Joining the CatPack

On my ‘To-Do’ page, you will see that the last two entries read:

  • Build an aeroplane (assuming I achieve the above – a bit pointless otherwise). Failing this, and learning to fly, I could always….
  • Help restore an aeroplane (I’ve seen adverts for volunteers to restore and maintain a Catalina at Duxford, so this shouldn’t be too difficult to do… famous last words!)

So that’s what I’ve done – I’ve volunteered to help maintain the Catalina at Duxford. I attended my first session at the beginning of December, and then went again last Sunday. Despite being the youngest, and having the least relevant knowledge of all the volunteers I have met so far, they have made me very welcome.

My first session was spent cleaning old neoprene from a handful of panels from the tailplane, and removing the residue of the glue that had been used to adhere the neoprene to the panels. In the photo below (which I found through Google, and is from a gentleman called David Whitworth, who may himself be one of the volunteers as two of them are called ‘Dave’) you can see where the panels should have been (it’s the green bit under the tail wings).

The Catalina's tail - note the green patches below the wings where the panels I worked on live. Credit for this photo goes to David Whitworth -


More model behaviour

It’s been a while since I put anything on here about my models. Since I built the Bv141, I have added several more to the small flock hanging from my ceiling. In that time, I have built a Focke Wulf Fw189 (interestingly, the plane which really spelt the end of the Bv141 as they were both powered by the same engine, and the Fw189 made more rapid progress from prototype to production model), a larger, 1/48 scale Hawker Hurricane (all my other models so far have been 1/72 scale), and I then followed that up with another 1/48 scale rendition of a famous Battle of Britain fighter – the Supermarine Spitfire, albeit that this model is in a highly unusual black and gold post-war colour scheme – and the most recently completed model is a 1/72 scale Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina.

Below are some photos of these models:

Focke Wulf Fw189

Focke Wulf Fw189 - very similar to the Lockheed Lightning

Hawker Hurricane

Hawker Hurricane - note the silvering around the decals on the fuselage

Black and gold Spitfire

The black and gold Spitfire in close up

There isn’t a photo of the Catalina yet, but I will take one at some point, upload it and post it for you all to see.

Blohm und Voss Bv141

Some time ago I mentioned that I was intending to build a model of a very strange aeroplane. I actually finished this a few weeks ago, but have only now got around to uploading the photos and writing a small amount about it.

My Blohm und Voss Bv141 model


Above is the finished article. As you can see, it’s a crazy looking plane.

The model itself wasn’t too difficult to build, and I took my time, determined to get it right. I did still make a couple of mistakes along the way, and wasn’t helped by another couple of bloopers on Airfix’s behalf.

Firstly, I bent one of the antennae (you can see it sticking out of the front of the starboard wing), and also I fogged up the front canopy whilst trying to clean it with some paint thinner. Mistakes I won’t make again (fingers crossed!).

Airfix themselves had sent out a model with a decal scheme which didn’t quite fit the reality of the finished model. As you will see in the photo below, there are bombs attached to the underside of the wings. However, on the paint/decal scheme, there is no allowance made for the bombs, and in fact the middle two letters (the C and R) are supposed to go where the bombs are attached. As a result, I had to improvise and move the letters inwards a bit. Secondly, the Balkan cross on each wing was positioned over some of the raised detail, meaning that again I had to improvise and split the decal so that it fit properly, and paint in any of the gaps that this created.

Bv141 underside

Ultimately, though, I am very pleased with the finished product. I wish I could provide some better photos, but unfortunately my camera gets funny about photographing things very close-to, and also doesn’t seem to like doing things indoors.

3rd Time Lucky

Yesterday, at the third time of asking, my flying lesson finally went ahead. The sky was clear , the breeze was fairly gentle, and the sun was shining brightly; all in all, perfect flying conditions.

