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Found 9 results

  1. A build from 2010, nine years ago. It is fortunate be able to find a good livery for a plane that you like but don’t want to model as it is conventionally represented. The Cant Z.501 is one of such planes, in the form of the record-braking prototype, I-AGIL. Cant stands fro Cantieri Rinuiti dell’ Adriatico, Z stands for Zappata, its designer, “500 series” because it was a seaplane, opposite to the “1000 series” which were land planes. With help from Fabrizio D’Isanto (a very knowledgeable fellow enthusiast) I was able to round-up some missing data and could proceed with the project.. Paolo Miana, the aviation writer that published a book on the Savoia S.64 also helped. To get the Italeri Cant Z.501 old kit wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be; the few I found were running for pretty stiff prices. Finally fellow modeler Christos Psarras from Florida helped me to get a kit at a fair price. My thanks go to all these friends. I-AGIL was powered by an Isotta Fraschini ASSO 750 with an almost circular radiator front. It established two straight distance non-stop records, once flying from Monfalcone to Massawa and later from Monfalcone to Berbera. Some differences in appearance can be spotted along its life in the available photos. The Italeri kit would need some adaptations; the most conspicuous differences being the canopy and front engine areas. The fore and aft openings on the hull and engine gondola were apparently faired over for the first record flight but the aft fuselage position can be seen open and with a windscreen for the second flight. Italeri’s model has fine raised panel lines, few of them because the plane was made of wood. They were sanded and replaced by engraved lines. The “fabric” detail in the control surfaces definitely needs to be toned down. The general feeling, being this a very old mold, is on the slightly chunky side, but is a nice base upon which the modeler can exercise some...well....modeling. Some struts were supplemented or replaced by Contrail and Strutz streamlined stock. The front of the engine gondola was replaced by scratched parts. The record version had a different instrument panel and control wheel arrangement which I made and substituted for the kit parts. Regarding the canopy, Italeri offers a transparency that bridges a large gap of the fuselage and gives support to some of the wing struts. I-AGIL had two side-by-side independent canopies. That area therefore was re-constructed with styrene sheet and a master was created to vacuform the separate canopies. The interior was kept simple since almost nothing can be seen –as it is often the case- through the exiguous canopy openings. Parts 50/51 are depicted in the instructions without a pair of knobs that are supposedly used to hold parts 52/53. The latter will only mess the assembly, since they are bigger than they should and will open the struts’ angle too much, preventing them to rest in their marked position on the fuselage. Radio masts should go, not needed for I-AGIL. The hatches are not a good fit, so be warned. Struts 38 and 39 need their “handles” removed, but there was a probe on the original on the left side strut (as the pilot seats). There was a navigation light at the tip of the fin. The ailerons in the kit have a line that divides them in two surfaces. Those dividing lines were filled and control horns were glued there and to the rudder. A wind-driven generator was fashioned and glued to the fuselage spine. Painting ensued and the sub-assemblies were kept separate to facilitate this stage and later decaling. Once the main components were ready the wing struts were glued to the fuselage. Beware that those struts are sided, and that there is one (slightly shorter) that goes forward. Floats were then added to provide rigidity and the right geometry. After decaling the vertical stabilizer the horizontal stabilizer halves were glued, and then their supports. I opted to glue real short tubes to the upper exhaust rows and to drill the ones one the sides of the engine gondola. Parts (2) 32 are diagonal strut cross members -kind of hidden in the instructions- and they are absent in most of the models I have seen. The wing was then glued to the fuselage and struts, and I have to say that it was a good fit. Minor details, about thirty lengths of rigging wire and decals were added and the record-braking plane was ready to cruise on the skies. With a little work you can convert your “all-look-the-same-to-me” model into something different and more stimulating meaning-wise. Give it a try.
