The RC3-2 in 1:72: The fastest thing in the world, 1925 edition

 

The 1925 Schneider Trophy-winning Curtiss R3C-2, as flown by Jimmy Doolittle

The Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider, better known as the Schneider Trophy, helped propel aviation forward in the early years of flight. Sponsored by the scion of the Schneider family, French makers of steel and armaments, the race reflected the younger Schneider’s view that seaplanes were the wave of the future, since they didnot require land bases and expensive runways.

The race called for a timed competition over a triangular course of at least 150 miles. The winner of each race would receive a £1,000 award and ownership of the Schneider Trophy until the next race. Should one nation win the award in three consecutive races within three years, it would win permanent possession of the trophy.

The race became the focal point for national pride as French, British and Italian entries traded victories. In 1924, the U.S Navy jumped into the race with a converted Curtiss CR-2 landplane and won the race at a speed of 173.347 mph.

Because of the win, in 1925 the race came to America. The 1925 race was scheduled for Baltimore, MD, between September 19 and 21, but neither Britain nor Italy had any aircraft ready at that time. The Americans delayed the race until October 23–26, giving time for Italy to prepare two Macchi M.33 flying boats and the British to send their new Supermarine S.4 and a Gloster III. , During a trial flight before the race, the S.4 developed aileron flutter and crashed into the Chesapeake. Though its pilot survived, the S.4 was a write-off.

Up against this competition was a trio of Curtiss R3C-2s, two from the Army and one from the Navy. The R3C-1 landplane had won the Pulitzer Trophy race just two weeks earlier, when Cyrus Bettis flew the aircraft to an average speed of 249.8 mph. Powered by a 610-hp Curtiss V-1400 engine, the floatplane version was called the R3C-2. Three R3C-2s were entered, flown by Lts. George Cuddihy  and Ralph Oftsie of the Navy and Jimmy Doolittle of the Army.

Doolittle was already an emerging aviation superstar, having earned the first-ever doctorate in aeronautics from MIT earlier in 1925. He found the R3C-2 a sweet-flying plane, by getting it off the water was a little tricky, with a long takeoff run before suddenly coming un-stuck from the water. “I would taxi out at 90 degrees to the take-off area, pull the stick into my stomach, advance the throttle until full, duck my head down into the cockpit to avoid the water spray from the prop,” Doolittle wrote in 1988. “The plane would run to the left 90 degrees before reaching take-off speed, and all of a sudden it would break loose, pitch up and I would push the stick forward to level off.”

Doolittle had thought race tactics through before lifting the R3C-2 into the air. As he orbited the triangular course, each time he approached a pylon he would climb under full power, then make a steep, banked diving turn, which he believed gave him the critical speed advantage. He also looked after the engine – which is why he finished the race while Cuddihy and Oftsie did not.

Doolittle won the race with an average speed of 232.57 mph, besting Hubert Broad in the Gloster III and his 199.16 mph speed – a margin of more than 33 mph. The next day, with the same plane on a straight course, Doolittle reached 245.7 mph, a new world record for seaplanes. It also cemented the Curtiss biplane as the fastest thing on earth at the time – the land speed record at the time was 150.87 mph – and earned Jimmy Doolittle the reputation as the fastest racer on earth. Doolittle would be the last man to win the Schneider Trophy in a biplane – and the last American to claim the title.

Doolittle would win the Bendix Trophy race from Burbank, CA to Cleveland in the Laird Super Solution in 1931 and the Thompson Trophy in 1932 flying the Gee Bee R-1. After completing this triple crown of air racing, he retired from racing. “I have yet to hear of anyone engaged in this work dying of old age,” he quipped.

The R3C-2s would receive new engines for the 1926 Schneider Trophy race and finish in second, but by then military enthusiasm for racing had waned in the U.S. It wasn’t until 1931 and Reginald Mitchell’s S.6b that the Schneider Trophy found a permanent home. Doolittle’s R3C-2 also found a permanent home in the Smithsonian Institution.

Since Doolittle was a hero of mine since childhood – and since I live in Alameda, the town where he was born – building Doolittle’s planes holds a special attraction. Building exclusively in 1:72 scale meant my options for an R3C-2 were limited, with my best bet being the CMR resin kit. This is not a kit for the faint of heart – some of the parts don’t fit particularly well, there’s no cockpit to speak of, and the instructions are so rudimentary they suggest what you would have found in the caves of Lasceaux had models existed in the Stone Age. The packaging is dubious as well – the cover sheet in the bag has a nice profile of one of the Navy’s R3C-2s, with its pale blue fuselage and chrome yellow floats. The decals provided allow you to do the Army racer, with a dark blue-black fuselage and floats. Markings provided give you Doolittle’s racer and the Pulitzer Trophy-winning R3C-1 flown by Lt. Cyrus Bettis. But, for the most part, the castings were bubble-free and straight – and that made it a fairly easy model to build, once you figured out where things went.

I jumped ahead to the end for my first step. Looking at the rigging diagram, I planned where the wires would enter the fuselage and wings and carefully drilled tiny holes with a No. 80 bit in my pin vise. I did not have a good reference, so I translated as best I could from the instructions. Later, I would find that I’d missed a few, but the holes gave me a place to start. Precision was the watchword here – any variance from left to right would mean the rigging would look out of whack at the end.

The cockpit came next. The real aircraft’s interior was all wood, with instruments fastened where they needed to be. I made a seat, an instrument panel (such as it was) and throttle assembly, and made a small seat to replace the backless lump given in the kit. WWI-style belts from my spares box went on the seat, and I painted the interior a wood color. There was no need to go crazy with wood grain or anything else, because the cockpit opening is very small. I decided not to open the cockpit side panels, because that would have meant major surgery on resin parts, and cutting into resin often leads to unpleasant discoveries in the form of air bubbles and other issues.

This is in there. I swear.

 

The fuselage halves were joined and I was faced with fit issues at the tail and the nose – a bit of warp had afflicted one side. A dip in a little hot water and some thumb pressure straightened the bend, but there was still significant seam work to be done, especially around the tail cone and the bottom of the rear fuselage, which I used a shim of styrene strip and CA glue to remedy.

The vertical fin and horizontal stabilizers were provided as separate pieces. The vertical fin went first, with copious amounts of CA being used to blend it in to the contours of the fuselage. The horizontal stabilizers were butt-joined to the fuselage, and I had to take care to make sure they were aligned to each other exactly.

I put the vertical fin on first – and checked that it was perfectly aligned to the fuselage – so I could use it as a guide to get the wings on straight. Having built a Curtiss F9C-2, I had a process for building shoulder-mounted biplanes like this one: start with the wing that fits worst. That way, you’ll be able to attack the fit issues from more angles without that second pesky wing getting in the way. In this case, the top wing fit the worst, and getting it to fit would affect some fuselage details. I CA-glued it in place, then went after it with sanding sticks of various coarseness until it was blended to the fuselage, taking care to ensure it was aligned at a right angle to the fuselage and vertical tail and aligned with the horizontal tails. A trick here is to look at the model head-on, then tilt it (nose down in this case). As you sight along the fuselage, the tips of the horizontals should disappear at the same time.

The R3C-2 had a small teardrop-shaped fairing atop the nose to accommodate the engine. CMR molded this fairing in three parts – one half on the wing, and a quarter on each half of the fuselage parts. While putting the wing on, I simply eradicated the fairing, then made a styrene strip replacement.

