Clear difficulties

This weekend, the fronto of bombardier’s compartment of the Martin Maryland I’ve been working off and on for more than five years was completed, and I installed the flat vision panel in the bottom of the nose and added the cap to the front. This was all quite exciting, since all these parts are clear. Nothing is more wonderful than assembling a collection of clear parts, especially when you have to modify them. One slip of the Dremel tool and – BANG! – I’m buying a second Maryland kit. It didn’t come to that, luckily, but I had moments of fear.

The flat vision panel had to be cut out and replaced, since a seam would have run right through the middle of it. I also opened up the upper and lower hatches to show off the scratch-built detail in the bombardier’s compartment – that meant more cutting of transparent parts. Then I had to add the transparent nose cap to the rest of the clear nose glazing – and it fit terribly. No matter! Superglue and sanding soon blended it right in, then polishing sticks and lots of Blue Magic made the parts clear again. Now, it slips neatly into place on the fuselage. Next up will be supergluing it to the fuselage, to which it fits rather poorly; I suspect the open hatches will go a long way toward minimizing CA glue fogging…!

The ventral window is also in place (after similar heavy-duty sanding). It fit really badly and fogged on the inside, but I was able to scrape the fogging off with a lightly-moistened micro-brush. Plans are in place to cut the cockpit glazing and pose it open. Hey, guess what? I discovered that fits badly, too!

Why has it taken me five years? Abuse, followed by periods of recovery…

But I love these short-run kits; they give me a model few of my friends has in their collections, and it is a real challenge to superdetail one of these models. Of course, the last two years I’ve seen two really awesome Martin Marylands at the nationals (this year, Chris Durden built a winner), and they actually make me jealous to the point of anger. Someday, though, I’ll be able to stick my Maryland on the table and get over it!

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Maryland, my Maryland

Yesterday’s work on the Maryland comprised the completion and installation of the bombardier’s five-instrument cluster and control column (he had the ability to kind of fly the plane, although I can’t locate any rudder pedals in any photos), the wiring of those instruments and the rigging of control rods to the control column. It’s looking good for the addition of the nose glazing, although I could just keep adding hardware to the bombardier’s compartment indefinitely – I have no two photos of the nose showing the same gear. Ah, well – that’s the hazard of building 1939-vintage aircraft.

Last night I picked up the Revell Gannet in 1:72 – very nice. Perhaps I could take my not-quite-as-nice Trumpeter Gannet and turn it into an AEW.3 variant – I had planned to do this with the Frog kit at one point and I’m grateful to not have to consider that. If that conversion is a marathon, these kits move the starting point to about the 10-mile mark.

Also, a pet peeve: when you talk about Trumpeter, don’t shorten it to “Trumpy.” Trumpy was the nickname of the alien in “The Pod People,” which should only be viewed accompanied by the “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” accompanying soundtrack.

Maryland bombardier: seating is limited

This is Maryland Week, as you may know. I spent 40 minutes on Monday working on the 1:72 bombardier’s seat for my Azur build, but it took me much longer to figure out how that seat worked. Photos showed a ladder extending down from the bombardier’s position, but it came from about the point where the bombardier’s seat pan went. What gives? Did the seat roll forward on a track (like in the Martin Baltimore)? Did it fold up like the seat in the Beaufighter? Did it tip forward to allow access?

This was a hard answer to find. The many photos of the interior of the Martin Model 167 from the 1940 NACA circular on the subject (rescued by notable NASA dumpster diver Bob Miller) provided no clues. The Glenn L. Martin Museum had no information (although Stan Piet sent over four very useful photos of Maryland cockpit sections under construction), and asked me to send any information I found to them.

Finally, the answer was revealed in an isometric drawing in a manual: the back stayed in place, but the seat pan folded up to allow access. And that’s how I made my seat: with the pan up. I used a Reheat brass seat and folded it into place; it was painted aluminum and then I started for appropriate belts. Of course, in the course of placing the belts, the overstressed hinge between the pan and the back broke and the seat pan disappeared for 10 minutes (you’d think a silver thing with beige seat belts would be easy to spot against a green low pile carpet, but you’d think wrong). Eventually, it was repaired and installed as the inexcusably blurry photo shows.

I’m hoping to get the nose glazing in place pronto to protect all the scratch-built detail. When that happens, I’ll let you know…

When is a P-47 a Yellow Peril?

Last week was P-47 week – I painted the cowling, canopy and windscreen yellow. That is not my favorite color, by the way, and it is a decidedly weird color to paint on clear parts. It’s also a three-paint job on transparencies: black, followed by natural metal to give the yellow a neutral base, followed by the yellow. The canopy came out pretty well; the cowling was gloss-coated and will get its nose art and be flat-coated before too long. This is a step I’ve learned while building three consecutive P-47s from the same fighter group, which has its benefits. Next, I polished up the airframe with Blue Magic car polish and masked the wheel wells. So, it’s ready for its natural metal finish.

So, of course, this week I’ll work on the Maryland – I wouldn’t want to actually finish anything. The glazing will go on the nose, which ought to mark the last stage of a really arduous scratchbuilt interior process. Next come the wings and the paint. It’s closer to done that it currently looks.

This day, in 1944…

The Fourth Fighter Group is not immediately associated with Operation Market-Garden, but U.S. airpower did play a role is that operation -and helped keep it from being a bigger fiasco than it was. On Sept. 17, 1944, group CO Col. Claiborne Kinnard led the group on a fighter sweep in advance of the paratroop landings at Eindhoven and Arnhem. A section of 335 Squadron was bounced by 15 Fw 190s near the sadly-Z-less town of Bucholt, resulting in a furball in which Ted Lines scored multiple victories. Lines, by the way, would be well known had he not been in the Fourth, with a spectacularly marked series of Mustangs with native American symbols splashed across the nose and a penchant for multiple kills under weird circumstances.

