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Hello mates, MOA's builds of civilian aircraft has got me interested in building some civilian aircraft. I chose Smithy's "Southern Cross" as my first adventure into these planes. I have had many hours looking through google images and becoming totally confused. There are plenty of pictures available, but you have to work out which picture belongs to what era. The "Southern Cross" was built from 2 wrecks and it was rebuilt and rebuilt and rebuilt and rebuilt again. I have chosen to do the aircraft as she was when it was flown from the USA to Australia. Should be easy, right. Box art. Instructions. Parts. If anyone wishes to add any info to this build feel free to do so. Thanks for looking. Stephen
Another build from the past, 7 years ago this time: The Lockheed family (Altair, Orion, Vega, Sirius) and the Northrop family (Alfa, Beta, Gamma, Delta) share an appeal that's easy to appreciate. Because of their exquisitely flowing lines and their aura of glamour they often become a reference paradigm of the Golden Era of aviation. Of its multiple feats and certain prowess much is already written to be repeated here, so go and look around if you are not familiar with the types and their achievements, you won’t regret it. The Lockheed Altair that is the subject of this build gained its place in history -as it seems to be the case for almost every member of this remarkable breed- attempting a record flight. I’ll refer you to Wikipedia where you will find sufficient information to have a general idea of the facts involved with this particular subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Southern_Cross Surprisingly enough, and in spite of the fame and appeal of the types cited above, there is not really much about those magnificent planes regarding kits. So here again the minor players and the cottage industry –bless them- come to the rescue, this time in the form of the 1/72 LF models Lockheed Altair resin kit. As far as I can tell they released two schemes: J-BAUC (a Japanese civil machine) and a US “yellow wings” version. Upon arrival -after a couple of hand changes- the very small and thin gauge-lidded box revealed what seemed –more later- to be a decently molded resin kit, with good decals, TWO vacuformed canopies (thanks LF, modelers really do appreciate that) a photoetched set to cater for the cockpit details, a length of wire to reinforce the landing gear, a piece of clear styrene for the landing light and a fuselage window (more on that later) and the traditional resin parts attached to their casting blocks. The fuselage floor and the two joysticks were missing, because the pouch containing the resin parts had a slit (through which they possible escaped and are now lying on a Brazilian beach drinking piña colada). Manufacturer’s fault? vendor’s fault? laws of physics’ fault? We may never know. The wing, as I discovered, was a very, very close match to that of Special Hobby’s Lockheed Orion’s. They were so close, that you could replace one for the other and nobody will notice, if you know what I mean. Since pinholes were present on the LF kit wing leading edges and wheel wells, I used for this build Special Hobby’s injected wing (which was discarded when I scratched the wing for Wiley Post’s Explorer-Orion hybrid). The kit’s wing is of course perfectly usable just filling and sanding the pinholes as in many other resin kits. Since this kit uses a “generic” wing, you should take note that the machine depicted here had two oval landing lights on the wing leading edges (instead of the only square one). For what I can tell from photos, J-BAUC (the manufacturer’s decal subject) did not have any lights at all on the leading edge, but who knows, may be at some point in its life?. Lady Southern Cross had a larger air intake on the engine clearly visible in contemporary photos. The fuselage window (present on other machines) was covered/painted-over here. Almost all the photos I have seen show the tail wheel semi-covered by a streamlined fairing, so you have to manufacture said part or resort to the spares' bin (that’s only if you are going for Lady Southern Cross). Both instrument panels come printed in heavy stock glossy paper instead of being part of the decals, for some obscure reason. The instruction sheet shows on one side the intended model (the Japanese machine J-BAUC in this case) in colors and on the other side a part’s map and an exploded view which is so-so, perhaps a result of the just-mentioned explosion. The English text translation (this is a Czech manufacturer) can be understood, but it is a bit puzzling. What would it take for this manufacturer to ask one of his English-speaking costumers, better yet: one of its vendors!- to review a translation? three emails and an hour? I think it is not an exorbitant price to pay. Fuselage sides proved to be lacking in width (they didn’t have a circular cross-section where applicable, but more of an ogival shape. The fuselage Karmans therefore won’t meet the upper wing halves’ edges, leaving a gap, whatever you tried the original resin wing or the left-over Orion’s wing. I had to add a strip of styrene to build-up some width to one fuselage side. That proved right because now the provided canopy would meet the fuselage as it should. I wonder if the LF guys ever built this kit. I clarify here that I only removed the casting blocks from the fuselage sides, and did not sand the parts flat which would have caused the lack in width; the shortcoming is the kit’s. The interior was assembled with the photoetched and resin parts provided adding only a few stringers for theatrical effect. Usually as I wait for parts to set I take care of the smaller items like engine and props. Once the prop was painted and decaled –my own decals- I noticed something strange: the two blades were inclined to the same side, instead of making an “X” when viewed from the side. Either LF just re-invented the prop, or some crude mistake was made here. Again, coincidentally, Special