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1/48 CF-18 188790 - Brand new


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I have a small secret. I have been exercising extreme restraint by not doing a CF-18 Hornet until now for this GB. As soon as I saw Living History as a germ of an idea, I knew I would be doing at least one Hornet. So here it is.

First, the kit and extras:

I will be using the Hasegawa 1/48 kit, which is the hands-down best Hornet kit in this scale for my purposes. The kit boxing is the Chippy Ho F/A-18C Atsugi 25th anniversary, which is irrelevant, because I will be using Wintervalley decals.

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The decals are from Dave Winter. I have the symmetrical era set, which is essential for the time period I will represent. I have all 3 scales, so this is a perfect first use of these decals.

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I also have a resin seat, from Legend - the SJU-5/6 seat. The kit cockpit is quite acceptable in this scale, with the exception of a rather basic seat. The resin one makes it look that much more realistic.

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So which subject? I have to admit Emvar inspired me somewhat. His decision to build 901 in pristine condition, around the time it was delivered, brought me back to the fall of 1987 in Cold Lake.

Realizing a life-long dream, I was on the CF-18 pilot's course, which started in July 1987. This was the 7th course held in Canada, and there were about 20 of us on the course. Quite an exclusive club at the time - only about 150 people in Canada had flown the Hornet, ever, at that time (7 courses of about 20 each, plus some instructors trained before the courses started).

Our course was primarily composed of pilots who would form the second CF-18 squadron in Bagotville, Quebec - 433 "porc-épic" or Porcupine Squadron. On course with me were the Commanding Officer (LCol Jean Girard), the supervisors, and several Captains including myself. We had a few guys that went on to fly on other squadrons with us as well.

One of the neat parts of being in on the beginning of service of a new type (at the time) was the fact that deliveries were still happening. Our squadron got tail numbers 783, 784, 785... in order, up to 792 (10 singles), and also 924 and another dual whose number escapes me at the moment. A total of 12 aircraft.

Every month, a couple of our brand-new jets would arrive in Cold Lake, ferried by McDonnell-Douglas pilots to Cold Lake. They were made available to us to fly while on the course, and at the end of the course some of us got to ferry our aircraft from Cold Lake to Bagotville (YBG), to open up 433 Squadron.

I personally ferried 790 to YBG in December 1987, at the end of my course. After staying with my Godparents (who were living there at the time) for the weekend, I flew commercial airlines back to Edmonton, took the 5-hour bus ride to Cold Lake, and left Cold Lake in my car, for my new life in YBG. Luckily (for my pocketbook) my official move date was 3 January 1988; it saved me about $4,500 in income tax. Quebec is the worst place in Canada for taxes, and was then as well.

So my build will be 790, as it was shortly after its arrival in Cold Lake (YOD). The first time I flew it, the jet only had 20 flying hours on it, and it smelled brand new. When I ferried it to YBG, it had about 50 hours - still pristine. During its time at 410 Squadron in 1987, it was configured mostly with a centreline fuel tank, and a wingtip CATM-9 (Captive Aerial Training Missile, with a real AIM-9 seeker head to allow the heat-seeking missile SHOOT cue logic to function).

Through this build thread, I will be injecting little stories about how these beautiful aircraft were to fly, and a bit about the conversion course itself.

And yes, my wife knows that the CF-18 Hornet is near and dear to me. She is not the jealous type, thankfully. In fact, I recall somewhere an old bit of prose that went something like this:

"A fighter pilot will fly many aircraft. Some will have an impact on him, but there is normally one type that will captivate him, and he will love it forever. A man has only one virginity to lose in fighter aircraft; lucky is the one who loses it to a noble steed".

Apologies to the author - I know I have changed its meaning somewhat, and I can't remember where I saw it.

ALF

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Here is some real-life history about the CF-18 course. It took 6 months (twice a year back then), and involved about 90 flying hours and maybe 25 or so in the simulator. Nowadays, there are far more simulator hours, because the new simulators are far more capable than the old one we had.

The Henderson Learning Centre in YOD was where the ground school was held. I remember going into the restricted-access area and seeing all the (at the time) high-tech gadgets like computer-based training (CBT) and simulators.

The CBT was laughably slow to load. It ran on Flintstone-era computers, and drawing a Digital Display Indicator with its bezel and 20 pushbuttons took about 2 to 3 minutes - but that was fine, because there was a huge amount to learn about what the displays and their menus did. After completing many hours of CBT, it was time to "fly" virtually...

The first things students got to "fly" were the HOTAST (Hands-On Throttle And Stick Trainer). They were old-style part-task trainers made by McAir, and they showed us how to finger-poke through the menus and use the multiple buttons on the throttles and stick to actuate various functions.

