Hawaiian Air Depot Camouflage Scheme Batch Build Part VIII

Time once again for the weekly construction update.  Firstly, the jinx plaguing this build manifested yet again.  The long awaited second Special Hobby B-18 arrived right on time from Hannants, bringing with it the needed nose transparency for my HAD subject.  Or so I thought.  Upon opening the box, I discovered the same clear sprue as is in the kit I already had on the bench.  Initially I figured I had gotten the wrong sprue, but on closer examination I discovered that the difference between the variants was not only in the clear parts, but that Special Hobby had tooled two different fuselages to account for the different nose configurations!  You can argue whether that decision is clever or whether it is ridiculous, but it was absolutely unanticipated on my part.

What this means is that the B-18 I have been working on cannot be finished as either of the two known HAD ships and so has been re-boxed and moved to the Shelf of Doom, the first kit so fated in roughly the last twenty years or so.  If I can research a proper ASW scheme I will finish it in that and take another shot at the HAD scheme with the new kit.  The problem of the too-narrow canopy is still unresolved, and for the moment I have lost the mojo to keep fighting it.  However I was able to resist the impulse to test-fly the model across the modeling room, so score a small victory there.

On to better news.  The two B-17s are camouflaged and glossed, and I had enough Starfighter decal sheets in the stash to recover from last week’s insignia masking debacle.  I was able to determine colors and patterns on visible sections of the airframes from photographs and make some educated guesses based on other HAD birds for the areas not shown.  The photographs show five colors were used, although not all five may have been used by HAD on all aircraft (the B-18 only used four colors).  I mixed the colors to match the chips in the Monogram Guide using Testors paints (which mostly behaved well this time).  The colors depicted here are:  Dark Olive Drab 41, Sand 26, Neutral Gray 43, Rust Brown 34, and Interior Green.   Here are the models:

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B-17C/D
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B-17E

The Douglas B-18 and B-23: America’s Forsaken Warriors Book Review

The Douglas B-18 and B-23: America’s Forsaken Warriors

By Dan Hagedorn Sr. and Dan Hagedorn Jr.

Hardcover in dustjacket, 288 pages

Publisher: Crecy Publishing, September 2015

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0859791785

ISBN-13: 978-0859791786

Dimensions: 8.8 x 0.8 x 11.4 inches

Books on the Douglas B-18 Bolo are rare.  It was designed as a replacement for the Martin B-10 and entered service with the USAAC in 1937, only 350 were produced.  The design drew heavily on Douglas’ experience with the DC-1 and DC-2, but by the time of the Pearl Harbor attack its deficiencies in speed, bomb load, and defensive armament had rendered it obsolete as a bomber.  Many were destroyed on the ground in Hawaii and the Philippines, those stateside were pressed into the anti-submarine and training roles.

The authors have done an excellent job at collecting and presenting a wealth of information on this obscure aircraft.  The B-18 was a favorite of photographers before the war and much of their work is presented here.  The authors also do a good job explaining the role of the Bolo in developing anti-submarine equipment such as the Air to Surface Vessel (ASV) radar and Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) gear.  There are several color profiles by artist Rich Dann, and line drawings of the various sub types.

There are a few areas where I would have liked to have seen the authors take their analysis just one step further.  The chapter on ASW patrol activities details several U-boat sightings and engagements but never reconciles claims or credited kills against German submarine losses.  I read every report contained in the book but still have no idea how many submarines were actually sunk by B-18s (Wikipedia claims four).  There is a detailed chapter on all the units which operated the B-18, and another on camouflage and markings, but the plethora of interesting unit markings is neither illustrated nor explained.

Still, the authors have collected a lot of useful data in one place which will be helpful to those wishing to study the type.  It is an interesting book which is just a few small steps away from being a great reference.

