MiG-19S in 1/72 by KP

The MiG-19 (with the NATO reporting name ‘Farmer’) was the first Soviet designed and built supersonic fighter and the world’s first mass produced supersonic fighter. It was a development of the earlier MiG-17 powered by two jet engines and more streamlined to make use of the additional power. The prototype first flew in May 1952 and they began entering service in 1955. The Russians produced over 2,000 between 1954 and 1968 and the Chinese produced over 4,500 as the Shenyang J-6 between 1958 and 1986. They flew with almost every air force of every nation allied or associated with the Soviet Union and China for two or three decades.

They say, and why wouldn’t they, that the aeroplanes, cars or tanks we best like the look of are the ones that we grew up with. In my case they might be right because in the late 1950s the top of the game for me were that first generation of supersonic fighters, the Grumman F11F, the North American F-100 and the MiG-19. They all came from a period when the aerodynamicists were trying to work out the best shapes for high-speed fighters so this generation still had a lot in common with the first jet fighters that disappeared with the next generation that included the McDonnell F-4 and Lockheed F-104, the Mirage III and the MiG-21. Pictures of the F-100 were commonplace, those of the F11F were not so much so because it was not very successful, but photos of the MiG-19 were almost non existent. Those that did exist showed a sleek and powerful looking fighter that was designed for speed.

Making a model of the MiG-19 was very high on my list when I started making scale models. Unfortunately the lack of information available about them meant that any kits made in the West had very little to do with what they actually looked like. Kits made behind the Iron Curtain were likely to be more accurate, but they were unavailable in the West. (The same also applied to other Soviet designs including the MiG-21 which was poorly represented in the West at that time.) The only MiG-19 kit that seemed likely to be reasonably accurate was produced by KP in Czechoslovakia and they did not become available in the West until the 1980s (as I recall) when a few copies made their way to the West. Somehow I managed to get copies of both the MiG-19 and MiG-21 and they seemed to me to be a vast improvement over what had previously been available, at least in terms of accuracy.

By the standards of the early 1990s the KP MiG-19 (the MiG-19S, ‘Farmer-C’) was not a very impressive kit, looking rather blobby with fairly coarsely moulded parts. Disappointed, I put it aside and hoped for something better. A few years later I came across another kit of the MiG-19 made by Plastyk which, after I’d bought it, looked to me to be a reboxing of the KP kit. So I gave up and made it. The result was a fairly unenjoyable modelling experience and a merely mediocre model, but it was a MiG-19 and the only game in town, so I kept it.

Time for a short technical note on 1/72 kits of the MiG-19. According to Scalemates Eastern Express made a new tool kit of the MiG-19 that was subsequently reboxed by MasterCraft. ZTS Plastyk and Bigmodel. Also according to Scalemates the Plastyk reboxing was released in 2006 but my records tell me that I made the Plastyk kit in March 1998. To add to this confusion, I would swear on a stacks of expensive Hasegawa kits that the Plastyk kit I made was so similar to the KP kit as to make them the same kit. That kit was first released by KP in 1972 and subsequently in reboxings by Aero Team, Kopro-MasterCraft and Smer. There was also supposed to be new tool Bilek kit of the Farmer-C and Farmer-B but, knowing that manufacturer’s track record, it is highly likely to be instead a reboxing on the KP kit. There’s also a 1970s Bandai Farmer-B that I haven’t found and a Heller kit that is really not worth finding.

All this boils down to the fact that there has really only been one kit of the MiG-19 available since 1972, a very strange situation indeed given the important place that the aeroplane has in aviation history and that it wasn’t a very good kit. True, Trumpeter has been promising us a MiG-19PM (Farmer-E) for quite a few years and it has not appeared, even though they offer Farmer-Cs, Farmer-Es and a trainer version in 1/48. Anyhow, the Farmer-E is the one with the fat upper intake lip which spoils the look of the aeroplane, to me at least.

So sadly I’ve been living in a Farmer wasteland for decades. (I’ve also been living in a Grumman F11F wasteland too but at least we’ve had the good quality Hasegawa kit since 1981, and in service and Blue Angels markings too.) My hopes for a better MiG-19 were lifted a couple of years ago when KP announced that they would be releasing a new version of the Farmer-C but there was a lot of speculation about whether or not it would be yet another reboxing, or something new. The company owner assured people that it would be a new tooling, not a reboxing, so when Hannants finally announced it was available I hoped for the best and ordered three – because the kit was being released in three decal versions.

The first thing to say about the kit is that it is a new tooling. For one thing, it comes crisply moulded in two sprue frames rather than the separate sprue trees of the previous KP kit (which means the box is four times the size of the previous moulding in its first boxing). In addition, the mouldings are new and crisp, showing no signs of wear that had become visible on the old kit. The details are finely engraved, in comparison to the previous raised line details, and there is a fairly well detailed cockpit whereas the previous version was not so well endowed. The decal sheet is also a vast improvement on previous versions.

