I tell you what, it has been quite the journey getting here! As a project, this Freewing F-14 Tomcat refinish took much longer than I had originally planned based on all of the other distractions that have come through the shop, but I’m so happy with how this model turned out in the end. It did take a few flights to get tuned and I have made a few small modifications in the process since our last installment, but otherwise I’m happy to report that the Tomcat is flying quite well. The F-14 Tomcat has such a great look and presence in the air, you just can’t beat it!
Oh, and I love the looks of the low viz Navy camouflage by the way, especially with the Flir Cat nose art. The low viz gray is not the greatest color against a blue sky, but a dirtied up Tomcat flying around just presents so authentically! I may have to consider this or a similar paint scheme when it comes time to build my 1/10 scale DCU F-14. All in due time of course… 🙂
Well, in wrapping up this series, I thought I’d touch on some of the final F-14 modifications I made in finishing the airframe up, talk through the programming in more detail since I’ve had a number of questions about that, and then talk through how she flies in her refinished state.
SOME FINISHING TOUCHES
One thing I was never fully happy with upon finishing the F-14 in our last installment was the look of the nose gear. While it was perfectly functional and didn’t look bad, it lacked the scale look I wanted. Well, Continue reading →
How low can you go?…a little low-viz Tomcat weathering.
Finishing up the refinish work on the Freewing F-14 Tomcat, it’s time to apply some characteristic low-viz Navy weathering. The Flir Cat paint scheme is from the mid 90’s at a time when the Tomcats in service were painted primarily in Dark Ghost Grey (FS36320) with variations thereof. They were high maintenance workhorses at this time and the aircraft got extremely dirty during operation. This opens up lots of opportunities to apply different weathering techniques on the airplane to simulate those years of service on the carrier.
While I have done a few videos on weathering, it’s such an important step in the completion of a scale model in what ultimately gives it that realism you otherwise wouldn’t get. That being said, there is always a balance because too much weathering and the model will look toy-ish just the same without it. So, my MO for weathering is “less is more.” To understand how aircraft dirty up in operation, it’s best to look at pictures of the full size and see where the dirt and grime accumulates most. In the case of the late operation F-14 Tomcats, they were quite a mess. They faded dramatically and had regular touchups on the ship. So, as a result you ended up with mottled paint in addition to a significant amount of dirt, oil, and grime that collected everywhere. This actually quite difficult to simulate effectively, and while I don’t plan to go excessive with it, we can still get something that looks right and not overdone.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
As we approach weathering, my goal is to “simulate, not replicate.” That’s the best we can do since we’re not going to operate our models in the salty sea air for years on end. Ultimately, the best weathering process is the one that provides you with the results you’re looking for and there’s no one way to simulate weathering. It’s a process of employing Continue reading →
In my previous articles, we talked about the refinish process and making a highly detailed cockpit for the Freewing F-14. Now, it’s time for paint! I will say, I have a love/hate relationship with painting models. Most of the time, I love it, but when there are issues that arise, that’s when I hate it, haha! However, being patient, having the right materials and ensuring the proper preparation is done can usually keep those issues to a minimum, but sometimes you just have to improvise. In this case, the vinyl markings I had made decided to curl up and not want to stick to the airframe which had me thinking all of the markings would need to be completely replaced. As it turned out, at the suggestion of a friend, a little low temp heat with an iron cured the issue (saving huge time and aggravation) and all was right with the world again!
In painting a model, one must first choose a paint scheme of course and this not something I take lightly. :p I knew that I wanted to do something different and rarely modeled and that I also wanted to do a later low viz Navy scheme because it would be fun to weather (they got crazy dirty). In my research, I found a scheme from VF-103 dawning a unique and rare nose art carrying the moniker of “Flir Cat.” As it turned out, this aircraft was used in 1995 to prove out the LANTIRN pod integration and was the first to drop bombs from the Tomcat platform which paved the way for the F-14 “BombCat” which proved quite effective. That’s not to mention too that the aircraft was flown in part by Capt. Dale “Snort” Snodgrass (highest flight time Tomcat pilot ever) as a part of the testing which provided additional appeal. So, it was decided, Flir Cat she will be!
A quick note regarding the Flir Cat nose art. While nose art was a regular occurrence on bombers in WWII, it’s since become a rare thing to see, especially on the more modern fighter jets. The Flir Cat artwork itself was designed and painted by artist PEL during his service in the Navy in the mid 90’s. He chose the artwork color scheme from each side based off of graffiti color palettes of the day and had to use different colors on each side for the lettering due to having an insufficient quantity of paint for both sides (hence the two different colors of font left to right).