 

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Hawaiian Air Depot Camouflage Scheme Batch Build Part VI

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Here is a shot of the B-17E fuselage.  Clear parts are in place.  The Academy kits have noticeable seams around the clear parts, these were filled with superglue and then sanded smooth.  Polishing them down with 8000 grit mesh restores the clarity.
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The Academy Forts have a ridiculous amount of wing dihedral as molded.  I filed down both the wing and the wing fillet and it was still not enough to completely correct the problem.  Here is the wing joint set to the proper angle with the gap filled with superglue.
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I am still flailing around with the Special Hobby B-18 canopy.  The kit part is about 2mm too narrow to fit the fuselage, and my attempts to plunge mold a wider replacement all met with failure.  I decided to cast a solid replacement out of clear casting resin.  I guess the concept will work, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.  It’s not supposed to be yellow, but it sure is.  Learn from my experience, stay away from “Easy Cast” clear casting epoxy.  I’ll give it another go with a different brand.
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After a masking marathon using some Eduard masks (on the B-17E), Tamiya tape, and components of the Maketar Canopy Survival set, the major components were primed with Mr. Surfacer 1200.  Everything was sanded down and then the wings were attached.  Here is the status after re-priming and the first round of sanding on the wing joints.  Visible defects were filled with Mr. Surfacer 500 and any other imperfections were sanded and re-primed with Mr. Surfacer 1000.
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The B-18 build will stall sometime next week, pending resolution of the canopy issues.  The B-18 kit with the correct nose transparency I had on order was cancelled.  I called the Squadron Shop to inquire about a shipping date.  They could not tell me when it might ship, and said some customers had items back ordered for twelve months (no kidding!).  I told them the ten weeks I have already waited was too long, cancelled the order, and gave Hannants my money instead.  Hopefully I’ll get this one moving along again in a few weeks!

Hawaiian Air Depot Camouflage Scheme Batch Build Part V

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The project has descended into the drudgery of sanding seams, polishing clear parts, and masking canopies.  I am making progress, but it just doesn’t seem like it.  Here are the tail wheel struts for the two Fortresses.  The part is designed to be trapped between the fuselage halves.  I managed to bend the strut on the B-17E during construction, so I decided to remove and reinforce the assemblies.  The bronze rod is drilled into the strut, and will extend all the way up into the top of the fuselage.  Hopefully this will give the strut enough strength to sand up to further handling.
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A rather frustrating engineering decision on the part of Academy.  The tail gun position is molded as two clear parts, with the seam right down the middle of the rear facing window.  No way to effectively clean that up, so I cut the window out and will replace it with KrystalKlear.
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Here are the underside details of the B-17E.  Kora’s Sperry ventral turret is smaller than the opening in the Academy fuselage.  I think Kora got the dimension right but the problem is the turret doesn’t quite fit into the kit.  I added a lip from plastic strip and that got the fit a little closer.  The opening for the sighting blister is an oval in the Kora set, I made mine round but not before I had cut out and test fit the oval window Kora piece.  The tail wheel opening had a canvas boot to keep out wind and rain.  I made my boot from masking tape and superglue.  This eliminates the see-through gap and also helps stabilize the tail strut.
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A well-known problem with Academy Fortress kits is the wing has excessive dihedral.  To correct for this I cut off the mounting tabs and filed down the mating surfaces until I could get the proper angle.  Mounting pin locations were then carefully marked off and pins made from bronze tube were inserted.
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The Special Hobby B-18 is as far as it can go at this point.  The kit’s canopy transparency is approximately 2 mm too narrow to fit the fuselage.  I went 0 for 19 in trying to plunge mold a wider replacement and managed to crack the kit part in the process.  I then tried to build out the steps with superglue and file them back smooth (something which often works) but in this case one side had some pretty bad imperfections and lost transparency.  My next attempt will be to cast a solid replacement in clear resin.  In any event I am still awaiting another B-18 with a different nose transparency which I purchased in Squadron Shop’s black Friday sale but which still hasn’t shipped.  Modelers are supposed to be patient, I know, but this is pushing things a bit.