As I’d only ever flown twice before – out to Greece and back again – and in an airliner (a 737 if my vague memory serves me correctly), I had booked the shortest lesson available, a 30-minute taster, just in case I didn’t take to it as well as I hoped. As it turned out, I had no such problems, and really enjoyed it.

Anyway, enough of the vague generalities, let’s get down to the detail.

I turned up just before 2pm and signed in to the visitor’s book. Or at least, I guess that’s what it was. It might have been a trainee pilot’s signing in book, but ultimately, there isn’t much difference between the two…

After that, the instructor (a very nice guy called Joe Cunningham) issued me with a pair of headphones and then sat me down in the briefing room and explained how the controls worked. This took a good ten minutes or so as he explained that each control has both primary and secondary effects, and so it is often necessary to use a combination of the controls to negate the secondary effect (because that is usually an undesirable consequence of the primary effect).

We then walked out on to the ‘apron’, the area of tarmac in front of the hangars but separate from the runway where the planes are parked. I climbed in to the cockpit, plugged in my headphones and tightened the seatbelt while Joe performed a few last-minute checks. We then taxied over towards the runway, and Joe showed me how to check another couple of things, though to be perfectly honest I can’t remember exactly what they were.

We then approached the runway, with me doing some of the steering. I say “some” because I wasn’t very good at it at all. Y’see, the thing with aeroplanes is that when in the air, you can steer with your hands, much like you do in a car. On the ground, you operate the rudder with your feet. I wasn’t being quite firm enough, and so we kept veering off course. After pausing at the entrance to the runway – holding point D, I think I overheard from Air Traffic Control – we then took off. I don’t know if he noticed, but as soon as we were airborne, the biggest grin spread across my face, and it was quite a while before it began to fade.

During the briefing, he had asked me a little about myself, where I lived and worked particularly. As a result, we headed off towards home and eventually Tenterden. The thing that struck me the most from 2,300 feet up was how close everything seemed to everything else. At one point, we had Brenzett under one wing (or so it seemed), and looking out the other side, Brookland seemed directly below the other wing-tip. It was about this time that I had the only dodgy moment of the whole thing – we hit some turbulence and dropped suddenly, giving me a massive headrush that took a second or two to clear.

We found home quite easily, and Joe took us round in a loop to get a closer and longer look before we headed off towards Tenterden. Apparently, Harriet, Nick and Buster were in the field waving, but we were too high to see them.

Over Tenterden, we did a slow and wide turn and headed back towards Lydd. During the outward journey, we had been averaging a speed of 80 knots, and I asked Joe what sort of speed this translated to in mph. I was astonished when he said that it was around 100mph, and pointed to the dial which had a small inner window which I hadn’t noticed before, showing the speed in mph as well as in knots. I found it so hard to believe because up in the air you have no fixed points near you from which to judge your speed, and so it feels as though you are drifting along at a very leisurely pace. It wasn’t until we overheard a message to ATC from another plane which was going in the opposite direction to us at the same altitude, and I looked out of the window that I saw how fast we must have been moving.

During the flight, I had been in control of the plane for a reasonable amount of time, but I was simply responsible for keeping it straight and level. Luckily, this wasn’t beyond me, and there was a great feeling when a slight touch on the controls brought about an instant and noticeable change in direction. This also made me quite nervous as it brought home how easy it would be to overdo things!

As we approached Lydd, I was allowed to start bringing the plane around in a circle so that we would land into the wind. This helps slow the plane down as it comes back down onto the runway. Joe took over and brought the plane down – quite smoothly as well – and then he let me taxi back towards the hangars. Once again, I was too gentle, and he had to step in on a couple of occasions to stop me veering into something very expensive. As we approached the parking place for our aircraft, we spotted my mum, snapping away with the camera. The photos below are all her work…


After landing, and posing for a couple of photos while Joe and another man from the Aero Club secured the wings (they’re tied to the ground to stop them blowing away on windy days), we went back inside where I was presented with a certificate to commemorate my trip.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but with hindsight I think I was a little overawed by the sheer fact of being up in an aeroplane, and with my hands on the controls to properly concentrate on what I was doing at first. I also think I was a little too timid with the controls. In my defence, I defy anyone to not be a little cautious once they’ve seen how responsive the plane is to even the slightest movement of the control column. Next time (and there will be a next time, though when is less certain), I think I’ll try to be a bit more positive, and, with the intructor’s blessing, experiment a little more with the controls.

