Monday, February 29, 2016

Interview with a 747 pilot

Slate hosts an podcast called Working, which consists of a series of 30-60 minute interviews with people have interesting jobs. You’ll find interviews with people who run a Japanese supermarket, manage a funeral home, and work as a bail bondsman, to share just a few examples.

Of interest to my readers is an interview with a 747 pilot last summer. When I see articles or podcasts about aviation in the general media I usually skip them, because more often than not they’re intended for an audience that that little knowledge of aircraft, so the conversation tends to be dumbed down. This podcast is an exception. The 45 minute interview -- most of it recorded in the cockpit of the airplane -- is very interesting, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too. Although I could’ve used a little more detail here and there, I learned quite a lot about the experience of flying the 747.

Of course now I want to build a model of a 747!

Monday, February 15, 2016

All good things to those who wait

When you’re an aviation enthusiast growing up in a small town you enjoy whatever airplanes happen to be nearby. For me that was a dozen or so Cessnas and Beechcraft at the local airport. Every time I drove by I’d scan the grass flightline with the hope of seeing something new and interesting tied down awaiting its moment to take to the skies.

My favorite inhabitant was an old, white Ryan Navion. It was quite unusual sitting among its smaller brethren, and I grew fond of it. You may know that it was designed by North American for the civilian market after World War Two but was eventually manufactured by Ryan and eventually saw service as the L-17. It is one of the most macho looking civilian aircraft I've ever seen. If I were a private pilot, this is the airplane I'd own.

As a modeler I looked for a model of the Navion and found that only Lindberg had made a crude kit a thousand years ago. Not something for the serious modeler.

I always remained hopeful that I would see a kit of the Navion but knew it was beyond even a long shot. My hope took the form of cheeky quips on Hyperscale and ARC over the years -- nine years ago telling Jake Reid that his next book should be on the L-17 Navion, once proclaiming the Navion as the best aircraft that ever flew, and making the claim that the Navion is only prop-driven airplane that could shoot down an F-16.

Meanwhile one of the most popular topics of conversations on the forums has always been wish lists, and I’ve always mentioned the Navion, always with the thought that I’d never see one.

Fast forward too many years, and here I am holding the new Valom 1/72 Navion!

I shouldn’t be surprised. A year ago I opined here on Scale Model Soup that the manufacturers might run out of subject matter in 10 years, estimating that we could see 500 new 1/72 aircraft, 500 new 1/48 aircraft, and 750 new 1/35 tanks and soft skin vehicles by 2025. And guess what. I even mentioned the L-17 Navion in that post!

I share my excitement about finally getting a model of this unusual aircraft only to suggest that if you wait long enough, if you’re patient, you may eventually get your wish. I know we’re an impatient bunch of guys, but the good news is we have plenty of models to build while we wait.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Stop creating Facebook groups!

When Johannes Gutenberg introduced the printing press to the West sometime around 1440 it was a revolution in mass communication. Within years, anyone with access to a printing press could disseminate his ideas, no matter how prescient or cockamamie they might be, to hundreds or thousands of people. Similar revolutions occurred with the invention of the radio and television and when Al Gore invented the Internet. Today anyone with an Internet connection and a Google account care publish a blog and spew all kinds of crazy ideas. And yes, I count myself among those who believe we have something interesting to say.

Most recently, hoodie-wearing hipster and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has made it even easier for any yahoo to gather likeminded enthusiasts using a Facebook group that can be created with a single click of a mouse. His minions of programmers have gone so far as to proactively suggest groups that you might create! (Suggested to me this weekend was “Friends Who Like Trumpeter & HobbyBoss.")

But before you click that Create button, please take this suggestion: Stop creating Facebook groups!

Here’s the thing. There are too many groups. They overlap each other, share the same content, or dilute the content that’s out there. We've gone too far. There are even groups for Internet forums, discussions about discussions, if you will. It's all so...meta. Let’s take a look at the insanity that’s out there right now.

Note: I’ve retained the oddball capitalization and spelling of all of the groups you’ll see below.

Maybe you’re one of my favorite types of modelers, the kind that builds anything and everything. There’s no shortage of what I would consider generalist Facebook groups; I found roughly 25 with a quick search. Two are informally branded with the Facebook name, Facebook Scale Modellers and Facebook Scale Model Society. Four make it clear they’re all about plastic scale models, lest some capricious fool confuse them with groups whose focus is say, paper models: The Plastic Scale Model Making Group, Plastic Scale Modelers Group, Plastic Scale Models, and Plastic Scale Model Builders. Scale models is the focus of these seven groups:

Scale Modeling Tips, Tricks and Advice
Scale Modeling Workshop
Scale Modelers
Scale Model Society
Scale Model Kit Review
Scale Model Hobbiest

I can only infer from the names of Military In Miniature and Scale Military Models that cars and things without guns are of no interest to their members. Two – The Scale Modelers Critique Group and Accuracy in Scale Modeling: Rivet Counters Unite – I assume,are intended for those who take the hobby a little more seriously than the rest of us. For those who still feel a childlike enthusiasm for the hobby, “I Love Scale Models" (with quotes) looks appealing. Hippies might be enticed by Hobby Beat for scale modelers. If you're among those who incorrectly consider scale modeling to be art, you’ll probably appreciate what the artists in Painting Scale Models With Light have to say, but let's pray your workshop doesn't lose power. If you’re the kind of modeler who needs a pair of OptiVISOR to distinguish a 1/32 F-16 exhaust can from a coffee cup, check in with Old-timers and newbees scale plastic model and The Grumpy Old Scale Modelers Group.

