Propeller Planes from
1919 to 1990s
Hasegawa Rockwell (North American) OV-10A Bronco
For as long as I can remember, I've been interested in machines that fly. I've also always loved miniature versions of things, so it didn't take long for me to become interested in model airplanes. When I was very young, my father assembled a couple of European-printed paper models of commercial airliners, and hung the models with thread from the ceiling of my bedroom. This was much too far away for me to see them properly, so I tossed a stuffed toy rooster up at the models, until one of them came down to the floor, where I could examine it much more closely. I don't remember how the rest of that particular adventure turned out, but I'm sure it wasn't pretty.
A few years later, my father and I built all of the Aurora 1/48 scale plastic model kits of World War One airplanes. We usually didn't paint them, and we never rigged any of them, but we had fun, and I began to learn some aviation history. As a young teenager, I went to an indoor flying model contest one Saturday, where I spotted a table full of very nicely built and painted plastic model airplanes, set up for display by a local modeling club. I was inspired to try to emulate the skill with which those kits were finished. When my father started an HO train layout, he bought a Paasche airbrush, which I learned to use. Over the years, I tried new techniques, learned what worked (and what didn't), and continued to enjoy the hobby, very much.
Early on, I decided to concentrate on 1/72 scale models, because I wanted my models to all be in scale with each other, and because, particularly thirty years ago, 1/72 scale had the greatest range of subjects, especially the models manufactured by the splendid English company Airfix. Other model manufacturers whose 1/72 kits I've built include Academy, Aurora, ESCI, Fujimi, FROG, Hasegawa, Heller, Hobbycraft, HUMA, Italeri, Monogram, Matchbox, Special Hobby, Revell, and Tamiya.
Below, and on the other tabs of this website, are a few of the many, many 1/72 scale models I've built, over the last thirty-five or so years.
RAF de Havilland Mosquito (World War Two)
de Havilland Mosquito modern day restoration (Google)
The de Havilland Mosquito was a very versatile British aircraft that served the RAF and Coastal Command in World War Two as a fighter, fighter-bomber, night fighter, day bomber, night intruder bomber, Bomber Command Pathfinder, photo reconnaissance aircraft and high speed passenger transport. In 1943 Mosquitos made an unescorted, high speed, daylight raid on Berlin, Germany, bombing a radio broadcasting building while Hermann Goring was making a speech. Built largely of wood (wings, fuselage, fin and horizontal stabilizers), this minimal requirement for aircraft aluminum freed up that critical material for other wartime needs. In addition, the wood construction allowed factories formerly mass producing furniture and other wood products to add to the war effort, without drawing away labor and resources from the mainstream aircraft plants. Powered by two liquid-cooled Rolls-Royce Merlin 12 cylinder engines, some marks of Mosquito could exceed 400 mph in level flight.
The fighter bomber Mosquito pictured above had a wingspan of 54 feet 2 inches, a length of 41 feet 2 inches, a height of 17 feet 5 inches, an empty weight of 13,356 pounds, and a fully loaded weight of 18,649 pounds. Top speed was 366 mph, combat range was 900 miles, and service altitude was 29,000 feet. Armament of this FB Mk. IV fighter bomber variant was four .303 caliber machine guns, four 20mm cannon, and up to 2,000 pounds of rockets mounted on the wings and/or bombs in the partial bomb bay. (Wikipedia)
Poster for "633 Squadron" movie (Google)
My interest in the de Havilland Mosquito began during one 1960s Saturday matinee movie (totally unremembered), during the previews, where I was enthralled by a loud, lurid, histrionic trailer for an upcoming cinematic epic called "633 Squadron", starring Cliff Robertson and George Chakaris. Based on a 1950s novel by RAF veteran Frederick E. Smith, the action centered around the fictitious exploits of a group of heroic RAF crews attacking a highly imaginary but deadly secret German target in a fjord in Norway. The aircraft they flew in the film was the de Havilland Mosquito, and I fell in love with this elegant airplane. The movie used (and destroyed) several real Mosquitos, cast off by the RAF, which greatly added to the perceived realism, if not the accuracy, of the story.
Having seen the movie, I implored my father to buy and help me build an ancient Airfix kit of the Mosquito, and we used spray cans and paper masks to replicate the camouflage finish of the airplane. This model was my prize possession for years, until I suspect it got lost in a move to a new home. Some time after that, a kindly grandparent gave me the Monogram 1/48 scale kit of the Mosquito for my birthday, which I built in the all-black night fighter scheme. In the late 1960s, I built a FROG 1/72 kit of the Mosquito, again in the all-black night fighter scheme (it was so easy to spray can paint this version). In the early 1970s, Airfix produced a new, much more accurate 1/72 scale kit of the Mosquito FB Mk.IV, which I built (with crew at the controls, engine spinners without propellor blades and landing gear retracted for in-flight mode) but was too insecure to airbrush it in day-fighter camouflage, so I cajoled my best friend/fellow model builder Bob Deane to finish it for me.
