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  1. Record Fever. The 20’s and 30’s saw one record flight after another fall more rapidly than the transit of the sun. They were a combination of show business and keen aviation skills, and helped to develop the industry as well as to create confidence among the general public towards the capabilities of the airplane. Individuals, Cities, States and Countries alike sought to gain the first page of newspapers, not to mention the industry brands that saw their products widely advertised in a way many times impossible to buy with money. So it was a win-win situation for everybody involved, pilots, sponsors, media, industry and the general public. This particular machine, thanks to in-flight refueling stayed aloft for more than seventeen days, piloted by Forrest O’Brine and Dale Jackson above the Lambert, St. Louis airfield. The machine was an out-of-the-production-line Curtiss Robin, slightly modified, equipped with the standard Curtiss Challenger six-cylinder engine, named the St. Louis Robin1. Two men manned the plane, taking four-hour turns to pilot and rest on a bunk above the fuselage super-sized auxiliary tank, refuel from the tanker and repair the engine in flight using an external rig braced around the engine. The flight was from 13 July to 30 July 1929. Quite a feat, isn’t it? This particular plane, as said, was adapted for the record flight, so a number of little things will need your keen attention. Always, always, always, no matter how good you think the plan or kit you have is, look at photographic references and contemporary accounts of the events. You will be very surprised almost every single time discovering how far from reality representations could be. No kit for this one, fellows (see, there are some advantages to scratchbuilding), and many an hour was spent looking for additional references, but you can start with the very good article on this plane on Skyways (Oct 2011) magazine. Nice history, nice plane, nice colors. What else could you ask for an engaging modeling project? The ancillary structure around the engine was for in-flight -plein air- repairs/inspection (yes, believe it or not). The opening on the back was for the in-flight refueling operation.
  2. This is a second Curtiss Robin record holder model, built 3 years ago, that now is at the Greater St Louis Air & Space Museum. This Robin as mentioned before was especially converted for the task at hand, and many differences from the stock Robin can be observed. To start with the catwalks and their additional supports in the nose area which allowed the crew to exit the plane and service the engine in flight; the rearranging of windows and doors; the elements associated with the massive fuselage fuel tank; the necessary changes in the fuselage top to facilitate the refueling operation; and finally some minor other details seen in photos. Jack Abercrombie, curator of the museum, provided invaluable material and input throughout the various faces of the building process to achieve an accurate as possible replica. Scratchbuilding less known types often requires that a large amount of time be dedicated to research, before any building is done. But research can be as fun as modeling itself. When you do team research, or pool the resources of many people to create a more accurate model, it is just bliss. And as a bonus you learn a lot and you make new friends in the process. I was contacted by Jack Abercrombie, curator of the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum, to build a model of the Curtiss Robin St. Louis 1, holder of the endurance record in 1929. Jack has seen the model I made on February 2012 for my friend and aviation scholar David Smith of the same plane (that was featured in the April 2012 issue of Skyways Magazine), and wanted to produce a replica for the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum http://airandspacemuseum.org/ This time, unlike the first model I made 6 years ago, I commissioned professional decals from Arctic Decals. I seldom repeat a model, but this time it was worth it.
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