Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Spitfire Mk. Vs in 1/72

I tend to be a little obsessive when it comes to Spitfires, and it is one of those aircraft in which I am quite shape conscious and very nit picky. I do not subscribe to the "it looks like a Spitfire" school of though. Here are my observations on the 1/72 Spitfire Mk. V kits:

Airfix Spitfire Vb - Nice shape, but raised panel lines and minimal detail. There are odd raised panels on the wing roots and the aileron scribing on the top of the wing is wrong. The kit only includes the later "large" Rotol prop and spinner.

Smer/Heller Spitfire Vb - An older kit with no gull wing, raised panel lines, and lots of spurious cockpit detail. Nice options of props, both Rotol and DeHavilland, wingtips, both standard and clipped, and filters, both standard and Vokes. Something about the shape of this one isn't right, especially with the rudder and the wing chord. As usual with Heller the fabric surfaces have quite a bit of weave. The oil cooler is a of Mk. I style. (This kit has been issued by Smer as both a Spitfire Vc, and a Spitfire VI. Some of these reissues have resin parts and some have new tooled plastic parts.)

Revell AG Spitfire Vb - Very nice recessed scribing, no gull wing, and the fuselage shape is off (the fuselage is a little short and the spine and fin have shape issues.) Nice detail, but some of the cockpit detail is spurious. Many early version of the kit are missing the scribed front end on the crew door. Clipped or normal wing tip options, but only the Rotol prop. The oil cooler is of Mk. I style and the radiator has shape issues as well.

Italeri Spitfire Vb - Maybe the best Spitfire Vb? Scribed lines. Both styles of prop and spinner, many canopy options, and Aboukir and Vokes filters, and the standard carburetor intake. The kit is missing the wing root fairings and some radio access doors. The fit can be "interesting." The cockpit detail is week, but much much better then the Airfix kit.

Tamiya Spitfire Vb - Nice recessed scribing and great detail. Poor canopies. Only the later large Rotol prop and spinner are included, though the Mk. I kit has a nice DeHavilland prop and spinner. Choice of clipped, standard, or field clipped wing tips, Vokes, Aboukir filters, or the standard carburetor intake. The rear fuselage shape is off, and the cowl bumps are too pronounced. The wing is too long in chord and fails to capture the Spitfire's beautiful elliptic wing. Way too expensive. Many love this kit because of the scribed lines and good detail, but I think the poor shape disqualifies it from serious contention.

Airfix Spitfire Vc - The Vb kit with a new deeply scribed wing and two new (identical) canopies. They fixed the odd raised panels at the wing root and scribed aileron lines, but the whole wing is way way too thick. Not to mention, it looks a little odd to see a scribed wing and a raised fuselage. The wing blisters are ok, maybe a little too pronounced. A Vokes filter is included. A missed opportunity by Airfix. Aeroclub do a new replacement wing for this kit which is nice and cheap. Right now the Airfix Spitfire Vc kit with an Aeroclub replacement wing is your best option for a Spitfire Vc.

HobbyBoss Spitfire Vb - The newest contender to the throne. Easy build style. Terrible canopy and no landing gear doors. The prop is awful. The scribed detail is nice for the most part, and shape is pretty good. Spurious cockpit detail molded into the fuselage and a few odd details such as raised bumps under the wings. Probably a good option if you are looking for an easy build, but you need to replace the canopy and prop and add landing gear doors. One issue of the kit has the standard carburetor intake, one has the Vokes filter, and one the Abourki filter.

PM/Frog Spitfire Vb/Vc - The less said about this kit the better, it is almost an insult to the Spitfire.

So we have eight Spitfire Vs in 1/72 and not one is a good combination of detail, shape, price, with recessed lines. For a Vb, if you like new kits, Italeri is probably the best way to go. The Airfix is the overall the best option but it will take some scribing and added detail. No matter what the Tamiya lovers of the world think...the Tamiya kit isn't very good and for the price Tamiya should have got it right...

For a Vc, I would use the Airfix kit with a replacement Aeroclub wing. Again this will take some work and detail, but it will have a excellent shape when done.

