Planes in Progress: 787 ain’t got nothin’ on me.

I’m hosting two games at Enfilade as a solo act. They are Golden Age Air Racing, an air racing game (shocking, yes I know)  I’m also running Thunderboats, which is a hydroplane racing game.  GAAR and T-Boats were both designed by my good friend Dave Schueler.  They’re fun and relatively easy to run.  By the third turn or so the players are running the game, so it’s a piece of cake.

I’m also helping out with a couple of games.  One is Crysler’s Farm with Mark Waddington and Doug Hamm.  We’ve playtested Crysler’s Farm a couple of times now and I think we more or less have it figured out.  The other is theTungsten Raids on the battleship Tirpitz in Norway in 1944.  These invovle Fleet Air Arm planes, mostly American, launched from British carriers trying to get past air defenses to attack the moored battleship.

Thankfully I have almost all the planes for Tungsten.  Some years ago I hosted a scenario calling for an air scenario between the Tungsten fighters and German fighters.  It was pretty fun throwing out American Hellcat and Corsair fighters to duke it out with Me-109’s and FW-190’s. We mostly think of the American planes serving in the Pacific and not so much in the Atlantic.  But when the Fleet Air Arm needed battle-ready carrier fighters they turned to the Americans.

I also have some Fairey Fireflies, the two-seat reconnaissance fighter flown by the FFA until well into the 1950’s.  What I needed however, were some Fairey Barracudas, the strike planes used by the FAA for it’s raids on the battleship at her anchorage in Altenfjord in April of 1944.  Last year I ordered some Scotia ‘Cudas from I-94 miniatures.  Very nice planes, mostly armed with torpedoes.  Eight Barracudas to paint and my role in the project would be finished.

For the air racing game, I have everything I need.  Except I’m making a scale change from 1/48 to 1/144th.  The larger scale planes are nice but there are limited number of miniatures, and they are at best unwieldy to maneuver on the game table.  A Shapeways artist had modeled a fair number of the 30’s era racers in a more manageable scale which simply requires that I mount and paint the little beggars.

Unfortunately both the Tungsten Barracudas and the air racers pose some sticking points. First, it would be nice if the new Barracudas matched the old planes.  I painted the older miniatures in 2001 and a lot has happened with hobby paint in twelve years.  I painted these mostly with Polly S colors.  Polly S, made by Floquil was purchased by Testors some time ago.  I bought those paints at American Eagles in Seattle or Tacoma, both stores now closed.  The original planes were painted with Italian camo green and medium gray surfaces and an underside of Sky type S.  My bottle of Italian camo green has long since passed on to paint Valhalla, so that’s a problem.  Where can I find it?  It is accessible on the Testor’s website for about $4.65 for 1/2 ounce PLUS $6.50 shipping.  That makes it about $11.00 to buy a bottle of paint I used to complain about spending $3.29 for!!!  Sky Type S is no longer made.  A pretty unique shade of green, perfect.

Fortunately I was able to resolve this.  I rummaged through my drawer of odd paint colors and actually found a bottle of Sky Type S.  It wasn’t even crunchy and nasty.  I counted my lucky stars and quickly painted the undersurfaces of the ‘Cudas.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a suitable substitute for Italian Camo green. In desperation I turned to Amazon and typed in Polly S.  They have a vendor selling the stuff for about $2.65 a bottle plus very reasonable shipping.  I should have my paint in a few more days for a little less than five bucks.

The Shapeways planes are all pinned and primed.  Despite their rough surface, they should paint up okay.  If the ’30’s was the golden age of air racing it was also the golden age for wing struts.  While planes were making the transition from biplanes to monoplanes, they were still trying to figure out that whole structural integrity business.  Because most of these planes were aiming for speed at the expense of airworthiness and even safety, often becoming testbeds for new engine designs, they needed all the help they could get to pin their little bitty wings to their big round fuselages.  The Shapeways minis look nice, but really need the strutting, at least on the upper surfaces to make them appear in-period.  There’s also lots of strutting on the under  surfaces including the fixed landing gear but I thought that was A) too hard to see and B) might get torn away when trying to swap out one altitude stand for another, so I let it go.

The last couple of nights I’ve been using a hand drill to put some indents into the Shapeways resin as guides for the fine brass wire I’m going to use to rig the struts.  So far I’ve completed the struts for the two Wedell-Williams racers, the Reviresco Travelair racer, and am half way through the Howard Ike.  That just leaves the Gee Bee R and Gee Bee Z to do.  Unfortunately I’m nearly out of brass wire, and I’m not sure how to get more, particularly in timely manner.   I do have some fine steel wire, but because it’s steel it is a lot harder to work with. I can cut the brass with scissors, but the steel has to be cut with heavy cutters.  We’ll see how this turns out.

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