WHITE KNUCKLE AIRFIELD, SITTARD
Once there was an airfield that was home to the most advanced, the newest planes. It was not a big, modern facility, it was a dry lake bed, somewhere in the USA. A couple of shabby, rusty hangars and buildings, all left over from world war II. And a bar to match it, not far away; Pancho's Happy Bottoms Riders Club. The rest was mainly emptiness. The Right Stuff loved it. Boys among boys, no spotlights, no glamour. And if it would be up to those fly-boys, cool dudes and other daredevils to pick a nice spot for their final meeting, it would not be a well equipped airport. They would find themselves some forgotten airfield in the middle of No Where. A rusty old hangar, enough grass and concrete to land, and enough booze to last the evening, that would be about it.
And that's what it is. Once more, those fabulous planes gather. Untested planes, once faster, higher or with different engines then ever before, standing side by side. Chuck crawls out of his cockpit, taking off his cut up football helmet. Lothar looks at the cockpit of a Blackbird and swallows. Scott looks at the Natter and swallows as well. Welcome to White Knuckle Airfield, guy's.
Here you see some models I have build between 2002 and 2004. In most cases there are only a few pics and a short comment on plane and build, but sometimes I have a link to a full building review added.
Heinkel He 178 V1
Heinkel He 280 V3
Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1A swalbe
Gloster Meteor Mk1
Heinkel He 162 Volksjäger
Messerschmitt Me 262
Arado Ar 234 C
A jet family
Focke Wulf Ta 183 Hückebein
MiG 15 bis
F 86 Sabre
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
Fiesler Fi 103 V-1
(many great reviews, one of my favourite sites)
Greg Goebels public domain
(in his section 'air vectors' some great studies of airplanes
(If I can't get it anywhere, I can get it there)
The Messerschmitt Me 163B 'Komet' (Das Kraft-Ei). This was the first operational rocket plane. The first tries were in the late thirties, and the first powered flight of this type B was in April 1942.
The model is a Revell 1:48 kit. I also used a Czech Master detail set, although the Revell kit is so well detailed, there was little need for it. The kit went together well with no specific problems. Incorporating the detail set was a bit more difficult, this was my first detail set, and opening up a perfectly well fuselage was a rather scary thing to do. In some cases it was hard to figure out where certain details should go, and I never figured out how use the under wing airbreaks untill the kit was finished.
Since it is a cheap kit, with lots of detailsets and other stuff available, I am planning on builing a group of these planes. Stay tuned...
The Bachem Ba 349 'Natter', a vertical launched rocket plane with a combination of solid fuel boosters and a liquid fuel rocket engine (like the space shuttle), 1945. This must be the reason why all mad scientist in movies speak with a German accent. Build in plywood, this little plane was launched, radio-guided during the first part of the flight, with the pilot only taking over once enemy bombers were in sight. Aften one salvo with rockets (not visible in my model, they would be in the nose of the plane), the pilot had to disconnect the entire nose, open a parachute at the back of the plane, drop out and land with his own parachute...
The model is a 1:48 Revell kit
with a launch tower that takes up more time to build then the actual plane. It
went together very well, and made a neat little weird thing.
I have a full build review of this kit up at Modelling Madness
X-1. This was the rocket plane that broke the sound barrier and survived, 1947.
The model is a 1:48 Eduard profipack, with etched and resin parts. Building it was more difficult than a good kit from Revell, Tamiya or Hasagawa, but not more difficult that building a good kit with a detailset added. Panel lines are very shallow, a problem for builders like me who prefer hand painting over airbrushing.
The North American X-15 A-2. The first plane that reached space, al be it for a very short time... I think it is one of the most successful research planes ever build, with over 200 flights (3 models were build and flown). It was instrumental for high speed research, reaching speeds of over Mach 6 and heights well over 100.000 metres...
The kit was a 1:48 Hobbycraft kit with resin parts. Like the Eduard kits, these are no 'snap together' kits, but the end results are pretty good. In my kit, the fuselage was slightly warped, but could be forced and glued together without much hassle. It also has a very nice cockpit that remains invisible with the canopy closed. Opening the canopy ruins the slick shape of the plane, so I opted to leave the canopy loose, able to take it off for closer inspection. I am still not sure weather to leave it glossy, or use a dull varnish. The original was glossy, but glossy varnish on a model is just a bit too much I think...
