Airfix Boeing B-17E Conversion “THE BLUE GOOSE” in 1/72 Scale

B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2616 THE BLUE GOOSE is somewhat enigmatic due to there being no known photographs of her.  What is known is that the USAAF requisitioned her from an RAF order and that she was given a unique paint job at the Hawaiian Air Depot.  From Fortress Against the Sun, pg 218:

“Interestingly, Waskowitz’ plane, the Blue Goose, was actually painted a bright, light blue.  Perhaps as a test for a new camouflage scheme, B-17E 41-2616 had been given a coat, top to bottom, of Light Glossy Blue Duco paint at the Hawaiian Air Depot.  With its highly unusual color, the B-17 and its crew were soon known to everybody.”

Unfortunately the exact shade is not recorded.  I have included a Duco automotive color chart below, perhaps the paint is one of the blues on this card.  My color is a mix of Mr. Color 34 with Mr. Color 115 (RLM 65) in a 2 to 1 ratio.

The BLUE GOOSE served with the 11th Bomb Group.  She was lost off Bougainville on 29SEP42, shot down by antiaircraft fire while attacking a Japanese cruiser.  None of her crew survived.

The model is back-dated from the Airfix B-17G kit.  Markings are from Starfighter Decals #72-162 “Fortress of the Skies Part 3: E Models”.

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Airfix Boeing B-17E Conversion “Honi Kuu Okole” in 1/72 Scale

This is a conversion of the Airfix B-17G Flying Fortress kit to represent B-17E 41-9244 “Honi Kuu Okole”, which served with the 19th and 43rd Bomb Groups in the Pacific.  She was one of a group of four B-17Es requisitioned from a Royal Air Force order by the USAAF, the others being serial numbers 41-9196, 41-9234, and 41-9235.  The aircraft were finished in the RAF Temperate Sea Scheme and British markings, the insignia were replaced with U.S. markings but the camouflage was retained.

There was a fad among U.S. aircrews in the Pacific to give their aircraft Hawaiian names.  According to Lawrence J. Hickey’s “Kens Men Against the Empire”:

“Sometime during its combat service with the 19th and 43rd Bomb Groups the aircraft acquired the nickname HONI KUU OKOLE.  Whoever named it thought the name meant “up your ass” or perhaps “kiss my ass” in Hawaiian; a more literal translation of the phrase would be “massage my buttock.”

The aircraft was in the thick of the action, racking up a total of 87 combat missions and an impressive scoreboard.  Her luck ran out on the night of 21MAR43 over Rabaul when she was shot down by a J1N1 Gekko (Irving) nightfighter piloted by SFPO Shigetoshi Kudo of the 251st NAG.  Only two of the crew survived the crash.  Bombardier MSGT Gordon Manual evaded the Japanese until he was rescued by the USS Gato (SS-212) on 05FEB44, waist gunner SGT Robert Curry was captured and executed by the Japanese at Rabaul.  SFPO Kudo would go on to become the first nightfighter ace of the Pacific War.

Photographs of HONI KUU OKOLE focus on her scoreboard.  I have depicted her with replacement parts in U.S. colors and touch-ups in Olive Drab along the locations where the de-icer boots would have been removed, all probable but the specifics are speculative.  Her U.S. insignia are in the sizes and locations of the RAF insignia they replaced.  Decals are from Starfighter Decals #72-162 “Fortress of the Skies Part 3: E Models”.

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Boeing F4B-1 Conversion in 1/72 Scale

This is a conversion of the Monogram F4B-4 kit which back-dates it to the earlier F4B-1 using the RareBits vacuform fuselage and a Radial Engines & Wheels resin Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp radial engine.  Not overly difficult and the result is version which you don’t see much at the model shows.  I scratchbuilt a cockpit and added lots of plumbing to the engine.  The aircraft is marked as the Squadron Commander’s aircraft from VF-5 “Red Rippers” assigned to the USS Lexington (CV-2) in 1932.  The decals were sourced from several Starfighter Decals sheets.