Finally, in 1999, Tamiya came out with state-of-the-art kits of the Mosquito fighter-bomber, bomber and photo-reconn versions. I bought one of each sometime during the last decade or so, and eventually I finally built the FB Mk. IV you see below. (This is actually the second Tamiya Mosquito I built; scroll to the bottom of this page to see the first one.) All paint was Humbrol, lightened for scale effect with white, and based on my references, masked with Tamiya tape for the hard-edged camouflage pattern. Machine gun barrels and pitot tube on fin are turned brass. Decals were disappointing Eagle-Cal brand; beautiful looking but very thick and non-conforming to raised and recessed surface detail. Flat finish was Testor's Clear Flat Lacquer. Click on the thumbnails below:
FAA Fairey Swordfish (World War Two)
Fairey Swordfish (Google)
The Fairey Swordfish ("Stringbag") first flew in 1933, was considered obsolete in 1939, but fought with great distinction throughout World War II, ultimately outlasting its replacement, the Fairey Albacore. Designed by the Fairey Aviation Company Ltd. as a private venture, the British Air Ministry saw the promise in this Torpedo-Spotter-Reconnaissance aircraft and ordered it into production, eventually equipping twenty-six different squadrons. Swordfish of the R.A.F. Fleet Air Arm and the Coastal Command participated at Narvik, Malta, Oran, Taranto, the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck, the Kriegsmarine Channel Dash, the Battle of the Atlantic, and the Normandy invasion.
The Fairey Swordfish was 35 feet 8 inches long, 12 feet 4 inches high, wingspan of 45 feet 6 inches, empty weight of 4,700 pounds, fully loaded weight of 7,510 pounds, had a top speed of 138 miles per hour, a service ceiling of 10, 700 feet, a combat range of 546 miles and a maximum patrol range of 1,030 miles. Armament was one fixed Vickers .303 machine gun firing forward, one Lewis or Vickers .303 machine gun on a flexible mounting in the rear crew position, and up to 1,600 pounds of munitions, such as one torpedo or numerous bombs, rockets or depth charges. (Profile Publications)
For a fascinating account of one Swordfish pilot's experiences, read "To War In A Stringbag", by Commander Charles Lamb, DSO, DSC, Royal Navy.
FROG/Matchbox kitbash Fairey Swordfish Mk.III
This model was inspired by my viewing of the 1965 movie "Sink The Bismarck!", at some point in my early teens. This was a big deal movie, in its time, depicting the short, exciting career of the doomed World War Two German battleship. To create the movie required a lot of excellent, really large ship models in a giant water tank, but the filmmakers also used a real Swordfish aircraft, repainted in authentic Fleet Air Arm camouflage, flying off the deck of a real Royal Navy aircraft carrier. When I bought the Matchbox kit of the Swordfish that came out in the 1970s, I got the idea to kitbash a Swordfish from the FROG and Matchbox kits. "Kitbashing" involves combining the best parts of two or more kits into a hybrid model. In the case of the Swordfish, I used the FROG fuselage, wings, struts and tail surfaces with the Matchbox engine, cowling, torpedo and other details. At the time, I wanted to do a Swordfish for the Bismarck operation, but with the available decals, I had to settle for one of the Swordfish from the Taranto raid.
I also had in mind to attempt to compete well in yet another IPMS national contest, so I scratchbuilt the interior of the fuselage, adding structural framing, instrument panels, seats, and Lewis magazine drums, based on a cutaway drawing of the Swordfish in an Air Enthusiast Quarterly. Other scratchbuilt details included the fins and propellors on the torpedo, the torpedo harness, the windscreen cut out of very thin sheet styrene, with thin acetate glazing panels, and many details added to the engine and cowling. I also cut out and repositioned the rudder, elevators and ailerons, an old trick to gain points in contest judging. The model won a Second Place Trophy for 1/72 Rigged Aircraft at the 1993 IPMS National in Atlanta, Georgia.
All paint was Humbrol, rigging was monofiliment thread, decals were a combination of MicroScale and the Matchbox kit decals, and flat finish was Poly-Scale. In 2012, Airfix (Hornby) came out with a brand new, super-detailed 1/72 kit of the Swordfish, and Xtra-decal produced multiple sets of decals for the Airfix kit, including a Bismarck Swordfish. I have acquired both, and when I'm ready to build this subject over again, I'm set.
To see the images below, click on the thumbnails.
Polish PZL 11c (1930s to World War Two)
Polish PZL P.11c (Google)
The Polish Panstwowe Zaklady Lotnicze (State Aircraft Factory) broke new ground in the early 1930s by developing a long series of constantly-improving, all-metal monoplanes with a distinctive gull-winged design. In contrast to the typical all-metal, rigged biplanes of the time, these strut-braced monoplanes had less drag than a biplane, but were stronger than parasol-winged monoplanes (Google Morane 230 or Nieuport-Delange Ni-D 622, for examples).