The NF 104A Aerospace trainer. This is a modified F 104 Starfighter with an additional rocket engine, for training astronauts that would fly the X-15, 1962.
The kit, when I build it, was by far the most expensive project I took on. A 1:48 Hasagawa kit of a F 104 G was modified using two Cutting Edge detail kits. Looking back, I could have done without the cockpit detail kit, just the new nose cone, wing extensions and tail from the other detail kit would have been fine. The kit is still not finished. It was my first natural metal paint job, and I still had to figure out things at the time. By now I am ready to finish it, and I just need to drum up courage to start. Especially the huge numbers of decals I have to add are a daunting prospect...
In England and Germany, solitary scientist were working independently on the development of a jet turbine engine. Both had to cope with uninterested governments, and the German Pabst von Ohain was only slightly ahead of the british Frank Whittle. At the end of the war, German engineers were well ahead, with a surprising large number variaty of jet airplanes, only hampered by lack of fuel and certain materials. After the war, an allied 'brain drain' made sure this knowledge was not lost. And so it could happen that later, in the Korean conflict, offspring of one single German prototype would meet in combat.
The Heinkel He 178 V1, the first real jet plane to fly, in august 1939. Remarkable little can be found on the internet about this plane. The original was destroyed in an allied bomber raid over Berlin, and only a few pictures pop up again and again. The V-1 in the name has nothing to do with the V-1Buzz bomb. Here it stands for Versuch flugzeug 1.
The kit is a 1:48 Condor kit, a 'limited run' kit. This means the kit is made by a small company, without the high tech resources larger companies have. Low pressure casting makes for rather rude plastic shapes, less fine details and some fit problems. On the up side, the kit came with some photo etch that helped a bit. The undercarriage had me puzzled for a long time, and although I build it according to the kit' instructions, it is not right (the legs should attach to the horizontal bar INSIDE the fuselage). And I opted for a 'wrong' paint job just to make the model more interesting (this is the painting of the V2 aircraft which had retractable undergear, the V1 had just a warm-grey undercoating in RLM 02, with no bare metal).
All in all, I am not to happy about this model, but it is the only model to be found in this scale, and no early jet airfield can do without...
The Heinkel He 280 V3. After initial success with getting the He 178 in the air, Heinkel continued with a real jet fighter. This became the He 280. The plane demonstrated jet superiority over piston driven engines in a mock fight with a Focke Wulf Fw 190, at that moment the most advanced German fighter. In the end, due to a politics, the Me 262 was chosen for production, but although different, both planes were more or less equal in capabilities.
The kit is a 1:48 Eduard kit. It went together like any kit form a big company, with no problems whatsoever. This kit even had a nose weight to prevent it from tail sitting. Only the open canopy did not fit to well over the back of the plane, and my attempt to reshape it a little with a hot blowdryer ended in melting the open canopy. So I had to close up the nicely detailed cockpit, which was a shame.
Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1A. Before I started on this new modelling spree, this was the only second world war jet fighter I knew. I thought the British Meteor was later, after the war (it was not, although it did not see any action outside Britain). First jet powered flight of the Me 262 was in 1941. Although the engines were notorious troublesome (mostly due to the lack of certain metal alloys) in design the aircraft was well ahead of its time with its swept wing design and underwing engines.
This kit was a 1:48 Italieri kit, and went together rather well with only some small fit problems. Once I decided to close the gun bay (the kit comes with 4 guns and the possibility to open up the gun bay) it was easy to fit the needed nose weight quite late in the building process.
Although this is one of the most beautiful jet planes I know, I am not to happy with this model. Hard to say why, I think I don't like the camouflage. I will build this plane again some day, with the new Tamiya kit and some detail sets, in a factory fresh metal-primer-and-filler finish.
This is the Gloster Meteor Mark I, the second fully operational jet fighter in the world. The first prototype flew in 1943, but the final Mark one entered service about the same time as the Me 262. These 2 never met in air combat, for security reasons the Meteor was only deployed over Britain. It was quite effective in bringing down Buzz Bombs (V-1 flying bombs).
