Tag Archives: Aircraft

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.

The lightweight fighter just entered the big league

Most of the older models by Everblack are essentially his own refined versions of models that were already out there. They are very nice and I’ve blogged a few, but with his new F-16 he has moved into completely new territory.

F-16 Fighting Falcon (3)

The F-16 was developed in the seventies as a lighter and cheaper alternative to the F-15 Eagle. As such, it’s relatively small for a modern jet. Everblack’s model isn’t small, however. Its scale is a whopping 1/18, which is about twice as large as his previous models. This large scale has allowed him to do some beautiful sculpting on the jet, skillfully using curved slopes. Judging from the way the undercarriage and the wings bend, the large size does come with a few penalties, but my word, it looks stunning.

Jump Jet

Peter Dornbach (dornbi) has built a very neat model of a Cold War classic: the British Sea Harrier. The Harrier has a somewhat odd-ball appearance, which is captured beautifully in the model. The odd shape is largely due to the aircraft’s unique Rolls Royce Pegasus engine, which allows the aircraft to take off and land vertically. This ability is why it is sometimes known as the Jump Jet.

Sea Harrier FRS.1 (3)

During the Cold War, many air forces worried about the vulnerability of their airfields to enemy strikes. Fighters that can operate from a much smaller strip, at a time of crisis, can be dispersed to smaller and better concealed locations away from their main base. Building a jet that can take off and land vertically is a big challenge, however. A whole range of different ideas were tried, including having additional lift engines mounted vertically inside the aircraft. This obviously was a very heavy solution. Using rocket boosters to launch a conventional jet from a short ramp worked, but left the jet in question with no place to land. The only successful design was the British Harrier, whose Pegasus engine has four jet nozzles that can be swiveled down to direct the jet’s entire thrust upward. Despite its diminutive scale of only 1/48, Peter’s model has these swiveling nozzles.

Its ability to operate without long runways made the Harrier an attractive choice for shipboard use. British Harriers gained most of their fame (or notoriety) in the 1982 Falklands War, where Royal Navy Sea Harriers, operating from small aircraft carriers, racked up about 20 air-to-air kills against the Argentinian Air Force and Navy, including against far faster Mirage fighters.