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Mike N

Flight of the Phoenix **COMPLETED**

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One of my favourite films of all time is the 1965 version of Flight of the Phoenix. Telling the story of the crew and passengers of a ‘Skytruck’ (C-82 Packet) that crashes in the desert and their struggle to survive, they decide the best chance they have is to build a new plane from the less-damaged portions of the original. This involves taking the starboard wing and tacking it onto the port boom, taking half the stabiliser and putting it on the other side to make a ‘conventional’ design, and various other changes. As you would expect, a lot of licence is taken with the design challenges that would have been presented in reality, but it is done in a fairly believable way for the most part.

Although the C-82 ‘Skytruck’ is the basis of the film, several aircraft types were actually used. For the Skytruck, there were 3 C-82s in various states of completeness, and an R4Q-1 (USMC version of the C-119C) which was used for the non-flying Phoenix built in the desert from the wreckage.

I intend to build only the Phoenix, not the Skytruck. Even the Phoenix itself has 3 versions. The one shown built in the desert from the wreckage was a non-flying (but taxiable) prop - this is the version I will be building. The majority of the flying scenes use the custom-made ‘Tallmantz Phoenix P-1’ which was built for the film. This was a hybrid of various aircraft including a Beech C-45A and NA T-6 Texan, but at least half was scratch-built. This aircraft crashed during filming (killing stunt pilot Paul Mantz). With some shots still required, a NA O-47A was painted up to act as a stand-in but it is a very obvious switch in the film at the end (overflying the oil field).

Here's the film subject:

26.jpg

As far as I’m aware there has never been a kit of the C-82, but thankfully the Phoenix itself is built from the R4Q-1 (in the film, only the fuselage pod is from a C-82, the rest being the R4Q modified to resemble a C-82). Italeri have released two 1/72 kits of the C-119, firstly the G (in the early 90’s I think), and then fairly recently the C. I had bought the G around 1994 and had straight away started the conversion programme. This consisted of removing the dorsal strakes ahead of the fin… and that’s as far as I got!

Box lid

Phoenix011s.jpg

Wing and boom sprues

Phoenix008s.jpg

Fuselage sprues, most of the parts will not be required

Phoenix010s.jpg

With the advent of this group build, it is the inspiration I needed to go back to the project and make it happen!

References are not bad for a 40+ year-old film fictional aircraft, although by no means plentiful. Apart from the freely available film itself, there are quite a few internet sites on the subject, but the best of all is the January 2006 Aeroplane magazine which has a multi-page feature on the aircraft used. There is also some info around on the C-82/C-119 which will help with some of the details.

Phoenix016s.jpg

As the R4Q-1 was the same as the C-119C, I compared the C-119G I had started and the later released C kit. I was surprised to see that the moulds appear to have been altered, not only by adding some C-specific new parts, but also deleting the ventral fins from the booms. The Phoenix has these, so the G kit is more appropriate here (thankfully). The other pertinent addition are new cowlings (with recessed panel lines, as opposed to the raised ones for the rest of the kit!). I will have to compare the G cowlings with the Phoenix’s, as I really don’t want to rob them from the C kit!

There will be quite a bit of scratch-building in this project, which I have not done much of before, so it will be a learning experience!

Very keen to get started, and I hope it will be of interest to people!

Edited by Mike N

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Looks like a great project, I have the original movie saved on my satellite tv storage device for a quiet evenings viewing and am looking forward to seeing your build of the phoenix. I too have done very little scratch building but am planning some for the Whif build at the end of the year so will be keen to see any techniques you find work well or not.

Good luck

Graham

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An intriguing project - may I wish you the best of luck.

You have a lot of information about aircraft in the original film, that I hadn't noticed - I'll probably revisit the DVD this weekend.

I did notice that the 2004 film features a C-119 with 3 blade props - did such a beast really exist?

An Italeri kit that you didn't mention is the AC-119 Stinger.

Just so it's not forgotten - here's one that I built.

ItaleriC-119Stinger.jpg

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Nice choice Mike, looking forward to this one!

Good luck with your build.

Dermot

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Great choice of subject. One of my fave old movies.

Will be watching along with great interest. :thumbsup2:

interesting choice, a diorama of your first photo would be a nice piece.

Agree with the above. B)

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An intriguing project - may I wish you the best of luck.

You have a lot of information about aircraft in the original film, that I hadn't noticed - I'll probably revisit the DVD this weekend.

I did notice that the 2004 film features a C-119 with 3 blade props - did such a beast really exist?

An Italeri kit that you didn't mention is the AC-119 Stinger.

Just so it's not forgotten - here's one that I built.

ItaleriC-119Stinger.jpg

Nice kit of the gunship, I'd forgotten about that one.

