Saturday 31 January 2015

Kawanishi N1K1-J "Shiden" (George)

Four NARA photos today of a Kawanishi N1K1-J "Shiden" (George) found by the US forces at Clark Airfield in the Philippines in 1945. Serial number is 5511, one of the 300 "Shiden" built in Naruo factory, Hyogo prefecture, with serial numbers from 5251 to 5550. The tail number "201-53" indicates that it belonged to the second 201 Kokutai a unit formed on March 4, 1944 with four fighter units 305, 306, 301, 311 all equipped with Zeros. It operated in the Philippines and on September 1, 1944 it was equipped with 210 Zeros, but only 130 operational. It suffered great casualties, eventually becoming a tokko unit. In January 1945 the remaining pilots escaped to Taiwan but the rest of the unit members stayed in the Philippines and fought as foot soldiers.   
There is no record of the unit operating N1K1-Js so this particular "Shiden" was probably given to the unit because there were not enough Zeros. It either suffered some engine failure or some trouble with the tail wheel but is in overall pristine condition.

Thursday 29 January 2015

NEW Kit Releases!!!

Today I got a few new kits by Fine Molds and Hasegawa.

Fine Molds re-issued some of their older kits including seat belts and some different decals.

Nakajima Ki-43-II "Hayabusa" (Oscar) 
Kit Code: FB-17
Scale: 1/48
Price: $US30

From top-bottom, left-right:
50 Sentai, 3 Chutai, Sgt. Anabuki Satoru Burma 1943
64 Sentai, 2 Chutai, Burma 1943
59 Sentai, 3 Chutai, Sgt. Hirohata Tomio, New Guinea 1943
48 Sentai, Commander Maj. Matuo Massao, China 1944
64 Sentai, Flight Leader Capt. Miyabe Hideo, Burma 1943
Hitachi Kyodo Hiko Shidan, Ibaraki Pref. Japan 1944

Nakajima Ki-43-IIIa "Hayabusa" (Oscar) 
Kit Code: FB-18
Scale: 1/48
Price: $US30
From top to bottom:
33 Sentai, 3 Chutai, 1st Lt Yamamoto Hitoshi, Sumatra Oct. 1944
48 Sentai, 1 Chutai, Sgt. Okabe So, Nanjing 1945
54 Sentai, 2 Chutai, 1944
204 Sentai, Commander Cap. Murakami Hiroshi, Taiwan 1945

Mitsubishi J8M "Shusui"
Kit Code: FB-19
Scale: 1/48
Price: $US30

From top-bottom, left-right:
Experimental "Shusui", first flight by Lt. Inuzuka Toyohiko, Oppama June 7, 1945
Captured experimental "Shusui", No. 403. Planes of Fame.
Captured "Shusui", No. 81, Glenview Naval Station
"Shusui", 312Ku, what-if
"Shusui", 70 Sentai, what-if
In December Hasegawa released a new "Dinah" kit with different decals.
Mitsubishi Ki-46-II/III Type 100 Commandant (sic) Reconnaissance-plane (Dinah) "Tiger Unit"
Kit Code: 02128
Scale: 1/72
Price: $US30
It includes decal options and canopies for three different aircraft of the 18 Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai, two Ki-46-II and one Ki-46-III.
If only they could do something about the English on the box...
All kits are available through our on-line shop. Email us if interested.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Douglas DC-2 "Aso-go"

On February 5, 1940 the Dai Nippon Koku Douglas DC-2 registered J-BBOT and named "Aso" (named after Mount Aso the largest active volcano in Japan) took off at 10:59 from Fukuoka bound for Taipei. After making a brief stop at Naha, Okinawa arriving at 14:40 and taking off again at 15:09, the crew experienced trouble with the starboard engine 15 minutes before flying over the biggest island of the Senkaku island group, called Uotsuri-shima. The crew consisting of pilot Kuroiwa Toshio, co-pilot Mori Ryoitchi, engineer Soga Haruyuki and radio operator Senda Hideo decided to continue their flight and try to reach their destination. First they tried to lighten the plane by throwing out some of the luggage but the aircraft kept loosing altitude and out of consideration for the nine passengers they decided to make an emergency landing. After they radioed back their position, the crew announced to the passengers to put on their life jackets. They were all surprised but the crew stayed calm and did not let the situation get out of hand. The Uotsuri island does not offer a proper spot for landing, being full of stones but they managed to locate a flat area where they could land. This happened at 17:05 and everybody reached safely and uninjured the island which was (still is) uninhabited and offered no food or shelter. While busing themselves putting together a shelter and starting a small fire, at around midnight they heard the sound of a small aircraft flying over them and made the fire bigger to spot them. Of course there was no area for the aircraft to land so it flew away and left them to spend the night there alone. At 8:30 the next morning, another DC-2, registered J-BBOQ and named "Tsukuba", flew above them and threw blankets and food. One "Aso" crew member signalled "arigato" (thanks) by flag semaphore and a while later they finally saw two ships "Shonan Maru" and "Keiun Maru" reaching the area. The crew of "Keiun Maru" dropped a boat which picked everybody up and finally took them to Keelung, Taiwan. 
The photos below from a vintage publication were taken by one of the passengers, Kawashima Minoru.    

