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Blast from the Past

A trainer from Naval Aviation’s toddler years.

The Project

This Aeromarine 39B model was from the trainer collection project I mentioned in the TA-4 post. I like these old subjects from time to time, because they have, for me at least, a big historic meaning. I also like the biplanes because of the challenge of the rigging, which I enjoy figuring out and doing because it helps one understand how the airplane actually worked.

A little bit about the Aeromarine 39B

The Aeromarine 39 was a derivative of the Aeromarine M1. It went into service with the US Navy when in mid-1917, as a result of a successful bid on Navy Department specifications issued for a training aircraft convertible to land or sea operation, Aeromarine received a contract for 50 of these. This contract was succeeded by an order of 100 that were delivered between late 1917 / early 1918 with modifications intended to improve the airplane performance.

These were conventional two-bay wood and fabric biplanes and could be fitted with wheels or floats. The first 50 (designated as 39A) used the four-cylinder Hall-Scott A-7A engine of 100 hp and the seaplane versions had twin wooden floats. The following 150 (39B) were powered by the 100 hp Curtiss OXX-6 engine, with the seaplanes having the single main pontoon with small wingtip floats for stability which the Navy preferred for its training and service seaplanes.

The Aeromarine 39B served as the standard primary trainer for the US Navy until some years after the end of WWI, while one converted to land version piloted by Lt. Cdr. Geoffrey DeChevalier became the first aircraft to land in an Aircraft Carrier, the USS Langley (CV-1), on October 22, 1922.

The Model

This model is the 1/72 Ardpol kit. It’s a rudimentary resin kit that requires some care to not mess it up, however, it has nice details, including some photo etched. Decals are also good. One downside to pay attention to, for me at least, are the struts that support the floats. The ones from the kit are too weak, so for the center one I used wired Plastruct rods, and regular Plastruct rods for the wing ones.

Painting guide calls for “Battleship Grey” (?). I honestly don’t remember which grey I used, but probably a medium since you can see (from black and white photos) that the grey was darker than usual, but not that dark anyway. From the photos, it seems I used Humbrol, so probably 128 or 165.

Another detail about the painting is the colors of the tail insignia. By that time the order was blue-white-red, which changed to red-white-blue in early 1918.

Most challenging stages of the process were making the wooden color parts, and the rigging. The wood for the propeller and wing struts was achieved with a base wood color (Natural Wood from Testors, which is basically a beige) brushed over with oil. The floats wooden effect was achieved in three parts: First the Testors wood color, then Uschi’s Wood Grain Decals, and finally brushed over with oil. The way these wood grain decals look is awesome; I really like them a lot.

Now, the rigging is a whole different story because you first need to figure it out, and then do it in stages.

For the rigging I use EZ-Line, which is some sort of rubber thread that works very well with CA glue. I get it from Mike Bobe from Bobe’s Hobby House in Pensacola, and it comes in a couple of sizes and several colors. Unfortunately, Bobe’s Hobby House is closed, but you can find EZ-Line on Ebay, including from Mike Bobe himself. I not only use EZ-Line for rigging and antennas, but also for cables, brake lines, and other stuff.

Anyway, I usually start the rigging by the tensors between the struts, and then I work from inside out. This can vary depending on the model but usually it’s an approach that makes things easy. Rigging for these models not only covers the structural wires, but also the ones related to control surfaces, which sometimes traveled outside the fuselage and wings.

Figuring out the rigging then is key. For this Aeromarine there aren’t a lot of photos, so I was lucky enough to find a detailed plan in Paul Matt’s Scale Airplane Drawings Volume I book. I still had to compare it with some pics but made my job a lot easier. If you are a modeler and you come across Paul Matt’s drawing books, grab them, they are pure gold.

Below is how the model ended looking then, over a Plymor walnut base decorated with bullion Naval Aviator wings. I opted for the Bullion wings because I saw them in many dress uniform photos of those years.

Project Conclusion

Despite being complicated, I enjoy working on this type of models from time to time. They don’t have a lot of fans and they don’t attract a lot of people, but they represent a very important part of history. They also connect you with how things used to work back in the old days, and helps you realize once again how much things progressed in not too many years.

The kit is nice if you are up to some challenges, and it looks really nice when done!

This model is currently with friends of the family, who received it as a home warming gift.

I hope you liked this one. Thanks again for reading, and happy modeling!



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