The 1965 Phoenix also has a 3-bladed prop. As far as I can tell from my references, only the very early C-119s carried these over from the C-82, so maybe it was fitted to make it look like the latter. There are several changes to the airframe to make it look like a C-82, and that would be quite an obvious one if not done. Some C-119s were later retrofitted with 3-blade props, but this seems to have happened in the late 60's, after the film was made. The more I look at it the more impressed I am with the lengths they went to to dress up the R4Q-1 as a C-82 (I'll be doing all the ones I can spot!); the film makers were obviously keen to maintain as much realism as possible, something I doubt a lot of other films would do ('it looks like the same plane...')

Great choice of subject. One of my fave old movies.

Will be watching along with great interest. :thumbsup2:

Agree with the above. B)

Thanks for all the encouragement, I hope I don't disappoint!

As for a diorama, I was thinking of at least putting it on a desert base, but I may well bite the bullet and try to depict a certain instant in the film - I'll see how long the build takes first!

Mike

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Being very keen to start, I wasted no time and got on with it right away - thankfully it was a quiet weekend.

I bit the bullet straight away and cut the stub wing from the boom parts - no turning back now!!

Upper part(s)

Phoenix017s.jpg

Lower part(s)

Phoenix018s.jpg

I also joined mated the upper and lower wing halves, and included the radiator even though in the film these were covered over with sheet metal to simulate the C-82 wings (they were quite crude but do at least look like damage from the crash, the only drawback being the same damage at exactly the same place on each wing!). Adding the radiators will at least react the filler at a later stage.

Phoenix023s.jpg

I was going to replace the fences inboard of the lights with thin plastic card, but when I checked the completed Phoenix they had been removed.

While I was in the mood for cutting up a perfectly good kit, I halved the tailplane and also separated the elevators so I could pose them slightly off neutral. I also noted that the Phoenix had no falseworks between the elevator and the fuselage, so I cut these away too.

Phoenix019s.jpg

Thinking of the challenge to come, I taped up the forward boom, added the port wing, and then positioned the starboard wing in the required position - and gasped at the amount of fresh air in between. I think I'll be needing a couple of sturdy spars here!

Phoenix026s.jpg

Mike

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Now THIS is going to be a FUN project to watch! I've always loved that film and it was idiotic how Paul Mantz got killed in it. They got the flying shot, but the director naturally wanted "one more take" and disaster happened. There will never be another stick and rudder jockey like Paul Mantz ever again! And given that Jimmy Stewart was also a pilot, it lended authenticity to the film.

So, if the German in the film who came up with the design was considered a "Toy plane designer," would that make you a "Toy plane builder"? Of course you can sternly correct them that a toy airplane runs around on the floor until it smacks into a wall. YOU on the otherhand are a "MODEL Airplane Builder!" ;)

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Thinking of the challenge to come, I taped up the forward boom, added the port wing, and then positioned the starboard wing in the required position - and gasped at the amount of fresh air in between. I think I'll be needing a couple of sturdy spars here!

Phoenix026s.jpg

Mike

You think you've got problems? Imagine what it was like for the guys in the desert! :)

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Now THIS is going to be a FUN project to watch! I've always loved that film and it was idiotic how Paul Mantz got killed in it. They got the flying shot, but the director naturally wanted "one more take" and disaster happened. There will never be another stick and rudder jockey like Paul Mantz ever again! And given that Jimmy Stewart was also a pilot, it lended authenticity to the film.

So, if the German in the film who came up with the design was considered a "Toy plane designer," would that make you a "Toy plane builder"? Of course you can sternly correct them that a toy airplane runs around on the floor until it smacks into a wall. YOU on the otherhand are a "MODEL Airplane Builder!" ;)

That scene always raises a smile :lol:

You think you've got problems? Imagine what it was like for the guys in the desert! :)

Ah, but they had old Heinrich and a load of pressed dates, how can I compete??!

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What about sawing the other engine pod off the other side of the wing section and slitting both sections down the middle so you have a more or less symetrical set? Or did the Phoenix have a little asymetry to it around the wing attachment?

The cockpit well I figure will be the biggest challenge considering it looked to be shot mostly in closeups. I don't recall seeing a whole beauty shot of it to show how it all fit together.

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What about sawing the other engine pod off the other side of the wing section and slitting both sections down the middle so you have a more or less symetrical set? Or did the Phoenix have a little asymetry to it around the wing attachment?

The cockpit well I figure will be the biggest challenge considering it looked to be shot mostly in closeups. I don't recall seeing a whole beauty shot of it to show how it all fit together.

There is a bit of asymmetry in the Phoenix, so no easy shortcut :( That said, the underside does look pretty symmetrical... :hmmm:

As for the cockpit: not much reference material = hard to be proven wrong, right? :P I will be adding some interior framing and seats, plus the dash and yoke etc visible in the close-ups. I'm yet to decide if to have Frank sat in the front seat - probably, if I'm doing the diorama.