In the photo below, one of the passengers is using a red piece of cloth to signal for help.

In the two photos below the stranded crew and passengers are getting in the small boat of "Keiun Maru" and reach the safety of the ship.


Sunday 25 January 2015

Special Hobby A5M2b "Claude" by Nicolas Renoult

This is the last build I've finished. It is the Special Hobby A5M2b in 1/32, built OOB, with one of the 2 schemes from the box as well. It is a pretty good kit, with nice details, but not always easy to deal with. Indeed, there is a few traps and the instructions are not always clear. But with a bit of work you can get something nice. 
I've added a bit of details (especially wires) in the cockpit, and had to redo all the internal structure with styrene strips because the parts from the kit were unusable with the resin parts (it did not fit at all). The dials on the instruments panel are from MDC. I drilled the back bulkhead to make it hollow, and drilled some areas in the floor as well.
For the engine, I used the kit sparking wire, supplied as a PE part, but it look good. I've laid a few coats of Mr Surfacer with a brush on the wires to make them looking more tri-dimensional. I replaced the pushrods with 0.45mm nickel silver rods from Albion Alloy, which have been blackened with the Uschi burnishing solution (and it works, even if it is not brass). The cowling struts are made with 0.33 nickel silver rods, and I had to flatten one end in order to glue them on a tiny bracket glued on the engine crankcase. It is very fragile, but no choice.
As an early A5M based in China, I wanted to get this kind of golden color, and my own interpretation of it is that it is actually a tinted varnish (or a clear varnish that became yellow when weathered), certainly the same kind than the Ame-iro seen on the A6M's. The best way to get the same aspect was to get the same way. So I've started with a coat of alclad, and then a coat of custom made tinted varnish. The recipe is approximately 70-80% satin clear, 5-7% clear yellow, 5-7% clear orange and 10-15% smoke, and you should get something that is clear brownish. Just before spraying the varnish, I've used some AK chipping product, to make a few scratches and chips on the wing roots and cockpit sides.
Then I've used custom made masks for the hinomaru, and painted the tail with the same red (a mix of gunze flat red, vine red and a bit of insignia red). And then it was the drama.... Some paint (varnish + alcad) came off with the masks..... Usually, this kind of issue is not a big deal to repair, only a few touch-ups and everything is ok. But in this case, I have this varnish and it is impossible to make an invisible touch up, as the varnish is clear and any touch up would build it up and make it stronger and stronger around the peeled off area. So after a few days of thinking, I decided to mask all around the damaged area, to sand it clean and to repaint those area from scratch. The repair is not invisible, but I can live with it !
The decals from the kit are very good, and especially thin. That can even become a problem as they have a tendency to fold on themselves, and they become very sticky on the surface pretty fast, and then it is very difficult to make them move. I think micro set on the model before placing the decals must be avoided, but micro sol on placed decals is ok, and the decals react well.
Then the weathering was done with a wash of Flory model dark dirt to highlight the panel lines, and then some enamel AK washes, followed by a coat of satin varnish.
The exhausts have been painted with shades of rust colors with a coat of AK chipping product to make a kind of rust crust.

