Sunday 31 December 2017

John Haas' 1/48 Ki-78 Project ~ Part Two

In the second part of the 1/48 scale Ki-78 scratchbuilding project, John has assembled the fuselage (above) with some difficulty due to the thin and flimsy edges of the vacformed parts, requiring a lot of additional support using thin strips on the inner sides. These can be seen in the wheel wells (below). John then added the fin and rudder, crafted from thick plastic sheet.

Construction of the wings proceeded quite smoothly. John made four wing spars and after some careful filing and sanding the two halves matched each other. The trickiest stage of assembly was to mate the wings to the fuselage and John followed a construction method often used with mainstream kits of fixing the lower wing first and then adding each top wing separately.

Next the distinctive fuselage radiators were crafted using the process Frank Mitchell calls "heat and smash". John made a plastic master form and heated plastic sheet on the electric oven to produce two radiators.  

And there we are. The model at this stage begins to look like a Ki-78 but there is still a lot of work to do! As the last hours of 2017 tick away the project will be continued in Part Three next year . . . 

Thanks again to John for sharing these inspiring images and notes. And best wishes for 2018 to everyone. 

Image credits: All photos © 2017 John Haas


Friday 29 December 2017

John Haas' 1/48 Ki-78 Project ~ Part One

Prolific and expert scratchbuilder John Haas kindly shares his 1/48 scale Ki-78 vac-forming project with Aviation of Japan. For a long time John had the idea of using the vacuform process for scratch- build models. For him Dr Frank Mitchell showed him the way that it could be done. First he built a vacuforming box, then to keep everything as simple as possible for the first time he chose the Kawasaki Ki-78. And of course it was to be in his favourite scale of 1/48th. Simple, small and clean lines, not too complicated, or so he thought!

John started with the fuselage and wing made in wood, this time in two pieces, fastened together with screws.

After completing the parts he treated the surfaces with layers of primer.

Then came the big moment of vacuforming the parts from thin plastic sheet of 0.5 mm gauge.

After two attempts he had some useable parts with which to begin construction. John was glad that he had some previous experience of building a few vacuformed models, because he found that this project was no piece of cake and frankly was plain difficult!  But in the end it all worked out well.

With special thanks to John for sharing these images of construction and notes on his project with Aviation of Japan.

Image credits: Heading photo via John Haas; all construction images © 2017 John Haas.

Thursday 28 December 2017

Francesco Borraccino's 1/72 Ki-43-I

Francesco Borraccino has very kindly shared these images of his 1/72 Ki-43-I model in 11th Sentai markings crafted from the Fujimi kit. 

Although the Fujimi kit dates from 1994 (is it really 23 years?! Seems like yesterday!)  Francesco feels that it captures the shape of the early Hayabusa quite well. But he says that he is not a "rivet counter" and has not compared the kit against plans! The level of detail is good but he enhanced the cockpit using plastic strip and copper/lead wire. Seat belts were added using Tamiya tape with buckles fashioned from copper wire.

The build was straightforward until the kit canopy came to be attached which Francesco described as a nightmare! He found no clear indication or marks for positioning it and a poor fit.  

He finished the model to represent an aircraft of Hiko Dai 11 Sentai, replicating the scheme on the well known restored example. The green was matched to colour # 21 midori iro from the IJA KoKaku 39 standard, which he mixed using Tamiya XF-26 (Deep Green) and XF-65 (Field Grey). The unusual brown camouflage pattern was matched to # 33 kaki-iro (persimmon colour) with a mix of Tamiya XF-64 (Red Brown), XF-59 (Desert Yellow), XF-7 (Flat Red) and Gunze H-413 (RLM 04 Yellow). The undersurfaces were finished as natural metal. The wheel wells and inner faces of the undercarriage doors were also finished in aluminium at the time these photos were taken but Francesco subsequently re-painted them in the dark blue grey primer colour. The wing leading edge IFF strips were painted with a mix of Tamiya XF-3 (Flat Yellow) and XF-7 (Flat Red).

The spinner appears dark in tone in photos so Francesco interpreted it as the airframe dark green, following a profile in the FAOTW monograph*, with the prop blades in aluminium and their rear faces painted brown. Early production Ki-43-I had an aluminium painted spinner with polished metal prop blades and red warning stripes but later production aircraft had spinners and prop blades in overall dark brown with yellow warning stropes. The anti-glare panel was painted black. The drop tanks were painted blue-grey with a mix of Tamiya XF-23 (Light Blue) and XF-19 (Sky Grey).   

Francesco felt that the kit's hinomaru decals were too bright so he replaced them with some Techmod decals from a Kagero publication. These proved to be very fragile and not opaque so he discarded them and resorted to the decals from an old Hasegawa Ki-43 kit which he found to be satisfactory (a set of generic Army hinomaru with good opaque red is still needed). The Sentai insignia and senchi hiyoshiki fuselage band were painted on using a custom made mask.  

With special thanks to Francesco for sharing these images of his excellent model with Aviation of Japan. 

* Famous Airplanes of the World # 65 Army Type 1 Fighter Hayabusa (Bunrindo Co., Ltd. July 1997). Gakken # 52 (2005) has a profile of the same aircraft with dark brown spinner and prop blades - yer pays yer money . . . ! 

Sunday 24 December 2017

Seasons Greetings

With Very Best Wishes to all friendly Aviation of Japan readers for the Christmas Season and New Year. 

Image credit: Tokyo (Santa in the Snow) 1950 by Kawase Hasui 1883-1957

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