Hello, fellow modelers and readers!
This time I will share with you my recently finished Hasegawa Grumman F-11F-1 Tiger (short nose early version) in 1-72 scale, wearing the markings of the famous “Blue Angels” aerobatic team. I watched the Blue Angels TV series regularly when I was a child, it surely helped to fire the passion for aviation in me. Therefore, one of my life-long projects has been to build at least one jet airplane wearing “Blue Angels” painting and markings. However, I don't have a lot of space to display my built models, and for famous jets such as the Panther, the Skyhawk, the Phantom and the Hornet, which have been part of the Blue Angels team, I prefer building them in military markings and with weapons.
The F-11F Tiger is a beautiful airplane, and although it's not as famous as the others that I mentioned above, it carries the distinction of being the first supersonic airplane that served abroad an US aircraft carrier. I previously had a Hasegawa kit of the later, definitive version in US Navy markings. When the “Blue Angels” early version kit was launched, I thought it was the opportunity to have a small and not so famous airplane from the “Blue Angels” team in my collection, so I bought it and sold the F-11F-1 kit that I previously had.
According my building notes, I began building this model in 2010, ten years
ago! Of course I never imagined that it would take so long to finish this kit. This is not an easy kit to build, because one has to cut and remove the long, pointed nose of the later version and replace it with a resin cast piece of the short, almost bulbous nose of the early version. The fit between the resin piece and the fuselage was not so good, so I had to scrape and sand to smooth the joint. A design mistake (IMHO) is that the resin piece has recessed panel lines, while the rest of the kit has raised ones. Due to this fact I decided from the beginning not to highlight the panel lines, except those from the control surfaces, which are recessed.
Other modifications required for this version were to fill the recesses on the underside of the main wings were the pylons are cemented in the normal military version, and to cut part of the leading edge of each main wing to make it straight from the root to the tip. I also filed and sanded the cut part of each leading edge to match its profile with that of the remainder of the leading edge.
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The assembly and painting processes went normally, although the gloss Blue Angels Blue paint didn't leave a perfectly smooth finish. The main problem of the kit, and the reason that originated the long delay, was the decals. These have been the worst decals I have had in all my life! The yellow decals for the wing, stabilizer and fin tips didn't conform to these curved surfaces, and after some trials with decal solvents I decided to throw them away and to paint these tips later.
The case of the “US Navy” decals for the underside of the main wings was even worst: these cracked and silvered, and didn't adhere well to the surface, even though it was a flat one. In this case the solution obviously wasn't to remove the decals and paint the letters. In the case of the yellow trim decal that surround the rear part of the cockpit canopy and prolongs towards the nose at both sides, to prevent a disaster I decided to cut and discard the rear part, and to apply only the nose parts, which are placed upon an almost flat surface. It meant that I had to mask and paint the rear part later. The yellow arrow that goes from the bottom of the nose towards the rear also gave problems. I decided to discard the two decals that go over the front undercarriage doors, and to mask and paint these yellow areas later. The corners of the arrow also had to be fixed.
Well, at the end of the decaling process I still had a lot of hard work to be done to finish this model. The model waited unfinished until October 2019, when I decided to work on it again. I began by masking the wing, stabilizer and fin tips carefully, together with the front undercarriage doors, in preparation for painting the yellow portions. I inserted pieces of paper under the tape to ensure that the tape didn't touch the nearby decals. Then I primed the areas with FS36622 Camouflage Gray, and later I painted the tips with Insignia Yellow, this yellow matched the one of the decals very well.
At this time I realized that the pitot tube that was part of the resin replacement nose was broken, so I had to make a new one, glue it in place, paint it blue and finally paint chrome silver parallel stripes over it. I measured the pitot tube from the drawing of the painting instructions, which indicated in which scale was done, to adjust the size of my scratchbuilt pitot tube. In the end I think that the scratchbuilt pitot tube is slightly better than the original one, who had a slightly oval cross section.
Then was the turn of the hardest part: to reproduce the yellow decal that surrounds the rear part of the cockpit canopy. I paid a lot of attention to the shape of the masking but I didn't take into account that a hard mask leaves an edge that is noticeable if one looks close enough. I applied the same process of masking, priming and painting to fix the undernose yellow arrow.
It was then time to fix the “US Navy” lettering under both main wings. The first thing that I did was to apply diluted Elmer's white glue under each decal with a flat brush, then I pressed the decals down, cleaned the excess of glue and let them dry. Then I carefully painted, with a fine pointed brush, yellow over the places where the lettering was broken, and later blue were the transparent part of the decal silvered.
The next procedure was to fix the “orange peel” finish of the blue paint in some places. Before starting, I removed the masks that cover the glass portions of the cockpit canopy. Later I applied carnauba wax with cotton buds over almost all the model, and then polished it. Then I painted the navigation lights.
Although in the end the blue looked a lot smoother, the wax made the chrome silver of the leading edges of the main wings look somewhat dull, so I masked and painted their topsides again and the model was finished. At last I have a jet airplane from the “Blue Angels” team in my collection!
I'll take on the opportunity to thank RSK 48, Rafael for celebrating the centenary of our Venezuelan Air Force (FAV,) and to congratulate him for his models and for his custom made decals, an art in itself.
Thanks for watching and reading.
Orlando Sucre Rosales
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