The floats came in halves, and spilt side-to-side. I put them together, addressed the seams, and made sure they were symmetric, since they’d throw the geometry of the finished model off otherwise.

The fuselage detail – minimal as it was on this streamlined racer – was carefully restored with a scribing tool. I had to pay attention to where the upper wing interfaced with the fuselage, especially around the cockpit opening, and I carved away some rough moldings to get it to look right.

The bottom wing went on next. The fit here was also kind of rough, but most of the sanding work was confined to the bottom of the aircraft, not the area between the wings. Again, alignment was a priority – I repeatedly checked the lower wing against the top wing to make sure it didn’t twist and that the distance between them was the same from right to left. Once the lower wing was successfully blended to the fuselage, I painted the radiators with ModelMaster Metalizer brass – and then put the model away for six years!

Brassy! ModelMaster metalizer brass proved to be fairly tough and stood up well to masking.

Eventually, during our shelter-in-place interlude caused by the Covid-19 breakout, I decided to tackle the model. It had been kept in a wooden cigar box, safe from accidents or breakages, and it was easy to resume the work. I did a little clean up on wing-to-fuselage seams, then decided it was time to paint the outer wings. These were “chrome yellow” on the real plane, which at the time was a bit more saturated than the modern version of the color. ModelMaster deep yellow was a good match. I masked the radiators and sprayed the outer wings yellow. I also sprayed the elevators at the same time.

Before you paint yellow (or red), lay down a coat of white…

…And your color will be much more vibrant than if you spray the paint on gray plastic (or beige resin).

 

 

While that dried, I assembled the floats. I was missing one of the resin cross-braces, so I swapped in some styrene strip in its place. It fit neatly into the recesses in the pontoons and I was assured that both cross-braces were the same length! Once these were in place, I added the resin vertical braces; these were a bit harder since they butt-joined the floats and there were no locators on the body of the model. The rear braces met at the base of the fuselage; I built these first, then aligned the forward braces off of them.

Mess up the geometry here, and your plane will never fly…

With the wings now dry, I masked them and the elevators and stuck a bit of wet toilet tissue in the cockpit opening before painting the fuselage and floats a very dark blue. This was made by adding a bit of cobalt blue to flat black – there’s a hint of blue in there if the lighting is right. The floats were somewhat challenging – you had to spray from an assortment of angles to get full coverage of every surface. Once the fuselage had dried, I carefully painted the exhausts silver using metallizer aluminum and a tiny pointed brush.  I had also cleaned up the interplane struts and painted them blue-black; these fit very precisely, and I was able to wedge them into place before running a little super-thin CA along their bases. I also drilled a small hole into the right wing for the pitot tube, which would be added at the very end of the build.

How much blacker could it be? A little, to be honest.

The propeller and spinner required a lot of attention. The casting was very imperfect and a strange, irregular blemish stretched along the spinner between the blades on both sides. Once this was eradicated with sanding sticks, I knocked off any flash on the blades and polished them in preparation for a metal finish. Ultimately, I airbrushed aluminum metalizer over the entire assembly, then carefully brush-painted the spinner before giving it a coat of Pledge Floor Magic (or “Future,” as we modelers know it).

The entire model was then given a coat of Future, the floats separate from the rest of the plane. The real aircraft was rather glossy, and the Future was a great base for the decals. I was apprehensive about the kit decals, but I had no reason to be – they performed spectacularly. I was really concerned about the tri-color tail flash with the tiny “Curtiss” logo in the white field; I was worried the white would turn into a muddy gray against the black background. There was no reason for concern!

Kit decals on…

 

…And looking pretty good!

Now I had a mostly finished plane and a set of floats – they needed to come together somehow. The rear attachment point was approximately even with the rear of the cockpit; it was the sturdiest of the mounting points, so I added the floats starting there. Once I thought I had it in place, I used CA to attach the forward struts to the fuselage, a difficult task since the real plane’s attachments were very small. Scale that down to 1:72 and you don’t have much surface area for glue. When I thought I had it right, I checked it – the plane was leaning one or two degrees to the left, making the lower wing clearly out of alignment with the float cross-braces. Gentle coercion and a little more CA made everything geometrically even again.

Look at all the perpendicular and parallel angles – an IPMS judge’s dream come true!

Before attacking the rigging, I scratch-built the windscreen. This was basically a glass tunnel with three flat sides; the kit provided a template for you to make your own. I used the plastic from the blister packaging for two AA batteries as my source material. I traced the diagram with a No. 11 blade, then cut out the windscreen and bent it along the scored edges with a pair of flat-nosed pliers. The first attempt was a little short, so I adjusted for the diagram’s shortcomings on the second try and got a piece that fit neatly. The frames were created by running the edges of the plastic windscreen across the tip of a Sharpie pen.

Now it was time for the point in the build I was dreading: the rigging. The aircraft had just two wires between each wing, but the floats were attached with five wires on each side. The forward-most wires ran to the upper wings; others cross-braced the struts, and the middle set ran to the lower wings. I had run across some .5mm nickel-silver metal wire from Albion Alloys that I’d bought for some purpose, and I thought it might be useful as a rigging alternative. This would be a chance to test it out.

Luckily, at around this time, I found a great reference from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum – a set of images of the R3C-2 on display, showing the aircraft from all angles. They can be found here . The location of all the rigging was no longer a mystery!

I carefully measured and cut lengths of wire to match the distances between the rigging points. Precision was the key: too short, and the wire wouldn’t connect and just dangle; too long, and the wire would deform. Testing and trimming until I had the right length, I started with the inner float braces and worked from the inside out, securing the wires with small amounts of Woodland Scenics scenic glue. This dries hard, clear and flat, but is easy to remove during assembly if you make a mistake and clean it up quickly. Where I had a hole to work with, I’d glue the wire to the edge of the hole and extend it up to its terminating point, checking constantly for alignment. The last to go on were the float-to-upper wing wires. I found the .5mm wire would sag over long runs – but nothing on this model is more than three inches! In that short space, as long as you don’t impart a bend into it, the wire will remain stiff and taut.

This view show most of the rigging lines in place. Build from the inside out!

The last things to do were to add the pitot tube (a .4-inch length of Albion Alloys tubing, painted silver) and the windscreen, which was lowered into place with tweezers and then fixed in place with a brush-applied bit of Future.

The windscreen in place, showing off its Sharpie-ink framing.

This was my third all-resin kit, and my second Curtiss shoulder-wing biplane. The tricks I’d learned came in handy, but really this model with primarily about anticipating problems with geometry and heading them off before they happened. It may be a small model, but it’s one of my favorites!

This view show most of the rigging lines in place. Build from the inside out!

 

 

 

MiG-15 in 1:72, part 2: disasters, unforced errors and success

I started to contemplate the nose well for my MiG-15, and then realized that I had a wonderful reference to work from: a real MiG-15bis about a mile from my house at the Oakland Aviation Museum, where I’m a member! I hopped in the car, snapped some shots of the wheel bay (while flat on my back – this plane is low to the ground!), and was home at my workbench in 20 minutes! A few wires were added and the nose wheel bay was complete.

MiG-15bis nose wheel well, looking forward; the cylindrical item at the center bottom is the nose gear strut.

The Master Models set includes the insulator located behind and below the cockpit on the right side of the fuselage. The Eduard representation of this is good, but the Master part is fantastic. I carefully carved away the plastic insulator, then polished the plastic and drilled a .5mm hole with a No. 76 drill bit in a pin vise to accept the metal insulator at the end of the project.

