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MOC: P-61B Black Widow


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#1 Ralph_S

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 04:43 PM

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The Black Widow was the US Army Air Force's first purpose-built night fighter.

In a few weeks time I will be traveling to Swindon in the UK for the Great Western Lego Show, where I will be displaying some of my minifig scale WWII aircraft. This provided a little extra incentive for me to build a new one. I've been a fan of the P-61B Black Widow for years and after having seen a real one (at the National Air and Space Museum in Dulles) it was my first pick. It arrived too late in the war to make a large impact, but makes up for that by looking menacing!
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P-61B Black Widow (1) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

This was not an easy build. There are a few things that I am not happy about, but that I don't know how to improve either. One thing that gave me a fair of trouble was the design of the nose radome. Many thanks to Gambort for suggesting the parts for the sides.
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P-61B Black Widow (2) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

The P-61's main armament consisted of four 20mm cannons in a ventral bulge. Late production P-61s could carry up to four external tanks, although in service it was rare for all four to be fitted. My model has only two.
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P-61B Black Widow (5) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

My model represents a P-61B named 'Little Audrey'. It was one of few P-61Bs to be used in the European Theatre of Operations, with most of the Black Widows in Europe being earlier P-61A models. 'Little Audrey' served with the 422nd Night Fighter Squadron from late 1944 until the end of the war. During that time the squadron flew from bases in the UK, France and Belgium, following the Allied advance towards Germany. The 422nd NFS was the highest scoring unit to fly P-61s.
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P-61B Black Widow (6) by Mad physicist, on Flickr

Minifig scale aircraft is are one of the more challenging things to build IMO, and they always require compromises. The engine nacelles on this really ought to be one stud shorter at the front and the main gear should be one or two studs further backward. However, I intended to use long curved triple wedges for the sides of the tail booms and these limited my options. However, overall I am happy with the end result. I hope you agree  :classic:

Cheers,
Ralph

Edited by Rufus, 11 September 2011 - 08:30 PM.
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#2 Legostein

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 07:54 PM

Hello!

That's a real masterpiece again, Ralph! :classic: Your building style is truly unique. The way the wings are formed and finally bent up to the outside by constantly adding another layer of plates works perfectly. :classic:

Cheers,

~ Christopher
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#3 Rufus

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 08:35 PM

Mmmm, lovely! :wub:  I love the SNOT wedges on the rear fuselages.  You've done well to get the cockpit shape - looks incredibly complicated!

Thanks for continuing to produce such great planes!  :sweet:

#4 KielDaMan

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 05:47 AM

Fantastic work once again Ralph, as always I love how you effectively use SNOT techniques while retaining a studded look in the model. Curiously though, have you ever considered doing an all-SNOT (or majorly smooth) build? Also, are the wings supposed to appear slightly bending upwards? I've seen only straight wings in reference images, though I'm sure you know better than me since you've seen these in real life. (Sorry to bug you with these questions, this MOC really piqued my interest. :blush:)

Interestingly, as a Star Wars fan, if I remember my facts correctly I think this is where the ARC-170 starfighter is based on.

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#5 Ralph_S

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 06:45 AM

View PostLegostein, on 11 September 2011 - 07:54 PM, said:

Hello!

That's a real masterpiece again, Ralph! :classic: Your building style is truly unique. The way the wings are formed and finally bent up to the outside by constantly adding another layer of plates works perfectly. :classic:

Cheers,

~ Christopher
Thanks Chris. I know that other builders would have probably tried to mount the wings on hinges to get them to slope upwards. That can be very effective, but with the undercarriage also being attached to them and with the tail booms have to meet up in the back, this seemed a more appropriate solution. Even if I would have angled them, I'd still have to have steps in a few places, because the wings get progressively thinner from the root towards the tips.

View PostRufus, on 11 September 2011 - 08:35 PM, said:

Mmmm, lovely! :wub:  I love the SNOT wedges on the rear fuselages.  You've done well to get the cockpit shape - looks incredibly complicated!

