Sunday, June 24, 2012

Aviation of Japan

As I have become more interested in World War Two Japanese aviation, one blog that has become required reading is Nick Millman's Aviation of Japan site.  It is a goldmine of useful information, both modeling and full size.  Today he has posted a few of my A6M3 photos with some interesting commentary.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hobbycraft Avro Arrow

Over that last year or so, it has been interesting to read online "experts" write about how Hobbycraft of Canada is "kaput" or has gone out of business. I'm sure if they were paying attention, or cared about 1/72 scale, they would have been shocked to learn of this new tool Avro Arrow. One of the first kits issued by Hobbycraft in the 1980s was an 1/72 Arrow; sadly it was less than spectacular in shape and detail and was underscale. It was retooled a few years later to correct the most glaring of mistakes, but was still too small to accurately considered a 1/72 scale model. 

So now we have a brand new kit. Overall it is a huge improvement over the earlier kit, and seems to bear quite a resemblance to the 1/48 scale retool from 2002/2003. Detail is still sparse, but much better than the earlier kit, and the engraved lines are a tad soft.  There is a nice inbox and build review here.  While I laugh that the poster considers the box art a con...really who cares, the drawings look like an Arrow...I agree with his comments about the horrible instructions (odd looking and many mis-numbered parts) and red ensign on the decal sheet.  Also, he is quite correct that the kit is overpriced.  I paid $30 (Canadian) for mine, and while it is a decent kit and a huge improvement over any other injected plastic Arrow, it does not compare well to certain other kits in its price bracket.  Now how about a retool of the CF-100?

Look for this one to hit the workbench soon...I hope...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Boeing B-17 Fortress in RAF Coastal Command Service

Today we have a guest book review by David Geldmacher.  Over to you David...

Title: Boeing B-17 Fortress in RAF Coastal Command Service
Author: Robert M. Stitt
Publisher: Mushroom Model Press

I admit it. I’m a sucker for interesting operational paint schemes.   Way back in 1981, I came across Flying Colors, a compilation of color profiles that has often driven my modeling choices over the years.  One standout profile for me in Green’s book was an RAF 220 Sqn B-17E (Fortress IIA), in Coastal Command’s striking antisubmarine variation of the Temperate Sea Scheme with ‘slime and sewage’ colors above and white fuselage sides and belly.    Since then, I’ve collected references, kits, and decals in support of modeling Coastal Command Fortresses whenever I’ve seen them.  Imagine my excitement when I saw that MMP was bringing out a book focused exclusively on these unusual aircraft.  I was dissuaded by the steep price for a few years, but a bit of a windfall on my tax refund this year was enough to trigger me to buy a copy.  I’ve been more than pleased with the results.

Robert Stitt has certainly done his research in preparing this meticulously researched volume. The book is packed with detailed and newly reported information on development of the ASW versions of the Fortress, modification and delivery to the RAF, and operations from the UK and the Azores.  Personal recollections are also well represented, with many anecdotes from both air and ground crew members.  Stitt stands out from many military writers in painting clear pictures of the men in service and the tragedy of their losses in accidents and combat.  He also is able to report detailed operational histories in a lively and engaging manner without resorting to a sequential laundry list of captains’ names, aircraft serials, and mission outcomes.  Stitt’s skills in recounting factual history, engaging the reader in the human experience, and lucid writing makes this one of very best focused military histories I’ve ever read.  

However, the story doesn’t end there for a modeler.  Numerous black and white photographs from both official and informal sources decorate nearly every one of the 248 A4 size pages.  Some of these are incredibly useful for the modeler, like the near planform underside view of an inflight aircraft showing the exhaust stain and weathering patterns. There are also reproductions of the two known color photos of Coastal Command Fortresses.  The rich photographic information is supported by 6 pages of detailed drawings that cover all aspects of the Fortress IIA (B-17E) and Fortress II (B-17F).  The basic drawings are in 1/108 scale; while this seems like an odd scale, it is large enough to work with as is, and has convenient enlargement factors of 150% for 1/72 scale and 225% for 1/48 scale.  There are numerous scrap views of radar installations, bomb racks, turrets, etc in 1/72 scale, and even the windshield wiper/deicer assembly in 1/32.  There are also 15 well-researched full color side profiles (a la Flying Colors) with additional full color views of the standard top and bottom camouflage schemes. 

