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Found 4 results

  1. The mysterious but fascinating realm of vacuum-formed kits (abbreviatedly called "vacuformed" or "vacs") provides us, off the beaten path modelers, with subjects that tend not to be favored by their injected or resin geographical neighbors. I am fond of them, and through the years I have built a somewhat large number. As with other media, quality varies, and you have samples of all levels in the trade. The subject that today occupies our attention is from Classic Plane, somewhat down in the quality spectrum (examples of good quality are, to mention just two, the late Gordon Stevens' Rare Planes range and Khee-Kha Art Products from Alaska). Here are some of the vacs I have built: This kit is a rendition of a much beloved plane that had a very important role in aviation history, providing early passenger transport and starting a family of well-known designs, the Fokker F.II. To call this kit simple would be an understatement. There are no resin or metal parts that many times accompany the molded styrene sheet, nor decals and somewhat succinct instructions. The detail parts, provided in the sheet, are better discarded, since their worth is highly questionable to say the least. This nice Fokker was gifted to me by fellow modeler Luis Santos, the friend that long ago also gifted his vac kit rendition of an Argentinian plane, the Bombi (that in spite its name ended up as a cropduster). Thanks to Luis for his kindness. Work begins patching things up a bit, since this kit has seen some years of handling, and some areas were a bit squashed and had cracked. Nothing that a piece of styrene won't cure. Next, replacement accessories need to be found, not a problem for a scratchbuilder or a modeller of some vintage: props, wheels, cockpit items, engine and struts are needed. I have gathered -and many friends contributed to (thanks Armando Gil and Jim Schubert) a now sadly diminishing stock of aftermarket items, mainly from the -now apparently in stasis- Aercoclub range. I can -and I many times do- carve my own laminated wood props, though. The cabin interior (not provided with this kit) is easy to scratch, and the decals...well, depending on the complexity of your chosen marks, you may somehow scrounge them or cobble together from defunct kits, print them yourself, or commission them. The struts will be coming from Strutz airfolied brass stock (thanks, Andrew Nickeas!). Why, ask somke of my friends, I launch myself into fixing a somewhat not very enticing kit prospect instead of scratchbuilding the desired subject? well, firstly, to honor the gift, and secondly to redeem an object that otherwise will slowly drift into oblivion. And thirdly, needless to say, because of the challenge. You get two half wheels. With like you could glue them together and get one whole wheel: Small bits better left for the erosion of eons.... The detail is there...somewhat: Kit had surely went thorough some stressful situations: Parts come easily off (not a science): Cracked areas are reinforced internally: All major parts out, the rest better leave it where it is:
  2. 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.
  3. The Martin B-10 was a revolutionary advance in bomber design when it was offered to the United States Army Air Corps in 1932. Its first active service use by the Army Air Corps, however, was quite pacific: carrying air mail for the Post Office. Shortly after the Army Air Corps began operating the biplane Keystone bomber in quantity, its procurement planners started casting about for a more modern bomber. Beginning in 1929, various aircraft manufacturers offered their new bomber designs to the Army. Ford produced a militarized version of its well-regarded Trimotor transport. Fokker and Douglas put forward bomber variants of machines originally intended as twin-engined heavy observation planes. Boeing proffered a twin-engined development of its famous all-metal Monomail transport, with a slim, semi-monocoque fuselage and retracting landing gear, which became a favorite of the aviation press, who dubbed it 'The Death Angel'. The Martin company initially proposed a twin-engine biplane, which was rejected out of hand. Martin then came back with a twin-engined monoplane, albeit one with fixed landing gear and uncowled engines, which was obviously inferior to Boeing's design, and was rejected accordingly. The Martin company returned once more to the drawing boards and emerged with the Model 123 (pictured above). This was a vast improvement. Its motors were enclosed in cowlings, its landing gear retracted, and the Martin design went Boeing's one better with a deep fuselage providing capacious internal stowage for its bomb load. This gave Martin's offering a decisive edge in speed over the Boeing prototype, which carried its bombs slung below the center sections of its wing. There were problems with handling the Martin, however, and at a speed of nearly 200 mph, open cockpits presented problems of crew efficiency. This was partially addressed in the XB-10 prototype, which enclosed the gun position at the nose. Eventually, the wing-span was increased to 70 feet, 6 inches, which improved flying characteristics, and both the pilot's and navigator's