1. Modelling Yuri’s World

For some of us, words and pictures are not enough, we like to see things in three dimensions. Few of us though, have the space or the cash to collect real aircraft, rockets, statues, buildings and vehicles. Instead, we turn to models. In this series of posts, we look at some of the kits and ready made models that re-create Yuri’s world in miniature:

Its Yuri's Day mission over, my hastily completed model shows signs of wear!

Its Yuri's Day mission over, my hastily completed model shows signs of wear!

Airfix Mig15 box-art shows an icy landscape beneath the swept-back wings - much the same as Yuri would have seen on patrol near the Finnish border.

The Airfix Mig15 box-art shows an icy tundra landscape beneath the swept-back wings - much the same as Yuri would have seen on patrol near the Finnish border.

Mig 15
The Mig 15 fighter jet that Yuri flew during his career as a Soviet air force pilot patrolling the Finnish border, is perhaps one of the easiest objects from his world to find models of. An attractive aircraft, with pleasing lines, it played a number of historic roles during its service career, most famously in the Korean war. It is no surprise then to find it offered by many different manufacturers in a wide range of scales, and including some flying models.

Authentic and historic - the 1961 Czech model Mig15 with Yuri's number

Authentic and historic - the 1961 Czech model Mig15 that carried Yuri's number.

Perhaps the most historic Mig15 flying model you could own, would be one built from the plans published in 1961, by Czech aeromodellers J Urban and K Vary. I told the story in a previous post, of how this model, featured in the UK Aeromodeller Magazine Annual for 1961-2, helped to solve a difficult research problem in the making of Yuri’s Day.

The Czech Mig would certainly make a spectacular model to build and fly. It is based around a pulse-jet, a simple and very noisy form of jet engine also used by the German WW2 V-1 ‘Flying Bombs’. Today’s modellers might be more inclined to use a high powered electric motor driving an internal fan. There are indeed, a number of ‘ready to fly’ models with this type of propulsion on the market, using the modern materials of foam plastic for the airframe, and light weight li-on batteries for power. If you want to build your own ‘ducted fan’ version however, there are a number of plans available from www.myhobbystore.co.uk

Fast, noisy and dangerous - a model making challenge

Fast, noisy and dangerous - a model making challenge...

The control system of the 1961 model might also pose a challenge. ‘Control line’ model aircraft were very popular in the 60’s when radio control was still heavy, expensive and difficult to operate. Two thin cables run from small levers on the elevator flap at the trailing edge of the tailplane. In a real aircraft, these would run to the cockpit to be attached to the controls. Pulling one cable makes the elevator go up, and tilts the plane’s nose upward, putting it into a climb – and pulling the other cable does the opposite. In the model, instead of running the cables to the cockpit, they are led out through the tip of one wing, where they run several metres through the air, to a control handle in the flyer’s hand, a little like that of a stunt kite. As the plane flies round and round in circles on the end of the wires, the ‘pilot’ can make it climb, dive, fly level, and even perform loops – provided they don’t get too dizzy. The arrival of cheap radio control reduced the popularity of control-line flying although it didn’t quite kill it off. If you are thinking of adapting the Czech Mig to radio – be aware that it may need changes to the size of control surfaces and other modifications. And if you do go the pulse-jet route for power, remember that they are terrifyingly fast, use highly inflammable fuel, and make a noise like a motorbike with a broken silencer – experienced flyers on remote airfields only!

As mentioned, there are a number of much quieter electric powered versions of the Mig15, from small ‘park-flyers’ to larger models with fully retracting undercarriage. Production runs of this type of model can sell out quickly, so it is advisable to search online for the latest versions.

In the world of static models, there is a wide range to choose from, including the Mig15bis, two-seat trainer version. The Airfix models plastic kit is from a fairly recent set of moulds with crisply detailed and accurately fitting parts. This was the version I used as reference for drawing the Migs in Yuri’s Day. Although a very well produced kit, some critics more knowledgeable than I have found fault with the wing shape.

For added historical authenticity, it is still possible to find, if you hunt about, plastic kits from the Soviet-era made by the Czech ‘KP’ factory.

In the realm of ready-made models, the old British brand ‘Matchbox’, now produced in China, has a crisp little die-cast metal version of the Mig, although spoiled for some people by the rather excessive rivet detailing. Other metal versions come from Model Power (www.modelpower.com), in their ‘Postage Stamp Planes’ series of miniatures, while EasyModels offer a ready-made and painted plastic mode.

Die-cast metal models in the smaller scales seem to come and go, so the real happy hunting ground for these is ebay, where occasionally, even original Soviet examples can be spotted.

Given the huge variety of versions of the Mig15 that appeared in the liveries of different air forces around the world during its long career, a collector could easily fill a whole shelf with examples. Those finished in plain silver with the red nose-ring and tail-flash of the regular Soviet airforce such as Yuri would have flown, are heavily outnumbered by the other versions, so you may need to dig around a little to find an example in the scale you want.

Posed against a real sky, the crisp detail of the Airfix model gives a good reference image for Yuri's Mig coming into land: undercarriage down, air brakes deployed.

Posed against a real sky, the crisp detail of the Airfix model gives a good reference image for Yuri's Mig coming into land: undercarriage down, air brakes deployed.

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