Gallery and Studio of John Wiseman

F4U-1 , ‘’Bird Cage’’ Corsair

          The Corsair, initially ordered by the US Navy to operate from aircraft carriers, was relegated to land based fighter units due to dangerous landing characteristics encountered at sea. The 2000 HP Pratt & Whitney radial engine drove a large 13’ 4’’ (4.06 m) 3 bladed propeller (4-bladed on later versions). The curious looking inverted gull wing profile was designed to enable the landing gear to remain relatively short for strength while allowing for ground clearance for the large propeller, a good design feature, but problematic for practical and safe use on carrier decks – where landing and takeoffs were already a touchy thing. These initial problems were eventually overcome by the British Royal Navy which received a batch of the early Corsairs. Corsairs had a stiff suspension which caused erratic bouncing on landing so the suspension was softened. When landing on a carrier, a pilot would generally cut speed sharply on the approach but in the Corsair, this caused one wing to stall, which resulted in a snap roll – not the sort of thing one would desire on a landing approach! The Royal navy corrected this one wing stall tendency by using a simple wedge device on one wing – problem solved. Other design elements were altered that finally resulted in the Corsair being adapted for carrier use by the US Navy. This greatly expanded the use of this valuable asset, one of the best prop planes of WW II that saw service well into the 1950’s fighting its way through the Korean war. Pilots flying the Corsair accounted for 2140 Japanese aircraft downings during WW II..
       My model is a Corsair belonging to VF – 17 Squadron that flew off the USS Bunker Hill aircraft carrier. The USS Bunker Hill was hit by two Kamikazes in 30 seconds apart on 11 May 1945 off Kyushu during the battle of Okinawa. The ship was severely damaged leaving 372 dead and 264 wounded.
      With this particular model I wanted to display the rather extreme wear and tear that affected battle worn aircraft. Aircraft fresh from the factories soon lost their show room good looks. Camouflage finishes were quickly marred by combinations of oil, grease and fuel spills and maintenance crews scrambling to refill ammunition stores and other requirements soon left boot and tool marks in many areas. Capturing such character marks as exhaust and gun blast stains, the bleaching affect of tropical sun, salt water and rain, mud, rust and dirt all make for interesting challenges for modelers to replicate. When done effectively, such weathering can achieve a sense of life-like realism.