  2. A build from 2 years ago: While doing some research for the previously posted Caudron C.600 Aiglon, which flew with Mme. Finat, I noticed some photos of the record variant, the C.610. Basically the same plane, with increased fuel capacity, the deletion of the fore seat and a revised canopy, plus other details. Two apparently were built/converted: the registration that interested me was F-ANSK, flown by French Elisabeth Lion to some remarkable achievements. The plane's appearance changed quite a bit during its life, so check your references. I am basing my work on some images found on the Net after much researching, and "L'aviation Légère en France", by Roger Gaborieau. I thought it was only fair to build a second plane flown by a successful women. I had first to establish a chronology to sort out the many different schemes the plane wore during it's life: Chronology F-ANSK (const. # 7035) Beginning at the presumed end of its life, the only certain deductive starting point possible: -The plane is appropriated by the invading forces. As such it still wore most of its registration, and had a very light finish, possibly cream, not likely white, or a really whitish aluminium color, and marks in what seems red (which renders a very dark hue in B&W photos). It still has the spinner and the Ratier prop, as well as the three stripes on the external side of the wheel pants, and the last known closed cockpit configuration (that looks like a racer, a bit like a C.430 Rafale's) with "half-moons" extending the view that coincide with the cockpit opening to the sides). The fore position is seamlessly erased, not just lidded over. -Therefore the photos of the plane with Elisabeth Lion posing with the exact scheme (minus the despicable nazi marks) are the last wore by the plane before the war. In that configuration a not too prominent "bulge" can be seen bellow the fuselage due to the tank that provided extended fuel capacity. In one photo Mlle. Lion is wearing a white mechanics garment, and the color of the plane seems close to that, possibly a very light cream. -The configuration that preceded that one, inverts the tones of the decoration. The plane is painted in a dark hue (perhaps blue), and the marks in a lighter hue (perhaps silver, although definitely not white), besides changes in the details of the decoration (different wheel pants motifs, a small French flag, etc). In this scheme extensive windows are seen in what used to be the front seat area. Still the closed canopy is there with it's half-moons to the sides. The inversion of the decoration colors is not the product, as some times happens, of ortho and panchro films, to which many other details in the photos attest. -The configuration that preceded those above had a different, sort of "fighter" canopy, the fore position closed with a visible lid, no Ratier prop nor spinner. A tailwheel is present instead of a tailskid. -In an earlier configuration (July 1936) at the "12 heures d'Angers" (which were reduced to 6 hours due to weather), the two positions on the plane are open and have their windshields. The airscoop at the left cheek of the cowl is still there. A number "83" (the age she will pass away, strangely enough) is visible on wing and fuselage. Mlle. Lion will come 2nd at the 8 liters category. -To adapt the kit for the conversion I started by cutting off the first half of the cockpit floor, since only the aft pilot's position is needed. -I discarded the prop since the variant I want to model had a Ratier prop with a prominent spinner. -Necessary additions are a slim "belly" seen in photos (extended tankage), a new decal set and a home-made vacuum-formed canopy. -Deletions will include the fore position and the intake normally seen at the left cheek of the engine cowl. As you can see this an adaptation that doesn't require special things, and just involves normal skills and renders a model with an interesting "racy" appearance and remarkable historical significance. Here together with the Caudron C.600 of Mme. Finat posted today:
