Friday, December 31, 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL


We wish you a very Happy New Year and all Good Wishes for 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

LOOKBACK 2010 - FIVE FAVES OF THE YEAR








SMN annual review
How to condense a whole model year into a readable piece? Impossible without filling half of Wikipedia! So here’s quickie scoot through five items that entertained us, big and small... In February we clomped through the last of the winter snow to a Collector Fair near Oxford, UK. There were the usual stalls sprinkled with tempting treats, but star of the show was the splendid O-gauge three-rail electric layout. 

Of course, items like this are hardly ‘true scale’ - they are (or were) a half-way point between a non-scale ‘toy’ and a true-scale ‘model’ - but you can enjoy them for what they are - immensely pleasurable objects that also have the benefit of action, controllability, and in Kidlington anyway: lots of lovely clickety-clack noise!

The trackside accessories were a joy to behold - for example, many of the buildings were re-used decorative biscuit tins, and very fine they looked too. The station was a piece of original tinplate railwayana, and looked terrific, as did the tin platform, even if it was sleek and shiny, unlike the real thing. All in all, marvellous stuff.

Tamiya Bulldozer
In March we fell for Tamiya’s delightful 1:48 scale Komatsu bulldozer kit. When assembled, it’s a dinky little thing, just 75 mm (2.9 in) long, but the detail is oh-so-fine, with components such as hydraulic lines, front grille, suspension system and, of course the ’dozer blade, all well reproduced. 

A pity perhaps that Tamiya decided to mould the tracks as one-piece non-moving plastic parts, but the box contained a decent driver figure, who manages to grip the steering controls realistically. An unusually handsome feature at the front was the grille badge, included as a metallized decal.

Shakespeare country
Come April, we were in Stratford-upon-Avon, home of William Shakespeare, and nowadays Much Ado About Toys (MAAT), a treasure trove of miniature delights that range from plastic kits to tinplate collectibles.

Schylling’s tinplate products were well represented at MAAT. These are modern takes on nostalgic and retro themes; for example, the palm-sized ‘King Jet’, just the sort of thing I’d like as an alternative to my usual economy-class airline ticket!

MAAT’s collection of CIC diecasts from France had attractive retro lines, with offerings like a Renault Camionette or a one-off Watermans Ink promotion vehicle from the 1950s.

Farnborough Air Show
At the UK’s Farnborough International Airshow in July, there were plenty of models on display, both in the trade halls, and for sale in exhibition tents out in the sunshine. Trade hall models came large and small, and were fascinating for their variety, from rockets to rotorcraft. 

Models for sale showed just how popular readybuilts have become - it was almost a clean-sweep for them, with only a few construction kits on display. The incredible levels of detail now going into metal kits impressed us - a Sukhoi Su-27 had amazingly fine panel detail, while a Hobby Master Douglas Skyraider had a jewel-like sliding canopy, and a complete range of ordnance slotted neatly into a shiny plastic case, waiting to be hung under those straight wings. Totally ace.

Airfix Model World magazine
November saw the return of an old friend, Airfix magazine, this time packed with colour, a bigger format, new name, and a new publisher. 

Content in the launch issue was wide-ranging, leading with the just-released Airfix 1:48 scale Sea Vixen kit, with detail shots that included the neatly-modelled observer’s cockpit and radarscope. Backed up by other features, the new mag made a strong start - and of course, with a ‘Space Build’ feature by SMN’s own Mat Irvine, it had definite class on its side!

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Kidlington’s O-gauge tinplate trains.
2  Tamiya 1:48 scale bulldozer, with Zero fighter behind.
3  Tinplate King Jet at MAAT.
4  CIC Renault van to 1:43 scale.
5  Pakistani JF-17 Thunder jet fighter model on display at Farnborough.  
6  Airfix Model World magazine launch issue, November 2010.

Pictures Scale Model News, except Komatsu Bulldozer courtesy Tamiya.






Wednesday, December 29, 2010

WELCOME TO THE NEW-LOOK SCALE MODEL NEWS

It's been awhile coming, and it's not perfect just yet, but we hope you like the bigger and brighter look of SMN for the New Year 2011. We'll be tweaking the site more in future, and maybe having a different background or two, not that there's anything too shabby about the one we've chosen here. It's a pic taken by the pilot of an A330 jetliner, and what a fantastic view there is from the front seat...

Friday, December 24, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!



As we enter the Christmas season, we can all look forward to 2011 which, if model world rumors even come partly true, promises to be a very eventful year!

