Monday, December 7, 2015

“See Your References for Exact Airplane”

I saw those words, with something of a disagreeable surprise, in Eduard’s sets of generic WWII USAAF and USN harness. Surprise because, having used their Luftwaffe sets, I expected there to be a general steer on which common types used which design. Disagreeable because I know my references pretty well and seat belts are not a subject they go into in their discussions of classic aircraft, well, at all.

I seemed to hear Captain Jack Sparrow, in a rum-induced grammatical phantasm, say in my ear “Well that is just so incredibly not helpful…”

See  my references… The photo below is a selection from my stack of P-51 references, not counting wedges of photos in other volumes, and including the pilot’s manual, TO-1. My Erection and Maintenance book (1944/1954), is the general engineering manual for the plane (no, it says nothing about maintaining an erection, and yes, the Wright Brothers wrote that joke…) Do you think any of these references says word one about the seat belts? Not even in the cockpit furnishings section at the very back of the manual are seat belts mentioned.

My nose is a bit out of joint here. You expect those who have access to the primary information to be able to manufacture the product would give a little – tell you which peg goes in which hole, at least, instead of making you guess. Maybe hobbyists who are serious enough to buy AM products have been demographically identified as latent rivet-counters whose book shelves are crammed with esoteric sources that provide all such information, so the firm can save five minutes and a microgram of printer toner by not telling you. Or maybe we’re funnier as we are…

Have you tried Googling “P-51 Mustang seat belts?” You get an eclectic mix, composed almost entirely of after-market model bits and macro cockpit photos, all of which are less than helpful because none of them really resemble the parts on the Eduard frets (does that say something about generic ideals and accuracy?), but nothing whatever about the real harness in the real plane. There are plenty of instrument panel photos out there, but nobody, it seems, ever considers the seat belts important enough to mention or depict. We modellers, of course, are obsessed with them, because they should be there, and firms like the aforementioned Eduard have made a good thing out of it.

I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of modellers who have all the data they need for this not to be a problem, but I thought after a lifetime of collecting that I had a pretty good suite of data on the type, good enough to answer most generic questions regarding detail, and it’s a rude surprise to find that it ain’t necessarily so.

How did I answer the question? I Googled a specific Eduard Mustang etched set and matched the belts on that fret to ones on the generic fret. That’s sort of going round by the back door, but it worked well enough to move the project along. I’m never really happy doing things this way, and tend to gibe at the necessity, but when the product has a shortfall it’s down to our individual cunning to make up for it. That doesn’t always mean Microstrip and superglue…