1/32 Wingnut Wings De Haviland 9a "Ninak"

Gallery Article by Mike Muth on Nov 17 2020



The first USMC aviator was Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham who received his pilot certificate from the US Navy in 1912. By the time the U.S. became a participant in World War I, Cunningham had risen to the rank of Major. He arrived in France to lead a group of USMC pilots flying bombers against the Germans. The pilots were eventually assigned the De Haviland 9a (Ninak), a 2 seater airplane designed and built in Great Britain. The Ninaks flown by the Marines were supposed to be powered by the U.S. designed Liberty engine, a V-12 producing 400 hp. The Liberty had a lot of teething problems but some eventually found their way to the Western Front. By September of 1918, the USMC ended up with 53 Ninaks assigned to them for use in the RAF's Northern Bombing Group.

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This is another one of the Wingnut Wings kits produced in 1/32 scale. The D.H. 4 was being used by the RFC/RAF as its primary bomber but it had at least one major design flaw: the pilot and gunner were separated so much that it hindered effective communication between the 2 during a dogfight. The D.H. 9 was supposed to replace the D.H. 4. The engine powering the D.H. 9, the 230 hp Puma simply wasn't up to the task. So, a modification to the D.H. 9, the 9a was undertaken. It was designed to accommodate the Rolls Royce Eagle VIII and also the Liberty engine. The pointed nose of the 9 was squared off giving the 9a a blunt, aggressive look. The wings were also enlarged. The Wingnut kit contains a Liberty engine and has markings for 5 Ninaks, one of which was flown by the USMC's Northern Bombing Group.

Wingnut Wings kits are easy to build as long as you follow the instructions and make sure there is no paint where 2 surfaces are glued together. For me, this means filling with Silly Putty all of the receiving holes for the struts and cabanes before painting and scraping any paint off the struts before gluing them in. This is a pretty big airplane with a lot of rigging. The top wing consists of 3 pieces and the bottom wing just 2. The wings are heavy and I think sag a little once the plane is sitting on its landing gear. I closed up the engine cowl so you can't see all of the detail designed into the kit's engine. I also skipped a lot of interior painting on the forward fuselage since it wouldn't be seen once everything was closed up. There is a small errata sheet found on the WNW web page showing corrections to the printed instructions. These involve minor changes to the cockpit, landing gear legs and some changes on the top of the fuselage.

I pretty much followed the painting call-outs in the instructions. For the PC-10 applied to most RFC/RAF airplanes, there is no specific "magic" paint to use. PC-10 could range in color from a dark olive green to a chocolate brown. I currently like using Model Master's Field Drab for PC-10, but have also been known to use MM Dark Earth. For the undersurface of the wings, this time I used MM Radome Tan. The gray is MM Medium Sea Gray. To get the wood look on the struts I started with a base coat of MM Wood. Once this is dry, I dab a hobby sponge in diluted acrylic burnt sienna and smear it over the base coat. The sponge's texture allows for some streaks to appear if a light touch is applied, making it look like varnished wood.

The rigging technique is to drill a hole half-way through the top wing from underneath. I insert some silvery thread I found at a sewing store and secure it with ca. I then drill a hole all the way through the bottom wing, hang a weight onto the thread to make it tight, and apply ca where the thread enters the wing. This is the system I always use and it works for me, but this time I am not so sure. There are a lot of holes to be drilled and I try to do that before attaching the top wing. By the time I got around to rigging, I couldn't figure out why I drilled some of those holes. I think I got the rigging right, but some holes are still unused. I also noticed that while everything looked tight when the ca was applied, when I would pick up the airplane to work on the underneath, the already glued rigging seemed to sag. I think that's because the wings are so heavy. However, once sitting on its landing gear, the "sag"  seemed to have tightened the rigging. I'm still not positive, but I suspect the attached photos may answer the question.

This was a long build for me, due to all the rigging. A brief mention of the bombs also seems appropriate here. I hate painting, decaling and attaching bombs. I often will leave them off and claim "it's on the way back from a mission." That was my initial plan, but with the rigging taking so long, I had time to try doing the bombs. The smaller 20 pound Cooper underwing bombs are two parts each. The larger 100 pound HERL bomb is attached to the fuselage and also is 2 parts. After painting all the bombs with Testors zinc chromate (from the little bottle) I took a deep breath and tried to apply the decals that serve as the multi-colored rings around the tip of the bombs. Surprisingly, although the smaller ones look straight, they easily formed around the round bomb surface. I think the bombs do add something to the finished product, and am glad I tried doing them. The finished model is quite large, so make sure you have enough self space for it. I finished my Ninak around the same time that Wingnut Wings announced its closure. I think I have enough in my stash to keep me busy for a while, but maybe it is time to start thinking about building the Copper State Nieuport 17 hiding in my closet.

Mike Muth

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Photos and text by Mike Muth