At the end of the my previous post in this build log, I was just about ready to glue the big bits of fuselage together. Which went surprisingly well. The cockpit canopy comes in three sections, and that went less well—the side windows were awkward to align properly, and both of them made brief excursions inside the fuselage tube before I managed to get them in approximately the correct positions.
Then there were a few more bits and pieces to assemble in the engine area before an all-over coat of white, followed by some masking to add the underside coat of Light Gull Grey and the black patch behind the engine exhaust. (This black patch comes in a myriad of different shapes and sizes on different Sea Kings, so I checked mine against photographs of the real thing.)
Here she is, with the basic livery applied.
And here with all the paint detail applied—blue markings around the tail, red around fuelling points, some black window frames:
At this point, I added an odd little detail specific to sea-faring versions of this helicopter—a rope that runs from an eye-ring below the cockpit to a point just beside the port-side window:
(I copied the above image of Old 66, late in her career, from the excellent article by Jodie Peeler at Tailhook Topics, which covers the various changes in the appearance of this helicopter during its Apollo recovery days.)
Again, the good people at Britmodeller came to my rescue, explaining that this is the attachment for a sea anchor, should the helicopter have to ditch in water. The sea anchor, streamed from the nose of the aircraft, would slow its drift and keep the nose pointing into wind.
Here’s my version:
And then, the decals. US Navy helicopters were intricately marked with information panels and warning arrows, and there was much variation between aircraft. The Starfighter decal set provides the basic numbers and letters and a few of the more prominent details, but doesn’t do all the fiddly bits. The Hasegawa SH-3H kit provides many information panels for three completely different helicopters—but there’s enough overlap to allow me to dissect out useful bits and pieces and apply them in locations identified from photographs of “Old 66” itself. (Here, I ran into the problem that the starboard side of this aircraft is, for various reasons, much better documented than the port side. So some of my port-side markings were applied on the basis of assuming symmetry between the two sides.)
The Hasegawa decals were robust to the point of chunkiness. In contrast, the Starfighter decals were delicate, verging on fragile, but bedded down beautifully to give the necessary “painted on” look. Unfortunately, the Starfighter red pigment was disappointingly faded and blotched in the sheet I used, with some of the detail obscure and the warning colours appearing as a sort of chestnut brown rather than a vivid red.
On the starboard side, I added strips of my own yellow decal to reproduce the bright protective tape that was used to secure the front and rear camera cables. I also added a little styrene placard to reproduce the “Now Hornet Plus Three” notice that was mounted on the side of the cockpit as soon as the helicopter landed on the USS Hornet, carrying its three astronaut passengers:
Starfighter’s markings chart errs with regard to the yellow tape, suggesting a length of it ran forward along the lower side-door slide to link up with the tape around the side window frame. There’s no sign of this in photographs of the real aircraft, and it would in any case have run the risk of fouling the door or damaging the cable. I presume the folks at Starfighter thought that the cable from the rear camera ran all the way forward to enter the fuselage above the side window frame. But in fact the rear camera cables entered through the side door, and the side window cable-run was associated with the forward camera mount, as I’ve depicted.
On the port side, there’s another problem with Starfighter’s decals—not enough “Rescue” arrows, and a wrongly positioned arrow on their marking chart.
I used the Hasegawa SH-3D box art photograph as my reference. It depicts this side of the aircraft as it was during the months between the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 recoveries:
And here’s my version:
There were three “Rescue” arrows grouped around the door (one at a slightly different angle from the other two), and a fourth horizontal arrow behind the side window. (I used a decal from the Hasegawa kit to provide the necessary fourth arrow.)
For the underside, Starfighter provides the “Hail Columbia” welcome sign painted beneath the side door, where the astronauts could see it as they were winched aboard.
And this is the point at which my Britmodeller advisers pointed out to me that I shouldn’t have followed the kit instructions, removing the octagonal antennae on the underside. They were definitely present in the aircraft I’m modelling—they can be seen in a rare blurry underside shot taken during the Apollo 10 recovery.
Also visible in that view is another circular antenna just forward of the red warning light. So not only did I need to scratch-build the circular antenna, I had to reconstruct the octagonal antennae that I’d mistakenly removed.
The circular antenna I built from styrene sheet, using a couple of appropriately sized hole punches to make the base and frame. For the octagonal antennae, I got some use out of the lying kit instruction sheet—I printed out the relevant section to scale, glued it to a sheet of styrene, and cut out the octagonal shapes using the kit plan as a template.I could have saved myself a bit of time if I’d just properly researched these features in the first place, though.
Finally, a little bit of light weathering to emphasize panel lines and give the appearance of an aircraft that had been flying long hours in practice for the weeks before the actual recovery. And then I mounted the two sponsons on either side, which I’d kept to one side until I had most of the fuselage detailing done.
You can see my restored antennae on the underside.
Next time—undercarriage, rotors and some fiddly detail.