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Propeller Planes from
1939 to 2000s

Argentine Air Force IA-58A Pucara (1970s - 2000s)

Argentine Air Force IA-58A Pucara from the Falklands War 1982 (Google)

Special Hobby IA-58A Pucara

This is the Special Hobby kit of the IA-58A Pucara counter-insurgency turboprop aircraft, which became somewhat famous as part of the brave actions of Argentinian pilots during the Falklands War in 1982. As most limited-run kits often do, it had a few challenges, but for the most part it was a fun build. I didn't know anything about the airplane before I spotted it on the shelf of a now defunct hobby shop, but its sporty looks captured my attention, and I took it home to add to the stash for "later". I didn't think much about building it until I found a 150 page book entitled The Pucara Story for sale on Amazon, I believe. Once I received the book, with its wealth of detailed information, photos, drawings and paint references, I was inspired to move the kit nearer the top of the pile of "build soon" models. After I had finished the B-58 and the He-177, I was ready for something a little smaller and, I thought, simpler.

I added some fuselage structure details to the cockpit area, and some of my black and white film instrument panels, with tiny dabs of primary colors to liven them up. The resin ejection seats are from the kit, complete with kit-supplied photo etch seat harnesses (the photos in the Pucara book were very helpful, here) and I am inordinately proud of the black and white painted ejection pull loops on the tops of these seats.

I scratchbuilt new engine bearing assemblies at the fronts of the engine nacelles, because I thought the resin parts from the kit were a little too coarse. I added bomb sway braces from an Italeri B-57, and scrachbuilt landing lights at the fronts of the wing bomb pylons from clear styrene sprue. I added aluminum wire as brake cables to the main landing gear struts, and scratchbuilt hinge units at the wheel well doors, to give me a physical connection between the doors and the wheel wells (this is the kind of necessity you find you need to add to limited-run kits). I filed and sanded brass wire into tapered, airfoil-shaped antenna masts at the lower left side of the fuselage, with a strand of Infini Model black Lycra as the aerial.

I spent a lot of time mixing and testing out the camouflage paints, starting with the FS 495A paint numbers in the Pucara book. I was trying to achieve the very muted and low contrast color shades as seen in the book photos of Pucaras in the Falkland War, so I kept adding first white to make the green and oche colors pale, and then light grey paint to make the paints even more washed-out in hue.

Although I think the camouflage paint on the finished model as seen in person looks appropriately washed out, in these images on my computer I think the colors are still too vivid, particularly compared to the Google image of the real Pucara, seen above.  

The camouflage masking was Tamiya Kabuki tape laid on a piece of plate glass and cut with an X-Acto swivel knife, following the pattern illustrated in a three-view drawing in the June 2014 issue of Scale Aviation Modelling magazine. Canopy masking was an Eduard set of Kabuki masks. All paint was Testors Model Master except for a few details done with Humbrol; the final over finish was a mix of Testors Clear Semi-Gloss Lacquer and Clear Flat Lacquer. Click on the thumbnails below for larger images:

Luftwaffe Heinkel He-177 A5 Greif (World War Two)

Heinkel He-177 Greif (Google)

Heinkel He-177 Greif (Google)

Revell of Germany Heinkel He-177 A5

This is the Revell of Germany kit of the He-177 A5 Greif. It was a good, fun, slow build, from February to July, 2019. The kit was an interesting mix of great and not-so-great features. It was very detailed and well molded, with a very full interior, and generally a good fit of the parts, but it also had odd, too-thick transparent parts, and very unhelpful decals: thick, not very flexible, and very prone to silvering.

I did not add much to the build: some framing detail inside the otherwise hollow tail wheel well, and square ducting going back from the raw openings of the supercharger intakes at the wing leading edges at each side of each engine cowling. I replaced most of the kit's machine gun barrels with modified, turned brass barrels. And contrary to the kit instructions, instead of installing the seven MGs and cannons to the inside of the fuselage/turrets, where the protruding barrels would all be vulnerable to breaking during the endless handling of the model during construction, painting and decaling, I separated each gun into an internal breech and its external barrel, joined by a small brass wire, and left the barrels off until right before the clear flat finish. (It's as if the engineers who designed the model and planned the assembly sequence have never, ever built a model kit in their lives...)

The camouflage scheme depicted in the box art was what really interested me in building this aircraft: my research indicated that this scheme, called Maander (scribble), was designed for anti-shipping aircraft on over-water operations. It looked very challenging, but perhaps doable after my recent experiences with masking tape for hard-edged camouflage schemes.

After masking all of the transparencies with Eduard pre-cut Kabuki tape masks, I airbrushed the undersurfaces of the model with RLM 65 Hell Blau. After masking the undersides with Tamiya Kabuki tape, I airbrushed the entire upper surface with RLM 02 Grau. With a newly bought X-Acto swivel knife, I cut the irregular, curvilinear masks out of wide pieces of Tamiya masking tape that had been temporarily applied to a piece of plate glass. Once the curvilinear masks were burnished down on to the upper surfaces, I airbrushed the RLM 73 Grun, creating the Maander pattern. I think it took about ten hours to apply all of this masking, and maybe all of fifteen minutes to remove it, once the RLM 73 was applied.  

