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Moa

Bellanca Model "K" 1929 Argentina's record attempt, Scratchbuilt 1/72nd scale

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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...

 

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Edited by Moa
to correct typo

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Another fascinating piece of aeronautical history and thanks for both the back-story and the break-down of parts for this aircraft. As usual, you have assembled and painted a lovely little model - just wonderful. I am green with envy at your skills and patience.

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18 minutes ago, Horatio Gruntfuttock said:

Another fascinating piece of aeronautical history and thanks for both the back-story and the break-down of parts for this aircraft. As usual, you have assembled and painted a lovely little model - just wonderful. I am green with envy at your skills and patience.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

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Hi Moa, another top notch production.

In your fascinating posts there's definitely enough material for a rather interesting book, ever thought of doing one?

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Another beauty... what an Interesting subject!

 

Regards,

David

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Another Moa marvel! What a charmingly eccentric machine.  While it may have never ‘arrived’ anywhere, it is still quite an achievement to inspire so many adventurous plans to visit such diverse destinations!

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Just another stunner! 

Regards

Jerzy-Wojtek

 

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I cannot begin to put into words how impressive a model this is, and what a sterling example of model-building; you are definitely a master builder, not an assembler! What a unique and handsome airplane. I especially was impressed with the detailing of both wings as well as the translucent effect of the internal structure of the fin and rudder. I am  in awe of your skills; I'm lucky to be half as good with injected kits! What's next- a scratchbuilt Curtis Condor AT-32 airliner?

Mike

Edited by 72modeler
corrected spelling

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I am in total agreement with Horatio Gruntfuttock: this is an excellent back story to a type I have never heard of, and an equally excellent model. That really does look strange, even for an experimental aircraft. You must spend hours doing the research for these types - I have problems researching some of the better known ones...!

 

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Beautiful!  Your skills are impressive!  I also appreciate the back-story of the aircraft.

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On 28 September 2018 at 8:01 AM, Redshift said:

Hi Moa, another top notch production.

In your fascinating posts there's definitely enough material for a rather interesting book, ever thought of doing one?

You should, Moa, although it would detract from your fabulous model building ;).

 

Martin

Edited by RidgeRunner

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What an interesting subject and fascinating history. Superb scratch build which deserves no demands attention. Most impressive about the model -I think- is the translucence of the surfaces, especially the control surfaces. Brilliant. I wonder what Fauntleroy Hubert Julian's mount looked like.

 

Jay

Edited by Mountain goat

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You are all superbly kind, thanks for your encouraging comments.

Cheers

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