cockpits were fully enclosed. With more powerful motors than the prototype's into the bargan, the machine could now achieve a speed of 207 miles per hour in level flight at 6,000 feet. In this form, the Martin design was designated the YB-10, and the company given a developmental contract for 14 examples. Delivery of Martin's new 'Air Power Wonder' (as a leading officer of the Army Air Corps described it) began in November, 1933, when the first YB-10 was accepted by the Materials Division at Wright Field. The purpled style of the times is infectious, when one reads a good deal of it, and some of it survives into present day descriptions of the Martin bomber. It is generally described still as 'all metal', though in fact the rear third of the wings was fabric covered. A metal structure covered with fabric was not uncommon at the time, and such a design was often then described as 'all metal' as opposed to wooden, or mixed wood and metal, but the machine was hardly 'all metal' in the sense of commercial transports like the roughly contemporaneous Douglas DC-1 or Lockheed Electra or Boeing 247. These all employed aluminum stress-skin construction for all structural elements. While some of the Martin's covering employed this technique, some was old-fashioned corrugate sheet. The gun position in the Martin's nose is generally called a turret, but enclosed gun ring would be closer to the mark, for the gun was still traversed and elevated manually, rather than by hydraulic or electric power. Nor, for that matter, is it clear whether the quoted maximum speeds were achieved with a weight of bombs or not. Still, gilded though the lilly was, it remained an extraordinary advance in applied technology for military purposes in its time. Probably more than any other single aircraft, Martin's speedy bomber gave life and legs to the doctrine that 'the bomber will always get through' which would dominate Army Air Corps theorizing throughout the decade before World War Two. While newly arrived YB-10s were being put through their paces in the skies of Ohio, in Washington D.C. a long simmering scandal concerning allocation of contracts for transporting air mail was coming to a boil. What bubbled up out of public hearings in the Senate during January of 1934 would come to scald the Army Air Corps badly. ('Liberty' DeHaviland DH-4b mail plane conversion operated by the Post Office circa 1920) Transport of mail by air in the United States had begun as a wholly government service, flown first by Army Air Service personnel and equipment between Washington D.C. and New York, and then expanded nationwide by a fleet of aeroplanes operated by the Post Office itself. During the Coolidge administration, the Post Office air fleet was sold off, and contracts for transport of air mail offered to private firms. The intent was to foster development of commercial aviation, and the aviation industry in general. The rates paid the companies were based on weight and distance, and were much in excess of what was charged for air mail postage. The system conduced to a good deal of sharp practice by the contractors, who found various ways to game the rates --- in one widely reported instance, an air mail contractor sent out a mass of Christmas cards by air mail, which it carried itself, and was paid twice what it had put up for postage to do so. The system spawned many small companies wholly dependent on the subsidized rates, without ability or desire to expand further into carriage of passengers and freight. President Hoover's Postmaster General in 1929 pushed through a complete revision of the system, which had some odd features on its face. Chief among these was that contractors would be paid according to the amount of mail they were capable of carrying, whether or not that capacity was actually used for mail. The effect of this was to encourage formation of larger companies, with larger airplanes, which could become quite profitable on passenger service with a steady base of Post Office subsidy, amounting in some instances to roughly half their revenues. (One of six Swallow 'Commercial' mailplanes operated by Varney Air Lines of Boise, Idaho, in 1926; the company was bought up by United Aircraft and Transport in 1930) The fuse to full-blown scandal was lit when a small air service owner complained to a newspaperman friend that his bid for an air mail contract had been rejected even though it was but a third of the price asked by the large firm which was the winning bidder. While the new system was certainly efficient (postage costs for air mail were cut in half) and served well its intended purpose of fostering commercial aviation (as passenger service expanded greatly and manufacturers bent their efforts to provide new and better aircraft for this market), the initial contracts had been passed out to several holding companies in a private conference between the Postmaster General and airline executives acting in essence as a cartel, and as these favored companies completed the rapid consolidation of large air fleets, driving smaller firms to the wall and snapping them up at fire-sale prices, there was a good deal of raw stock manipulation by insiders reaping spectacular profits. (Douglas M-3 mailplanes of National Air Transport in 1927. The