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George R Blair Jr
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MPM 1/72 A-17A Ground Attack Aircraft

August 16, 2022 · in Aviation · · 31 · 1.1K

The Northrop A-17 was developed from the Gamma 2F cargo aircraft. It was built in 1935 to meet an Army requirement for a ground attack aircraft, and entered service in 1936. In WW2, it was used by the USAAF exclusively as a coastal patrol plane on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. In British service, it was known as the Nomad. It was exported to Argentina, Peru, Sweden, the Netherlands, Iraq, Norway, Great Britain, South Africa, and Canada. There were two main versions of the plane, the A-17 which had fixed gear, and the A-17A which had retractable gear.

The Build:
My last two models were fairly demanding builds, so I was looking for something quick and easy to do before I started my next more demanding model. This model has been in my stash for many years, and I have wanted to build it for a while. released this kit, along with a kit of the fixed-gear A-17, in 2002. I don't do a lot of because my eyes aren't what they used to be, and I never do natural metal finishes, but I figured I could power through this little kit. Even though this is a short run kit, I have read reviews that said that this was one of MPMs better kits. I ordered some canopy masks and decals for the kit, and off I went. The interior was fairly sparse, so I added some details to the interior, along with some seatbelts using masking tape. The kit went together easily and needed very little filler or sanding.

This is where my poor decisions started:
  1. I wanted to polish the inside of the canopy before I glued it to the plane, so I used my fingers and a cloth instead of using something that actually fit inside the canopy. I managed to crack the canopy right down the middle. I fixed it using some Looks Like Glass.
  2. I never do natural metal finishes, so the question of what to use quickly came up. I was in a hurry, so I decided to use Airfix Silver from a spray can. I had used it before and had really good results, but this would be the first time I used it on a whole airplane. I wanted to mist the paint on, so I was spraying the paint from about 18 inches. It was 102 degrees outside in the Texas heat, and only a few degrees cooler in my garage. Apparently the paint was drying before it actually landed on the plane, resulting in a very pebbly surface. No problem. I decided to put the second layer on nice and thick to fill in the surface. Bad idea.
  3. I did some light sanding on the silver and managed to make it look somewhat better. I sprayed a layer of clear gloss and got ready for the decals. When I looked at the decals, I discovered they were for an A-17 rather than and A-17A, so I decided to use the 25 year old kit decals. As it turned out, they performed perfectly.

I sealed the decals with some semi-gloss clear and added all of the small bits. I was planning to add an antenna wire, but the photos I had of the A-17A in the Air Force Museum didn't seem to have the antenna wire. Problem solved. In the end, I think it came out OK. The natural metal finish looks more like metallic paint than a natural metal surface, but after all of the problems I think I can live with it.

Reader reactions:
17  Awesome

3 additional images. Click to enlarge.

31 responses

  1. The first aeroplane book I ever bought with my first paycheck was J V Mizrahi's "Air Corps". About the first new wave in the '30's. This one was in there, and I have always liked it's looks. You have done a great job on a tough old MPM, it looks great. The canopies are particularly neat. I have trouble spraying here in the 80's/90's, never mind 107! God bless ya Son.

    • Thanks, Bill (@billkoppos). I have also always liked the way this plane looked, but the NMF always gave me a scare. Now that I have broken the ice on NMF, I can figure out a better way to actually do it. I have a spray booth in the house, but I do my spraying from cans in the garage. I don't worry about the heat until I start sweating on the model.

  2. Great looking A-17A, George. Your NMF does look good. Glad to hear the decals worked out and great repair on the canopy!
    If it's not acrylic I don't spray in the house, too smelly.
    You made me check my shelves when I remembered I had the sister kit #72054 A-17 with fixed landing gear, and it'll be Blue & Yellow for me (it's not on my immediate radar, maybe next year).

    • Thanks, George (@georgeswork). The decals that I bought and ended up not using were for several blue and yellow fixed-gear A-17s. I had bought the blue and yellow paint and was ready to go, then discovered I had decals for the wrong plane. I also only spray acrylics in the house. We moved into a new house in January, and my hobby room didn't have a way to vent outside, so I cobbled together a series of filters and a fan motor into a spray booth. It works great, filters the smell and paint particles, and send clean air back into the room. I put off building the A-17 for 20 years, so it was about time.

  3. Fantastic job on that model.

    Sweden used the A-17 with a fixed undercarriage as a dive bomber for a number of years, locally designated B 5. No aircraft was kept for the museums but a replica is being built using bits and pieces from an aircraft crash in 1944.

  4. Nice work, George! I love stuff like this.

  5. George, @gblair
    You have done a magnificent job here with your A-17. I can't see the faults you brought up in the pictures. To me it looks just fine as it is. It has been a very hot summer, but my trees are telling me that we just might be getting an early Fall season. I can imagine how hot it was for you out there in Texas, having been stationed there myself for close to 4 years. I definitely checked the "like" button.

    This is a kit I would LOVE to see done in 1/48 scale. My poor old eyes are just not up to snuff for building in 1/72 anymore. This between the wars era in US aviation is not well represented, but things are getting better all the time. I never thought I would see a 1/48 scale Vultee Vengeance, but guess what ? A Northrup BT-1 would be another cool plane to see in 1/48. One can always wish.

    • Thanks, Louis (@lgardner). The "Looks Like Glass" did a great job hiding the crack that runs right down the middle of the canopy. I would also like to see this plane in 1/48, and the "BT" series has always been on my list. I have one of the BTs in a limited run 1/72 kit, but have never had the courage to try it. Having spent about half my flying career as an instructor pilot in T-37s, I like to build the old trainers.

      I just moved to a town near Austin, and they historically have only 2 or 3 days above 100 during the summer. This summer, we are currently well over 30 days of 100+, with no end in sight. More worrisome is that we haven't had any measurable rain in over a month. Water restrictions and dead yards are very common around here now.

      Take care of your back, don't lift anything heavy, and don't twist. Be sure to do any exercises the doctor gave you. :o)

  6. Nicely done George, silver finishes are tricky.

  7. Despite your difficulties it came out looking great, George, especially good in 1/72.

  8. A really great result out out of the demanding MPM kit, George!
    Love the final looks!

  9. Nice one ,George!

  10. Great build of a unique subject George. Well done!

  11. Looks very nice. Great work on a short run kit.

  12. I have some MPM kits, and would bet that even one of their "better" ones is challenging! This looks great!

  13. Turned out very nice, especially for a quick build. The cockpit detailing looks very good.

  14. Fully agree on all the above comments, George @gblair
    Your A17 looks really amazing.
    NMF is not easy to tackle and please don't ask me how I know.
    I also keep on struggling to make NMF make look like real and as impressive as some modellers can achieve that.

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