Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Buying a model one part at a time

In season 1 of M*A*S*H there was an episode titled "Dear Dad" in which Radar attempts to mail an entire Army jeep back home to Ottumwa, part at a time. I think that brief scene was based on actual attempts by soldiers in World War Two to do the same thing, but either way it was amusing.

You can imagine my surprise when I found this auction on eBay. Yes, it's for just the upper half of the right wing of a Heller 1/72 DC-6. Bidding starts at 99 cents with a Buy It Now price of $15.

If you want to buy that Heller kit one part at a time, you'll be thrilled to know that you can find the lower wing assembly, horizontal stabs, engines, and landing gear from the same seller. No sign of the fuselage. Maybe he'll hold it over your head for a cool $100 after you've bought the aforementioned items.

If you're not intrigued by this weird model buying program, you can always buy a lifesize M&M Lady Brown from the same seller. She's kinda hot (who doesn't like chocolate?) but has that same look your wife or girlfriend gives you when you show her all the detail you added to that P-51 cockpit.

Do we have any takers?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thoughts on the Meng F-102

One of the most exciting releases this year on a personal basis was the Meng 1/72 F-102 Delta Dagger. I had a couple of the second generation Hasegawa kits in my stash for some time, but their absence of a positionable canopy always bummed me out. (I generally build all of my aircraft with the canopy open.) I was very happy when Meng released this new kit.

Yes, I bought two kits, and I'll probably need at least one more. I figure I'll paint one in the typical ADC grey scheme, another in the SEA scheme, and another as a PQM-102. If the kit goes together well, a NMF might be particularly striking as well.

I said in my first post here on Scale Model Soup that I had no intention of reviewing new kits. And I still don't. Brett Green has a good review of the kit on Hyperscale if you haven't seen the kit yet, and I'm sure there are a few others if you Google for more than 10 seconds. I do, however, intend to discuss new kits when I feel a manufacturer's product choices are particularly interesting, and so it is with Meng's F-102.

First, my only disappointment. For a kit released in 2012, the panel lines are not quite as crisp as I would have expected. They're not terrible, but they're almost reminiscent of an Italeri mold rather than Hasegawa or Tamiya. I hope they improve with future kits.

Now the good, and there's a lot of it! The ejection seat is not molded with seat belts, which I appreciate. To my eye molded seat belts never look as good as those we can cut ourselves from masking tape or photoetch.

And then there's the missile bay. Praise the gods, there is no detail molded in the bay! Heresy, you may cry, but I think that's a good thing. I prefer to add the plumbing and widgets myself, which will be much easier to paint than those soft, half-round shapes that practically manufacturer molds into bomb bays, wheel bays, and cockpits. Actual wire and rod provide a more convincing 3-D effect, and it makes us true craftsmen! For those of you who don't chose the DIY route, I'm sure one of the aftermarket folks will provide us a drop-in, resin replacement.

I also like the option for displaying the AIM-4 Falcons extended from the missile bay on their racks. That's going to make for a stunning display for those who choose to display their F-102 on a mirror.

For those of you who don't want to fiddle with all that junk in the missile bay, our friends at Meng have given us a single piece to close up the bay. You won't have to align and glue all four doors yourself.

I see that Meng has released a second boxing of the kit, one featuring an aircraft from George W. Bush's unit, the 111th FIS. I think we're all waiting for a third release with the Case XX wing. I'd ask for a TF-102, but that's one fugly airplane to look at much less build!

In the meantime, the decal guys are already fast at work to produce alternative markings for us. Check out the decals from f√ľndekals and Caracal.

So there you have it. My message to the manufacturers, particularly those (like Meng) who cater to the serious modeler, is to give us the bare minimum to build a reasonable representation of an airplane and let us (or the aftermarket community) do the rest. The results are more satisfying!

You can find Meng on the web and on Facebook.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

An old survey, 30 years perspective, and models

If you've been in the hobby for 20 or even 30 years as I have, it's fun to look through old magazines and realize just how far we've come. With all the rivet counting of new kits (which I support, by the way), it's easy to forget that 30 years ago we were dreaming about many of the kits we have today. Sort of.

While unpacking old magazines after my move a year ago, I came across the January/February 1984 issue of IPMS's Update. It published the results of a survey in which the organization asked its members what new kits they wanted to see. Over 1,000 responses were counted, and the results are interesting. Consider the top ten kits requested for aircraft in the two most popular scales.