planes were bought at auction when the Post Office liquidated its fleet. NAT was at the time the best capitalized air transport company in the country. It, too, was bought out by United Aircraft and Transport in 1930.) By the time the Senate took up the matter in public hearings, headed by Sen. Hugo Black in January, the 'spoils conference' held by the former Postmaster was notorious, and gaudy details such as the loss of official records, some possibly burnt by the Postmaster's secretary, and instances where trifling investments had made fortunes overnight for men who were in the know about what was going on with the mail, made for an excellent show (which was capped by the use, for last time to date, of the Congressional power of inherent contempt to put a man in jail for refusing to answer questions under oath). Early in February, as the Roosevelt administration cast about for some way to deal with the situation, in which the existing contracts were simply untenable as a political proposition, the Secretary of War suggested that the Army Air Corps could fly the mail. The commander of the Army Air Corps, Gen. Foulois, was accordingly consulted. Just what he said then has not been clearly preserved; there are several different versions, some of them by the General himself at different times. But whatever it was he actually said, his answer was taken as a hearty affirmative by the Roosevelt administration, which announced existing contracts for air mail transportation were rescinded, and that starting February 19th, the U.S. Army Air Corps would handle the job. It was understandable people without a grounding in aviation would believe the Army Air Corps was up to this task. Gen. Foulois was to some extent the victim of his own policy of publicity for the Army Air Corps, intended to gain popular support in budget battles for his command. Events such as the flight of a pursuit squadron from Detroit to Washington D.C., or the transcontinental flight of a squadron of bombers to join in annual manouvers, were boosted to the newspapers as representing everyday capabiities of the Army Air Corps, rather than the 'one-offs' requiring long preparation, and some recovery for the machines afterwards, which they actually were. Army pilots had little experience of the 'airways' system of radio navigation beacons employed by commercial pilots. Army aircraft generally lacked the full suite of instruments fitted to commercial machines, and when these were present, most Army pilots had as yet little training in their proper use. People in the business of aviation expected fiasco if not disaster, and to rub that in, on the final day civil air mail contracts were still in force, Eddie Rickenbacker, America's premier Great War aviator and now a vice-president of Eastern Air Transport, flew the new Douglas DC-1 prototype from Los Angeles to Newark with a load of mail, setting as he did a new transcontinental record. (A Boeing P-12E pursuit single-seater on air mail service on the west coast) Between Valentine's Day, when Gen. Foulois assured Congress all would proceed satisfactorily, and the 19th, when the Army was scheduled to take over the air mail, three Army fliers died in crashes while on familiarization flights over the routes they were to fly. A blizzard greeted the start of the air mail operation, cancelling the intended flagship flight from Newark. Even when weather permitted, much of the Army's equipment simply was unsuited to the task. Pursuit machines employed on feeder flights could not carry mail sacks without severe displacement of their center of gravity, and this afflicted some light observation types as well; several crashes were attributed to the shifting of mail sacks in improvised stowage rendering machines uncontrollable. The old-fashioned Keystone bombers could handle the weight of the mail, but were not much faster overall than a fast train, especially in adverse weather and headwinds. Gen. Foulois added to these difficulties by reserving his most experienced pilots from the mail runs, which were mostly flown by recent trainees with scant experience of either bad weather or night flying on instruments. The newspapers turned on a dime from 'scandalous contracts' to lambasting the 'murder' of young Army pilots, a pivot greased by the tremendous loss of income inflicted on commercial aviation firms by loss of air mail contracts. Army air mail flights were suspended on March 10, after another rash of fatal crashes. Nine days later they reumed, but with a great reduction in number of routes, and in mileage to be flown. In April the YB-10s were assigned to the air mail operation, handling long distance routes from both coasts. They were eminently suited to the task, but even these had some difficulties; on two occasions, pilots bellied them in because they had forgotten they had to lower landing gear --- that task was not yet a familiar one to even experienced Army pilots. Early in May, the Roosevelt administration pulled the plug on the Army's air mail operation, and began turning air mail carriage back to commercial companies. On May 7th, the last day the Army was the sole carrier of air mail, four YB-10s flew from Oakland to Newark with a load of mail, covering more distance than Rickenbacker had in the