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Catching Pictures in the Air
TheBaron posted a topic in Work in Progress - AircraftI thought I'd tuck this in as a mark of intent for the next build, although I don't intend any serious work commencing on it for at least a week or so yet: Italeri's Fairchild C-119 G Boxcar from 1985. I think this is going to be fun, and slakes two of my particular thirsts - cameras in the sky and in orbit - so let me explain.... Backstory 'When Harmon touched the capsule, he jerked his hand back because it was hot. Then he touched the capsule again and it wasn't really hot, but it was quite warm...Harmon was the first person on Earth to feel the heat of reentry.' Corona Star Catchers, p.88 http://www.nro.gov/history/csnr/corona/StarCatchersWeb.pdf As the Cold War developed throughout the 1950s, the increasing vulnerability of aircraft to interception led the US to foster 'national technical means' in order to conduct surveillance of the USSR (amongst other targets) from orbit. This led to the inception of the Corona program. This first generation of US spy satellites - more accurately referred to by their 'Keyhole' security designation eg. KH-4 - were film-based (this was long before any digital downlink capability for imagery remember) and faced the non-trivial problem of returning the exposed film back to Earth from orbit for development and analysis. Think the beginning of the film Ice Sation Zebra and you get the idea. After a succession of problems, the first operational 'take' was returned to Earth in August of 1960. Initial resolution was in the range of 35-40 feet (depending on atmospheric conditions) but over the course of the decade this resolution drastically improved with each successive generation of KH imagery. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has some quite exceptional KH-4 images in high resolution here: https://airandspace.si.edu/collections/search?filter[set_name]=Corona Program Exhibit Posters Collection These will let you see both the improvement over time in resolution, as well as the scale of the context images in relation to enlarged sections. There's an evocative contemporary USAF film here that gives an example mission profile: What I'm going to do here is turn the 'G' kit version into a 'J' version that was used to collect the returned film buckets in mid-air. You can see this terminal part of the mission illustrated here: Although this is a later graphic showing the C-130, the procedure for the C-119 was effectively identical. The aircraft I intend building is 'Pelican 9' (s/n 51-8037), flown by Capt. Harold E. Mitchell, responsible for the first successful Corona film bucket collection. The National Reconaissance Office maintains a decent online Corona archive here: http://www.nro.gov/history/csnr/corona/index.html which includes an excellent oral history of the recovery crews who flew these missions: http://www.nro.gov/history/csnr/corona/StarCatchersWeb.pdf The best book in print currently on the Corona missions is Eye in the Sky: The Story of the Corona Spy Satellites, ed. Dwayne A. Day et.al. Although thoroughly researched it is a typical aerospace history in being drily technocratic and lacking any real critical perspectives on events. William Burrows' Deep Black provides a useful (and more readable) historical account of the transition from aircraft to orbital reconnaissance systems. For basic information on 'Pelican 9' I'm relying on the excellent Aerofax volume Fairchild C-82 Packet and C-119 Flying Boxcar, by Alwyn T. Lloyd, as well as the Starcatchers publication listed above, this latter volume has some superb interior shots of the rear of the recovery planes, showing details of the recovery gear that I've not seen anywhere else. The aircraft itself is currently preserved at the National Museum of the US Air Force: http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/MuseumExhibits/FactSheets/Display/tabid/509/Article/197556/fairchild-c-119j-flying-boxcar.aspx Now a little about the kit: I bought this second-hand off a gentleman online who had packed it immaculately between layers of Co-op paper: A gert big instruction booklet and canary yellow decal sheet (which I probably won't use anything from): The runners: Notice anything missing in the above shot btw? No wings! I just had a mild coronary until I dashed back to the box and found them under the bottom layer of paper which I hadn't turned over. Not an auspicious start! I'm not sure yet how accurate some of that interior is, so the jury's open on how much will still be there by the end. Same for what's up inside the front end (along with some tasty sink marks...) Is that a bullwhip on the port side behind those fire extinguishers? The engines are less than over-whelming however. As the kit is a 'G variant that would make these Wright R-3350s, which would also be suitable for the version I intend building I think. I'm not happy with the way these look here however - I'm wanting to replace one of them with one of these from Aerolines for a reveal possibly: https://www.modelchoice.net/catalogue/aircraft/engine-engine-set/wright-r-3350-al-7013.html However, I'm throwing this open to the floor for any eagle-eyed engine experts to correct me if that's wrong in relation to this: It's kind of hard to tell... This is also going to be a lot bigger than I imagined! A glimpse down the dance hall: There's going to be some fun kitting this out for sure. Look at all those bloody windows though... Gawd...lots to pop out later. Aside from doing something about the engines if I can, the biggest tasks are to built a new 'J' ahem beaver-tail instead of the 'G' ahemahemclam-shell rear door, build new aerial arrays for the nose, and do up the interior with all the various booms, winches, platforms, collection drum etc. I had toyed with some kind of 'capture' scenario with the aircraft it in flight dramatically snagging the parachute in the trailing wires: but it would just be too big to store anywhere with the chute dangling backwards from the booms. I'll need to go through the kit in greater detail now and start comparing it to references shots in order to do up a job list. Thanks for reading! Tony