 

The gunsight had to be sanded a bit on its bottom to fit inside the windscreen, but once it was in place it looked great. The windscreen fit reasonably well, but I ran some thin CA along its edges just to ensure there was no gap between it and the fuselage.

 

Painting started with the masking of the nose for the application of the red elementy byostrogo raspoznavianiya (literally, “elements of fast recognition,” or ID markings). The 324thIAD painted their noses red, while the 303rdIAD painted the tops of the tails red. The 324’s markings were simple – red from the windscreen forward, except for a cut-out around the “bort” number. I masked off the rest of the plane for the nose; I like to keep the metal colors away from color coats to avoid changes in texture that could spoil the illusion of metal. The cockpit was masked with damp tissue.

After a lot of masking, the nose of the plane was painted Chrysler engine red. MiGPAR?

The trickiest part of the masking: the intake. In real life, the red overlapped into the nose by about two inches. How would I mask that? I cut a disk of .030 styrene sheet that just fit into the intake. I could position it exactly where I needed it and it stayed in place.

 

After masking, I shot an initial coat of flat white over the nose as a base for the red. The shade of red I selected was Chrysler engine red from Testors; it was the best match to the red on the decals and it looked right in the bottle. It sprayed very well and soon I had a nice-looking red nose.

 

That’s when the build hit a snag. My five-year-old daughter was in my office and somehow broke the windscreen off the in-progress model. In a panic, she decided to fix the model, so she pulled out all the cockpit masking, ripping the instrument panel, gunsight and control column loose. She then tried to apply CA glue to the model straight from the bottle, dumping rivulets of glue all over the nose. At this point, her fingers stuck together and her mother called me at work to explain how to get them apart.

 

When I got home, I though this MiG had met its maker. The CA had set up, but it was very thick. The droplets and runs were clearly defined. I found the windscreen and gunsight, and the instrument panel was still rattling around in the cockpit, but the control column was nowhere to be found. I decide the model would be terminal if the CA had gotten into one of three areas: the cockpit, the intake or the speed brake wells. Miraculously, none of those area were affected. In fact, no CA glue had made it to the area where the windscreen would attach, meaning it still fit cleanly.

 

The thick CA glue was a blessing in that it hadn’t fully cured in many places. I was able to chip much of it off with minimal damage to the plastic below. Some areas needed to be sanded, and I had to remove the surviving red paint as well. The shell ejection chutes on the bottom of the plane were clogged and had to be re-opened with a No. 11 blade. Particular care had to be taken around the gun camera fairing. Once all the CA was gone, I sanded the nose of the aircraft with progressively finer sandpaper, then polished it out. Luckily, the nose of the MiG-15 had remarkably few panel lines, so re-scribing was very easy.

 

I bought a new detail set for the control column (I’ll pillage the rest of the set when I build my Airfix MiG-17!), re-attached the gunsight and instrument panel, and put the cockpit in order before re-attaching the windscreen. Then it was the masking-white paint-Chrysler engine red routine all over again. I hadn’t thrown out the disk for masking the intake, which saved me a step. When the masking came off, I was back to where I had been before the accident!

 

I re-masked the nose and painted the model with Testors metallizer aluminum. There were some areas where construction had left faintly visible wavers in the surface that were apparent in shiny aluminum paint; these areas were masked off and hit with a mix of aluminum and stainless steel that was less shiny and the flaws disappeared. Panels on the fuselage and wings were also masked and painted.

The gleaming MiG-15, with the first of the decals in place.

Since this would be a weathered machine, the decals went on before a sealer coat. The “135” on the nose for Kramerenko’s plane came from the H-Models Decals sheet; unfortunately, the North Korean national markings on this sheet were out of register, leaving a white outline on the left side of the stars and circles. A Print Scale sheet for the MiG-15 lacked the white undercoat, but the red and blue images were badly misaligned so that the bottom of the blue circle nearly touched the red outer circle and the star was shifted visibly off center.

 

My solution: get another Eduard MiG-15! I borrowed the decals from yet another kit (I now have three more MiG-15s to build if you include my Eduard MiG-15UTI) and their alignment was fine. They were a little thick – I had to cut them gently across panel lines and hit them with setting solution – but in short order my MarK had all its migings – I mean, my MiG had all its markings.

 

This was a good time to spray a few more items with aluminum paint. I needed to remedy some worn spots on the leading edge of the wings anyway, and while I was at it I painted the main gear doors and canopy. The gear doors have outstanding detail on their inner surfaces; I popped the detail out with a 50:50 wash of Future and water darkened with a bit of acrylic paint. I also hit the speed brake wells and the rear internal structure of the canopy, which I folded together from the photoetched parts in the Brassin cockpit set.

With the Eduard North Korean markings in place…

When I stripped the masking off the nose, all was well except for a little silver overspray on one side. I carefully masked with a Post-It note and sprayed red – but the Post-It lifted the bottom of the “135” marking! The project went into another holding pattern until a second decal sheet could be sourced, all thanks to a split-second of carelessness!

 

While waiting for the new decals to arrive, the nose gear doors were painted aluminum on the inside faces and white on the outside faces, which was over-coated with Chrysler engine red to match the nose bands.

 

The wheels were painted using the kit-supplied masks. I painted the tires first, using a mix of brown and black, then painted the hubs gray. The wheels came from the Brassin aftermarket set for MiG-15s, using the earlier pattern of the two pairs of wheels in the kit. Later, these would be weathered with pastels; this not only makes them look well-used but it leaves them dead flat, perfectly mimicking used rubber.

 

I carefully hand-painted the nose strut, which is molded with the nose wheel. Once done, I ran a dark wash over the strut to pop out the detail. A similar approach to the main gear was complicated only by the presence of a compression strut, which was painted chrome silver. Two tiny photoetched pieces replicating the tow points were added and painted gray, and the wheels were added, paying close attention to alignment. Each strut and wheel combination was rigged with two brake lines made from lead wire, which was blackened with a Sharpie pen, and then the struts were all shot with Testors Dullcote.

eft and right gear, with hydraulic lines added.

There was a little play to the main gear when they were added to the model, so paying attention to the alignment pays off later. I added the nose gear strut, put the model on its gear – and watched in horror as it tipped back on its tail. After contemplating my options, I decided to add weight in the rear of the cockpit, behind the seat. There’s some unused space back there, and I packed it full of folded and pressed lead foil, playing teeter-totter until the nose came down. With the seat installed, the model sat stable on three wheels instead of two.

 

The gear doors are a little tricky on this machine. Follow the instructions and put the wheel cover on the strut before adding the strut to the wheel well – doing so otherwise is really difficult. The inner gear doors snap into place neatly, by the upper strut covers are a bit unique. First, as on the real item, they splay out in a crazy manner – photo references are invaluable. Second, Eduard molds the retraction strut as part of the landing gear strut, but instructs you to bend it to mate with the strut cover. Caution is the watchword! Once you have these in place, the nose gear doors are a pleasant return to normalcy.

 

At this stage, the build was all about adding a host of little things without screwing anything up. I drilled a small hole at the top of the vertical fin to accept an aerial antenna. I also drilled out a tiny hole just ahead of the windscreen on the left side for the landing gear indicator, then stretched some white styrene for the indicator. It was colored red with a Sharpie, inserted into the hole with PVA glue, and snipped off at the appropriate length. The Master Models gun barrels were painted a gunmetal color, cemented into their fairings, and drybrushed with steel, and black pastels were used to add discoloration from the gun gasses. The pastels were also brushed on the wheels at this time.

