Our Muse, that will guide us through these times of political darkness

Friday, September 7, 2018

Flight of the Phoenix, Scratchbuilt 1/72nd scale (Timm/Tallmantz P-1 Phoenix)

The Phoenix raises again!

 For the step-by-step building post you may go to:
To avoid any confusion, let's start by saying that the plane in the movie was...several planes.
As you know, the Fairchild Packet is the plane that crashes. Then a (not actually flying) plane is "made from it" that is used in the film scenes as a static prop. At the same time, a flying  plane was designed by Otto Timm and built by Talmantz Aviation for the filming of the flying scenes. After the crash that took the life of Paul Mantz, another plane was converted to have a vague resemblance to the general lines of the Phoenix, a North American O-47.
The model I am presenting here is that of the Timm-Tallmantz Phoenix P-1, the plane flown by Paul Mantz to film the flying sequences, and not the non-flying prop used for many other scenes on the ground. All those planes differed noticeably from each other.
This plane never took off or landed on the desert (real or film location), but operated from a local airfield. It had silhouettes to represent the "passengers" in order not to have drag and weight added. The only windshield was that of the pilot, the ones for the passengers were just frames. 
Knowing that a AT-6 Texan nose, engine, propeller, cockpit and wheels were used, plus the wings from C-45 Expeditor, I used those -combined with the measures of the actual plane- to draw a set of sketches as a guide for the construction of the model.
Yet once again I take pleasure in transforming bellicose machines into higher-purposed birds.
The construction of the models employed known techniques and utilized a few already-made kit parts cited above. Some hours were spent needless to say checking photographs (there are much less images available than one would have thought) in order to adjust and re-adjust the home-made construction sketches. I usually don't weather models, but the original plane shows in the movie signs of its problematic origins.
The only decal was -as usual- commissioned from and provided by Arctic Decals from Finland, the country as you all know where all the planes' fins are made.

Mantz obituary in the New York Times (at the page:
goes as far as stating that the movie was based on actual events, mentioning that during WW2 a mechanic refashioned a twin-engine plane into a single-engine one and took six men strapped to the wing to as nearby base, which is absolutely bogus, as far as I can tell, and no records whatsoever exist of that. I think the Times was the victim of an ethically-questionable movie studios ploy to sell more.
Ethics were as scarce then as they are today in much more important places, if you get my meaning. 

Finally, as those who are familiar with the movie know, the Phoenix, born from the ashes, returned to the ashes after its crash, only to be re-born again an again in our models to illustrate one of the most beautiful metaphors about life.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Fiat BR20A Istres-Damascus-Paris racer - Highly modified 1/72 Italeri 1/72nd scale

Many international sports events were held during the 30s where countries attempted to demonstrate their aeronautical prowess and gain prestige. The Schneider Cup was one of them, the McRobertson London to Melbourne Air Race was another, and also notorious was the Istres-Damascus-Paris Air race.
Italy had the upper hand since it entered a number of machines with state sponsorship, a group of Savoia Marchetti S.M.79s, and two Fiat BR.20As. They were all civil versions that differed from their military counterparts to some extent. The airframes were completely demilitarized of course and optimized for speed and long range capabilities.
Their visual appeal is needless to say orders of magnitude higher than the one of their boring, drab and gloomy counterparts, and of a higher order was their purpose too.
Through the years I have modeled a few of those machines (D.H.88s, D.H.89 and SM79s come to mind), and who knows, may be one day, when their numbers increase, they could be displayed in a nice starting line array (I am ogling, as I write this, the box of the Farman 223-1 F-APUZ kit released by Azur that flew also in the Istres-Damascus race).
The build implied some surgery and some scratch-building, but was pleasant, entertaining and rewarding, and as you know the starting point was an inexpensive very old Italeri kit that was thus redeemed from a dusty shelf demise or an obscure destiny. I purchased mine -during a Palm Springs desert trip- at the Rare-plane Detective (thanks Liz and Jeff!).
If you would like to check the whole building sequence you may go here:
The special decals were produced to their usual high standards by Arctic Decals.
A photo-etched set was used (although only partially) to enhance the interior and a few exterior details, with modifications.
My gratitude to Paolo Miana and Fabrizio D'Isanto who provided data that helped with this project. Any mistakes made in the representation are only mine.
It is like if I could almost hear those engines running, getting ready to fly to glory.