Thursday, 7 December 2017

Aviation Prints by Ronnie Olsthoorn

Those who appreciate the superb aviation art of Ronnie Olsthoorn might like to know that selected prints of his work are available from Aviation Graphic in Italy, including new edition prints of his beautiful Ki-61 art for Osprey. These prints would enhance the walls of any den or man cave so their gift potential is obvious and for those whose stashes have already reached finger-wagging proportions their arrival in Santa's sack will avoid having to smuggle them into the house. Beautifully presented as shown below, with remarques and highlighted emblematic details, all the prints are visually striking. I have the Ki-44 Tojo print and can vouch for the quality of paper, colour reproduction and printing - whilst the size permits an appreciation of the exquisite surface detail not visible in the smaller Osprey profiles.

Ronnie was born in the Netherlands and has been drawing aircraft for as long as he could hold a pencil. Swapping brushes and paint for a mouse and keyboard in 1996, he soon discovered that 3D illustration was the perfect mix of drawing, painting, photography and scale modelling - all things he loved doing at that point. After graduating in aeronautical engineering Ronnie moved into the computer games business and refined his self-taught 3D skills. He has been at the forefront of digital 3D aviation illustration ever since. His work has been featured in the books of many leading aviation publishers, adorns walls in the homes of WW2 veteran pilots and won awards on prestigious 3D art websites, which usually tend to avoid technical subjects. He has also worked on air crash reconstructions, which were featured in a few lawsuits in the US. Having lived and worked in the UK for the better part of a decade, Ronnie returned to the Netherlands to work as a lead artist with Holland's leading product visualisation studio for a couple of years. More recently Ronnie has made the move to freelancing again and among other things he is now producing more aviation art, 3D models for TV documentaries, and box art for games and model kits. Ronnie (Skyraider3D) is also available for private commissions. He can be contacted through his own website at

It has been my great privilege to collaborate with Ronnie on the artwork for three Osprey Aircraft of the Aces Japanese subjects - Ki-44 'Tojo', Ki-27 'Nate' and Ki-61/Ki-100 'Tony' - and he is currently working on new profiles for Volume One of Osprey's Zero Aces (1940-42). I know how exacting and meticulous Ronnie is when approaching the structural integrity of the aircraft depicted and the interpretation of colour schemes from photographs and documentation. Thanks to Ronnie and his sharp eye for details several pitfalls have been avoided and one or two myths busted. Any rare errors of detail are invariably my responsibility!    

Image credits:- All © 2017 Ronnie Olsthoorn via


Friday, 17 November 2017

AVI 1/72 A5M1 & A5M3a "Claude"

These new 1/72 short run injection moulded aircraft kits are a welcome venture by AVI Print as AVI Models in collaboration with Rising Decals and the first subjects were the Mitsubishi A5M1 "Claude" and A5M3a. Box art is in the traditional style rather than 3D cgi, depicting single aircraft in peaceful flight. The kits are modular with a standard frame for wings, undercarriage and common parts together with an additional fuselage frame with other details as specific to the variant. The parts are moulded in mid grey plastic with fine engraved surface detail but will require some sharp-eyed clean up as there is a small amount of flash here and there. The wing roots and wing parts will especially need care and dry fitting is recommended. The monochrome instruction sheet has a parts schematic and shows the 10-stage assembly sequence as exploded views without text.

The A5M1 consists of the standard frame for wings, etc., and an additional frame for the fuselage, wing centre section, engine, cowling, prop, external fuel tank and extra undercarriage parts for the spats removed option, the latter a nice touch. The tail wheel assembly is moulded integrally with the port fuselage half but the arrestor hook is a separate part. The undercarriage parts consist of separate wheels to be trapped between the fairing halves, either with or without spats. The interior consists of a forward bulkhead with integrally moulded machine gun breeches and ammunition container, separate instrument panel,, rudder pedals (two identical pairs with different part numbers which is unexplained), stick, early pattern seat, cockpit floor and rear bulkhead frame. The fuselage sidewalls also contain moulded-on detail of ribs, stringers and equipment boxes. The instrument panel is plain without any surface detail, engraved or moulded and there is no decal alternative, so modellers will have to fabricate or paint any instrument details themselves. There is no colour instruction for the interior so other references will need to be consulted for that. Both the Fine Molds and Wingsy 1/48 Claude kit instructions suggest the green 'Mitsubishi Cockpit Colour' (Gunze 126) as do the 1/72 Fujimi kit instructions.  

