Chris' "Birdcage" Corsair Mk 1

corsair box
corsair proto
 
 
In 2021, Chris built this "Birdcage" Vought F4U-1 Corsair (early variant) from a vintage Sterling kit purchased on eBay.
 
Although many of the "die cut" parts were missing, including ALL the fuselage formers, these parts were easily reproduced. Fortunately, all the specialized kit components - such as the spun aluminum cowl, vacuum formed canopy and custom milled leading and trailing edges were included!
 
Of over 12,000 aircraft delivered, almost 2,000 F4U Corsairs were in service with the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) of the British Royal Navy during WWII. Of these, the first 95 aircraft had the early "Birdcage" cockpit. The pilot's visibility was poor with this arrangement, and all later versions of the Vought F4U Corsair had the pilot's seat raised 7 inches, together with a taller, wider canopy.
 
Flying models of this early "Birdcage" variant are rare, and makes one wonder if this kit was first released during the war. The F4U-1 Corsair was introduced in 1942.
 
February 25, 2021
 
The first photo below shows typical colour schemes used by the FAA on these early "Birdcage" variants. Vital kit components are seen in the second photo. Fuselage construction starts with a horizontal "crutch", formers and stringers top and bottom, and the wing centre section, as seen in photos 3 and 4,.
 
April 3, 2021
 
All formers are now in place. Tank and bellcrank installed. Trial fitting of new O.S. Max .15 glow engine with C/L carburettor and "Pitts" style muffler. And yes... It all fits inside the cowl! Approx 1/16" minimum clearance. (photos 5 thru 8)
 
April 22, 2021
 
Fuselage planking in progress -one strip at a time! The kit specifies several curved 1/16" sheet panels. It's possible I guess, but with the compound curves, planking seems a better alternative. The strips start as 1/8" thick x 1/4" wide - but after sanding are closer to a finished thickness of 3/32".  Although we prefer aliphatic resin (carpenter's glue) for general construction, old school model airplane cement (e.g. Sigment) works better for this task, as the seams are much easier to sand. (photos 9 & 10)
 
April 29, 2021
 
With the planking complete and ready for sanding, the trial fitting of the canopy revealed an "issue". As we plan to add some modest cockpit detail, comparison with scale drawings indicated that the dash as installed is one full one inch (!) too far forward. As the instrument panel was also hopelessly incorrect, we decided to peel back the upper planking and install a new instrument panel. Replacing the upper planking was an easy task. Rough sanding of the fuselage is now complete and proceeding with trial fitting of the outer wing panels. A clever design - they fit (almost) perfectly. (photos 11 thru 14).
 
July thru October - 2021
 
We added 1/16" (sheeting top and bottom) to the centre section for additional strength and ease of covering. A robust torsion-type landing gear was added (1/8" wire). The open framework was covered with a very tough silk/nylon blend "fabric" which had been stashed away for decades. The balsa sheet surfaces were covered with silkspan & dope. The final finish is also butyrate dope - custom blended colours: "sky" for the under surfaces and grey/green camouflage for the upper surfaces. All coats were brushed, except the green - which was airbrushed to achieve the feathered edges of the prototype. Markings are vinyl.
 
The model first flew on Sept 16th. Like the prototype, it's HEAVY and FAST. Lap time on 16 metre (52.5 ft) lines is 4.7 seconds = 75 kph. The line tension is "noticeable" - shall we say...   It should be capable of basic aerobatics, but haven't been brave enough to try!  (photos 15 thru 24).

Click on the photos below to enlarge and read the captions.

(photos by C. Moes)

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