DC-1 in February, and achieving a higher average ground speed than he had while doing so. This at least ended the air mail fiasco on a higher note for the Air Corps. When new air mail contracts were let, participants in the 'spoils conference' were banned from any share in them, but this restriction was easily evaded by creative restructurings and renamings; there was no discernable difference between the sytem in place from May, 1934 on and what had come to seem so scandalous late in the previous year. About the only real changes were that Gen. Foulois no longer commanded the Army Air Corps, and that Army flight training began to stress flying by instruments and in bad weather. The YB-10s went on to other high publicity flights, including a mass flight of ten to Alaska and back in July of 1934, doing much to restore the reputation of the Army Air Corps. They went then into squadron service at March Field with the 7th Bomber Group. The main production variant would be the B-10B, which Martin began delivering to the Army in 1935. On the B-10B, arrangements for exhausts and air intakes differed from those of the YB-10, but there were no other differences worth noting between them. Later in the design's production run, Pratt and Whitney radials were substituted for the original Curtiss-Wright Cyclones, and this version was designated the B-12. By 1938 Martin's 'Air Power Wonder' was being eased out of first line service in the United States by the Douglas B-18 (a derivative of the DC transport series) and the early marques of the Boeing B-17, with the displaced B-10s consigned to service overseas, in Panama, the Phillipines, and Hawaii. None remained in U.S. service by Pearl Harbor in any but auxiliary roles. When the Army released the type for export in 1936, Martin secured orders from Argentina and Turkey and Siam, and from China and the Netherlands East Indies. An improved version of the type, with a different wing-plan, and a long 'greenhouse' atop the fuselage enclosing both the pilot's and navigator's cockpits, was sold in quantity to the N.E.I. The Chinese Martins were employed against the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese War: two once flew to Japan, where they dropped leaflets instead of bombs. The later model Martins sold to the Netherlands East Indies remained a major element of its air strength when Japan 'turned south', and were expended in combat defending Singapore, and the N.E.I. itself. This model represents the first YB-10 to go into air mail service on the west coast, ceremonially dubbed 'City of Oakland' in a formal christening on April 19, 1934. Though I am not certain, I strongly suspect this machine was the flagship for the final trans-continental mail run on May 8th. All YB-10s were delivered in Olive Drab and Orange Yellow, and while on air mail service were not repainted in accordance with the February directive that fuselages be rendered blue in future, though they were repainted before the Alaska flight. Here is footage of YB-10 'City of Oakland' in flight, and at its christening.... http://mirc.sc.edu/islandora/object/usc%3A12361 The kit is the old Williams Brothers 1/72 B-10B offering. It was my eventual choice for the 'Golden Age' group build over in the HyperScale 1/72 forum. This was pitched towards the 'wonders of the future today' spirit marking much of aviation at that time, with aircraft serving in combat, or obviously kitted up in preparation for looming war excluded. We drew a lot of racers and airliners and such in consequence, and in keeping with this focus I chose to do the Martin as an early example on the air mail runs. I hadn't known much about this beyond that it happened, and didn't go too well for the Army, but looking into it found it to be quite a story, and am glad I did. I built the kit pretty much OOB, except for small changes necessary to represent a YB-10 instead of a B-10B (scratch-built air-scoops atop the cowlings, and exhaust venting at the lower rear of the cowlings). I made no attempt to detail the interior, apart from what the kit provides. I thought the kit raked the landing gear legs a bit too far backwards, and putting them at the angle I thought they should have made it necessary to extend the rear braces by about 4mm. The kit piece for the bomb-aiming window got clouded on the inside by primer over-spray (how it happened I am not quite sure, but suspect leaking through a small crack in the join), and so I had to make my own replacement piece. I put in a blanking bulkhead behind the turret. Decals are mostly from the kit, and from an old MicroScale sheet that came with it when I bought it second-hand years ago. That had 'Oakland', but not the smaller 'city of' above it; those I made from dry transfer letters on clear film. Paint is home mixes of various Model Master and old PollyScale acrylics, cut with Future and applied by brush, then given a going over between coats with a 3000 grit and a 5000 grit polishing pad. Army policy at this time was to maintain a polished, even a waxed surface, on aircraft, and these were pretty new, and certainly were well maintained, so I made no particular attempt at weathering or indications of wear. There is always a certain variance when you mix each coat of a color, and apply the paint