1/72 Execuform General Aviation PJ-1

Gallery Article by Gabriel Stern on Dec 27 2010


No gerbils, muskrats, dwarf furry black seals, moose, crayfish, Canadian Gremlins, alligators or Gila monsters were harmed during the building of this model.

Note 2: 
At the end of this article you will find a commemoration text on modeling.

The General Aviation PJ-1 (AF-15) twin pusher flying boat design combines the uncommon with the visually pleasant. Five planes of this type were built and all went into service with the Coast Guard starting in 1932 as FLB (Flying Life Boats). All had names of stars starting with the letter “A” (Antares, Acrux, Acamar, Arcturus, Altair). So you have some variations on schemes and details to pick from. One was converted to a tractor version and re-designated PJ-2. It had P&Ws of slightly more power, a different canopy and of course a different engine pylon and gondola arrangement. Some of these planes had “finlets” on the stab. One machine at certain point had three-blade props, and another had the annular Townend rings way ahead of the engine. Another had a sort of small wing in a low position after the engines. Still another (or perhaps the same) had a small wing above the leading edge. No doubt there was some experimentation going on there.

The General Aviation PJ-1 was specifically designed and made for the US Coast Guard. The very tangled corporate web that gave birth to this plane includes General Motors, Fokker (the wing was of Fokker design and there is more than a passing resemblance with the Fokker F-11), North American and Douglas. Another child born of this multiple parents is the Clark -General Aviation- GA-43 –of which an article was posted here some time ago: http://www.arcair.com/Gal10/9501-9600/gal9543-GA-43-Stern/00.shtm

The JP-1 had a retractable beaching gear, but it couldn’t be used as a landing gear. The pusher configuration was of course chosen to keep the props and carbs out of the spray. 
They were successful in their mission and saved many lives.

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The Execuform vacuformed kit of the PJ-1 is made of sturdy plastic. The parts were removed from their backing sheet and as in any other vacuformed kit you have to refine those parts later on, to make for a good fit and proper thinness on trailing edges. So some careful sanding is involved, whilst frequently testing the parts to be sure you are on track.

This is a relatively big kit and it will require that you scratchbuild the interior, engrave some panel lines and the separation lines of the control surfaces. Some clear plastic is provided for you to make the windows, which are all flat. Engines, propellers, wheels, struts and some minor external details (like the loop antenna or the landing lights) are all to be supplied by the modeler.  Same for the decals.  The kit provides good documentation and annotated 1/72 plans to accomplish all that.

I would like to remind again fellow modelers that the existence of this type of kits it’s a bliss, even if they are basic, since no mainstream manufacturer is likely to produce kits of esoteric planes. Yes, you have to get some extra parts and work a little, all the better, that’s what it makes a model “yours”; you put something of you in it, and you learn and hone those skills. These kits are a starting point and they are not meant to compete with mainstream ones, they just pick-up the trail where the big guys left it, so we can have interesting models of less-known types. For me and many others that’s great and worth the extra effort. 

US Coast Guard V113 livery was chosen, mainly because of the difficulty of printing white decals for the other (blue background) livery options (I do not have an ALPS nor I want to buy one); besides I found on the Net several pics of this particular machine. It has a less showy color scheme but overall presents a cleaner visual effect. Different wing float strut arrangements can be seen in photos during its life. Study your chosen subject and compare any plans or drawings you may have with actual photos. 

I decided to replace some flying surfaces and other details. Since the tail group was made of metal tube and fabric-covered, I scratched it from sheet styrene. The ailerons were corrugated metal (while the whole wing was wood) so I cut them out and replaced them with parts made from corrugated styrene sheet. Have in hand some Evergreen or Plastruct rod sections, since you will have to add the strakes that are visible on the fuselage sides and bottom and the area surrounding the engine pylons. No cockpit or interior data is provided with the kit nor could any specific info on the matter be found elsewhere, so a generic cockpit was depicted. The windows were made with the clear plastic provided with the kit, which resulted to be excellent, whatever material that is. It cut cleanly and sanded well. The step on the hull was refined and strakes (26 of them) were measured, cut, touched-up and glued to the bottom and sides. I encountered a not good merging of the wing “back” with the fuselage and found that the wing fillets needed to be corrected –I had to remove the originals-, so the area was reinforced with more styrene from inside and re-contoured. 

Brass “Struz” were used for the necessary parts. MV lenses were utilized for the landing lights, and navigation lights came from the generic CMR set. Additional details –to name just a few- were loop antenna, Pitot tube, beaching gear cables and pulley anchor, rigging, wire antenna, rudder “paddles”, control horns and cables and mooring bits, the latter were part of a resin set sold by Khee-Kha Art Products for one of its bush planes. 

I diverged from Execuform’s recommendations regarding the type of yellow color on the plane’s scheme and some of the lettering fonts.

You may see an upper wing walkway among the decals on the “in progress” images. That didn’t work. I had to mask that area and paint it almost at the very end. Retrospectively it would have been better to prepare the area where the pylons are glued and leave them out until after completion of painting. I could have done that because I worked out a good wing/pylon joint, but got carried away and glued them without a second thought.

Do not forget those servo tabs on the rudder.
The captioned photos will give you an idea of the steps, procedures and materials. If they don’t, you could always take up teratology or quilting. There is always hope where there is a will. 

Bonus track:
Scale Modeling
Scale modeling is a rigorous discipline created at the Shaolin Temple in the beginning of time in order to hone both, spirit and flesh.

Through its practice the apprentices (usually called grasshoppers, but also monkey-head, cork-brain, flan-hand and worse) developed the necessary skills to become perfect lunatics, socially-inept, obsessive-compulsive outcasts. 

After years of producing styrene dust, talking a lot, gathering immense -and mostly untouched- resource libraries and rejecting the worldly pleasures of a normal life they may have built ONE model. Or none whatsoever. 

Their life was a tough life.
Today we honor the spirits of the Good Shaolin Modeling Monks and burn incense, superglue and ancient Humbrol tin cans, which tend to smell like hell.

This time-honored tradition will thin the wallets, give endless hours of colorful language, feed the local fauna (carpet monster) and increase the matter transported to the Twing and Twang dimensions in the form of lost parts that jumped into wormholes. 

Long live scale modeling, for although messy, it is not as messy as politics.
Long live scale modeling, for it will provide for the building-up of the next eon oil reserves in the form of stashed plastic models.
Long live scale modeling, for otherwise we would have to watch TV.

Gabriel Stern

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Photos and text © by Gabriel Stern