  3. A build from 12 years ago: Long range planes were in vogue in different countries at the time when the record fever was burning high. This elegant monoplane was designed by Alessandro Marchetti aiming to conquer the endurance and distance records. First flown in 1928, the unusually configured machine demonstrated that the potential was there to intent the planned feat. The S.64 was in a way a sort of motor-glider, with a large wing area and minimal extras, capable of accommodating a crew of three in a small pod blended with the wing, on top of which the engine –a Fiat A 22T- was enclosed inside a streamlined gondola. Construction was mostly of wood –even the wings were covered in plywood- and the struts were metal. It conquered the distance and endurance records in closed circuit and later, in a flight to Brazil, in straight distance. In 1929 a second machine, the S.64 bis, with minor modifications, re-conquered the records that by then were in the hands of France and Germany. None of the machines survived long Thanks to Fabrizio D’Isanto, Jim Schubert and all the modelers that helped with information and advice. A perfect reference for this build is Paolo Miana's "L'ala di gabbiano con la finezza di uno Stradivario" "Seagull wing with the finesse of a Stradivarius"
  4. I Know exactly what these Merlin kits are: an attempt of Kaos to disrupt the modeling world, to sow utter confusion among unsuspected modelers, to drive Control mad trying to build unbuildable, amorphous lumps of plastic in a vain, futile effort to obtain a model! This "kit" should be a prominent character in one of Poe's or Nathaniel Hawthorne's scary stories, or be in one of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu myths... Oh, the horror... If you have the strength of heart, and can bear it, you may consult the step-by-step Modeling Noire genre story here: Yes, after all that time and inordinate amount of painstaking effort, a not totally indecent model was produced. Was it worth it? Get yourself a Planet Lockheed Air Express (I did after this!) and trash this miserable lump of Merlin plastic if it happened to have sneakily crawled into your stash. Or donate it to a Museum of Horrors, to be displayed aside (or better in) the torture chamber. Or wait -if you don't like resin kits or their prices are not for your modeling budget- until a manufacturer produces these Golden Age beauties in styrene form. One very good thing came of it, though: I commissioned the decal sheet from Arctic Decals (the kit decal sheet was as miserable -and wrong- as the plastic), and it is superb, of exquisite quality. So I now have spare decals for my other Air Express, yippee! I represented the plane as flown by Frank Hawks in the 1929 National Air Tour, as a pathfinder plane for the entrants. Once again I reiterate that this plane went through a large number of modifications in details and marks (some listed on the WIP post), so be careful, if you attempt to model it, with your research, and base it not on drawings, but on photos.
  5. A build from 6 years ago, another classic of the Golden Age. Continuing with the record plane saga, here we have the Stinson SM-1 Detroiter “City of Chicago” that conquered the endurance record after flying 553 hours 41 minutes with in-flight refueling. The four Hunter Bros. manned both, the record and the refueling plane (Big-Ben, another Detroiter). I guess that by the time they got down, the diameter of the pistons of the venerable Wright J-6 was reduced to that of a pin. As in other similar record planes, maintenance of the engine was done by the dubious procedure of exiting the plane while flying and stepping on a catwalk that surrounded the plane’s nose. Brave men, those record-seeking people. Once again, as no kit of the Stinson SM-1 is around, scratchbuilding was the solution. Fair is to say that Khee-Kha Art Products of Alaska sells a beautiful resin J-6, with prop and exhausts included, and that helped quite a bit. Wheels where white metal aftermarket parts form Aeroclub and the rest created with the Enterprise replicator Of a slightly bigger size than the previously posted Curtiss Robin record plane, they share nevertheless a similar concept shape-wise, so more or less the same building techniques were used, the only variation being the upper and lower fuselage which had a slight curve, and therefore required particular parts.