The kit is a 1:48 Tamiya kit. I bought a version that included a model of a V-1 before I found our Tamiya also had a kit with prototype markings. Tamiya Netherlands was willing to sell me that decal sheet and send it by mail. Thank you! The kit itself was almost an anti-climax in building, it is just all to easy. Everything fits, locks into place, and if it was not for the drying time of paint, the model could easily be slapped together in an afternoon. Even the needed nose weight is included.
The camouflage is wrong, but in accordance with the aeroplane that is kept in a British museum. Any mistake, good enough for a British museum, is good enough for me.
This is a Heinkel He 162, the 'Volksjäger'. By far the weirdest jet and heard about it until about 2 years ago. In spite of weird wings, old fashioned tail and a ridiculous engine placement, the shape and design is remarkable modern. The design was rushed into service in an absolute record time (3 month from first design order until flying prototype), but due to lack of fuel and pilots, it is unclear if it ever saw real action. The plane was intended to be flown by Hitler youth, but needed quite an experienced pilot.
The kit in 1:48 is a Dragon kit, and over all it is a nice kit. It comes with a nice jet engine than can be displayed (or not) and 2 tail designs. There is a little Photo etched detail. Building it was a mixed pleasure. There are some fit problems (wings/fuselage and main landing gear/wheel bay). Figuring out the needed lead weight to prevent tail sitting was not easy (but there is a little opening at the bottom that can remain open until painting). The photo etched details turned out to be steel, not copper or brass, and almost impossible to use. And the main wheel bay has a huge amount of (ill fitting) detail, that becomes almost invisible after finishing the plane. On the other hand, the engine is nice and invites scratch adding detail like wiring and tubes (I used some fine soldering lead and fishing line). The cockpit is a beauty, and the canopy can be posed open or closed, and can even remain unfixed.
And another Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1A. The bare metal with primer and filler lines, and the markings indicate this plane as werkenummer 111711. This factory fresh plane was flown into allied hands by German pilot Hans Fay, who decided the war had been long enough for him. Once the allies were done singing ‘For he's a jolly good fellow', the plane was taken to the U.S. for testing.
This kit was a 1:48 Tamiya kit, with addition of 2 detail sets; Czech Master Kits 4114 for slats, flaps, ailerons, radioset and some cockpitdetail, and Czech Masters Kits 4115 for an open engine. In a way this turned out to be A Bridge Too Far for my modelling skills; especialy the slats at the front of the wing did not come out too well. The resin parts were just to fiddly and although unworkable thin they are slightly over scaled. Looking back it would have been enough to only use the flaps, radio and some cockpitdetail, and the engine kit, the rest was just too hard for me. The engine kit was fine, although again some parts turned out to be extremely fine, and sometimes impossible to remove from their casting blocks. Since the Jumo 4 engine has a complicated front part and a boring tube behind that, a detailset that only offered the front of the engine would be enough. I used the backpart of the Tamiya engine to cover up the end.
The Tamiya kit looks quite different from the Italeri kit, with wing dihedral as biggest differance. I am not sure which kit has it right, but the Tamiya was a much easier build.
And finally, here is the Arado Ar 234-C, the first 4 engine jet. This aircraft used BMW 003 jet engines, a little smaller then the jumo 004 engines. This aircraft also shows 2 small rockets that were sometimes used as take off boosters. The aircraft was designed as fast bomber, but more often was used for photo reconnaissance.
The kit is a 1:48 Monogram Pro-Modeler kit, but is largely the same as the Hasagawa and Revell kit (Both different types of the Ar 234). On the web, this kit was highly praised, but I was a little disappointed by fit. Especially the cockpit/fuselage seam needed quite a bit of work. Non the less, it was a great kit to build; many parts and beautiful detail/ The cockpit is a work of art, and it's a pity the hatch on top can not be opened. The 2 camera’s are also great, and it is sad to see them disappear in the rear fuselage. Behind the cockpit was quite a bit of lead needed to prevent tail sitting.