 

I painted the radar altimeter antennas black and test fit them on another kit – the attachment pegs need to trimmed just a bit to get a flush fit to the bottom of the wings. The speed brakes were added to the fuselage, along with the resin actuators. I swapped painted fine lead wire for the photoetched hydraulic lines provided in the Brassin airbrake set. The seat was slipped into the cockpit, and the control column went in place next. The antenna mast was cleaned up and CA-glued to its mount on the fuselage, followed by the canopy. The Master Models pitot boom was placed into the hole in the wing and painted aluminum, with a chrome silver head.

 

With the ejection seat and control column installed, the last step was rigging the aerial. I had drilled a hole in the vertical fin and inserted a .05mm metal rod as the tail anchor; the aerial on the early MiG-15 stretched from the tail to the antenna mast to the insulator on the side of the fuselage. I used a strand of black nylon panty hose for my aerial wire, and I nervously braced myself for the rigging operation. It went quickly – aided by reverse tweezers and sharp scissors, it was done in five minutes. It may have been the easiest part of the whole build!

Despite my unforced errors, weird accidents and omitted instructions in the Brassin set, the model turned out wonderfully and takes an important place in my Korean War collection. Moreover, now that I know the kit’s quirks, I’m looking forward to building a camouflage MiG-15bis and a MiG-15 UTI. This rendition of first jet ace’s mount won’t be my last Eduard MiG-15!

Triplane Top Gun: Josef Jacobs’ Fokker Dr.I

“One for the folks back home!”

There is no more iconic World War I aircraft than the Fokker Dr.I. The distinctive triplane has appeared everywhere, from movies and books to comic strips and frozen pizza packaging. When it first arrived, it was a boon to German pilots, whose Albatros, Roland and Pfalz fighters had become outclassed.

 

Arriving in late October 1917, the Dr.I was eagerly awaited. Werner Voss had used a prototype Fokker F.I to destroy seven enemy aircraft in 20 days before being lost himself in a battle with six SE.5s. The Dr.I possessed superior climbing ability and was terrifically maneuverable, making it an excellent dogfighter. It also had two guns at a time when many of its adversaries still mounted one. However, the triplane configuration caused a lot of drag, so the Dr.I was slower than its adversaries.

 

Still, the plane’s nimble qualities tipped the balance to the Germans – briefly. In late October and early November, a spate of accidents led to the grounding of all Dr.Is and a reversion back to the Albatros D.Va. Moisture accumulating in the upper wings was loosening the glue joints to the point where the ailerons failed, leading to the failure of the upper wing. All the Dr.Is went back to Fokker’s factory and a series of 12 improvements were instituted. The Dr.I returned to combat on November 28. By then, however, any tactical surprise was gone, as were Anthony Fokker’s profits from the machine.

 

Despite the triplane’s iconic status, the structural issue limited production. Only 320 Dr.Is were manufactured. A number aces preferred the machine even as it was surpassed by the superior Fokker D.VII. One of these was Josef Jacobs.

 

Jacobs was a veteran by 1917. His combat career began in July 1915 in reconnaissance machines, flying long-range sorties over allied positions. He downed a Caudron in February 1916, but this could not be confirmed. Jacobs was transferred to Fokkerstaffel-West to fly the Fokker E.III, and his first official victory came on May 12 when he destroyed another Caudron.

 

Jacobs scoring was curtailed by a bout of dysentery and eventually he was transferred to Jasta 22, where he scored three more confirmed victories. He became commander of Jasta 7 in August 1917, where he shot down and killed nine-victory French ace Jean Matton to achieve ace status himself. Early in 1918, Jacobs switched to the Dr.I and became its most lethal pilot, downing more than 30 allied aircraft with it, often leading the rest of his unit’s Fokker D.VIIs into combat in his triplane, an all-black machine with a fire-spitting character called “the God of the North” emblazoned on both sides. Jacobs’ final score was 48 aircraft and balloons, placing him fourth among German aces.

 

Following the war, Jacobs continued fighting, flying against the Bolsheviks in the Baltic, and later became a flight instructor in Turkey, then switched from aviation to sport, excelling in auto, speedboat and bobsled racing (he was the president of the German Bobsleighing Society in later life). In the 1930s, he started an aircraft repair and manufacturing company in Erfurt. Hermann Goering personally asked Jacobs to join the Nazi Party, but Jacobs refused; he also refused to allow Goering to become a major shareholder in his company and moved it to the Netherlands. When Germany invaded, Jacobs had to go into hiding, but he returned to Germany after the war. Jacobs died in Munich in 1978, the last surviving recipient of the Pour le Merite.

 

Eduard had the good sense to put Jacobs’ top-scoring triplane on the boxtop of its 1:72 “Profipack” release. The “Profipack” kits feel a little like cheating, since nearly everything you could need is already in the box. In this case, that meant the plastic parts for the tiny fighter were accompanied by a fret of photoetched parts and masks for the wheels. These were all quite nice – but, of course, I couldn’t resist the urge to add more.

 

First, I cut off the plastic molded structure inside the cockpit and removed the plastic rudder pedals, as instructed in the kit. This detail would all be replaced with photoetched parts.

 

The kit doesn’t include the triangular plywood panels inside the fuselage that helped define the fuselage’s shape. I cut these from sheet styrene, painted them with beige enamel, and then dabbed on some Minwax wood stain. While it was still wet, I lightly dragged a paper towel across the stain to streak it, giving a wood grain effect. This was repeated on the cockpit floor and rear bulkhead.

The plywood panels at center, along with the prop in its first stages of painting and the cockpit floor.

The cockpit frame was folded together and painted a shade approximating RAF sky – this is a close match to the color used by Fokker for its internal framework. The instruments attached to the frame were bent into place and backed with tiny sections of styrene rod painted black, and their pre-painted faces received a drop of Future floor polish to replicate glass. The photoetched fuel pump was given a light coat of white glue to give it a degree of three dimensionality, and after it was painted it was installed in the cockpit framework. The same went for the throttle assembly; it was painted, received a styrene rod grip, and was added to the left side of the cockpit framework.

The completed cockpit framework, added to the right fuselage half.

 

I used white glue to beef up the grips on the control column, then folded the combined column and rudder pedals, painted them, and added them to the floor, along with some styrene strip footboards. The compass holder was folded to shape and painted before getting its decal face, followed by Future for the lens; once dry, this was added to the framework as well.

 

The seat was painted in facsimile wood colors and, when dry, the kit’s pre-painted seat belts were added with CA glue. The seat went on the rear bulkhead, the rear bulkhead was joined to the floor, the floor was added to the framework and the whole thing was glue into place in one of the fuselage halves. The fuselage was closed in near record time for one of my builds!

An overhead view of the cockpit on the finished model, showing how effective the Eduard Profipack elements are.

The next step was to assemble the guns. As nice as Eduard’s were, I opted for the stellar Mini World Spandaus, which have a machined body and photoetched cooling jackets and sights. These spectacular little guns were painted a gunmetal color and dry-brushed with steel, then had their cocking handles picked out in a wood color. They were then set aside in a safe place – they can be very delicate and easy to damage until they’re on the model.

Mini World Spandaus – and by “mini” they do mean mini!

I cut the molded-on control horns from the tail and upper wings , then cleaned up these areas. The “Profipack” kit includes these as photoetched items, which would be added at the end of the build.