The wing construction sequence requires the upper and lower wing halves to be fitted to the centre section before the whole assembly is offered up to the completed fuselage. The wing parts are simply butt-joined so care will be needed. The tailplanes have tabs to insert in wing root sockets in the conventional manner. 

The engine consist of two parts with a two part cowling. Although exhaust apertures are included on the cowling parts and exhaust depressions on the fuselage parts I could see no provision for the long exhaust pipes of the A5M1 (as shown on the box art). Small additional parts which are included in the kit are the retractable stirrup, aileron actuators, gun camera with mounting and optical gun sight. A pitot tube on the starboard wing must be scratch built. The windscreen is vacformed but two are provided

The A5M1 was powered by the Nakajima Kotobuki 2 Kai A rated for take off at 580 hp and 630 hp at 5,000 ft. This powerplant had a narrower chord cowling than the A5M2 (as kitted by Fujimi) and a smaller diameter prop, whilst another difference was the slightly narrower fin chord. Only 75 of this initial variant were delivered so the kit is really for the purist who wants to display a complete Claude line up or to represent the aircraft of the two aces whose markings are included on the decal sheet.

The sheet has markings for three 12th Kokutai aircraft operational over China from 1937-38 following the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War: Tail code '3-134' as flown by PO3c Tetsuzo Iwamoto on 23 July 1938; '3-173' a Buntai leader's aircraft in 1937; and '31' as flown by PO3c Hitoshi Sato in the Shanghai area during March 1938. All the subjects are shown as colour profiles on the rear of the box in a natural metal finish with black cowlings and red painted empennage whilst '3-173' also has red painted undercarriage fairings. Rather than a pure "silver" paint an oxalic acid anodised finish is suggested, to present a subtle yellowish or slightly "golden" appearance.    

The A5M3a kit provides a new frame consisting of fuselage halves, wing centre section, radiator, three-bladed prop and spinner to build the inline-engined, experimental variant of the fighter. The interior parts are identical with the A5M1 and I have no knowledge of how they might have differed in any way due to the engine-mounted 20mm cannon.  The exhaust outlets on the cowling are well done and will repay careful painting. The radiator is a three part assembly with two grille inserts, also delicately realised. The spinner cannon muzzle is indented which will facilitate drilling out.  Other comments as for the A5M1.

The decal sheet provides markings for four subjects: the prototype aircraft in 1938 and three 'what-if' propositions, two natural metal examples from the 12th Kokutai - '3-140' and '3-124', the latter with a Houkoku presentation marking - and 'T-152' a camouflaged example from the 13th Kokutai.

These are interesting and well produced kits with a limited edition camouflaged A5M1 now also available and other Claude variants on the way including the two seat trainer and A5M2 with enclosed canopy version. Together with Fine Molds delightful Ka-14 they permit the construction of a complete line-up of A5M development and production which I hope might eventually include the Army trialled Ki-18 and Ki-33 variants. With special thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for the review samples.

A modern oxalic acid anodised metal sheet

Image credits: Box art and decals © 2017 Avi Models; Sprue frame images by author; Contemporary art and metal sheet image via web

Monday, 30 October 2017

1/48 Hasegawa Hayate by Shimon Halperin

Another fine Hasegawa Ki-84 Hayate 'Frank' in 1/48 scale, this time completed and kindly shared by Shimon Halperin. The model represents an aircraft of 185 Shimbu-tai and Shimon describes the build as straightforward and pleasant.  His main concern was for the colours of the original.