Not much progress since the weekend, I need to get to my LHS to get the spars plus some bits for the tailplanes, but then I'll be getting stuck in again!

Mike

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I've been working on this kit for a couple of years (lost interest at the paint stage). Had the thought of doing this conversion myself as I'd seen the movie around the same. Pretty cool to see it being done... seems to be coming together nicely.

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Thanks for the interest folks :)

Did a load more work yesterday, although not much has come together just yet. Visited my LHS and bought a metal channel section to act as a spar, first time I've ever had to do something like this! I also bought a few other bits and bobs to bolster my meagre scratchbuilding stocks.

Using a drawing in the booklet that comes with the C-119C kit, I drilled a series of holes into the wing root in the location of the front spar. May as well have some accuracy ^_^ These were then merged using a scalpel

Phoenix027s.jpg

This proved a snug fit around the spar and provided a solid way of keeping the wings aligned

Phoenix028s.jpg

After a similar operation on the other wing:

Phoenix029s.jpg

It was also apparent that the cockpit would need to be worked up before the complex business of permanently fixing the starboard wing could be attempted.

First, using stills from the film as a guide, I drilled out the rough outline of the forward cut-out:

Phoenix030s.jpg

This was then opened out, and the aft (observer's?) cockpit was tackled in the same way:

Phoenix031s.jpg

I've since made a start on the interior, which is mainly guesswork (and mostly invisible anyway) but no pics of that yet.

The other area I worked on was the tailplane. I added half round section to the elevators and closed off the ends of them and the tailplanes. The film shows both as being open to the elements, but I guess they weren't too concerned about water getting in :lol: To replicate this I opened out the ribs and added lightning holes based on the distant glimpses in the film.

Phoenixs.jpg

Hopefully there will be more progress during the week. Any comments welcome!

Mike

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That's some excellent work there, well done! You gotta love it when a build has you trying something new, and it works out well! :)

J.

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Thanks again for the comments and interest!

A little more work to report on. As has been commented on above, there is very little info on the cockpit interior, the only shots in the film being close-ups of the poorly lit interior. Gleaning what I could from this, I fabricated some cockpit structure for the control column and instrument panel to be added to. The instrument panel was made from channel section and dials added from the Eduard ‘Phoenix cockpit detail set’… :winkgrin: OK, they were from a 1/48 Sea Vixen set, which had some dials small enough to suit my needs. I also added some switches (with safety covers - hence the odd shapes, honest!) from plastic and used brass rod with a disc on the end to represent the fuel injector (?). More brass rod was used for what I assume is the throttle.

Phoenix034s.jpg

Phoenix039s.jpg

The control column was made from small-section I-beam with some lightening holes drilled, and I will have to scour the spares box for a suitable spectacle type wheel. The stick, forward seat and the notorious Coffman starter will be added after airframe painting as they will only get knocked off and disappear into the interior. The only other detail I added was a bit of I-beam to represent a frame between the two cut-outs, the rest of the interior will be either obscured by the seats or invisible in the darkness of the interior (and would be best-guess anyway).

I also added Milliput to the boom and tail surfaces to fill the scar from the dorsal strake removal and other mods to resemble the Phoenix. This included eliminating the rudder’s centre hinge and the trim tabs – apparently the R4Q-1 used in the film had a new fin made and they didn’t go to town on replicating the C-82. I was planning on rescribing the kit since so much of the raised detail is being lost in the build and conversion process, but I think in this scale I will be better off using some painting methods to subtly represent the panels.

Phoenix035s.jpg

It is now dawning on me just how much work this project is going to be. Hopefully some major progress this weekend

Mike

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What about sawing the other engine pod off the other side of the wing section and slitting both sections down the middle so you have a more or less symetrical set? Or did the Phoenix have a little asymetry to it around the wing attachment?

Good call JM :worthy:

After lots of head scratching, I decided to go with this solution as I couldn't see a better way of getting a sturdy joint at the wing to fuselage attachment.

Lower surface parts pre-cutting

Phoenix040s.jpg

Upper (may as well use as much of the C-119 kit as possible eh?!)

Phoenix041s.jpg

What have I done...?

Phoenix043s.jpg

Phoenix044s.jpg

I added the newly cut parts to the starboard wing after duplicating the cut-out for the spar. I also added the undercarriage well in order to give some much-needed rigidity to the assembly.

Phoenix045s.jpg

And here's how she is right now:

Phoenix048s.jpg

Phoenix047s.jpg

Phoenix046s.jpg

Phoenix050s.jpg

Phoenix052s.jpg

Awesome fit huh? :sick:

Mike

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