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Converting the Airfix B-17G to a B-17E, Part IV

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Time to paint!  This Fortress will be in the markings of B-17E serial Number 41-9244, HONI KUU OKOLE shortly before her loss in May 1943.  She was unusual in that she was one of four Fortresses requisitioned from a British order and was finished in the RAF Temperate Sea scheme with British markings.  The U.S. insignia were painted over the RAF roundels which meant that the size and locations were slightly different from the U.S. standard.  Here I am using Maketar masks for the insignia so I can fade the colors and account for the odd sizes.  The red dots on the wings are fuel cap locations.  Replacement parts to maintain her would have been issued from U.S. stocks and therefor would have been in the standard Olive Drab over Neutral Gray.  All of this is somewhat speculative as photographs of HONI KUU OKOLE focus mainly on her impressive scoreboard.
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The undersides are painted in ANA 610, RAF Sky.  This is from my remaining stocks of Testor’s Model Master enamels and performed well, something which is not at all guaranteed with the old TMM paints.  The centers of the panels were sprayed with a lightened mix to break up the monochrome finish.
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The same technique was used on the uppersurfaces, this is Mr. Color Neutral Gray mixed with a dab of Insignia Blue and White to represent ANA 603, the RAF Extra Dark Sea Gray substitute.  This was lightened to represent fading but after it was done I felt I had gone a little too far.
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Here is the result of another thin mix of paint sprayed to equalize the fading a bit.  This can be repeated to get the finish you desire, I usually use three tones.
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Several hours of masking and then the ANA 613 Olive Drab for Dark Slate Gray.  There is some debate about the U.S. paints used for RAF schemes on lend-lease aircraft which is only more complicated whenever Olive Drab is introduced.
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The scheme with paint masks removed and under a gloss coat in preparation for decals, showing the colors used.  Mr. Color 304 was used for a darker Olive Drab to show where the RAF fin flash and serial were painted out, along with replacement parts.  The de-icer boots did not fare well in the South Pacific, they were eventually removed and their former locations painted over, again with Olive Drab.
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The second Fortress represents B-17E 41-2616, The “Blue Goose”.  Another unusual Fort, this one was painted in an overall Light Glossy Blue Duco automotive paint at the Hawaiian Air Depot.  The exact shade is not documented, but the finish was described as “a bright, light blue”.  I took a wild guess based upon a Duco paint sample card and mixed Mr. Color 34 with Mr. Color 115 (RLM 65) in a 2 to 1 ratio.  The monochrome finish was broken up with by adding a bit more RLM 65 to lighten the centers of the panels.
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Here is HONI KUU OKOLE with everything in place.  The Starfighter Decals performed flawlessly, just be careful in the application as the carrier film is quite thin.  I added a panel line wash and some paint chipping.  Exhaust and oil streaking is subtle and was represented with thin brown washes.
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This is the Blue Goose in the full set of markings carried during the first months of the Pacific war.  The red centers to the insignia and the rudder stripes would have been painted out by May 1942, assuming they were carried at all which is not a certainty.  It does make for a striking scheme.  The nose art was known to have been based upon the logo of the Blue Goose Produce Company, this is Mark’s best guess as to the possible appearance.  Since there are no known photographs of this aircraft the nose art decals could be used by modelers in larger scales and still work just fine.

Converting the Airfix B-17G to a B-17E, Part III

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The last major area to back-date is the nose.  I started by filling in the astrodome opening on the top and the cut-out for the chin turret on the bottom with thick plastic card.  Gaps were filled with superglue and the inserts were filed to shape.  Then I marked out the window locations for the B-17E and began cutting.

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The edges of the openings were colored black with a Sharpie, then the new windows were filled with sections of clear plastic cut from a CD case.  The seams were filled with a liberal amount of superglue and allowed to dry.