All paint used was my new favorite: Testors Model Master enamels, lightened with flat white for scale effect. After I struggled with getting the Revell under wing Balkan cross decal to apply, I substituted SuperScale and MicroScale decals for the remaining crosses, swastikas and unit code letters. Even the smallest kit decals for fuel markers and aircraft serial numbers silvered, until I assaulted them with Walthers Solvaset, the nuclear option in decal setting solutions.

Sidebar: The three fat, winged sausages hanging under the wings and fuselage are Fritz X radio-controlled anti-shipping glide bombs, which were included in the Revell kit. The Fritz X was a remarkable, advanced guided weapon used with some success against Allied merchant ships and warships during World War II. Developed by a Lufftwaffe engineer named Max Kramer and a German radio company called Ruhrstahl, the Fritz X had a 3,000 pound armor-piercing warhead. Stubby wings and a complex array of spoilers in the tail enabled the bombardier to steer the bomb by radio control. A flare burning in the tail let the bombardier see the bomb in flight. Dropped from between 13,000 and 18,000 feet altitude, the Fritz X had a range of 3 miles.  

The final flat finish was Testors Clear Flat Lacquer, which despite my care to thin it minimally and airbrush it sparingly, came out a little bit chalky. Click on the thumbnails below for larger images:

RAF de Havilland Mosquito FB.IV (World War Two)

de Havilland Mosquito FB.IV in day fighter camouflage (Google)

Tamiya de Havilland Mosquito FB.IV in fighter-bomber camouflage, on an Airfix stand.

For fairly obvious reasons, plastic aircraft models are typically assembled with the aircraft standing on its landing gear/skis/skids/floats/whatever. However, long ago, if the subject I was building had retractable landing gear, I often built it with gear up, and carrying a pilot. I didn't bother with using the stand that often came with the older aircraft kits, either; I just rested the model on its belly on the model display shelf. When I got more serious about building my models as accurately as I could, I always built the kit with the gear down, usually without aircrew.

There are many beautiful prop airplanes in history: the North American P-51 Mustang, the Supermarine Spitfire, the Mitsubishi Dinah III, the early marks of the Dornier Do-17, the list is long and highly subjective. I think the de Havilland Mosquito is just about the most elegant and beautiful prop plane ever designed. It's a shame to mar its clean lines with protruding landing gear and open landing gear doors. Having built two Tamiya kits of the Mosquito FB.IV fighter bomber (gear down), I felt nostalgia for my more relaxed, carefree model building ways of yester-year, and decided to build yet another Mosquito FB.IV, my third, this time in flight.

I painted a pair of Revell of Germany RAF aircrew for the cockpit, forgetting to test fit them inside the cockpit before I assembled and painted them. Those poor men; what savage surgery on arms and legs I committed to get them to fit, once I finally tried to assemble the two fuselage halves together with them inside. (Fortunately, the cramped quarters and small canopy conceal my butchery.)

I installed the landing gear doors closed (surprisingly for a Tamiya kit, the doors did not meet at the centerline, requiring slivers of Evergreen plastic to seal up the gaps.) I assembled the props and spinners and chopped off the prop blades, filling the gaps in the spinner openings with more Evergreen bits and super glue, sanding away until the spinners were smooth and, well, spinning.

The camouflage paint scheme was a long excursion. Having done the two-color "Day Fighter" scheme twice already, I opted for the three-color "Fighter-Bomber" scheme for this Mosquito. For scale effect I mixed Testors Model Master Flat White with the two upper colors, Testors RAF Dark Green and Testors RAF Ocean Grey, and airbrushed samples on separate rectangles of Evergreen plastic, then applied Future Acrylic Floor Finish (to receive decals without silvering), and then Testors Clear Flat Lacquer, to preview how the paint would look on the finished model. I thought I was satisfied with the results.

I airbrushed the undersides of the Mosquito with Testors Model Master RAF Medium Sea Grey, masked the undersides, airbrushed the Ocean Grey, masked the Ocean Grey and then airbrushed the Dark Green. Once all of the masking was removed, it became obvious to me that there was way too little contrast between the Dark Green and the Ocean Grey. Not sure how that happened.

I thought long and hard about how to fix this, even to consider building a whole new Mosquito, but in the end, I decided to try and mask the Dark Green and Medium Sea Grey areas and airbrush a new coat of much lighter Ocean Grey. I used a new-to-me Tamiya product called Flexible Vinyl Tape, to oh-so-carefully follow every twist and turn of my earlier camouflage masking with this Tamiya tape, which I had slit into long pieces about 1mm wide. Success in the end, I think, but what a detour.

For once I used the kit (Tamiya) decals, and they worked quite well. This being my third build of this kit, I judiciously sliced away or sanded off much of the raised details that were going to be problematic at the decal locations. I added MasterModel turned brass .303 Browning machine gun barrels to the nose, and a brass pitot tube to the rudder. The canopy was masked with the Eduard set of Kabuki tape masks. The final coat was Testors Clear Flat Lacquer.

Once the model was photographed, I Photo-Shopped the images to correct for color balance and to erase the clear plastic Airfix stand (see the model photo above for a picture of the stand). Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images. 

Scale 1/72

Email: AtomicCannon(at)embarqmail(dot)com