Shimon decided to build this prototype when he saw the Montex masks set, but all his effort to find the source picture brought nothing. The single picture he found on the web was of the tail part only of a different machine (probably the flight leader) of 185 Shimbu-Tai, so there were no clues to colour or weathering. Therefore he decided to build it as a late (but not final) production aircraft with the following features:-
  • A bare metal cockpit.
  • An anti-glare panel ( he mixed black with some light blue).
  •  The olive drab color of late war Ki-84 using Gunze Mr Color C304 (Olive Drab FS 34087), with the upper surfaces a lighter shade mixed with yellow.
  • Light grey under surfaces using Gunze Mr Color C128 (Gray Green).
  • A grey-green propeller using Gunze Mr Color C319 (Light Green).
  • Yellow-green drop tank using Gunze Mr Color C27 (Interior Green).
  • A black 250-kg bomb sourced from another kit

Shimon applied moderate weathering guided by photos of Hayate and painted on most of the stenciling using masks. 

During the project he discovered that the Montex masks for the upper and lower wing hinomaru were under-sized by about 1.5-2mm and would spoil the appearance of the model. So he made his own masks for them and was happy with the result.

With special thanks to Shimon for sharing these images of his Hayate model.  

Image credits: All photos © 2017 Shimon Halperin


Saturday, 28 October 2017

1/48 D4Y3 Suisei by Michael Thurow ~ Part 2

Michael Thurow concludes the report on his build of the Fine Molds 1/48 Kugisho D4Y3 Suisei with an absolutely splendid image of the model "in flight".

Taking Off Again

Part one of my modelling story here ended with the assembly of the fuselage. As I have described the Fine Molds kit is problematic in some areas but the biggest issues were behind me. I now needed to make a decision about the final livery of my Judy. I consulted all available publications for a suitable subject as I prefer building aircraft for which photos exist. My choice fell on リ-266 (ri-266) from the Hyakuri Kokutai, an operational training unit. リ-266 was involved in at least one combat mission in November 1944, flown by pilot Lt(jg) Kiyoshi Arasu with no navigator on board.

My selection was influenced by the shiny metal propeller and the pair of drop tanks, which both nicely disrupt the all too standard camouflage pattern, and the リ-266 decal included in the kit supported my decision. The two pictures published in FAOW and in Model Graphix show the plane from two different angles and give a good idea of the amount of chipping required. I modified a Model Graphix profile to visualize how the result ought to appear.

Judy Gets Dressed Up

The wings assembled easily and fitted the fuselage with little effort. To achieve the same dihedral on both sides I had to fill a small gap on the fuselage joint of one wing (I forget which). The moulded navigation lights were replaced by home-made transparencies all around, and a metal pitot tube from Fine Molds was added.

For D2 Green Black I mixed Revell 363 with 10-15% each of Revell 9 Black Grey and Xtracolor 504 Exhaust. The J3 Ash Grey is Revell 75 toned down with some Revell 84 Leather Brown. The correct size of hinomaru is best provided by the Revi 48002 decal sheet but they are extremely thin and have to be positioned quickly. I overpainted the original white borders by hand with a darker green. The fuselage was chipped according to the original picture and the wear around the control surfaces and the walkways followed the pattern seen in many photographs.

Landing Gear

The wheel bays are fine and there is a photo-etched upgrade piece simulating holes. A well detailed pair of white metal struts and actuators is included in the kit. I just improved the brake lines only and drilled holes into the yokes. The excellent gear covers in the photo-etch set had to be shortened and required some grinding of the gear's protruding actuator connecting point in order to position the covers parallel to the struts. I fabricated my own brackets for the inner wheel doors - note that the doors are attached to the fuselage with a gap between wheel well and door hinge. 

The wheels from the MasterCasters 48013 set, which I had purchased, have sprockets and were no improvement over the kit wheels (I didn't find any pictures showing sprockets). So I used True Detail wheels left over from my Raiden. A number of IJNAF planes, among them the J3M, N1K and D4Y, used Zero-type wheels. The tail wheel, though fixed in extended position, has shutters which I formed from stiff paper. They also help to conceal the poorly depicted transition between the wheel base and fuselage.

