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Hobby Craft 1/48th scale DHC-3 (U-1A) Otter built and painted by Everard Cunion in January 2022
Nearly all my parachute jumps were from Cessna 206s, of which I know of no kit at the time of this writing. (See Parachuting in Miscellaneous photos.) My only family connection with the Otter is that my late father flew in one as a passenger at least once. Anyway, I reckon the Otter is a more impressive looking airplane than the Cessna 206…
When the weather becomes warmer and sunnier, I plan to update this page with photos of this model ‘in action.’
The pilot seats rest on spindly frames. The frames’ attachments to the seats are more substantial than to the floor, so glue the frames to the seats, then glue each seat-frame assembly to the floor.
Some real Otters have a Y-shape control columns, a control yoke being attached to the end of each arm, one for each pilot. Others have one arm and yoke, for single pilot operation. The kit has the one arm column and I opted for just one pilot (see later). I had to remove the control column; the yoke left no room for the pilot’s legs. In addition, I had to modify the seat pan and the pilot figure slightly so he fitted.
The harness on the empty seat is paint.
The cabin floor and flight deck assembly fits into the fuselage halves perfectly, which is a refreshing change from many more modern kits.
Fitting the jump master and a parachutist inside the cabin makes it clear that, although the Otter is large for a single engine airplane, you cannot stand up inside it.
The windows fitted after a small amount of filing of some edges. They are rather thick, which helps hide the lack of interior detail. A final test press fit convinced me that no glue was necessary except for the flight deck door windows and, later, the windscreen. Those doors also did not need glue. Incidentally, a minor inaccuracy is that the corners of the side windows are too square. Real ones had a substantial radius.
A small radome on top of fuselage is not shown in the instructions, but it is included in the kit (part B20). The following details are not included in the kit:
- Ladder rungs protruding forward on the main wheel struts
- Aerial (cable stay) atop the flight deck
- Wing tip lights
- Red light on top of the fuselage with which most but not all Otters were equipped
- Leading edge light
- Boarding steps
- Stencilling decals.
I raided my spares box to find approximations for all those parts except the leading edge light, for which I used paint, the boarding steps, which I omitted, and the ladder rungs on the wheel struts, which I also omitted. The latter are too difficult and they look weird anyway.
This photo shows it before satin varnish (the gloss is undercoat for decals) but after I painted over the large U.S. ARMY lettering, yellow and white, to improve its colour saturation. The cargo doors are in place temporarily. The fuselage is not attached to the sprue in the photo, incidentally. The cardboard divider in the middle of the box, which is twice the size it needs to be, is stapled there presumably to prevent the contents moving around too much.
The tail wheel does not look like the real thing and its strut is too long. After I took this photo I fixed it partially by widening the hole in the fuselage so its strut went in farther, making it effectively shorter.
The wing root to fuselage join is not substantial, so the basic kit relies on the struts to support the wings. I read that the wings of this kit tend to droop. Indeed, it seems to me that the struts are a tad too short to obtain the correct dihedral. I used a straightened jumbo paperclip to maintain the dihedral.
Each wing half consists of upper and lower surfaces, only one (each side) having the rectangular plug that fits into the socket in the fuselage. It was a simple matter of filing a groove to accommodate the paperclip wire.
To prevent the wire from rotating, which would result in anhedral, I put an S-bend in one side, but that was after I took the photo.
The apparently spinning propeller (see the main photo) is a home-made disc of transparent plastic.
The decals (transfers) are rather translucent by modern standards. I found some World War 2 1/48th scale P-51 stars and bars, slightly under-sized, that I used as backing for the kit supplied stars and bars. The white (and red) is clearly brighter as a result. An alternative strategy would be to use modern U.S. star and bar decals of greater color density, even if not the same size as those in the kit: Different Otters clearly used several sizes.
The yellow and white U.S. ARMY lettering is similarly dull when applied to dark olive and I went over those with paint except for the tail decals, which are too small to mess with. Yellow stencilling decals were left over from a 1/48th scale P-51 and the tiny ones on the tail area are flecks of yellow paint.
Parachutists and pilot
This model, being of a fixed gear airplane, lends itself to posing both in-flight with parachutists jumping, and sitting on the ground with the parachutists climbing aboard. I can alternate the scene just by changing the parachutist figures.
I used the Hasegawa 1/48th scale U.S. pilots and ground crew ‘Set B’ and the US Navy pilots and deck crew ‘Set A.’ Some navy deck crewmen wear helmets and goggles resembling those used for parachuting, and two of them donated their heads to other bodies, which necessitated sawing and gluing.
I made the bulky 1960s parachutes, front reserves and back mains, from clay.
Miracle over Wisconsin, my painting of the 2013 skydiving collision
Otter in US Army parachute training: STAFF FILM REPORT 66-12A – LMVIETHD187 on YouTube starting at 25 minutes 31 seconds
US Army U-1A Otter (DHC-3) on YouTube