We then went into the enormous dome that was the simulator. It was amazing at the time, but by today's standards was quite primitive. The visual display was very fuzzy, and black and white. It was projected onto the dome, and there was a rectangular "high resolution" area (what I called the fuzz zone) out front. We were able to practise checklist procedures, takeoffs and landings, traffic patterns, and even air to ground weapons. The major use of the sim was instrument flying and aerial weapons employment, especially use of the radar.

Here is the original sticker for the CF-18:

cf_18_hornet_ovale_decal.jpg

After the first 5 or 6 sim missions, we got to fly the real aircraft. What a dream it was to fly! Like any new aircraft type, it was overwhelming at first to keep up with the checklist procedures. The big difference I felt between the Hornet and the previous aircraft I flew (the CF-5) was that the Hornet was dead easy to handle. It was hugely powerful compared to the F-5, but it would turn when all the F-5 did was wallow in the air, and it was next to impossible to ham-fist the Hornet out of control. Traffic patterns were easy, with the great turning performance and precision of display of the HUD.

After only about 5 flights, I flew my first solo, in a single-seat CF-18. After flying solo, we then had the privilege of wearing this badge:

canada_hornet_normal_type_7.jpg

While many people have sewn this onto jackets or other clothing, the only pilots allowed to have this on the shoulder of their flying suits or jackets were pilots who had soloed in the jet.

ALF

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So what were the CF-18s like back then? Let's look at a couple photos. First up, a hero shot from the spring of 1988, taken in Bagotville. Note that behind the handsome fellow, you can see that there are no LEX fences on the top of the LEX. These were the little flanges that look like miniature concrete highway lane dividers atop the intake area. Their purpose was to destroy the energy of the vortices generated by the LEX. In layman's terms? When at slow speed, pulling hard, it was scary to see the vertical tails. Looking back, I would see them flapping in the breeze like hockey cards in the spokes of a bicycle. Ease off on the stick, and they would stop flapping. The LEX fences were added in about 1989, to prevent fatigue on the tails.

The other aspect of the tails that was unique back then is there were no brackets on the inside at the fuselage joins for the vertical tails. Those were added later. *I think - does anyone know for sure? Scooby?

Finally, there were no hockey stick shaped stiffeners on the insides or outsides of the tails. Those were added much later as required.

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Here is another hero shot of young ALF, to illustrate the way the paint scheme was clean, and how the panel lines were nearly invisible:

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I will be doing virtually no weathering on this jet. When they were new, they were very, very clean.

ALF

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Oh ya! I'll be watching this one closely. :popcorn:/>/>

I have no idea if 790 ever had it but will you be putting your name on the side or will this strictly be a brand new CF-188 with no specific marks?

Denis

Denis

Not on this one. I will be doing it as it was at 410 Squadron. No squadron logo on the tail. Clean paint. Very minimal weathering (maybe a bit on the belly, where the APU exhaust goes, and next to none elsewhere.

The practice of putting names on the aircraft didn't start until about 1993 or so - 6 years or more after this time period. I never did get my name on an aircraft. That won't stop me, however, from putting it on a big 1/32 jet that I plan to build sometime.

Nice to have you following.

ALF

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Denis

Not on this one. I will be doing it as it was at 410 Squadron. No squadron logo on the tail. Clean paint. Very minimal weathering (maybe a bit on the belly, where the APU exhaust goes, and next to none elsewhere.

The practice of putting names on the aircraft didn't start until about 1993 or so - 6 years or more after this time period. I never did get my name on an aircraft. That won't stop me, however, from putting it on a big 1/32 jet that I plan to build sometime.

Nice to have you following.

ALF

LOL. I hear ya. I plan to build the Dual that I was in for my famil flight and even though the name on that jet was not that of the pilot I flew with I will put his name on it. Plus I am thinking of adding my name for the back seat! :D/> By the time I get the kit & decals in hand it probably won't be until next year before I can get to it though. Plus there is my move this summer.

Here is my hero shot from that day.

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Ok now I am done distracting people from your build!

Denis

Edited by EX_Birdgunner
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Nice project, ALF. I'll be following along too.

Not sure if I ever asked you this, and EX_Birdgunner this is for you as well, did you ever know a 433 ground crew guy by the name of Francois (we call him Frank) Perron? He left the Forces years ago (not sure when) and he now works with us at Ottawa Police?

Just throwing it out there.

Good luck on your build, sir.

Mike

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I'm looking forward to watching this build, ALF. Thanks for your service too!

:wub:

Thanks! I got into the military for purely selfish reasons - I wanted to fly the hottest aircraft in the world.

