Wednesday, 8 August 2012


Launching a Hypersonic Aircraft

I don't know what it is about launching aircraft via hydraulic ramp - as far as I am aware it's grossly inefficient in real life, but, damn, it's just so cool looking! "Thunderbirds" did it, "Captain Scarlet" did it, "Joe 90" did it - heck, even "Fireball XL5", way back in 1960, was based on launching a rocket along a lengthy, horizontal track. Even before that, George Pal showed how pleasing to the eye a lateral launch could be with the Space Ark in "When Worlds Collide". Launching an aircraft this way is just so different from the normal takeoff that it instantly becomes visually arresting and draws an immediate audience. It must have been all those Gerry Anderson shows I know and love that have heavily influenced me when I come up with interesting ways for an aircraft to take off. At least that seems to be the case here...

The basis for the Bluefire 4 was a Revell kit of a MiG 1.44, a prototype Russian aircraft that already looked very futuristic. I added a variety of drop tank halves to the fuselage, as well as a “roll bar” to the tail fins and extra fins to the wingtips. The model was puttied and sanded many times and then painted a silver blue, with red highlights.

The bottom of the launch base was originally the display section for an Apollo Saturn V kit. Sheet styrene was added to fill in the openings and resin cast pieces and other kit parts glued on to detail it up. It was primed and painted, after which pinstriping tape was added in sections.

The launch assembly itself was a collection of toy parts, coupled with a circular food container, all of which was detailed in kit parts, more toy sections and resin cast pieces. A small hinge allows the launch ramp to rise. A pair of small brass tubes stick out for the Bluefire 4 to be attached to so it doesn’t slide off the ramp.

Much pinstriping tape and picking out sections in various colours completed the Bluefire 4 launch assembly. After the addition of airbrushed weathering and four small straws to act as fuel pipes, the whole assemble was varnished to seal everything in and to protect the model.

The three photos below show an extra layer of graphite weathering applied to the Bluefire 4 model very recently as it was going to become the "star" in the latest GM Production - "Dogfight". More on that later.

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