  6. From 5 years ago, a long span plane that performed a long span flight. I owe the pleasure of having this one to Lars Opland, who very kindly agreed to pass it on from his personal stash. Those who know Lars are aware that he lives in Wasilla, Alaska, inside an igloo made of kit boxes. As said, my joy was immeasurable when I had the kit, finally, in my hands. This Russian-made jewel is kind of hard to get. Made by Ikar (Икар) and with the box lid illustrated by E. Alexeenko, it can depict both versions of the famous plane, the one piloted by Chkalov to Vancouver, Washington, or the one piloted by Gromov to San Jacinto, California. The plane itself was a real stylized beauty, and the model is a good rendition of it. The kit is rough. Flash, perhaps some chunkiness, but with some good surface detail and interesting parts’ count. The transparencies could be rescued, but perhaps using them to pop vacuformed replicas would be wiser. The decals got a tad smashed in the long haul from mother Russia. The instructions are...there. But you should gather some references. I did and had a very good time going through the history of the type development, the construction, modification and trials of the machines, and the record flights themselves. I chose to model the modified RD-1 that landed in San Jacinto, California, since I live in the general area. My maternal grandparents were originally from Russia and I ended up in California, so it is sort of commemorative build of the family history. A short clip of it landed at that location can be watched here: http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675063618_Russian-Airmen_flying-6600-miles_over-North-Pole_crowd-watches It is the machine that has no blue nose (the blue nose is the one mostly modeled, by the way) and could appear a tad less showy, but perhaps some scratchbuilt details could bring some extra pizzazz. The kit box is apparently made of recycled material: recycled polar bear, recycled burlap, recycled politburo members. There were some broken parts...I found at the bottom of the plastic bag a quality control tag stamped “#1”, so, number 1....we know who you are, and we are watching you. Another kit with broken parts and to Siberia you go! . By the way, are you the same “number 1” as in Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil? As I was saying, lots of excitement and great potential. The kit: Now, the bad news. The kit parts are, as said before, rough. The wings and ailerons are, by far, the worst, and almost fall in the mission impossible category. Harbor no illusions, to fix them will imply very hard work making the labor of the Volga Haulers look like ladies on tutus on a paddle boat on a summer day at the lake. And then, the bad news: once the parts are sort of cleaned up, they won’t particularly feel inclined to match their opposite counterparts. More work ahead. Some bad news: references are not always perfect, look, when possible, at actual photos of the machine you are modeling. There is good will on part of the scholars and writers, but their product does not always match reality. Even more...bad news: the trailing edges are very thick, the “flat” parts (like the inner surfaces of the ailerons, are not flat. The flash present is not of the "gone with the wind" type, but instead requires positive action to be removed. It is strange, but it is as if the wing/aileron molds (which are bigger) were produced somewhere else, up to far lower standards. And -finally- some good news: once you are done with the wings and ailerons, Siberia will appear to you as a Cote D’Azur destination. AND the rest of the kit is rather good, although not quite “there”, as in "normal". Yes, Tamiyinsky and Hasegawaboff this one is not. But, my friend, you are a modeler, are you not? Get at it! There is another one of these made by Eastern Express. I haven’t seen one personally, though. For what I can tell from photos on the Net these are the same masters, but modified. The wings are broken down differently and the laid-down is different. Was that one refined at the time of re-issue? I’d like to know. Some halved parts of the IKAR kit are rendered as one in the Eastern Express kit, the interior is not there anymore, the prop blades are attached together, etc. Sort of simplified version seems to me, and again I wonder if they did something –in case they are more or less the same masters- to improve the horrid quality of the wings seen in the IKAR kit. A said above, the Plane depicted here is the one that flew from Moscow to San Jacinto, California (N205-1) and not the most commonly represent in model form that portrays (with its blue nose) the one that flew from Moscow to Vancouver, Washington (N205) a few months earlier. Not, by any means at all, an easy one, but the final product is indeed appealing. Many little improvements were made to the kit, the addition of an engine, new Venturis, vac transparencies, full interior, etc. The slender beauty, elegance and grace of the original is something to behold.
  7. 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.