It was only after one war and 20 years of hard work that I realized it was not as easy as it looked in the glossy brochures!

ALF

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Nice project, ALF. I'll be following along too.

Not sure if I ever asked you this, and EX_Birdgunner this is for you as well, did you ever know a 433 ground crew guy by the name of Francois (we call him Frank) Perron? He left the Forces years ago (not sure when) and he now works with us at Ottawa Police?

Just throwing it out there.

Good luck on your build, sir.

Mike

Sorry Mike - not sure, but I would probably see him and say "oh, yeah - I remember him." I'm really bad with names, George...

The reality on a fighter squadron is the techs tend to know the pilots' names, because there are so few of us, and they see our names on the documents for the jet when we sign in and out of a flight. When they're all bundled up in their coveralls or winter gear, we may never see a name tag on a guy who has started or parked us multiple times.

You should ask him if he remembers me - from Jan 88 to Aug 90 full time at 433, then part time flying there until 1995 when I went to 425 (the dark side, according to 433 members).

ALF

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LOL. I hear ya. I plan to build the Dual that I was in for my famil flight and even though the name on that jet was not that of the pilot I flew with I will put his name on it. Plus I am thinking of adding my name for the back seat! :D/>/> By the time I get the kit & decals in hand it probably won't be until next year before I can get to it though. Plus there is my move this summer.

Here is my hero shot from that day.

Ok now I am done distracting people from your build!

Denis

Nice hero shot! I'll have to convince SWMBO to take a trip to the West Coast in a couple years, so I can see the future masterpiece in person. Definitely put your name on it - nobody will mind!

ALF

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A bit of progress. The cockpit is always the longest, what with waiting for paint to dry and the fiddly little parts.

I just have a couple touchups to do here, but it's coming along. Tamiya XF-19 Sky Grey, and flat black. One thing missing on the kit cockpit is the buttons around the DDIs (Digital Display Indicators) and HSI. I used an exacto blade to scrape off little slivers of black, exposing the grey plastic underneath, to give a subtle impression of 5 grey buttons on each side of the bezels. There are a total of 20 around each display.

The stick is drying. The seat will be painted up separately - it's resin, so I will install it at the end of the whole process, after painting everything else. No rush on it.

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While I'm thinking of it, a point about the nozzles. Note that the kit comes with two styles of nozzle - one with petals overlapping (part K11, to the right in this pic), and one with petals parallel to each other, with no overlap (K12).

When we got our aircraft, they all had the parallel style petals (part K12, the lower left in this pic). For an aircraft parked with engines off, the nozzle should be closed like these ones are.

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I mentioned that the jets were clean when delivered. A closer picture of a picture (from the hero shot above with the sun glint) shows just how subtle the panel lines are for real when the Hornet is freshly painted.

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ALF

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Emil

Definitely we can feed off each others' inspiration - it's really true that your 901 freshly-delivered project crystallized which kind of Hornet I would do for this GB.

Progress, now:

I started assembling the wings. First surprise: the wingtip rail that should be on the right wingtip was broken off. The one on the other wingtip was surrounded by a little rectangular bit of sprue as it normally is in this kit, but the other wingtip had nothing. Strange, given that this part comes in its own little plastic bag.

Having just sliced open the bag, I carefully examined it, and saw no parts in it - no sprue, and no little bit that snapped off. Must have happened at the factory as they packaged it up. Sigh.

I'll assemble it, and see if I need to add some sprue or plastic card to fake the part. I know there are missile rails that go on the wingtips; I'll see how it looks after I get to that stage.

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The instructions say to pierce holes in the wings for the pylons under the wings. I will be building this without wing pylons installed, so I will not make these holes. You can see where the holes are started on the inside part. For Emil (EMVAR), the plastic under the wing looks pretty good for a pylon-less jet. I think you'll be OK for your 901 build if you don't pierce these holes.

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The lower wing halves went on nicely.

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Now back to working on my big Starfighter - the part arrived in the mail today! I'll still split time between the two builds, especially because the 104 will demand lots of surface prep with the Alclad.

ALF

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Alf, I would say half if not more of the Hasegawa Hornets I have built have had one or both of those little parts broken off. Once you glue the sidewinder rail in place its eay to properly put the little sucker back on. Provided of course you can find the part that broke off. Have a couple built that are mising that part and from 3 feet you would never notice its gone unless you know what to look for.

Elmo was over here today, he is ready to build a show winner.

