Tag Archives: Aircraft

Seventy years since Market Garden

This weekend, in the Netherlands celebrations are being held to commemorate the 70st anniversary of Operation Market Garden. This was a bold attempt by the Allies to capture bridges over a number of important rivers in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands and build a bridgehead across the river Rhine. This would bring their forces to the doorstep of Germany’s industrial heartland and, in the words of Field-Marshall Montgomery, would end the war in Europe before Christmas 1944. Airborne Troops were dropped far behind enemy lines to capture the bridges, while ground troops fought their way from Belgium through the Southern Netherlands to relieve them.

Douglas C-47A Skytrain - 2

It was one of the largest airborne operations of the war, which inevitably involved large numbers of C-47 Skytrain transports, such as the one built by Kenneth Vaessen, still marked with the black-and-white stripes that were applied to aircraft that participated in the D-day landing a few months earlier. (Kenneth actually posted it a few weeks ago, but I decided to wait for this opportunity to write about it.)

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as planned. The relief columns were held up and German resistance, in particular in Arnhem, was much stronger than anticipated. The allied advance was halted, thousands of Allied troops were killed, as well as thousands of German troops and numerous Dutch civilians. The war lasted eight more months, but much of the Southern Netherlands was liberated during the operation by soldiers from Canada, the UK, US and Poland.

The Phabulous Phantom

We have featured a fair few trains built by Carl Greatrix (bricktrix) in the past. More recently he turned his attention to cars. Apparently there isn’t much that he cannot do, as he has now built an F-4B Phantom II jet fighter and it is gorgeous. I have been following his work-in-progress pictures for weeks, eagerly looking forward to the finished model.

Phantom F4-B VF-161

In the sixties and early seventies, the Phantom was the premier fighter aircraft in the US armed forces, serving with the Navy, Marine Corps and the Air Force. Carl’s model wears flamboyant markings typical for US Navy Phantoms. The markings of VF-161 Chargers, which was home-based in Japan as part of the Air wing assigned to USS Midway, were some of the most attractive ever to grace a Phantom and I applaud Carl for choosing this squadron. The model isn’t just good-looking, but has a lot of functionality too. It has opening cockpits, for instance, as well as a retractable undercarriage and moveable control surfaces. Although I actually like studs on a model and prefer my own aircraft models to be somewhat less reliant on stickers, it’s interesting to see Carl apply his typical style to this subject. The result is phabulous.

Air supremacy

Proving that a LEGO model doesn’t have to be a spaceship in order to be totally swooshable, Dutch builder Red Spacecat has created the AV-24B Seahawk, an imaginary modern military VTOL gunship inspired by the AV-8B Harrier II jump-jet and AH-64 Apache helicopter.

As well as featuring the usual elegant lines and stud-free surfaces of his other builds, this one is also fully configurable and comes with all manner of interchangeable armaments, making for one fun toy!

And the attention to detail with stickering practically borders on the obsessive! It’s enough to make the model airplane builder in me salivate…

The workhorse of the Russian bomber fleet

A few months ago Kenneth Vaessen unveiled his 1/36 scale model of a Russian Tu-22M3. The reason why I didn’t blog it back then is that his pictures were taken against a fairly dark background. However, he has now posted this newly edited version.

Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire-C 1

The Tu-22M3, named the Backfire-C by NATO, is a supersonic bomber developed in Soviet times. The Russian military went through rough times after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Backfires are getting long in the tooth, but they are still impressive-looking machines. Kenneth has done a fine job recreating the sleek look. His model is 1.17 m long (almost 4 ft), is beautifully shaped and has many working features such as working variable geometry wings, a retractable undercarriage, opening cockpit canopies and an internal weapons bay. There don’t seem to be all that many LEGO builders willing to tackle scale models of military aircraft, certainly not compared to, say, Star Wars models or mecha, so it is always a great pleasure to welcome a new member to the flock, certainly one who produces models this good.

Sydag’s ultimate Grumman prop fighter

During WW2, the Grumman Corporation was the main builder of fighter aircraft for the United States Navy. At the start of the war, they built the classic F4F Wildcat. This was only the second US Navy fighter with then novel features such as a fully enclosed cockpit and a retractable undercarriage, but it was outperformed by the Japanese Navy’s A6M Zero. To counter this threat, the Wildcat was followed by the larger and more powerful F6F Hellcat.

F8F-2 Navy Reserve in Hangar

Sydag has now built the ultimate Grumman prop fighter: the F8F Bearcat. For this Grumman fitted the Hellcat’s R2800 Double Wasp engine to a much lighter and smaller airframe. The result was a bit of a hot rod, with far superior performance. The aircraft also incorporated a bubble canopy, greatly improving the pilot’s view to the rear. Bearcats entered service too late to see combat in WW2 and, with the advent of jet aircraft, they were transferred to the US Navy Reserve, where they received the orange fuselage stripe visible on Sydag’s model. The aircraft were retired from US service in the fifties, but their performance made them an attractive choice for air racing and Rare Bear, a much-modified Bearcat, still holds several world records for propeller-powered aircraft. I obviously like the aircraft, but I like how it is presented even more, with part of a hangar as the backdrop and surrounded by maintenance equipment and aircraft parts, including a spare engine. The classic hot rod (the kind with wheels) is the proverbial cherry on top.

