Gone West: Bill Plummer

On Saturday, 64 years and one day after he downed an Fw 190D-9, Bill Plummer, once a P-47 pilot with the 362nd Fighter Group and, later, a respected veterinarian, passed away. He was the host every other year of the group association’s “Pig Pickin'” barbeque, allowing the members to stay close without having to organize a reunion every year (they’ve been holding them every other year, just the same!)

Back in 1945, while his flight of planes from the 378th was hunting for targets near Gurnburg, they spotted over 100 trucks, and strafing destroyed 52 of them, plus two horse-drawn vehicles. During the carnage, an Fw 190D-9 stumbled across the scene; Lt. Plummer spotted the Dora pass under his right wing. He peeled off and followed, his approach masked by a rain shower.

“Upon leaving the shower I observed the enemy aircraft ahead about 500 yards,” he reported. Plummer closed in to 300 yards, then “fired a short burst, observing strikes on the side of the fuselage just to the left and rear of the cockpit. Beginning to overshoot, I skidded to the left and saw the aircraft start a shallow turn to the right and crash into a field. No flames or smoke were seen, but the plane disintegrated upon hitting the ground.”

Like so many others, he led a long, distingushed life after the war in a manner that did little to suggest he was once a fighter pilot. The nation and all who knew him are richer thanks to Bill Plummer.

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When I say “break right,” I don’t mean part of the model…

The Phantom saga continues. The latest drama is that there’s a split seam that spans both a natural metal area and a decal. The only good news is that I can probably repair it from behind; the fit of the parts is so tight that I should be able to get it lined up and then use CA glue to hold the pieces in place. I’m not telling you where it is, since some of you may be judges (wink, wink) – although it’ll probably end up looking like a panel line at worst.

I have a ton of little white bits on my workbench right now just waiting to be stuffed into areas on the bottom of the plane. I’ll put in the nose bay’s parts first; I’ll probably add some additional plumbing in there, followed by a heavy wash. This area seemed to get pretty messy in use. The mains will go on next. I have to add the photoetched brake lines and whatnot before these go in, but I’ll leave off the anti-torque scissors on the nose gear until later.

Another side effect of the over-engineered nature of the Hasegawa kit is that I’ve found flash in many areas (after painting them, usually). The mains both suffered from a serious mold slip that made them somewhat less than easy to work with, and areas like the inside of the missile rails have pronounced flash and mold mis-match. Very uncool.

The good news is that the masking on the windscreen is off and it came out okay. I’m going to do the clamshells at the same time as the Sidewinders, because they’ll both need to be glosscoated prior to decaling.

Have I mentioned that I’m looking forward to going back to something simple, like a P-40? I like jets, but this model is making me pine for the prop jobs…

Not even finished and already I’m making repairs…

I may never finish the Phantom, but if I do is ought to turn out pretty well. This weekend, after showing it’s mostly built carcass off at the Fremont meeting and talking about some blemishes in the finish with Mark Schynert, I actually went back and fixed them. To be specific, there was a ghost of a thumbprint on the spine and a bit of overly-stark discoloration from the wash on one wing. The thumbprint was just a dumb finishing error; the wing looked pretty out-of-place compared to the rest of the model from a distance. One great thing about sticking models on the table at a club meeting at this stage is your ability to see things that are inconsistent – we usually don’t look at our models from six or seven feet away, and this proved very useful.

Anyhow, I first attacked the thumbprint with 4000-grit sandpaper. Alas, it wasn’t in the flat coat – it must have landed there between the wash and the flat coat. I certainly smoothed it out, but to really fix it I mixed up some Model Master flat gull gray and then masked off the offending panels with Post-it notes. A few light coats with the airbrush rendered the print invisible. I used the same technique on the wing, even putting a torn bit of masking around a data decal – the effect was perfect, since the feathered edge of the masking helped the fresh paint blend right in.

I’ll hit these areas – and a couple of unduly shiny spots – with Dullcote to give the model a uniform finish – although I then may buff it with an 8000-grit sanding cloth to impart a bit of gloss. 1:72 scale makes it tough to get just the right sheen, so this may be a good approach.