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Alf, I would say half if not more of the Hasegawa Hornets I have built have had one or both of those little parts broken off. Once you glue the sidewinder rail in place its eay to properly put the little sucker back on. Provided of course you can find the part that broke off. Have a couple built that are mising that part and from 3 feet you would never notice its gone unless you know what to look for.

Elmo was over here today, he is ready to build a show winner.

Shawn

This is the first time I've had this experience - but I've only built about 3 kits in this scale so far. I like the 3 foot rule as well - I'll judge whether or not to glue something in place after the rail is on, or maybe even snap off the other side so it'll be symmetrical.

The odd thing is that the part and its protective sprue were not in the plastic bag containing only that sprue! I did an extensive search in the bag, and in the area where I had slit open the bag, and found nothing. As Global TV says in its promos: Huh.

Good job getting Elmo pumped! Go Elmo! Build, Elmo, Build!

ALF

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Alf, I would say half if not more of the Hasegawa Hornets I have built have had one or both of those little parts broken off. Once you glue the sidewinder rail in place its eay to properly put the little sucker back on. Provided of course you can find the part that broke off. Have a couple built that are mising that part and from 3 feet you would never notice its gone unless you know what to look for.

Elmo was over here today, he is ready to build a show winner.

Not going to be a show winner but maybe a contender.... Now back to ALF's regularly scheduled program!!!

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Oops - rummaging around on the desk, while staring wide-eyed at the camera and the "on air" sign flashing - Oh yes, here it is.

When out of progress, just show some old pics and tell stories.

This is one I took en route between Bagotville and Edmonton, doing an air refuelling qualification. It was March 1988, a few months after we started up 433. Aircraft and pilots from 433 and 425 went on the trip. I took this pic from a single. I put the aircraft on autopilot (altitude and heading hold), with autothrottles set to keep my true air speed (TAS). Satisfied that it wouldn't drift too far, I took my old film SLR camera and snapped some shots. This one shows how clean the paint job was, even on an aircraft that was almost 9 months in service.

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Same trip, as part of my first 1/32 CF-18 build for myself.

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We now go to a word from our sponsors - more progress after this commercial break.

ALF

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This build will be finished at midnight. 12:30 in Newfoundland.

You crack me up.

As the original ALF (Gordon Chumway) would say: "I kill me!" as he slapped his knee.

ALF

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Now we're into the big assembly part. The top and bottom fuselage portions are here.

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I made the two little holes for the centreline pylon, as per the instructions. Easy to miss this step, and have to guess later on where to make the holes. The cockpit is glued in place. This kit cleverly uses a tub with two seats for both the single and dual version of the aircraft.

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This part (with parts lying roughly where they go, as I hurriedly snap the picture) is one that needs to be carefully done. There is little guidance for left/right alignment, so it's easy to end up with a horizontal step. I carefully glued them together and added tape, allowing it to dry before proceeding further.

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There are a couple other areas where fit is problematic on this kit. One is the rectangular piece that fits in aft of the wings; the other is the intakes and their side panels. The last time I built this kit, I located the curved intake lips first, and waited for them to dry. I then glued the side panels in place, being careful to minimize gaps around the tops and sides. This left a bit of a step on the bottom part, but that was much easier to hide than one on the side or top would have been.

Here are the 'destructions' with an illustration of the areas I'm talking about.

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Now back to the big 104 to glue the other rear tail part in place.

ALF

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Looking awesome... I have been building the Fujimi 1/72 version lately on the side and your troubles seem to be very similar to mine... especially with the retangluar part on the after fuselage. I tried doing it as a three parter, getting the alignment right on the fuselage halves. Then getting the alignment right on the back part of the fuselage side (only gluing that area), then using tamiya thin to glue the rest of it together (and held by a clamp. However I suspect your alignment is better than what I faced on the fujimi kit.

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On another note, I will be building a CF-18 in the near future for a friend of mine as a gift (that will be #3 in addition to the 410 birds). I'll be watching your build taking notes.

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Neu - you're doing a good job on a challenging kit. I'm finding that even in 1/48, some of these parts are downright tiny! Luckily, I've built several of these ones, so I remember some of the pitfalls. I'll try to point out most of them.

Here is the fuselage assembly so far. The front ends go together with the underside of the LEX, so the seams will not be obvious. I will probably fill them anyway, but they are essentially invisible when sitting on a shelf.

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The nose went on nicely, with minimal gaps. These kits are well engineered. Note the hole in the nose area - later that will be the place to install one of two parts. This is where the low-frequency RWR antenna goes, when installed. For 790 at the time, it was not installed. We got the RWR sets sometime in 1988, and they were installed a few at a time. Back then, we were actually short of functional RWRs - only a percentage (which was classified at the time) were equipped. With reduction in fleet sizes, and now with upgrades to the RWRs, we have 100% fitment. The poor folks at 425 and 441 (NORAD squadrons) had no RWR at all - what we used to call "blissfully unaware", allowing them to die from a radar missile shot "fat, dumb, and happy."

