The Lockheed family (Altair, Orion, Vega, Sirius) and the Northrop family (Alfa,
Beta, Gamma, Delta) share an appeal that it is easy to appreciate. Because of
their exquisitely flowing lines and their aura of glamour they often become a
reference paradigm of the Golden Era.
Of its multiple feats and certain prowess much is already written to repeat it
here, so go and look around if you are not familiar with the types and their
achievements, you won’t regret it.
Lockheed Altair that is the subject of this build gained its place in history
-as it seems to be the case for almost every member of this remarkable breed-
attempting a record flight.
refer you to Wikipedia where you will find enough to have a general idea of the
facts involved with this particular subject:
Surprisingly enough, and in spite of the fame and appeal of the types cited
above, there is not really much about those magnificent planes regarding kits.
The reason is clear, the industry is too busy producing the umpteenth kit of a
really, really, really beaten to death and arch-known war plane. I bet you heard
that before. So here again the minor players and the cottage industry –bless
them- come to the rescue, this time in the form of the 1/72 LF models Lockheed
Altair resin kit. As far as I can tell they released two schemes: J-BAUC (a
Japanese civil machine) and a US “yellow wings” military version. But the
fellow enthusiast that commissioned this model wanted Lady Southern Cross, a
choice that I supported heartily. This friend sourced some decals –apparently
sold at some point by the same LF- and we were all set. Or so we believed.
images below to see larger images
-after a couple of hand changes- the very small and thin gauge-lidded box
revealed what seemed –more later- to be a decently molded resin kit, with good
decals, TWO vacuformed canopies (thanks LF, modelers really do appreciate that)
a photoetched set to cater for the cockpits’ details, a length of wire to
reinforce the landing gear, a piece of clear styrene for the landing light and a
fuselage window (more on that later) and the traditional resin parts attached to
their casting blocks. The fuselage floor and the two joysticks were missing,
because the pouch containing the resin parts had a slit (through which they
possible escaped and are now lying on a Brazilian beach drinking piña colada).
Manufacturer’s fault? vendor’s fault? laws of physics’ fault? We may never
The wing, as I
discovered, was a very, very close match to that of Special Hobby’s Lockheed
Orion’s. They were so close, that you could replace one for the other and
nobody will notice, if you know what I mean. Since pinholes were present on the
LF kit wing leading edges and wheel wells, I used for this build Special
Hobby’s injected wing (which was discarded when I scratched the wing for Wiley
Post’s Explorer-Orion hybrid). The kit’s wing is of course perfectly usable
just filling and sanding the pinholes as in many other resin kits.
Since this kit
uses a “generic” wing, you should take note that the machine depicted here
had two oval landing lights on the wing leading edges (instead of the only
square one). For what I can tell from photos, J-BAUC (the
manufacturer’s decal subject) did not have any lights at all on the leading
edge, but who knows, may be at some point in its life?. Lady Southern Cross had
a larger air intake on the engine clearly visible in contemporary photos. The
fuselage window (present on other machines) was covered/painted-over here.
Almost all the photos I have seen show the tail wheel semi-covered by a
streamlined pant, so you have to manufacture a fairing for it or resort to the
spare’s bin (that’s only if you are going for Lady Southern Cross). The
instrument panels come printed in heavy stock glossy paper instead of being part
of the decals, for some obscure reason.
sheet shows on one side the intended model (the Japanese machine J-BAUC in this
case) in colors and on the other side a part’s map and an exploded view which
is so-so, perhaps a result of the just-mentioned explosion. The English text
translation (this is a Czech manufacturer) can be understood, but it is a bit
puzzling. What would it take for this manufacturer to ask one of his
English-speaking costumers, better yet: one of its vendors!- to review a
translation? three emails and an hour? I think it is not an exorbitant prize to
proved to be lacking in width (they didn’t have a circular cross-section where
applicable, but more of an ogival shape. The fuselage Karmans therefore won’t
meet the upper wing halves’ edges, leaving a gap, whatever you tried the
original resin wing or the left-over Orion’s wing. I had to add a strip of
styrene to build-up some width to one fuselage side. That proved right because
now the provided canopy would meet the fuselage as it should. I wonder if the LF
guys ever built this kit. I clarify here that I only removed the casting blocks
from the fuselage sides, and did not sand the parts flat which would have caused
the lack in width; the shortcoming is the kit’s.
