year is 1935. Wiley Post, renowned pilot, is putting together a hybrid plane
made of a Lockheed Orion fuselage and the wing of a lesser known Lockheed type,
wing of the Explorer is about six feet longer in span than the original wing,
and to add to that Wiley wants his plane to be able to land on water, so he
floats. To compensate for the increase in weight, a beefed-up power plant
replaces the original one. People at Lockheed apparently weren’t exactly
thrilled about that at the time.
Companion in his
adventure is the no less renowned Will Rogers, comedian, humorist, writer and
flight, thought as a way to explore possible routes to
and to provide writing material for
Rogers, unfortunately ends in disaster in Alaska
with the loss of the two lives.
images below to see larger images
lines of the Orion are indeed pleasant enough, but with the longer wing
and the floats, the total becomes more than the sum of its parts, if you
allow me this Gestaltean digression.
I got the Special
Hobby Orion release as a starting point. I am glad manufacturers are
venturing with iconic civilian releases, and I hope it is a trend that
will continue. This kit has been in the market for a while and has been
reviewed plentifully, so I won’t abound in details. Suffice to say that
it is a short-run release with a large number of resin bits and vac canopy
included, good cockpit detail, no cabin detail, butt joints and exuberant
panel lines. A nice set of decals (that went unused for this model)
completes the package. For a moment I considered using the kit’s wing,
splicing it and adding a center section, but the work surely would have
been long and tiring, and the wheel area had to be deleted anyway, so I
opted instead for scratching a new wing.
The floats were no
problem, since Khee-Kha Art Products from
-besides its range of bushplane vacuformed kits- has a wonderful, well
made and well detailed range of resin
floats. I ordered the J-5300 (based on masters produced originally by Jim
Schubert) from them. They came with the water rudders, control arms and
cleats, all well detailed and flawlessly cast. I have
used Khee-Kha’s products before and was extremely pleased with them and
their customer service.
So I had the
Orion’s kit fuselage, Khee-Kha’s floats and the scratch-built wing.
Some reports state the interior of the plane lodged quite a bit of cargo;
in order to do that it is probable that some seats were removed, but
lacking references on the matter I opted to paint the cabin matt black.
The resin engine that comes with the kit is very nice, and given the fact
that in this particular machine the engine is covered by a frontal plate
used to reduce airflow in winter or cold climates, I decided to save the
resin engine and swap it for a good white metal one that had a little less
detail. You get a spare cylinder for the resin engine, but you get exactly
the number of injected clear windows you need for the cabin, in spite of
the fact that they were molded longer than necessary and that you have to
tailor them to fit –as indicated in the instructions-. Guess who lost a
window to the “twing” dimension and ended up making one from a cd
would be nice if the manufacturers would add a spare part when you have
multiples, like in struts, seats, etc. I am sure the cost should not be
impacted too much, and will give the modeler a second chance when minute
parts jump into the “twing” and “twang” dimensions.
As it is
almost invariably the case with resin interiors you have to spend a couple
hours trying to make two objects occupy the same space at the same time,
which, as anybody knows, is a physics’ impossibility (although
apparently not for some manufacturers).
fuselage was closed a missing luggage hatch was added, an air intake was
glued to the right-hand side of the cowl. The fit of the scratch wing was
adjusted and before gluing it the wing was given some cautious surface
detail. The locations for the float struts, Pitot, landing lights and nav
lights were prepared. Some suspension lugs and bumps underneath were added
at this point too.
given the right track (as per Khee-Kha instructions), bridged with two
brass airfoiled struts (from “Strutz”), and the inverted “V”
upright struts were also fixed to facilitate ulterior joining with the
wing (after painting, since they were different colors).
main parts were put together the puttying and sanding cycle ensued, the
task I unfortunately enjoy the least. Well, it is not that “I enjoy it
the least”, actually I really don’t like it. More so, I blatantly hate
stage arrived and I coated lightly some areas of the model and heavily
some others (on the fuselage) in an attempt to subdue the too prominent
Now, I must
warn you here about a little known law of physics, the infamous Pugetian
Principle. It states that when you don’t want to cover your beautiful
panel lines, they will be utterly obliterated at the slightest pass of the
primer, but when you want them to be less obvious or at least fade a bit
they will resist any kind of overcoat you can throw at them, no matter how
Orion/Explorer hybrid was overall red with silver/aluminum floats,
registrations, trim and tail marks. I painted the silver/aluminum color
with a lacquer and coated it with Future in preparation for the subsequent
actions. My plan was to cut masks for the registrations, and they came up
so so. Then again to the rescue came Christos of Alabama with the silver
decals. He saved my two last projects with his kind generosity.
with the Clark GA-43, I used some CMK navigation lights. They are good,
although a tad expensive for my pocket. Some of them, usually the bigger
ones, for some obscure reason, are mounted in flat, rectangular-section
stalks, instead of the round thin stalks used for the smaller lights. This
makes mounting them a pain in the neck. Why they are not all of them
mounted in round-section stalks has no logic to me, since it would make
installing them in a previously-drilled hole a breeze. Cutting them out of
the useless stalks and then trying to glue them I lost four to the Twang
the main subassemblies were ready they were put together with a sigh of relief.
I added the home-made Venturis and then started to peel-off the window masks. Or
try too. You see, I decided to use again the Mr. Masking Sol Neo, in spite of a
not pleasant experience with the Vultee V-1. What I can say now is that my very
short acquaintance –to call it friendship would be indeed excessive- with this
product is hereby terminated. The mask became –because may be for the use of
primers- a sort of gooey ectoplasmatic blob that resisted
removal and could make the delights of a class z science fiction producer. I was
not completely successful in the removal what didn’t want to ruin the
surroundings using a harsh product.
canopy was added and its frames were represented by painted decals. Then the
Pitot and the walkway were positioned and it was time to seat back after the
in all not a pharaonic enterprise thanks to the readily available Khee-Kha
floats and Orion kit. You only need to add that wing. And a few hours work :-)
I hope Wiley is smiling somewhere.
I would like to thank Jim Schubert, Lars Opland and Christos
Psarras for their generous help.
Khee-Kha (the manufacturer of the resin floats that also has a
range of vacuformed bushplanes) can be reached here:
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