Overall this kit gives the impression of having been designed by the same people who do the design work for many of the current crop of Czech kits. There is a lot of attention to detail and yet there are also some strange arrangements that means fit part is not as positive as you tend to find in modern kits from Asia. For example, it takes a bit of test fitting to get the nose intake and cockpit to locate properly, but once you’ve got it in place the fit is excellent. Another example is the very prominent wing fences which are nicely moulded as separate parts (rather than being moulded in place in the previous kit) but are only butt joined and in a location that is not clearly marked on the wings. In comparison the drop tank pylons have little locating pins that fit very nicely in the under wing indentations provided for them. One of the horrors that I still remember from making the previous kit was trying to align the wing root cannons that were just butt joined and at first it looked as though I faced the same night mare this time. However there are tiny indentations in the wing roots and even tinier little pins on the cannons themselves that you can barely see, but ensure that the parts join fairly well.

If I was rating this kit I’d probably give it something like a 75 per cent. It is significantly better than the previous kit but yet not as good as I would have liked for a 2019 kit. There’s something about the feel of this kit as you put it together, a kind of fragility that most other modern kits lack. The undercarriage is perhaps the best example because it is good and properly to scale, but every time I picked the kit up I felt as though I was going to break something. Indeed, the nose undercarriage did come off at one point and I was never able to get it to go back quite right. The pitot tube was a particular horror, nice and to scale but the version I wanted to make had a series of red bands around it and the amount of handling necessary to achieve that meant the thing broke before I had finished. (I scratch built a replacement but did not feel brave enough to try painting the red bands again.)

It took me much longer to build this model than I had expected, frankly because I didn’t enjoy the experience and could often find something else to do instead of working on it. Apart from that sense of fragility I mentioned, and a few quirks to the kit, it is excellent and I highly recommend it. I suspect that the problem might be with me because I’ve been feeling a bit distracted of late (haven’t we all) and because I couldn’t make up my mind about how to finish it. This kit offers decals for four Czech aircraft, all possibly in bare metal finishes but with some flourishes that were apparently applied for wargames. The indecision came from what the generic word ‘silver’ on the colour guide meant. Did it mean ‘silver’ as in a protective silver paint or did it mean ‘silver’ as in bare metal. Looking at photos on the interweb only heightened my indecision because most of the photos are of restored Farmers (which is not very helpful) and the ones of operational aircraft are generally so poor as to be of little assistance. In the end I gave up worrying and used Tamiya AS-12, and then quite a few other metallic shades on the airframe were also required. I’m quite happy with the end result but I didn’t enjoy the process of getting there.

It is interesting to compare my two MiG-19 models. Assuming that the second kit is accurate it shows that the first kit was fairly accurate too. However, the second kit is a lot more precise looking than the first one in many ways including the engraved detailing and, for example, the difference in the undercarriage doors and detailing is remarkable. Looking at the older model I get the impression that I must have lost patience with it and just finished it off basically to get it done. It looks as though I solved the question of ‘silver’ by just applying good ol Modelmaster silver and none of the other metallic detail, and sanded off the raised detail.

Given the lack of interest in the MiG-19 shown by kit makers I expect that the KP kit is as good as it is going to get. I had problems with it but, on the whole, that was down to me. Do yourselves a favour and get one or two of these. The camouflaged Pakistani one should look very attractive.

Models for August 2020

This month has been a less productive one than most. This is because I decided to make a change and make some smaller models which, I thought, would take less time to make. I was wrong, the smaller models took more work than usual and hence more time.

The first example is this tiny Stransky 1/144 Learjet 35. I thought that putting it together would take no time at all, but it turned out that getting the fit right took almost as much time as it would on a larger kit. Then there was the masking and painting which was extremely fiddly and quite stressful. The result was that this model spent a lot of time sitting on the shelf while I worked up the nerve to get back to it. If I was going to do this again I’d find a 1/72 kit which might require a bit more work but would not be quite so much of a challenge. On the other hand, this kit comes with this lovely Wards Express livery which I haven’t seen in the larger scale.

French modeller Adrien Roy has sent me three of his newly created kits of French aeroplanes from the interwar period and, of course, I could not resist starting one immediately. This 1/72 Bernard 20 is a beautiful little resin creation, finely crafted and moulded and is a real joy to put together. If I had to make a list of my favourite kits of 2020 this would definitely be towards the top of the list. If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, but very pretty, I’d recommend you get this, but only if you know what you’re doing with resin. The thing that took me so long with this kit is that I worked at it very slowly for fear of making a mess of such a lovely kit. I’m a little suspicious of the colour, Roy’s model is a lot more subdued in tone than mine but, as he says, we don’t have any colour photographs of this aeroplane so I’m as likely to be right as he about the exact colour.