Hawaiian Air Depot Camouflage Scheme Batch Build Part IV

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I really expected to be further along with this build by now.  Some progress has been made, but construction always seems to slow down during the sanding phase.  Here is the Special Hobby B-18, showing some obvious fit problems along the wing / fuselage joint.  What is more serious and not obvious in the picture is that the canopy is undersized in width.  I am using the kit canopy as a master and attempting to plunge mold a replacement out of thick clear plastic in the hopes that will increase the width enough to match the fuselage.  Stay tuned!
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The wing joint was filled with 0.015″ square stock and superglue, and then sanded back down.  I also shimmed the interior of the wing before it was attached to match the upper and lower fuselage contour.  This eliminated any steps and left me with a straight-forward fill job.
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The Academy B-17s have not been neglected, here the C/D is taking shape.  Fit of the clear parts left a lot to be desired, and the smaller windows all had distortion due to shrinkage and were not used.  The larger windows were coated with Future on the interior surfaces, then superglued in place, with more superglue added on the surface to fill any seams.  Then everything was filed and sanded down smooth.
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The clear parts were buffed out with a 8000 grit sanding cloth to restore clarity.  The one drawback to this method is fine sanding dust infiltrates the interior.  This can be removed by blowing out the inside with a clean airbrush.  Persistent specks can be mitigated by pipetting in some more Future and covering the inside of the transparency.
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This is a comparison of the Academy Fortress engine and main wheel on the left and the Quickboost engine and True Details wheels on the right.  A big improvement!
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A similar shot of the Special Hobby B-18 kit parts and resin replacements on the right.  The engine is another Quickboost set intended for the Revell B-17, the wheels are intended for C-47s.
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The landing gear components for all three kits were taped to cards and sprayed with Alclad Aluminum.  Shiny!  Painted wheels are in the foreground.
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Here are the props for both Fortresses.  After looking at the films, I determined that neither of my Fortresses had props marked with the expected yellow tips.  The C/D certainly has polished natural metal hubs, so I went with the pre-war standard of polished blades and Maroon rear surfaces.  The props of the B-17E were all black, photographs show some HAD scheme Fortresses with yellow prop tips and some without so the all-black blades were more common than I would have thought.  Something to check if you’re building one for sure!
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These are the Quickboost engines all painted up.  Push rods were made from 0.015 rod.  The upper pair have ignition wiring made from solder and beading wire, the lower pair’s harnesses are from the Eduard PE sheet.

Hawaiian Air Depot Camouflage Scheme Batch Build Part II

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Work is moving along on the HAD ships. The fuselage has been closed up on each and the sand-a-thon has begun.  This is the Special Hobby B-18.  As is apparent, nothing of the rear fuselage interior can be seen after the fuselage halves are joined and very little of the forward interior positions will be visible either.  The round opening aft is for a “dustbin” .30 caliber gun position which could be retracted flush into the fuselage.
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Here is the underside of the Bolo. Despite the absence of locating pins the fuselage halves lined up perfectly with no steps.  The conical depression aft is a recess for the tail wheel strut and was fixed in place after the fuselage halves were joined.  This presents the danger of the piece falling into the fuselage.  The solution is to drill into the gear leg locating hole and then leave the drill in place to use as a handle while positioning the well.
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Here is the Academy B-17C/D fuselage closed up. I used superglue to join the fuselages on all three kits.  I find that using MEK based thin cements can lead to shrinkage over time along the joint resulting in a shallow seam.  The superglue avoids that risk and also makes a hard filler which can be scribed.
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This is the C/D from the underside. I closed up the bomb bays rather than detail them out on both Academy Fortresses and fortunately the bay doors fit quite properly to the fuselage contours on each.  The early Fortresses featured a “bathtub” type belly gun position.  The round scanning windows on either side of the Academy gondola are only represented by raised lines and so were drilled out.
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Pictures show the beam gunner’s side windows were often closed on the ground, something which surprised me for the Pacific Theater. Perhaps an effort to reduce dust entering the aircraft?  I am modeling them closed on my B-17E.  The clear parts for the side windows left a noticeable gap.  These were filled with superglue and sanded flat, buffing with fine grit sanding cloths and a coat of Future will restore their clarity.
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The underside of the E with rough sanding complete. The sighting periscope for the Sperry remote belly turret will be installed later in the build to reduce the danger of breakage.  Test fitting shows the Kora Sperry turret is smaller than the fuselage opening so that will need to be addressed as well.
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Here is a comparison of all three. I find it easier to work on large aircraft as a series of sub-assemblies, addressing the the main fuselage and wings separately.  This makes everything more accessible while sanding and scribing, , and is certainly easier to handle on the bench.