Beaufort bomber from down under

It’s not very often that I come across an aircraft that I know very little about, but
Nikos Andronikos (dodgeyhack) has managed to befuddle me, by building a Australian Beaufort bomber. I know the Beaufort as a British WW2 aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force. What I did not know, however, is that Beauforts also served with the Royal Australian Air Force and were actually license-built down under in significant numbers.

RAAF Beaufort

Beaufort break down

So, the subject of the model is interesting in my book. Beyond that, the model is very nicely done. I like how the wings are angled back, to give their leading edges the proper angle. The camouflage works, which is no mean feat using dark green, and it has goodies such as a retractable undercarriage and an opening weapons bay. To add the proverbial cherry on top of his cake, Nikos has also made a render of the model that shows how some of the major bits go together.

Pancakes can fly

In the thirties, before WW2, many aircraft were biplanes, powered by propellers and built using wood and canvas seemingly held together with bits of string. Not long after the war, all-metal jet- and rocket-powered planes were flying near the speed of sound. These rapid developments did not happen without a lot of experimentation. Some of those experiments produced decidedly odd-looking aircraft. Lino Martins (Lino M) is mostly known for building slightly wacky cars, but he has now built one of those wacky experimental aircraft instead.

Vought V-173 "Flying Pancake"

The aircraft in question is the Vought V-173, popularly known as the Flying Pancake. It was built to test the viability of building a fighter aircraft using a low-aspect wing. This was expected to deliver relatively low aerodynamic drag, but with good low-speed handling. The concept worked, but the fighter that it was to lead to, known as the XF5U-1 Flying Flapjack (I kid you not), was overtaken (literally) by more modern jet aircraft. The idea may not have been a success, but as far as I am concerned, Lino’s model is.

Good planes come in small packages

I think there are definite advantages to building aircraft models on a larger scale, certainly when it comes to details of the shape. However, It’s always a joy to see what Peter Dornbach (dornbi) can do with LEGO on a smaller scale.

Lockheed P-38J Lightning (2)

Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" (2)
Both his P-38J Lightning and his Mitsubishi A6M2 are instantly recognisable and most of the important bits are there. The latter even has folding wingtips.

I feel the need...the need for speed

“How’s it feel to be on the front page of every newspaper in the English-speaking world, even though the other side denies the incident?” Top Gun is so cheesy, it’s like mature cheddar wrapped in a slice of Emmental with some Parmesan sprinkled on top. Yet, when I first saw the movie as a teenager, I loved it. Not for the actors and certainly not for the scenes of sweaty fighter pilots playing volleyball, mind you, but because of the true star of the movie: the wonderful Grumman F-14 Tomcat. I have been a Tomcat fan ever since and have had at least one LEGO model of a Tomcat for at least 20 years.

I have been thinking about building a larger scale aircraft for about two years now. Seeing the excellent 1/18 F-16 by Everblack a few weeks ago, in combination with my ongoing movie vehicle project prompted me to finally have a go. If I was going to bite the bullet, it would have to be a Tomcat and it would have to be the one from Top Gun, cheesy or not.

Top Gun F-14A Tomcat (1)

The process was relatively painless. Building an aircraft at a different scale was interesting. Some of the solutions that I’m used to didn’t really work, so I had to be a bit more inventive. However, the larger scale does have advantages. I had a lot more room to work with, which meant I could incorporate a lot of techniques that I normally don’t have room for. It is 108 studs long, excluding the nose probe, and with the wings in their most forward position has a wingspan of 110 studs. This isn’t small by any means, but it’s also not quite so large that I had to worry too much about structural issues.

I know that there are some readers out there who are of the opinion that I do blog rather many of my own models and, admittedly, I have blogged a fair few. I build a lot more than the ones I blog though and, be honest, do you think the other guys wouldn’t have blogged this if I weren’t one of the contributors?

The Boeing Triple Seven is ready for take-off.

We have previously featured large airliners, but few (if any) of them built to minifig scale (Ryan McNaught’s A-380 is technically only half an airliner). Calum Tsang started designing his minifig scale Boeing 777 back in 2006, shortly after one of the real aircraft set a new long-distance record for commercial airliners. He started building in 2011 and has recently fitted new wings and engines. This dedication has paid of, because it is big and it is beautiful.

Boeing 777 Overview

The model is a whopping 200 studs long and has a similar wing span. With that size, Calum has had to use wood to strengthen the fuselage spine, as well as a few metal struts to support it, but it’s a very nicely sculpted model. One of my favourite bits is the tail fin, with a brick-built version of the logo that LEGO use for the aircraft in recent City sets.