  8. The Long and Convoluted Story of the Argentinean Bellanca Model "K", and the flight that never was. The research stage of this particular plane was anything but easy. The Internet provided some basics, and other bits of information were found in diverse newspapers of the era, contemporary magazines and in one section of the book "El regreso del águila" (The Return of the Eagle) by Oscar Durañona. More good info came from Tom Polapink at Skyways Magazine and indispensable documents and graphics from George Kandylakis, the latter via a connection kindly made possible by Kees Kort. Lars Opland helped in clarifying some points. Special thanks to Dave W. Ostrowski who provided invaluable images of the Argentinean incarnation of the "K". To all my gratitude. An article featuring the model and the magnificent plans by George Kandylakis (as well as many other Bellancas) was published on Skyways Magazine #110 - April 2015. There is a special breed of planes that possesses a rather ungainly appearance, that are odd, or plain weird; but that same "specialness" is what makes them attractive and the object of much love and notoriety. The Bellanca K surely belongs to that aviation evolution strand, with its quasi-biplane configuration, gull-like upper wing and lower "W" wing, lumbering fuselage, and squatty stance. The Bellanca K was to a certain extent, design-wise, the successor of the "Columbia" and the predecessor of the Airbus/Aircruiser family, the latter being just a refined, tuned version more apt for useful commercial life than for record-making. And that last statement takes us to the genesis of the Bellanca K, a project born from a request for a plane for a record flight attempt, from New York to Rome. An all-Italian enterprise that Bellanca, being of Italian origin, supported. The first incarnation of the K therefore was aptly named "Roma". The attempt foiled almost immediately after take off due to engine trouble. The plane was repossessed by Bellanca, and then, of all things, two Argentinians knocked the door. Pilots Diego Arzeno and Claudio Mejía wanted to purchase the "Roma" for a different long-haul flight, one from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Seville, Spain (some newspapers of the time stated, blessed by utter ignorance, that the flight would be from Buenos Aires, Brazil (SIC), to Spain). They made a down-payment of $10,000 but requested that some modifications and adjustments be made, the most obvious that Bellanca fix the troublesome engine issues. The "Roma" distinctive marks were erased, and the most visible exterior change is the addition of the trademark Bellanca battens along the fuselage sides. During its short Argentinean tenure it had many names: "Siete Leguas" in allusion to the Seven League Boots; "Virgen de Lujan", to honor a famous avatar of the virgin -popular among catholics back in the country- and other names. The airplane had the Argentine cockades painted, although of course did not belong to any state force, nor was it especially backed by the country or the military. It is just an excess of misunderstood patriotism, like the sad and shallow current example of "my country first". I like to think that any achievement is humanity's achievement, any shame is humanity's shame. We are one. Although I concede that most of the time that is an elusive realization. Anyway, the bugs on the plane (mostly related to the engine mount) were never fixed, so after some bickering and much delay, the Argentinians, fed up with the plane's unacceptable vibrations and other glitches, requested their down payment to be refunded, and went on and bought the famous Fokker Trimotor "Friendship". The Fokker did actually arrive to Argentina on a ship, however the attempted flight never was to be...but that's another story. The debacles caused by Bellanca's plane refusal to live up to the standards of reliability needed, were cleverly twisted in the press by the Bellanca firm, as newspaper clippings show. The company hinted (with the clear intention of displacing blame and responsibility) in both occasions to "disagreements" between pilots and backers or those and the company. It never points out, for example, that the Roma flight did take place, only to immediately return due to engine failure as said before. This despicable company attitude to deflect blame and disguise or omit facts sounds...well, too familiar, and from 1929 to today seems that not much has changed in that regard. The big format performance and reliability Bellanca was after will be achieved later, on the Airbus and Aircruiser, but was far from being present in the K. The K will still re-incarnate as the mount for African-American pilot Fauntleroy Hubert Julian in a flight that...did not happen, and yet again as the "#13" for another (guess what: failed) duration flight at the hands of Haldeman and Chadwick., and as the Enna Jettick into another (your are right: failed) flight to Oslo. Each time the machine changed owners, it also changed its color and decoration. So there are several nice schemes for the adventurous...
  9. Vickers Wellesley, one of those forgotten types from the unfashionable side of modelling. Here's the very first boxing that I will be using for the build: Typical Matchbox kit, basic but accurate to the eye. I'll add a few details but won't be going rivet crazy - actually theres very few rivets in the design as it is a smaller brother to it's more famous stablemate the Wellington and shares it's fabric covered geodesic structure. As befits the simple kit it's appears a simple build: Schemes are two similar green/brown birds differentiated by their engines. Option 1 is a standard short cowl Mk1, but option 2 is more interesting as it is a form generally associated with just 3 aircraft of the Long Range Development Unit that flew from England-Egypt-Australia with the longest leg being 7300miles (in 1938!). But to confuse matters the kit decals arent for one of these 3...but more on that later
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