 

The vertical rudder was painted white, gloss-coated and decaled. When it was done, it went to safety with the Spandaus. The horizontal tail was added to the fuselage, and I found the fit fussy, but with a little sanding I obtained a good fit. The center wing went on next, followed by the ammunition box, which was painted aluminum. This fit ridiculously well – so snug I was concerned I couldn’t get it apart after test-fitting it! The lower wing joined to the fuselage with precision, and I had no worries about alignment to the center wing.

The center wing in place…

…with the lower wing installed and perfectly aligned.

For now, I veered off the instructions’ path and instead painted the model with a coat of ModelMaster interior black. That meant painting the fuselage and lower wings, upper wing, struts, cowling and landing gear before assembly. The overall black scheme lent itself to this. A coat of Future prepped the model for decals; the kit decals went on with no problems and I added decals to the fuselage and upper wing in advance of assembly. Another coat of Future sealed them.

How much more black could it be? Theanswer is none. None more black.

The firewall ahead of the engine was painted steel and I set to work on Eduard’s wonderful little powerplant. This includes a plastic bank of cylinders, brass ignition wires for the front and back of the engine, and detailed photoetched hub. The prop “shaft” is fixed in place on the firewall and the engine and propeller spin around it – just like the real thing.

The propeller was cleaned up and masked for a wood grain finish. This involved painting the prop a light shade of wood, then carefully cutting masks, front and back, to replicate the laminated layers of wood in the prop. A darker shade was sprayed, and the contrast seemed extreme until I brushed on a coat of Tamiya clear amber. This made the prop appear varnished and tied the shades together nicely. Manufacturer’s decals and the photoetched hub plate were added to finish off the propeller.

After a coat of Tamiya clear amber, the prop looked properly varnished.

The finished prop and engine assembly in place on the finished model.

Now, I began to bring the elements together. The wing struts go through the center wing and all but guarantee proper alignment – if you get them oriented correctly. They have a subtle front-to-back orientation that’s easy to miss (which I did at first). The landing gear came next; I first drilled holes for the wire bracing, then assembled the gear struts and wing and added them to the fuselage. Lengths of .005 acupuncture needles were added as the wire, lending an additional degree of rigidity. The machine guns were added before the upper wing, as were short lengths of Mini World’s ammunition belts, which feed into the guns’ receivers.

Once these were added and the fuselage struts were in place, adding the top wing was a breeze – positive locating holes in the wing fit the struts and all was good. The wheels’ hubs were painted and masked with Eduard’s included masks, and the gray tires were airbrushed next (a lack of lampblack in Germany during WWI resulted in pale gray tires). Once dry, the wheels were added to the landing gear.

 

Wings on, decals on and awaiting the landing gear.

The gear in place with its wire bracing.

I added the crossed bracing wires between the fuselage and upper wing with trimmed acupuncture needles and painted the padding around the cockpit opening with ModelMaster leather paint, applied with a fine brush. There’s a small instrument between the guns on the fuselage for which Eduard provides a decal – I added this now and placed a drop of Future on it as the lens.

 

The rudder was joined to the tail, and I used the kit’s photoetched parts to replicate the control horns and wires, adding them by using Testors Dullcote as an adhesive. To do this, I brushed a bit of Dullcote on an index card, then, gripping the part in some tweezers, I dragged the part through the puddle of Dullcote and immediately stuck it on the model. The Dullcote has the advantage of drying very tight against the surface while still gripping the part well.

Note the control horns on the upper wings’ ailerons.

The wing control horns came next, followed the addition of the engine, the cowling, and the propeller. The cowling was cemented to the fuselage, while the propeller was glued to the engine. The engine was not cemented in place, so the prop and engine could spin together inside the cowling just like the real plane.

 

Next came some wooden elements – the tail skid, wing tip skids and fuselage foot step. The photoetched ground handling loops were added to the rear fuselage and painted black in situ.

 

Just like that, I had a neat, clean little triplane ready for our local contest. I proudly marched in with a couple of entries in hand and, just as I reached the right table, the triplane’s box slipped off the stack, did a 180-degree flip, and smacked into the ground upside down with a sickening thud, with predictable results. I spent the next two hours at a friend’s vendor table with glue and tweezers, swearing a blue streak as I re-attached the rudder and top wing, control horns, tail skid, and host of other little things. Luckily all the parts could be located inside the box. While my repairs were a bit ham-fisted, I still managed to get second place in “biplanes/fabric and rigging.”

 

Since other projects I was working on were more complex, this would be the only model I’d be bringing to the nationals, and in the condition it was in it had little chance of faring well. I decided it would look better – and maybe perform better at the contest – as the centerpiece of a simple diorama.

 

The photo of Jacobs that comes up most often is a posed shot showing him holding his dog, a Grand Bleu de Gascogne, in front of his fighter. If there’s a photograph, there must have been a photographer, so there was the idea for a diorama.

I started with a four-by-four base with a clear cover – I fear for my WWI builds!  – which was just large enough for the tiny Dr.I with space for the figures. The base was covered with white glue and then sprinkled with Woodland Scenics turf for a very simple setting for the scene.

 

The figures were next. Jacobs came from a CMK WWI pilots set, but I lopped off his head, repositioned his arms, and modified his tunic. It would figure that in the photo, he was wearing non-standard gear. I sanded back the visor and his cap, and removed the detail from his tunic, replacing it with pockets made from paper and CA-glued to the figure. The head was sourced from a W+D set. He also received a walking stick. The figure was painted using light blues for the uniform and leather for the boots, all sourced from the ModelMaster line.

W+D head, CMK body, and custom Clothing by Chris results in a pretty unattractive figure…

…Until it’s primed and starts to look usable.

Painted, Jacobs stats to look the part…

A walking stick was made from a length of metal rod and painted a pale wood color. All that was left to complete a little ace was his dog. Dogs in 1:72 are much harder to find than you’d think, especially Grand Bleu de Gascognes. My stash happened to include Pegasus’ 1:72 farm animal set, and it had a German shepherd, so I set about on my first-ever dog conversion project.

 

First, a lot of flash was cut off the soft-plastic dog figure. The shepherd’s alert, bushy tail was removed and replaced with a skinny one made of wire. The shepherd’s point ears were bobbed and I made a set of floppy replacements from Apoxie Sculpt, then draped it over the dog’s head and blended it in. After the dog was primed, it was painted black with white legs, belly and snout to approximate the photo. When it was finished, I added a collar and a thin wire leash that would attach to Jacobs’ hand.

 

Now, I needed a photographer – otherwise, it would be a diorama of a guy walking his dog near an airplane. The camera would come first. I found a nice 1:32 WWI photographer figure and copied the style of camera and tripod, replicating it with styrene strip and rod. A rectangular piece became the camera body and was painted in wood tones. The lens was a bit of .040 rod, painted black and glued to the front. A photoetched trim wheel was painted and added to the side. The tripod was made from several pieces of thin rod, with each leg having a single base that was attached to two parallel rods which attached to a mount at the base of the camera. It took some work to get all three legs the same length, but when they were all aligned, I painted them black and the camera was almost finished.

 

The photographer was a mash-up of different Prieser figures. The body and arms came from a WWII Luftwaffe pilot who was doing some “hand flying;” his epaulets and decorations were sanded away to de-militarize him, and he received a gray coat and a blue jacket. His left arm was positioned as if he was gesturing to his subject to stay still and wait for him to take the photo. In his right hand, I placed a styrene rod “trigger” attached by fine solder to the camera – the shutter release mechanism.