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The clear side panels were installed the same way and filed smooth, then all seams were checked with Mr. Surfacer 500.  The window positions are masked on the interior surfaces.

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Here is the nose sanded down and polished with 8000 grit polishing cloth.   This can be further improved with a coat of Future (Klear) if necessary.

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The radio operator’s gun position will be displayed open, and received much the same treatment as the nose.  This is the fixed portion of the transparency installed with superglue.

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Here it is all polished out, but the superglue has fogged the inside of the glazing.  This is not a problem as long as you can still get at it.

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Future to the rescue!  As long as there is access to the interior, the superglue fogging can be removed with a coat of Future.  Sometimes this can be pipetted in through another opening, but here a curved “paintbrush” was made from a pipe cleaner.

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These are the E model transparencies needed from the Falcon canopy set – nose, dorsal turret, and tail gunner’s.  The B-17E nose was stubbier than the G model and was much more heavily framed.

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This is the resin tail position grafted onto the Airfix fuselage.  The white plastic tabs are to give backing for the vacuform clear piece.

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Here the transparency is installed, a good fit. 

Converting the Airfix B-17G to a B-17E, Part II

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Here is the Airfix cockpit and bomb bay module.  This is a neat bit of engineering, the wing spars effectively eliminate the chance of getting the wing dihedral wrong, a problem which plagues the Academy Fortresses.  Experience has demonstrated that very little is visible inside the cockpit except for the seats.  I did blank off behind the wing spars in the bomb bay so the inside of the wing is not visible, just like the real aircraft.

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The aft fuselage has some improvements.  The Airfix floor piece is all one level platform, in actuality there was a step in the middle.  Note that the gun mount is offset forward, not centered in the window opening.  The cylindrical object at the rear is a chemical toilet.

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This view shows the changes made to the radio compartment.  All the rib detail was removed, the B-17E was provided with batting for sound deadening in the nose, cockpit, and radio compartment so the internal ribbing should not be visible there.  I made the missing compartment doors from plastic sheet and blocked off the side panels where the wing fillet was visible.

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The E models had different crew seats than the “swivel chair” type used on the G.  These are not difficult to construct.  Here are the different components in various stages of construction.

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I found photographs of actual USAAF seat cushions online and reduced them to scale.  These were then printed on photographic paper and installed in the seats.  Seatbelts received a similar treatment.

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The interior after painting.  The floors were covered with rubber sheet to reduce slippage.  Note that the bomb bay and after fuselage section is left in the natural metal finish, unprimed and unpainted.  There are a number of photographs which show Interior Green in these compartments, but these are all of restored warbirds, the interiors of these compartments on actual service Fortresses were left in natural metal.

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Here are the Quickboost resin engines with pushrods and the kit exhaust piece added.

Monogram Curtiss F11C-2 Goshawk in 1/72 Scale

This is the Monogram kit from 1968.  Even though it is over fifty years old the kit still compares well to recent releases, featuring some very nice surface detail and clever engineering which ensures correct alignment and easy construction.  I dressed this one up with a resin cockpit from Starfighter Decals, and also used their sheet 72-107 for the markings.  The aircraft is BuNo 9363 assigned to VF-1B “Tophatters” aboard the USS Saratoga (CV-3) in 1933.

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Converting the Airfix B-17G to a B-17E, Part I

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Like many of my modelling projects this one began with a decal sheet, specifically the “Fortress of the Skies Part 3: E Models” from Starfighter Decals.  Mark has included eight different Fortresses on this sheet, all of them interesting for their camouflage schemes and / or service record.  There are four different B-17Es in the Hawaiian Air Depot multi-colored scheme, two OD / NG, one RAF Temperate Sea scheme, and one HAD experimental scheme of overall Duco blue.  Having already built an Academy B-17E in the HAD scheme, that left four to choose from.  Choices like that are not one of my strengths so I chose two.  Starfighter Decals here:  https://www.starfighter-decals.com/

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I have built both an Academy B-17E and the new Airfix B-17G.  The Academy B-17E is the right version but needs several improvements to bring it up to speed, the Airfix B-17G is a really nice build but the wrong version.  I decided to try backdating the Airfix kit to an E model.  The Airfix kit comes with a Cheyenne tail turret, here is the tail position from an Academy B-17F test fit.  Not perfect, but something which I could work with.