There has yet to be a Spitfire Va kit, but you could combine the Airfix Mk. I and the Airfix Vb and get a pretty nice Spitfire Va.

You would think someone would have gotten it right by now... AZ Models have announced a new Spitfire Vc for release in 2008...lets see how they do...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

CSM 2007 Model Contest and Swap Meet

On Saturday, Mark Smith and I took a four hour drive south to attend the 2007 installment of the Cincinnati Scale Modelers' Contest and Swap Meet. Neither of us had attended the CSM show, so we weren't sure what to expect.

The show was at the Scarlet Oaks Campus, and was a very pleasant surprise. Very nice good sized venue with lots of light, models on one side, and vendors on the other. It was a good sized show with quite a few nice models on display. Here are a few of my favorites:

A 1/72 Trumpeter Wyvern:

A 1/72 Tamiya Mosquito Night Fighter:

Here is a 1/72 417 Squ. RCAF Hurricane IIc built from the Revell kit. I really liked this one, but sadly only got his one poor shot of it:

Mark did very well with three Firsts, and Best Aircraft in Show with his Eduard 1/72 DH.2. Even more of a shock was that I got a Third for the infamous Maplebolt. I picked up a Unicraft resin Avro Canada 606A which shall be an interesting "what if" project...someday.

It was also good to meet up with Kentucky attorney, modeler, and blogger David Knights.

So thumbs up to a good show back in the old neighborhood. Even though it was a long drive, I'll try to make it back next year.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Gannet in the Desert?

While not an anti-submarine warfare version of the Gannet like the Trumpeter kit, there is a Gannet on display in the United States. The attached photos are of the Gannet AEW.3 XL482 in storage for future display at the Pima Air Museum. This aircraft was one of the last Gannets to see service with the Fleet Air Arm and then relocated to the United States after retirement. While in the U.S. the aircraft was used for propeller noise trials. After the trials were completed the Gannet was placed on display at the New England Air Museum. After quite a few years with NEAM the Gannet was traded to the Pima Air Museum where it now resides under the Arizona sun. Since the photos were taken the large under fuselage radome was added to the aircraft.

Trumpeter 1/72 Fairey Gannet - Part One

When Trumpeter announced its imminent release of a 1/72 Fairey Gannet in 2006, U.S. modelers were left with two questions:

1. What is 1/72 scale?

2. What is a Fairey Gannet?

Well I can assure you that even though the Fairey Gannet looks like somebodies idea of an aeronautical joke it is indeed very real. And yes Mark Smith, 1/72 scale is not dead.

Those of us with a more Commonwealth bent were excited by the announcement of a Gannet as Trumpeter had recently released a stunning Wyvern that may be one of the best 1/72 scale kits ever. Not to mention the only previous Gannet in the scale was a Frog example from the 1950s. It contained about 7 pieces and featured quicksand pilots on flat surfaces and no wheel wells. Frog were kind enough to include landing gear and a clear canopy, so I guess we should have been somewhat thankful. Test shots of the new kit soon surfaced on the net and it looked like the hopes of a Gannet to Wyvern standards were dashed. The kit appeared to be nice, but not stunning. Who needs bomb bay detail and folding wing options anyway? (Well I’d have liked the option...but heck what do I know?) Plus a few Germans could be heard chanting “Wait till 2007. Revell AG will answer your Gannet prayers. Wait till 2007!”I’ve never really understood German and Revell AG said nothing about a Gannet so we all wondered what the Germans were so excited about.