100 years later, you could just take the picture with your phone.

 

To make the photographer truly civilian, I grabbed one of the extra heads from Prieser’s 1920s civilian aircraft figure set. This head was wearing a cap and looked “period” but clearly not military, which is what I was going for.

 

The figures and plane were addd to the base, and with that my ridiculously simple diorama was complete. I was lucky – the model took a third at the IPMS Nationals in Omaha in small composition diorama!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gone west: the 377th FS’s David Childs

Yesterday, Jamie Laughlin posted word on the 362nd Fighter Group’s Facebook page that David Childs passed away on Monday, December 23, just 11 days short of his 97th birthday. That we are losing such men is not a surprise, but it is always a sad occasion.

Peggy Childs pins the wings on David Childs at his graduation from Army Air Forces flight school at Luke Field, Arizona on Feb. 8, 1944.

I interviewed David in 2006 for “Thunderbolts Triumphant,” and we had a funny, good-natured conversation. He joked that he didn’t want to tell me too much because he was working on his own book (which became “Wings and Tracks,” a lovely personal memoir that covers his recovery from severe burns suffered in combat, and the devotion of his wife Peggy in helping him return to a normal life). He didn’t want to give away the good stuff! No problem – his book was finished 10 years before mine!

On his 48th mission, he survived a low-level bailout by the narrowest of margins. Flak hit him at low altitude, and almost immediately fire began blasting into the cockpit. He bailed out, with much of his gear destroyed, and lay in the snow to gain some comfort before he was captured. Only years later, on a return visit to the site of his shoot-down, did he discover that he had the good fortune of being hit just before the land dropped off into a valley – had that valley not been there, his chute would not have had time to open.

His injuries were so severe that he would not be released from military hospitals until January 1947, but he went on to finish his degree at Oregon State, pioneer the use of airplanes for agricultural surveying, sit on many agricultural committees and the school board, and run his family farm with Peggy. The two celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary on Dec. 15 with a party with their friends and family.

Thank you for helping with the book, David, and for doing so much for other people over the course of a life well lived.

The Lawn Dart that Flies Right Off the Ground: FROG’s 1:72 F-16C Block 52

The F-16 is a most successful aircraft, but it’s always left me a little meh. Maybe it’s the gray-on-gray-on-gray paint schemes, or the somewhat generic planform, or just its sheer ubiquity. My bias even led me to turn my nose up at the many nice presentation schemes (although I have all the decals, for some reason!). In spite of my unreasonable bigotry, I decided that it would be nice to add a Nellis-based Lawn Dart to my collection – after all, the IPMS Nationals are in Las Vegas in two years, and it might be fun to have an entry at the show from the neighborhood! And late last year, I was near Phoenix for work, right in the flight path of Luke AFB. The F-35s were interesting, but the F-16s were really cool. The seed was planted.

Building a model of an F-16 leads you down something of a rabbit hole. If you want to build an accurate model, you have to understand the history and nomenclature of the little fighter. It’s not enough to know that your kit is an F-16C – whether it’s a Block 25, 30, 32, 40, 42, 50, 52 or 50/52 plus is vital to know if you hope to have an accurate representation of the real deal. The block numbers mostly pertain to the engine, and the engine determines the intake shape and size. Blocks 25, 32, 42, and 52 used variants of the Pratt & Whitney F100 engine with the original smaller intake; the 30, 40 and 50 used the General Electric F110 engine with larger air intakes. There are differences around the exhaust nozzle as well. Essentially, if you want to build a GE-engined plane from a Pratt & Whitney -engined kit, or vice versa, you will make your life very difficult.

There are more differences as well. In the early 2000s, a number of jets were put through the Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP), which aimed to standardize the cockpit layouts and capabilities of the F-16C fleet. These enabled the planes to carry LANTIRN, Litening and the Lockheed-Martin Sniper XR Advanced FLIR pods. Because standardization means something different in the military than anywhere else, some CCIP F-16Cs also received a NATO standard Link-16 Data Link, an electronic horizontal situational indicator and the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System.

All of this was news to me when a friend handed me the Frog 1:72 F-16C. Yes, I said Frog – an entity in Asia is reviving the brand and one of their first kits is a re-boxing of the Academy F-16C in Singaporean markings. This kit, for those of you keeping score, is a Block 52 and can be built as a CCIP aircraft, with the four air-to-air interrogator antenna ahead of the windscreen.

The somewhat uninspired top of the Frog boxing of the Academy F-16.

The kit features very refined recessed panel lines, a ton of parts for the landing gear, a full complement of tanks and ordnance, the canopy has the correct bubble shape, and the model fits together spectacularly. On the down side, the model has some shape errors that will drive Viper nuts… well, nuts. The nose is too narrow and pointy, and the aft side strakes (where the flaperons go in back) are flat, rather than angled 10 degrees like the real thing. The clear parts are provided with a gold tint, which would be accurate for early Block 52s, but later aircraft went to a clear canopy when night-vision goggles were adopted.

An aside: if you’re going to build an F-16, you really need a copy of Danny Coreman’s Uncovering the F-16A/B/C/D Fighting Falcon. This book came out in 2002, and it’s expensive on the secondary market – $80-$120 is not unusual. My suggestion is to get the Japanese version of the book – I picked up mine for $30 with shipping from Japan. The text is in Japanese, but all the photos are in English!

Domo arigato, Mr. Discount F-16 bible.

I started with the cockpit. Aires makes a neat front office for the F-16C, with a tub, sidewalls, ejection seat, instrument panel and instrument shroud, plus a lot of photoetched parts that would be added at the end of the build, like the HUD and ejection seat details. Be forewarned: in order to use this set, you’ll need to cut away the kit instrument shroud and modify the rear cockpit, and do so without instructions. Caution is the watchword – slipping up will mean a lot of gruesome remedial work. With lots of such work under my belt, I knew to go slowly and to use small files to sneak up on the right shapes. You get no extra points for speed in this part of modeling!

Once the rear section of the new tub fit into the enlarged opening in the back of the upper kit cockpit, I sanded the bottom of the tub to get sufficient clearance for the fuselage upper and lower halves to close. This meant a lot of sanding – as in, the area under the ejection seat was completely sanded away. This was just enough to obtain a good fit.

Getting the rear part of the Aires cockpit to fit the Academy fuselage required work, but it eventually went where it was supposed to.

To make mounting the instrument shroud and panel easy, I added a shelf from styrene strip. When the time came to mount the shroud, it was a breeze to glue the shroud to this styrene shelf instead of trying to stick the edge of the shroud to the edge of the forward cockpit. More mating surface meant easier modeling.

All the detail parts were painted and detailed, then drybrushed. The ejection seat was painted, too, but it was left out until later to make masking easier. The photoetched rudder pedals were added, and I applied the tiny instrument films and photoetched panels to the resin instrument panel. I painted the multifunction displays silver, then Tamiya clear green. The sidewalls were added to the cockpit, and then everything was set aside.

A peek over the pilot’s shoulder at the rather small instrument panel.

The nose wheel bay is molded into the bottom of the lower inner intake trunk. The trunk halves fit spectacularly well; I glued them together, then sprayed them and the wheel bay flat white. Then I turned my attention to the wheel bay, adding hoses and cabling with lengths of .2mm and .4mm lead wire. Many of the cables in the wheel bay were silver – so the wire could be used unpainted – while others were black. I discovered that passing the wire across a black Sharpie colored them efficiently and permanently, and a shot of Testors Dullcote removed the gloss shine. A wash made from Future, black ink and a few drops of water popped all the detail out.

