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Ralph_S

MOC: brick-built canopies for miltary aircraft

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Over the years I've had a fair bit of criticism about using non-Lego plastic for the cockpit canopies on many of my aircraft. I was never completely happy with that solution myself, but for a long time it seemed to be the least bad of the various alternatives.

Many of the helicopters I've built in the last two or three years had brick-built cockpit windows or canopies as do all of the WW-II aircraft that I've built. A few months ago I decided that it was time for me to try it on a modern fighter, and I rebuilt the canopy on my Su-27 Flanker

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Su-27 Flanker revamped (1) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

The new canopy was built using trans clear bricks, plates and cheese slopes, as well as a worryingly large number of rarer parts such as trans clear tiles and jumper plates. It was a fairly extensive rebuild, because I couldn't just limit myself to replacing the existing canopy; I also had to make changes to the cockpit interior and the construction of the canopy frame. It was worth the effort though, because all in all I was very happy with the end result. Even though the new canopy is a bit clunkier than the original, the overall look is much more attractive IMO.

After this it was clear to me that I was going to have to do something similar to my other aircraft too. The next two on my list were my F-14A Tomcat and my F/A-18C Hornet.

I rebuilt their canopies last weekend.

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Fighters of CVW-8 (1) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

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Fighters of CVW-8 (2) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

The fourth aircraft to get the treatment is the pride of my fleet: my B-1B Lancer. I;ve had that for almost four years and its canopy was begiining to look a bit tatty, with bits of tape peeling off. I couldn't have that.

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34th BS 'Thunderbirds' B-1B Lancer by Mad physicist, on Flickr

Here is a close-up of the cockpit section.

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B-1B cockpit details (1) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

Liking the result, I've gone on to rebuild the canopies on my F-16 and F-15 as well. Replacing the canopy on the F-16 was tricky. One thing I didn't want to give up on with the rebuild was the canopy being able to open. Unfortunately, on the F-16 as it opens, the aft end of the canopy hinges over the top of the aft bit. Getting this to work meant rebuilding much of the structure of the cockpit. While I was at it, I also rebuilt the wings -giving them a more accurate sweepback angle- and because they didn't look right with the new wings, I also rebuilt the leading edge root extensions and made a few other changes. All in all I think I rebuilt about 40% of the model.

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389th FS 'Thunderbolts' F-16C (3) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

Compared to the surgery done on the F-16, changes made to the F-15 for its new canopy were slight.

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390th FS 'Wild Boars' F-15C Eagle (2) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

It's expensive, because of the rare parts involved, and can be difficult, but I am happy with the results so far. I'm pretty sure I'll give some more of my planes this treatment, posting them here when they're done.

Cheers,

Ralph

Edited by Rufus
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Great models and I have to say I definitely think it's an improvement over the non-Lego canopy parts.

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Thanks for the comments guys. I've had some of these models so long that I don't even remember whether I posted them here when I first built them, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that some of you haven't seen them before. I am glad you like them.

Cheers,

Ralph

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It's funny because when I first stumbled across your flickr page you had quite a few brick built windscreens for different models and I thought they looked clunky and detracted from the overall beauty of the models. Now, I really like the brick built ones and the F-16 with the SW canopy appears strange to me where as your brick ones look great. :thumbup: Good work and thanks.

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ur aircrafts look like a real miniature of them! giving Tamiya a run for their money? :tongue:

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It's funny because when I first stumbled across your flickr page you had quite a few brick built windscreens for different models and I thought they looked clunky and detracted from the overall beauty of the models. Now, I really like the brick built ones and the F-16 with the SW canopy appears strange to me where as your brick ones look great. :thumbup: Good work and thanks.

That is funny. I tend to think of the one on the F-16 as brick-built, in the sense that it isn't made using custom parts. The aft part is actually 'sculpted' using slopes and plates. I used to make most of my canopies with non-LEGO plastic. Perhaps an old picture is in order.

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Teen fighters by Mad physicist, on Flickr

And here are the same models now.

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Teen fighters (1) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

I only just noticed that I swapped the F-14 and the F/A-18...

The Star Wars canopy is a nice piece, but unfortunately it's the wrong shape and size for the canopies of most of my jets. Furthermore, using it on a canopy that opens like the ones on the real jets do can be a pain. Fortunately I did work for the F-16. Sculpting that shape using transparent plates and tiles would have been a chore and I've used just about all the trans black plates I own on the aft bit of the canopy.

ur aircrafts look like a real miniature of them! giving Tamiya a run for their money? :tongue:

Thank you. That's pretty much the intention. I used to build plastic model kits, but I don't like painting. It's much more fun to build them out of LEGO parts.