Aircraft 1/72

B-58 Hustler
F-89 Scorpion
A-3 Skywarrior
C-10/AC-110 Flying Boxcar
F3H Demon
F-94 Starfire
C-135/KC-135 Stratotanker
PBM-5 Mariner
F7U Cutlass
B-57/RB-57/WB-57 Night Intruder

Aircraft 1/48

A-20 Havoc
A-26 Invader
F-101 Voodoo
F-89 Scorpion
F-102 Delta Dagger
PBY-5 Catalina
Heinkel He-111
F-94 Starfire
Macchi MC.202 Folgore
SBC Vindicator

Most of these aircraft are now available in kit form, but many are what I would consider "third generation" quality, lacking the level of detail that we come to expect today. For example, Italeri's 1/72 B-58 is roughly 30 years old and totally shows its age, and only Monogram has tackled the A-26, F-101, F-89, and F-102 in 1/48 scale...about 20 years ago!

(By the way, the top five aircraft requested in 1/32 scale were the F-100D, P-6E, F-105D, A-10, and A-7.)

Now look at what the armor modelers were requesting in 1/35 scale in 1984.

M24 Chaffee
M2 Bradley
ZSU-23-4 Shilka
M18 Hellcat

You could probably make the argument that armor modelers have it made. Nearly all of these kits are available with fourth generation quality. (Dragon's Shilka is oldish, but still a very nice model.) And as I browser further in the IPMS wish list, I see many other AFVs that are now on the shelves of your LHS (BTR-60, M26, Wespe, BRDM-2, M88, T-34/85, JS-3, etc.).

I may spend more time looking at the list and comparing it to what's available today. A quick glance shows some odd choices from the manufacturers. For example, while over 100 people requested the B-58 only eight requested the F4D Skyray yet Tamiya offers a very nice Skyray while the B-58 in my stash has nasty raised panel lines all over it, not to mention proportions which I've read are way off. Fifty-five people requested a 1/48 F7F Tigercat and 12 requested a PV-1 Ventura, but which one did Revell choose to produce?

Oh well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I am a cheater

There was a very interesting post by Spencer Pollard on Hyperscale a week ago bemoaning the lack of true modeling in the hobby today. Photos of the new Revell He-219 and discussions about the kit’s inaccurate propellers prompted Spencer to write, and I think his thoughts are particularly noteworthy given many of the new products that have come to the market over the last few years, and it’s something I’ve been intending to blog about myself.

Last week a friend told me he had just finished a Tamiya 1/72 A6M Zero, which is a jewel and will be a leading contender for my Kit of the Year. He used the Eduard canopy mask for the complex framing on the airplane and told me how much easier it made the painting process. But then he asked if using an aftermarket canopy mask was cheating.

Truth be told, I think it is cheating and I told him so. Yes, the masks are available to anyone who wishes to use them and, especially if you’re competitive, you’d be foolish not to. That said, I think our use of them as a community of craftsmen and artists (or whatever we think we are) is to the detriment of our skills and the hobby. Even though we all want to produce replicas in miniature, wouldn’t it be more fulfilling to master the skills ourselves rather than rely on others to do the “heavy lifting” for us?

To be fair, I have at least a dozen of Eduard’s canopy masks in my accessories stash, and I’m sure they’ll make my models better. They will not, I am sure, make me a better craftsman.

I feel the same way about pre-colored photoetch. That’s cheating, too. When they first came on the market I promised myself I’d never use them, but after trying them on a 1/72 F-105D I saw their value…despite the fact that my detail painting skills are no longer challenged and nurtured. I think that makes me a lesser modeler, but the reward (even if it’s a bit hollow) is a good looking model.

I could make the same argument about the turned metal barrels that I use on my armor and those beautiful, fine pitot tubes I can now buy from Asian suppliers.

I think what many of these conversations come down to is why any of us is in the hobby. Do you build models because you enjoy the craftsmanship of building models or because you want a replica of an airplane, tank, ship, or car on your mantel? For me it’s the former. I work in software, so I don’t actually create anything tangible, at least nothing I can hold in my hands to study and admire. Scale modeling gives me the opportunity to use -– and ideally: improve -– my mediocre craftsmanship skills.

By the way, what you just read was spell-checked by Microsoft Word.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

More TR-1 videos

A couple of months ago I posted a video of a TR-1 flying the pattern around Beale AFB, so here are two more that I think you'll enjoy.

