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Propeller Planes from
1939 to 2000s

USAAC Boeing B-17F (World War Two)

Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress (Google)

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is one of the most famous aircraft in the history of aviation. When in 1935 the US Army Air Corps invited airplane manufacturers to submit proposals for a new, long range, multi-engine bomber, Boeing's engineers looked into the future and designed a truly revolutionary leap ahead in aircraft technology. All-metal wings of welded, tubular truss construction, retractable landing gear, side-by-side pilots on the flight deck, four engines instead of the assumed two, controllable pitch, constant speed propellers, defensive transparent blisters armed with machine guns, and massively capacious fuel tanks all contributed to a world-beating design. The "Flying Fortress" nickname was coined by a news reporter, and was a reference to the new bomber's intended role as a long range interceptor of enemy warships approaching the coasts of the United States, and not about the number of defensive guns it carried.

The B-17F was the initial version of the Flying Fortress deployed to England in World War Two, evolving into the new role of high altitude, precision bombing of land targets in Nazi-occupied Europe and later, Germany itself. Over 3,400 B-17Fs were built, constantly adding improvements in design based on bitterly-learned wartime experience. Eventually, over 12,700 B-17 F and B-17G aircraft delivered over 640,000 tons of bombs in Europe in 290,000 missions. Over 4,600 B-17s were lost to anti-aircraft fire and Luftwaffe fighters. In recent years, military historians have acknowledged the deliberate and cold-blooded calculus of sending heavy bombers like the B-17  into the teeth of the Luftwaffe, expressly to allow USAAC escort fighters like the North American P-51 Mustang and the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt to bleed the German air force to death, prior the Allied invasion of Europe on D-Day.

The B-17F was 74 feet 9 inches long, 19 feet 3 inches tall, had a wingspan of 103 feet 9 inches, weighed 35,728 pounds empty and 40,260 pounds fully loaded. Armament was up to 12,800 pounds of bombs (more typically 6,000 pounds) and up to twelve .50 cal. machine guns. Top speed was 325 miles per hour, maximum range was 4,420 miles, and service ceiling was 38,500 feet (where the air temperature could be as low as -70 degrees Fahrenheit). 

(Squadron/Signal Publications; Crescent Books; Metro Books)

Revell of Germany Boeing B-17F

This Revell of Germany B-17F is at least my fifth attempt to build a 1/72 scale kit of this iconic aircraft. The goal was to build a camouflaged    B-17F, with the pointed nose glazing and without the chin turret of the B-17G, so more than 30 years ago, I started a Hasegawa kit of the early B-17F. Attempts to replace the kit's damaged nose glazing with a homemade vacuum-formed piece were unsuccessful, so I tabled the project. Ten or twelve years ago, I bought the Academy B-17F and started it, but dissatisfaction with the simplistic detailing and the excessive thickness of the kit’s nose glazing brought that build to a halt, after I had completely assembled the model (I banished it to the Shelf of Forgotten Models just before starting to mask the transparencies for painting).

A few years ago, I started the Revell of Germany new tool early B-17G, planning to plug the hole for the chin turret in the fuselage and to substitute a Squadron Products vacuum-formed nose glazing for the way too-thick Revell part, but that attempt didn’t look like it was worth finishing, either. Then a couple of years ago I bought and started the new tool Airfix kit of the B-17G, again planning to backdate the G to an F. When Revell of Germany reworked their B-17G kit to be an B-17F in "Memphis Belle" markings, I bought that kit, hoping Revell had included a useable nose glazing, but no such luck. That kit's F nose glazing was a scale 8" thick, and refracted light like the bottom of a Coca-Cola bottle. But I do have such a splendid collection of B-17 kits.

Finally, I revisited the Hasegawa B-17F nose glazing and decided that as prone to flaws and damage as it was, it was the best compromise available for accurate shape and thiness. I invested in several (OK, four) Hasegawa B-17s until I finally got one with a nearly flawless, undamaged nose glazing part. I began to modify the Airfix B-17G to receive the Hasegawa lower front fuselage and nose glazing. I planned to fit the Revell of Germany "Memphis Belle" front fuselage side glazings to the Airfix fuselage, also.

However, after some thought, I believed I could use all of the work I had already done a few years ago on the Revell of Germany B-17G (wings, horizontal stabilizers, control surfaces, turrets, full interior, engines, exhausts, cowls, etc. assembled and painted) combined with the Revell of Germany "Memphis Belle" fuselage. I grafted another Hasegawa lower front fuselage (I still had three available...) on to the "Memphis Belle" fuselage, to match the shape of the Hasegawa nose glazing. Success, albeit with many "two-steps-forward-one-step-back".

Resin wheels/tires by Eduard and brass .50 cal. barrels by Master were added. All exterior paint was Testors Model Master. All interior paint was Humbrol. Decals were a mix of several brands, to achieve a ficticious but plausible aircraft from the 401st Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group, 1st Combat Wing. Note the authentic but short-lived red-outlined stars and bars (June to August, 1943) on the model. Final overcoat was Testors Model Master Clear Semi-Gloss Lacquer. Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images:

RAF de Havilland Mosquito PR. IX (World War Two)

de Havilland Mosquito PR Mk. IX (Google)

The de Havilland PR. IX was a photo reconnaissance version of the Mosquito. The photo-recon Mosquitos carried cameras and film in the bomb bay, and were armed with no weapons for self defense, relying entirely on their speed, altitude and the skill of the pilot to escape destruction. Later marks of Mosquito bombers and photo-recon aircraft, such as this version, had the more powerful Merlin engines with two-stage superchargers for better high altitude performance (note the extra air intake immediately below the spinner of the propeller).

Tamiya de Havilland Mosquito PR. IX

This is the fourth Tamiya Mosquito I have built, and the first non-fighter version, with the glazed nose of the Mosquito bomber. Being the fourth build, it flew together rather quickly (no pun intended), out-of-the-box except for the Attack Squadron resin replacement engine nacelles up front, depicting the two-stage supercharged Merlins.

The overall paint scheme for later war RAF photo-recon aircraft was PRU Blue, which made this paint job very easy. All paint was Model Master, except for Humbrol Polished Aluminum at the wheel wells, wheel doors, wheels and landing gear struts. Decals were EagleCals. Final overcoat was Testors Model Master Clear Semi-Gloss Lacquer. Click on the thumbnails below for larger images:

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 overall finish was a mix of Testors Model Master 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