Thanks for continuing to produce such great planes!  :sweet:
Thank you. The wedges for the sides of the tail booms were one of the first ideas I had when thinking about building a P-61. They are very long and incorporating them forced me to make a few compromises, but I too like the overall look. The cockpits were complicated, indeed, especially since I still wanted to have room inside for the three-man crew. Minifigs are awkward little creatures!

View PostKielDaMan, on 12 September 2011 - 05:47 AM, said:

Fantastic work once again Ralph, as always I love how you effectively use SNOT techniques while retaining a studded look in the model. Curiously though, have you ever considered doing an all-SNOT (or majorly smooth) build? Also, are the wings supposed to appear slightly bending upwards? I've seen only straight wings in reference images, though I'm sure you know better than me since you've seen these in real life. (Sorry to bug you with these questions, this MOC really piqued my interest. :blush:)

Interestingly, as a Star Wars fan, if I remember my facts correctly I think this is where the ARC-170 starfighter is based on.


I didn't know about the ARC-170, but I can see a certain resemblance, so I wouldn't be surprised if the P-61 was an inspiration for its design. I have actually built a few largely studless models (a Beo Classic Space model and a Mitsubishi Evo) but it's not really for me. For aircraft models I don't like wings built with bricks on their sides (too thick with trailing edges that are too fat) and slaping tiles on a plate-built structure makes it too thick as well. I like to see the studs and I like my models to be realistic but at the same time still look overtly 'LEGO-ish'.

From some angles it's really not obvious, but when seen from dead ahead the wings on the P-61 do have dihedral. You can actually see it in the picture you provided too. The leading edges aren't aligned. Here's one almost dead ahead of the National Air and Space Museum's P-61C.
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Black Widow by b3a5t, on Flickr
(not my picture, BTW).
Cheers,
Ralph
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#6 MacK

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 01:41 AM

Another stellar addition to your moc collection Ralph S! I think the decals add a lot to the aircraft, as do the brick built cockpit canopies. I whole heartedly agree with you in that minifigure scale airplanes are one of the most challenging things to build, though you clearly are very proficient with it.

#7 Tervlon

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 04:26 PM

Ralph, another wonderful build! The P-61 is a gorgeous plane and I feel you've really done it justice here. You even did a brickbuilt cockpit, which turned out great btw.

#8 Ralph_S

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 06:50 AM

Thanks guys:wub: . I don't think I could have made the cockpits using the non-LEGO plastic I normally use on my more modern jets. The shape of this one is too complicated any frames -which are normally needed to keep the non-LEGO ones in shape- would end up looking far too thick. These have eaten through some of my last 1x1 trans clear tiles and jumper plates, but it was worth it.


View PostMacK, on 14 September 2011 - 01:41 AM, said:

Another stellar addition to your moc collection Ralph S! I think the decals add a lot to the aircraft, as do the brick built cockpit canopies. I whole heartedly agree with you in that minifigure scale airplanes are one of the most challenging things to build, though you clearly are very proficient with it.
I agree that the stickers are important for the overall look. These planes may have been black, but if you look at (somehwat) rare colour photographs of the real ones, It's clear that they were quite colourful. The ones used in Europe, one of which is represented by my model, were relatively toned down compared to aircraft used in the Pacific. Those often had fairly elaborate squadron markings on the fins.


View PostTervlon, on 14 September 2011 - 04:26 PM, said:

Ralph, another wonderful build! The P-61 is a gorgeous plane and I feel you've really done it justice here. You even did a brickbuilt cockpit, which turned out great btw.
I'm fairly certain that my visit to the NASM played a role in the decision to build one. I've liked this plane for a long time, but seeing a real one made a difference.

If I make it to Brickfair again next year, it's not unlikely I'll bring a few of my WW-II aircraft with me something like an airfield diorama. Since I've completed this I've built a WW-II US Army fuel truck (a rebuild of a model I stupidly took apart only about a year ago) and have dug out a 5-wide Jeep I've had for a few years. I've also been playing around with some minifigs for a ground crew.

Cheers,
Ralph
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