Speaking of old guys, if you realize you’re too old to build all those models in your stash, or if your dementia suggests you have plenty of time, you’re sure to find a bargain in one of these groups:

Scale Model Trader
Scale Model Raffle
Military Model Sell and Trade Area
Military Model Graveyard 
Plastic Scale Models and Hobby Auction
1/32 Scale Model Truck Buy/Sell/Trade
Plastic Scale Models For Sale & Swap U.K.

“But I like building only aircraft models,” you say. “Is there anything for me on Facebook?” Friend, do I have options for you! There’s Plastic Scale Model AircraftAircraft scale modeling, and Scale model planes…for passion. If you want to be assured of communicating with modelers from around the world, International Plastic Scale Aircraft Modelers seems appropriate. If you don’t want to be bothered with pictures of boring old Cessna 152s and slick airlines, there’s the Combat Aircraft - Scale Model Builder Group. Do you focus on large scale aircraft? There’s 1/32 Scale Plastic Model Airplanes. Too big, you say? Try 1/48 Scale Plastic Model Airplanes instead.

If you’re into World War Two aircraft, there’s no shortage of options. Look for Scale Model Fighters & Trainers of WWII, but hear me now and believe me later...don’t even think about posting a picture of a bomber! (The gall of some people!) If that’s your thing, join Scale model Medium/heavy Bombers of WWII and talk about B-17s and Lancasters to your heart's content. If you like meatballs, someone has kindly created Scale Model WW2 Japanese Aircraft. If 1/72 scale is too small and 1/48 scale too large, 1/48 scale WWII model aircraft is just what you need. If you can list the inaccuracies of the Dragon and Eduard 1/32 Bf-109s, you’ll be among friends in Large Scale Luftwaffe Modelers.

If you like aircraft that saw combat in your lifetime, how about Scale Model Cold War - Modern or Fighter/Strike/Interceptor Trainer jets, or Aircraft of the Cold War, Cold War Model Making & Photos or Cold War Soviet Aircraft?

Maybe you’re a brand loyal kind of guy: Scale Model Grumman Iron Works and Scale Models of Lockheed’s greats. My mother briefly worked for the former, so I should probably join.

“But I’m from South Africa,” says the guy from Pretoria. You’re in luck! Look for Scale Model Aircraft Fanatix South Africa. His friend a few continents over might join ModelArt Australia or Scale Model Builders (Australia).

Do you like the F-4 Phantom? Of course you do. You’re in luck! There are nearly a dozen groups dedicated to this venerable old fighter, where modelers and enthusiasts like you share photos and stories. Here they are, in case you need a little direction:

The F-4 Phantom II
The F-4 Phantom’s Group
McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
McDonnell Douglas F-4 “Phantom II”
F-4 Phantom Apprciation Group
British F-4 Phantom Aviation Group
Phantom FG1/FGR2 and F4J(UK) Group
McDonnell Douglas Phantom plastic modelers
USMC F-4 Phantoms
F-4 / QF-4 Phantom
Friends of the RAAF F-4E Phantom II

“I build tanks,” explains the guy wearing the AMPS “Tanks for the Memories” t-shirt. May I suggest AMPS’s own group, Armor Modeling and Preservation Society with its 1,800 members, or The Armor Journal: Scale Modeling Group or Military Truck and Half Track Scale Modeling? If you’re trendy, you should belong to 1/48 Armor Modelling.

Armor modelers with a penchant for a specific era might look to Modeling WWII, Pacific War Armor Modelling Interest Group, or going way back, the The Great War/First World War Armor Model and Discussion group. Fans of Soviet armor like me belong to the Sovetsaya Bronya - Soviet Armor Modeling Group or Soviet/Russian Scale modeling.

If you’re into German armor of World War Two, there are groups to quench your thirst for PanzerspƤhwagens and Heuschreckes. It’s all about the panzer at The Panzer Page, Panzer Model, Panzer Fakten, and Tanks and Panzers in Focus. Other groups are more specialized, such as these two groups for the Panther: Panzer Kampfwagen V Panther Medium Tank and (Sd.Kfz.171.)Pz.Kpfw.V. “Panther.” Others are similarly focused, such as TIGER KING TIGER JAGDPANTHER PANTHER (looks like someone's caps lock key is stuck), The Armor Journal Medium Panzer-III and –IV, and Tiger Panzer and other tanks & places.

If you’re interested in more recent conflicts, how about Modeling the Vietnam War or the Vietnam Allies & Adversaries Scale Model Group? Or Military Vehicles of the Syrian Civil War or the Syrian Army (1945-present) special interest group?

There are even groups dedicated to scale models of one manufacturer:

AMK (Avantgarde) Model Builders
Bandai 1/48 Military Scale Models
Monogram Scale Models
WingNut Wings Fans
Airfix Modelling Club

And may the gods save us, Hasegawa EggPlanes. Seriously. This is not a joke.

Do you want to show photos of your workspace to make other modelers jealous or show off your stash and entice geeky thieves? Look for Modeling Man Cave or Scale Modeling Work Spaces.

So there you have it, roughly 90 groups to meet your every need. So the next time you think about creating a new group, think twice. Look around for one that's close to your idea. I can appreciate your special affection for the De Havilland Vampires of 45 Squadron of the Indian Air Force circa the Indo-Pakistani War, but do you really need a new group for that? Do you reckon that maybe the existing De Havilland Vampire Appreciation Society group might meet your needs? I bet it does.