Drop Tanks
One reason for my choosing リ-266 was the drop tanks, as mentioned. Great idea, but where to get the right tanks? From the pictures I identified them as 330 litre late wooden tanks. After a long investigation I found them in Tamiya's J1N1-S Gekko (early version) kit, which was only still available through Ebay. It's a nice kit for future modelling and it will forgive me the cannibalizing.
The tank pipe had to be cut and moved in front of the attachment strut (reversed on the Gekko). The tanks' colour is mysterious. It appears darker than the green of the fuselage. Colour drawings in some books show a very similar, but not the same (metal) tank in black. I could not find black as a regular external colour nor a primer on IJNAF aircraft. Maybe the authors derived it from the rubber coating of self-sealing wing tanks, but external tanks were not thus protected. Since they were made from wood, I finally decided that the colour should be some sort of brown which would represent a glaze or lacquer as can been seen on wooden parts of some Japanese planes of the late-war period. I applied two layers of thinned black over it to obtain an irregular, streaky surface.

Bomb Shackles

The kit provides nicely shaped pylons. Comparing them with dozens of photos they appear about 5 mm too long. Maybe different pylons were used for different bomb loads but I just couldn't find evidence of any elongated ones. So I cut away some length at the ends and in the middle, and added more detail.

The Trouble with the Prop

My last act in every build is to instal the propeller. Beforehand, I had attached the antenna mast, which is delicate work because of the small area for fixing, and had produced a foot step from small scrap. When you look at the aircraft profile there is a gap, about 1 mm in 1/48, between the rear prop plate and the front edge of the cowling. Of course I had checked the fit and perspective of the propeller a few times during the process. Now looking at my finished model I was frustrated by the unpleasant nose-heavy appearance of the large spinner! Re-measuring every detail it turned out that the Fine Molds spinner with back plate was about 1 mm too long. It would have been easy to cut while still in pieces. But now? Finally, by some sanding at the rear end reducing the distance to the cowling was successfully accomplished. What a difference a millimetre can make! (I'm ashamed to admit that during the on-off testing of the prop I eventually broke the antenna mast…).

Mission Completed

All's well that ends well. After of a year-long modelling journey with many surprises I'm happy to have built this exciting model, and I hope that you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoy my Judy.

Michael Thurow October 2017

ReferencesAichi D3A ('Val') & Yokosuka D4Y ('Judy'), Aircraft Profile No.241, Windsor, 1972
Kugisho Carrier Dive Bomber "Suisei", Famous Airplanes of the World No.44, Tokyo, 1973
Japanese Navy Air Force Camouflage and Markings WWII, Donald W. Thorpe, Fallbrook, 1977
Navy Carrier Dive Bomber "Suisei", Famous Airplanes of the World No.69, Tokyo, 1998
Kugisho Carrier Dive Bomber "Suisei", Mechanism of Military Aircraft No.11, Japan, 2011
The IJN Carrier Bomber Suisei - D4Y Series Photo & Illustrated, Model Graphix 23079, Tokyo, 2012
Imperial Japanese Army & Navy Airplanes Illustrated - Book 2, Model Art, Tokyo, 2016
The Dark Green Paints of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force, Nicholas Millman, 2016

Image credits:- All model photos © 2017 Michael Thurow; Photographs from Famous Airplanes of the World (FAOW) No. 69 Navy Carrier Dive-Bomber "Suisei" © 1998 Bunrindo Co., Ltd., and The IJN Carrier Bomber Suisei D4Y Series © 2012  Dainippon Kaiga Co., Ltd., via Michael Thurow.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Rising Conversion Sets ~ Pete and Jake

Two recent 1/72 accessory sets from Rising Decals, really mini-conversion resin sets with decal sheets for a single aircraft, focus on IJN floatplanes. 

Set RD Acr-036 provides an early style cowling and two bladed propeller to build the Mitsubishi F1M2 'Pete' prototype from the Fujimi kit and finish it in overall grey with the tail code コ-M25. The resin parts consist of a sharply moulded replacement cowling, together with a propeller boss and two separate propeller blades. These will require careful cutting from the resin moulding plugs they are attached to. The decal sheet consists of six plain Hinomaru and the requisite tail codes in black. 