Late in 2006, after the exchange of way too much cash my Gannet arrived in the mail. The large box was torn open post haste and at first glance the Gannet looked nice. From about two feet the molding and surface detail looked good. Much as in the case with my models, moving in closer did not flatter the new kit. Detail is sparse. The cockpit has lots of parts, but all interior surfaces are flat, no molded in detail what so ever. Main gear wells are devoid of detail. The surface detail is ok. Some of it is quite fine, but lines tend to just end near joint lines and not continue over the joint. There is flash and especially injector pins everywhere. The clear parts are very thick and have a huge seam line running down the center. Well this might take a while... That night I visited the Green household and Rick was awed by the kit. Well what do expect from a guy who builds biplanes? Anyway, I started assemble right away. Dry fits did not look promising. Filler would be necessary, especially with the nose/cowling piece and the insert for the under fuselage radome. And whose idea was it to put a huge injector pin in the center of the nose gear well. Hey someone actually put detail there...did you have to ruin it? Decals are provided for two Fleet Air Arm and a German option. They look ok, but one of the stencils has a very unique warning. It reads “DANGER - KEEP OFF - THE SPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED.” So watch out spassers...Trumpeter has warned you! I was disheartened and returned home thinking that maybe those Germans were right...

As I write this missive, I’ve started painting the cockpit and assembling the wings. Looks like filler will be necessary on most joints. At this time I’m going to ignore the lack of cockpit detail...it is painted all black in there anyway. The flaps are meant to be installed extended and again are devoid of detail. Not to mention you don’t see many pictures of Gannets with the flaps open on the ground, so I may see if they will fit retracted. I’m disappointed with the kit, but since then I’ve also purchased the trainer version and an Xtradecal decal sheet, so it appears I will be fighting with these kits for a little while. I will report back with Part Two when/if I actually finish the thing. Just don't expect Part Two any time soon...

I’m glad that we have a newer Gannet kit, but I wouldn’t call it state of the art... I just wish that the good Trumpeter tool guy made this kit, not the less interested in his work guy. Not to mention with a price over $20 for a 1/72 prop, I expected more. Since the kit wasreleased Revell AG have indeed announced a new Gannet for release in 2007 or 2008, so my suggestion is that you may want to wait a little while. Revell AG do excellent work and it wouldn’t be hard for them to trump the Trumpeter kit and offer their version at a much better price with more detail and better moldings.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

RCAF Hawker Hurricanes Part 2

To answer David Knight's question on Monday's Part 1 post, all of the photos are from the DND Photo Archives. Here is another colour shot of Hurricane XII RCAF # 5625 operated by 13 (Photo) Squ. RCAF.

Monday, October 15, 2007

RCAF Hawker Hurricanes Part 1

Over the last few years I've been collecting RCAF Hurricane photos and information to publish an article regarding misconceptions about the RCAF Hawker Hurricane fleet. I've acquired some neat photos, some never before published, so I thought I would publish some of that information here.

The first Hurricanes operated by the RCAF were fabric wing, two blade prop British built Mk. Is. They were carried RCAF serials 310 to 329.

Canadian Car and Foundry were soon contracted to provide Hurricanes both for the RCAF and RAF. A British build Hurricane Mk. I (L1848) was provided to CC&F as a pattern aircraft for production.

The first Hurricanes produced for the RCAF by CC&F were Hurricane Xs. These were basically Canadian built Hurricane Mk. Is with cut down Battle props without spinners, eight gun wings, and no glare shields. They carried RCAF serials 1351 to 1380.

The RCAF also received Sea Hurricanes. Yes, the RCAF got some Sea Hurricanes complete with hooks. They were built by CC&F for the FAA but were diverted to Canada. They were in the BW835 to BW884 serial range. The RCAF Sea Hurricanes were basically a Hurricane Mark I with a hook, a DH spinner with a cut down Battle prop, and an eight gun wing. Early in service they carried the Fleet Air Arm scheme of Extra Dark Sea Grey/Dark Slate Grey over Sky. (A common misconception here is that they didn't have hooks. I can't confirm if they all had hooks or some did and some didn't but this one sure did.) This one is BW850 BV-T of 126 (F) Squ. RCAF.