 Thank you for visiting Scale Model News throughout 2010 and we look forward to your company in times to come.

We are also looking forward to launching some major improvements to Scale Model News. So stay tuned!


As for the pix above, well wouldn’t we like to make a kit of that Jules Verne Nautilus lookalike?! Sad to say, there isn’t one quite like it available, so it’s here as an Xmas-week project idea for you kit-bashers out there.

And who got the idea for the Hawk paint job? This US-issue Hawk, aka T-45, is one of several of these jet trainers finished in deliciously bright Centennial markings. And you don’t need to be a skilled basher to create one for the display shelf...

Have a look at some Hawks (and not just the BAe kind) here.




Friday, December 17, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE DOUGLAS DC-3







SMN report
The Douglas DC-3 flew for the first time on December 17, 1935, 32 years after the Wright brothers made their epic first heavier-than-air flight in the biplane Flyer over Kill Devil Hill in North Carolina.

Design evolution
The all-metal DC-3 was a design step on from earlier Douglas Commercial designs, the DC-1 and DC-2, though it looked very similar. Two Pratt & Whitney radial engines allowed the DC-3 to carry 21 passengers up to 2382 km (1,480 miles) at some 313 km/h (195 mph). The range and speed allowed an eastbound flight across the US to be made in some 15 hours - by far the fastest time for a commercial flight.

Thousands of DC-3s built
The DC-3 was a runaway success and had a decades-long manufacturing life, with more than 10,000 being built as C-47 military transports during World War II. There are plenty of DC-3s still flying today, though we can't find a reliable source for an exact number.

Kits by the dozen
For the Douglas-Commercial fan, there’s choice aplenty out there, in all sorts of scales. Whether it’s diecast or plastic kit, there’s something to please. For something exotic and different, the Guillow’s see-through balsa model to 1:32 scale makes an interesting choice. It’s a biggie though, with a wingspan nearly a metre wide. At the other end of the scale, the tiny 1:500 scale Herpa DC-3 is something small enough for any desktop. The Berlin Airlift Scenix edition offers a trio of 1949 DC-3s, complete with a mini-diorama of Templehof Airport. The transparent box includes sound effects in German, but sorry, we don’t know what the script is!

The Dakota Association of South Africa has a terrific (if somewhat slow-loading) page, in which many kits are listed. It’s fascinating stuff, and you can visit the listing here.

See DC-3 kits and stuff here.

Inspect Guillow’s balsa DC-3 here.

Visit the Herpa Berlin Airlift here.

The pictures show:
1  Airfix 1:72 scale original box.
2  Esci R4D with skis 1:72 scale.
3  Guillows balsa kit 1:32 scale.
4  Herpa models 1:500 scale.
5  Monogram with paratroopers 1:90 scale.
6  Flight deck of the real thing.




Thursday, December 16, 2010

OH SWEET NOSTALGIA!





SMN looks back
For the more mature model maker out there, then these old kits might bring back a memory or two. Once upon a time Hawk kits, sporting the distinctive logo, were a popular choice in the local model store. And as for that Revell F-102A, the addition of included ground equipment turned a model jet kit into a diorama, before the word was even invented... Well, maybe not quite that, but you know what we mean.

Kit-plus
Seriously, the Delta Dagger was a reasonable kit, turned into kit-plus by the addition of some intelligent brainstorming in the sales department, followed up by extra parts in the box. We were never sure about featuring grinning youths though!






Monday, December 13, 2010

DECADES AFTER ITS FIRST FLIGHT, THE TSR2 RETURNS - AS A MISSILE-TOTING COMET KILLER







David Jefferis reports.
A fascinating new Airfix release for the New Year will be a modded 1:72 scale BAC TSR2. This is the ‘TSR.2MS’, a rocket-boosted, missile-equipped aircraft designed to home in on and destroy incoming space rocks headed for planet Earth.

Defending the Earth
Well now, NASA hasn’t suddenly issued a world-wide doomwatch alert - in fact, the TSR.2MS is one of the machines that feature in a Japanese anime (cartoon) called 'Stratos 4', a sci-fi series that’s set in the near future, around 2024. Scientists have spotted a group of comets on collision course with our world, and to answer the threat, global defences include the space-based Comet Blasters, and the ground-based Meteor Sweepers (the 'MS' of TSR.2MS). The action is based mostly on Shimoji Island off Japan, where heroine Mikaze and her friends are last-ditch defenders of the planet.