Cheers,

Ralph

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As one of the people that used to whine about the non Lego canopy's, I must say; brilliant job! :sweet:

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As one of the people that used to whine about the non Lego canopy's, I must say; brilliant job! :sweet:

Thank you.

I was never completely happy with them myself, but for a long time they seemed the best alternative. It's only thank to parts that haven't been around for very long (trans clear cheese slopes) and that aren't easy to get hold of in large quantities or that are rare full stop (trans clear jumper plates), that I can do this at all.

By the way, I did the canopy on my A-10 on Sunday.

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190th FS 'Skullbangers' A-10A Warthog (1) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

Cheers,

Ralph

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Hello!

The cockpit is one important detail of each plane making it unique and reconisable. I have always liked your brick-built solutions for your previous planes, helicopters and vehicles. It's great we now can see this new wave of planes with new canopies. :classic:

Cheers,

~ Christopher

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Hello!

The cockpit is one important detail of each plane making it unique and reconisable. I have always liked your brick-built solutions for your previous planes, helicopters and vehicles. It's great we now can see this new wave of planes with new canopies. :classic:

Cheers,

~ Christopher

Thank you Christopher. Most of the brick-built canopies that I'd done before I did these were fairly straightforward in a sense because they weren't bubble canopies. Brick-built solutions work fine for fairly flat glazing and I wasn't sure they would work for something like the canopy on the F-15, so this was a new discovery for me.

There still are 17 helicopters and aircraft in my current collection with custom windows and canopies. On some replacing them with a brick-built solution will be easy, because it only concerns one or two small windows or because I can copy a solution that I've already built. I've got two more Tomcats, for instance, and can copy what I did to the first. On some other models, however, it'll require pretty extensive rebuilds of the cockpit section and like my F-16, I may combine the change in canopy with a rebuild of other parts of the aircraft or helicopter as well. For instance, I'm not happy with certain bits of my EA-6B Prowler.

Right now I'm planning a brand-new model, but after that I'll probably continue replacing canopies on existing models.

Cheers,

Ralph

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Ralph, I'm a C-17 pilot. For a while now, I've wanted to make a quality Lego C-17 model. Would LOVE it if you'd have any interest in doing so!

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Ralph, I'm a C-17 pilot. For a while now, I've wanted to make a quality Lego C-17 model. Would LOVE it if you'd have any interest in doing so!

Thank you. You're not the first person so suggest I build a C-17, but as interesting as the aircraft is, it's not something that I'm particularly keen on trying. It's such a larger aircraft. This makes perfect sense for an airlifter, but at the scale I normally build, the size would create problems. It's obviously a serious investment in parts, but that's not so much the problem. I've been thinking about a B-52 for a few years now and have also considered a KC-135R (because it would go well together with my other aircraft from the 366th Wg) and I have been parts with those in mind, but I haven't started either yet because I fear I'll have structural problems with the wings. This was tricky enough with my B-1B and it's wings are relatively short. The wing span may be similar, but that is with the wings not swept back. The actual length of the wings on a B-52 and KC-135 is much longer. The wings on the C-17 aren't swept back very dramatically, but the C-17 adds the potential for structural problems with the fuselage as well. Building a more-or-less cylindrical section with the right diameter for the C-17s cavernous fuselage will be difficult.

On a smaller scale, however -something like 1/100- I reckon it wouldn't be particularly difficult. It's something I may consider.

Cheers,

Ralph

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Hey Ralph, have you ever tried a minifig scale SR-71 Blackbird? I'm thinking of trying my hand at aircraft but it looks like an intense design process!

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Very nice Ralph, I've tried my hand at designing brick-built canopies and I can appreciate the difficulty that it poses. To what extent do you had to redesign other parts of the aircraft while adding a brick-built canopy?

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Hey Ralph, have you ever tried a minifig scale SR-71 Blackbird? I'm thinking of trying my hand at aircraft but it looks like an intense design process!

Definitely not an easy aircraft to do well. I've never built one myself, but Ed Diment, a friend of mine from the UK has.

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B SR71 Blackbird angled above by Lego Monster, on Flickr

It is bigger than what both of us would consider minifig scale, however.

Very nice Ralph, I've tried my hand at designing brick-built canopies and I can appreciate the difficulty that it poses. To what extent do you had to redesign other parts of the aircraft while adding a brick-built canopy?