The PZL P.11c was the predominant model that equipped 12 squadrons of fighters at the moment of the German invasion of Poland in September of 1939. Although already obsolete in the face of the Luftwaffe's Bf-109s, the Polish Air Force acquitted itself very well, downing 126 German aircraft against losses of 114 Polish aircraft (including 46 PZL P.11c), during a short, fierce battle against overwhelming odds. (Profile Publications)
This model had an interesting evolution: it started out as a different kit. I bought an Eastern European model manufacturer's 1/72 scale kit of a PZL P.7c through eBay; when it arrived, I started building it. Only after I had made considerable progress on the assembly did I start to study my printed references for this aircraft. Wrong sequence of steps... Eventually, I realized the cockpit opening on this model was so large, it was better suited for a 1/48 scale model. Once I spot a fatal flaw in a model I'm building, it becomes almost impossible for me to ignore it. I didn't want to spend any more time on this kit, but now I really wanted to build some Polish, gull-winged fighter.
I began to search the internet for a different kit of the PZL P.7c, but I only found the much older Heller kit for the PZL P.11c, instead. Once I received the model and confirmed with my references that it was much more accurate in outlines and proportions, I was back on track. However, the first Heller kit I received suffered from severe shinkage depressions on the top of the wing. Normally, I fill in such shrunken areas with gap-filling superglue or model putty and sand smooth, but the real PZL.11c was skinned with corrugated aluminum sheet metal, and the Heller kit had done an adequate job of trying to simulate those corrugations. Sanding out any filler would have ruined this texture. My usual solution for this type of kit flaw is to buy another copy of the kit, and hope for better results. After some deep and penetrating thought, I ordered the Squadron Shop "Encore" re-issue of the Heller kit, knowing that the Squadron version would be molded in a different styrene plastic, and might not shrink as much. Unfortunately, the Squadron reissue was considerably worse. Throwing more money at a problem is one of the very few areas where my natural pessimism is replaced by blind optimism: I bought a second Heller PZL P.11c kit on eBay, in the oldest box art I could find, and this third kit had minimal shrinkage.
It was a good thing I now had three kits of this particular model. When the mold cavity for a kit part is fed from more than one sprue, sometimes the place where the flowing styrene plastic meets itself creates a very weak spot. This proved to be true for all four of the wing-to-fuselage struts. While trying to clean up the flash on these four parts, I broke eight out of the twelve pieces I had, from the three kits. There was practically no strength where the flowing plastic met, mid-strut, and no matter how gently I scrapped the edges; disaster. Such blue language, too.
Only after the kit was built, painted and decaled, did I notice the landing gear struts were much too long. I had to oh-so-carefully cut them off, fashion a new, shorter set from my numerous spares, attach them and touch-up the paint.
Eventually all obstacles were overcome, including the last conundrum: finding a new, clear flat overall finish to take the place of my old favorite, Poly-Scale. Poly-Scale changed the formula for their flat finish, when they upgraded their entire line from "Poly S" to "Poly-Scale", but I could still work with this clear flat acrylic. Eventually, after Testor's Corp. bought out Poly-Scale, Testor's stopped distributing Poly-Scale flat, I suppose in favor of Testor's own acrylic flat, with which I could do nothing successful. Eventually, pretty desperate, I tried Testor's lacquer flat finish, and got very good results with that. It can be tricky to apply enamels, acrylics AND lacquers on the same model, but I have usually done all right.
All paint was Humbrol, decals were the excellent Tech-Mod from Poland (ZERO silvering), and flat finish was, as noted, Testor's Lacquer. Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images.
RAF Handley Page Heyford (1930s to World War Two)
Handley Page Heyford Mk.I (Google)
The Handley Page Heyford, a 142 mph, fabric-covered, rigged biplane, was the front-line RAF bomber from 1933 to 1939, when the Luftwaffe was trying out the 260 mph, all-metal, monoplane He-111 above Spain, and Boeing was delivering the 320 mph, all-metal, monoplane, four-engined B-17 to the USAAC. Severely constrained by post-World War One political attitudes and Great Depression austerity, the RAF knew the Heyford was obsolete, but had nothing better available, until the gathering signs of war in the late 1930s finally loosened the purse-strings for purchasing Hampdens, Whitleys and Wellingtons. (Profile Publications, Chartwell Books)
Matchbox Handley Page Heyford Mk.III
I wish I could say building this was fun, but it wasn't. Please understand, I love Matchbox kits, but more for their perfect combination of Roy Huxley box art on the front, cellophane viewing window and color guide on the back, esoteric subject matter, and that crazy mix of styrene colors. Often, the kits themselves leave much to be desired.
This kit fought me, pretty much all the way. I never did get a symmetrical dihedral to the three-part upper wing. Some of the engine-to-lower-wing struts finally broke, during the endless rounds of test fitting. Feeding the nylon monofiliment rigging lines into the top and out through the bottom of the fat lower wings, through #80 drill-bit holes, was a very tedious process. I could not use the kit rondels, and burned through a lot of Aeromaster 1/48 World War Two RAF rondels, cutting with a new X-Acto blade and a circle template to achieve the correct proportions for 1930s RAF rondels. There was some decal silvering, mostly on the underside, that I never could completely eradicate. But in the end, I was content with the final result: A big, drab model of a seriously unattractive and desperately obsolete aircraft.
I added a minimum of framing and equipment detail to the interior, and added only control surface counter-balances to the exterior. All paint was Humbrol, the decals were a mix of kit and Aeromaster, and the flat finish was Poly-Scale. Click on the thumbnails below to see the larger images.