WIP: HERE, More photos: HERE
Nicolas Renoult - FRANCE

Friday 23 January 2015

Vintage Japan-esque collection #2 Gliders

Very tired today after spending five hours at the National Diet Library of Tokyo, battered by very strong winds and quite cold weather. So a rather short posting today mainly with photos and whatever information we could gather. We promise to keep on searching for more.
First up is a set of excellent photos of a Kirigamine/Nippon "Taka" (Hawk) 1 soarer glider registered J-BADL. The marking behind the pilot is that of the Imperial Aeronautical Association but the very interesting tail marking eludes us for the moment. Markings of glider schools in Japan is field not researched by anyone AFAIK therefore it is very difficult to pinpoint which marking belonged to which school.
The writing on the tent is not very visible but it mentions that it belongs to a high-school. The sign in front says that this is a VIP area for Asahi Shimbun. 
A different photo in the collection is of a glider belonging to Asahi Shimbun.
There is no list of the gliders belonging to the newspaper (if in fact there were more than one) but the one known is called "Asahi Type soarer Model 1" shown below. It was completed and test flown for the first time on May 25, 1935 in Haneda airport. The test pilot was Kawauchi Kazuhiko and in my eyes bears a resemblance to the pilot in the above photo. Clearly there is a difference in the shape and size of the nose, not of the two pilots but of the two gliders but the rest of the visible details, cockpit shape etc, are very similar. Perhaps a Type 2 or a modification after an accident?

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Under New Management by Derek Cooper

Derek Cooper from England shared his "Under New Management" collection of Kawasaki Ki-61 "Hien" and explained:
Ki-61-I Tei discovered by US forces at Kadena Airfield Okinawa, repainted and used by VMH 322 as a "flying toy". Hasegawa 1/72 scale kit with decals by Max Models (their reprint of Rising Decals' Dying Sun sheet). The decal set is available from Arawasi, check HERE.

Ki-61 Ko/Otsu operated by the Chinese Nationalists after the end of the Pacific War. Dragon 1/72 scale kit (decals included). I have used some artistic licence here because the upper surfaces of the wings may have been plain NMF, but I couldn't resist camouflaging them!

Thanks a lot Derek. Hope to see more soon!

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Vintage Japan-esque collection #1

An anonymous fan of our blog left a comment on a previous glider posting sharing with us some of the original photos in his collection asking for further information.
So we are starting this series of postings with as much as possible details.
First up are the three aircraft types seen in some of the photos.

The aircraft in the above photos is a Klem L.25 the sole example of which was brought to Japan in September 1935 when the renowned German glider pilot Wolf Hirth visited the country. He gave lectures and performed glider demonstrations in many places around Japan. Japanese sources mention that he arrived with a tow pilot and a mechanic. Their names were Karl Bower an Hans Stolz respectively (not sure about the spelling). In the lower photo a non-Japanese individual is seen looking in the cockpit of the Klem. He is probably Karl Bower.
Hirth left the plane in Japan, it was evaluated by the IJAAF and was then given to the "Nihon Hosho Hiko Renmei" (Japan Glider Association Society) of the Osaka-Mainichi newspaper becoming the 30th aircraft in their fleet. It received the registration J-BACB.

Wolf Hirth is giving a lecture at the Aviation Centre of the Imperial Aeronautic Association on October 7, 1935. The subject as seen on the board is "climbing speed".

Hirth is shaking hands with the Minister of Communication at the time Mochizuki Keisuke (served 12/9/1935 ~ 9/3/1936).
From Baron #1: "On 4th December Wolf Hilth flying in his Göppingen 1, towed by the Klem, took off from Tokyo Haneda airfield for Nagoya and later landed at Nagoya. The next day he arrived at Tatetsu airfield in Osaka. This was the first long distance flight for glider using aero-towing in Japan a total of 420km." The photo above is taken right after his arrival in Osaka where tens of thousands of people were waiting for him. 
The second aircraft is a British-Klemm Eagle.

On May 12, 1935 Japanese pilot Ano Katsutaro took off from London's Heston Aerodrome and after numerous accidents and emergency landings arrived in Haneda on August 18 of the same year. He covered a distance of 16473km in 99 days. The aircraft was named "SEIKAI" (Blue Sea) and was original registered G-ADFB but the photo confirms that it was eventually registered in Japan as J-BOOB. In May 1936 it crashed during a sight-seeing flight over Nagoya seriously the pilot Ano and killing the passenger.
This means that the photos above were taken between August 1935 and May 1936 around the time when Hilth was in Japan.
The photos below are from the 1935 flight.

The final aircraft is a very rare photo of the second prototype of the Army Type 95-3 Trainer or  Ishikawajima Ki-17 as indicated by the number "1502" on the fuselage side. The main difference with the production type was that it had ailerons on both the upper and lower wings and therefore had one more extra strut between each wing. It was often used as glider tow.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Mitsubishi Ki-51 "Sonia" by Alexandros Angelopoulos

A brilliant Mitsubishi Ki-51 "Sonia" belonging to the 10th Sentai, 1st Chutai, New Guinea 1944 by Alexandros Angelopoulos from Greece. Hasegawa 1/72.