The many, many P-61 models in my display case -er, I mean, mind

Last night, I picked up a kit that’s been out for a while but which I had not managed to add to the collection: DML’s P-61B Black Widow. The latest edition has a fret of color photoetched parts, which include cockpit details, brake lines, seat belts and other details, and although I still think elements of the interior could use some attention these go a long way toward dressing up the cockpit. The kit’s decals are also pretty nice; the national insignia are iffy in color, but the nose art, especially for “Lady in the Dark” (the plane credited with the last two kills of World War II), is really nice – and her swimsuit is the correct red color, not blue as on past sheets.

Thinking about this subject, my mind raced through things the way it usually does: first, I wanted to do the historic “Lady,” then I thought about doing a less-known subject, since I don’t always like the obvious set of markings, then it drifted to the NACA P-61C that dropped an aerodynamic shape on Sunnyvale, then to the idea of an F-15 Reporter conversion. That would be a neat Obscureco item, wouldn’t it? The F-15 was a hot-looking plane, combining the twin booms with a streamlined fuselage – it would be a real show stopper! Especially as a fire bomber…!

Then, the second part of the thinking kicked in: well, the F-15 might be a bit of work, and it had a natural metal finish; the DML kit has a slightly pebbly finish to the plastic, which would take work to rehabilitate for a natural metal bird (not to mention the kit’s infamous engineering, which requires some judicious filling, shimming and sanding). And a NACA bird would have local interest, but it’s not really what I’m after. Okay, the mental bargaining went, here’s how it’ll go: the first P-61 I build will be a Pacific war combat aircraft; the next one I make will be an F-15, and then No. 3 will maybe be the TEST bird.

Now, the odds of me building three P-61s are off the map – who knows when I’ll get to this one, even. But your plans can be awfully big before you actually start working on a model. I have long said that the only perfect models in our collections are the ones we haven’t started on yet; the vision you have of that finished model (or line-up of three models!) is a flawless image indeed. It takes practice and experience to bring the reality of your work closer to that original image, and few of us really ever get there. It can be a bit of a letdown when you finish a model because of this – but you can also surprise yourself. I aspire to more self-surprising in the future!

The real reason I went for the kit last night was not my fantasy of a completed P-61, or even the photoetched parts. I was because I have a mini-library on the P-61 and it seems kind of asinine to invest that kind of bread without having the kit to justify it. Nothrop’s Night Hunter, P-61 Black Widow Units of World War II, Northrop P-61 Black Widow: the Complete History and Combat Record and Warbird Tech 15, plus the obligatory In Action volume, clutter my shelves. And, until yesterday, for what? (Yes, I know: for my own edification. But as a modeler, there’s got to be another reason!)

The real modeling work this week has been on a 1:72 jet pilot figure; different shades of dark green (harness, flight suit, etc.) don’t make for a very exciting uniform, or a very exciting bit of painting, but he’ll be holding his helmet with the Sundowners’ red rays on it (I’ll do those with decals) and that might add some interest. The face looks good, at least – the Rapidograph pens did wonders for the eyes and eyebrows, and a very subtle line of red applied with a .005 pen right below the lower lip defined the mouth quite nicely. Now, you do have to get pretty close to see this, but that’s what I really want to get people to do – move in close and keep seeing more detail as they get closer. Lt. Ho-hum achieves this. Maybe the next jet jockey I do will have a Marine Corps camouflaged flight suit…

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1 Comment

  1. […] Liberator. However, I’m still a bit uncertain about which B-24D to build. (As I said earlier in my discussion of the P-61, I initially flashed on the idea of doing an LB-30 – all I’d need to do is bob the nose, […]


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