Model by William Alcott, photo by Dave Askett
This is the 1/72nd Italeri kit, dressed up with a lot of improvements and corrections to the interior and exterior. Details added were as follows
The rear seat was discarded and replaced by one made of lead foil and plastic rod, with masking tape belts added. Soundproofing was added to the rear bulkhead using aluminum foil embossed with a mechanical pencil. I cut the foil slightly oversize to help cover up the gaps between the bulkhead and fuselage halves. The bulkhead that divides the front and rear of the cabin was rebuilt. The kit part is too thick, and fits poorly into the fuselage. I retained the centre portion, and rebuilt the sides as part of the armoured seat backs for the pilot and co-pilot's seats. I later found that this plate should be one continuous piece, but by then it was too late to fix it. This bulkhead should be placed at the same angle as the frame separating the front and rear doors. Mine ended up slightly too inclined. The box under the rotor housing requires extending to meet the roof, and can be covered with insulation to improve its appearance.
The front seats were rebuilt with armour plating from thin sheet added. Note that this armour is not symmetric- the pilots seat features protection for his arm. There should be a small fire extinguisher infront of the pilot's seat. I added one from scrap. The instrument panel looks OK, but it needs the addition of the prominant ribs along the outside of the shroud. I also added representations of the instrument backs and some wiring. The other area that needs some work inside the cabin is the front transparency. I added defogger vents and controls, the small auxiliary instrument panel with the compass, a representation of the structure infront of the instrument panel, tubing for the fresh air intake, and the landing light housing.
The minigun in the kit lacks the characteristic fairing, so I cut off the barrel and carved the fairing from a block of sprue. I added this to a scratchbuilt ammo box and mount inside the cabin.
I removed the molded-on doors from the starboard side (IIRC- the kit comes with one set of doors separate, and one set molded shut), and rebuilt all the hinge points to a more consistant, scale appearance. The few panel lines present were rescribed, along with the refueling point.
The rotor mast and hub need some work, so I added the control linkages at the base of the mast, the rubber boot just below the rotor, and thinned the kit's linkage arms. I added an octagonal scrap to the rotor hub, with small triangular gussets (two per rotor blade). To fill up the intake behind the rotor mast, I added a scrap of photoetched screen to represent the engine air filter.
One of the biggest chores with the kit was getting the bubble up front to fit. I ended up cutting away the forward door frames even with the cabin floor and the rear of the bubble, then fitting the glass, and then reinstalling the door frames. Plenty of superglue, putty, sanding, polishing and future later, I had an acceptable fit.
The small windows over the rear cabin are undersized and poorly shaped. I think this is related to other problems, with either the cabin being too narrow, or the intake housing being too wide. Either way, the problem is not easily fixed, so I just left it, though I did add some scrap plastic to help fill in the big gaps between the clear parts and their corresponding holes in the fuselage.
Final details included the raised fairing on the underside of the fuselage, two small blade antennae and a pitot tube, drilling out the cabin fresh air intake, and adding the anti-collision beacon to the top of the intake.
I used the kit markings to depict Hugh Mill's Miss Clawd IV. To represent overall faded OD, I used Testor Model Master OD mixed with some white and flat tan. I added some shading with a darker mix, and drybrushing with a lighter mix. The result looked a bit stark, so I toned it down with a light coat of OD straight from the bottle.
The decals were the traditional flat finished markings (printed by Zanchetti IIRC) that I can never seem to get to work without silvering. I trimmed the clear film from as many of the markings as possible (including cutting the serials into individual digits), and used Future and thinned Krystal Klear to held them stick. The shark mouth markings required some cutting to get them to fit over the raised fairing I added to the underside, and had to be touched up by hand. Rather than attempt to remove the carrier film from the United States Army lettering, I used spare markings from the old Scale Aircraft Modelling decal sheet (thanks Scott). In comparing the markings to photo it is evident that all the major markings including the serials are oversize. Oh well.
A note on the rotor markings: at the time I built the model, I had zero references on the correct scheme for the rotor. After an appeal on rec.models.scale, a helpful modeller sent me a photo of a model wearing the scheme I chose, with the white stripes. Seeing as I had no evidence to the contrary, and the final result was certainly eye catching, I used the same scheme for my rotor. Later, I came across a photo of Mill's restored Loach in the US Army Aviation Museum, clearing showing a different, rather more boring scheme. Normally I'd take the paint scheme on a restored a/c with a grain of salt, but the page in question does specifically state that the Loach is depicted exactly as it was when it was shot down. For the time being I've left the rotor as is, but if I ever find any corroborating evidence, I might just fix it.
I'm a former armour modeller (partially recovered), and whenever I build a chopper I start getting nostalgic for the days of building a tank just filled to the brim with the crews' gear. The lack of doors on the Loach make it a perfect candidate for this treatment. To this end, I added a scratchbuilt M-60 for the gunner in the back, along with an M-16 for the pilot, a couple of canvas bags (made for Milliput), a shell crate and an ammo can for the door gunner, a couple of smoke grenades hanging on a wire, and the coup de grace, Hugh Mill's personalised helmet (with WAR across the visor housing) on the pilot's seat. I made the helmet by drilling out a Fujimi A-6 crewmans head using a small steel cutter on my Dremel, and then added the microphone boom from sprue and wire.
Phew! After all that was over and done with, am I happy with the result? Pretty much, except for the oversized markings, the overhead windows, the improperly assigned bulkhead and the rotor paint scheme question. I suppose you have to leave some room for improvement!
Any questions, comments, or insights into the question of the rotor colour scheme? Feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org