FAA Supermarine Walrus (World War Two)
Supermarine Walrus in pre-WWII aluminum finish (Google)
The Supermarine Walrus resulted from the evolution of the Supermarine Seagull, which was first developed for the Royal Australian Air Force in 1929. By 1935, the improved Seagull V was designated the Walrus Mk.I, and began to equip British warships in 1936. A total of 578 Seagull Vs and Walrus Is were built, and the aircraft served in nearly every theater of British naval and coastal combat, from 1939 through 1943. The Walrus served as a scout for the fleet, provided air/sea rescue, and was used to spot the fall of naval artillery, at least where the Axis could not field effective fighter opposition against the slow but maneuverable amphibian. With the advent of radar aiming and ranging on warships, and fighter aircraft gun spotting during coastal bombardments, the Walrus was relegated to the role of coastal patrol and the air/sea rescue of aircrews downed over water, both Allied and Axis. After World War II, Walruses were sold to civilian operators and used as bush planes, passenger carriers and spotters for whaling operations.
The Walrus was 38 feet long, 16 feet 10 inches high, spanned 45 feet 10 inches (17 feet 6 inches with the wings folded), weighed 4,900 ponds empty, 8,050 pounds maximum load, had a maximum range of 512 miles, a combat radius of 165 miles, a service ceiling of 17,100 feet, and a top speed of a blinding 135 miles per hour. Armament consisted of two or three Vickers .303 machine guns for defense and up to 760 ponds of bombs or depth charges. (Profile Publications)
Matchbox Supermarine Walrus Mk.1
My interest in the Walrus began when I noticed tiny models of the Walrus mounted on 1/600 scale kits of WWII British warships.
A Matchbox kit of the Walrus (not this model) was my very first experience with the new (to me) Matchbox line of plastic model kits. I must have bought it from a long-gone store called The Hobbycraft Center, in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1974 or so, during the time between my first and second enrollments in college (a long story you are never going to learn about on this website; sorry). This Matchbox kit blew me away: crisp moldings, vivid Roy Huxley cover art, painting plan on the back of the box, and cellophane window, to see the kit parts, inside. The three colors of plastic in which the model was molded was a puzzler, until I grasped the marketing concept aimed at novice modelers, who weren't inclined to paint the camouflage schemes depicted on the box. I invested a lot of time in those care-free days in my bachelor apartment in Crozet, Virginia, building this exciting new model.
Twenty years later, I revisited this kit, aiming to build a good competitor for the IPMS 1995 National competition. Alas, I couldn't finish in time for that contest, but I did finish in time for the IPMS 1996 National in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I did all of my usual contest scoring techniques: complete scratch-built interior, repositioned control surfaces, spark plug wired engine, scale color, SuperScale decals, complete rigging, etc. The model won the Second Place trophy for 1/72 Rigged Aircraft.
All paint was Humbrol, decals were MicroScale, rigging was brass wire, and flat finish was PolyScale. (Until I took these pictures, I never noticed that the perimeter of the blue portion of the rondels on the top wing were so much darker than the rest of the blue area.) The brass wire rigging was an experiment: instead of glueing monofiliment nylon thread, stretched taut with temporary lead weights, through holes through the lower wings, I drilled only the holes in the underside of the upper wings and tops of the lower wings. I rolled very thin brass wire on a piece of glass, under a flat steel ruler, to make the wires straight (a trick I learned from an ancient Airfix Modeling Magazine). I used an acid product called "Blacken-It" to turn the brass wires from shiny brass to black. I then bent one end of the wire to fit one hole in the wings, measured very carefully, and bent the other end of the wire to fit the appropriate opposite hole. This all actually worked quite well, until days later, when I learned why brass is used in thermostats: it is remarkably affected by very small changes in temperature. Whenever the model is warmed up (like being in Virginia Beach, Virginia in July), the brass rigging wires expand slightly and bow: not realistic, at all. Live and learn.
Click on the thumbnails below, to see larger images.
RAF Westland Whirlwind F.Mk.I (World War Two)
Westland Whirlwind F.Mk.I (Google)
The Westland Whirlwind was designed as a very fast-climbing, high-speed interceptor of bombers, but failed to reach its full potential because of problems with the development, refinement and supply of its Rolls Royce Peregrine engines. Design began in 1936, with first flights of the prototypes in 1938. Problems with engine overheating delayed the start of production models, and the demand for Rolls Royce Merlin engines for Spitfire and Hurricane fighters impeded production of the troublesome Peregrines. By the time these problems were resolved, need for the Whirlwind as an interceptor had been supplanted by other, newer fighters requiring only one engine per airframe.
Eventually, Whirlwinds did prove useful as ground attack aircraft, participating in "rhubarbs" through-out Nazi-occupied western Europe, and as coastal-based escorts of Allied shipping in the waters around England. Bomb-equipped Whirlwinds were redubbed "Whirli-bombers" and completed many night intruder attacks in France and Belgium, particularly against railroad targets. The last active Whirlwinds were withdrawn from service in 1943, replaced in the ground attack role by the Hawker Typhoon.