This new KP MiG-19S is a kit that I’ve been waiting years for. I think the MiG-19 is one of the most elegant looking of the 1950s jets and this new kit certainly portrays that look. The kit itself if fairly simple to put together and the fit part is very nice. One of the main reasons that it took me so long to complete this is that I was unsure of the way that the finished model should look and took a lot of time cruising the interweb trying to find some guidance. However, there were so many MiG-19s made and they stayed in service so long that there is a photo of this fighter in almost every finish and condition that you can imagine. This is another kit I would recommend and, unlike the Bernard 20, it was an important aeroplane historically and now that KP have released this new kit there is no excuse for you not to add one to your collection.

Here are some I made earlier.

This MiG-15 is the much older KP kit that has been around for many years and had been well and truly superceded by the newer Airfix kit. As you can see from the look of this model, I was experimenting with bare metal finishes and this highly polished one didn’t turn out so well. I made this one about twelve years ago and since then I’ve settled on the range of Tamiya lacquer metalic finished that stand up to the wear and tear of modelling a lot better than this one did.

One of the reasons I like making models in constant scale is because it allows me to see the relative differences and changes that took place in aeronautical production over time. By coincidence I pulled out the KP MiG-15 just as I completed the MiG-19 and it is interesting to put them together. It would be interesting to put the MiG-17 in as well to see the progression between the earlier and the later design but I think that these couple of photos shows the similarity between the two MiGs and the advanced that took place in aeronautical design in only a few years.

It is interesting to see the BAC Lightning in comparison with the MiG-19 and see the comparisons, although the contemporary of the Lightning is really the MiG-21. This is the 1/72 Trumpeter Lightning F.6 of No 11 Squadron RAF, right at the end of its service life in 1987.

This little Dujin 1/72 SAN Jodel 140 is an example of why I am such a fan of Dujin kits. They are quite rare these days and fetch good prices on ebay but some are being re-released by a consortium under the FGMmasterdujin label. However, both those and the original Dujin kits are hard to find these days. Fortunately I have quite a few stored up for my eventual retirement.

Nieuport 11 in 1/72 by Toko

The Nieuport 11 was one of the best of the first generation of fighters. It was derived from a racing aeroplane developed before the war and had such potential that it was ordered by both the French and British governments. It entered service in August 1915 and its high speed, excellent manoeuverability and high climbing speed soon helped the Allies overcome the ‘Fokker Scourge’ of the previous few months. An important feature of the design was the wing arrangement in which the area of the lower wing was only half the area of the upper wing, a feature that was used in the later Nieuport 17 and in German aeroplanes such as the Albatros D.III and D.V. As the Nieuport 11 flew before the invention of synchronised machine guns its only armament was a Lewis gun mounted above the upper wing outside the propeller arc. This aeroplane was so successful that it was built in large numbers in Italy, Holland and Russia as well as France and was also flown by the Belgium air service and Britain’s Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service.. It was very popular with its pilots and many famous aces started off in it, Bishop, Ball, Navare and Nungesser among them.

As soon as Toko arrived on the scene they brought a new standard to kits of World War I aeroplanes. Other manufacturers had done them before, usually the Sopwith Camels, SE5As, Fokker Dr.1s, all the usual fighters, and usually rather chunky looking too. Often the best way to make World War I aeroplanes look as light and fragile as they really were was to make vacforms, and I wouldn’t wish that on a dog. Toko were a breath of fresh air with a range of World War I aeroplanes never before seen and with such a lightness in the mouldings that they looked fine and light. Toko has now stopped making kits but their moulds have gone to another Eastern European maker and the people who worked for Toko have started up a new company making the same kinds of kits. We have been very lucky!

This little kit is a joy to put together. The parts are generally well formed though some need a bit of attention to get rid of some of the mounding seams. Many of the parts are extremely fragile so I had to go patiently and carefully so I didn’t break anything, which would have been easy since the plastic is a bit soft. There is a pleasant amount of cockpit detail that can be brought up nicely with a little bit of dry brushing but there is no sign of any instruments or instrument panel. I have no references for what’s in the cockpit of a Nieuport 11 so I had to trust Toko, but it does look a bit odd. There is an uncalled-for lump of plastic on the front edge of the cockpit opening and it took me a while to realise that Toko had moulded the windscreen as though it was part of the fuselage. All you have to do to make yourself happy is cut away the plastic lump and make a little windscreen out of some thin clear plastic.

I’m a little confused about the lower wing on this aeroplane. The kit has it swept back a little but the photograph of the aeroplane I’ve included shows it straight. I can’t imagine that Toko would have made such a simple error but I have no other material to check which is right. Anyhow, trying to straighten up the wing would have caused all kinds of grief with mounting the top wing so I decided to pretend that there was nothing to worry about. For once the top wing was easy to mount and lined up nicely. Unfortunately, after I’d gone to so much trouble to make sure the narrow track undercarriage on the He178V-1 didn’t cause problems with the way the model sits I forgot with the Nieuport 11, and guess what happened. Such is life!

The kit comes with a choice of five markings, four Nieuport 11s and a Nieuport 16. The first four are all silver so that makes life very easy while the Nieuport 16 is camouflaged and equipped with rockets mounted on the wing struts for shooting down balloons. The Nieuport 16 had a more powerful engine so I don’t know if something should be done to represent that if you were to go for the 16, but since I decided to make a nice French Nieuport 11 I didn’t have to worry about that.

