APRIL IS THE MONTH FOR A BUILD RETROSPECTIVE – END IN SIGHT?
It’s time for some fairly personal comments about the project as a whole, especially for those who haven’t seen the archived version of this build blog. So get ready for me to wind the Wayback Machine to the last century!
This mad build had its genesis in the planned publication of the second edition of my book, Half a Wing Three Engines and a Prayer, by McGraw-Hill in 1999.
Back then I was a corporate lawyer for Curtiss-Wright Corporation (yes, that Curtiss-Wright). I had arranged for an old modeling friend from the 1980s who had “gone professional,” to make a 1/32 Hasegawa BF2C–1 for our retiring CEO. That kit is a monster and he did a fantastic job on it.
Inspired by that work and knowing that my second edition was, pardon the pun, in the wings, in 1998 I asked my friend to build a 1/48 version of Vicious Virgin, one of two B-17F’s that figured prominently in the book. That aircraft is on the book cover. It was a group lead ship and the second aircraft regularly flown by the principal crew I wrote about in the book, that of Robert F. Hullar. I figured it would be a great promotional prop for book sales, and paid in advance.
YEARS went by during which I was repeatedly assured that my model-building friend would definitely finish it when he got (tackiness alert!) a
. However, he let the publication of my second book about the 303rd BG in 2003 pass, with no completed model.
But still, I was patient, not wanting to blow up a very long-term friendship over a personal business matter. However, I became frustrated enough eleven years later when there was still no discernable progress, to tell the gentleman that the lack of progress meant I was going to start the Hullar Crew’s first B-17, Luscious Lady, on my own since I wanted at least one B-17F in my collection before I cashed in my chips. I began the build blog on the old Aeroscale platform seven years ago, in April 2014.
I figured it would shame the professional into finishing Vicious Virgin, so I put everything I could into the Luscious Lady build, even though I did not possess his skill-set. (Ultimately, the professional passed away, ensuring that that version of Viscious Virgin would never see the light of day.) I “pressed on regardless” for five years working on the interior, and improving my own skills in the process, doing some things I never dreamed I could.
Even then, however, I had help from another modeling friend, the late Arthur T. Babiarz, Jr., who did things like design and 3-D print cardboard cheek gun brackets
using copies of original production drawings supplied by Karl Haufe, another contributor whom I consider the single most knowledgeable person on the planet on the B-17 E and F aircraft. (It goes without saying that none of this would have been possible without Karl’s generous, and continuing technical advice).
But, after five years and completion of the interior, in March 2019 I reached a point of personal burnout about the same time I realized that my own modeling skills would not permit me to complete the model to the level I thought it deserved. Not long after, two years ago this month, in fact, all that I had done on the build was in H.G.'s hands.
I think it’s fair to say that if any passing of the torch in this hobby/art/craft can be considered “providential,” – [1, Occurring at a favorable time; opportune; 2, Involving divine foresight or intervention] it’s this one. He said at the time that he would use his hands to implement my vision of what should be done, but that’s a classic understatement.
Those who have followed from the archived blog know that H.G. has completely re-scribed and riveted the model’s exterior;
transformed the Eduard Brassin engine set for the model into something even better,
completely scratch-built the main landing gear wheel wells,
completely redesigned and rebuilt the kit’s main landing gear,
and perhaps most incredibly of all, taken my primitive boxing-in of the kit’s tail wheel
and transformed it into a dimensionally correct and complete tail wheel bay and assembly.
His rescribing and repair of the fuselage has likewise been extraordinary
as has been his bomb bay makeover
and work on the bomb bay doors.
He and I had a long discussion about all this yesterday, and the consensus of opinion is that the end may be in sight around the end of this year, though one can never be sure.
What I do know for sure is that I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to H.G. for taking on this herculean task, making my obsession his own, and doing everything he can to make this the best build of a B-17F we may ever see. I cannot thank him enough. It takes a rare individual to do what he is doing, personally and professionally, and I know the finished build will be “something to see.”
Check back tomorrow, too, for a new post on the windows.