Saturday, 11 February 2012

Airacobra, Snakes of a Plane

The fumes of Testor's plastic cement made me the guy I am today.  

Before I was agonizing about leather shades for caligae and getting whacked out on Dullcote, I was slapping down badass camouflage on plastic airplane kits and contending with little red tubes of Testor's Super Freakout Model glue.

It was my father's fault. One of the first things I remember in my room was a mobile he made of pre-WWII biplanes. Resplendent in their US high-vis colour schemes.  To this day indeed the sight of a Boeing F4B takes me to a happy place.

I've been re-entering world of plastic model kits now the pre-Teen Visigoth is growing an interest in the hobby. So we've built some Hondas, a Phantom is on the block and we've had a blast with silly Japanese robot kits. 

Thinking of the similarities and differences between the plastic model building hobby and the miniature wargaming gig (which I will expound upon much to everyone's edification) and has got me reminiscing the kits I build way back when...

One big difference is the package. Plastic model kits rock. The golden age kits of Revell, Monogram and Airfix knew the basic truth, you don't sell the kit, you sell the story. Fine art? Pulp art? Yes to both. And there are some fine boxes out there.

In comparison, miniature packaging is rubbish. Mostly cause it's done on the cheap and mostly cause it doesn't really matter. Miniature guys will hold the little blister up to their faces and make sure the Kar98's are just the right length or the proper sabretache matches the correct shako. Fancy illos have little or no impact.

Of course, mine have long wound up discarded and demolished, but thanks to never sleeping teams of plane kit nerds on the web, there are no shortages.

So allow me introduce Box Top number one...


Oh, were to begin. The little snake charmer dude. Yeah, he's top notch. Cobra? Right I get it dude. Shehnai packing fakirs with snakes in basket might have brought down more Zeros than the P-39s did. (Zing!) 

OK, no more P-39 vs Zero jokes. The P-39 is a most unfairly castigated airplane. The United States at the outbreak of their involvement in WW2 seemed insistent on using the wrong warplane for the wrong application. Marauders as torpedo bombers, Airacobras as high altitude dogfighters and Brewster Buffaloes as....well let's say it took the genius of the Finns to figure out what to do with that thing.
I digress, look at that brilliant box top painting... 

The ground crew are busy readying the P-39 for another patrol over New Guinea or more likely Guadalcanal if I remember my camo patterns. Palm trees, sunrise and's the Pacific War pastiche come to life. Any moment a group of singing sailors and seebees will march around the corner

It's hard for me to be properly disassociative about the fantasy and reality of the pacific war. On one side you have Hell in the Pacific and other side, South Pacific.  Both are grand and even more fun if you mix them together. 

What this little awesome scene doesn't show you is the pilot of featured Airacobra doubled over in dysenteric pain and the piles of shot up hulks of 'Cobras that barely made it back to base. Not a musical. Today's patrol will find the stalwarts of the 67th Fighter Squadron facing down the elite of the IJN, straight outta Rabaul; Sakai, Nishizawa and the rest of the best. Better pray for a low cloud cover and the timely intervention of Marine Wildcats.

I love the Airacobra. It's a goofy sort of bird. Mid-engine, tricycle gear and a dubious 37mm cannon. I remember this kit well. I didn't like it. It was a display masterpiece, lots of interior detail for engines, guns and the like. But the panels would come off super easy when I peeled off down the hallway to strafe the cat. Hey, I was 10.




  1. Nice write up. I also started building aircraft as a kid. The box art almost always did the best job selling me on a kit.

  2. The RAF took some Aircobras during WW2 but the tricycle undercarriage was not popular with the Brylcreem Boys. I think they lost more Aicobras to landing accidents than the enemy.

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    The narrator sounds pretty dubious to the 'Cobra's qualities.

    Thanks guys!