In fact I didn’t worry about much with this kit, I just enjoyed putting it together and I enjoy looking at it, it’s so pretty and petite.

(September 2000)

North American Mustang IV in 1/72 by Academy

The North American P-51 is one of the most written about aeroplanes in the history of aviation. Designed and constructed in 120 days to meet the desperate needs of the British government in April 1940 it was a good aeroplane which became great when powered by the famous Rolls Royce Merlin engine. It was the primary fighter in use by the USAAF by the end of World War II in Europe and the Pacific with outstanding range and performance. Other allied nations also flew it and in Australia the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation began constructing it from 1945. In appearance the major difference between the earlier P-51B and the later P-51D versions was the replacement of the rear decking with a bubble canopy, giving it a modern and highly efficient appearance.

A large number of P-51s were handed over to British forces where it was called the ‘Mustang’. The earlier versions were numbered Mustang Mk.I to Mustang Mk.III, the P-51D (and later P-51K) were called the Mustang Mk.IV in British service.
The Royal Australian Air Force’s 3 Squadron flew Mustangs with allied forces in Italy in 1944 and 1945. Deliveries of Mustang III’s (P-51B/C’s) and Mustang IV’s (P-51D/K’s) began in November 1944, replacing the Kittyhawks that the Squadron had flown previously. The squadron flew mainly ground attack missions as the Luftwaffe had largely disappeared in the region and used the Mustang’s exceptional range to fly as far as Yugoslavia on the other side of the Adriatic to support partisan operations there. 3 Squadron was operating its Mustangs from bases in Italy right up to the end of the war in Europe.

boxtop

Academy are making some of the nicest little kits available these days, generally highly accurate, well detailed and very cheap. There are some faults (and the reviewers in the magazines will let you know if they are significant) with some of the kits in the range but overall they are not serious and at the price it hard to go past them in comparison to the more expensive Japanese kits. There are, however, so many P-51D models around that I wanted to make something that was a little bit different, not just another of the hoards of all-silver P-51Ds that crowded the skies over Europe at the end of the war. The solution to this little problem came with Aussie Decals set which provides decals for Mustang III’s and Mustang IVs flown by the RAAF’s 3 Squadron in Italy. With the good Academy kit and what looked like good decals it should have been an easy little job.

The kit is pretty accurate and there is no need to do anything serious. I could have opened up the outlets from the radiator that would have improved the look of the model, but I didn’t. The radiator inlet needs thinning down by carving away the excess plastic to make it look good. The kit offers the options of two slightly different shape canopies and the experten at the MOB assure me that the slightly humped one is the right one for a Mustang IV flown by 3 Squadron, The experten also assure me that these Mustangs also go without the little housing on wing leading edge for the inner machine gun. It is an easy matter to remove them and drill a hole for the machine guns. I was shown a plan for the Mustang with the inner housing missing but all of the photos I could find of Mustangs shows all three housings – and I couldn’t find any photos of 3 Squadron Mustangs with the right angle to be sure – but it was too late by the time I started to feel suspicious that somebody might be playing a hoax on me. The experten also assure me that 3 Squadron Mustangs didn’t have cuffs on the propeller while the kit does. Photos suggest that they might be right this time but taking them off the prop supplied in the kit would have been difficult so I peered into the spares box and discovered the prop of on old (we’re talking 1950s here) Airfix Mustang that looks as though it was salvaged from one of the first kits I ever made. I decided to use it instead (partly for its nostalgia value) but after an hour or so’s filing I was starting to wonder if it was a good idea. It still looks a bit chunky in comparison to more modern mouldings, but there it is.

The colours are standard RAF fighter camouflage from the late war period as supplied by Aeromaster, with the exception that I don’t like the extreme greeness of their ‘Sky’ so I consulted my colour references and found something a little less green, FS 34424 from Modelmaster. The reference for the decals gives Humbrol G47 for the rudder which looks a bit too light to me, but I can’t argue since I didn’t have a better reference. The colour drawing with the decals (shown here) doesn’t show the starboard view, neither did any of the photos I had easily to hand, so I guessed.

model

The decals are excellent, sufficient for a Mustang III and two Mustang IV’s. They only supply markings for the fuselage, you have to rummage around in your collection of spares to find the roundels for the wings. The decals also proved to be very fragile so I had to coat them with a clear varnish before getting them onto the model properly. I didn’t test them in advance and one of the serial numbers just disintegrated, so I had to use a serial that isn’t correct for the larger squadron codes. There’s a message there somewhere – actually there are a lot of lessons I learned with this model.

