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Modelling the Hawk Biplanes ‒ Episode 1: The P-6E


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The 2024 range of groupbuilds offers a long-awaited opportunity to produce a complete series of 1/48 Curtiss Hawk biplanes thanks to a convenient bunfight outcome and a well-timed schedule.  This is my very ambitious program -

 

 

F6C-3        US Navy GB        In progress here

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  P-6E         Golden Age of Transport GB       this groupbuild

 

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 BFC-2        KUTA          19 October - 9 February

 

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 Hawk III          Asia GB           3 August - 24 November

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Step 1 ‒ The Task

 

My subject is a P-6E flown by the squadron commander of the 36th Pursuit Squadron, 8th Pursuit Group, based at Langley Field, VA during 1936. A photo of this aircraft is published in Squadron/Signal's IN ACTION 128 but the quality is rather poor -

 

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I have two options to work with: The Classic Airframes No. 444 of 2001 and the Lindberg No. 72542 (not 1/72!) of 1992. Both kits are said to have some shortcomings.

 

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As we progress I will need to decide which parts are best suited respectively. One set of wings, however, needs to be reserved for my next GB entry, the F6C-3 (more here). This is in the boxes -

 

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Finally some publications that support the project -

 

THE CURTISS ARMY HAWKS, PROFILE PUBLICATIONS NO.45, PETER M. BOWERS, LEATHERHEAD

CURTISS P-6E "HAWK", SCALE AIRPLANE DRAWINGS, PAUL MATT, TEMPLE CITY, 1967

THE CURTISS HAWKS, PAGE SHAMBURGER / JOE CHRISTY, KALAMAZOO, 1972

CURTISS ARMY HAWKS, AIRCRAFT IN ACTION NO.128, LARRY DAVIS, CARROLLTON, 1992

AIR FORCE COLORS VOL.1, DANA BELL, CARROLLTON, 1995

THE OFFICIAL MONOGRAM US ARMY AIR SERVICE & AIR CORPS AIRCRAFT COLOR GUIDE VOL.1, ARCHER, STURBRIDGE, 1995

WINGS OF STARS - US ARMY AIR CORPS 1919-1941, PETER FREEMAN / MIKE STARMER, ARLINGTON, 2009

 

 

Step 2 ‒ Fuselage

 

Classic Airframes are short-run kits and, as experience shows, quite vicious builds. No difference here. There are a number of positives like their singularity, super-fine panel lines and excellent resin parts, but also dimension issues, missing detail, soft plastic and - worst of all - no positioning pins anywhere, which is particularly bad in the case of biplanes. Some of these inconsistencies are reflected in my fuselage modifications -

 

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These are small improvements, the big blunder, however, is the wing root which is too far forward by 4 mm. Since the bottom wing determines the position of the upper plane this error would affect the overall outcome. I therefore cut and inserted the Lindberg wing root in the correct place. An easier wing installation via slot and pin is a worthwhile side effect.

 

 

Step 3 ‒ Cockpit

 

The kit's resin cockpit is neatly done but the sidewall frames are not reproduced correctly. Some scratch work was necessary. The embossed instrument panel was reversed in order to facilitate dial decals on the flat side. When dry-fitted everything matched properly -

 

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Before fixing the cockpit and merging the fuselage halves I drilled rigging holes and inserted wires, exhausts and the radiator. The rear deck was closed and the sternpost extended by 2 mm (too short!). Finally, I added some more detail -

 

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Although two oil cooler scoops are provided by the kit (plastic and resin!) I scratch-built one because neither was deep enough. A further departure is the Lindberg vertical tail (plugged-on here for test purposes) which has a more accurate shape and better articulated rips.

 

 

Step 4 ‒ A host of pins

 

The regrettable lack of adjustment pins demands some makeshift solution. Several metal pins and corresponding holes were worked in to support weak connections (see red circles). The wheel housing arches had to be reamed because their own wheels wouldn't fit (!), and axles were added for the wheels to be rotatable to a flattened seat lateron.

 

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Instead of using either of the P-6E wings I cannibalised the lower surfaces from the Lindberg F11C kit that I held in reserve. They match the new centre section (see step 2) much better. Next, all components were primed - grey underneath blue areas and white for yellow areas.

 

 

Step 5 ‒ Wings


For the main wing I reverted to Lindberg P-6E parts to match the deeper ribs of the lower surfaces even though they may look a bit overdone. The integrated pin holes for the struts are of advantage, too. The unused Classic Airframes wing will then aggravate my F6C build 🙄.

 

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The wing planform needed to be trimmed at the tips. Then I braced the lower part with a strip of fiber since the topside will be added only when the rigging is complete, and I don’t want to risk any wing bending. Before priming I amended both wing halves with some more detail.

 

 

Step 6 ‒ Colours

 

Army Air Corps colours of the period are tricky. Flying surfaces were painted Yellow No. 4. In July 1934 Light Blue No. 23 replaced olive drab on all other surfaces of operational aircraft but a sedate transition period was admitted for economical reasons so that it is often difficult to assess which fuselage colour is shown on a b/w photo. As I want my Hawk to display this colour combination I chose an aircraft that left no doubt.