The Whirlwind had a wingspan of 45 feet, a length of 32 feet 3 inches, a height of 10 feet 6 inches, weighed 8,310 pounds empty and 10,356 pounds fully loaded (fighter), 10,888 pounds (fighter-bomber). Top speed was 360 miles per hour (fighter) and 270 mph (fighter-bomber), with a range of 630 miles and a service ceiling of 30,300 feet (fighter) and 27,500 feet (fighter- bomber). (Warpaint Books)
Special Hobby Westland Whirlwind F.Mk.I
I've liked the Westland Whirlwind ever since I first noticed it, more than thirty years ago. I bought a 1976 Airfix kit of it, and while at the library of the National Air And Space Museum, in Washington, DC, researching some other subject, I came across drawings illustrating how to correct some of the many inaccuracies noted in the Airfix kit. I filed these away for later, hauling the documents with me through several different residences. Eventually, about three or so years ago, I bought a new kit of the Whirlwind by Special Hobby.
Special Hobby is one brand name of a family of plastic model assembly kits produced in the Czech Republic by the parent company CMK; other logos for this group includes MPM, Pavla, and Azur. These kits are generally of unusual subjects that would not sell enough units to interest the larger kit manufacturers. The kits are limited run, which means the molds are not quite as sophisticated as the CAD-CAM results of companies like Revell, Hasegawa, Fujimi, Trumpeter, or the newly-resuscitated Airfix. Earliest kits from these CMK labels provided vacuum-formed canopies; however, the more recent issues have included injection-molded transparencies, instead.
Despite the limitations of the lower pressure styrene molds, the quality of the parts has been excellent, in my experience. These Czech kits usually include terrific resin castings for the more delicate parts, such as engines, seats, wheels, exhausts, etc., as well as photo-etched instrument panels, with film dial faces showing through the holes in the PE. Of the twenty or more CMK kits I have bought, this Whirlwind is the first I have built.
For some reason, nothing to do with the quality of the kit, I worked on the model in fits and starts, over a nearly three year period. I did much of the construction, then put it aside, coming back many months later to install the canopy and fair it in to the fuselage with epoxy. I don't know why, but after I had laboriously masked the canopy with Tamiya masking tape, I set the model aside again for almost eighteen months, before I finally manned up and started the painting. The fact that the Tamiya tape did not dry out or deteriorate over that time is a real testimony to the superior qualities of this material. Finally, a couple of months ago, while taking some vacation time, I worked my way through all of the masking and painting, clear coats and decaling, to finish the model.
The black (actually very dark grey) underside of the left wing was a early World War Two RAF recognition marker, so British anti-aircraft gun crews would not fire on British aircraft. All paint was Humbrol, lightened with white for scale effect. The decals were a mix of XtraDecal (national insignia) and kit decals (codes and serial numbers). Using the new-to-me Vallejo decal medium produced zero silvering with the decals: excellent! The aerial was strands of nylon from a costume party wig, and the flat finish was Testor's Clear Flat Lacquer. Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images.
Luftwaffe Blohm und Voss BV-141B (World War Two)
Blohm und Voss BV-141B (Google)
The Blohm und Voss BV-141B was a remarkable solution to a Luftwaffe request for a three man tactical reconnaissance and Wehrmacht co-operation aircraft. Experiments in 1938 by Blohm und Voss on the feasibility of an asymmetrical, single-engine aircraft were successful, and after much refinement to the design, the BV-141A was offered to the Luftwaffe for production. Reportedly the BV-141A series aircraft was a fine, docile flying machine, successfully meeting all of the RLM specifications. However, modifications made in an attempt to improve the aircraft's perfomance (the Bv-141B) caused vibrations, in particular from the new, more powerful BMW 810 engine. Other teething troubles with the hydraulics and the machine gun armament pushed qualification testing of the BV-141B to 1943; by then the Focke-Wulf Fw-189 was admirably fulfilling the tactical recon/co-operation role.
Ultimately, its unorthadox appearance, lack of factory space at Blohm und Voss (committed to building Fw-200 Condors, due to damage at the Focke-Wulf factory), and the fact that it would have diverted BMW engines from installation in Fw-190 fighters, doomed the BV-141B to rejection by the Luftwaffe. About fourteen examples of the production aircraft were built, but the survivors were relegated to become test beds for various engine modifications and equipment testing.
The BV-141B was 45 feet 9 inches long, 11 feet 10 inches high, spanned 57 feet 4 inches, weighed 10,362 pounds empty, 13,448 pounds maximum, had a top speed of 272 miles per hour at 16,400 feet, a service ceiling of 32,810 feet, and a maximum range of 1,180 miles. Armament consisted of two fixed, forward-firing 7.9mm machine guns, two flexible 7.9mm machine guns for defense, and up to four 110 pound bombs on underwing racks. (William Green)
Airfix Blohm und Voss BV-141B
I've been fascinated by this asymmetrical aircraft ever since the Airfix kit was released in 1970. I bought it then but never built it. I bought it again in the early 1980s and finally tried to build it, but was stymied by the thick, scarred, poor fitting transparencies of the crew nacelle. I gave up and hoped someone else would create a better kit. Thirty years later, MPM announced they would be releasing a new 1/72 kit of the BV-141B, but it still hasn't happened. I decided to try the Airfix kit again, and brought all of my awesome powers of model building to bear on making a silk purse out of this sow's ear. But all that my awesome powers achieved was something more like a nylon gym bag than a silk purse. The potential of that original Roy Cross box art remains unfulfilled.