Modified aircraft
Ooer! But weirdly, Stratos 4’s creators decided to modify various aircraft from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s as anime machine stars. Still, not for us to ask the reason why - after all, why NOT have a Caravelle twin-jet to fly to a party?! The TSR.2MS is the main interceptor, and it makes a really interesting ‘what-if’ design - after all, the anti-comet missile could just as easily be a Blue Steel standoff weapon, and the tail rocket could have been lifted from a Saunders-Roe SR.53!

Mission plan for the TSR.2MS
According to the blurb, the TSR.2MS is: “...lifted by ZELL (Zero-Length Launch) like a surface-to-air missile, flying to a mid-altitude using the two jet engines and RATO (Rocket-Assisted Take Off) rockets equipped under the wing.  After the RATO rockets finish combustion they are dropped from the wing. The main rocket in the bottom of the vertical tail is then ignited, and when she has gained altitude to the stratosphere, she locks onto the meteorite, and launches the big missile that is mounted under the fuselage.  She is controlled by a pilot and a radar operator, both situated within the cockpit in a riding position. When the TSR.2MS interceptor returns to base, in very thin air, she rolls her fuselage by RCS (Reaction Control System).”

A carrier-borne TSR2?
And talking of ‘what-if’ TSR2s, there’s an ace build of the larger 1:48 Airfix kit by Jon Bius, over at Agape Models. This kit has been finished to match markings sported by that oh-so-elegant US Navy jet, the RA-5 Vigilante, one that was based on the USS Enterprise in 1975. The TSR2 and Vigilante are not that dissimilar, in both looks and top speed, so the markings transfer across very well indeed.

TSR2 details
Jon has added extra detail to the Airfix kit, especially in the cockpit area, of which he says: “I decided some discs of various sizes would dress things up a bit on the instrument panels. I tried to add a few things that I saw in photos…. a radar looking thing (the machine that goes “ping”), some dials and so forth. It’s certainly not accurate, but it gives the interior a bit more of a busy look.”

All of which sounds fine to us - appearance is really what counts in a what-if build like this. Well crafted Jon - it looks a really neat model.

Airfix has a competition going on the TSR.2MS kit here.

Visit Agape Models for lots more pix and info here.

Find some TSR2 stuff here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1-2 TSR.2MS box, plus missile launch sequence.
3-6 The what-if TSR2 built in USN markings by Jon Bius of Agape Models.



Friday, December 10, 2010

USEFUL SIZE CHART AND CUTAWAY FOR MODEL MAKERS




Congrats to SpaceX for the successful up-and-down flight of the Dragon space capsule.

And for telling us about the el neato 'secret cargo' it carried into space and back - a round of cheese, decorated with a wellie-wearing cow picture... mooo!! Apparently it was a tribute to Monty Python, though that's a sketch we missed here at SMN Towers.

Meantime, here's an excellent cutaway and size chart that compares the Dragon capsule with other spacecraft. So sharpen those craft knives, space fans...

Thanks to: Karl Tate of Space.com for the cutaway graphic, and Chris Thompson of SpaceX for the cheese pictures.

Visit Space.com here and SpaceX here.




Wednesday, December 8, 2010

DRAGON SPACECRAFT RETURNS FROM ORBIT! X-37B LANDS ON RUNWAY!






SMN report
News that the US company SpaceX successfully test-flew its Dragon space capsule today makes SMN really proud - for this company is in the vanguard of the privatization of space. Along with the likes of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic program, it looks as if there might be a future for rocketry in the post-Space Shuttle era after all.

Spacecraft models from Dragon
And talking of Dragons, the Chinese model company of the same name is busy releasing a miniature ‘Space Collection’, to 1:72 and 1:400 scale, plus 1:6 scale astronaut figures. The spacecraft are all ready-built, mixing diecast metal with injection-plastic parts, and while some are familiar subjects - Apollo and Shuttle feature strongly - there is at least one really interesting of-the-moment release, and that’s the 1:72 scale X-37B OTV (Orbital Test Vehicle).

X-37B in space
Looking much like a mini-Shuttle (and originally designed to fit inside a Space Shuttle cargo bay) NASA’s X-37B program was taken over by the US Department of Defense in 2004. The craft saw its first orbital flight on April 22 this year, and stayed aloft on a secret mission until returning just last week, on December 3. The X-37B is a completely automated winged vehicle that lands on a runway like the Space Shutttle.