Set RD Acr-038 provides beefed-up rear armament for the Hasegawa Aichi E13A1 'Jake' in the form of a Type 99 Mk 1 20mm flexible cannon. The resin parts in this set consist of the exquisitely moulded cannon, separate magazine and gun mount which will require modification of the canopy and rear fuselage for display. The subject of the decal sheet is in standard finish of dark green over grey with the white tail code 58-081 to represent an aircraft of 958 Ku at Rabaul in June 1943. Note that the wing stencil lines shown in the schematic should be silver - aluminium painted - and not yellow as shown. 

Rising Decals continues to produce interesting accessory and decal sets for lesser known Japanese variants and these should appeal to IJN enthusiasts as well as floatplane enthusiasts in general.  

With special thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for the samples.

Image credits:- All © 2017 Rising Decals

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

More Rising Stars ~ K9W1 & Ki-86

More recent sets from Rising Decals include a small but colourful 1/72 sheet for the diminutive Bücker 131 in Japanese Service (Rd72076) with markings for eight different Army and Navy aircraft. This type was called Kouyou or Momiji (Maple) in Japanese service and code-named Cypress by the Allies. 
  • Watanabe (Kyushu) K9W1 B2-20 of 381 Ku at Tebrau, Malaya in 1945 in dark green over orange yellow. 'B2' was the designator for a fighter trainer of this unit although the K9W1 was considered to be a primary trainer. Another Cypress of this unit had the tail code B2-21 and at least one of them was test flown by the RAF, brought back to the UK and held at RAF Wroughton until scrapped in 1957 following damage in a fire. 
  • Bücker KXBü1 XI-17 one of the original 20 imported aircraft and in either overall IJN grey or RLM 63 delivery colour.
  • Kokusai Ki-86 of Tachiarai Army Flying School in overall orange yellow with Tachiarai's kanji character 'Tai' insignia on the tail and the Hiragana character い ('i') on the cowling. The plain finish is relieved by a red rudder top. The Ki-86 was the Army version of the Bücker design manufacturerd by Nippon Kokusai Koku Kogyo K.K. as the Type 4 Primary Trainer.
  • Kokusai Ki-86 of Tachiarai Army Flying School. Another example with the Hiragana character ろ ('ro') on brown-painted cowling. 
  • Kokusai Ki-86 of an unknown Army Flying School reportedly in overall dark blue. This colour scheme, the white senchi hiyoshiki fuselage band, cherry blossom marking and inscription つばめ (Tsubame - swallow or martin) on the tail suggests an aircraft intended for special attack or perhaps to train pilots for that role.   
  • Kokusai Ki-86 of the Army Air Academy in a two-tone camouflage pattern over orange yellow. Dark green and either light green or brown are the speculative camouflage colours. This aircraft has a yellow fuselage band and number '3' on the tailfin (which seem odd) and also displays the inscription みたて (Mitate -?) on the rudder. 
  • Kokusai Ki-86 of an unknown Army Flying School in speculative overall dark green with white '6' on tail fin and yellow and white fuselage striping.
  • Watanabe (Kyushu) K9W1 or Bücker KXBü1 コ-K-7 in overall IJN grey or RLM 63 delivery colour. The tail code is provided in optional yellow, red or black colours.

This is a colourful sheet which usefully includes photographs and drawings showing the Hitachi Ha-47 Model 11 and GK4A Hatsukaze Model 11 engined cowlings to adapt the suggested RS Models kit (availably in several versions - a Japanese subject is included in kit # 92206). There was a Huma kit of this type (which included an anonymous Japanese subject) as well as a more obscure kit by a Czech producer MGA and a resin kit from CMR (hat tip to Zbyszek Malicki for  advising about those two). Yahu offer pre-painted instrument panels in RLM 02 and RLM 66 for the type (YMA7276 and YMA7286 respectively). Speculative colours give the modeller plenty of choice for personal interpretation.

With special thanks to Mirek of Rising Decals for the sample set.

Image credits:- Decal instructions and sheet © 2017 Rising Decals; Box art © 2017 RS Models & © date unknown Huma Modell: © date unknown MGA and CMR box art via Zbyszek Malicki