(June 2000)

Dewoitine 371 in 1/72 by Azur

Dewoitine is one of the best known names in French aviation, mainly because of the Dewoitine D.520 fighter, the ‘French Spitfire’, that served with distinction in the short Battle of France in mid 1940. Emile Dewoitine began constructing aeroplanes in 1923 and produced several good designs in the 1920s. Work began on the D.37 series around 1930 and the parasol wing prototype first flew in 1934. Twenty-eight D.371s were ordered by the Armée de l’Air in 1935 and 14 D.372s (export version of the D.371) were ordered for the Lithuanian Air Force. Later a total of 44 D.373s and D.376s were delivered (the latter version had folding wings and two squadrons were in service with the Aéronautique Navale in 1940). At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War the 14 Lithuanian D.372s and 10 French D.371s went to Spain where they served successfully with Republican forces until more advanced aeroplanes joined the Nationalist forces and they were replaced by Russian Polikarpov fighters.

371 boxtop
Where would we be without Azur? In the past couple of years they have produced a series of excellent limited-run kits of French aeroplanes. Each one has been excellent value with finely crafted parts, a small fret of brass parts, a vacformed windscreen and an excellent decal sheet. Long may the continue producing kits like this successfully.
The D.371 is a petite model with very fragile parts. It is a typical limited run kit which asked the modeller to make their contribution in completing a good end result, unlike some of the latest injection moulded kits that almost make themselves. Construction is actually very straight forward and falls into three parts.

First is the engine which comprises a beautifully detailed crankcase, individual cylinders and a delightful engine cowling, all very well detailed in resin. The instruction sheet tells you to make a large number of individual exhaust pipes to be attached to the rear of the engine, it’s not as difficult as it looks but they aren’t entirely necessary to a nice looking little model. When you’ve finished constructing the engine in its cowling put it aside, joining it to the fuselage is the last step in the project.

Next comes the fuselage which is very standard with a nicely detailed little cockpit. You need to make your own tail struts as they don’t come with the kit, the instructions tell you how.

The wings are very simple, a one piece wing that needs a touch of cleaning up and the machine guns. This can be a little confusing since the instructions tell you that for the D.371 you have to add stretched sprue to the wings for the guns or use the supplied guns for the D.372. My research suggests that it is probably the other way around – the box shows a D.371 with machine guns as supplied in the kit which clinched the matter for me.

With the engine, fuselage and wings ready you come to the most daunting part of the project, putting them together. The struts supplied with the kit are extremely thin and fragile and it took me a long while to work up the courage to tackle them. The key to success in using the struts successfully is to use a solid, precise jig that holds the wing and fuselage exactly where they need to be and then fitting the struts into place using drops of liquid glue. I found it easiest to do this with the model upside down with the wing facing up and the fuselage perched above it, starting with the inner struts and working out. Work with a pair of fine tweezers and a great deal of patience, when everything is done go away and shake for a while. A day later I continued and put the undercarriage on, once again using little dobs of liquid glue. Liquid glue is preferable to SuperGlue because it gives you time to move the struts into exactly the right place and welds the parts together – making me feel a bit more confident about the strength of butt joins than I would with super glue which has little shear strength. When you come back a couple of days later and take the model out of its jig the end result is a lot stronger than you’d expected. That doesn’t stop the individual struts from breaking and a couple did as I completed the model, but the other struts held and another little DOB of liquid glue took care of the problem.

model

The kit offers options to make either a D.371 or a D.372 with alternate tail planes, spatted or unpathed wheels and the option of machine guns. The kit also offers five colour options, one French, two Spanish and two Lithuanian. The simplest would be an all-silver Lithuanian version and the most complex one of the Spanish versions. I wouldn’t want to tackle the Spanish one with the wing attached to the fuselage, perhaps others are bolder than me. The French version is fairly simple to complete and that’s what I chose (what else?). The top colour green is best represented by Humbrol 80 (so I’m told by people who should know – the French Aviation Modelling web site) and I used Humbrol 11 silver for the rest. I only found out that the decals for the rudder stripes were too big for the rudder on the model when it was too late, and rudder stripes really can’t be swapped around because that’s where the French put the aircraft numbers.
Would I recommend this kit? You bet! But its not for the faint hearted or the inexperienced and getting this model finished successfully was quite a challenge. But what a lovely little aeroplane and what a lovely little kit!

D37s e

(May 2000)

Douglas DC-4 in 1/144 by Minicraft

Having almost run out of Boeing airliners to model I decided it was time to make some Douglas airliners. Having been thoroughly annoyed by the quality of the Minicraft Boeing 707 kits I’d had to use I was delighted at the quality of the Minicraft DC-4 kits which may not be totally accurate but look like DC-4s and have a nice delicate quality about them.

boxtop

I don’t think of the DC-4 a very attractive airliner but found that I had two Minicraft DC-4 kits in my collection so I thought I might do something interesting with them and make them to demonstrate a couple of slices of Australian aviation history

Australian National Airways imported four DC-4s into Australia, beginning in 1946. They revolutionized local air transport in the same way that DC-2s and DC-3s had before the war. Hawkeye make a lovely sheet of decals of those first ANA DC-4s so the choice was obvious. It would also have been obvious to make VH-ANA which was the first DC-4 to fly in Australia but more interesting, I thought, to make VH-ANC. In October 1946 it was the first airliner to make a scheduled service flight linking Australia and North America, flying a wet lease for British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines which did not have any aircraft at the time.

