Dragon 1/72 P-61B – Lady in the Dark.

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Airman 1st Class
Jan 20, 2014
Schaumburg IL
This is another commission build using Dragon's 1/72 P-61A/P-61B Black Widow Night Fighter. The client is a huge fan of the Northrop P-61 and really liked the 1/48 scale I built last year. He wants a 1/72 version in a case for his desk. For this build I will be using the Ares resin cockpit detail set, Eduard's exterior photo etch set, Quickboost resin engines, Quickboost resin gun barrels for the upper turret, and Print and Scale decal set. Once built, the aircraft will be mounted in an acrylic display case to protect it.

The reason I am using the Print and Scale decals is because the kit decals have a lot of errors for the Lady in the Dark. The Lady's dress on the real aircraft is blue instead of red, the size of the nose art on the kit version is too small, the squadron logo is missing, and the kit does not provide the correct serial number.

Starting off with the cockpit I cleaned up all the resin parts. The radar operator's station is the first area to assemble. I drilled out the holes on the bottom and then using some scrap photo etch and wire I made the handle for the entry. The resin seat had separate sections for the bottom and back. I used wire to make the seat back mount. The base is a photo etch mount that comes with the Ares kit. The only problem with this is the side rails/handles are too small to fit correctly. I cut them off and used wire to replicate the rails and made the arm pads using acrylic gel to form them. The turret control is from the kit. It was modified to remove the bottom tab which was used for the kit floor and I added the photo etch adjustments to finish it. The radar console was then detailed using photo etch parts which included gauges and the lamp. I used styrene to make the avionics equipment that sits under the console.

Turning to the cockpit section I duplicated the rear seat for the gunner the same way I did the radar operators seat and then detailed the resin pilot seat. The resin instrument panel was detailed with the photo etch parts and I added a couple of control levers. More control levers were then added to the cockpit tub. Everything was painted and assembled. I am currently working on the main fuselage details so I can assemble it.

You can see all the photos and details in my build log at: Dragon 1/72 P-61B Lady in the dark









Great job with the cockpit interior. I have assembled this kit few years ago, (still on display), I remember some difficulties with model geometry . Be careful with Print scale decals, they can be weak and brittle.
The second week of the P-61 has been spent detailing and building up the main fuselage and wings. I started by modifying the belly cannons by adding the flash suppressors. These were then mounted in the belly. The radar station and cockpit were then mounted. The nose gear bay was then detailed using photo etch wiring and brackets. On a side note, typically adding resin cockpits to models requires lots of sanding and adjustments to fit. The Ares resin section actually fit very well without any issues. I actually had to add a brace to the forward section to support the nose gear bay panel. The fuselage halves were then put together. The fit is average and requires some putty to fill in the seam areas. The wings were then attached to the fuselage. The wing to fuselage fit was very good.

I moved onto the wings. The photo etch set replaces the leading edge vents/vanes. I needed to trim out the mounts for the kit version so the photo etch ones can fit correctly. I had to reshape the area and use a little putty to shape them. Moving onto the engine/boom assemblies I added the forward and rear bulkheads to the main gear bays and also cut out the molded lower screens so the photo etch ones could be installed. The main landing gear struts were then cleaned up and detailed with photo etch parts.

I am now working on the engines. I am using the Quickboost resin engines. I have added the photo etch ignition wires. These needed some minor adjustment as they were designed to fit the kit engines. It looks like I am going to need to make the pushrods for the engines as well.

You can see all the photos and details in my build log at: Dragon 1/72 P-61B Lady in the dark









The third week of the Lady in the Dark was spent detailing and building up the engines and aircraft. I am hoping to get everything together and ready for the base coat of paint. For the engines I cut some 30 gauge wire to replicate the pushrods and then detail painted them. I assembled the propellers and mounted the engines in the painted cowls. Since I was using the resin engines I had to cut off the propeller shafts as these were too large. I replaced them with 26 gauge wire which fit the engines very well.

With the engines and cowls completed I installed the booms, rear stabilizer, and nose. There are a lot of fit issues. First the nose is the correct shape but a little thinner when mating to the fuselage. This required putty on the sides. The second area is where the rear part of the booms met the fuselage. I had to sand the wing side down and reshape the curves. With a little more putty the booms were now fitted to the wings.

The main wheels were then detailed with photo etch hubs. For the nose wheel I opened up the spokes and detailed the nose strut with photo etch accessories. The kit upper turret gun barrels were replaced with the Quickboost resin version. I then used kapton tape to mask all the canopies and windows. With all of the sections completed I am getting things ready to paint the base coat so I can then start adding the decals. I also ordered some accessories that will be used when I go to detail the display case that the aircraft will be mounted in.

You can see all the photos and details in my build log at: Dragon 1/72 P-61B Lady in the dark








With the fourth week of the "lady" build completed I spent the week painting and detailing the aircraft. To start with I masked the open areas and painted the base coat of the aircraft with semi-gloss black. Then I added the antennas, landing gear doors, the cowls, and turret. There were some areas that required touch up in the landing gear bays and the belly cannons. I then installed the nose bay boarding ladder. Once all of this was completed I then started to add the decals. I used a mix of the kit decals for the general decals and the Print and Scale for the specific "Lady" scheme and the propeller decals. The kit propeller decals looked incorrect for the colors compared to the reference photos.

I had been previously warned that the Print and Scale decals tended to fall apart but I had no issues with my set. I used the kit walkway decals as these were only 3 sections where the others were 6 sections per wing. All of the decals worked out very well. Once all the decals were placed and dried I covered the top coat with a matte finish. I then removed the canopy masks and added the two antenna wires that went from the tails to the rear of the center fuselage. I used EZ-Line fine black for these.

Next I began to weather the aircraft with pastel chalk. For the exhaust stains I started with a medium grey, then a red/brown, and finally black. I then weathered the leading edges of the props and wings with a sand brown. I used the sand brown and some mud brown of the wheels, struts, and landing gear doors. Finally the under wing landing lights were installed and this basically completed the aircraft.

I am now working on the display case base. I am using the Master Tools medium display case along with some Scene-O-Rama accessories like sand, gravel, plants, and even a little of their water effects to create a small puddle in the drainage ditch area accented with some long grass reeds. This will represent a typical pacific island air field. I have some scale drums and ammo crates to add to the scene as well. I also ordered a black aluminum name plate that will be etched with silver lettering with the aircraft details. I should have this build finished over the next week. Stay tuned for the big finish!

You can see all the photos and details in my build log at: Dragon 1/72 P-61B Lady in the dark













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