In the process of getting the Freewing F-14 ready for paint, a full cockpit had to be built. I had peeled off the canopy while working on the preparation and realized that it was the primary structural member for the hatch. So, since the canopy was off, it was the perfect time to build a nice cockpit for this refinished Tomcat. I designed up a few parts in CAD, 3d printed and painted them and then installed it all into the stock cockpit tub. The result completely changed the look of the cockpit and once painted really added to the realism considerably. Oh, and I figured it would be a good chance to show making pilots with movable heads also. 🙂
A nice cockpit is something that really changes the looks of a scale model. For me, it’s part of the build process I’ve always enjoyed, though I don’t always go to the extent of completely redoing a cockpit. Even just some simple additions and a little painting is all that is needed. But, if there’s nothing out there available for the subject you’re working on, then it’s time to scratch build it. I’ve been leveraging 3D printing more and more for that which is the process I took for the F-14 cockpit including the pilots.
A LITTLE CAD DESIGN & 3D PRINTING
Generally, the cockpit is an area that tends to get glossed over on most foam aircraft and the Freewing F-14 is no exception. Mostly, it’s a lack of detail and the tendency to reuse the same pilots that may or may not be the correct scale to the airplane. So, toContinue reading →
You’ve probably figured out by now, I have many favorite aircraft. 😉 However, if I was to put together my top 5 favorite aircraft of all time, the F-14 Tomcat would probably be at or near the top of that list. The airplane was one of brute force, but packaged in an elegant and distinct looking airframe that truly personified its name, Tomcat. And that’s not to mention, it was an extremely capable fighter that filled many roles through the years that operated from the early/mid 70’s into the mid 2000s.
So, after putting together my Freewing twin 80mm F-14 Tomcat review a few years ago, I always wanted to come back to that airframe and give it a good refinish. To date, it is still one of my favorite Freewing aircraft and I regretted letting the one go that I had. So I decided it was time to revisit this model and picked up an ARF plus along with some Freewing 9-blade fan systems for a special refinish. This really has been a few years in the making.
The end goal with this refinish is to build the airplane into a low vis Navy camouflage. Though, I do like the more colorful schemes of the 70s and early 80s, there’s just something about a dirtied up ghost gray painted cat from their later years of service to me.
Seeing as though I’ve already reviewed the model (albeit a few years old now, but still valid!), let’s jump right into it! The first item of business in the refinish isContinue reading →
So, how does the Freewing F-14 Tomcat fly? In short, pretty darn awesome! The distinguishable shape of the F-14 looks menacing in the air and the flight characteristics are fantastic. As discussed in my assembly review of the airplane, there are some tricks I’d highly recommend in setting the airplane up which at the end of the day, provide a great flying airplane. This comes from not just flying this particular airplane, but also flying the Freewing production prototype (stock and tailerons only) as well as the twin 70mm F-14 I helped design, test, and fly for my folks at JetHangar.com. They have all exhibited similar characteristics and fly very much the same.
AIRCRAFT SETUP & CG
In my assembly review, I covered the installation of two 6s 30C 5800 mah batteries that I’m using in the airplane. To maintain the CG, the battery area was modified so that the batteries could be pushed as far back as possible up against the swing wing carry through spar. This maintained the CG well per the manual (87mm measured back from the leading edge of the forward most hatch cut on the overwing fairing hatch) which has shown to be about perfect! Also the manual provides a trim elevator setting (31mm measured Continue reading →
The F-14 Tomcat is without a doubt one of my top 5 favorite jets. Honestly, as a kid, I dreamed of flying them. I would guess, anyone who has enjoyed the movie “Top Gun” probably had the same dream? — Fun fact: my dad and his company Jet Hangar Hobbies built the models that were used for the special effects in the movie “Top Gun” — For me, I just love the design of the Tomcat. Something about the shape combined with the variable geometry wing and sheer power of the twin turbines just bleeds awesome. So, when I caught wind of the Freewing F-14 80mm EDF foam jet I was honestly intrigued. I remained on the fence until I had the opportunity to fly the production prototype at the Big Jolt. I subsequently had the opportunity to then take that airplane with me to demo at the AZ jet rally as well. That’s what sealed it for me and so, in a moment of weakness I saw that they showed in stock at MotionRC, and I went for it! At $580, you get quite a bit of airplane (full airframe with ALL electronics, including fans, motors, and ESCs) for the money that’s overall pretty well done.
Truth be told, I don’t normally deal in foam. I very much enjoy building and my preferred mediums are the traditional balsa wood and fiberglass. In fact, back in the early 2000’s, I helped to design and bring to market a twin 70mm EDF laser cut all built up F-14 Tomcat kit (Matt Halton design) for my folks at Jet Hangar Hobbies (pics below). It flew awesome, even with the limited electric tech that existed at that time (the maiden flight was performed with NiMh round cells!) which was right as Continue reading →