The interior was
assembled with the photoetched and resin parts provided adding only a few
stringers for theatrical effect.
Usually as I wait
for parts to set I take care of the smaller items like engine and props. Once
the prop was painted and decaled –my own decals- I noticed something strange
–see image- the two blades were inclined to the same side, instead of making
an “X” when viewed from the side. Either LF just re-invented the prop, or
some crude mistake was made here. Again, coincidentally, Special Hobby’s Orion
comes with a prop with separate blades that somebody may have assembled
incorrectly before making a mold for the resin part. The solution was simple in
this case as I had only to cut one blade and re-glue it at the right angle. Now,
one could assume that not only LF didn’t assemble this model to check it, but
also may perhaps have little knowledge on how a prop works.
Metal pins were
inserted on the tail surfaces and corresponding holes drilled on the fuselage.
The wing internal side of the trailing edge had to be packed-up with a styrene
strip to make the Karmans match more or less the wing profile as a compromise
solution, since when you aligned the fore part of the area the back won’t
align, and vice-versa.
I noticed in
photos a metal strip running along the middle of the canopy which is absent on
the framing molded on the provided transparency, no big deal since a decal strip
can be added there. Two “U” shaped parts for the landing gear legs were
replaced, since the resin counterparts, although OK, looked a tad fragile. MV
lenses were used to depict the lights, fine springy steel wire for the Pitot and
so forth. There is a part provided as an interface between the engine and the
fuselage which I discarded since it neither fit well nor was it realistic. I
just made a disc of adequate thickness and glue it to the fuselage nose, then
glued the cowl+engine to it. The fuel caps were fabricated from punched-out thin
aluminum discs and glued.
After painting it
was decal time. This is the type of decal sheet that has an all-encompassing
carrier, so you have to cut each item loose, trimming around it carefully. It
caters for the four decorations that Lady Southern Cross wore (more follows Re
that). We wanted to go for the G-ADUS registration that Lady Southern Cross was
wearing when it went missing, flying into eternity, but the purchased
after-market decal sheet has a couple of mistakes on that one. To start with, it
didn’t have the upper wing registration, visible on photos. Then the fuselage
registration was outlined which seems to be wrong (not for VH-USB, though, which
was indeed outlined). So VH-USB it was. Knowing by experience what decals can be
some times, I started applying some small items first. So far so good. But then
I applied the black regs under the wing and the carrier film was showing so
badly that I had to take them off. Since this lettering was in black I made my
own decals and all went ok. The rest of the decals did work, but the way the
cowl wrap-around white ribbon is provided (in four parts) made the alignment
tricky, and when you had an overlap it will show.
spite of the already mentioned shortcomings (some minor, some not) LF put out
there an Altair kit, and that’s a merit on itself. I can’t believe that the
other related models on the market, Special Hobby’s Lockheed Orion and
Williams Bros Northrop Gamma are the only similarly-oriented kits out there.
Sad, isn’t it?
what I could see on their website, LF Models (to whom I am not related or
affiliated in any way) has many interesting kits: a Monocoupe, some racers, some
autogyros. I can not –since I have never seen or built one- comment on their
quality or accuracy though, but I am glad they present a plethora of nice
options to the modeler. Their price is similar to some other brands of resin
kits of quality, so it is a matter for you to compare and choose.
Southern Cross was a great adventure for the historic characters; and no doubt a
little bit for this modeler too.
images below to see larger images