Sunday, November 5, 2023

An October Vampire

Last operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force as NZ5776, this de Havilland Vampire FB.5 was built for the RAF as WA375.  Once in storage with the Museum of Flight, it is now a future restoration project for Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum. In October, the Museum put some unrestored artifacts on display and these included the Vampire.

Modeler's Note: Special Hobby is hands down the best Vampire in 1/72.  It has also been reboxed by Revell.  Cyberhobby has a kit that has some interesting engineering, but also some odd inaccuracies.  Also there is the old standby Heller Vampire FB.5 which has been reboxed by Revell, Airfix, and Lodela.

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Historic Sabres of Alberta

Three of the most historic F-86 airframes are on display in Alberta.  

The first is the one and only Sabre 3.  The first F-86 built with an Orenda engine, it served with Canadair, the RCAF, and was a movie star ("The Last Chase" (1981)).  But its most famous turn was as the aircraft in which Jacqueline Cochran set a world speed record in 1953 and also became the first woman to break the sound barrier.  It is currently on display at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskawin.

The second aircraft is Canadair Sabre 1.  Basically a F-86A assembled in Canada, it was the first of a long line (1,815) of Canadair built Sabres. 19101 first flew in 1950.  A few days after its first flight,  it went supersonic as the first Canadian built aircraft to do so.  Used by Canadair and the RCAF for many test projects, it now is on display at the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton.

The third aircraft is the most frustrating   Pretending to be just another RCAF Sabre is the second production F-86 built as P-86 47-606.  The aircraft was assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards, was probably flown by some guy named Yeager (and Pete Everest), and may have participated in the X-1 and D-558 programs.  It later flew with the California ANG and then ended up as a parts donor for Ben Hall's F-86A restoration.  This aircraft should have the slotted gun ports, rather than more usual gun ports seen on almost every other Sabre.  Too bad it hasn't been traded to the USAFM for a real RCAF Sabre.  Until someone comes to their senses it is on display at the Hangar Flight Museum in Calgary.

It is interesting to note that all three of these aircraft have been retrofitted with Sabre 5 "hard" wings.  No wonder modelers get confused, apparently Museums do as well!

The Air Force Museum of Alberta in Calgary also has a Sabre 5, but this is just a typical RCAF line bird that served with CEPE, 416 Squadron, and 1 (F) OTU/STU.  23338 later was sold to the US and converted into a drone.  It was shot at nine times with nine misses and given the name "Black Cat."  It was repatriated to Canada in 2015.

Modeler's Note: There have been many 1/72 scale Sabres, but the best way to a Canadian Sabre 5 is the Airfix kit. It isn't perfect...the wing fences are in the wrong place, some of the fuselage scribing is wrong, and the wheels are pretty bad...but it is a nice build, has accurate shapes and is very reasonably priced. Oddly, many online love the Fujimi kit, but its fuselage is fat and bloated, not to mention the speed brakes are square. The Hobbycraft/ Academy kit is "derived" from the Fujimi kit and suffers the same deficiencies.  We need a new tool family of F-86s in 1/72!

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Alberta Cobras?

Two P-39s are being restored in Edmonton as a joint venture between the Alberta Aviation Museum and the Reynolds Alberta Museum.  

But why restore a U.S. type in Canada in which only one was operated by the RCAF?  

Most Russian P-39s passed through Canada on their way to Alaska as part of the Northwest Staging Route. Blatchford Field in Edmonton was often a stopping point.  While both aircraft were ex-PNG, many parts from P-39M 42-4725 that crashed in Wetaskiwin in December 1942 are included in the restoration.  One of the aircraft will be restored in the marking of 42-4725. 

Modeler's Note: By far the best P-39 Airacobra in 1/72 is the newish Arma kit.  Buy one; you won't regret it.  There are also kits by Academy and Heller that aren't awful, but Arma just blows them out of the water.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Canada’s Valentines

Canada was really late to the tank game.  When the war broke out, they had only a handful of ex-British tanks in service.  This was somewhat ameliorated in October 1940, when 236 surplus U.S. M1917 tanks (aka the FT-17) were purchased (for scrap value) and delivered to Camp Borden.  In addition, it was decided to build the British Valentine tank in Canada under the designation Tank, Infantry Mk.III and a contract was awarded to the Canadian Pacific Railway's Angus Shop in Montreal, Quebec.  The first tank rolled out of the production facility in May 1941.

Canada produced 1,420 Valentines during the war, with all but 30 passing to the Soviet Union.  The thirty tanks retained in Canada were used for training with the Canadian War Department numbers CT-138916 to CT-148945.  These were almost exclusively used at Camp Borden.

Not  long after production started, the tanks were renamed as Valentines and the first production model was the Valentine VI based upon the British Valentine IV with a U.S. General Motors 6-cylinder, 2-cycle Diesel Engine.  The first 15 tanks were fitted with a 7.92 mm Besa coaxial machine-gun.  All other Canadian built Valentines used a 0.30-inch Browning machine-gun.  Later modifications included a cast front hull.  The Mk. VII was similar with updated radios.  The Mk. VIIA had provisions for external fuel tanks.

Two Canadian built Valentines survive in Canada.  One was retained at Camp Borden and is now on display at the Base Borden Military Museum.  The second, a Mark VIIA, was recovered from a bog 180 kilometers south of Kiev in 1990 and presented to the Canadian War Museum by the Ukrainian government.  It is on display as recovered.

