Crash Landing

Where are all the models, then? More particularly, why the empty space in this scene? This is definitely a pilot in want of a plane to fly.

I'm afraid this is a tale of woe. Most modellers, of all and any skills and competencies, can tell you a similar story. Crossed fingers, it's not over yet, and I may come out of this with flags flying, but I have to assess the damage first...

I have been building a plane as a present for a friend. She has family in Australia, and on seeing another plane I built for friends, wanted an Aussie aircraft. I'm not so blinkered that I imagine that anyone must be delighted to receive a model plane, but these biplanes held together with complicated rigging are a little different, and can be attractive placed in a simple scene. A cover is crucial, because biplanes are dust magnets, and I have one drilled and ready to screw on to the slice of meadow above. So: I have Roden's kit of the Hispano-Suiza powered S.E.5a, the principal British fighter of WWI, and one of the marking schemes offered is not only from an Australian squadron, but anyone can see it is, because it's emblazoned with a kangaroo. And it became my modelling project for the lead up to this Christmas.

The S.E. is quite a challenge to build. It's a dynamic looking plane, a favourite of aces, and very strongly constructed. And one of the ways it was made so tough was an astonishing profusion of rigging wires. The British already had a penchant for double rigging, and emulating this is quite a test even in 1:32 scale. But the S.E went a step further by rigging another complete set of flying wires to a point on the upper wing half way between the struts.

A second area of difficulty involves the inspection windows. Again very characteristic of British types, these are found embedded into wing surfaces directly over the pulleys which lead the control wires to ailerons etc. Other model producers have moulded a simple recess and supplied a clear window to stick over it. Roden, notwithstanding the decent quality of the rest of the kit, decided it would be okay to offer a highly simplistic black and white decal which draws the eye to its unsatisfactoriness.
Okay, if I didn't like it, what was I going to do about it? The answer was to carve out recesses - six of them - and fashion bits inside which looked like what was supposed to be going on, and then to stick a thin piece of cellophane on top. In close up it can seem very crude, but when you take in the whole construction I think the effect is an improvement. Yes, a lot of time was spent just on this.

Right: This is the port side of the horizontal stabiliser, which required two control wires to be embedded, one leading out through the window on top, the other to be threaded through a hole to the underneath.

By yesterday, I had one thing left to do, which was to spray varnish over it to give a measure of protection in particular to the slightly fragile decals. I couldn't do this in the garage because it's now too cold in there to spray. I didn't want to spray inside my living space, which left a small warm space inside the passage down to the cellar. Almost done. Then with one slight clumsy action, turning the model around, it tumbled all the way down the hard stone steps to the bottom.

If you'd seen me at this point, you'd have thought I was being incredibly cool about what had just happened. But I was beyond reaction, if that makes sense. I went down the steps, looking around for any small pieces which had flown away as the model disassembled itself on its descent. But I only found three (in fact, there must be a few near invisible sections of wire and other minuscule items). The model itself looked remarkably intact. However, the struts are detached in places, and worse, the rigging is now a mess. I can't repeat the original procedure, because that had to be done from scratch. Now, I will have to use ceramic wire, which looks great, but is incredibly fiddly to cut to length, and won't offer structural strength ie. it will be merely cosmetic.

I was expected to deliver the plane next week, so I have a few days to see if I can salvage it. I'm optimistic that something can be done - I've thought several times that this is partly thanks to the actual strength of the design of the real machine. But if I never add to this post, if you hear no more about the S.E.; please don't ask!