Guest article by E. Richard Staszak

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This magnificent 1/72 scale model was built from the Combat Models kit.

(Click on the pictures to see the full size image)


The Combat Model Company has produced a family of 1/72nd scale flying boats as vacuum-form kits that are currently not available in any other media. These kits are available directly from the current manufacturer and so one need not rely upon the second hand market. Having already built the Martin Mars from this company, I was most interested in tackling the Convair Tradewind which I have always considered to be one of the most attractive flying boats to have ever been built.


The kit is comprised of 34No. vac-form parts on two large sheets, one 18" by 8" blank sheet for bulkheads, pontoon supports and miscellaneous model additions, an extensive 81/2" by 11" sheet of USAF and Navy markings and National Insignias and a set of 1/72nd scale three view drawings with a set of general model building techniques on the side. There are no metal detailing parts or clear plastic sheet for window material. All the material is packaged in a sturdy cardboard box that will protect them in any mailing process. The recommended reference material is the difficult to find May 1978 Air Power magazine. No marking or detailed color scheme information is presented other than the general comment that the aircraft should be painted Blue Black. 

My general impression of the kit as described is as follows:

  • The kit is for the later less attractive version of the Tradewind, the R3Y-2.

  • The decal sheet is essentially useless for the Tradewind except for the National Insignias.

  • There are no drawings for any basic internal bulkheads.

  • The three-view drawings are basic with no panel lines or details presented.

  • There is no interior cockpit layout information provided.

  • Unless one desires to have the completed model on a stand, the drawings provided for the correct beaching cart are inadequate.

  • Marking and colour information is totally inadequate.

Since the objective of my build was to be the more attractive R3Y-1 version of the Tradewind ,my first step was to obtain access to the best reference available for it, the Steve Ginter's publication Naval Fighters No 34. Without access to this publication I do not believe this kit can be built into a reasonably accurate model of any version of the Tradewind. Mr. Ginter's book provides detailed 1/72nd drawings of all the major components of both versions of the Tradewind as well l as detailed drawings and pictures of the correct beaching cart. Fortunately, I also had the aforementioned Air Power magazine which presented black & white pictures of most of the different Tradewinds produced thereby allowing me to select the appropriate color and marking scheme. In addition, I had access to the San Diego Air & Space Museum Library with its file of information on the Tradewind. This provided me with detailed interior pictures and drawings, more beaching cart pictures as well as an accurate 3 view with detailing information and precise measurement data.


I used the new precision three view together with the excellent Ginter publication 1/72nd scale drawings to determine the accuracy of the kit supplied parts. Upon laying the fuselage section on the Ginter fuselage drawing I found the rear portion of the fuselage to be incorrect in several ways. First the angle of the leading edge of the vertical fin was too shallow indicating that the rear fuselage needed to be cranked down. In addition, the fuselage needed to be extended approximately 1" to match the drawings. The rear of the bottom hull also needed to be re-profiled as well as the fuselage end tip which was too blunt. These changes were accomplished by making appropriate cuts, adding sheet plastic to the insides of the two fuselage half, re-profiling and applying copious amounts of body putty. (In my case automobile putty, Bondo - an American product similar to Milliput in the UK.)

A check of the wing profile against the Ginter plans found these pieces to be acceptable but some special assembly problems need to be resolved to correctly fit the bottom and top section together. The stabilizer parts were found to be under sized and it was necessary to add plastic sheet to the trailing edges to achieve the required shape. I found the engine nacelle parts provided totally in-accurate and resorted to making a new wooden master using the Ginter data and casting four new nacelles. The vac-form exhaust parts were barely acceptable but I decided to put in the extra effort to improve their appearance and provide the better detailing required to realise a more realistic model.

A check of the wing tip floats provided by the kit indicated that these were in-accurate. Therefore, I carved a new float using the Ginter plans, and cast two new units from Bondo. Slots were cut into the floats to accept the float pylons later during the assembly process. Prior to assembling the corrected fuselage sections I developed several internal bulkheads and cut these from the material supplied in the kit. At this point one would need to develop the cockpit interior but I diverted from the standard plan to develop the R3Y-1 nose profile. For someone planning to build the kit provided version the comments which follow, do not apply.

