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Northrop Gamma Experimental Overweather Laboratory - Modified WB kit

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(Build from a year ago to further illustrate the recent Northrop Delta posts):


During the 30s nobody knew with certainty what would happen to passengers, crew and pilots flying for hours around and above the 33,000 feet height mark (that's about 10.000 meters, you normal people).

May be you would be overcome by the irresistible desire of doing silly walks.

The advantages were obvious: to fly above most of the weather and turbulence, at higher speeds (less air density = less drag) with higher fuel economy and less stress for the airframe. Not to mention to be closer to the angels.

Pilot Tommy Tomlinson made a number of flights in a specially modified Northrop Gamma.

You can read a detailed and illustrated article by Edward M. Young in The Aviation Historian (issue 12 2015) that also covers flights in other machines.

This sort of weather plane can be made modifying the venerable (although a bit vetust) 1/72 Northrop Gamma kit from Williams Bros.

The origin of mine is very satisfying: it came as a surprise birthday gift from Andrew Nickeas of Fogland (England in metric system).

It has raised panel lines (I engraved them on the model) but can be built into a very decent replica, especially if you add detail and accomplish a neat painting and decaling job.

With a little bit of ingenuity, research and work, you can squeeze so many different versions with beautiful liveries of this kit that you will be surprised. Some require minor touches and self-made or commissioned decals, some require surgery and scratchbuilding impetus, like the versions with inline engine. You can have the model representing real planes on skis, floats or wheels, even in registrations from another countries. The kit itself provides from the start several versions, but you can add a long (and very appealing) list. I will leave to others to make a detailed list, since I am not so much of the chatty-chatty but more of the buildy-buildy type.


Among the Gammas -all beautiful no doubt- perhaps the most stylized are the 2G and 2D variants. To the latter belongs the "Experimental Overweather Laboratory" flown by TWA to study flight at high altitudes, pioneering and heralding the era of the now customary 33,000+ region for everyday passenger flights. Flying "over the weather" was the goal then. Needless to say, it required superchargers (for the piston engines), pressurization and control of temperature and breathable air mix (due to the low level of oxygen at that height).

Before its high-flying career, the TWA machine NR/NX13758 was doing the mail route and flew regularly with the airline, together with Gammas 13757 and 13759, all D models.

In 1936 modifications were introduced for high ceiling: a turbocharger, a new engine, and a set of instruments for the observer/engineer inside the fuselage ahead of the pilot.

The 2D is a variant that unfortunately can't just be shaken off from the old William Bros mold, and the modification will take some little effort.

As with the Conqueror Gamma I posted before, modifications are surely needed, none of which is really beyond the skills of a modeler that can call her/himself such.

Modifications include:

Wing: engraving of ailerons, modification of three aileron ribs, drilling new landing lights under the wing. Deletion of kit's landing lights and conduit under central panel. Addition of two conduits running parallel in place of former. Panel lines engraving if desired.

Fuselage: re-location of cockpit, blanking of old positions. Re-shaping and re-location of cockpit floor. New turtledeck. New canopy. Loop antenna (only for the later livery, with bands on vertical tail). Hatches and interior if desired. Conduit on the right upper fuselage. Antenna wire under the fuselage.

Fin/rudder: changing of hinge line to balanced variant.

Nose/ Cowl: adaptation/replacement of kit's parts to match photos. As it is in the kit, the cowl is too small for this version. Many variations can be observed in shape, decoration and details related to turbocharger and exhaust.

Decals: William Brothers produces now a decal sheet that includes this variant (and many others), but not for all the decorations of the TWA/Weather Laboratory during its life, so pay attention to your references and over all, trust only photos. The William Bros set has some hiccups, and may be questionable regarding the color choice of some lettering (Experimental Overweather Laboratory is very likely black, not red, as easily deduced comparing it to the adjacent TWA logo on the fuselage). Decals come as NC, but do not have the NR visible on most photos on the real plane with the Experimental Overweather Laboratory lettering; the "R" can not be chopped from another reg. on the sheet, for the wing, since it is outlined in green, and not in black. Neither for the rudder, where you will have to look for another solution. "Air Express" comes in black, when it was actually red. The little TWA round logo is missing, it goes on the cowl on both, left and right side. The are is a small lettering -also missing on the decal sheet- the reads "U.S. Mail AM2".

Nevertheless, it is a good set, and I encourage you to get it, since it is useful for other liveries.
Beware that there were mainly two liveries in which the "laboratory" flew, one has the three words "Experimental Overweather Laboratory" on top of each other, while the other has "Overweather Experimental Laboratory", one word after the other, and as you can see the first two words were transposed. Arctic Decals is producing a complementary/corrective set.

Propeller: the plane flew with two and three-blade props, the latter, a Curtiss, with and without spinner. Once more, study the photos so you don't end up combining features of the plane at different stages of its life.



































































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Oh yes I built that very Williams Kit. I was wondering when you'd get around to it. It was and is one of my favourite models that I completed.

It's gone now, lost in the mists of moves and time.  



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Somehow I missed this. Another beautiful example from the era of experimental and ground breaking types - always your models are of more than passing interest. Thanks too for the informative background - so much to learn, so little time to do so.



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  • 1 year later...
10 hours ago, jeaton01 said:

Lovely!  And a great metal finish especially after all the rework.


3 hours ago, TonyW said:

Thanks for yet more eye candy. It's always a pleasure to open one of your threads.



Thanks John and Tony!


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