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John Stedman

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About John Stedman

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  1. Those air to air colour shots are remarkable, even showing how the formerly bright red paint on the perforated dive brakes was considerably weathered in the tough operating conditions endured by these aircraft. Many thanks for publishing these pictures at such high definition and good colour rendition.
  2. The Avro CF-105 Arrow is a very good comparison to the Grumman F14 Tomcat, because the two aircraft were of similar size, bulk and configuration. The replica CF-105 built in Alberta started off as a private venture, ran low on funding and was eventually sponsored by a film production company for use in a dramatised documentary. The completed build took over seven years and cost about $1,000,000, which shows just how complex and gruelling such a project can be. But there was no alternative to scratchbuilding the Arrow, because of the five examples built by Avro, four were systematically destroyed to preserve their secrets and the other one "disappeared" mysteriously. In contrast, 714 Tomcats were built, there are reported to be at least 50 demilitarised and incomplete examples still slowly decaying in desert boneyards in the USA, and 102 are in museums, collections, used as gate guardians or in storage around the world. And at least three F14s are owned by film production companies. Grumman have been specifically instructed by the Federal Government not to export any spare parts, or to supply them within the US without special approval. It is likely that less than a quarter of the 80 Iranian F14s are still airworthy. We are very fortunate in the UK that two of our TSR2s thwarted the scrapman and are now safely cossetted in museums. As far as scale models of the Tomcat are concerned, the largest practical prospect is probably to use as a basis the plans and components that are made for the radio controlled flying model fraternity, which I believe are currently available in a scale of approximately one tenth full size.
  3. Creating an accurately shaped canopy for a static F14 replica is certainly possible, using 3mm or 5mm Plexiglas (Perspex) or other suitable transparent (or tinted) acrylic sheet, which would need to be vacuum formed to shape, probably by a firm that specialises in making large mouldings and panels for illuminated shopfront panels and advertising signs. A lot of carefully controlled heat and air pressure is required. First, though, a "buck" (male interior form) would need to be made, probably of wood. This "buck" could best be carved by inputting the shape data from the aircraft plans into a computerised carving machine. My firm uses "3D Studio Max" software to do similar work. This is how one-off double curvature canopies for full size prototype airceaft replicas are made for such events as the Trade Sections of events like the Farnborough Airshow. Hollywood studios and their subcontractors do this sort of thing on a daily basis, but it has to be remembered that they have budgets of hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) for each item they produce. There is also the issue of durabilty. The backlots at Universal Studios, for example, are a treasure trove of decaying props used for a few weeks of photography and then discarded. Close inspection of these shows that they were made of ferrous metals, softwood and plastics that were not chosen for a long life. Even if a replica is to be kept indoors, it would need to be of much more robust construction than a scale model for display in a showcase. Personally, if commissioned to build a replica F14, I would tend towards a triangulated frame made of aluminium tubing, to which were attached outer panels either handmade from composites (probably a combination of glass fibre and carbon fibre) or, where a metallic finish was necessary, using aluminium or stainless steel sheet shaped on a wheeling machine. The labour costs would be high, since the project would require very experienced craftspeople from a number of trades. It would take that team two years to finish the job, and I would exprect the final account to be in seven figures. And that is before one factors in the transportation costs, and the acquisition and fitting out of the display space, and the ongoing management bills. This might all be viable for an established museum, but they would probably prefer to acquire a "genuine" example of the aircraft (which in the case of the F14 I believe would be cheaper). As keen modelmakers, we might complain when a "must have" new product carries a price tag of $500, but in some contexts we do not know how lucky we are.
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