So here I have two slightly different editions of the same kit, because I intend to build models of two distinctly different versions of the same airframe—specifically, Junkers Construction Number 650, which went into service as a float-plane in May 1923. (The “W” in “Junkers F13W” stands for Wasser, which is German for “water”, designating the float-plane version of this aircraft. The second kit, despite the wheeled version on the box art, includes all the necessary parts for the float-plane, too.)
This aircraft first saw service as part of the Junkers Spitsbergen Expedition, under German aircraft registration D 260.
It then knocked around Germany, Estonia and northern Norway for almost a decade before ending up in the hands of Norway’s pioneering aviator Gidsken Jakobsen, registered as LN-ABH to her Nord-Norges Aero company.
Unable to obtain a licence for a commercial air service, Jakobsen operated the aircraft on sightseeing trips until June 1934, when it “lost its engine” near Balestrand on the Sognefjord. Literally lost its engine, which fell out of the aeroplane into the fjord below, somewhere between Hella and Vangsnes. The pilot restored the trim of the aircraft by encouraging the front-seat passenger to climb out of the open cockpit on to the engine cowling, and then glided to a safe landing. The airframe was reportedly still airworthy, but the plane never flew again.
So I want to build two versions of this aircraft, as D 260 and LN-ABH, at the beginning and end of its eventful life. Its configuration changed considerably between these two incarnations—its paintwork was revised; it lost the aerodynamic fairings around its float struts; it may have had its engine replaced (but certainly had the engine exhausts rerouted); it lost the original boarding step on the fuselage and gained a short fixed ladder instead; and it had the factory-fitted rudder replaced with a large home-grown version that seems to have been built of wood and fabric.
Both versions of the aircraft are fairly well documented photographically, but many of the images of LN-ABH are copyrighted by the Norsk Luftfartsmuseum (the image above is a rare public-domain photo). My aim is to represent LN-ABH in flight just before its fateful accident, and I’m therefore planning on giving it the all-black rudder that’s visible in this copyright photograph, purely on the assumption that someone is more likely to paint a white rudder black than a black rudder white.
As well as building a new rudder for LN-ABH, I also needed to replace the narrow ailerons moulded into the kit wings with the extended versions that were fitted to this aircraft in both its manifestations. I contacted Master-X, who make resin conversion kits for this model, with the plan of purchasing two of their cheapest conversions from which I could extract the necessary ailerons for my own models. Picture my surprise when Lumír at Master-X not only agreed to send me just the necessary parts, but did so free of charge despite my protestations. I also order up a set of decals for LN-ABH from Lima-November Decals, but noticed that they didn’t reproduce the idiosyncratic shape of the letter “N” on the real aircraft. I was all set to revise this by hand, but when I posted about the problem on the Britmodeller website, I was contacted by Mika Jernfors of Arctic Decals, who had designed that decal sheet. He offered me a new, revised edition with the correct letter “N”, and threw in a set of decals for D 260 as well!
So I started with LN-ABH, because it needed a lot of revision to the kit parts, and I used the older Revell kit (the upper box image at the head of this post) because it has a particularly inaccurate rudder, which I would be putting in the bin anyway.
First, I thinned down the float struts. The top set are the originals, and the lower set have been thinned.
Then, I filled the hole in the kit’s engine cowling, which accommodated the original “rhino horn” exhaust. Here’s a “quotation” from the original copyright photograph I used as reference, which I trust falls in the “acceptable use” domain:
Notice the tie-downs crossing the cowling, which I’ll add with stretched sprue in due course. Here’s my best effort (right) at filling the hole:
This was never going to be perfect, given the difficulty of reproducing the corrugations that were characteristic of this aircraft. In retrospect, it occurred to me that I might have been able to fashion a plug from the discarded rudder, but I was a little too slow with that idea.
I also fashioned a little array of exhausts from styrene rod, to depict the rather informal-looking exhausts on the real aircraft:
And I carved a new rudder out of styrene sheet. Here’s my replacement exhaust stack and rudder:
I’d already primed these parts when I realized that the little triangular support under the tail needed to be removed—it’s appropriate for an aircraft with a tail-skid, but not for the float-plane version.
Also, since this is going to be a flying version, I needed to depict a rotating propeller, a pilot and a front-seat passenger. Here’s the propeller:
I designed and printed this according to the method I’ve outlined in my post about modelling rotating propeller discs, banding it in alternating shades of light and dark brown to reproduce the appearance of a laminated wooden Heine propeller.
For my pilot and passenger, I heavily modified a pair of PJ Production Word War I pilot figures. To get them to fit into the cockpit, I need to bend their legs (and clip off their toes), as well as removing extensive areas of buttock and dropping the kit seats somewhat. Their arm positions also needed to be adjusted to avoid fouling the cockpit sides (and each other), and the kit’s control yoke ended up being levitated slightly. All of that mutilation should (he says confidently) be unnoticeable once the aircraft is assembled around them.
Here they are in position. I omitted the kit engine, since the engine compartment will now be entirely sealed, and only roughly painted the passenger compartment, which will be almost invisible through the kit’s very poor-quality windows.
Next time, I’ll start putting the fuselage, wings and floats together.