 

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Research of contemporary colours was conducted by Dana Bell and by Robert Archer (see references). While the strongly saturated orange-yellow chroma of No.4 is well represented by Tamiya TS 34 'Camel Yellow', Light Blue No.23 is a different and controversial story. It's often described as blue-grey with a distinct turquoise undertone. Archer's 'Monogram Color Guide' includes a paint chip which I took as guideline. Since none of the commercial paints came close to the colour sample I finally settled with Citadel Colour 'Ahriman Blue' which I blended with 50% medium grey and tested on a paint mule (see above).

 

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The fuselage (again with the tail plugged on) could now receive its principal colour coat.

 

 

Step 7 ‒ Lower extremities


At this stage some parts had to be further modified. Balancing the landing gear legs towards the right angle was one of those 4-dimensional horrors that made my wife wonder what terrible pains I was suffering! My pre-fabricated pins helped, but still… Missing fairings at the gear/fuselage joint are a gross negligence on CA's part. I tried to shape them with paper covered with glue and primer.

 

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The auxiliary tank (a nice resin part in general) was improved with longitudinal belts and a vertical PE mounting strap. Note that the filler nozzle sits in front of the strap and not behind it as designed by Classic Airframes. The lower (Lindberg) wings were fixed at 2.5° dihedral and the gaps were closed and sanded. This is the current state of affairs –

 

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Step 8 ‒ Half way through

 

Some more work has gone into fuselage and lower wings. If it were a monoplane it would be near the end now…

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The tail gear and empennage are still not fixed to protect them during the ongoing build. No. 61 and the squadron emblem (slightly modified) are available from Yellow Wings Decals 48-085 while the national insignia and the U.S. Army logo come from my decal inventory. Although I keep many such markings in reserve most of them didn't meet size requirements.

 

 

Step 9 ‒ Struts and strands

 

This was the toughest part, and it took almost two weeks, aggravated by the lack of location pins. I checked out every possible strut combination (Classic Airframes, Lone Star Models, Lindberg) to find the best compromise between length, angle and rigidity. Finally I settled with LSM white metal cabane struts and aileron push-rods for stiffness and good old Lindberg interplane struts (duly shortened) to match the holes in the Lindberg wings.

 

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For rigging I used my trusted 0.1" Griffin Jewelry Wire, and by selectively tensing the knotted ends within the open wing I pulled the lower plane into a balanced position. The pitot tube on the starboard interplane strut and the telescopic sight are scratch parts.

 

... and stars

 

When the upper plane was glued in place and sealed I sprayed it yellow from the rattle-can and looked for suitable insignia.

 

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Most colour drawings and decal sheets suggest stars that cover the full chord of the wing's fabric portion. Air Corps Spec. 98-24, 102-G from January 1926, however, calls for a star size of ¾ chord sans aileron, centered at ⅛ of wing span from the tip on tapered wings (see Bell, Archer). Despite an occasional deviation from this rule there's no evidence that my model was an exception. I found only one top view which presents the 17th PS in flight sporting the size of stars that I applied (in action p.3).

 

 

Step 10 ‒ Empennage

 

I have now fixed the tail surfaces and tail wheel permanently and installed control cables and bracing wires. Also visible in this picture are the cable sleeves under the main wing and the tail light in the cavity under the antenna mast.

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This P-6E was retro-fitted with steel straps instead of tail wires, a reinforcement observed on some planes with long service lives, presumably to resist a deteriorating structure.

 

... and end of assemblage

 

Only the propeller and the antenna remained to be connected, the final touch on all my models (not without breaking one of the wing masts when it was just about done 😣). Nevertheless, here comes the first completed Hawk of my series -

 

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More pictures in the gallery here, and a few comments as follows:

 

Studying my subject I found a number of differences from the profiles and decals presented for this airplane:

–  The upper wing stars are smaller on the original than published (see Step 9).

–  The nose plate is most likely coloured (yellow) like on other 8th PG Hawks (not clearly visible but perceivable on the photo).

–  There are no numerals on the upper wing and the nose plate, both corroborated by pictures of other 36th PS planes. Shamburger/Christie (p.60) report that within the 8th PG only the 33rd Squadron displayed plane numbers on the nose. The Boeing P-12 of the 35th, however, did have these markings.

–   The tail is braced with steel straps rather than wires (see step 10).

 

This Classic Airframes kit is almost impossible to build OOB. Besides a few (negligible) inaccuracies it is encumbered with a wing root that is too much forward and a complete lack of strut positioning pins and holes. The upper wing is mis-shaped and difficult to attach. It's a short run kit that demands plenty of extra work to make an accurate model. I deviated by using Lindberg P-6E wing roots, upper wings and vertical tail, Lindberg F11C lower wings, and struts from Lindberg and Lone Star Models. Fuselage, resin parts and panel lines are well-made, however.

