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

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Macchi M.39 Schneider race winner - Scratchbuilt 1/72

(Image from the San Diego Air and Space Museum Flickr photostream)

The Italian Macchi M.39 was a racing seaplane designed specifically to compete on the Schneider Trophy of 1926, which it won, piloted by Mario de Bernardi.
Five similar machines were built, three for racing purposes with a Fiat AS.2 engine (the other two flown by Ferrarin and Bacula), and two for training purposes which had a similar but less powerful Fiat engine.
They followed the design lines that were found by almost all competitors to work better, namely twin-float braced monoplanes, of extremely refined streamlining that used surface radiators.
As I mentioned in previous threads, before even thinking of building, I dedicate time and effort to research, which invariably pays off big time. And this is no exception.
To start with, many photos captioned as a Macchi M.39 are actually of the very similar (but not identical) Macchi M.52 and 52R. Therefore the first task is to sort out the photos, helped by three clues:
-The M.52s had a much pronounced arrow angle for the wings
-The M.52s had slightly larger wing radiators
-The M.52s had different motifs on the fuselage and tail.
-The M.52 had a slightly different windshield.
(Four, four clues -Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition)
After studying from photos you promptly realize:
-that representations of the M.39 in drawings and 3views are often inaccurate, since they include the graphic motifs that the M.52 had. As the winner of the Schneider, the M.39 had only the number 5 on the sides, no Italian tricolore on the rudder, and no fascia roundel on the fuselage.
-that the machine at the Vigna di Vale  museum has a different, much later scheme than that wore at the race, and a wooden prop, used only on the practice machines, and not the Reed metal prop used on the race.
-That the windshield of the museum machine is again slightly different than the one seen in photos of the winning machine.
As an additional achievement, the Macchi M.39 established soon after the Schneider win a new speed record.
As said above, the M.39 only had the number 5 at the moment of the win.
(Links to Youtube clips)
Other contestants (next year, 1927):

Naturally -as universally known- all available plans differ in some minor way among them, and all also differ, to some degree...from reality.
This is a very common occurrence, and I don't fuss over it too much, also given that when you (or anyone else) prints a plan you are further introducing dimensional changes related to printer, type of file, etc.
I start to pay attention when discrepancies are noticeable. In this case it's the floats' length.
Study showed that, predictably, several were tried, and the stated numbers in sources may refer to any of those, but the ones on the plans (although there are variations) are generally a tad short compared to actual photos, so I will agree, as usual, with the photos.
At this point I already got the floats done (to my relief, because it is a sticky point in this type of scratchbuild) adapting some from the generic Aeroclub vac sheet, of which I still have a few treasured partial sections.
 The rest will be solved as usual with a carved wood fuselage and styrene sheet flying surfaces, as per the other related scratchbuilds linked above, plus the addition of lengths of Contrail and Strutz airfoiled material.
(Don't you love how you can theorize freely, and all goes fantastically well?)
One particular detail to have in mind as you build the wing is that the panels were asymmetric, the left wing a bit larger in span to compensate for the brutal torque of the powerful engine.

Tail feathers:
As they say: The ordnance of a wrathful man is the racer spinner of the peaceful one.
The future spinner:
 A beaching dolly is drawn and built:
 Now the floaty bits have a place to rest:
The wing is made. Later on it will be cut and given the corresponding swept-back:
 The wood blanks for the fuselage are cut:

To be continued.....

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Beechcraft 18 Twin Beech American Airlines - Modified Encore 1/72 kit

Contemplating the harmonious lines of a well-designed classic twin is always a pleasure, and for those privileged to have seen them in person, a sight to remember.
In its attractive American Airlines livery the plane seems to invite its ten passengers to ply the skies above serene landscapes, in comfort and relaxation, including a restroom.
Not for nothing this era of aviation is called "golden".