During the war, the Germans managed to develop an amazing number of innovations in their aircraft under rather difficult conditions. And -not surprising- after that war, German scientists were carried off in all directions. Russians, Americans and British were quite happy to pick their brains, and soon the German innovations started to trickle into their new aeroplanes.
On the page concerning early jets I already wrote about descendants of a single German prototype meeting in combat. And here is that disturbed family...
The Focke Wulf Ta 183A "Hückebein". This was a design that just did not make it. The order for prototypes was given in February 1945, and first flights were planned for May/June 1945. The war just did not last long enough for that... The English ran into factories that were building the prototypes, the Russians discovered all plans and test results in Berlin. The Ta 183 was little more then an engine with a plane wrapped around it; swept wings, a short fuselage, a leaning vertical and high placed horizontal tail plane. Americans and British on one side, Russians on the other side started building...
The kit is a 1:48 AMtech kit, also sold by Tamiya. The new kit was widely praised on the Internet, and I can second all the praise. I think this is the best kit I ever build. Everything fitted perfect, in the finished model there is still an unglued part because it fitted so neat, I preferred not to tamper with it after test fitting. The kit is also well designed, without weird or tiresome constructions. One would build 5 of these, just for fun... I could not resist tinkering with this perfection. I cut the canopy to show off the fine detailed cockpit, and cut the flaps to reposition them.
And this was the kit that helped me find my way with bare natural metal finish. I used Model Master metalizer, but I did not buff it with a cloth, but polished it with a polishing iron (something like the back of a teaspoon. The result is instant weathering, and much tougher then normal buffed metalizer.
I have a full build review on Modelling Madness
The first follow up to the Hückebein was the Russian MiG 15, in December 1947. The aircraft was more or less build around the British Rolls Royce Nene engine. When it appeared in the sky over Korea, it was a rather nasty surprise to the Americans, who rushed their "counterplane" into active service.
The kit is a 1: 48 Tamiya kit. The modern Tamiya kits have a good reputation, and this kit shows why; everything fits, and it almost builds itself. The kit already offers the possibility to take of the tail and show of a nice engine. I decided to add 2 detail sets by Aires. One for a much more accurate and detailed engine, and one to open up the weapon-tray and electronics bay. The detail set for the engine was just great, the detail set for weapons and electronics bay was a little less; I found it hard to figure out how to incorporate it in the Tamiya kit. And the weapons under the nose are less eye-catching then I expected.
The F-86 Sabre is the other ‘son of Hückebein’. The airplane flew in 1947, but the Americans did not rush it into service at first, because they had the F 80 Shooting Star. And then the MiG 15 appeared...
The kit was an old Monogram 1:48 kit, a nice and very complete kit, with possibilities to open up a weapons bay, and the cockpit and the airbrakes. The kit was in metal-grey plastic, a reminder of times when not everyone painted his models. There were no special problems building it, although painting and decals were not as easy. The yellow war stripes for Korea, on fuselage and wings, are missing be3cause they were not included in the decals; one was expected to paint them on, which scared me off. And the kit decals had not aged very well. All in all, I should have invested in an after market decal sheet. Ah well...
The Lockheed SR 71 Blackbird. This is one of the most spectacular planes I know. Flying higher then any other production plane, flying faster then any production plane, and first flight in 1962... And not a small potato either...
The kit was by Testors, scale 1:48, and I used a True Details cockpit detail set. The Testors kit was quite a troublesome build, partly because I am not used to large models, and partly because of some fit problems and a warped fuselage. But in the end, it did turn out rather nice. I think the detail set was not that necessary, although the bang seats do look great. But it all drowns in the rather overwhelming size of the model...
A full build review can be found at modelling Madness
The Fiesler Fi 103 V-1, a pulse jet drivin flying bomb, first flown in December 1942. Most impressive fact: when the Germans could not get the automatic pilot right, so they build one with room for a pilot. Hanna Reitsch, a female test pilot, climbed in and figured out how to fly the thing. Later it was even contemplated to put pilots in armed V-1's, but although quite a few cockpit versions were build (the Fiesler 103 Reichenberg), as far as I know, they were never used.
The Kit was part of the Tamiya Gloster Meteor kit. On Internet described as a 'weekend project', it was a fast and fun build. I am planning on building a cockpit version as well...