Thursday 30 April 2015

1/48 Thrick Resin A5M4 by Don Alberts

Aviation of Japan's Texas Correspondent Mark Smith kindly steps into the breach with a timely reminder of something good from the past as well as a reminder of how swift is the passing of the good, a sadly increasing theme for old duffers like me. Over to Mark:

"These (images) show a remarkable 1/48 A5M4 “Claude” model by the late Don E. Alberts that won First Place in a very tough category at an IPMS-USA Nationals many moons ago.  I wish the pictures were a little better, but thought this blog’s readers would appreciate it.  This was built shortly after a Japanese company called Thrick, doubtless a much more sonorous name on a Japanese tongue, had come out with a 1/48 solid resin model that was exceptional for its accuracy of shape and contour as well as for the potency of its resin!  (No wonder it was so expensive, it came with its own contact high). The cockpit, being hollowed out of the solid piece, was a bit simplistic – shall we say ‘indicated.’  But not after Don had finished with it, using several burrs and woodcarving tools, then duplicating the Maru Mechanic cockpit painting in three dimensions.  It was an exotic kit, but it was not an easy build by any means.    

"The A5M4 “W-102” first came to light upon Aireview’s superb gatefold painting by Rikyu Watanabe in the late 1960s.  On its reverse side were sixteen extremely colorful side-views.   It was flown from Soryu in 1939, usually by Matsuo Hagiri, who graduated flight school in 1935.  After combat in China, he served as an instructor before being posted to the 204th Kokutai in the Solomons, where he scored well but was severely wounded in a fight with F4Us.  After recovery he served as a test pilot, returning to combat duty in time to down two B-29s, but seriously wounded again during another B-29 attack.  He had a distinctive moustache, and Don’s figure of him was the spitting image (I believe it was all his own creation).  Hagiri is usually credited with 13 victories.  He died in 1997.  

"Don Alberts was a professional historian, passionate modeler, and U.S. Air Force veteran who lived in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.  He published several books and many magazine articles and monographs on military and Civil War history. He was a professor to many over the years, and following his active service was the Chief Historian of Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He was also an exceptional craftsman, artist, and painter.  He’s missed."

Toycraft Berg of Japan also issued a fine resin kit of the A5M4 to 1/48th scale in 1992 but I do not know if there is any connection between the two, both as rare as hen's teeth. With special thanks to Mark for sharing these images and his kind thoughts.

Image credits: All via Mark Smith

Sunday 12 April 2015

Key Data ~ Raiden Colour Notes

Further to the blog on 'A Gaggle of Old Jacks and Random Thoughts', a pdf on the subject of Raiden colours is now available for those who expressed an interest. Raiden Colour Notes consists of 10 pages with nine colour chips and explanatory notes, the first of Aviation of Japan's new 'Key Data' guides designed to assist modellers and artists with basic but essential information.

Available on request free but with donation appreciated, thank you.

Image credits: All © 2015 Aviation of Japan

Thursday 2 April 2015

John Haas' 1/48th Ki-64 'Rob' Completed!

Expert craftsman John Haas has now finished his 1/48th scale Kawasaki Ki-64 'Rob' project and here it is. Previous in-progress instalments can be found here, here, here and here. John concluded that although the model had not been easy to build he was pleased with the result. He hopes that blog readers will enjoy these images of the model and find inspiration as to what is possible with old school woodcraft.

A most interesting concept, the Ki-64 explored performance with twin engines mounted in tandem driving two contra-rotating propellers and cooled by a vapour-phase steam condensing system. The rear engine drove the variable pitch front propeller via an extension shaft passing above the cockpit floor between the pilot's legs whilst the forward engine drove the rear fixed pitch propeller. Each engine could be operated separately and it was envisaged that for cruising the forward engine could be shut down with the aircraft flying satisfactorily on its rear engine and front propeller alone.

The cooling system, which was designed to reduce the drag and vulnerability associated with conventional externally mounted radiators, operated with a flash steam generator-centrifugal separator  with a pressurised liquid coolant. The generated steam was circulated through 130 sq ft of wing panels and the condensed water pumped under high pressure into two 18 gal wing leading edge supply tanks by ejector type venturi pumps using the engines as a source of power. 98% of the pumped water was re-circulated and only 2% flashed into steam. There was also an auxiliary top-up water tank in the rear fuselage. For these reasons the designers believed that the coolant system was actually less vulnerable to damage during combat (and not more vulnerable as some sources have suggested) since any loss of coolant through leakage should be adequately compensated by the amount of excess water available in the supply tanks and auxiliary tank. In a post-war report on the system the Kawasaki designers Takeo Doi and J Kitano stated that:-

"As the vaporised water is small compared to the circulating water  it will be apparent that it is not vital if the wing is punctured by gunfire or by missiles."  

Comparison of Ki-64 to Ki-61 Hien 'Tony' ~ same scale

The port wing condenser panels and supply tank served the front engine whilst the starboard panels and tank served the rear engine. Prior to installing the system on the Ki-64 it was tested and improved using a modified Ki-61 with the conventional under fuselage radiator removed (cue unique modelling subject) which made 35 flights from October 1942 until the end of 1943. Once installed in the Ki-64 only five test flights were made before an emergency landing following an in-flight engine fire wrecked the aircraft. Plans to test the system in extreme cold weather conditions using methanol instead of water were never achieved. A disadvantage of the system was the lack of space available for fuel tankage and consequently the Ki-64 would have had a relatively short range of 620 miles. Had it been developed into operational service external drop tanks would probably have been used to extend its flight time. The cooling system was considered to be of sufficient merit by the US Air Technical Intelligence Group which evaluated it post-war as to warrant further study at that time.  

With very special thanks to John Haas for sharing a unique and fascinating project with Aviation of Japan.

Image credit: All photos © 2015 John Haas