Different eras of aviation interest modelers around the world. Some are huge warbird fans, while others are jet crazy. Some like the Golden Age of aviation, but others try to find something different.
Bob Underwood made a scale modeling career out of building something different. Most projects he finished, some he didn’t, and others have never been started.
In the 1970s, Bob built his first Wittman D-12 Bonzo racer. The full-scale Bonzo was built and raced by EAA pioneer Steve Wittman in the 1930s. When racing resumed after World War II, Steve continued to race airplanes.
Bob has built several sizes of the Bonzo, and stated that the first one had “the glide ratio of a brick.” As he built larger versions of this model, flights improved because of better handling and a lower wing loading.
When Bob retired from competition, I acquired his unfinished 1/3-scale model of the 1939 Bonzo racer. The aircraft has a 72-inch wingspan and is 89 inches long—well, at this point, that’s close. We both want to see the model fly and I’ll try to finish it for the upcoming National Association of Scale Aeromodeling (NASA) Scale Classic in Lexington, Kentucky, this fall.
The earliest iteration of the Bonzo was not as pretty as the 1939 version! The one displayed in the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is the 1938 version … sort of. It has been prettied up with a super-glossy Imron paint job and a few things are composites of the 1938 and 1939 versions. Like many racers, Steve Wittman continually changed the airframe, engine, propeller, or anything else he could think of to try to obtain an edge on the competition.
There are several other aircraft from that era that I enjoy, including the Gee Bee racers and Art Chester’s Goon (similar to the Bonzo), as well as the Chester Jeep. There are plans out there for most of these, and now Sig Manufacturing is exclusively importing Seagull Models, including the Gee Bee Z ARF.
There are plenty of aircraft to model. If you have one and want to share, send me pictures and information about what you’re working on or have finished. I have a story this month about a modeler who rebuilt a sort-of crashed Piper PA-18 Super Cub.
Scale Techniques and Tips
Needing a box to carry the fuselage and work on the Bonzo, I purchased a 4 x 8-inch sheet of 3/8-inch foam insulation from Home Depot. It cuts to shape easily and you can make pretty much whatever you want with it. I wanted to make the entire box out of this one sheet of foam and managed to do so.
The cutouts are lined with pipe insulation to protect the airplane while it’s transported in its cradle. I used Liquid Nails adhesive to hold it together. Apply it liberally, wipe off any excess, and allow it to dry for 24 hours.
The 2015 Scale Nats will be held July 17-19 at AMA’s International Aeromodeling Center, in Muncie, Indiana.
One of the things I enjoy about Scale competition, whether I’m competing or judging, is getting together with friends. The annual cookout, banquet, and Friday night-flying session at the field make it an enjoyable time for everyone.
You generally don’t see the “dog-eat-dog” competition in Scale. Everyone is willing to help others, especially new pilots.
I’ve put modelers’ Scale creations in my column in the past and I want to expand this. I’m calling it “Around Scale.” This will include AMA members’ projects, as well as modelers’ projects from around the world. Scale modelers need full-scale aviation photos, even for ARFs. Sometimes this information will be in the online and digital editions of Model Aviation, and other times I’ll add it to the print version.
This month I’ll take a look at Don Brann’s Piper PA-18 Super Cub. He rebuilt the model after a friend damaged it. The Piper is (or was) an ARF and was completely rebuilt! Check out the online section of the column for more information about this huge rebuild.
A few years ago I was at the Antique Airplane Association Fly-In in Blakesburg, Iowa, and I photographed a clipped-wing Taylorcraft that was there. It had a striking paint scheme of fire-engine red and black. This aircraft, owned by Erik Edgren and flown in air shows across the country, is featured in the April 2015 issue of Model Aviation as a review of the Sig Manufacturing model.
It’s a great flier and because it’s a Sport Scale model with a 70-inch wingspan, it can easily be flown at your local field or at any Fun Scale event under the AMA rules. This one was finished with an electric motor, but by removing four bolts you could easily convert it to glow or gas power. If I do switch to glow power, I will use an O.S. .70 FS engine.
Adding details to ARFs is becoming popular and some of us can’t keep from adding them. You can use the photo featured in this column of the full-scale, clipped-wing Taylorcraft for your documentation photo at any Fun Scale competition.
One of the items I am pleased with regarding the Sig T-Clips is that it has a good canopy. Even after more than 20 flights, it has held up well.
One item I’ve reinforced is the wing hold-down bolt sockets mounted in the fuselage. These almost fell out after a few flying sessions and I reinstalled them with 30-minute epoxy—problem solved.
One of my pet peeves with some ARFs is the flimsy canopies that crack, shatter, and in some cases, arrive already broken. It’s not a problem associated with one single manufacturer or importer.
After your model has rolled into the grass and tipped up, even with a soft rollover the canopy can either crack or shatter. You want a thin canopy, but one that is flexible and not brittle. It’s all tied into the composition of the plastic that the manufacturer uses. Someone could make some money by producing good aftermarket parts for popular ARFs.
Fair skies and tailwinds.