DC-4 ANA

At the other end of the time line is two DC-4s that Qantas was flying in the 1970s. The only other DC-4s still flying in Australia were a couple that had been converted to Carvairs (for which Roden make a nice kit and Hawkeye make excellent Ansett-ANA decals). Qantas was not keen on flying these DC-4s but they were used on the route linking Norfolk Island with the rest of Australia. The reason for this was the ‘90 minute rule’ that said a two engined airliner had to be at all times within 90 minutes flying time of a runway it could use, and there was no two engined airliner capable of making the flight to Norfolk Island in 90 minutes. As a result a four engined airliner had to be used and other factors meant that the only thing that filled the bill was old DC-4s.

Qantas was given two DC-4s and told the fly the route, which it did for a number of years until a dispensation against the rule was finally granted and East-West Fokker F-27s took over the route.

DC-4 QF

(November 2017)

Grumman F11F-1 in 1/72 by Hasegawa

Back in the mists of time – probably the early 1960s – I received a book about aeroplanes and a picture in it that captured my imagination was of a formation of Blue Angels F11Fs. The aeroplane itself looked the epitome of streamlining and speed with no compromises. This may well have been the beginning of my love affair with jets designed in the 1960s and 1970s when aeronautical engineers were still struggling to find the way to design the truly successful high performance fighter and trying all kinds of experiments to find what worked best. Out of this era the F11F is probably one of the simplest and straight forward designs combining a wasp-waisted fuselage designed around a big, powerful engine and gracefully swept back wings. Later on I read that the F11F was the first US Navy aircraft capable of supersonic level flight and that its afterburner was the reason it flew with the Blue Angles – selected for the noise it generated more than anything else.

Box Top

Hasegawa must have released its kit of the F11F in the late 1970s or early 1980s. My pleasure at seeing the kit and the haste with which I constructed it resulted in something less than pleasing. One of the main problems was the undercarriage which I did not get right so the aeroplane sat with one wing decidedly higher than the other – a problem with many models with undercarriage close to the aeroplane’s centreline. I always planned to make a better model of a F11F one of these days and collected a couple of kits when the opportunity arose, one of a standard operational version and another of a Blue Angles version. Along the way I also picked up a bottle of ‘Blue Angels’ blue; all I needed was the inclination to get on with it.

Unlike some of the limited run kit manufacturers, Hasegawa has been making excellent kits for as long as most of us can remember. Also unlike most limited run kits, Hawegawa use a nice high quality, sturdy and hard plastic that is a pleasure to work with. Everything fits together like a dream and the detail on most of the parts is ideal. The instruction sheet tells you what to leave out and the couple of changes that make the Blue Angels version. I later figured out that it might have been good to run a bit of fuse wire along the rear port fuselage for the pipe that carried the oil for the smoke into the jet stream. Painting is simplicity itself, all over Blue Angels blue. It seems that the US Navy liked to keep things simple so that the interiors like the undercarriage bays were the same colour as the rest of the airframe although I did find some photos of a restored Blue Angels F11F that had part of the interior painted white. I decided not to complicate things and pretend I hadn’t seen that photo.

After that there are some polished aluminium parts like leading edges and walk ways and it’s time for the decals. I guess that the decals would be the same age as the rest of the kit, 25 or so years old but they had not aged as well. I applied a couple of coats of Microscale Liquid Decal film to hold them together but even so getting the decals off the back paper and onto the model was hard work and I had to go back and respray some of the yellow areas that had not come out looking very good. Despite the problems with the decals the end result looks pretty flash – just as a F11F is supposed to look. I’ve got some decals for a squadron aeroplane and a spare Hasegawa kit, so it’s only a matter of time until this model has a partner.

model

(February 2008)

Dewoitine 376 in 1/72 by Azur

Dewoitine seems to have liked monoplanes from the beginning but for the first decade he concentrated on parasols in which the wing is attached to the fuselage with struts rather than attached directly to the fuselage. There are a couple of advantages with parasol aircraft, they are more stable because the wing is higher and they give greater visibility with the wing located at about pilot eye level so they do not block the pilot’s vision upwards and down. However, by the mid 1930s they had largely fallen out of favour.

Before I write about the Dewoitine 37 series of fighters a word or two about the designation of French aircraft before World War II, whether you want to know about it or not. You will find that most French aircraft from this period have a three number designation, the first two numbers are the model number and the third is the variant number. So, in the case of the Dewoitine 37 series the 370 was the prototype, the 371 and 372 were the first and second versions produced for ground based operations, the 373 was then manufactured for naval use, the 374 and 375 were planned versions that were not proceeded with and the 376 was a second version produced for the navy.