Comparing model with reality
The Dragon X-37B is a neat piece of model engineering that sits on a stylish stand. However, it’s interesting to compare the smooth and sleek lines of the 1:72 scale model with the lumps, bumps, and varying textures of the real thing, as seen in the official pictures above. And look at those white protective suits - the engineer-techs look for all the world like extras from a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster - Close Encounters anyone?!

Well done Dragon for this X-37B - it’s an unusual subject that’s been well captured. Let’s hope the company will provide a 1:72 scale Dragon capsule soon, preferably with a seven-astronaut crew inside!

We’ll be showing a neat diagram of the Dragon capsule and other spacecraft in the next day or two - keep your eyes peeled for that.

Visit Dragon Models here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  X-37B 1:72 scale model from Dragon.
2  CGI of the X-37B in orbit, with solar panels extended.
3  X-37B post-flight on the runway.
4-5 Technicians fettle the X-37B after its seven-month-plus mission.





Monday, December 6, 2010

SOPWITH PUP BIPLANE FROM WINGNUT WINGS OF NEW ZEALAND








SMN report
For lovers of World War I and big-scale aircraft models, here’s a gorgeous 1:32 scale kit from Wingnut Wings, the Sopwith Scout, or ‘Pup’, a single-seater that was much loved by its pilots. Some 2100 Pups were built during the Great War, and the Wingnut model builds into a very neat representation indeed.

What’s in the box?
The box features handsome art on the cover, while inside there are 128 injection-moulded plastic components and six photo-etch metal detail parts. The Cartograf decals that include markings for six different aircraft. Optional build items include different side and engine cowls, plus fuselage and upper wing. The LeRhone engine is a miniature masterpiece, while detail work throughout is good - just look at the sewn seams on the rear fuselage and the wood-effect around the cockpit. For the nimble-fingered model maker Wingnut provides a rigging diagram, and this of course sets the aircraft off a treat - in fact, it’s essential to make the best of a biplane to this large scale. In all, a highly recommended kit for the Great War enthusiast, and one that will sit realistically with any of the 54 mm military figure sets also available from Wingnut Wings.

About the Sopwith Pup
The aircraft was officially called the Scout, but the ‘Pup’ nickname stuck, and Sopwith used animal names from then on, including the later Camel and Snipe. The Pup's light weight and generous wing area gave it a good rate of climb, ailerons on both upper and lower wings making it a very agile aircraft. It had far less power and armament than the German Albatros DIII, but was more maneuverable - as British air ace James McCudden put it: “The Sopwith would turn twice to an Albatros' once ... it was a remarkably fine machine for general all-round flying. It was so extremely light and well surfaced that after a little practice one could almost land it on a tennis court.”

Deadly deck-landing trials
Sopwith Pups were used in pioneering carrier experiments. On 2 August 1917, a Pup flown by Sqn Cdr Edwin Dunning became the first aircraft to land on a moving ship, HMS Furious. Sadly, Dunning lost his life on the third landing, when the Pup went over the side into the water. Even so, the trials pointed the way to operational deployment, and a few months later Pups began carrier operations. At first, they were fitted with skids instead of wheels, using wires to trap the aircraft on landing. Later versions reverted to wheels, which made deck handling by ground crews easier.

Visit the Sopwith Pup at Wingnut Wings, where there is masses of extra information to look at, here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Sopwith Pup boxtop.
2-6  Views of the assembled Pup, courtesy Wingnut Wings.
7  Dunning makes flight trials on HMS Furious.




Friday, December 3, 2010

FUJIMI F-35B TO 1:72 SCALE


SMN report
No sooner did we do the F-35 piece below, when we ran across the recent Fujimi 1:72 scale F-35B STOVL version. It’s a multi-colour kit, something along the lines of the old Matchbox releases, though it has to be said, Fujimi’s palette is far less alarming than the kaleidoscope of inappropriate shades that Matchbox dreamt up.

A mixed bag from Fujimi
It’s an important product, as it is about the first one that approximates the production-standard machine, though doubtless details will still change between now and squadron service. The engine is moulded in a rich dark metallic shade and has extremely fine detail, so top marks there Fujimi. Less entrancing are the weapons, which are fairly basic - serious model fans will go straight to the bits box or to aftermarket suppliers.

The Fujimi model is becoming available now, from model stores and online suppliers. There’s an in-depth review of what’s in the box, with heaps of closeups and comments for and against, from model maker Drewe Manton here.