P1160662.jpg

Here is that side piece and intake lip I was talking about. I glued the intake lip to the side piece, leaving no seam on the side. I have previously glued the side piece in place, and the intake lip last, leaving a nasty step between the side and the intake lip. With this method, the gap will be smaller, and on the bottom of the aircraft.

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I mentioned small pieces. This tiny spacer part goes between the boundary layer splitter of the intake and the fuselage. Much easier on the 1/32 kit, and a bit frustrating on this one. I glued the triangular plate in place first, dabbed some Tamiya extra-thin cement on the fuselage, then located the small spacer. When it was partly dry, I smeared Tamiya cement on the triangular part, and the locator hole for the spacer on the boundary layer plate, and used tweezers to locate the spacer into its hole on the plate. What I didn't mention is the 5 or 6 times I dropped this part, the one time I lost it and almost left it out of the build... and the swearing! :bandhead2:

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The next thing is to work on the flaps.

ALF

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The flaps are both the best reason to buy this kit, and the reason to hate this kit... I'll explain.

On a CF-18, the flaps are rarely, if ever, set to zero - in flight and/or on the ground, engines off or on. I think of the flaps as being alive, commanded constantly by the fly by wire flight control system in flight. The only time you'll see them flush (set to zero), is at very high speed (like Mach 1.0 and above). Even cruising at Mach 0.90 (520 knots, or almost 1,000 km/hr), the leading edge flaps droop about 3 degrees, and the trailing edge flaps droop 5 degrees. This optimises the wing shape for lift at all angles of attack.

So what about 790 on the ground, engines shut off? Simple. The leading edge flaps stay where they were set prior to shutdown. When I was on course at 410, we used to shut down with the flaps up. It was only later that we realized this was not a good idea, given that when the flaps were reset from the up position they might fail to reset, and end up locking themselves up. For that reason, by the late 80s, most CF-18 operators made it standard operating procedure (SOP) to set flaps to half or full before shutting down.

The trailing edge flaps eventually droop after hydraulic pressure is removed, as do the ailerons. After a few hours, they will sit about 45 degrees down (TEF) or 42 degrees down (ailerons).

So for this build, I will set the leading edge flaps to zero, and the trailing edge flaps and ailerons fully down. That's the reason why this was the best kit for the job - it allowed the choice of flaps/ailerons up or down. I think there might be another on the market that does now, but I'm not sure (Hobby Boss?).

That's a reason to like this kit.

And that's the reason to hate it as well. If you try to do this too quickly, it becomes very frustrating. The little hinged brackets that hold the flaps in place must be solidly glued in place before attaching flaps and ailerons, or they will fall loose. The other problem is making sure everything is aligned properly.

The instructions show the even-numbered parts as being the ones for drooped control surfaces.

P1160668.jpg

So here I carefully glued the hinges in place, with Tamiya extra-thin. I waited until they were solidly set before attaching the controls. The other thing is I tried as much as possible to make them sit at right-angles to the wing surface, so the little pins would fit into the little holes on the control surfaces. The aileron actuator housings have little lights on them; it's important to ensure the triangular hole for that is on the outside. The good thing about these housings is they hide the seam line on the lower wing surface join.

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I then assembled the leading edge flaps, and glued them in place, at zero degrees.

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Now I had to wait for things to dry before proceeding. Luckily, there is still lots to do on this kit elsewhere. I started with the landing gear. The kit includes metal gear parts, with some plastic detail parts. Out came the super glue (gap-filling) from Canadian Tire. I assembled the Launch Bar in the up position. At the time, these bars were functional on the CF-18, but we only every dropped them on engine start, to check the hydraulic circuits, at the same time as we selected speed brake, arrestor hook, and air refuelling probe. Then somebody asked "why do we check something we never use?", and we stopped using them. Not too many years later, the hydraulic actuators were removed from the CF-18 Launch Bar, and they were disabled in the up position. The reason we didn't remove them entirely is that they act as a stabilizing force (damper) on the nose gear, as the Aussies found out flying without it to save weight. They eventually had a dummy launch bar installed to solve their huge vibration problem.

P1160673.jpg

I also worked on the main gear strut. The shock absorber (part K46) is the USN style in the instructions. Right next to it on the sprue is another part that is more like the Canadian shock absorber - not perfect, but closer than the USN part. Here you see the part I used, next to the USN shock absorber that I didn't use.

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ALF

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