Flying Circus: The Ringmaster Manfred von Richthofen

As I detailed in this post, I’m moving back in time to WWI specifically to 1917’s formation of German’s Jagdeschwader I, also known as “The Flying Circus”. While my motivations for picking this plane over the more popularized Fokker D.I triplane, as initially monetary, later research showed that this aircraft was the one that accounted for more victories and aces. I decided I should start with their leader, Manfred von Richthofen, even though his all red plane would be a bit boring to paint.

Sadly, I started working on this kit back on April 2nd, the first Saturday of the month, with high hopes to have at least one kit completed in April so I could link the build to April 1917, aka Bloody April. Alas, I started to bunch build all five aircraft and that kinda slowed me down. Mostly because these kits instructions, fit and very fragile parts had me going back to fix or correct parts almost as much as I was assembling. A one off might have been a better solution – but I do want to have a small collect that shows off some of the “Circus”.

This kit is a relatively new mold, so it’s surprising the amount of flash on the sprues. The fit and design/construction choices are bit befuddling, given this is a relatively new kit. Two different variants are included in the kit, basically early bi-planes had the engine radiator located centrally on the top wing, which were found to leak coolant down onto the pilot if it was damaged in a dogfight or from ground fire. This was moved to the right side of the top wing, and a new cooling line was added, along with a larger tail to increase its already superior maneuverable plane.

For me, the hardest part of this build was deciding which of the 11 paint schemes to represent! Picking the color scheme not only decides which decals to use, but also which top wing radiator and/or tail to use! Another consideration is over half have exposed plywood panelling, which I planned to try my hand at with the interior and props (oil paints over acrylic base coat!). As regular readers will know, I ran into some difficulty with trying to speed dry the oils, and that I had two kits delivered in late-March, and 3 more in early April. Below is some pictures of failed cure and the model that came with the wrong engine sprue.

This time around I decided to assembly the whole body before getting the oil paints on the plywood. I also worked on the propellers and decided to make them a darker color. The props will get a satin varnish before being attached to give them a vanished look. The bodies are freshly painted, so they still need some time to dry and then some darker “wood grains” added. The props still weren’t completely dry after a week! I did rub off a little paint on the back side near the center hub when applying the matt varnish, so while I love the ability to work and fix oils, the dry time is crazy long and does require lots of care and many layers of varnish to fix what you like before adding more layers!

I did run into some issues with fit with the two body panels with the engine (which has to be installed before the cockpit and cover section), this also caused issues with the front engine cowling fitting. The first of two kits required a ton of sanding and it still isn’t quite flush. After a second coating and sanding of putty I still couldn’t rid the whole bit of the center seam – I just gave up. This could have been avoided with some locating pins to make sure the alignment of the two halves matches up!

Lastly, I set about gluing up the top wings from the three kits I have (the first one that warped and two from eBay). The picture is two bottom and the three tops wings primed white and sprayed with RLM 76 (Litchblau) with a little white added to make a “pale blue” that was called out on the painting schemes. Yes I know the German Empirical Luftstreitkräfte didn’t have an RLM color code in 1915, but I like the color!

I fretted about the rigging on these little craft for a solid two weeks. I watched videos and read blogs and internet articles. Most were for scales larger than 1/72nd, and quite a few said that they wouldn’t or didn’t bother adding rigging at this scale. I had some ultra fine elastic scale model rigging thread in my craft box, so I started there, figuring if it was a frustrating as some claimed, I would do a simple “X” on each wing and call it good. Turns out having a spool of very thing elastic thread tie itself into knots on the spool can really add to one’s blood pressure. I ended up glueing more rigging to the tweezers than to the wings – so I gave up, but not in!

What I decided to do was try my hand a stretching sprue. for those of you not in the know, that involves a candle, some sprue and the ability to get it starting to melt but not ignite and a steady hand to stretch the warm plastic into thin strands! The final result is very much out of scale, but the effect makes the kit “feel” just right – at least to my eyes!

Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron by the Allies, the Ace of Aces was credited with 80 victories during The Great War.

He was the leader of Jagdgeschwader 1, better known as “The Flying Circus”, because of the bright colors of its aircraft; other theories put the moniker on the unit because of the way it was transferred from one area of Allied air activity to another – moving like a traveling circus, and frequently setting up in tents on improvised airfields.

Manfred was shot down and killed near Vaux-sur-Somme on April 21, 1918. From what I’ve read there are still questions about various parts of this career, the circumstances of this death and his tactics, yet he remains one of the most widely known fighter pilots of the all times. I give you my version of his plane from April 1917, Justa 11, in Roucourt, France.

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16 thoughts on “Flying Circus: The Ringmaster Manfred von Richthofen

    1. I though about fine wire, but keeping it straight was a pain. Really the elastic thread should be the way to go, but I wasn’t putting out the cash for more thread, because it always tangles on my and it’s not very “older” eye friendly!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Well done mate, plenty of patience and determination went into this I bet!! I have build a couple of these Rden WWI planes and I find the plastic so brittle, then when I made up some of there WWI vehicles it was worse !!!

    Liked by 2 people

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