 

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Good luck everybody for the dash to the finishing line, Michael

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That's a typical woke GB!😂, I will seriously follow your progresses with pleasure! Schusssss

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Ooh, nice subject series Michael, that you have one planned for the Asia GB as well gains my full approval :thumbsup:

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7 hours ago, Toryu said:

 BFC-2        KUTA          19 October - 9 February

 

Very organised to have something allocated to KUTA already! Seriously though I think it's a very clever approach and a good use of the KUTA wildcard

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1 hour ago, Mjwomack said:

a good use of the KUTA wildcard

 

Thank you Mr. Womack. Incidentally, I built this BFC-2 already in 1996 but it needs to be taken apart for a 200 hours overhaul - very apt for the KUTA.

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Are these all to be in the Gentleman's scale, Sir?

 

It's a great project. I've items in mind for the Navy and Asia GBs, and might choose a Hawk III in the latter myself.

 

 

James

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1 hour ago, Old Man said:

Are these all to be in the Gentleman's scale, Sir?


All 1/48, James, and all with some or other improvement due to their limited origin.

A Hawk III for the Asia GB? I take up the gauntlet…

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On 3/16/2024 at 11:43 PM, Toryu said:


All 1/48, James, and all with some or other improvement due to their limited origin.

A Hawk III for the Asia GB? I take up the gauntlet…

 

Perhaps another gauntlet, Sir?

 

I've got two for the Asia build in mind, and will have to decide.

 

One is a Finemolds Nakajima A2N Type 90 Carrier Fighter. Flying off the Kaga at Shanghai, these were the first Japanese fighters the Hawk III encountered.

 

One is an old MPM original Hawk III, which I would do by kit decals as one flown by Tommy Walker, a mercenary pilot whose exploits, real or fabulous, form much of the account of air fighting over China in Martin Caiden's 'The Ragged, Rugged Warriors'.

 

Either would make a nice pairing....

 

 

James

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5 hours ago, Old Man said:

One is a Finemolds Nakajima A2N Type 90 Carrier Fighter.


Well, I‘ve got the 1/48 ABK Models Nakajima A2N, but that‘s one kit too many for this year, I‘m afraid.

 

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A great theme and a good idea to join several group builds together.  I very thought about it but never managed to.  

I built the Classic Airframes  Hawk 111 in Thai markings a few years ago and it was challenging. Good luck with these 4 and I look forward to seeing them through the year. 

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  • Toryu changed the title to Modelling the Curtiss P-6E ‒ Step 1: The task
  • Toryu changed the title to Modelling the Curtiss P-6E ‒ Step 2: The fuselage
  • Toryu changed the title to The Curtiss P-6E ‒ Step 3: Cockpit
  • Toryu changed the title to The Curtiss P-6E ‒ Step 4: A host of pins

Wow this is really taking shape ! I wish I coild get this good at Bi-planes, I have a WNW Albatros V/Va and an Williams brothers F9C Sparrowhawk that are just begging to be built. Links ate too the specific versions I have. 
 

https://www.scalemates.com/kits/wingnut-wings-32907-albatros-dva--1249032

 

https://www.scalemates.com/kits/williams-brothers-32590-f9c-sparrowhawk--1087633

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2 minutes ago, Toryu said:

Nice models Dennis @Corsairfoxfouruncle

The F9C in particular. There is no 1/48 kit afaik, maybe a vacuform?

I agree I looked around forever to find one in 1/48 or 1/72. Finally found the 1/32 kit and figured it was small enough to fit in with my other kits. 

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  • Toryu changed the title to The Curtiss P-6E ‒ Step 5: Wing
  • Toryu changed the title to The Curtiss P-6E ‒ Step 6: Colours
5 hours ago, Toryu said:

Army Air Corps colours of the period are tricky. Flying surfaces were painted Yellow No.4. In July 1934 Light Blue No.23 replaced olive drab on all other surfaces of operational aircraft but a sedate transition period was admitted for economical reasons so that it is often difficult to assess which fuselage colour is shown on a b/w photo. As I want my Hawk to display this colour combination I chose an aircraft that left no doubt.

 

53679039252_878a77b74b_c.jpg

 


The most thorough research of contemporary colours was conducted by Dana Bell and by Robert Archer (see references). While the strongly saturated orange-yellow chroma of No.4 is well represented by Tamiya TS 34 'Camel Yellow', Light Blue No.23 is a different and controversial story. It's often described as blue-grey with a distinct turquoise undertone. Archer's 'Monogram Color Guide' includes a paint chip which I took as guideline. None of the commercial paints came even close to the colour sample until I discovered Citadel Colour 'Ahriman Blue' which I blended with 50% medium grey and tested on a paint mule (see above).

 

53680262229_75422abecf_c.jpg

 

The fuselage (again with the tail plugged on) could now receive its principal colour coat.

 Great job! This typical 1930's USAAF camouflage reminds me of the A-12 Shrike, Martin B-10 and Boeing P-26. 

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