While I am well satisfied with this book’s value for the fairly steep price, there is a downside to all this bounty.  You see, Mr.Stitt has introduced to me many more interesting aircraft than I’ll be able to model, so now I’ve got the tough job of deciding which ones to build.

Publicity shot purporting to show the captain of a Boeing Fortress Mark II of Coastal Command holding a final conference with his crew before taking off. The photograph was taken at Lagens, Azores, in front of a Fortress Mark II, FL462 'W' of No. 220 Squadron RAF. The 'crew' were, in fact, an ad hoc group drawn from No. 206 Squadron RAF, and the 'captain' (3rd from right, wearing SD Cap) was Flying Officer L W Taylor RAAF, an Air Ministry public relations officer.  © IWM (TR 1082)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Flying Heritage Collection Fly Day - Zero

On Saturday, I attended the Flying Heritage Collection's Fly Day and Zero Debut.  This Zero was rebuilt into two seat configuration from a wreck recovered from New Guinea in 1991.  Restoration was started in Russia, and continued in Chino, California andWenatchee, Washington. It has assumed the ID of Mitsubishi A6M3 # 3852/N3852 and looks pretty snazzy in its brand new paint scheme.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Canadians on Thunderbolts

A Canadian pilot, Flying Officer P/ Cummings "Slim" Walker of No. 134 Squadron RAF, taxies out for a sortie in his Republic Thunderbolt Mark I at Ratnap, Burma. © IWM (CF 224)

This photo illustrates one of the frustrations researching RCAF pilots on Thunderbolts with the RAF.  Quite a few Canadians served in the SEAC and flew Thunderbolts, but finding complete information on any one pilot's aircraft is quite difficult.  (If anyone has any good information, please pass it along.)

Modeler's Note: Hands down the Tamiya Thunderbolt is the best on the market in 1/72.  The Revell bubble-top P-47D released in the '90s is also quite nice.  The Hasegawa kits are old, and often overpriced.  Just get the Tamiya kit...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jet Age

Title: Jet Age
Author: Sam Howe Verhovek
Publisher: Avery

About a month ago I was in Seattle and had finished the book I had brought with me.  Searching the shelves at the Barnes & Noble at Pacific Place I spied this book, which is subtitled "The Comet, the 707, and the Race to Shrink the World."  Being in the land of Boeing, it seems like a good choice.  I will admit sheepishly that the review snippets also were attractive.  The Wall Street Journal mention the book features "big money, war, sex, and power."  Wowie, sex in a plane book?  The New York Times says "Jet Age is a page-turning detective story."  Cool.

So, does the book live up to this billing?  Of course not.  Well, unless you think sex is about how flight attendants were conceived and implemented.  (Get your mind out of the gutter, I don't mean conceived in that sense...)  And in my opinion, this isn't much of a detective story.  What the book is however; is a really great, though at times simple, telling of how jet airliners "shrunk the world" and changed all of our lives forever.  I wished for more detail about the men and the planes, and the inner-workings of Boeing and DeHavilland, but upon reading that the author was a journalist it is clear that he intended this book as an extended newspaper piece.  Cover the basics, include some socio-economic thoughts, maybe a tad bit of personal observation, and not get too in-depth.  Please don't get me wrong, it is a good book and a fun, quick read, but after recently reading Empire of the Clouds I was hoping for a little bit more than the book delivered.  Also, as a Canadian I was disappointed that the Avro Canada Jetliner was relegated to little more then a paragraph.  I have to admit I'm not sure you can tell the story of the rise of jet airliners without a more detailed account of Avro Canada's project, but maybe that is just national pride talking.

All in all it was a fun starting point on the subject and the perfect choice for a flight back to Akron on "a big ol' jet airliner."  It also is interesting to think...and as noted by the author...that without the events told in this story, there is no way I'd be involved in a bicoastal relationship in 2012.  Thanks Boeing and DeHavilland (and Avro Canada)!

Saturday, June 2, 2012