Nov 19
Robodaz

Available from Hobbylink Japan

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Oh boy…. Oh boy!

Today really is a red-letter day. I’ve been lusting after a Wingnut Wings kit for a good long while now, but I’ve been a little cautious of the cost of the kits, considering my developing skills and the requirement to string these bags up properly (at about 10,000 yen these are a bit too much just to risk).

Not to mention not being able to decide on which kit to buy (a problem which only gets worse as the Wingnut’s line grows).

Still, the Kiwi Cadre* are not here to make my life easier in that respect. I should be content that they are making classic vintage fliers at all.

Which raises the point of the importance of these aircraft – both in model form and in reality.

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Though mechanized flight is barely a century old (and aerial combat not even a century) it is hard for us to imagine a world without the miracle of flight. The most primal dream of our childhood and one of the supreme examples of our own (possibly hubris-bound) domination of our animalistic natures, flight is the way in which generations have set themselves free…

This was never more true than in the early, brutally passionate days of WWI – during which the infant discipline of flight grew up very quickly, and during which men of almost incalculable bravery struck out from the earth and were able, even amid the terror in the skies, to reach out of their fragile cockpits and almost touch the face of God.

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In the four years of the First World War, planes went from distractions, messengers and artillery spotters to dedicated fighters, bombers and a real arm of the forces involved.

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Perhaps the beauty and the majesty of these aircraft is related to their importance to the birth of the science of flight. In the same way that we all, even now, tend to have nostalgic feelings for steam engines and classic cars, the mythic qualities of these vintage aircraft can be recognized by anyone with a soul – riding the wind itself, not fighting against it, as we do with modern aircraft.

There is something very ‘human’ about these vintage aircraft and, thanks to the work of groups like The Vintage Aviator (http://thevintageaviator.co.nz/) – with whom Wingnut Wings works to ensure the accuracy of its kits – we can still see many (though still too few) of these beauties today, and not just in the museum, but actually in the air…..

When THIS one came my way, however… How could I say no?

The Sopwith Snipe!

Even in a world of fascinating planes, such as the Fokker series, the Roland, the Camel and the SE.5, the little Snipe deserves a special comment.

The Snipe was the last important plane produced by the great Thomas Sopwith and his Aviation Company during the First World War, from a design by Herbert Smith.

This nimble little fighter was an improved version of the venerable Sopwith Camel, and though not as fast as some fighters of the period (such as the Fokker D.VII) was able to best its German foe during the tight in-fighting, owing to its better handling characteristics.

Developed in late 1917, the Snipe used a new engine — the 230hp Bentley rotary — and this enabled it to fly faster and higher than its predecessor.

By 1918 the Sopwith Snipe was considered to be the best Allied fighter plane on the Western Front. Nearly 500 Snipes were built in 1918 and eventually 1,567 were delivered to the Royal Air Force. After the war remained the most important plane in the RAF. Until 1923 the Snipe constituted the only fighter defence of Britain.

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This is going to be an interesting build…

Wingnut Wings has an excellent reputation for accuracy of molds, thanks to its cadre of specialists (all of whom seem to live and breathe WWI aviation), but I am still daunted… Their literature states that their models are for both skilled modelers and relative novices alike.

If that’s true, I’ll eat my flying helmet, but this is too good a kit on which to pass, so here we go.

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Right off the bat, we see where a good deal of the money for this kit has gone.

It’s not an instruction leaflet, it’s a book!

Throughout we have some of the most comprehensive and detailed instructions, which walk the builder through the (potentially tortuous) process with ease.

Add to that a huge amount of historical and technical details as well.

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And the components themselves? Some of the finest moldings in styrene I have seen – often so delicate that they are translucent (especially on the trailing edges of the wings). I sense the need for real caution here.

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It is clear that the design team on this (and other Wingnut Wings) project has a real love for these planes.

Let us hope I can do this wonderful kit the justice it richly deserves.

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