Wish me luck!

Mitsubishi Zero

Following on from the Lockheed Lightning I built a few weeks ago, I recently finished building a 1:72 scale Mitsubishi Zero, and the results are here for you to see.

My Mitsubishi Zero model

This was only one of Airfix’s Starter Kits, and as such was much more straightforward to build than the Lightning. However, I think this is the model I’m most proud of making, even including all those I built when I was much, much younger. Why? Because this is the first one I’ve painted and decorated with the appropriate decals.

I chose this model for its intended simplicity in order to practice for my next model, the Blohm und Voss Bv141-B I mentioned in the previous post. As you might be able to see, it hasn’t gone perfectly (the numbers on the tail are slightly wonky), but I’ve learned a lot from taking the time to do it properly.

A Second Childhood…?

This is a story with a rather complicated beginning…

About a month ago, I was in Antwerp with my girlfriend, we went to the docks to see some of the entrants for the 2010 Tall Ships Race. Some of those there were of the old, wooden variety, and, having visited a Tintin shop earlier in the day (well, we were in Belgium, I practically had to…!) a number of things began to collide in my memory.

The sight of these ships, along with the Tintin influence, reminded me of ‘The Secret Of The Unicorn’ in which parts of a map revealing the location of buried treasure are hidden in the hollow masts of models of a ship, The Unicorn. This in turn made me yearn for the models I used to build as a kid.

Not long after that, I was in Bluewater, and spotted ModelZone. In there, I bought myself a model Lockheed P-38 Lightning, which I put together  a few days ago. [Edit: I’ve lost the photo somewhere on the internet, sorry!]

I chose the Lightning because I like its unusual design. Instead of the traditional single fuselage with two wings sticking out each side, it has the shortened central nacelle and twin booms either side, each housing an engine and attached to the tail.

For some reason, I particularly like World War 2 aircraft. I think it’s because I find the World War 1 planes too flimsy-looking, and modern jets are less eye-catching somehow.

I have already decided on my next two models. Both are German planes from WW2, both are non-combative (as I see it anyway – though both were armed, primarily for defence) and they are both from the same company; Blohm und Voss.

The first is the Blohm und Voss BV222, a massive flying-boat, and it is claimed to be the largest flying-boat to enter service in WW2. It had six engines, and looked like this:

Blohm und Voss BV222

Blohm und Voss BV222

In fact, this page is an account of someone else building the same model I’m about to attempt.

I also have a particular liking for flying-boats, and remember building a Short Sunderland as a youngster, though that model is no longer around (I had a tendency to sit on them a few weeks after they were built).

The second of the two is the BV141. This is possibly the most unusual aircraft I have ever seen. For a start, it’s asymmetric. Now this seems to go against everything my limited understanding of aerodynamics would consider to be necessary. How can something asymmetric fly? Wouldn’t it be unbalanced? Well, apparently, I’m not alone in thinking so – it is claimed that the German authorities were reluctant to accept the design on account of its bizarre shape.

Blohm und Voss BV141

Blohm und Voss BV141. The most asymmetric plane ever, apparently.

Note that the tail wing isn’t symmetrical either, in order to properly balance the plane.

I’ve chosen each of these as they have something unique about them. I find these far more interesting than the likes of the Spitfire or Hurricane, Messerschmitt Bf 109 or Mitsubishi Zero, all of which followed the same basic template with only the minor details changed.

I’ll post more photos as my models progress.