Wednesday, April 29, 2015

ESCI 1/48th FJ-2/3

29 October 2016: It turns out that I was wrong about being wrong with respect to the FJ-4 horizontal tail so I revised the top view drawing at the bottom of this post. Thanks to maintenance manual data provided by Frank Truchi, a volunteer at the National Naval Aviation Museum, I now know that the production FJ-4 horizontal tail leading edge was swept at 35°. The NAA drawing of the horizontal tail is therefore accurate except for the span.  (Also see

Some people are desperate for a good injection-molded kit of the North American FJ-2/3 Fury, so desperate that they consider building the ESCI 1/48th kit. While I'm sure that a fairly accurate model can be built from it, some changes will be necessary.

The most notable errors are in the forward fuselage,
as detailed here:
Note that the ejection seat is located too low and far aft in the cockpit.

It fairs even worse as an FJ-3, because its inlet was even deeper. (And that scoop on the aft fuselage needs to be cut down and a recessed ramp added ahead of it.)
Note that the aft nose landing gear door is not wide enough.

Since the bottom of the sliding canopy has the distinctive "dip" of the FJ-2/3's at its forward end (added to allow the pilot to sit higher for takeoff and landing while closing and opening the canopy) and the inlet is an undersized version of the FJ-2's, it doesn't make for a good XFJ-2 out of the box either. The XFJ-2 had the standard F-86 sliding canopy with a modified windscreen for better over-the-nose visibility. For an overview of the North American FJ Fury family, see

However, even given its shortcomings, the kit has possibilities. Deepening the forward fuselage wouldn't be too difficult. "Impatient Pete" modified an F-86 with this cut on the way to an FJ Fury in an ARC forums post.

The bottom of the windscreen and sliding canopy could possibly be filed down to lower them to the right height. A F-86 canopy might be even better.

I don't have the kit so I can't say what has to be done to the wings, horizontal stabilizer, etc to improve its accuracy. For those details, see

While most of us are content to imagine the possibilities or hope for a new FJ-3 kit, Jon Kunac-Tabinor has not only sallied forth with the Esci kit, he is posting his progress here:

However, Jon is having trouble with the quality of Esci plastic and Bob Sikkel reports that the Esci wing has the incorrect sweep and aileron location. The desperate might want to consider another 1/48th scale alternative, a mash up of the Grand Phoenix FJ-4 and a Monogram F-86.  The FJ-4's fuselage was very similar to the FJ-3's (see Jon Krol's comments below and the following illustrations). Bob Sikkel also provided the following comparison of 1/48th kit inlets to which I've added photographs of the actual airplanes.
Somebody has measured the FJ-4 at Tyler, Texas as having an inlet width and height at the location of the inlet plug of 23".

The FJ-3 and FJ-4 fuselages were almost identical, except of course where it is obvious that they aren't as well as the small difference in downward angle of the 20 mm guns. While the main landing gear was very different, the nose gear appeared to be the same except that the shock strut was more extended at rest.
Note that the North American draftsman had to wing it with details like access panels, speed brakes, etc. (obvious when comparing the FJ-3 and FJ-4 side views) so there may be some variation in their location from the above. Your guess is as good as mine on the vertical fin: were the leading and trailing edges different or not?

The wings and horizontal tails were very different, which is where an F-86 kit is required.

Note the difference in span between the prototype and production FJ-4 horizontal tails:

Friday, April 17, 2015


A work in progress:

Before March 1954 (see, the cockpits of Navy carrier-based airplanes were to be semigloss Black from the level of the bottom of the instrument panel and nonspecular Interior Green below. Ejection seats were usually interior green. After this, the cockpits were to be dark gull gray with black instruments and consoles. Ejection seats were either black or dark gull gray as will be discussed. Of course, the basic changeover from black cockpits to dark gull gray ones took time and the devil is in the details. It also did not correspond directly with the change in the exterior paint scheme from overall blue to gray/white, which was decreed in February 1955, almost a year later. For more on that, see

BuAer color specifications often left room for interpretation or to paraphrase Captain Barbossa, are "more of what you'd call guidelines than actual rules". For example, did painting the console black refer only to its top or also to its sides? A company would incorporate its interpretation of the spec in its manufacturing documents, which were incorporated by reference in its production or spares contract with the Navy. The aircraft would subsequently go through repair and overhaul at a Navy facility every few years (sooner if it was badly damaged in an accident but considered repairable); the painting instructions at the Navy facility were not necessarily the same as the manufacturer's. As a result, the wheel wells on blue airplanes might be painted zinc chromate when it was delivered but the repair and overhaul facility would paint them blue. Also see

Basic Black

AD-4 Skyraider:  The floor is not obviously interior green but the lower section of the control stick appears to be. Note that the instrument faces are a darker black than the instrument panel itself.

FJ-1 Fury: This is a National Air and Space Museum photo of a restoration (I'm not sure that it was one of theirs).

F9F Panther: This is another restoration but it appears to be fairly accurate. Note that the seat is interior green. However, in service, it would have a seat cushion or parachute in the bucket. If the seat was designed for a backpack parachute, it would be in the seat. Carrier pilots did not wear their parachutes to and from the airplane due to the consequences of it inadvertently being deployed.

F7U-3 Cutlass: This is the cockpit of the F7U-3 being restored at Paine Field, Washington. It appears to be original. Note that it is almost completely black except for the control column.

The ejection seat was interior green.

For more on the F7U cockpit and a caution on using museum airplanes for reference, see

North American FJ-3 production spanned the changeover from blue to gull-gray/white exteriors and and also the cockpit color change. Moreover, in some color pictures of blue FJ-3s, the ejection seat appears to be painted a operating-room green rather than "standard" interior green or dark gull gray.

And it is likely that this was the color of the interior as well:
Although the change in the specification was issued in early 1954, this Naval Aviation News article on cockpit colors appeared in the January 1957 issue, about a year and a half later given publishing lead time.
Note that it mentions light green instrument panels, which might be the case with the FJ-3 as shown above.

Basic Grey

The basic black cockpit was eventually faulted as being too dark. After some experimentation, the specification was revised to change the instrument panel to dark gull gray along with the sides of the consoles and the floors. This FJ-4 cockpit (not a museum airplane) is an example.

 There was subsequently some variation in the color of the ejection seats in the gray/white airplanes. Douglas installed black ejection seats even in blue airplanes and initially in F4Ds since the color of the seat was not initially specified as part of the change from overall blue.

In May 1963, the Navy finally decreed that ejection seats be dark gull gray.
However, Grumman painted the headrest of some seats black and of course, all Martin Baker seats are overall black.