The fact that the prime French fighter of World War II was the Dewoitine 520 tells you that it was also the first variant of the design and, although there were more variants planned, from the 521 to the 525, none got very far. On the other hand, the French reconnaissance aeroplane designated the Potez 63.11 received that designation because the design had started out as a multi-role fighter (like a less ferocious Bf110) that was produced in so many versions that the reconnaissance version was the eleventh.

Back to the Dewoitine 37, which was not a very successful fighter. Having spent the 1920s designing and making, or selling under licence, a range of parasol fighters of limited success, of which the most successful was the Dewoitine 27 series, the company entered the 1930s with its most advanced parasol fighter yet, the 37 series. It was more streamlined and had a more powerful radial engine and looked much more business-like than the company’s previous designs. However, after the prototype made its first flight on 1 August 1931 a number of defects were found that needed rectification and that took time. As a result the first production model, the 371, did not make its first flight until September 1934. The French Air Ministry ordered 28 of this variant in April 1935 and the order had been completed by December that year. After an accident with the prototype a structural weakness was discovered in the wings so they were returned to the factory and did not emerge until 1937, by which time the 371 was obsolete.

Lithuania ordered 14 Dewoitine 372s that were differently armed. By the time they were ready the Lithuanians has cancelled that order in favour of the more advanced Dewoitine 501s. The French Aeronautique Navale ordered twenty Dewoitine 373s that were similar to the 371 but equipped with an arrester hook, flotation gear and a wing reduced by 30cm in span so they would fit onto the lifts of the French aircraft carrier. The French navy ordered a further 25 as the Dewoitine 376 which were equipped with folding wings, although it took an hour to get the wings ready for flight.

Being well outclassed by more modern fighters 21 Dewoitine 371 were sent to the French colony in Tunisia where they served until they were replaced by Morane Saulnier 406s in 1939. One way and another the remaining 371s and 372s ended up flying in the Spanish Republican air force where they did well against the Nationalist Heinkel He51s and Fiat CR32s but were outclassed by more modern fighters and eventually replaced by Soviet Polikarpov fighters. The last ones were destroyed on the ground in an Italian bombing attack in February 1939. At the beginning of World War II the navy’s Dewoitines were allocated to squadrons to protect the ports of Toulon and Calais but they did not see action against Luftwaffe. After the Armistice they were used for limited training but withdrawn from service in April 1940.

376 boxtop

The Azur 1/72 kit

Using the Azur kits you can make all the versions of the Dewoitine 37 series. The kit of the naval versions, released in 1997, contains options for the 373 and 376 and the kit of the ground based version, released in 1998, contains options for the 371 and 372. They use the same basic kit parts but the naval version contains a new resin wing and arrester hook as well at two versions of engine cowling. Strangely the resin wing in the naval kits has a greater span than the injection moulded one, which seems strange since the naval version had the shorter wing span. The resin wings for the 373/376 is better moulded and has flaps, which the 371/72 doesn’t.

 

I made the model of the Dewoitine 371 twenty years before making the model of the 376 and some of the smaller struts of the 371 seem to have disappeared during the intervening period. Apart from that, the only real visual differences between them is that the Humbrol 11 silver finish was a lot brighter then than it is now and the recommended upper colours for the 371, Humbrol 80, is not a colour that I would probably use now. The cockpit interiors are adequate and probably as detailed as they need to be for what is visible, though my 371 cockpit has seatbelts because they came with the kit whereas the 376 doesn’t. The reason for this is because I could not find any photo etched parts in my 376 kit until I found them hiding behind the decal sheet, by which time it was too late to use them.

Both kits offer the engine in resin with a central crankcase and lots of tiny engine cylinders that have to be carefully glued to the crankcase. This might make sense if the engine wasn’t hidden behind a large spinner so all the effort is pretty much wasted and I would have preferred instead a single well mounded resin part. The kit instructions also suggests scratch building exhaust pipes from each tiny cylinder head, which I laughingly dismissed as being an even greater waste of time since they wouldn’t be seen underneath the engine cowling. Perhaps I could have super detailed the engine and left the cowling off, but I could just as easily have committed myself to the local mental asylum.

The most challenging part of building these kits was attaching the wings to the fuselage using the small and fragile struts provided in the kit. There are no locating holes or tabs to do this though the plastic moulded wing has much better indications of where the struts join the wing than the resin one does. Another advantage of the plastic wing over the resin one is that you can use the standard plastic melting glue to attach the wings to the struts of the 371, giving a stronger bond, whereas there is no option but superglue in attaching the 376 plastic struts to the resin wing, risking a catastrophic failure sometime in the future.

D37s b

I don’t recall now how I managed to align the fuselage and wings of the 371 to join them with the struts, all my notes say is ‘a solid, precise jig’. That must have been a work of art in itself. Since then my standards have slipped and I use large blobs of Blue Tack to hold everything in place which makes it easier to make the small adjustments required to make sure everything is square before test fitting the struts to get everything micro-millimeter perfect. It was easier to start with the inner struts and then let the main struts go there they wanted to go since, this time, there was no precise indication of where they should go. Then a few dots of superglue, wait a while and then the challenge is to remove the model from the Blue Tack without breaking anything. In theory I should have used the same process to attach the undercarriage to the model but it proved too difficult so I just had to trust that the kit maker had got the lengths of the struts just right, glue the parts together and hope for the best. At least, using Revell Contacta glue gives a little time and flexibility to line everything up properly before leaving them to set.