I used the Ginter plans again to develop the outline of the forward section of the R3Y-1 and transferred it to a thick sheet of plastic. Two copies of this section were cut from the sheet to serve as the guide for developing the new aircraft nose. The kit provided fuselage sections were cut to match the new nose profile sections, removing only that area that did match the new nose. The remainder of the fuselage was cut to fit over the new nose center bulkhead. (Note that the center bulkheads were cut out to allow for the installation of the cockpit floor, side walls, rear bulkhead and instrument panel areas.) Before assembling the fuselage sections a check of the door, window and primary panel line locations was made using the detailed three view drawing. In general, most of the markings provided on the kit parts were in-accurate. Therefore, new locations were scribed into the fuselage sections and where necessary old lines filled. A temporary assembly of the two fuselage sections followed using strips of plastic sheet at the fuselage center line to serve as a bonding surface.


Before actually gluing the fuselage sections together I determined what I would need to do to correctly install the wing sections. It was clear that a problem was associated with mounting the wing. There are no provisions on the fuselage to accept a blunt wing root section assembly. Neither is there any areas indicated to be cut out of the fuselage to allow the wing sections to drop into the fuselage. A check of the assembled wings sections (see below) indicated that they were only a scale 2' 9" short of the overall Tradewind wing span, therefore it was obvious that a cut should be made into the fuselage to accept the assembled wing as a drop in. I developed a cardboard template showing the wing root outline and the fuselage width and used this to define the cutout line for the wing. Once these sections were removed from the fuselage a floor section, new front and rear bulkheads were installed to serve as wing supports. Finally a glued assembly of the two fuselage sections followed. This assembly was given several coats of gray primer with corrections and sanding between as required. Various panel lines doors and details were inscribed were obscured by the primer coats. In parallel with the fuselage assembly I had built up the wing sections so that the assembled wing could be used in finalising the fuselage wing cutout area. The wing panels are incorrectly scribed as are the control surfaces. These were corrected before assembly and a full length center spar was made from sheet plastic and used to construct a continuous wing. The primary wing has no dihedral but the outboard sections have a 1.75 degree dihedral. Given the small size of this angle I decided to construct the wing perfectly flat. Once assembled it was test fitted to the fuselage and adjustments were made to the installation area to allow for the correct position of the wing relative to the fuselage. I also located the central pylon for the tip pontoons and cut openings to accept the pylon to secure a strong junction.


For the R3Y-1 conversion, new forward fuselage bulkheads were developed using the Inter plans and glued to the center line to define the general outline of the new nose. Strips of 10 thou plastic sheet were applied over the bulkheads to form the new nose section. A large amount of Bondo was used at the forward part of the nose to allow for correct profiling in this area. An opening was left in the top surface to accommodate the cockpit area.


For anyone building the R3Y-2 version there is no need to construct any interior detail as little can be seen through the cockpit windows. In fact, given that there was no window material, one may choose to use sections of black decal stock to represent these. A real serious modeler may choose to cut out each individual window and either insert separate sections of clear plastic or use a product such as Crystal Clear to form the windows. My choice being a detailer and knowing that I would need to make an entirely new upper cockpit area to properly represent the -1 version was to scratch built a cockpit interior. This was followed with a clear plastic upper cockpit section made using a wooden master and the push-through (plug-moulding) forming approach. Windows were then defined simply by painting over the structural areas.  

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Upon completion of the basic fuselage, attention shifted to developing the correct engine units. A wooden master was made again using the Ginter plans.  This was used to form a mold and four engine units were cast using Bondo. I found the kit spinners to be acceptable so they were not made as part of the new engines. With these new units it was possible to produce an accurate engine intake opening which would have not been possible with the kit provided parts. I used sections of split copper tubing to form the outside wall of the intakes, super glued them in place and blended them into the engine unit using body putty. Similarly, thin sheets of aluminum were cut and bent to shape to form the air ducts located on each nacelle top. Engine locations were marked on the top of the completed wing and each nacelle was sanded to fit the wing at the selected location. Once satisfied with the fit they were glued in place and adjusted as required to be at the correct angle and location relative to the fuselage center line. Now the effort shifted to installing the kit provided exhaust areas. These are quite crude and I spent some time to produce more consistent exhaust openings as well as detailing the metal areas behind the exhaust openings. In retrospect, I should have cast an entirely new set of detailed exhaust parts but I was reaching an upper level of frustration and decided to go with upgraded exhausts instead. It still took a lot of time and body putty to arrive at a satisfactory appearance for these units when combined with the engine nacelles. All the seams on the engine components were sealed with super glue to ensure that there would be no shifting of components during the remainder of the assembly process.  