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The Airfix B-17G represents a later production version with the staggered waist windows (why that wasn’t done right from the first E model is a mystery to me).  This window will have to be filled and a new one cut further aft.

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The earlier Forts had narrow prop blades.  When the broad props were introduced with the F model forts the cowlings were shortened 3” to allow the wider blades to feather properly.  In 1/72 scale the 3” cowling change works out to roughly 1 mm.  Comparing the Airfix cowling to drawings it was unclear if the kit had it right or not.  In the end I decided not to adjust the cowl depth.  However, replacing the props is a requirement.  Fortunately many of the Academy kits have both wide and narrow versions so I had enough.

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The nose glazing is almost completely changed, and the B-17E didn’t have the Bendix chin turret.  There will be some filling and cutting needed here.

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Construction began with the tail position.  I cut off the transparent upper portion, it was a bit too tall anyway and there is a nasty seam right through the middle of the aft-facing glazing.  After gluing the halves together I braced the piece with plastic card to increase the diameter slightly to match the Airfix fuselage.

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I then made an RTV mold and cast copies of the piece in resin.  I needed two new tails for this project, and having the mold will allow me to make any of the earlier Forts right up through the first runs of the B-17G series.

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I then set about moving the starboard waist gun position back.  Here I am working through the fuselage from the inside with my trusty UMM scriber / scraper.

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The forward opening was filled with sheet stock and superglue, then sanded smooth.  I built up rib detail on the inside and installed the slide rails for the new window panel.

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The bench in full modeling bliss.  Various sub-assemblies are in progress, most notably the cockpit / bomb bay modules.  Two rows of Quickboost resin engines are visible to the right.

Monogram Boeing F4B-1 Conversion Build in 1/72 Scale

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This is a conversion of the Monogram F4B-4 kit which back-dates it to the earlier F4B-1.  For this I’ll be using the RareBits vacuform fuselage and a Radial Engines & Wheels resin Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp radial engine.  Hopefully this will result in a model which is a bit different.

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The first step is to separate the RareBits fuselage halves from their vacuform sheet.  I outlined the edges with a black marker so I could better see the separation line, then carefully traced around the piece with an Xacto knife.  The edges were then smoothed with a sanding block.

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Here are the fuselage halves with a cockpit interior roughed in with Evergreen strips.  One advantage of a vacuform fuselage is the walls are not overly thick as they sometimes are with injection molded kits.

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The interior under a coat of Alclad Aluminum and a wash.  The interiors of these little biplanes are hard to see unless you’re specifically looking for them, and even then it’s not easy to see much.

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Here the fuselage is closed up and mated with the Monogram F4B-4 lower wing and horizontal tail.  I cleaned up the gun troughs as they were shallow and a little rough.  I had also over-sanded the fuselage joint along the upper spine and had to fill the area with superglue and card.

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The fuselage struts and landing gear legs were removed from the Monogram kit.  The landing gear bracing is different on the earlier Boeing so that had to be scratched.

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I added ignition wires, inlets, and exhausts fashioned from beading wire and solder to the resin engine.  The engine is very prominent on this aircraft and will be a focal point so the extra detail is well worth adding.

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The aircraft is marked as the Squadron Commander’s aircraft from VF-5 “Red Rippers” assigned to the USS Lexington (CV-2) in 1932.  The decals were sourced from several Starfighter Decals sheets.

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Here is a comparison between a stock Monogram F4B-4 on the left and the F4B-1 conversion on the right.  The wings are the same which makes the kit look familiar, but then the differences start to become apparent.  This is a fairly straight-forward conversion and not particularly difficult to do.