Hawaiian Air Depot Camouflage Scheme Batch Build Part I

 

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Faithful readers of this blog (both of you) will remember my interest in the Hawaiian Air Depot camouflage schemes developed after the Pearl Harbor raid. It was only a matter of time before that interest developed into a modeling project, in this case a batch of three.  The Academy B-17C is a nice kit for its time, but a little basic by today’s standards.  It includes two sets of cowlings, both with and without cowl flaps so either a C or D can be built from the kit.  By the time of the Pearl Harbor Raid the B-17Cs in the Pacific had been upgraded to D standard, so for this project cowl flaps are appropriate for either mark.  If the sticker on the side of the box is to be believed, I picked this one up at a show for $12.
The Academy B-17E is a new “Pacific Theater” boxing of the original tool. This boxing has many unused parts for the spares box including both sets of cowls, broad and narrow props, and a multitude of extra interior bulkheads.  A new sheet of decals from Cartograph were promising, but disappointing in design because of incomplete research.
Special Hobby’s B-18 finishes off the set. This is a limited run kit with all that entails, and includes both PE and resin parts.  Personally, I am not put off by the lack of locating pins standard in these kits, as that also means there will be no sink marks from those pins to fill.  A review on line had left me with the impression that these kits shared a common clear sprue regardless of the boxed sub-type, but this is not the case.  For my HAD scheme subject a blunt nose is needed instead of the “shark nose” in this boxing, so another kit with the proper nose is on the way.

 

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Examples of the aftermarket collected for the build so far. I will be doing my best to resist the urge to detail out the interiors as test fitting revealed that very little of the inside can be seen anyway.  I do intend to replace and detail the engines, wheels, and guns, and I purchased several sets to try to that end.  The Eduard turbochargers are intended for the new Airfix B-17G kits and do not fit the Academy kits so those will be saved.  The Quickboost cowls do appear to fit, but if there is a difference between those and the Academy cowls it has escaped me to this point.  Kora provides a resin Sperry remote turret to replace the ball turret in Academy’s B-17E for those modeling HAD B-17Es before the turrets were replaced.
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And we’re off! While I am resisting a full-on interior detail effort, I am adding some basic structures to box in the different compartments and provide some form to hold up contrasting colors.  Here I have added the radio compartment to the B-17E using a spare kit bulkhead and Evergreen sheet.  I have also boxed in the cockpit walls.  All three kits had their rudders removed as these will be painted separately from the rest of the aircraft.
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Here the panel for the sighting blister for the remote Sperry turret has been removed. The slots for the scanning windows have been installed on each side, first by drilling and then cutting along the holes with an Xacto knife.  By the time of the Guadalcanal campaign the HAD ships were being refitted with the manned Sperry ball turrets.  If you want to model a HAD B-17E with a ball turret and no sighting blister that’s accurate for several specific aircraft, but photographs show the side scanning windows remained.  This would be true for all of the first 112 B-17Es to come off the production line provided they survived long enough.
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Special Hobby’s Bolo with some basic interior additions. The added card covers wing slot recesses.  I skipped most of the PE intended for the interior with the exception of the instrument panel, but I doubt even that will be viewable on the finished model either.
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The B-18 with the interior painted. Color photos of B-18 interiors show a much paler and more olive shade than the standard Interior Green was being used by Douglas, so I used SAC Bomber Tan here.
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This is the B-17C/D with Interior Green forward and Aluminum aft. Walkways are painted to resemble varnished wood.  The rubber tread mats are masking tape painted scale black.  A spare bulkhead from the B-17E was cut down to fit the rear of the radio operator’s compartment.
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All three together just before being closed up. I added some of the larger and most visible pieces of equipment such as radios, tables, and oxygen bottles, but only if they were in a place where it was likely they could be seen.  This view also demonstrates the size differences between the airframes – I am surprised at how large the B-18 is turning out to be!