“My wingman hollered at me to break as I was trying to discard my right external wing tank,” reported Lines. “When I broke, I was head-on to five Fw 190s and immediately started firing, causing one Fw 190 to burst into flames. I turned starboard, still trying to drop my tank, as two Fw’s came under me, heading in the same direction as I was. I got on the tail of the one nearest me and started firing, and the pilot bailed out. At this point, a 190 closed on my tail and fired at me, hitting me in the tail and wing. My tank finally came off, and I was able to maneuver onto the tail of the 190 that had been firing at me. After three orbits, he broke for the deck with me right on his tail. I fired from 500 yards down to about 100 yards and saw strikes on his engine, canopy, fuselage, wings and tail. He burst into flames and went into the ground and exploded.”

Lines was not the only victorious pilot this day. Capt. Louis “Red Dog” Norley was leading his squadron when one section was bounced by 15 enemy aircraft. “Caboose Blue 3 called for a break, but it was too late,” Norley said. Lt. Vozzy’s Mustang was hit, burst into flames and crashed, killing the pilot. “The bandits had been flying at the base of a layer of haze and with their light gray color were very difficult to see.”

Norley dropped his tanks and broke to the right, into the enemy planes. “I met an aircraft head-on firing at me,” Norley said. “These were supposedly Bf 109s, and this one, with an inline engine, looked like an enemy aircraft. I fired a short burst at long range. I then noticed two Fw 190s on his tail, the closest one firing, and getting strikes as it became apparent that the plane I fired on was a P-51. I broke up, coming down on the tail of the Fw 190 as he broke off his attack and turned to port. I dropped 20 degrees of flaps and turned with him, the other 190 being attacked by my wingman. I fired. The 190 rolled and started to spilt-S, but leveled out and started to climb. I fired again with no results. He leveled off and did some skidding evasion efforts as I closed, firing and skidding past him. He dove to port, allowing me to drop back on his tail. I fired, getting many strikes on his wings and fuselage. He flicked over on his back. The canopy and some pieces flew off, and he went into a vertical dive, crashing into a farm yard where the plane blew up.” Lt. Davis also claimed Fw 190s, but Lt. Holske was shot down and captured.

More about the group’s combat will be available in my new book, coming out in about two months…!

A pen-sive entry…

In keeping with my post about Silver Sharpies, I have to admit that I use other pens in my painting – namely, those Rapidograph pens you can find in art stores. I was delighted to find a lot of these on sale at Blick’s Art. They come in black, of course, and a host of other colors, in tip sizes down to .05mm -which is nice and small. I use them for such things as:

Adding pupils and eyebrows to 1:72 figures
Drawing cockpit placards on 1:72 plane cockpits
Putting bits of color on the back of acetate instrument panels (before painting the backs white!)
Making streaked weathering effects, like lubricant leaking on prop spinners (add a drop on a gloss-coated spinner, then smear the ink backward in the direction of the airflow)

Their only downside is that they dry glossy, so you have to shoot them with a flat coat. But big deal! You should always shoot 1:72 figures with a little flat, anyhow. Get them at art-supply stores; look for sales and buy an assortment of colors!

Taking the old Mustang for a gallop…

Last week, I spent my modeling time on my long-languishing Tamiya P-51D-5-NA Mustang. The poor thing’s been together, essentially, for a year, so it was time to focus a little more on it. I painted the prop (Tamiya, what’s with the recessed line for the prop tips? Is an 85-year-old Hawk moldmaker lurking around your tooling shop?) and discovered I’d lost the front of the radiator intake. Good news – a Hasegawa intake fits just fine. Once that was sanded down and polished up, I masked and painted the black stripes on the wings and tail.

People often ask me about why I mask and paint the stripes, anti-glare panel and other trim colors on natural metal models. Here’s my strategy: I do these things first because then I don’t have to mask natural metal paint, and I mask off the rest of the model while painting them so the overspray causes no grainy-ness. The other upside is that I get masked areas where I can handle the model during painting of the natural metal paints.

Anyhow, the progress I made on this model came to a halt when I traveled to Washington DC on Sunday for a three day conference. During the seemingly interminable flights to and from, I was able to read George Loving’s Woodbine Red Leader, which is an interesting look at the action of the 31st Fighter Group – the “Candy Stripers,” to you modelers. I was struck by the resentment expressed by Loving at the Eighth Air Force and the 4th Fighter Group when they appeared at the 31st’s base during the Frantic II mission; he recounts the mission to Budapest that claimed Ralph Hofer and almost gleefully talks about the loss of Lts. George Sanford, J.C. Norris and Thomas Sharp, mentioning that he saw one Mustang spinning down in flames with its tanks still attached (probably Sharp). It’s apparent how much the 15th Air Force pilots resented the media attention paid to the 4th; of course, no mention is made of the seven kills the group scored on this day. Beyond that, the book’s a very good read and Loving, an ace himself, does a good job of illustrating how far a pilot has to go before having the experience most need to be an effective air-to-air pilot.

So, how will I escape this Eighth Air Force vs. 15th Air Force tiff with my Mustang? Easy. It’s a Ninth Air Force, 354th FG plane – Bart Tenore’s “The Prodigal Son.” Now, if anyone has some biographical data on this somewhat anonymous ace, I’d appreciate being steered toward it…