The assembled wing/engine unit was mounted to the fuselage and all the alignment dimensioned checked before the assembly was secured with glue. Sections of the original fuselage cutout, as well as scrap plastic, were used to fill the area around the joint before additional Bondo material was applied. This area was then blended into the basic fuselage to arrive at the required profile. In parallel with these activities the stabiliser parts were checked against the Ginter plans and were found to be undersized. I added a section of plastic to each trailing edge to enlarge the units to match the plans. Body putty was used to fair these additions and the panel lines and control surface dividers re-scribed. The location of the stabilisers were marked on the fuselage and a hole drilled into the fuselage for a metal locating structural support pin. The stabiliser sections were glued to the fuselage and body putty applied to fill the root seam. The three pylons for each pontoon were cut from plastic sheet, sanded to an airfoil shape and mounted on the new cast pontoons. They were primed and sanded to arrive at a finished assembly. They were set aside to be painted in the final color before being attached to the wing.


Once I was satisfied with the overall appearance of the model a primer coat was applied and any addition appearance corrections made. Painting of the aircraft was started by applying stainless steel to the leading edges of all the flying surfaces. This painted area represents the hot air heating surfaces used to de-ice the aircraft. They extend some distance in on all the surfaces and they are defined by the first lines scribed into the airfoils. (Earlier in the building process I had cut into the airfoils undersides a series of exhaust ducts that were an integral part of the surface heating system. Not required, but satisfying for someone who is a detailer!.) For the aircraft I had selected to model - the Coral Sea Tradewind - it was necessary to paint the upper cockpit area white. I airbrushed in a few coats of flat white and relied upon masking to define the exact cockpit area to be covered. All these areas were masked of and the basic airframe color of Gloss Sea Blue was applied. As a starting point a spray can of dark blue paint was used to apply the basic color. This was followed by a coat of Gloss Sea Blue applied with an airbrush. 


The painted wing tip pontoons were now installed using a cardboard template to assure that they would be properly aligned with the wing and fuselage. Adjustments were made to the outboard pylons until the proper alignment was achieved. Super glue was use to set these units in place and body putty was applied as necessary to blend them into the wing surface. The final touch was to air brush these areas with the basic Sea Blue color.


Touch ups and corrections were performed as required before a couple of coats of Future were applied to form a gloss top coat. Decals from the spares box, the kit supplied national insignias and a set of computer made custom items were applied on the model. These were sealed in place using another coat of Future. The final painting step was to tape off the forward nose section and apply a coat of flat to the gloss Sea Blue to form the standard anti-glare panel area. The antenna panels on the vertical fin were hand painted a dull brown.


For the complex multi-bladed spinners sections of plastic sheet were cut to size, including provisions for a mounting tab at the base. Each blade was sanded to an airfoil shape and twisted to provide the appropriate camber. The blades were mounted to the kit supplied spinners using a template to locate the mounting hole for each blade. Each blade was glued in place and each complete assembly checked for appearance before super glue was applied to seal each blade. Be aware that the front blades are pitched forward while the rear set of blades are pitch to the rear. The tips of each blade were sprayed yellow to provide a warning stripe of 6 scale inches. After masking, the blades were air brushed Flat Black and the spinners were hand painted Gloss Sea Blue. An Aeroproducts propeller emblem appears on each blade. However, even my best attempts to produce a custom decal for this marking proved impossible, so I 'faked' an emblem and applied it to each blade. Each completed unit was then glued to the front of the engine nacelle and checked for alignment relative to each other.


For the really fastidious modeler, one can undertake the construction of the dedicated beaching cart for the Tradewind. There appear to be several versions but I choose the one which appeared in the Ginter publication. It was constructed from scrap plastic sheet, tubes, rubber pads and wire, with wheels from the spares box. When detailed it represents a model in its own right. The completed cart was painted Gloss Sea Blue as per information provided by an employee who was on site at the time the Tradewind was in development.  

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The Tradewind required about a year of nearly continuous work but I feel the resulting exclusive nature of the finished model was well worth the effort.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this kit to anyone because of the many errors, complex assembly process, and the lack of detailed information provided in the kit. Even after having over 30 years of experience in building vac-form models this kit was a major challenge and presented many problems I had not encountered in previous vac-form models. 

I am sure someone with more perseverance talent can produce a better model of the Tradewind than I have, but until the 'rumored' Anigrand kit of the Tradewind appears on the scene this is the only 1/72nd scale kit available of this magnificent boat.  

Even sadder, no real Tradewind was ever preserved.........