Roy Cross box art for Airfix BV-141
To really start this project, I bought seven Airfix BV-141s on eBay, the older the better, to hopefully provide one complete, good set of transparencies for the crew cabin. I carefully culled through all the clear parts, many with cracks, tears and shortshots, and cleaned up the best candidates as well as I could, coating the interior surfaces with Future clear acrylic floor finish. I bought a Quickboost resin propellor set for a Ju-88 to provide the correct size propellor blades. The cooling fan and front cowling from an Airfix newly-tooled Fw-190 replaced the lame BV-141 engine. I cut up two of the BV-141 cowlings to make one cowling with the correct engine blisters, rounded at both ends, on both sides. Given the option with the 2008 re-release Airfix/Hornby kit decals, I chose the overall RLM 02 paint scheme, instead of the typical Luftwaffe RLM 65/70/71 splinter camouflage, to emphasize the intriguing asymmetrical design.
I scratchbuilt an interior for the crew nacelle, with film instrument panels, styrene machine gun magazines, and resin seats, basing the interior on the parts from an HPM 1/48 BV-141 I bought on eBay, to use as a 3D guide. The great empty cavities of the wheel wells in the hollow Airfix wings were blocked in with walls of 40 thou Evergreen styrene plastic, and detailed with 20 thou by 20 thou strips. The exaggerated rivets all over the model were carefully reduced with 0000 steel wool, and the rivets where the decals were to be applied were sanded completely smooth. Bent brass wire formed the crew ladder on the rear fuselage.
The great gaping seams between the opaque fuselage parts and the clear glazing parts were filled with Evergreen strips or epoxy, and the entire crew nacelle was carefully filed, sanded, buffed and polished to become as sleek and seamless as I could manage, but this effort fell short, as the subsequent airbrushing revealed. Eduard pre-cut masks of Tamiya tape covered the individual windows of the crew nacelle.
Speaking of airbrushing, this model was my first experience with the quality control problems that have plagued Humbrol paint since the Humbrol paint production by Hornby was subbed out to China. The RLM 02 Green Grey paint flowed out of the airbrushed in fat globules, instead of being finely atomized by the compressor, despite experiments with varying the air pressure, adding more Humbrol enamel thinner, and substituting lacquer thinner instead of enamel thinner. The globby paint dried to a very rough, grainy finish, which the Future clear acrylic could not smooth out. Regrettably, I did not research this paint problem on the internet, where I found widespread complaints about the drastic fall in Humbrol quality, until after the painting was finished.
I battled on, applying the excellent Airfix/Hornby decals, overcoating with more Future, and finally flat-coating with Testor's Clear Flat Lacquer. Flying lights in clear, red and green resin and a ground-down brass pitot tube completed the detailing, but I think it was like putting lipstick on a pig.
Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images, if you can stand it...
IJN Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden (Allied code name "Jack")
(World War Two)
Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden (Jack) (Google)
The Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden (Thunderbolt) was a high speed, fast climbing, short range, land-based interceptor designed for the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force, beginning in 1938. The distinctive long-nosed shape of the Raiden was driven by the need to streamline the cowling for the radial engine; note the unusual distance from the lip of the cowling back to the exhaust pipes, which are directly behind the engine cylinders. The distance between the engine block and propellor led to vibration problems, sometimes uncontrollable. The Raiden was plagued with other teething troubles and official indecisiveness, at least until the USAAF B-29 raids began to take serious effect, and this delayed production and deployment of this potentially effective interceptor fighter. Eventually, 476 Raidens of various marks were manufactured.
The J2M3 Raiden was 32 feet 7 inches long, 12 feet 11 inches tall, had a wingspan 35 feet 5 inches, an empty weight of 5,423 ponds, a loaded weight of 7,573 pounds, a top speed of 365 miles per hour at 20,000 feet, a service ceiling of 38,400 feet, and a range of 1,025 miles. Armament for the Raiden was four 20mm cannon mounted in the wings. (Naval Institute Press)
Hasegawa Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden (Jack)
A record of the construction of this Hasegawa kit of the Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden (Allied code name "Jack") is available for viewing by clicking here:
Build Jack 1 and Build Jack 2
which are tabs within the Building Models tab of this website. If you are interested in seeing nearly every tedious detail about building this model, please take a look. You'll feel like you built it yourself, by the end of the presentation...
To see enlargements of the images below, please click on the thumbnails.
USAAC A-26B Invader (World War Two)
Douglas A-26B Invader (Google)
Designed in 1941, first flown in 1942, the Douglas A-26B Invader was intended to quickly replace the North American B-25 Mitchell, the Martin B-26 Marauder and the Douglas A-20 Havoc medium bombers, able to fly farther, faster, with a greater bomb load and yet fewer crewmen. Three prototypes based on the same airframe were originally proposed by Douglas (glass-nosed bomber, solid nosed gunship/bomber, and night fighter), and the prototype was acknowledged to be a very powerful, fast, stable, pleasant to fly, high performance airplane.
