My wife, her parents and I spent a few days out of town this last week, and I wanted to share some things relevant, at least tangentially relevant, to this website.
First day was at that long time favorite destination of mine, the Museum of the United States Air Force. It seemed funny to visit there just a day after I posted the Memphis Belle here! I’ve done enough longer posts on that Museum I won’t worry about rehashing too much of it again.
The next day was spent at the 2021 Dayton Air Show. At four hours long it was a bit on the short side this year, and traffic management in and out seemed much worse than I recall. But that said, after a whole year of nothing, it was awesome to see an air show again!
The next day I wasn’t even planning on mentioning here, but much to my surprise it proved relevant both to my love of history AND scale modeling!
I think most often when we think of prototype aircraft its as the first example of some famous type. But of course the term actually has much broader usage. There are actually four completely different sorts of prototypes I’ll look at for this theme build.
One will be exactly that most expected sort. But I’ll also do one that’s an established type’s alternate. Any time there was a significant change to an airframe it could lead to a new prototype. One famous example comes to mind is the P-51 Mustang, when two early examples were held back for conversion to a new Packard built Merlin engine they became “XP-51B”, test beds for the new power-plant. Later yet, the rear fuselage was cut down for an improved visibility bubble canopy; the first experimental build was tagged “XP-51D”. Which is all to say any major aircraft type may have several “prototypes”. In US usage this meant an “X” in front of the designation. In German usage this usually meant a “V” suffix. Every nation’s services had their own ways of tagging these things.
I will also build what was known as a service test, or pre-production prototype. Often with more unusual new designs a number are ordered before the main production run. In US use this is a “Y” prototype. These aircraft are often assigned to a test squadron that is trying to identify all service needs in addition to the best ways of using the new aircraft. Often, the various “Y” prototypes aren’t even all built the same way, and may have different features too. This is all about figuring out what’s going to be the best way to build, maintain and use the aircraft. Often these service test types do not lead to a production type, I suppose from a manufacturer’s perspective that means they failed the test. But the military user may still feel valuable lessons were learned that can be applied to whatever comes next.
Another prototype I’ll look at is straight up test aircraft. For my use here this is still stopping short of what we think of as pure “X” craft today; that is, at some point they were considered as a possible new combat type and are given a military designation. But before the prototype ever flies the operator has decided it will not lead to a production order. They are looking at experimental data, something that may impact another aircraft in development or an idea that’s not fully formed yet. Usually, if an aircraft technology is rendered obsolete before it ever flies the project dies. But in many cases, really more often that you might expect, someone feels there is still a lot to learn from a design they know will never advance. Several of the aircraft I looked at in my previous “Hypotheticals” theme were derived from this sort of project. But this time I will only look at things that were built and flown.
The four prototypes I will build are for a Mitsubishi A6M, Grumman F4F, Blohm und Voss Bv 141 and Curtiss P-55.
This last weekend (6/12 & 6/13) the Yankee Air Museum, at Willow Run Airport, hosted a mini Air Show scheduled for just two hours each evening.
They kicked off the evening with their own flying collection doing fly bys, this meant Stearman, Huey, O-2; then the big girls, C-47, B-25 and B-17. A Canadian aerobatic pilot I was unfamiliar with was also added to the line up, apparently very last minute because I can’t find his name anywhere on-line!
Then the main event was the RCAF Snowbirds, followed by a CF-18 demonstration team.
The Snowbirds put on a fun show in their CT-114 Tutors. They fly the largest formation of any North American jet team, normally nine planes.
A single CF-18 closed out the night with an acceptable amount of noise!
It was a drive-in event, a new format due to lingering Covid restrictions that involved driving your own vehicle onto airport grounds and being assigned a parking slot with plenty of room for your own seating, blanket or whatever. It was a fun way of doing things, and presumably a bit of a rehearsal for Thunder Over Michigan in August. The good news is, no problems finding your car after! But this was obviously an inefficient use of space, expect the main airshow to be severely limited on capacity. Also notice the pictures here are much better than what I normally post of an air show, thank my wife and her much better than an iPhone camera!
One very nice thing about this way of doing an airshow, tickets were sold by the carload. So we asked a couple of friends along at no extra cost to anyone! The one in front had never seen an airshow before.
I think this Theme tripled the number of “Hypothetical” builds I’ve done! The Rufe may better count as speculative, or something milder than hypothetical. But they were all ideas I’d kicked around in my little brain for a few years and it was fun to get them done.
I do have enough such kits to revisit this theme a couple more times, but it will be a few years before that happens. In the future I expect to actually do some proper Luftwaffe ’46 subjects, I may continue to play with the nine months longer War I created for the P-80 post. Although a couple of subjects might have needed much more than nine months to be realized!
I plan on building a couple of trucks now, that should take a month (?). Look for the next theme starting in late June or early July. Coming soon… Prototypes