Dressed up with wires and hoses, the nose gear bay is ready to be installed into the intake housing.

I’d really wanted to make a Block 50, so I sourced CMK’s undercarriage kit, which included the larger intake. Unfortunately, the intake part lacked the wedge splitter that holds the intake away from the lower fuselage, and there’s no way to add it from the kit parts. The main gear bay in the CMK set, however, is worthwhile; I painted it white and gave it a wash, then went to town with wires and styrene rod and strip to re-create the nightmarishly busy bays revealed in Coremans’ book. The final result was worth a few hours of work!

…Then, a whole mess of other was added with lead wire, styrene strip and rod, and careful painting.

The intake parts – two sides and the top, with the wedge splitter – were carefully assembled. The front of the intake is a separate part; I painted it radome gray before adding it to the intake. On the real jet, the inner lip of the intake is gray. Since the trunk parts mated so perfectly inside the intake, all I needed to do was add a brace in the intake, made from .010 by .030 styrene strip, slide the trunk into the intake, and glue it in place. Any minute gap where the trunk and the intake lip join is visually obscured by the white/gray interface.

The intake, with its internal brace and white/gray paint demarkation

The main gear well was carefully added to the fuselage, followed by the intake. I found there was a slight gap between the intake sides and the fuselage mounting points, so I added small wedges of styrene inside the intake, pushing against the trunking. These pushed the outer sides of the intake out just far enough to get a good join. A slight step between the fuselage and the intake was sanded away without undue effort.

Wolfpack makes an update for the F-16C Block 40 that happened to include an improved resin nose. I sourced one of these and carefully cut it from its pour plug, leaving a convenient peg at the back of the radome that would make mounting easier. Then I took my motor tool and a cutoff wheel and removed the nose from both the top and bottom fuselage halves, a nerve-wracking exercise. Once the majority of the nose was gone, I taped the fuselage halves together and sanded the nose back to exactly the right point to get a good fit and a perfect sit for the radome, restoring some of the curves of the nose.

Someone thought using a motor tool to remove the nose was a joke. Does it look like I am joking? DOES IT?

I added the cockpit tub and instrument panel shroud to the upper fuselage half with CA glue. While I was at it, I added the Gatling gun insert to the upper fuselage; the fit was a little sloppy, but two applications of Mr. Surfacer 500 filled in the seams nicely.

I joined the upper and lower fuselage halves with CA glue, adding small amounts of CA with the end of a copper wire and working my way from nose to tail. The aft of the fuselage had areas that needed to be sanded down with some enthusiasm, but these were flat, making the job easy. The forward fuselage, with its complex curves and shapes, fit beautifully.

Top and bottom halves together, with the intake in place.

The belly, with the intake seam eradicated. The fit of the nose was quite good.

Next time: on to the tail, wings, nose and pylons!

Eduard’s MiG-15, part 1: the hazards of aftermarket parts

The F-86 Sabre and the MiG-15 waged a pitched battle for supremacy over a narrow patch of sky over the northern Korea peninsula from 1950-1953. The traditional view of the outcome of these battles was heavily tilted toward the U.S., with a nearly 10:1 kill ratio in favor of the F-86. Recent scholarship has wound that back as far as 1.8:1, but communist bloc sources have listed a total of 659 MiG-15s lost in Korea while the USAF listed 256 F-86s lost to all causes. The U.S. claimed 792 MiG kills, while the communists claimed over 600 F-86s – overclaiming was the order of the day.

In recent decades, the participation of Soviet pilots was revealed. This did not come as a shock: several Sabre pilots claimed to have seen red-headed opponents, and U.S. victories climbed, plateaued and fell in a manner that suggested that skilled pilots were being rotated in and out of the theatre. That’s exactly what was happening – the Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily (VVS, or “military air force”) was rotating units into Korea to give them combat experience and to teach the Chinese and North Korean pilots. When the Russians rotated, the losses spiked; when the Russians returned, losses fell.

One of the first Soviet pilots to arrive was Sergey Kramerenko, who had shot down two Fw 190s in World War II and was a captain when he volunteered to go east with Ivan Kozhedub’s 324thIstrebitel’naya Aviatsionnyy Diveeziya(IAD, or fighter air division). Kramerenko entered combat in April 1951 and immediately realized the MiGs were entering combat at too low an altitude, failing to use the MiG-15’s altitude advantage to maximum effect. Adjusting tactics, Kramerenko soon scored his first victory, downing an F-80 that was escorting B-29s. On June 2, he probably knocked down the Sabre of Thomas C. Hanson of the 336thFIS to score his first victory over an F-86. (USAF records list this plane as having crashed after take-off.)

Sergei Kramerenko in the cockpit of a MiG-15

On June 17, 1951, Kramerenko and six other MiG-15s spotted eight F-86s below them and dove to attack. It was an ambush: three more F-86s dove on the MiGs and as Kramerenko lined up a target, an F-86 opened fire from 100 yards astern. Kramerenko flung his jet into a turn and started to dive before remembering the Sabre could out-dive the MiG. Instead he ducked into a cloud, then turned around and charged back into the fight. Now, three F-86s were below him. He dove, but the formation split, intending to provide mutual cover. Kramerenko went after the single F-86 climbing to his right; it was closer and the other two Sabres would have to climb to attack him. He fired and the Sabre started to smoke.

By now, the other Sabres were on his tail. He reversed his heading and buzzed past the Sabres back into another cloud bank. When he exited, he expected to see the Sabres below him – instead, they were back on his tail. He dove away from them, toward the Suiho Dam, which he knew was well protected with anti-aircraft artillery. The F-86s gave up the pursuit, and Kramerenko left for home. His gun camera showed good hits on the Sabre, and there was even a report of where it crashed into the ground. In reality, the Sabre was flown by WWII ace Lt. Col. Glenn Eagleston, who belly-landed his fighter at Kimpo.

The victories continued for Kramerenko: on June 23, he was credited with another F-86 (contrary to USAF records), and on July 17 bagged another Sabre as it escorted F-80 fighter-bombers. On July 29, he severely damaged an F-86A; its pilot reached friendly territory before bailing out. This was Kramerenko’s fifth victory, making him the first ace of the Korean War and the first pilot with five jet victories.

On September 12, Kramerenko damaged an F-84E, whose pilot ejected and was rescued. Ten days later, he claimed a Sabre, which in reality escaped with heavy damage. On October 30, another F-84E fell to his guns, and again the pilot was rescued. On the first day in December he tangled with Australian Meteor Mk. 9s, claiming two (but actually downing just one, the plane of P/O Vance Drummond, who became a POW), and on January 12 claimed two F-86s (records confirm the loss of one). On January 16, 1952, he downed another F-86; the loss was not reported on USAF records, but in 2002 the US-Russian joint commission on POW-MIAs interviewed him about the loss of an F-80C in the same area, tacitly acknowledging the victory.