sparingly and sand it, and that seemed to me enough for this show-horse. In the video linked to above, the machine does not seem to be rigged with a radio array (there is a point where the wing-tip is shown from quite close), so I did not do radio rigging. This kit has a number of good points, and of course that it exists at all is a solid point in its favor --- if you want a kit of this quite significant aircraft in 1/72 scale, this is what is available. Surface detail is nicely done, and fit of major components no particular problem. I liked the socket arrangement for the wing to fuselage joints very much. There are a lot of serious ejector towers, though, some inconveniently located, and a great deal of heavy flash. It can be difficult to tell flash from part at times when doing prep work. I don't know if the recently re-issued kits are better or worse in this regard than the old item I built. The real difficulty is the clear pieces. They simply do not fit, not without a great deal of work, more work than I expect most people would want to put into the matter. The canopies are thicker on the port side than the starboard, which complicates the matter of getting the pieces to fit. It is necessary to bevel the interior mating surfaces a great deal to accommodate the curve of the fuselage, and to put a curve into the mating surfaces of the windscreen portions as well. I found it necssary to cut away some of the fuselage mating surface to get the windscreen portion of the rear canopy to fit. In all instances, pressure was required when actually gluing the pieces in place to get the barely acceptable fit that was managed. The clear pieces were Future dipped to get the insides shiny, then after the canopy mating seams to the fuselage were filled and sanded down, the outside was stripped, then polished with fine grit pads, baking soda, and Novaris polish. They still retain much of their 'Coke-bottle bottom' character even so. I made no attempt to 'blend in' the clam-shell piece at the rear, as I have seen a close-up photograph of this from the right rear, and there was appreciable daylight between its bottom frame and the fuselage top. Framing was put in with painted decal strip, stuck down with Future. The turret is a bit different. A lot of work needs to be done on the fuselage 'mouth' the turret sets back into. Edges have to be thinned, especially at the bottom, and a deeper curve cut in at the top. Otherwise there will be bad gaps. I found it necessary to fill in at the front of the 'ring' with some shim plastic, but that could just have been me. This is the first use I have made of a 'light box' wife got me for Valentine's Day. It came with two little LED spotlights, quite bright, and a little tripod. I am not too comfortable using the latter yet, but the outfit is nice. Now I no longer require flash or sunny days for pictures, and there is accordingly a good deal less stark shadow and glare to deal with, also the color stays better. A note to the eagle-eyed.... Yes, the 'O' in 'Oakland' on the starboard side does not quite match the rest. The 'O' of the first 'Oakland' strip I applied on the port side shattered irretrievably. At this point I was not sure the legend appeared on both sides (I had only seen pictures of the port side), and since the decal sheet omitted 'City of' and called for a blue fuselage I was not inclined to take it as gospel that 'Oakland' was on both sides, just because that was what was on the sheet. So I cut the 'O' off the second 'Oakland' strip on the sheet, slotted it in as replacement, and left it at that, taking the chance that, like a lot of nose art and presentation inscription, it was on the one side only. When the build was nearly done, I was introduced to the film of this machine linked to above, which clearly shows in its opening the marking did appear on both sides. None of my transfer lettering matched the height of the decal letters, and I feared I would have to strip the name from the port side and change the ID number (13 and 15 were photographed clearly as well), but I wanted to keep the name. I found finally a zero that matched pretty close on an old Pegasus RFC serial sheet, in the 1/48th portion. Since looking at the video more closely, I have come to suspect the decal lettering is a little too large, or else the '11' at the nose is a bit small. But that was past correcting, if it is the case, by the point the build had reached, and with the group build deadline coming up. If anyone wants to trace the progress of the build (read, needs or wants grim details on wrestling with the clear pieces) here is a link.... http://www.network54.com/Forum/644810/thread/1489850025
  4. Here’s my attempt at the 1:48 Accurate Miniatures Grumman F3F-1, which I completed several years ago. It’s built straight from the box, aside from the antenna wires I added. The kit is a real jewel, and goes together beautifully – any flaws are mine alone. Accurate Miniatures was my favorite model company, and I really hate they went under. The kits they produced were – and still are – some of the best examples of their kind ever made. I finished it with kit decals to depict an F3F-1 from Fighting Four deployed aboard USS Ranger in 1937.
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