STEALTH FIGHTER F-35 LIGHTNING II SOON TO RULE THE SKIES











SMN report
After years of development, and seemingly endless delays and price hikes, the ‘5th generation’ fighter jet from Lockheed Martin, the F-35 Lightning II, has at last been ordered into limited production.

It’s a bit better than recent news that the UK has dropped the F-35 STOVL version in favour of a standard configuration for launching from its as-yet unbuilt Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier. Along with other news that the UK Harrier force is being disbanded, it looks as though the UK is in for an entire decade without carrier-borne air power. Let’s hope it’s not needed.

5G helmet design
Back to the F-35: it’s not been a massive hit with the model companies yet, but the rumour mill indicates that things will improve in 2011, not least with a Lindberg version to 1:32 scale. That’ll be interesting if it happens. Meantime, apart from the old Italeri 1:72 and Panda Models 1:48 offerings there’s so much to wait for. Still, we couldn’t resist showing you the latest in ‘5G’ fighter helmets - Star Wars, eat your heart out, 5G pilots tote serious stuff!

RC Lightning II
However, even if there isn’t yet a really good F-35 injection kit - and no sign of a production-standard machine - there are various radio control scale and semi-scale versions to build and fly. The video (without sounds on our system, but you may have better luck) shows one of the most aerobatic ones available.

Visit one of the RC F-35 suppliers, Esprit Models here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  5G fighter pilot helmet.
2-3  Panda 1:48 scale kit.
4  Cutaway plan of the F-35B, clearly showing the engine and front lift fan arrangement. To design-purists like us, this layout is not a patch on the Harrier’s elegantly simple four-poster exhaust system.

Monday, November 29, 2010

DOUGLAS SKYRAIDER - HEFTY SINGLE-SEAT ATTACK PLANE







SMN report
Seeing that beautifully produced Hobby Master Douglas Skyraider made us think that the diecast industry has one more ‘mission impossible’ to fulfill in the quality stakes - and that’s to fill those tiny cockpits with decent-looking humanoids.

Skyraider cockpit
As you can see from the superb pix and video of the real thing above, the pilot sits high and mighty in the Skyraider’s cockpit, the big bubble canopy giving him a terrific all-round combat view. Sad to say, the HM aircraft features a shrunken little man looking half asleep at the controls; in fact, the figure is pretty much on a par with the infamous and malnourished Airfix flight crews of long ago.

Hobby Master pilots
Part of the problem is to do with what’s actually possible. The limits of moulding technology simply don’t allow a canopy of scale thickness (yet!), so the pilot is bound to sit somewhat low in the cockpit. Even so, the average diecast pilot is pretty half-hearted, and in open cockpit machines, the issue shouldn’t arise at all. Now Hobby Master is at least addressing the issue, with several sets of figures now available, and they are better than the in-cockpit bods. But there’s a way to go yet, so that’s our next target for HM and other brands - pilots who look like they really have been to flight school!

Revell 1:40 scale Skyraider
The video in particular reminds us of that old Revell kit from 1960, made to a one-of-a-kind 1:40 scale. It was packed with must-have features of the time, including retractable undercarriage. In the Skyraider’s case this is particularly complex to model, because the wheels rotate 90 degrees to lay flat in the wings. In the kit I built some time ago, the wheels (and other features, such as the massive underbelly dive brake, sliding canopy, and folding wings) worked after a fashion - but only after a fashion. When extended, the landing legs were rather weak at the knees and, combined with the hefty weight of the finished item, made them go splay-legged the moment you tried to sit the plane on them!

You tried so hard Revell - but perhaps there are some things best left alone...

Spooky the Cat’s treasure trove
Incidentally, we chanced on this interesting clutch of kits, purchased at the IPMS Seattle Spring Show 2008. You can see the reissue of that original 1:40 scale Skyraider in the set, picked up for just $10 (fine value, even for a reissue) by model fan ‘Spooky the Cat’. Trust you enjoyed the build Spooky, and that you managed to fix that feeble undercart! Below it is the original box, painted with that early-Revell style and panache. The box subhead describes it as ‘frameable’ art, which just goes to show - never cut up a box at the suggestion of a copywriter!

Visit here for Skyraider kits and books.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Kit selection from IPMS Seattle 2008.
2  Revell box from 1960.
3-4  Skyraider demos its barn-door speed brake, and flying in formation with a Grumman F4F, called the Martlet in Fleet Air Arm service.

Video courtesy ‘octane130’.