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The Fokker Super Universal was one of many entries in the CV of Anglo-Dutch aircraft designer Robert Noorduyn, who learned his craft in England during and just after WW1, before emigrating to America where he became variously the Chief Engineer of American Fokker, Pitcairn and Bellanca, finally moving north of the border to set up the enterprise bearing his own name and creating his most famous product, the Norseman.

 

The Super Universal was an extrapolation of his earlier Universal with twice the power (420hp P & W Wasp) and seats for 6-8 passengers. Although primarily an airliner, it was designed with one eye on the bushplane market in Canada. One of its more unusual features was that it was designed for single man operation. Instead of seats in the cockpit was a simple plank (bring your own cushion...), which also served as a step on which the pilot could stand to crank the starter through the hinged panels in the top of the cockpit enclosure. This was not widely-practised however, as by all accounts it required a stomach muscle-busting effort...

 

80 examples were built for airlines and corporate users in the US, along with 15 slightly modified aircraft in Canada by Canadian Vickers and 50+ with Nakajima-built Bristol Jupiter engines in Japan/Manchuria, where it became the workhorse of the domestic airlines. It had the typical Fokker features of a thick plywood cantilever wing and fabric-covered steel tube fuselage and was effectively a baby brother to the Dutch-built F-VII.  

 

The first production aircraft was ordered for then-Commander  Richard E. Byrd’s pioneering 1929 Antarctic Expedition, the first to explore the continent by air, where it served alongside the Fairchild FC2W-2 ‘Stars & Stripes’ and Ford Trimotor ‘Floyd Bennett’ (both surviving in museums). Named ‘The Virginia’ after Byrd’s home state, it became the first aircraft to take off from the continent, following unloading from the ship and re-assembly. It was a brief glory however, as it was destroyed in a 100+ mph blizzard which dragged the aircraft several hundred yards during a geological expedition, which required the 3 crew members to be rescued by the Fairchild. The engine and instruments were removed and the remnants of the wreckage are still there. An expedition to recover it was mooted about a decade ago, but came to nothing. It had a number of unique features, like a shorter nose for better cockpit heating, different cabin windows and extra fuel tanks in both the fuselage and centre of the wing which set it apart from the aircraft which followed. A couple of interesting films of it here:

https://americanpolar.org/crash-of-byrds-fokker-in-antarctica-1929/

https://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675020812_Byrd-Expedition_Blizzard-wrecks-airplane-and-radio-equipment_eat-and-drink_chocolate-bars

 

The first US airline operator was National Parks Airways, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Like a number of early airlines, it was founded by a bus operator, Alfred Frank, who was the successful bidder on the Government contract to provide an air route serving Utah, Idaho and Montana. As the northern part of the route skirted Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, that gave the airline its distinctive name, which was really just a marketing gimmick. It took delivery of 4 of the Fokkers in 1928, which were the original equipment, along with Stearman mailplanes. 3 of the Fokkers served for over 5 years until replaced by Boeing 247s. NPA lasted until 1937, when it merged with Western Air Express and shortly after was renamed Western Airlines, which became a major US airline until it was taken over by Delta in 1987.

 

Here are my 1/72 models, 100% scratchbuilt in plastic card. They were a very long, drawn-out project, so it was good to finally get over the finish line a few months ago. Fortunately I work on a number of models in rotation, which prevents it getting boring. Special thanks go to Clark Seaborn of Calgary, Canada, restorer of the sole-surviving aircraft, for creating some wonderful structural drawings of Canadian aircraft which were the starting point for the project and his insights which helped me to really understand the details .

 

Byrd's 'Virginia', Fokker Super Universal first production aircraft, 1929 Antarctic Expedition :

 

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The distinctive Fokker 'cab' was assembled from 13 separate pieces : 

 

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Fokker Super Universal (early production), National Parks Airways, Salt Lake City, 1928 :

 

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Replicating the triple external control cables to the tail surfaces is a major challenge in 1/72 scale:

 

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The real deal :

 

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Both together:

 

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A few WiPs to follow....

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Some 'Work in Progress' shots I took along the journey:

Most Byrd parts:

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Most airliner parts:

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I made patterns for the engine parts from drawings in the original engine manual (and I had some cast in resin for a few projects) :

 

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I whittle most of my propellers from plasticard. No injection moulded kit or aftermarket items have yet captured the precise details of Hamilton-Standard ground-adjustable props.....

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The distinctive metal bucket cabin seats were used in several American Fokkers :

 

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Interiors finished:

 

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Byrd interior. The copper fuel cans were specially made for the expedition and supposed to perform better in sub-zero temperatures :

 

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Airliner interior:

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Both assembled:

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Centre wing fuel tank installed in the Byrd plane:

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 Byrd fuselage ready to be mated with the wing:

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Absolutely splendid modelling. The high standard of your skills is amply demonstrated by the hand-fashioned propellers. Of many outstanding features are the painted wood panels on the wing undersides of the Byrd Super Universal. Just gotta award you the Golden Kookaburra Stamp for one of the best models I've seen on the web and for choosing such interesting and unusual subjects. Bravo!

 

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I'm in awe...

The contrast of textures and colours is beautiful.

I have a 1/8 scale flying model of the Super U under construction and I doubt I will be able to get anywhere near this level of sharp detail.

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Exceptional modelling, I am awe of your amazing skills. They are very attractive little aeroplanes.

 

Cheers

 

John

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22 hours ago, billn53 said:

Amazing work! I especially love the Byrd Expedition Fokker (I have a “thing” for polar exploration aircraft)

They are a very interesting theme. Plus, Byrd is one of my heroes, although he has a somewhat controversial reputation nowadays. 

 

20 hours ago, Maginot said:

 Just gotta award you the Golden Kookaburra Stamp for one of the best models I've seen on the web and for choosing such interesting and unusual subjects. Bravo!

 

Honoured to be in receipt of such an esoteric commendation !  😁  Yes, 'interesting and unusual' is where it's at, although I like to think of it as 'neglected and worthy'.

 

19 hours ago, Zephyr said:

I have a 1/8 scale flying model of the Super U under construction 

 Good to hear.......the world is a better place with more Super U models in it !

 

8 hours ago, John Masters said:

I am not sure which one is more beautiful!  

I know the feeling........they are both my children.

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