Hobby’s Orion comes with a prop with separate blades that somebody may have assembled incorrectly before making a mold for the resin part. The solution was simple in this case as I had only to cut one blade and re-glue it at the right angle. Now one could assume that not only LF didn’t assemble this model to check it, but also may perhaps have little knowledge on how a prop works. Metal pins were inserted on the tail surfaces and corresponding holes drilled on the fuselage. The wing internal side of the trailing edge had to be packed-up with a styrene strip to make the Karmans match more or less the wing profile as a compromise solution, since when you aligned the forth part of the area the back won’t align, and vice-versa. I noticed in photos a metal strip running along the middle of the canopy which is absent on the framing molded on the provided transparency, no big deal since a decal strip can be added there. Two “U” shaped parts for the landing gear legs were replaced, since the resin counterparts, although OK, looked a tad fragile. MV lenses were used to depict the lights, fine springy steel wire for the Pitot and so forth. There is a part provided as an interface between the engine and the fuselage which I discarded since it neither fit well nor was it realistic. I just made a disc of adequate thickness and glued it to the fuselage nose, then glued the cowl+engine to it. The fuel caps were fabricated from punched-out thin aluminum discs and glued. After painting it was decal time. This is the type of decal sheet that has an all-encompassing carrier, so you have to cut each item loose, trimming around it carefully. It caters for the four decorations that Lady Southern Cross wore (more follows Re that). We wanted to go for the G-ADUS registration that Lady Southern Cross was wearing when it went missing, flying into eternity, but the purchased after-market decal sheet has a couple of mistakes on that one. To start with, it didn’t have the upper wing registration, visible on photos. Then the fuselage registration was outlined which seems to be wrong (not for VH-USB, though, which was indeed outlined). So VH-USB it was. Knowing by experience what decals can be some times, I started applying some small items first. So far so good. But then I applied the black regs under the wing and the carrier film was showing so badly that I had remove them. Since this lettering was in black I made my own decals and all went ok. The rest of the decals were fine, but the way the cowl wrap-around white ribbon is provided (in four parts) made the alignment tricky, and when you had an overlap it will show. In spite of the already mentioned shortcomings (some minor, some not) LF put out there an Altair kit, and that’s a merit on itself. I can’t believe that the other related models on the market, Special Hobby’s Lockheed Orion and Williams Bros Northrop Gamma are the only similarly-oriented kits out there. Sad, isn’t it? For what I could see on their website, LF Models (to whom I am not related or affiliated in any way) has many interesting kits: a Monocoupe, some racers, some autogyros. I can not –since I have never seen or built one- comment on their quality or accuracy though, but I am glad they present a plethora of nice options to the modeler. Their price is similar to some other brands of resin kits of quality, so it is a matter for you to compare and choose. Lady Southern Cross was a great adventure for the historic characters; and no doubt a little bit for this modeler too.
This may be of particular interest to the Subjects from Australia and New Zealand This Fokker F.VIIb3m was originally Wilkins Polar plane "Detroiter" that ended up crashing. It was repaired using also parts of the F.VII "Alaskan" -that was the other plane of the polar expedition- and painted with the reg. 1985 as the Southern Cross with some sponsorships (The S.F. Chronicle, Fageol Flyer, Spirit of Los Angeles), flown finally to Australia with the registration 1985 earning much deserved fame -but without the sponsorship letterings-; it was re-registered there as G-AUSU and finally as VH-USU -and as such again in many different decoration schemes that differed from one another to some major or minor extent, as well as in windows and doors location and engine gondola types and other details. Later in its life the plane was restored to a more original configuration, and in that guise it can be represented with the kit as it comes, studying of course that later scheme. However, the kit, as it is, was not duly modified for the configuration necessary to represent the machine on its epic flight to Australia. For that you need to work a bit. And study another bit. Depending on which moment in the plane's life you would like to represent, the details are as subtle as this: for the Fageol Flyer livery, you can see six-point starts, but from then on, only five-point stars depicting the iconic constellation. The kit's decals have seven-point stars, following the inaccurate museum "restoration" -that somehow mixed some features of the plane at different stages of its life. So this is one of the many VH-USU configurations, one less-commonly portrayed in photos and one I have never seen in model form before, that entails a specific decoration on the wings. The kit required some modifications and many additions to fulfill its destiny as presented here, but it is a fair base to work upon, so much so that I bought another one to build perhaps as the Wilkins polar exploration machine, or the Argentine ex-Friendship, or some other arcane livery. Valom's Fokker F.VII -already a bit dated- is not really a refined kit, although the resin and P.E. add-ons surely help. It's a bit heavy-handed and requires work to show its potential. But with some little skill, good references and love, it can be transformed and adapted to depict many Fokker liveries. Parts for those transformations are sometimes included already in the box. It is much better than the Frog/Zvezda release, no doubt, but still needs the modeler's help to shine.