I have had a lifelong interest in building plastic kits and scratchbuilding models since I was a child. Most of my works have been spacecraft/rockets, but in the past few years I have gotten involved building and flying radio controlled (R/C) WWII warbirds, mainly P-47 Thunderbolt replicas. I will outline four different planes that I have built and flown since 2003. Three of them are now in museums. The most recent one, Fire Ball, is currently actively flying the contest circuit around the USA.
my first flyable warbird was a 1/6 scale P-47D kit from Aerotech models. This was a wonderful kit and while expensive, included most everything needed to complete, including the engine, a Brison-Sachs 4.2 cubic inch gas motor. The skin was all carbon fiber, and had thousands of rivets and all the panel lines accurately molded into it. A superb replica, its only flaw was its weight, and flying performance suffered as a result. Total flying weight ended up at between 32 and 34 pounds, which is quite heavy for a model of that size.
Hairless Joe had a very detailed and accurate cockpit, scale fowler flaps and landing gear, sliding canopy, working boarding handles and steps, and wing pylons capable of dropping scale 500 pound bombs. The plane was finished in RAF Ocean Grey and Dark Green, with natural metal finish (NMF) and medium sea grey on underneath parts of the plane.
Hairless Joe was flown by Col. David Schilling of the 56th Fighter Group. As it turns out, all four of these planes featured in this article come from this famous unit. In 2004, I brought Hairless Joe to Boxted England and flew it off the same runway that its full sized counterpart had flown from 60 years earlier. One very interesting, if eerie, thing happened while flying it during the airshow there. In 1944, Schilling was flying his Hairless Joe on a mission in Holland and was struck by anti-aircraft fire. He was able to nurse the plane back home to Boxted, but upon landing the right gear folded, and he skidded to a halt. On my flight with the model, even though the gear operation checked out perfectly on the ground, when we brought it in for a landing the right gear would not lock down, and the model skidded to a stop on the same runway that Schilling’s plane did, almost 60 years to the day later! (The resulting damage to the model was minor.)
After a few more competitions, Hairless Joe was retired to a museum in Kalamazoo Michigan, the Air Zoo, where it remains today.