The next day, the tables turned. Kramerenko and his unit were dispatched to intercept some F-84s, and seeing no escort, one group went after the Thunderjets while Kramerenko’s group maneuvered for position. That’s when he saw the Sabres diving on the first group – he turned to engage, only for a second group of F-86s to slice through. He damaged the leader – thought to be Major George Wendling – but then was hit by Major William Sheaffer. His MiG was doomed. “I kicked hard left rudder, but the controls did not respond. It was so sudden that one wing suddenly broke off. I made the decision to bail out of the uncontrollable aircraft, as it was now in a vertical spin downward. With a great deal of difficulty – as I was rammed into the left side of the aircraft – I managed to get my hand on the ejection seat control lever and pull it. A sharp blow momentarily pressed down on my eyes, so I have no idea how I flew out of the aircraft. Kramerenko said that Sheaffer then made two ineffective firing passes on him before he drifted into a cloud; he was recovered be a search party and returned to Antung. On Jan. 31, 1952, Kramerenko’s unit was rotated back to the Soviet Union.

I’ve been building a Korean War collection for some time now, but notably absent from that collection are the F-86 and the MiG-15. There’s no good excuse for the Sabre – yeah, maybe I want an F-86A and there really isn’t one in 1:72 except the Matchbox kit, but still…! For the MiG-15, there really wasn’t a particularly god kit in 1:72. KP’s was accurate in outline but fit miserably and was covered in rivets; DML’s was shaped wrong; Airfix’s was underscale. The best bet for a year or so was HobbyBoss’s simple MiG-15. And then came news of the Eduard MiG-15.

It was something of an epic tale: all the work was done, and about 30 kits were pressed before disaster struck and an accident fatally damaged the molds. A year or so later, new molds were ready, at last. The first way you could get your hands on the new MiG was in a two-kit “Profipack” edition that included resin weapons and pylons and markings for a mob of Czech fighters and fighter bombers.

I was going for a Korean War MiG-15, so I knew some sourcing of decals would be necessary. Eduard also put out several resin sets for the model, including a resin cockpit and a conversion from the kit’s MiG-15bis to the original MiG-15. I decided to do my first one as an early MiG.

Since the kit had many of the parts needed for a MiG-15 (not a bis) already, the conversion focused on the speed brakes. These required some cutting of the rear fuselage to enlarge the brakes and alter their upper contour. The set also provides the sides of the well structure and the inner wall; I found it difficult to use the inner wall and uses .005 styrene sheet instead.

The opened speed brakes were backed with .005 styrene sheet.

The Brassin interior parts are quite nice, especially the ejection seat. Beware: the resin sidewalls have slightly different proportions than the kits sidewalls. These form the intake splitter, and the slight dimensional difference helped stall this project, as you’ll see later.

I painted the parts the appropriate gray shades and then picked out the instrument panels in shades of black and very dark gray, followed by a dry-brushing to pull out the details. The pre-painted photoetched parts, including the rudder pedals and instrument panel, went in neatly, although they benefitted from a little flat coating to tie them back to the painted parts of the cockpit.

The resin sidewalls after they’ve been painted and installed in the fuselage halves.

The cockpit in the joined fuselage, showing how much of the cockpit is visible in the finished model.

Some cockpit components – namely, the ejection seat and the gunsight – were added later in construction because they’re vulnerable to damage. The Brassin gunsight, cast in clear resin, was painted and added above the photoetched control panel – the thin, resin reflector glasses need to be seen to be believed. This was done right before the windscreen was added and effectively enclosed the gunsight.

The jet pipe is molded in halves; I used a rolled-up bit of sandpaper to eliminate the very minimal seam and carefully added it to the rear fuselage.

With that done, I could join the fuselage halves. This went reasonably easy. There are two clear antenna covers that go on the bottom of the aircraft; the front round one was not present on the MiG-15, so I faired it in. The rear one was not clear on some aircraft, so I blended it in and planned on painting it later in the construction process.

The fuselage halves, joined and ready for its wings.

The wings went together, top and bottom, with not much difficulty. Adding them to the fuselage was another story. The right wing fit like a glove, but the left wing left a big gap. I added a .005 shim and used CA glue to blend it in, carefully sanding to avoid the lovely wing fences, then re-scribed. Re-scribing is challenging on this model because the surface detail is so amazingly delicate and complex – which makes me wish it fit better, since a lot of detail is lost during construction.

The wings, once they were finally joined to the fuselage.

The fuselage was complete except for a plate that encloses the lower part of the nose. There are separate plates for the MiG-15 the MiG-15bis; I was careful to select the right one. The fit of this chin plate was sloppy, to say the least; a lot of filler and a commensurate amount of sanding was needed to fair it in acceptably, followed by a long re-scribing session.

The MiG-15-specific chin panel provide the details for the NS-23 cannon, versus the later, faster-firing NR-23 cannon. Once the chin was added and the detail repaired, I cleaned up the gun blisters for the nose and carefully cut away the guns, then drilled holes in them to accept the excellent turned brass 23mm and 37mm cannon barrels from Master Models. Centering and drilling the holes was a lot easier before adding the blisters to the fuselage (where they fit perfectly).

The resin parts for the cockpit include the inner sides of the intake. The kit parts fit very well, and are topped by a plastic splitter at the front. This is enclosed by a plastic intake ring that includes the gin camera fairing. The resin parts, on the other hand, created a terrible fit issue with the splitter piece, and it’s inside the fuselage where it’s nearly impossible to address. I applied a healthy amount pot Apoxie-Sculpt to the seams created by the poor fit. Once this was dry, I made a series of homemade tools from flat toothpicks by gluing strips of sandpaper them and then carefully and gradually eliminated the excess Apoxie-Sculpt. I checked my work with a silver Sharpie pen, and when no remaining artifacts remained, I added the intake ring.

However, now the ring didn’t fit well – and it left a step inside the intake. I used CA glue to fill the gaps on the outside of the aircraft and sanded them out. The inside of the intake was harder – I finally decided to cut .005 styrene to shape, then CA glue them to the outer sides of the intakes and cut off the excess that projected beyond the intake. I then gently sanded the inside lip of the intake to blend the styrene and kit plastic. To my shock, this approach actually worked.

.005 styrene was cut to fit the outer side of the intakes, then fitted in the model and the excess was marked with a pen and cut off before the part was CA-glued to the intake sides.

After the .005 styrene was glue in and sanded, the intakes were fairly seamless.

The main gear wells do a good job of reproducing the texture and structure of the roof of the wells, but they omit the wiring, which was kept mainly around the perimeter of the wells. Using my reference photos, I added the wires using fine lead solder. This detail is entirely superfluous – the MiG-15 sits so low to the ground it’s physically impossible to see – but I find the addition of wires and hoses to landing gear wells to be relaxing. Clearly, something is wrong with me.

Before turning my attention to the nose well, I added the Brassin resin rear cockpit shelf. This fit very precisely – I had to sand a little off the sides to get it into place.

Next time: final assembly, paint, decals and landing gear!

 

 

 

This day in 1944: the 378th’s Boughton nearly buys it

On June 29, 1944, Captain Wilfred Crutchfield led 12 planes from the 378th Fighter Squadron to the area south of Paris, where they bombed railroad tracks near Chartres and Augeriolle and the town of Chateuden. 20 Oil cars were destroyed during the mission, but in the process Lt. William Boughton picked up some flak. He called his leader, Capt. Richard Cline, “saying he was hit in the engine and was smoking.” Cline gave him a heading for home, but after about three minutes Boughton said he was bailing out. “He pulled up into the clouds at 1500 feet and his ship (P-47D-20 42-76424) was seen to hit the ground and explode. He landed safely and was seen to be making his way toward a small woods.” Boughton would later return to the group.

Later in the day, the 378thattacked the marshalling yard at Ploermel and put eight bombs into the tracks. Lt. Joe Matte damaged a truck and a trailer on the way home.