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Building Legends: North American F-86 Sabre and GE J47 Engine

By Guy Aceto
6/24/2017 • Aviation History Magazine

The March 2017 issue of Aviation History magazines tells the tale of two aviation icons, North American’s F-86 Sabre, chasing North Korean MiG-15s over the Yalu, and the General Electric J47 turbojet engine that powered the legendary fighter. The Academy F-86F-30 kit, boasting a complete J47 engine that can be displayed separately, allows you to build both.

Start with the power plant. Simple to assemble, it begs for additional detail. All the extra bits and pieces will help make the little model into something special. Research is a must to duplicate that detail. The shroud around the afterburner is wrapped in insulation. An old trick is to smooth out a thin piece of aluminum foil, gluing and wrapping the foil around the part. The wrinkled foil simulates the insulation’s texture. Following the research, begin adding the plumbing that will give the engine character. Florist’s wire, speaker wire and stretched plastic sprue offer a variety of sizes to work with. The engine stand is from the parts box. The engine is a small part of the entire kit, but with patience as your most important “tool” the result can be quite a little gem.

Take a break from the detailed work on the engine, and get started on the aircraft itself. Break the kit into subassemblies: landing gear, external fuel tanks and the basic wing box. The cockpit should be next. The Sabre is a popular subject for modelers, so there is a wide variety of aftermarket sets available. One can easily spend the cost of the original kit just on the extras! A nice resin ejection seat from Quickboost, cockpit detail from an Eduard etched metal set and bits from a weapons bay detail kit by CMK were enough for my wallet.

After completing the cockpit, the wings and fuselage can come together. This is a tail-heavy model, so don’t forget to add weight in the nose. A good rule of thumb is when you think you have enough weight, add more.  

While the fit is OK, there will still be some putty filling and sanding to get the surface of the airplane ready for paint. Achieving a natural metal look isn’t as simple as applying silver paint. The cleaner you can sand the surface, the smother that paint will be when you’re finished. Even if you need to rescribe panel lines, the smoother the surface, the nicer the results. Photos of the shiny fighter show a variety of tints and finishes. Some panels have a slightly darker color and a matte finish, while other parts can have a highly polished look. A well worn combat vet might have a variety of tones and a bit of a worn appearance. It’s up to you and your reference material as to how far to take it. Masking, spraying a color followed by a flat or gloss coat, masking again, etc.—pretty soon that “simple” natural metal finish will seem a complex paint job.

Once you have peeled off that last bit of masking and given the Sabre one more coat of sealer, it’s time to decide on the markings. Your favorite ace is most likely represented in an aftermarket decal sheet. For this model I chose the markings of the first U.S. Air Force jet ace, Major James Jabara. Jabara was a squadron mate of Major George Davis, the subject of “Who Shot Down Major Davis” and a participant in the “Showdowns in MiG Alley” in our March 2017 issue.

With the decals looking good, it’s time to add landing gear and canopy. The Sabre’s speed brakes have a pronounced droop when they’re deployed, something to take into account when adding them to the jet. Engine inlet and exhaust covers are provided. Painted a bright red, they work well in covering up that extra weight added in the nose. A little clean up, some light weathering and Jabara’s jet is ready for another sortie along the Yalu.

 

Showdowns in MiG Alley and GE’s Trailblazing J47 appear in the March 2017 issue of Aviation History Magazine. Subscribe today!

 



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