This endeavor started as a comparative build -of the same airplane type- against a Rareplane vacuformed kit.
The building process of both kits can be visited here:
The model is based -as explained in the building article- on a revamp by Encore of the original -and frankly poor- PM kit. This new boxing included -to no exceptional advantage to me- some resin bits that were supposed to be an upgrade, and a very bad new transparency, that in my sample only deserved the trash can, with apologies to the trash can. A few of the resin parts are identical to those of the original kit, or worse, and only the cabin door, exhausts, cowls and engines are of use (if you are not too picky, especially regarding the cowls).
The kit's alternate civil decals that tempted me to buy the boxing are a total fiasco, since the real scheme was applied to a highly modified plane of later date, that has very little to do with the kit, having, among other changes, squared wing tip additions, and three-blade props. So it's either kit surgery or trashing those nice -but useless- decals. Thus I went a different path, adding interior and exterior detail and commissioning a decal sheet from Arctic Decals for a plane used by American Airlines.
I know that there were other Beech 18 kits issued by Hobbycraft, and having such variety of nice civil liveries, I am surprised that a better injected kit doesn't exists, or at least an upgrade set -that makes sense, that is.
In any case these old platforms can be turned into fair models with some work (and research, something many manufacturers don't bother with). Many of you have one or other of these incarnations (RarePlane, Encore, PM; Hobbycraft) in the stash. I think they make for a good skill-honing project, without pretending to obtain the ultimate model.
Personally, I find the venerable RarePlane vac superior to these much modern alternatives so far in the market; you may have a look here:

Knowing the limitations of this kit (which are various) I may venture -some day- into another conversion, since there are things that I could do better after having dealt now with this kit.
Even though it took some time and no little work, here is the result obtained with the Encore kit, with which I am fairly pleased, all things considered.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Savoia S.65 Schneider Cup - Modified Karaya 1/72 resin

The exceptional lines of the Savoia S.65 are a sheer delight, and although it never delivered what it promised, and did not actually compete in the Schneider Cup, the mere act of contemplating it is a source of aviation bliss.

Karaya is a firmly established model manufacturer with a wide catalog that includes, to my delight, many Schneider planes. Karaya's reputation is good, but apparently my first encounter with their products was unfortunate, as I purchased a sadly inaccurate S.65.

To start to make this flawed look like the real thing, the following was done:

-Correct the spurious cut out on the fuselage top and sides, restoring the correct, continuous shape
-Install the side windows, deleting the spurious extra radiators (located above the correct fuselage radiators)
-Correct the shape of the elevator horn balances
-Add the headrest
-Correct the wrong position of the insertion of the float struts into the fuselage bottom
-Substitute the ridiculous resin butt-joined booms for metal inserted ones
-Correct the mistakes on the rigging
-Revise position of "V" struts at the end of the floats, moving them back as per photos
-Add boom fairings that continue on top and bottom of the elevator

I am sure there were others, but that should be entertainment enough.

A seemingly nice kit, certainly nicely molded and with good detail, completely let down by its many very visible inaccuracies. And not just minutia: blatant mistakes made absolutely obvious just by looking at photos of the original plane.
The list is too long, but you may like to have a look at my many encounters during the build with frustrating errors, and to add insult to injury an engineering that left a lot to be desired, and not particularly accurate decals:
Still, propelled by the sheer beauty of the type, some modifications were made, parts replaced with better ones, engineering revised, and many details corrected to obtain a model that if still not totally accurate, at least resembles much closely the original.
This is a missed opportunity: such fantastic plane, and a kit that came too short, not sure why, as the general quality of the parts (accuracy and engineering apart) is good.

The modifications to obtain a more credible model are too involving, and I wouldn't have done it if I knew from the start the challenges, but I started blinded by the good reputation of the manufacturer (whose other kits reputedly are accurate and nice to build). So I went on, feeling bad about trashing a kit of such beautiful plane that besides cost a pretty penny.

So here are the results of much huffing and puffing, and having to continually look at references in order no to fall into accuracy traps.

A paradigm of Italian design that produced a very stylized racer, and, if nothing else, a wonderful "oggetto d'arte"