Thursday, March 3, 2016

Why we build what we build

Why do you build what you build? It’s easy to answer, “Because I like German fighters from the Second World War,” or whatever it is that drives your interests, but dig deeper and ask yourself that question again.

A friend and I recently had a conversation about what kits in our respective stashes we’d be willing to sell if, for some reason, we absolutely had to. Or, put another way, which kits would you most definitely keep if you had to downsize?

My strongest interest is Cold War military aviation, if only because those are the aircraft I saw growing up in the 80s. I build older and newer subject matter as well, but mostly for a change of pace. A guy can paint only so much European One schemes before getting bored! For me that in-person experience with those aircraft is what created an affinity for building scale models of them. If I haven’t seen an aircraft in-the-flesh, it probably won’t be a favorite subject when I make a purchase or think about my next project. I wrote about the Ryan Navion last month, but there are other examples.

As I look back over 30-40 years of interest in aviation, I understand now why certain models in my stash will never be the victim of a downsizing.

I saw my first F-16 in 1982 at an open house at MacDill AFB. The 56th Tactical Training Wing was transitioning from the F-4 Phantom to this new airplane, so it holds a special place in my mind. That one of my high school friends became an F-16 pilot 10 years later only reinforces my interest in the jet.

An F-16 of the 56th TTW.

Several years later I spent a week at a Tyndall AFB Civil Air Patrol summer encampment. The organizers paired each cadet for an afternoon with active duty personnel who were performing the jobs we were interested in. They didn’t have pilots available, so I spent the afternoon with an F-106 crew chief with the now-inactive Air Defense Weapons Center. That aircraft isn’t the most interesting modeling subject, but it’s one that I intend to build sooner than later. (I started the Monogram kit that summer, but some construction mistakes on my part doomed the project.)

I’ve always liked the B-25. One was stored at a nearby airport for a number of years, and I had the chance to fly in one when I was 13 or 14. I have two Hasegawa kits in the stash, and I’ve been tempted on more than one occasion to buy the 1/32 HK Models kit. Some day….

That's me, just before my flight!

I love the UH-1. Going back to my high school days again, I flew in a UH-1P several times thanks to orientation flights offered by the 56th TTW. If there’s one “ultimate” model I’d like to build in my lifetime, it’s a super-detailed 1/32 UH-1P.

That's me, the skinny kid in the flight suit behind the crew chief.

Fast-forward a few years and you’ll find me a young buck serving a four-year enlistment in the Air Force…flying a desk. The unit I was assigned to supported, among others, the F-15E System Program Office, the organization responsible for the overall procurement and management of the F-15E. It’s no surprise then, that the Strike Eagle is special to me, too. That and a high school friend was a crew chief on the C model with the 33rd TFW around the same time.

Hasegawa 1/72 F-15E in my stash.

These connections to aircraft, armor, ships, and vehicles — no matter how tenuous — are what give passion to the models we build. When I see modelers posting to the forums telling us they’re burnt out or don’t know what to build, my response is always the same: Build what excites you the most. Look back what inspired you from the beginning and pick up where you left off.

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