D37s c

After that the rest of the model more of less makes itself. The arrester hook for the 373/376 is moulded in resin and looked to be impossible to remove from its casting block without breaking. I was right and something similar had to be made using bits and pieces from my spares box. Of all the ways that I make models the one that has changed the most over the past twenty years has been my painting. The 371 model is painted in Humbrol enamel paints, Numbers 11 and 80, but these days I use almost exclusively lacquers and fortunately there are some very good metallic finishes in lacquers. The fuselage of the 376 was airbrushed in Tamiya LP-38 Flat Aluminium and the cowling in Tamiya TS-83 Metallic Silver to give a bit of tonal variety. I was tempted to do a little bit of subtle weathering with dustings of slightly altered shades but fear of separating the wing and fuselage persuaded me otherwise.

D37s d

D37s f

These Dewotine 37 series fighters might have been a failure in real life but models of them look very nice, in that particular French inter-war fashion. The only reason for not making them is the stress of getting the wings and fuselages together without laying in a large supply of bravery and beta-blockers.

D37s a

(July 2020)

 

 

Models for July 2020

This month we begin with a feast of four Airbus A.320s. All the Revell 1/144 kit and made with the CFM 56 engines. There’s already been plenty of these and these have been made in the same way as those previous ones.

First an Air Inter A.320 finished using 8A decals. This is the final Air Inter scheme before that airline was acquired by Air France.

202007 a

202007 b

Next two Ansett Australia A.320s with the final scheme, provided by Hawkeye with the wing decals by 8A. Since making these I’ve been told by somebody who knows that this batch of A.320s was delivered to Ansett with grey wings rather then the white wings of the earlier batch. Unfortunately, all the photos I looked at did not tell me of this development and Graeme didn’t tell me until it was too late. This is how VH-HYA would have appeared in 2002 it if had had white wings.

202007 c

202007 d

I’m not a great fan of one off schemes but could not resist this MASP decal sheet for VH-HYN which flew the Olympic Torch around our wide brown land in the months before the Sydey Olympic Games in 2000. Again, it should have grey rather than white wings but I won’t tell if you don’t. The decals are a combination of MASP, Hawkeye and 8A.

202007 e

202007 f

Finally an A.320 in the livery of Strategic Airlines. The decal sheet is from Decales Global and intended for a Luxembourg airline of the same name and livery. I’ve managed most of the amendments that appear on the Australian registered aircraft, VH-YQA is it appeared in 2011, but could not make the little Australian flags that appear on the wing end plates so you will have to imagine them.

202007 g

202007 h
This Dewoitine 376 was made from the Azur 1/72 kit. It is a fairly easy kit to make apart from mounting the parasol wing on the fuselage. It is painted overall in Tamiya LP-38 Flat Aluminium and the cowling in Tamiya TS-83 Metallic Silver to give a bit of tonal variety. It represents No 31 in service with AC 1 at Lanveoc Poulmic in 1939.

202007 i

202007 j

This BS Design 1/144 Schleicher ASW 28 glider is one of the smallest (if not the smallest) model I’ve ever made. It has only four parts but is not easy to put together because it is so tiny and the parts fit is not great. I added another two parts, the undercarriage doors to give it a slightly greater sense of authenticity. The decals that come with this kit are for the prototype which first flew in 2000.

202007 k

202007 l

And here’s one I made earlier, the Condor 1/72 kit of the German A-4 ballistic missile also known as the V-2.

202007 m

(July 2020)

iOTA – issues 01 to 16

As part of the history of Australian sf fandom that I’m working on I have been publishing a small fanzine called iOTA containing reports on the progress of the project, some general thoughts on fandom past and present, reviews of old fanzines and reprints of various items previously published in Australian fanzines.

I put this project aside in early 2018 to undertake commissioned historical work but have recently been able to return to it and have published a new issue of iOTA in the past few days.  A couple of people have asked me about back copies of iOTA so I thought it might be convenient to put them here for general access.  I also have a small distribution list of people who I send iOTA to direct and issues can also be found on efanzines.com.

Here are links to the previous 17 issues.  I’ll probably put any future issues of iOTA in as separate posts rather than including them here.

iOTA 01 December 2016

iOTA 02 January 2017

iOTA 03 February 2017

iOTA 04 March 2017

iOTA 05 April 2017

iOTA 06 May 2017

iOTA 07 June 2017

iOTA 08 July 2017

iOTA 09 August 2017

iOTA 10 September 2017

iOTA 11 October 2017

iOTA 12 November 2017

iOTA 13 December 2017

iOTA 14 January 2018

iOTA 15 February 2018

iOTA 16 March 2018

iOTA 17 June 2020