I don't know what it is about the U-2 and TR-1 that I find so intriguing, but these videos are absolutely stunning, especially if you can watch it on a large monitor in high-definition.

This first video was produced by Airman First Class Andrew Buchanan. I don't know him, but I have to believe he's somewhere between 18 and 22. He did an incredible job bringing together all of the elements of this short film for such a young man. Well done!

The second video gives the perspective of the pilots in the Pontiac G8 chase car that follows the TR-1 upon landing. The amazingly short takeoff of the TR-1 confirm what one of the pilots implied in the first video, that the airplane likes to fly. In fact, when I meet someone who's afraid to fly I always tell them that airplanes "want to fly." That's what they're designed to do, and as any pilot will tell you, landing is the hardest part, whether you're in a TR-1 or a Cessna 152.

Now which model will I build first? I have three kits of the U-2 in the stash as well as the Special Hobby TR-1 and the U-2S/ER-2. And I've slowly (very slowly) been collecting those rare Cutting Edge aftermarket parts for the Testors 1/48 TR-1. This U-2S build by Dave Aungst on Hyperscale is my inspiration!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The air war over Libya, in print and in decals

Sandy is gone, power has been restored, and I'm blogging again!

As John "Hannibal" Smith used to say on The A Team (the original series, not the crappy 2010 re-pop), "I love it when a plan comes together."

And so it is for us modern jet models these last few months. The military action over Libya have given rise to an outstanding new book that you may have missed and an outstanding decal sheet from a new decal manufacturer.

If you were at the IPMS Nats this summer you probably spend at least an hour looking over the books from Casemate Publishing. They had a wide selection of military titles for both the aviation and armor modeler with topics ranging from early medieval history to contemporary  topics. When I got home I was browsing their web site and found a new book on the Libyan air war, Guerre Aerienne En Libye by Jean-Marc Tanguy, available here on the web site.

If you're into modern French aircraft you really need to buy this book. Although it's in French, the photographs alone are worth the price. You'll find pictures of the Rafale B with the GBU-12; the Rafale C configured for reconnaissance operations with the Thales and Damocles pods; more Rafale Cs configured for air-to-ground operations with the GBU-12 and for air-to-air operations with six MICA missiles.

It's interesting to see the Mirage F1 still on frontline duty, also used for reconnaissance (with the Astac pod) and for air-to-ground ops with the GBU-12 and the larger GBU-22. The book also illustrates use of the Mirage 2000, configured in various ways with the Damocles pod, GBU-12, GBU-24, and Magic missile.

Also knew to the market is a new, multi-subject sheet from Combat Decals. It features two A5 decal sheets and markings for eight aircraft that saw action over Libya.

  • An RAF Tornado GR.4 in grey.
  • A Qatari Mirage 2000 5DDA in a two-tone grey scheme.
  • A French Mirage 2000D in the typical wraparound green/grey scheme.
  • A French Rafale B in the standard grey scheme.
  • An RAF Typhoon FGR.4 with some cool mission markings.
  • A CAF CF-188A with mission markings.
  • A Libyan Air Force Mirage F1ED
  • A USAF F-15E from the 48th FW in the typical gunship grey scheme.

I have to admit, I'm a huge fan of decals that offer multiple subjects. (Hell, I'm a fan of all decal sheets!) What sets these decals apart from others is the comprehensive coverage they provide. Stencils are provided for each aircraft and they're extensive! Look for stencils for the pods and pylons for the Tornado, decals for the GBU-12 carried on the Mirage 2000D, two tiny decals for the interior of the Typhoon intake, and decals for the Hornet's false canopy that are pre-cut to fit on and around the nose landing gear. And as you might guess, the instructions are as good as any you'll find from the better 48th scale aftermarket folks such as Afterburner Decals. Truly great stuff.

By the way, Combat Decals is the child of David Little. He started the range earlier this year when he was looking for Kuwaiti markings for a Tucano. He's since worked with John Freeman, who I think did much of the decals for Model Alliance, to produce the artwork for David's first three sheets. If you're a 48th scale modeler, keep an eye on David's site as he hopes to release these decals in your scale next year.

Finally, if you're interested in learning more about the air war over Libya, be sure to check out David Cenciotti's blog, The Aviationist. He provided some great photographic coverage of the aircraft employed in Odyssey Dawn.

Now I have to get building!

Special thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy of Guerre Aerienne En Libye.