Unfortunately, delays in organizing the manufacture of subassemblies by various subcontractors, plus continuous requests by the USAAC for modifications to the design, delayed introduction of the A-26 in the European theater until 1944, and in the Pacific until 1945. However, once deployed the A-26 proved to be a formidable bomber and ground attacker. It was so useful that the A-26 soldiered on into the Korean War in the 1950s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s. South American air forces operated the A-26 until the 1970s, and some aerial fire-fighting companies are still using A-26s (as in the Steve Spielberg movie "Always").
The A-26B was 50 feet 8 inches long, 18 feet 6 inches tall, wing span 70 feet 0 inches, empty weight 22,362 pounds, maximum loaded 41,800 pounds, range 1,680 miles, service ceiling 24,500 feet, maximum speed 322 miles per hour. (Squadron/Signal, Osprey Books)
Revell of Germany Douglas A-26B Invader
Some plastic models look so good in the box, all the parts still on the runners, that I get excited about building the kit, right away. This Revell of Germany re-box of an Italeri kit was one such model. Nearly all of the pieces seemed really crisply molded, there was an extensive interior, and the clear canopies seemed especially thin, clear and distortion-free. And I had long wanted to build a World War II gun-nosed A-26 (such a sleek, yet brawny, thug of an airplane), but there were only the very old, long-in-the-tooth Airfix and Monogram kits available, until this one came out.
Unfortunately, I wasn't free to start it immediately; other model commitments came first, plus I had a couple of other unfinished kits that needed completion, before I started anything new. But I told myself as soon as the work table was clear, this one was next.
The model was fun to build, but more of a challenge than the sharp-looking parts on the neatly organized runners suggested. There were some bewildering fit problems, some gaping seams to fill, and the engineering decision to force one mold for the fuselage to serve (with badly fitting inserts) to cover several variants of the real aircraft resulted in more trouble than all that flexibility was worth. Once the model was assembled, I realized that even though I had glued together the wings, fuselage and engine parts exactly according to how the model was designed, the two engine nacelles were not aligned with each other; the left nacelle aimed a little down, and the right nacelle aimed a little up. Not how Ed Heinemann and the Douglas Aircraft Corporation planned it, I don't think. I absorbed the misalignment by adjusting the engine cowlings, as best I could, and moved on.
I added Evergreen strip styrene framing detail to the cockpits and wheel wells, control levers to the cockpit console, and a clear bit of styrene to the pilot's gun sight (which I managed to leave out of the cockpit, the first time I attached the canopy and faired it in with epoxy). I also added a couple of really well-detailed resin engines, to replace two of the (very few) poorly executed parts from this otherwise very well done kit. The nose gun barrels were very small, thin-walled brass tubing (getting all eight parallel in plan and elevation was a trick), but the four machine gun barrels for the two turrets were turned brass after-market accessories, complete with cooling perforations, by MasterModel of Poland.
Although most A-26Bs were natural metal, I wanted mine in standard USAAC camouflage, so I searched my references until I found that some of the few A-26s sent to the Pacific were camouflaged. Based on color profiles in Osprey's book, "A-26 Invader Units of World War Two", I cobbled together a set of plausible markings and code letters/serial numbers from my MicroScale decal library, plus a totally specious example of WWII nose art (from a Kits at War decal set for an 8th AAF B-17G) to outfit my Invader.
Pre-cut canopy masks were very precise and accurate, by Eduard. All paint was Humbrol, lightened for scale effect, with Testor's Clear Flat Lacquer. Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images.
USAF Rockwell (North American) OV-10A Bronco
(Vietnam War to 2000s)
North American Rockwell OV-10A Bronco (Google)
The Rockwell (North American) OV-10A Bronco was the winner of the nine airframe designs submitted to fulfill a new COIN (COunter INsurgency) aircraft specification, as requested by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines, in 1964. The requirement was for a light weight, maneuverable, simple and easy-to-maintain airplane, capable of operating from primitive airfields, close to the battle front, in Vietnam-like guerilla conflicts. Once deployed to Vietnam, OV-10As were quickly shifted from direct interdiction duties to the forward air controller (FAC) role, taking the place of the much more vulnerable Cessna O-2A. These FAC aircraft loitered in the vicinity of American ground forces, spotting Viet Cong activity and accurately directing air strikes launched from much larger, faster jet fighter bombers such as the F-100 Super Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief, and F-4 Phantom. OV-10As used phosphorus rockets to mark the target area for the fighter bombers to hit. The low level operations were extremely risky for the FAC pilots, and required tremendous skill and courage; even so, high losses were incurred. The OV-10A remained in US service until after Gulf War One, when the FAC role was taken over by modified Fairchild Republic OA-10As.
The OV-10A was 41 feet 7 inches long, 15 feet 2 inches tall, wing-span 40 feet 0 inches; empty weight was 6,893 pounds, fully loaded weight was 14,444 pounds, top speed was 281 mph, combat radius 228 miles. Armament was four 7.62mm machine guns in the sponsons under the fuselage, plus up to 3,600 pounds of free-falling munitions and/or rockets or missiles. The OV-10A is still in service in several foreign air forces, including Thailand and Columbia. (Crescent Books)
Hasegawa Rockwell (North American) OV-10A
This Hasegawa model of the OV-10A was an early effort on my part to place well in an IPMS contest. A MicroScale decal sheet provided the paint instructions, markings, insignia, and instrument panels for a USAF OV-10A. I went to the library of the National Air and Space Museum and xeroxed all the information and images I could find there, to guide how I could super-detail the model, inside and out.
