Saturday, September 22, 2012

Taking to the skies

Here's a change of pace for this little diecast collector, and in both cases these planes came into my collection as a result of reading a great book.

This is the Westland Lysander, a remarkable plane whose exploits during
the Second World War won it countless admirers. No, it's not a fighter plane
nor a bomber or anything like that. I like to think of it as an early 'Stealth'
flying machine. What it excelled at was short take off and landing, and
where this was incredibly valuable was in ferrying men, women and
vital supplies to and from the French Resistance during World War Two.

The model itself is 1:72 by Corgi (formal name Westland Lysander MkIIIA (SD) – V9367, No 161 Squadron, February 1942). It's number 1355 in a limited run of 2010 models. The model also comes with a large, black torpedo-shaped container for carrying deliveries (the usual stuff for the French resistance – weapons, explosives, radios) which is slung under the plane, but as it does nothing for the plane's looks I have left that black lump in the box. The rear canopy (over the rear-facing machine-gunner) also comes off, but the gunner looked cold with it off.

And the book which inspired this little purchase was 'Resistance' by Matthew Cobb. Recommended!

The second plane which arrived in the mail just yesterday came via a much more conventional biography, that of pioneer Australian aviator Bert Hinkler, by Grantlee Kieza. Bert flew many different planes, but almost all of them are unavailable as already made diecast model planes, and in fact almost all of them aren't available as kits, either. But one is available as a kit, the Sopwith Camel, the World War One British fighter.

Ready-made 1:72 Sopwith Camels are not common but I did find this one
built from a kit and sold cheaply enough on eBay. It's a bit rough around
the edges but infinitely better than anything I could build. It depicts the
Sopwith Camel flown by Canadian fighter ace, Roy Brown.

Now, "who's Bert Hinkler?" I hear you ask. An Australian of German descent, he was an aviation-mad Aussie schoolboy when the Wright Brothers first flew, and by the age of 19 he (in 1911) had managed to build a glider which flew successfully several times. He started off as an airplane mechanic and stayed one for the next 7 years. He was in the UK when World War I started in August 1914, so he joined the fledgling airforce as a mechanic and gunner and spent the next three years doing that. By late 1917 he had made it to Leiutenant and finally became a pilot. His first combat aircraft, flown in combat over Italy in 1918, was this plane, the tricky-to-fly but quite effective Sopwith Camel. The combination of its stubby wings and big radial engine made it an unstable but highly manoeuvrable thing, but Hinkler thrived it in as a pilot.

After the war he set countless solo long-distance records, the pinnacle of his achievements being the first to fly solo from England to Australia (in 15 days, in 1928). He was also the first to flow solo from Brazil to Senegal in Africa, crossing the South Atlantic alone, non-stop. A national hero in Australia, he kept on flying in Europe and the US until he crashed and died over Italy while flying a Puss Moth, in 1933.

1 comment:

  1. Excelente; hace muchos año yo armaba kits de aviones en 1/72; mis preferidos eran los de la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

    Excellent; many year ago I arming 172 aircraft kits; my favorites were those of the second world war.