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gary sausmikat
67 articles

Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawks

August 28, 2022 · in Aviation · · 34 · 1K

Hi All.

I have seen the last remaining before, at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy/NASM, but for some reason on my last visit, with my Bro-in-law (thanks Kurt, had a great time), I felt inspired to build this classic USN aircraft.

Jumping on that inspiration, I researched the kit options and decided on the Williams Brothers kit.
This is a kit from the 1970's so I knew I was in for a “classic, non-Tamiya”, type build but myself being a “classic” builder I decided to forge ahead. Because the Yellow Wings decals set includes full markings for three separate schemes, and to really go above and beyond and make it a real build adventure, I decided to build two of them...the USS Macon, displayed at the museum and the USS Akron, where my daughter lives.

Brief History:
In the 1930's the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk was produced to be a parasite aircraft, launching and retrieving from rigid airships while airborne. Two airships, the USS Akron and USS Macon, were built and intended to be used by the US Navy for airborne coastal defense and fleet scouts.
A total of 8 Sparrowhawks were built.
On April 4, 1933 the USS Akron crashed, off the coast of New Jersey, during a storm, killing 73 crew members. None of the 6 Sprarrowhawks were on board this day and were transferred to the USS Macon.
Two years later on Feb 12, 1935 the USS Macon crashed off the coast of California with 2 crew members killed and losing 4 Sparrowhawks.
This ended the Navy's use of rigid airships as long range scouts for the fleet.
The Sparrowhawk on display at the NASM is the last remaining of it's kind and was fully restored in 1974.

The USS Macon's and it's four F9C's resting site has been surveyed, documented and made a National Marine Sanctuary.

For a more detailed history of the airships and aircraft:

Earlier this summer, with my daughters, we went to see (more like they humored Dad in going with me) the USS Akron's docking hanger, still standing in Akron, Ohio. Unfortunately you can not go onto the property but it's still an impressive structure from a distance.
After getting a few photos we stopped at a nearby antique shop where I happened to find an old newspaper about the USS Akron crash. That was too coincidental not to purchase and will make a nice backdrop for the display case.

Williams Brothers, 1/32, Curtiss Sparrowhawk
Yellow Wings Decals, F9C Sparrowhawk
HGWModels, 1/32, WW2 USA Fighters Seat belts
Scratch built Cockpits
.015 dia Music Wire was used for the Rigging
Scratch made Nav Lights
Scratch built Antenna Tripods, also using music wire.
Scratch built Gun Sights
EZ-line antennas
Fundekals, FD99002, Black Stripe Decals, used for the red and blue outlines.

AK Real Colors, RC221, ADC GRAY
MR. Color, 329, Yellow, FS13538
MR. Color, 327, Red, FS11136
MRP True Blue, FS15102
Tamiya, XF-16, Flat Aluminum

No weathering.

I would not recommend these kits to an inexperienced modeler but despite the age of the kits and the work required, they do end up being a nice representation of this one of kind aircraft.
For me these builds included a lot of reference material, test fitting, putty, sanding, masking, dealing with fiddly parts and most of all patience and determination (times 2).

Overall enjoyable builds and I'm happy with the results but now I'm ready to move on to the next builds.

Thanks for checking them out.

Until next time, as always KEEP IT FUN!

Reader reactions:
22  Awesome

11 additional images. Click to enlarge.

34 responses

  1. This is simply outstanding work, Gary!
    As always!

  2. Really nice duo!
    And very well presented!

  3. Gary, @gwskat
    This is an incredible pair of biplanes, and an exceptional article. I really enjoyed reading the article and the pictures you posted are outstanding as well. These older kits are often overlooked, but as you have shown us here they shouldn't be...

    Sometimes we get inspirations when we least expect it to happen. When you kept getting more pieces of the puzzle for the Sparrow hawk, it was a definite sign that you needed to build these. Finding the newspaper was like icing on the cake.

    You know I definitely pressed the "like" button ! 🙂

  4. Very nice Gary. Outstanding work.
    This article fills in with more knowledge on the rigid airships of the US Navy.
    You commented on my article on that in the past.
    How many sparrowhawks could be carried on Macon and Akron ?
    Only 8 built versus capacity . I thought 3, but am sure I am wrong about that.

    • Thanks, Bernard.
      I had to look up your question. This is what I found:

      • Thank you for the info Gary.
        I am not sure but the display case at Moffat field showed 3 on board.
        So, 3 out of a maximum complement of 5. 8 built, leaves the 5 for the Acron which went down with none on board.
        Glad one is left and preserved.

  5. Both are great looking, Gary @gwskat
    Thanks for sharing the article as well.

  6. Beautifully work on an interesting part of early Naval Aviation, I've seen videos of these little craft doing their trapeze act, these guys were crazy.

  7. @gwskat - Having done one of these kits, I can still remember how much of a "non-Tamiya" build it was. So BRAVO! for doing not one, but two of these "Difficult Kits Division" products, and both to a similar standard of excellence. Really superb results.

  8. Interesting aircraft. Before seeing the pictures and reading the text I asked myself2what is this strange rack good for?"
    An now the airships! 😉

  9. These two turned out so well, Gary, I think you should go for the other six.

  10. Amazing results on both builds, they both look great! Beautiful overall finish and the colors are spot in. There should be two like buttons for these two builds...great job!

  11. Nice work, Gary!

  12. Two amazing builds! What a cool project.

  13. Really nice work, Gary (@gwskat). These Williams Brothers kits are not shake and bake, so I know you had to put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the build. As an old pilot, I wonder what it would have been like to transfer in and out of these planes when they were tethered to the dirigibles.

  14. Outstanding work with those old Williams' kits, Gary @gwskat. Looks every bit as good as the one you photographed at Udvar. Your antenna rigging on both s excellent.

  15. I hate to see how fast good posts disappear into the back pages Gary, @gwskat. What a great post with some awesome kits and some very interesting links. Thanks, I think you did a great job with the vintage kits and it was fascinating reading about the rigid airships.

  16. @gwskat, Incredible work on both models Gary! 🤩 I've always thought this story of the airships and their parasitic fighters was so interesting. You've only added to that fascination with these two beauties. Amazing skills on exhibit here Gary! 👍

  17. Thanks, Gary! It is a very interesting concept. More interesting with jets...

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