In the cockpit, I added canopy breakers to the ejection seats, cylinders representing instrument housings to the back of the observer's instrument panel, and that great big, clunky simulation of the pilot's reflector gun sight, just behind the windscreen transparency. On both sides of the canopy I added hatch levers made of wire, painted yellow. Inside the fuselage I added strips of Evergreen styrene to simulate the fuselage framing, and corrugated Evergreen sheet to the cargo bay.
I adapted the front landing gear wheel wells from two spare Monogram A-10A kits (I went through a half dozen of those, during my A-10A addiction) to fit inside the main wheel wells in the engine booms. I scratch-built the front landing gear wheel well, and added brake lines to the main landing gear struts, made from thin copper wire. I cut out and repositioned the ailerons, flaps, elevator and rudders. I replaced the over-sized kit machine guns with more in-scale barrels made from piano wire.
All paint was Humbrol, flat finish was Poly S, decals were MicroScale (Looking at these photos, I'm dismayed to see how badly these 25-year-old decals have yellowed on the model). The white paint on the upper wing was to identify Broncos as friendly to other US aircraft. To make the relatively tame paint scheme of the aircraft more colorful (and lethal-looking), I added Hasegawa 500 pound Mk 52 bombs with fuse extenders, and Hasegawa Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missiles. I didn't know if this was particularly authentic, but I thought it looked cool. The IPMS judges must have thought so, too, because the model won a Second Place trophy for 1/72 Medium Aircraft at the IPMS National Contest in Washington, DC, in 1987.
Years later, I found and eagerly read the memoir of a Vietnam veteran named Marshall Harrison. He flew a USAF OV-10A as a Forward Air Controller. The book was called "A Lonely Kind Of War" and it was fascinating reading. Just a year or two ago, I found a DVD of a documentary on the design and operation of OV-10As, called "One Tough Ride." What a great airplane.
Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images of the model.
Convair Model 48 Charger II (1960s proposal, never built)
Photo of the single Convair Model 48 Charger prototype (Google)
The Model 48 Charger was the Convair Aircraft Corporation's contestant in the Tri-Service COIN (COunter INsurgency) aircraft Request For Proposals issued in October of 1963. Convair had actually built the Model 48 prototype with corporate funds in response to an earlier US Navy RFP for a LARA (Light Armed Reconaissance Aircraft) for the US Marines, and although North American had won the Tri-Service (USN, USAF, and USMC) contract with their OV-10A Bronco design, Convair was given the opportunity to compete the already-flying Charger against the still-on-paper Bronco. The unfortunate crash of the single assembled prototype of the Model 48, plus the departure of Convair from the aircraft manufacturing business, put an end to the Charger's future.
Drawing of proposed Convair Model 48 Charger II production version
In the 1980s, while doing research on the North American OV-10A for building the Hasegawa kit, I came across mention of the Convair Model 48 Charger. It was a fascinating looking airplane, and I made a mental note that it would be fun to build a model of it, someday, but the challenge of scratch building such complex, compound curves, particularly at the transparent canopy, was far beyond my skills at the time.
A few years ago, I spotted and promptly purchased a copy of the Ginter Naval Fighters series booklet Number Thirty-Nine, on the Charger. Now I had three-view drawings, details and photos from which to scratch build the aircraft. In particular, the Ginter book revealed that Convair had developed (on paper) an improved Model 48, called the Charger II (see drawing above). This looked like a subject I might be able to scratch build. And in 2014, I began that effort. To see an account of scratch building that airplane model, click HERE.
To see larger images of the finished model, click on the thumbnails below:
Postscript: Not long after posting the first model of a Mosquito to this website, I become dissatisfied with the shade of green paint I used on the model. This paint color was Humbrol "Matt Dark Green" No.30, and it was supposed to accurately portray the RAF Dark Green of World War Two. But it just didn't look right to me. I scoured the internet for images and information, and as I anticipated, I got a range of opinions and examples of RAF Dark Green, including of images of existing Mosquito aircraft in museums. Although I know the appearance of color on my computer monitor is highly suspect (too many variables between the taking the image and the posting the image, plus what individual CPUs and their software do to images), my suspicion was confirmed: My choice of paint seemed a lot too pine green; not olive enough.
In February, 2018, I saw the Mosquito FB Mk. IV at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This splendid aircraft, painstakingly restored in New Zealand, was a fantastic sight to walk around, and I hope to see it fly at the air show in May, 2018. This magnificent airplane confirmed to my Mk. One eyeball that RAF Dark Green should have some hint of olive green to it. What to do?
There was no practical way to change the Dark Green paint on this model, so the next model I started was the second Tamiya Mosquito FB Mk. IV, with a different shade of Humbrol green, posted above.
The images you see below are of the first Mosquito I built.