(Black)birdcage with a bit of a twist
My article focuses on the unique skeletal model of the SR-71A Blackbird at 1/144 scale, produced by Jasmine Model in China. It contains 120 photo-etched parts and a few pieces of aluminum painted resin bits. The kit is well engineered with an excellent overall fit.
There is only one minor mistake in the manual: on the real ship, the oleo scissors on the main undercarriage legs are facing forward, whereas the manual suggests otherwise. To add some extra realism, the inlet spikes, the undercarriage, and the J-58 engines can be painted. Although the cockpits are complex enough for the scale, they contain simplified instrument panels and SR-1 seats, I felt some crew should be added as well. Finding “the right stuff” gave me quite a bit of a headache. I found a 3D-printed space-shuttle crew set created by a Swiss gentleman Max Grueter. From a modeling point of view, the pressure suits worn by late Habu and Dragon Lady pilots were quite similar to those used by the space-shuttle crew (both were manufactured by David Clark Co.), so only minor modifications were necessary. Completion of detail painting was followed by the assembly of the airframe. The instruction manual recommends the usage of superglue, which I found inappropriate, so early on, I switched to UV glue.
The assembled aircraft was looking good, but it kept bugging me that something as mighty as the SR-71 deserves a more special presentation. I then had a light-bulb moment: how about hanging it like a painting! So, the second stage of the build began. The box frame was made of a wooden tray. The base/background of the plane was created in Photoshop, then printed on vinyl foil, which was then stuck on a 2 mm thick PVC board. At the front, there is a regular picture frame with glass, which in order to be opened, is attached to the top of the box frame with two tiny metal hinges. At the bottom, a pair of rare earth magnets keep the box closed. The aircraft is removable, and it attaches to the base at two points. Under her belly, at the approximate center of gravity, there is a tiny neodymium magnet pair, the upper part being glued to the fuselage, whereas the bottom part to a steel tube that is fixed to the base. To secure the position, a second anchor point was also necessary, which was created under the nose undercarriage using a hypodermic needle. The bottom of this needle is also glued to the base, the needle slides into the bottom of the nose wheel strut.
This project kept me busy for a year of which the assembly of the bird was 3 months, and designing and completing the presentation box was another 9 months. I must admit that I enjoyed every second of it.
I hope you will enjoy it too!