Monday, January 21, 2013

The Corvette, the F-16, and America

Last weekend GM unveiled the seventh generation Corvette and it got me thinking that there are a handful of cars and aircraft that epitomize American design. The Corvette and Ford Mustang are the best examples of that aesthetic in the automotive world, and the P-51, C-47, and F-16 in aviation.

So it's fitting to point out that on this day in 1974 the F-16 flew for the first time by test pilot Phil Oestricher.

In case you missed it, Britmodeller user Vingtor posted an in-progress thread of a 1/72 YF-16 last year, and you can see his stunning, finished model here.

Vingtor Aviation History and Research produces decals of the early F-16s in 1/72 and 1/48 scale. I recently acquired a set and can say they're beautiful. They include markings for red,white, and blue YF-16s 72-01567 and 72-01568, the two-tone grey F-16A 75-0745, and the F-16B (75-0752) used to test the J79 engine. Great stuff all around!

My first experience with the F-16 was sometime around 1980, when as a member of the Civil Air Patrol, I went to an open house at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. The 56th TFW was transitioning from the F-4D to the F-16 at the time, and everyone was excited to see this tiny, new fighter. I still have a couple of the promotional prints handed out at the event. In the years that followed I flew with the 56th on three occasions. Every year they flew one of their UH-1P Hueys to my local airport and gave orientation flights to the members of the high school's AFJROTC squadron, of which I was a member. Those days are among my most treasured experiences of my life (particularly considering I never became a pilot myself).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hand-crafted propellers

I've casually addressed the idea of "cheating" in an early post on Scale Model Soup (and admitted that I've done it myself), and I've talked about the value of craftsmanship, which I strongly believe is the essence of scale modeling and something that we're slowly losing. A new product recently reviewed on Aeroscale gives me further cause for concern.

A model maker in England is now producing hand-carved propellers from Ash and Mahogany for 1/32 World War One aircraft. To be sure, they are gorgeous examples of artistry and craftsmanship. But what about the buyers? Are we getting so lazy that we can't take the time to learn how to either paint a wood grain effect or carve the propellers ourselves?

Some will say there are modelers who have no interest in learning either one, that their primary interest is in the final product. If that's true then I have to wonder what the point is of "modeling" if you're going to leave the heavy lifting to others. At what point will manufacturers like Revell and Trumpeter simply produce pre-painted, pre-decaled models that you need only assemble? (Diecast manufacturer Norscot already does this with some of their 1/50 scale construction equipment.)

I don't think I'm the only person in the hobby who's interested in learning new skills and honing our craft. (I avoid calling it an art.) I build models, in part, because I'm what they call a "knowledge worker." I work in the software industry, so I don't really create anything that my friends and family can see or hold. Scale modeling is my way of creating something tangible and using skills that I don't leverage in my day-to-day employment.

One final thought. If you use a hand-craft part like one of these propellers, can you not enter the model in an IPMS competition? I would assume so. Fair warning, guys!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

An A-6 Intruder, candles, and a fax machine

Before 2012 gets too far away, here are a few random awards I'd like to offer as we look back.

Biggest disappointment of the year: The ongoing delay of the long-promised Trumpeter 1/32 A-6 series. Let's hope we see at least one or two of them in 2013!

Best online build of the year: This build by of a Trumpeter 1/72 Tu-22M3 Backfire by user Lunatech on Aircraft Resource Center. Not only are his research and skills exceptional, but he illustrates and explains his build extremely well.

Runner up: This build on Britmodeller of a Trumpeter 1/72 Lightning F.2A by user Navy Bird. Most people know about the shortcomings of the rear-end of Trumpeter's Lightning, and this modeler clearly shows the fix required, as well as canibalizing a Matchbox Lightning to fix another shortcoming around the belly of the Trumpeter kit.

Most creative model of the year: This vignette by Peter Stoof, the first model I've ever seen that uses a candle as a frame!

Weirdest post on a modeling forum: Mike West's post to Hypercale advertising a fax machine for sale. Do people still use fax machines?

Best built model of 2012

When I started this blog one of my goals was to highlight particularly good examples of modeling that I find on the interwebz. I haven't done a good job of doing that, but I have saved a few links to models that impressed me in 2012.

Choosing one is difficult, but I have to. That honor, for what it's worth, goes to Justin Stolte for his Tamiya 1/32 Spitfire Mk. IX, which was featured on Hyperscale. Justin's modeling, painting, and weathering skills are simply perfect. Clearly one of the more memorable builds I've ever seen!

When I think of armor, the model that stood out to me was Miguel Jimenez's Type 69II C. Everyone knows Mig, and his painting and weathering are second to none.

Other notable models:

Giannis Doxas's Hasegawa 1/48 RF-104G
Jeroen Veen's Kinetic 1/48 C-2A Greyhound
Janie Haggo's gorgeous Tamiya 1/72 P-47D Thunderbolt.
Roman Y's Churchill Mk. III in Soviet markings.
Javier Soler's Tamiya 1/35 Semovente.
Adam O'Brien's Tamiya 1/35 Tiran 5.

I'm eager to see what 2013 brings!