(All photos courtesy of the Library Archives Canada and Archives of Toronto.)

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Friday, October 7, 2022

Monday, September 19, 2022


Title: “Hero: The Buzz Beurling Story”
Author: Brian Nolan
Publisher: Lester & Orpen Dennys Ltd. (1981)

A few weeks ago, I got tapped to build a Spitfire Vc for the Museum of Flight Aces display, and of course, it must be Beurling.  So, I finally read "Hero" by Brian Nolan.  I remember badly wanting a copy of this book as a kid, but never got one, even the paperback.  I bought a copy soon after becoming an employed member of society, but never got around to reading it.  As I needed to build his Spitfire, I thought it was about time.

George “Buzz” Beurling is an interesting character.  Was he someone that just loved to fly and fight?  A psychopath?  A hero?  Lucky?  A political pawn?  A spy?  Just misunderstood?

In “Hero”, Canadian journalist Brian Nolan explores the life of this complex man.  Starting with his life in Verdun Quebec as a child of a strict religious family, to becoming obsessed with aviation (Buzz earned money for flying lessons by selling models), to his time in Malta, and finally his mysterious death in Italy, Beurling is an enigma.  A great pilot and gunner, he was anti authority and mostly anti-social.  A teetotaler, he made comments about fighting that have some labeling him a psychopath.  (I do wonder how much we can take from some of his public statements.  Was he just winding everyone up?  Saying things to get attention?)

Everywhere Beurling went, controversy followed.  He tried to join the RCAF, but they turned him down.  A trip to the US bore no fruit, so he traveled to England and joined the RAF.  After the usual training, he flew with 41 Squadron and got his first two kills.  A Sergeant pilot, he was often offered a commission, and always turned it down.  (He finally became an officer over his objections.)  But it wasn’t until he flew his Spitfire off the HMS Eagle to Malta that he became a hero.  His feats in Malta are the stuff of legends, though life on the Island was hard, and Beurling had quite a few accidents.  (He was one of three survivors of a Liberator crash in Gibraltar on his way home to Canada.)

Returning home to Canada he was feted in public, spoke to sell War Bonds, and seemingly a political pawn used by Prime Minister Mackenzie King.  This is most obvious in his transfer to the RCAF and a return to Europe to fly Spitfire IXs with 403 and 412 Squadron.  He did not play well with others and scoffed at authority and RCAF fighter tactics.  The hero only got two more kills and was sent home and out of the RCAF by D-Day.  (There is a great story in the book, that Buzz approached the RCAF higher-ups to be allowed to start his own “flying circus” of four P-51s and three hand-picked pilots to cherry pick attached over Germany.  If only…)

Returning to Canada, his life gets confusing.  He married a woman from British Columbia and carried on an affair with an American socialite.  Sometimes it appeared he had unlimited wealth, other times, it was as if he was a pauper.  He told crazy stories and spent time hanging out with all sorts at Quebec ski resorts.  And it only gets more confusing when the war ended.  Beurling still wanted to fly and fight and told some he was getting paid big bucks to fight against Israel.  But it appears he joined the Israeli Air Force for no payment due to his strong religious beliefs.  Was he a spy for the English?  A mercenary? 

Everything got more confusing on May 20, 1948, when Beurling and one other pilot were killed in a crash of a Noorduyn Norseman in Rome.  Did something just go wrong, or was it sabotage?  Beurling was buried in a cemetery in Italy near Shelley and Keats.  But even in death, Beurling could not stand still.  His family was not happy that he was buried in Italy, and with the consent of his estranged wife, and in 1950 his body was exhumed and reburied in Israel.

Nolan’s book is a great examination of the man, a breezy read, and well written.  (Other than an odd blast at excessive pro sports salaries…why do so many side with the extravagantly wealthy owners?)  It asks the same questions I have above, with few answers.  But someone should option this book for a movie, some of the stories are just too good to be true.

Next on the table is Buzz’s autobiography! 

After reading the book, I compiled a list of Buzz's Spits in Malta.  Kills in brackets.  BR130 is his most flown aircraft, but not the only one he crashed.  Sadly, I haven't found the others he pranged yet.

Spitfire Vc

BR128 (1)
BR130 T-D (No kills.  Crashed 7/14/42)
BR135 T-Z (2)
BR173 (3)
BR176 (3)
BR301 UF-S (5)
BR323  S (4)
BR380 (No kills.  Flew off the HMS Eagle)
BR565 (3)

Spitfire Vb

EN973 (1)
EP135 (1/3)
EP706 T-L (4)

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Airfix 1/76 Cromwell

Final Cromwell glamour shots. 1/76 Airfix kit with some Value Gear stowage. Canadian 1943 Victory Nickel for scale.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

That's No Moon!

Finished up the Bandai 1/2700000 Death Star last night. (Ok, it could just be a hard ball...) As expected the kit is really nice and goes together with no problems. Finish is Tamiya LP37 Light Ghost Grey, some dry brushing of AK Third Gen English Grey, with a wash of Ammo-MiG Starship Filth.  So Falcon or Blockade runner next?

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Thursday, August 4, 2022

August NWSM Meeting Photos

A few photos from tonight's meeting of the Northwest Scale Modelers at the Museum of Flight. For more information see the club website.