Along with my wont for building models of aircraft that I've actually seen, or that have a 'claim to fame' of some description, I also have a penchant to build rare or unusual versions of a type - in the case of my current Sea King project, this has already included one of only four Westland Mk.4X, and one of just five of the HAS.6(CR).
When it comes to variants of the US Navy's H-3, among the rarest were the nine airframes used for the minesweeping role as the RH-3A - which were, in addition, the most unusual by being the only Sea Kings anywhere to have a large cabin door on the port side, as well as to starboard.
Although an original minesweeper version appealed, as I also have a predilection for Search and Rescue aircraft I decided to model one of the airframes in later guise - all were subsequently used for support duties at Point Mugu, California, and PMRF, Hawaii. I settled on BuNo.147141, as that was the one I found the best photos of - had I been able to find more than just one photo of BuNo.147140 that would have been the perfect candidate, as back in February 1962 that aircraft set the world helicopter speed record for the time...
The model was built using one of the three Sea King Mk.41 kits I had in my stash, mainly because the dark green plastic Fujimi issued that version in would not present any coverage issues given the overall dark grey final finish. The following photos are captioned as appropriate...
Out of sight but not out of mind, work on the underside included adding flat hexagonal aerials under the forward fuselage; boxing in the sponson wheel wells; blanking off the inside of the sonar well at cabin floor level, and fitting a cargo harness from wire with a home cast resin hook.
A couple of corrections, rather than modifications, were the reduction in height of the intake guard to get it level with the top of the engine housing - as its upper surface was much too thick anyway, sanding that down achieved the necessary overall reduction - and removing the awful cockpit side window frames as moulded in early issues of the kit. Just visible is the 'rats nest' of wires tangled around the rotor head to busy it up.
The main modification was, of course, addition of the port cabin door, and the Sea King spares box yielded a Fujimi one from an old scrapped kit (the same one that provided the folded rotors for my since-wrecked Apollo 7 SH-3A). The handle area was cut out and swapped with a section from the opposite side, as the latching mechanism was to the rear as on the standard starboard door. The upper and lower runners were simple strips of plastic sanded to shape.
Two other modifications were the addition of observation windows to the rear cabin area, and removal of the tailwheel fairing. To achieve the distinct bulged effect of the windows, a pair of very thick square transparencies from the spares box were sanded and polished to shape. Part of an old undercarriage leg from the spares box was added to the top of the tailwheel oleo, and a few strengthening strips from plastic rod were fitted to the area just forward of it; pieces of thicker rod were used for antennae posts, along with stretched sprue aerial wire.
The starboard rear fuselage also required an antenna array, again made from plastic rod and stretched sprue. Under the tail boom at the left is a 'bumper' made from a piece of rod - like the removed tailwheel fairing, a holdover from the previous use as a minesweeper with associated gear.
With two different tins of FS16081 to choose between, a test application done in conjunction with testing the background colour for my own decals revealed that the old Precision Paints colour was lighter than my FS595a chip, whereas the equally old Compucolor one was a near perfect match. As I brush paint, I've never been a fan of gloss paint, but was reasonably happy with the finish - fortunately those areas where dragging occurred were mostly later covered by decals.
With no specific decals available for the desired scheme, the only viable option was to print my own - which wasn't as straightforward as usual, as most of what I needed was white. The solution was to print onto white decal paper with a suitably-coloured background - a few tests were required to achieve a closely-matching shade, after which the challenge was filling up the other 80% of an A5 sheet!
Although the results are less than perfect, as with the paint, I'm reasonably pleased with the overall finish - apart from the national insignia, everything is home-printed. In some cases the printed background is visible, and in a few my trimming left something to be desired - however, the close-up photos show these 'flaws' much more readily than the naked eye; in reality, when viewed in the display cabinet, it looks absolutely fine!
To see any or all of my previous eight (at time of posting) Sea King builds, please use the link in my signature, which will take you to their links page over at the Britmodeller forum...