three-blade system on and decided to strike a pose with my Lama before this new test flight.
The horizontal stabilzer halves are held in place with brass clamps that crimp a brass tube when their screws are tightened.
From a solid piece of aluminum, I machinedon my trusty Emco Compact 5the housing for this light fixture. My Emco machine has the capability of working as a lathe or a mill system with almost every option for tooling. The housing of a portable Maglite is inside the fixture I lathed, and when finally in placefully flushtwelve 2mm holes were drilled for bolts to hold it in place.
Now the Lama is starting to take shape and it is quite big. Lucky for me, it fits in my Jeep without removing the tail boom!
To make it more realistic, I decided to do some extra work on the mini oil tank that Vario provides in the kit. I built these small brackets and bases to hold the tank, just like the full-size Lamas. The brackets are fully functional via 1.6 mm screws.
There is a lot of space for cockpit detail and you have tons of room to hide all the RC gear under it. The cockpit parts seen on the left and some exterior items (see other photos) where modeled using the latest CAD software in the market and reproduced on a Rapid Prototyping (RP) machine. If you decide to build a Lama and want to enhance its scale realism, all the extra parts are available though .
The 48-pound heli took at 1/2 throttle without any problem. The sound of the blades is quite amazing as I havent heard anything like that on an RC model.
I decided to replace the original Vario pilots with 1/4-scale Matthias Scherm pilots. Their quality is amazing! I also used the large Vario seat belts, which look fantastic and function like the real belts. Adding these pilots and all the cockpit detail helps when it comes time to balance the helicopter.
When compared to my hand at the top, the blade grips for the Lama are huge!
I have color-coded each blade and grip, so that when I assemble the Lama, the correct blade goes in the correct grip.
This mirror is a completely scratchbuilt replica that is found on the fullsize version. It was made from brass and silver solder with lots of machining from my Emco Compact 5. The mirror is completely functional and the angle can be adjusted, just like the real one.
The amazing Jakadosky PJW-LE-SW powerplant is capable of delivering 6.7HP at 94,000 rpm. This unit has a machined turbine wheel that is made on a 5-axis milling machine and has plenty of power to get the Lama in the air.
The Pitot tube was machined in my Emco Compact 5 lathe, as well as some of the parts that go in the mounting base.
With the right panel removed, you can see some of the inner workings of the helis main frame and what is attached to it.
To make the oil tank look even more realistic, I added some hydraulic pipe scale details that were made from a lot of brass and aluminum machining. The brass rods are attached to the main floor by a 1.6mm screw.
The installed navigation flasher unit fits with a RAM Xenon strobe light system. This strobe lights work very well, even on a sunny day. Notice how the unit is mounted by 2.2mm screws and can be taken apart at any time.
For the two-blade set up, the swashplate was moved 45 degrees via four servos. So, on my trusty MC-24, I had it set up to run four servos with a 45-degree rotation, which is the case for the flybar head system. With the three-blade system I disabled the 45-degree rotation, which gave the swashplate the perfect phasing.
When the Lama was completely painted and then reassembled, I couldnt believe how perfectly the colors match those of the full-size version.


To watch a video of me flying the Lama, go to: .


To see the complete building process and more detail photos, go to my website: .


HELICOPTER: Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama

BUILDER/PILOT: Gonzalo Martinez

MANUFACTURER: Vario-Helicopters

DISTRIBUTOR: Starwood Scale Models

TYPE: 1/4-scale turbine helicopter

FOR: Scale flying


LENGTH: 9 ft.



ROTOR DISK AREA: 9160.88 sq. in.

ROTOR DISK LOADING: 12.07 oz./sq. ft.

RADIO: JR 12X; Heli Comand HC3 X for stabilization of main head and tail rotor; JR DS8711HV high-voltage ultra-torque servos; R1222 12-channel DSM2 PowerSafe Receiver

ENGINE: Jakadosky Pro turbine


FUEL: Jet fuel, 5-percent turbine oil

ONBOARD BATTERY: 3 Duralite NiMH batteries 5200mAh each: one for ECU, two for receiver, and additional NiMH for lighting system

DURATION: about 14 minutes


Jakadofsky Jet Engines, dist. by Starwood Scale Models, , (650) 851-9027

Micro Fasteners, , (800) 892-6917

Vario Helicopter, dist. by Starwood Scale Models, , (650) 851-9027