resident of coastal North Carolina, I’ve always felt a special
affinity for the Wright Flyer. I’ve visited the Wright
Brothers Memorial several times, and each time I’m impressed
by what this pair of bicycle mechanics from Dayton Ohio were
able to accomplish.
Wright flyer has been around for a long time, 1958 to be exact.
My earliest memory of this model dates back to the around 1960
when I, about 6 years old, happened to be playing at a
neighbor’s house and noticed that big brother had built this
very model. I don’t recall that I recognized it as the Wright
flyer, but I was impressed by all the thread and plastic which
comprised the model.
So here we are
in 2003 and Monogram’s product is still the only all plastic
kit of the Flyer. Sure, there’s the 1/16 scale multimedia
Hasegawa kit, but how many of us can afford it $200-300 price
tag, or even want anything that large in our display case?
I’ll have to
admit that the thought of building something produced from molds
as old as the Monogram kit really put me off, and it wasn’t
until a coworker offered an enticing commission for building the
kit, that I was motivated to take up the task.
In the box,
Monogram’s (now marketed under the Revell label) kit contains
48 parts- 37 for the aircraft, and the remaining for the stand,
dioramas figures and tools. The kit, while not up to today’s
standards, is surprisingly well molded and basically flash free.
The real booger is the number of ejection pin marks, which are
as prevalent as chicken pox on a 3 year old.
I filled each
one on the top of the bottom wing, but decided to leave the ones
on the underside of the top wing alone, as they are not readily
visible once the Flyer is assembled and rigged. I found the
easiest filling method was to use my Waldron punch set to punch
out thin plastic circles the approximate size of the ejection
pin depression. These were secured with a small amount of gel
superglue, and shortly thereafter, sanded carefully so as to
lose minimal fabric detail on the bottom wing. Following the
example of Mitsuo Kashiwagi in his excellent article in the
December issue of Fine Scale Modeler (Accurizing the Wright
Flyer), I preshaded wing ribbing by airbrushing each rib line
with a mix of Tamiya red and yellow (i.e., orange). I then
significantly lightened the orange base with white until I had a
cream color that I felt would be compatible with the main color
of the fabric. This was then airbrushed on top and bottom wings,
rudder and tail pieces until the orange ribbing was toned down
enough to give the wings a more pleasing 3 dimensional
painted, I then followed the construction sequence pretty much
as outlined in the instructions. That means beginning with the
engine. It took a while, but I was able to accumulate images of
the Flyer engine from the Internet. Using these, I spruced up
the engine but drilling out 4 exhaust holes on the outside side,
and drilled holes to accept tubing for the radiator and fuel
line (added after the wings were joined but before rigging). As
recommended in the excellent color pamphlet that accompanied the
kit instructions, I notched the propeller chain assembly to
provide a more realistic impression of individual chain links. I
did this by first locating the approximate midpoint between
chain pins. I then scored each location with a number 11 blade.
This provided a guide for the edge of a triangle minifile. This
process was rather tedious but resulted in a much more realistic
“chain”. Engine and chain were airbrushed Polly Scale steel,
and treated with a sludge wash of Polly Scale “ grimy black”
mixed with dishwashing detergent and water.
propeller shaft supports (pts 1&2), and chain guide (pt 17)
were glued to the bottom wing. There is no color guide for the
propeller supports, but my research suggested that these should
be painted black. Two of the front struts (pts 18) are added and
the bottom and top wing are joined together. Steps 2 and 3 then
call for completing the subassemblies of the front and rear
rudder. I saved these for later and instead concentrated on
adding the remaining front and rear wing struts. Since the top
and bottom wings were now joined, each additional wing strut was
added by securing the strut in its bottom wing slot, bending it
slightly, and fitting it into its top wing slot. You should
separate front and rear struts into two piles, so as not to get
them mixed up. Also, pay careful attention to which side of the
strut faces outward (toward the wing tip).
“wooden” parts of the model were first airbrushed with
Tamiya Buff. Once this was dry, a mix of Yellow Ochre and Burnt
Sienna oil paints were mixed together with a little thinner and
then brush painted onto each piece. I did not try to achieve a
wood grain look- the struts are small enough that attempts to
show the grain would have been difficult and not worth the
effort. The result of my efforts was in my opinion a much more
realistic wood appearance than would have been obtained by
simply airbrushing a “wood” color.
Rudder and tail
assemblies were completed and set aside. The wings were rigged,
CAREFULLY following the kit instructions. Although a spool of
gray thread is provided, I elected to use 4 lb. Monofilament
fishing line that I pre-colored black using a permanent ink
laundry marker. Rigging the Wright flyer is really “weaving”
the line through each attachment point. Each strut has a notch
at each end that allows you to “catch” the line onto. I
pulled the line taught and each locating point, applied a small
amount of superglue, followed by a wisp of accelerator on the
end of a brush, and then moved on to the next strut.
rudder and tail subassemblies were next added to the aircraft,
followed by rigging. I had some difficulty determining just
where the attachment points were for the rigging that ran from
the main wing assembly to the rudder, so I made my best guess.
The result of all this rigging is a model that is quite sturdy
despite its delicate appearance.
painted silver, and attached to the propeller support shafts.
Although I did
not plan to create a diorama, I did want to include the figure
of Orville. Painting the figure was really a simple task, as
Orville’s suit is black. I painted his clothing a very dark
gray, then painted black into the creases, and dry brushed a
slightly lightened base color on the clothing high points. Once
hands and face were painted, I carefully inserted Orville into
position. It was at this point I discovered that the figure did
not lie properly- lowering his arms enough to put his hands in
contact with the controls resulted in his legs and feet being
raised a noticeable amount off the surface of the wing. The
solution was to break Orville’s arms at the elbow (OUCH!), and
reposition them so that his hands were touching the controls
while his feet were resting on the wing.
stand, a clear styrene two-piece construction, was added. The
attachment points for the stand are very tenuous and unsteady. I
was able to remedy this using two-part clear epoxy to attach the
stand to the bottom wing. Resting on its stand, the Flyer gives
the appearance of just skimming over the ground with one wing
And that’s it
- about 5 weeks from start to finish- a pretty quick finish time
compared to most of my models. This project was a mild challenge
and a lot of fun. It goes to show that even at 45 years of age,
the Monogram model can still be made into a nice model!
Mitsuo. Accurizing the Wright Flyer. Fine Scale Modeler,