I think what has tripped up many Hurricane researchers is that the RCAF Hurricane Xs and Sea Hurricanes were sent back to CC&F for conversion to Hurricane XII standard, though they retainted the eight gun wing. Here is one of the Sea Hurricanes, BW870, after conversion into a Hurricane XIIa.
The conversion included a Hamilton Standard prop (sometimes with a spinner, sometimes without), a Packard built Merlin along with the longer Mark II nose, and glare shields. I think BW870 belonged to Trenton Station Flight. Notice there is no yellow ring in the fuselage roundel.
Next up are two aircraft in the standard RCAF Hurricane XII configuration. Hamilton Standard propeller without spinner, glare shields, and twelve gun wing. Those these airplanes were build as XIIs by CCF. The new build XIIs were RCAF serial 5376 to 5775.
March of Dimes RCAF # 5398

RCAF # 5625 operated by 13 (Photo) Squ. RCAF. This aircraft has a unique camouflage pattern carried only by 13 Squ. Spitfires and Hurricanes.

Another fun misconception is that RCAF Hurricanes didn't carry spinners. So here are a few that do:

All of these aircraft are 1 (RCAF) OTU birds in XII configuration. All carry spinners and buzz numbers. Notice the spinners are the unique "Canadian" spinner over the Hamilton Standard prop. Sadly, I don't have serials for all of these planes, but notice that the first plane in the group photo has a tropical filter.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Red Baron

After the posting about Peter Jackson's new short WW1 film, a friend sent me this link to a trailer for a new Red Baron movie:

It appears that this is a German film starring British actor Joesph Fiennes as Canadian Roy Brown. It also appears it is set for release in 2008. Hopefully it is better then Flyboys.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sputnik and the Arrow

It has been hard to miss that today is the 50th Anniversary of the launch of Sputnik. It is all over the news and Sputnik is such an icon that Google altered their header to commemorate the day. However, until a friend pointed it out, it never occurred to me that Sputnik shares this anniversary with a Canadian aviation icon. (It is funny how history can be, until everything is in context, it doesn't make complete sense...and sometimes it takes a while to put everything in context.)

On October 4, 1957, Avro Canada rolled out the Arrow prototype to the shock and awe of VIPs, politicians, media and plant staff. While the first flight of the Arrow in March 1958 probably was the high point of Canadian aviation history, the roll out was a big step in the right direction. Canada was near the top of heap in aviation technology. Sadly, that didn't last and with the cancellation of the Arrow on "Black Friday" (February 20, 1959) the Canadian aviation industry was dealt a blow it has never recovered from. While Canadair and DeHavilland would design and build some nice civil aircraft over the years, never would a Canadian aviation maker scale the heights of a high performance military fighter. While, the Arrow has become an icon in Canada, especially among aviation fans, it is little remembered to the rest of the world. Sputnik will never be forgotten worldwide for igniting the space race and freezing the cold war just a little bit.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Peter Jackson's Crossing the Line

World War One aviation has suffered poorly at the hands of Hollywood. The Blue Max was ok, but was made at a time when flying World War One aircraft, or replicas were at a premium. Therefore post war types were used including modified Tiger Moth’s and most famously a Morane-Saulnier MS 230. Since the late 1960 popularity of World War One aircraft has skyrocketed and more and more aircraft are being restored or recreated. It was certainly the right time to make a great World War One aviation film. Flyboys was hyped as that movie. Wow, was the hype wrong. A cliched love story, Nieuports and Fokkers that fly like Pitts Specials and sound like Harvards, and too much CGI. What a missed opportunity and just another bad aviation film. There is some hope on the horizon however.

Peter Jackson is a well known movie maker, but it is less well known that he is a collector of World War One aviation aircraft and memorabilia. His collection is the centerpiece of the new Omaka Aviation Heritage Center in New Zealand and consists of both original and replica aircraft, many which fly. So a famous director and a World War One buff...wow...Jackson would be the perfect guy to make the definitive WW1 aviation movie. This trailer by Jackson gives the viewer even more hope:

But don’t get too excited. Crossing the Line is only a short film done by Jackson to test out new cameras. Mr. Jackson has stated he would like to do a WW1 film and there are rumors that Crossing The Line is a short draft for a future World War One film by Jackson. So don’t give up hope...yet... But first Jackson has to play with Lancasters and remake Dambusters.