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  1. I first became aware of the Northrop BT-1 after watching the 1941 Warner Bros / Errol Flynn movie ‘Dive Bomber’ in the 1980s (and made a fuzzy VHS recording of it which I played back many times). The film was the last in a series of 1930s Hollywood movies with a naval aviation theme (mostly with a screenplay written by ex-naval aviator Cmdr. Frank ‘Spig’ Wead) and the only one in glorious Technicolor. As ever in aviation movies, the true stars were the aircraft. The BT-1s don’t have a big role in the film, but form a backdrop to some of the final sequences. It was the only type in the film with which I was then unfamiliar and I was struck by the prominent ‘podded’ semi-retractable landing gear a bit like its contemporary the Seversky P-35. Naturally, I was inspired to build a model at some point...... The first in a long line of carrier aircraft to be designed by the legendary Ed Heinemann, the BT-1 was nevertheless a flawed design, but lead directly to the very successful SBD Dauntless, with which it shared the same outer wing panels. The BT-1 had poor low speed stability; not exactly a desirable characteristic in a carrier aircraft and although delivered in 1938, it was 1940-41 before the 54 built were committed to carrier use with squadrons VB-5 & 6 aboard Yorktown and Enterprise, after some of the flaws had been fixed. The prototype had ‘solid’ dive flaps, which caused extreme tail buffeting during the pullout from a dive, which was cured by adding holes to the flaps in various sizes and patterns until an optimum solution was found. Test pilot Vance Breese performed over 100 9g pullouts during this activity and the resulting perforated flap design was a great success. The low speed stability problem was eventually improved by adding slots in the outer wings, carried over to the SBD. The rear, hinged portion of the gunner’s canopy caused turbulence which affected gun aiming, so these were removed some time after delivery and the SBD had a different rear enclosure, which slid forward rather than projecting into the airstream. Carrier service of the BT-1 was short and they were relegated to training in Miami when the first SBDs became available around mid-1941. I recently completed my BT-1 project, based on the 1/72 Esoteric Models vacform kit, which I had 90% completed around 1997. I had difficulties with the paintwork, which relegated it to the ‘Shelf of Doom’ for over 20 years and it was my longest-uncompleted model. The arrival of the Ginter ‘Naval Fighters Series’ volume on the BT-1 rekindled my interest in the type with its remarkable collection of photos and inspired me to rework a few areas. Like most of my vac projects, it’s really ‘Scratchbuilding-Lite’ as only the basic fuselage and wing components get used (heavily modified) and everything else is scratchbuilt. In this case, that includes the P & W R-1535 Twin Wasp Jr engine and Hamilton-Standard 10’ controllable pitch prop, all control surfaces, flaps including flap motor, torque tubes and actuating links, landing gear and fairings, canopies, wheels and all the other external details, including the gun camera and practice bomb dispensers. I challenged myself to see if I could reproduce absolutely everything in the cockpits, which took months, including the 40-piece Douglas gunner’s mount....not sure if I’ll go that far again, but it looks the part. So here is my model of Bu.No. 0614, the 4th section leader's aircraft of VB-5 'Winged Satans', aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-5), 1940......
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