Thank you. It depends on the aircraft. When I replaced the canopy on the F-16, I decided to rebuild much of the jet, but even if I wouldn't have decided to give it a comprehensive overhaul, I would have had to make many changes. On some of the other aircraft it was fairly straightforward. A few changes to the interior, to the frame and to the hinge mechanism, and that was it. This weekend I've been working on my F-117 (pictures will follow once I get a bricklink order in for a part I want to replace) and there the new canopy involved rebuilding much of the internal structure of the forward fuselage. It was one hell of a job!

Cheers,

Ralph

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Here are two more.

First: my Mi-24 Hind.

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Mi-24 Hind updated (2) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

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Mi-24 Hind updated (5) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

One of the reasons why I used non-LEGO canopies on this model in the first place, rather than the canopies a few other builders have used successfully on their Hind models, was because I wanted to have mine open properly and I wanted mine to look similarly heavily framed as the real canopies. Whilst upgrading it with brick-built canopies, that is something I wanted to keep. That's also what made this complicated, the door for the pilot in particular. On my model it first pops out and then hinges aft. Tricky.

The second one is my US Marine Corps AH-1W SuperCobra.

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AH-1W SuperCobra updated (1) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

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AH-1W SuperCobra updated (2) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

The SuperCobra was one of my first models with a completely brick-built canopy, a few years ago, but at the time I couldn't figure out a way to make it open properly. Whilst updating my Hind with a brick-built canopy, I spent a fair bit of time fiddling around with various hinges to get the doors to open properly. I realised that a variant of the solution I came up with might also come in handy for the SuperCobra, and I decided to give it an upgrade.

I've already also replaced the canopy on my F-117 Stealth Fighter, but am still waiting for a bricklink order to show up in the mail, so that I can replace a part. I've used a dark grey bracket for part of the canopy and have ordered a black one to replace it. Once that comes in, I'll take pictures. I've also replaced the canopy on my U-2 Dragon Lady. I'll take pictures of that ones I;ve replaced the stickers on the model. They're about three years old and look dilapidated.

Cheers,

Ralph

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your creations were good, now they are perfect! just the hind needs to bee a bit bulkier

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your creations were good, now they are perfect! just the hind needs to bee a bit bulkier

Thank you. Sorry about not replying sooner. I haven't been keeping track of what's going on in this thread. I'm not sure where the Hind needs to be bulked up though. It's a big machine and quite slab-sides, but it is really quite narrow. I think that most LEGO models you'll see of it are actually too bulky.

Anyway, I've done a few more.

The Strike Eagle's canopy is obviously derived from the canopy on the F-15C, but because it's a two-seater, it is more bulbous.

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F-15E Eagle updated (2) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

The canopy on the U-2 was probably the easiest I've done. The only thing that was marginally difficult was mounting the central part of the windscreen.

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U-2S Dragon Lady updated (1) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

The Tiger's canopy wasn't particularly difficult either, although I did have to redesign the mechanism for opening it.

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F-5E Tiger updated (2) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

By far the most difficult, of all of them, was the canopy of the F-117, because it is bascially composed of triangular sheets. I don't get frustrated easily when building, but I came pretty close to throwing this thing through the room a few times while rebuilding it. It was more than just changing the canopy. To find enough space for the ejection seat, I had to rebuild much of the structure of the forward fuselage. Ultimately it did come together reasonably well, fortunately. While I was at it, I also updated the stickers.

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F-117A Nighthawk updated (1) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

The Sea Harrier was another tricky one, ot so much because of the new windscreen, but because I also decided to make the canopy open. The model was originally built for an exhibition and I was n a deadline, so when I couldn't figure out an easy way to get the canopy to open properly, I decided that, for once, I was going to make it such that it couldn't open. This has bugged me for years though, so whilst replacing the windscreen I also had another go at making the canopy open. It slides aft on the real aircraft. It doesn't quite do that on my model. Instead the canopy is attached to a droid arm that swivels. The canopy fits properly when closed and also sists in the right position when fully open. It's the best I can do at the moment.

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Sea Harrier FRS.1 (1) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

Finally, the latest of my rebuilds, is my QF-4S Pahntom. I completed the rebuild yesterday, fitting new canopies, but also tidying up a few things using new parts and rebuilding the nose. On the previous version, the black anti-glare paint on the nose was partially made useing black tape (over red wedge bricks), but now I was able to come up with a brick-built method.

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QF-4S Phantom II updated (1) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

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