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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s no secret that I like the F/A-18 Hornet (albeit not as much as I like the F-14 Tomcat), so I’m always happy to see a nice model of this US Navy strike fighter.
Ryan Harris (Shep Sheppardson) has built a fine example in the markings of US Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 113, better known as the Stingers. This was the first US Navy combat squadron to start flying Hornets back in the eighties and is still active today. Some elements of the model aren’t all that different from other Hornets (including my own), but looks very much like the real deal and has a few interesting features. I’m primarily very curious to find out how the intakes are held together.
Sometimes LEGO builders drop off the map all of a sudden. Real life priorities take over or they lose interest. If the only way you followed the stuff that Ed Diment (Lego Monster) built was via flickr, you might think that the same at happened to him. To some extent it has. Ed’s real-life priority, however, is LEGO-related: he has become a professional LEGO builder, who, together with Duncan Titmarsh, runs a company called Bright Bricks. They also built the jet engine we blogged a while ago. Today, for the first time in a long while, Ed has posted one a new model on flickr.
It is a 1/55 scale model of an Airbus A-380 airliner, commissioned by a toy shop in Heathrow Airport. I already saw pictures of this a few weeks ago, whilst visiting the Bright Bricks workshop, and have been eagerly anticipating blogging them ever since. I know from Ed that being a professional LEGO builder means often spending time building things that aren’t necessarily all that interesting as well as dealing with a lot of red tape, such as health and safety rules and planning permissions. Ed is an airplane buff, however. Back when his LEGO-building was just a hobby, he built a model of Concorde, for instance. It is no surprise then, that the Airbus was one model that he himself was looking forward to building.
The real aircraft is a bit of a blimp, but the way the difficult compound curves on the fuselage were sculpted, the way the wing profiles and engines were built and the wonderful Brick-built British Airways markings on the tail make this model a thing of beauty.
I’m starting to think that LUGPol either doesn’t have any sub-standard builders within its ranks, or they kill them off before they can embarrass the group publicly. Either way I’m delighted to present Polish Air Marshall mrutek’s latest effort, a fabulous single-engine biplane called the Antonov An-2. The An-2 was a large, slow flying utility transport used as both a crop-duster and for the deployment of paratroopers. The Guinness Book of World Records states that the 45-year production run for the An-2 was for a time the longest ever, for any aircraft, but it was recently exceeded by the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.
Come fly with me, constant reader, before the weekend draws to a close and the Monday factory whistle blows. Our conveyance is provided by the always impressive David Roberts and his “Albatross“, while the soundtrack is provided by Iron Maiden, who I had the great fortune to see recently on tour here in Vegas. Rock on David, way to bring the clean lines, bold colors and snappy presentation. I’ll see the rest of you next Friday at the fights.