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Diary of an Early Aviation Modeler: Or my road from Aurora to Internet Modeler

By Bob Pearson

Back in the early 1970s (when I was able to build any model in a day or two), I was introduced to 1914-1918 aircraft in the form of the Aurora Fokker E.III, Fokker E.V, Nieuport 28, Albatros C.III and my favourite from those days - the Pfalz D.III. These were built and rebuilt many times over the next few years as combat damage occurred - most eventually became monoplanes. But the seed was sown for an interest in early aviation.

Fast forward to 1988 and the re-release of the Airfix 1/72 Albatros D.V and the RE8. One day on a whim I walked into my local hobby shop and saw both of these coveted kits from long ago and was suddenly drawn back into the joys of model making. Soon I had added the Sopwith Pup, DH4, Fokker Dr.I, Roland C.II and all the others of the re-issued Airfix WW I series. However I now began to realise that my library of two books on WW I aviation wasn't as all inclusive as I had thought it was, and I began to search for various references to allow me to accurately paint my new purchases - more on this later.

Coincidental with finding marking options, I also found out that there was more to WW I aviation then just Camels and Triplanes ... but where to find models of these was the problem. Your choice was one of two . Find a vacform (I was as yet unaware of these - however I have since amassed a number of Tom's Modelworks and Formaplane vacs) or scratchbuild. So being ignorant of the former, I chose the latter and within a short time I had built myself a Fokker E.III, DH2, Sopwith Dolphin, Hansa-Brandenburg D.I, SVA.5 and a Pfalz D.III. Of course right after I finished the Pfalz, I discovered a third category introduced in the late 1980's that has since become an industry standard for WW I aircraft - the short-run injection 'cottage' industry - Meikraft's kit of the Pfalz D.III is an excellent example of this type.

Along with vacforms (another 'cottage' industry staple) short run injection kits allowed types that would normally have little or no chance of being kitted by a large company to be available in injection form; one of the first (and in my opinion, still one of the best) being Pegasus and its 1/48 sister Blue Max. At about the same time as Pegasus got going, a company in what is now the Czech Republic began releasing kits that at first glance looked rather crude, but featured beautiful photo-etched brass details. However the first look was misleading and once they were cleaned up the Eduard kits proved to be excellent models. Since those early beginnings Eduard has improved their molding process and the quality of their newer kits rivals that of the Japanese ones everyone seems so fond of comparing everything else to. And now with many new companies like Toko entering the field with a full slate of WWI kits for regular production this is truly the best time to be a WW I modeler.

Another relatively new category is resin. In this medium can be found various details, conversions and even complete kits that enable undreamt of types to be built with greater ease then the earlier vacforms. In fact the casting of the Passchendaele Albatros D.II conversion rivals and in most cases exceeds that of its injection molded styrene cousins. Other aftermarket accessories can now be found of photo-etched parts, white metal parts and, of course, specialty decals. All this now means that the World War One modeler is never truly without a new subject to build.

As for references, that is where we return to my own story . . When I started to build WW I aircraft I wanted to see what the various markings looked like in colour. This led me to start producing my own profiles of them. My first attempt was in one of these blank hardcover books you can find in art stores, however the disadvantage to this form is that I was unable to file them in any logical order. I then found a special binder designed to hold 5x8 file cards, as a test I bought one and was satisfied with the result of painting directly on file cards. By the end of the year I had 300 of them done . . Within a few years I had over 1000 completed and it was time to do something with them, so I contacted a fellow who had advertised in a WWI journal that he was thinking of starting a series of books on WWI aircraft. This led to a long series of letters and phone calls with Jack Herris of Flying Machines Press and ultimately with our agreeing to my illustrating some of their books. The first book was done in the old fashioned method of brush on paper, however Jack convinced me I should try computer graphics . . . .

However all that really matters to all of you is I saw a message from China Banyai-Riepl a year and a half ago about his website Aviation What-Not and that he was also doing computer profiles. After checking it out I sent him a message introducing myself. Soon we were both pushing each other to new levels that neither could have attained on our own and we decided to join forces rather than compete with one another . . . . . nine months later Tom Cleaver approached us and Internet Modeler was born.

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Air Intelligence
1999 Modelers'
Reference Guides

1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00

Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.

TacAir Publications

PO Box 90933
Albuquerque NM
(505) 881-9621

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