Small scale aircraft modeling
|The Fiume and her sister ships of the Italian Zara class had the unusual arrangement of a bow catapult, which from a modeler's perspective means the floatplane is prominently visible.|
While building Tauro's 1/400 scale Fiume, I realized the kit-provided RO-43 floatplane required some work to improve its appearance. I found creating an accurate biplane in this scale quite challenging, but anyone with a little skill, patience, and perhaps an optical aid may find a mini-project like this rewarding.
The overall shape of the kit floatplane was accurate. However, I needed to slim down the wings and add some missing details.
I filed down and lightly sanded the flat undersides of the wings, thinning the cross-sections. Be careful, the plastic is delicate. Next, I replaced the kit's horizontal stabilizer with a more accurate one from .005 " styrene.
|I chose to model my plane with its canopy open, which increased the level of difficulty. To open the cockpit, I shaved off the old canopy and drilled several overlapping holes with a pin vise and 1/16" bit. I used a #11 blade to scrape the cockpit walls to give them a uniform appearance. At this point, a modeler with a lot of experience could add seats and other interior details, but I knew my limitations and was satisfied to leave the cockpit open.|
|I made a replacement windscreen and canopy by cutting thin slices of plastic from a coffee stirrer. I attached them with super glue.|
|To improve the cowling, I removed the incorrect two-blade propeller and mounted a photoetched three-blade propeller (found in a friend's spare parts box) on a bit of styrene rod. I drilled a shallow hole using a pin vise and 1/16" bit and glued it into the cavity. I added .016" brass wire exhaust pipes to either side of the cowling.|
|With the main portion of my floatplane finished, I concentrated on additional details. I carved wing floats from bits of sprue, then attached them to the wings with small pieces of 1/350 scale photoetched brass railing. I also used brass railing to make the struts for the wings and the main float. Finally, I scratchbuilt a launch sled from bits of styrene. My finished floatplane was ready for painting.|
|The overall appearance of the RO-43 was light gray. However, colorful markings made it distinctive, especially the red-and-white chevron pattern on the top surface of the upper wing. I used the Encyclopedia of the World's Warships as a reference. I airbrushed the plane neutral gray, and painted the top of the upper wing flat white before masking it. I tediously applied thin strips of red decal material across the top surface of the upper wing, using Micro-Sol. By alternating sides, I retained the symmetry of the chevron while allowing each stripe to snuggle down and dry sufficiently. I hand-painted the fuselage and tail markings, and added the roundel decals provided in the kit. I painted the canopy gloss dark blue.|
My finished RO-43 floatplane adds visual depth to the Fiume's forecastle, and generates favorable comments on the ship overall.
|Encyclopedia of the Worlds Warships Lyon Hugh and Captain J.E. Moore, Salamander Books, Published by Crescent Books, New York, 1978.|
Gli Incrociatori Italiani (1861-1964) Giorgio Giorgerini and Augusto Nani, Ministry of Defence, Rome, 1964.
|Charles Landrum is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and career naval officer. He has served on six ships. He is a member of IPMS, and has been modeling since he was eight.||