I’m really looking forward to getting this bird on her gear – but I still have to add some stuff to the nose gear bay. And to think I lamented all the extra effort I put into the P-40’s landing gear bay!

The only form of streaking modelers should ever engage in

I promised you a technique, and now I’m going to give it to you – now with photos.

Here’s the idea: if you’ve looked at a jet, especially a jet that’s been well used (like on a carrier or in combat) you’ll notice that the bottom can get pretty grimy. It’s the classic airflow-blown staining – a drip gets pulled backward by pressure as the aircraft moves through the air. But replicating that in 1:72 can be a little tricky; it’s really easy to overdo this type of discoloration.

Here’s how I discovered how to do it, quite accidentally.

First, make sure your model is gloss coated – doing this just after the sealing coat on the decals is probably just right. Next, get out your .005 Rapidograph pen. What – you don’t have a .005 Rapidograph pen? Go get one at your local well-stocked artists’ supply store. I’ll wait.

Okay, now that you’re back, take the model and look for areas where fluids could naturally accumulate: the corners of panels (especially T-shaped junctions between three panels), the area below the engines, spots where slat tracks or flap actuators are located, vents, etc. Now, take the pen and make some very small and irregular dots along that panel line. Irregular is important – and harder to do than you might think, as I learned while taking art classes. Humans have a tendency toward regular lines – fight it.

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While the ink is wet, slightly moisten your thumb – slightly! – and draw it across those dots in the direction of the air flow. What you should get is a set of streaks.

If you goof up, you can use a little more moisture and take all the ink off and have a clean canvas for another try. This is the sort of no-risk weathering technique I really like. Pay no attention to the goobered-up decal – I’ll fix it shortly. 

While I used it on the bottom of the F-4, it has a lot of other applications. The curved staining behind vortex generators on the A-4, Buccaneer, Nimrod, etc. seems like a natural; I’ve used a variation to depict leaky seals on prop spinners. The Rapidograph pens also come in brown, which is great for these purposes, and lot of other colors, so you can mix up the colors a little if need be. (I also use the pens to add colored tick marks to the acetate instruments in Eduard and Aires cockpit detail sets, prior to painting the backs white.)

Jammed on the Phantom

Last night, I had a big modeling night: I replaced the star-and-bar on the lower wing of the Phantom. That was it (although it became more complicated than just a decal when some of my water-soluble wash started running off in the decal setting solution). I’m at a bit of a block on this model; I’ve promised myself the next time I sit down to work on it I’ll break out the Humbrol No. 34 matt white and airbrush the Sidewinders, the external tank, the pylons, the gear doors and struts, and whatever else I can find that’s white. That will seem like a major step forward and will hopefully break the logjam.

It’s not like I don’t think about the model. I do, often – almost like a skier visualizing his way down a slalom course, I have mentally gone through the last remaining steps – antennas, loadout, gear and doors, canopy painting. So, when I sound the horn on myself, I ought to be able to get things done fast.

What may have caused my block was the installation of the exhaust and burner cans. Aires makes a really nice set for the Phantom, and long ago I painted, washed and drybrushed a set in anticipation of having a Phantom to stick them in. When the time can, I slid the right tailpipe in – and it ran smack into the back of the bottom of the fuselage halves, which is about a quarter inch above the bottom of the wing inside the airframe. The burner can sat about a half-inch out from where it should sit, and it did so at a rather comical angle. The solution was to stick a grinding bit in my motor tool at the maximum length of the shank and then grind away the obstructing plastic. This took place a) around the just-painted natural metal engine section, and b) inside the model. You wouldn’t think that a 1:72 Phantom could be such a great amplification chamber. Each perilous bout of grinding was accompanied by an unholy howl coming out of the other exhaust hole in the model. I’m just glad I checked this before the gear was on and the canopies in place – I can only imagine what the vibrations would have done to them.

This problem is now almost completely solved, so hopefully my Phantom adventure will soon yield a finished model. Just think – Norm Filer built 100 of these. I guess that in the quest for spiritual fulfillment, self-flagellation takes on different forms!

Over the weekend, I discovered a new technique for applying streaked liquid leaks – I’ll let you in on it next time.