Modelling-ABC by Wilfried Eck

A b C D E F G H I/J K L M N O P q R S T u V W X/Y Z




(aircraft) Carrier

Cockpit Hoods (scratch)

Cockpit Hood Frames





Projection of might. Means of reinforcing political intentions by application of force. The value of a carrier lies in its mobility, not having to rely on land bases or permission for transit flight. Naturally the indication of a possible intervention is only taken seriously if a substantial force can be presented.

An aircraft carrier therefore needs a certain amount of aircraft with adequate range and load carrying capability.  "Carrier" is used as a general description, there being different kinds of aircraft carriers over the times. Not to forget US Marine assault ships with helicopters.

By necessity an aircraft carrier is a large ship and this costs a lot of money to build and maintain. Shortly after WW II though the carriers had proved their worth the question of their further necesessity arose. This was answered positively in the Korean and Vietnam war. But today budget restrictions again led to a reduction in carrier strength.

Today US carriers are essentially alike. In WW II there were

Common to all kinds of aircraft carrier is a  lack of space. To get aircraft into the air catapults are needed, to get them back landing hook and steel cables. Wings that can be folded to get the least planform are mandatory. An alternative are aircraft which can start and land vertically.

Confined space makes it impossible to sort out a certain aircraft.  So available aircraft are assigend to pilots, changing from mission to mission. There are no personal aircraft. Monikers" - names of US crew members below the cockpit - are applied according to the number of the aircraft (lowest number, highest rank). Who actually flies the aircraft depends on the assignment of the day (occasionally there may be exceptions for wing or squadron commanders, but in general there is no "aircraft of Lt. Smith").

Modern US carriers are either assigned to the Atlantic fleet (tail code beginning with "A" plus letter of the Air Wing) or the Pacific fleet (tail code "N").

As there are enough English spoken web pages on this subject, further information can be gathered elsewhere (some links below).



The problem getting as many aircraft on a carrier as possible, could/can only be solved by tight parking. Therefore soon after the beginning of world war II aircraft had wings that could be folded lengthwise or upwards.  As aircraft are closely packed together, wings are spread only when the individual aircraft is about to take off. After landing the wings are folded while on the way to the parking lot. 

With wings spread the model needs a crew. Without crew folded wings are mandatory.

Running engines consume fuel. Less fuel means less range or less flight time. So takeoff has to be as quick as possible. As aircraft are tightly packed running engines are dangerous.  It's windy because the carrier is steaming against the wind in high speed. And it is loud! Therefore nobody in sane mind would try to assemble in front of aircraft ready for takeoff. Briefing had be done in the squadron room below deck long before.

There is neither space nor time for a chat before lauch.

After landing the aircraft has to clear the landing area as quick as possible to be parked elsewhere. The crew usually is expected for debriefing. So they go downstairs. In WW II when all aircraft had to be parked forward of the landing zone there was the hazard that a plane floating over the barriers crashed into these aircraft. And as no pilot wanted a Hellcat or Avenger as a headdress, they speedily left this uncomfortable place. Photos depicturing leisurely scenes in front of an aircraft are pure publicity. So do not forget to add a photographer.

There is neither space nor time for a chat after landing.

As aircraft carriers are operating in salt water environment corrosion prevention is mandatory. All aircraft  were/are constantly checked for corrosion. This may result in a stained appearance from overpainting, but never (!) is there bare metal to be seen (yes, Japanese Navy a/c too!). And there is no sand on a carrier to remove paint from leading edges or propellers. Therefore:

Forget chipping paint on carrier aircraft.

As there weren't and aren't personal aircraft, "kill markings" denoted the aircraft with which they were achieved, not by a certain pilot; in modern aircraft names below the cockpit are assigned by hierarchy (lowest rank highest number), but as aircraft are assigned per mission this does not indicate the person mentioned is actually sitting in.

Forget "aircraft of Lt. Miller" or else.

Wooden carrier decks did not appear as natural wood. They were painted/camouflaged (see above photo of USS Monterey). General rule for US carrier decks: Side colours of the aircraft, ergo shades of blue gray at first, then "Sea Blue"); modern carriers have a non slip covering of black colour that reflects light in different ways, in photos it sometimes appears to be dark brown or dark blue.

Since about 1950 flight deck personnel wear coded sweaters resp. life vests:

Function Colour WW II Colour today
plane handler: blue blue
plane director: blue, sometimes white yellow
start officer: white yellow
landing signals officer: anything practical white
wapons: red red
plane captain: blue brown
fuel: blue magenta
security: --- white or black and white checkered
medical: --- white with red cross

Useful links:

List of US-fleet carriers:
List of US escort carriers:
US Navy history pages:
Evolution of USN carrier air groups and wings
USN Serials:
Homepage of the US Navy:
History of the US Navy:
WW II-photos:,
How to catapult aircraft on a WW II carrier (YouTube film):
How to respot aircraft on a WW II carrier (YouTube film):


Cockpit hoods (scratch built):


Transparent covers of cockpits to protect the pilot/s from wind blast and other environmental hazards. Also to reduce drag.

In former times model canopies had engraved lines to show where paint was needed to show the frame/s. Very practical as no masking was needed, and in the outcome very convincing too. Modern kits show canopy frames prominently raised (in 1:1 scale they would stand out 3 inches). Clearly overdone, see cockpit frames below.

No balsa wood is needed!

For the inevitable form there are two alternatives:

Do not use the outer side of the kit canopy as this will make the new canopy too big. Using the inside for filling with polyester paste is possible, but as the kit hood is thicker than the PVC used adding of another layer is necessary.

For the canopy itself a sheet of clear PVC needed (0,3 - 0,5 mm; materiel from a blister package may be used too if it's thick enough).

The main problem isn't the forming of the canopy, but how it is fixed to the model aircraft. CA glue is not recommended  because it will make the canopy get milky. Where the canopy can be fixed depends on the individual aircraft (brain power necessary), but usually it's possible to use tongues for fixing to the cockpit inner sides, front and rear part resting in pre cut grooves (later filled with putty).

The whole affair step by step:

  Required part
  Add on
  Tack, at least 4
  PVC plastic
  Plywood  or else
  hole slightly larger than horizontal planform
Heat evenly over toaster, preferably from both sides until the PVC gets soft and saggy.

Pull firmly but steadily over form, plastic facing downwards


Wait till plastic has settled, then cut along prescribed lines on form


Remove needed part

  Fix into inner walls of cockpit
  Fix with epoxy glue into precut groove
  (dimensions slightly exaggerated)


  • Plastic heated too much (it got too soft) or pulled with too much force. Uneven thickness.
  • Plastic with inadequate heating or being pulled with too much force. Uneven thickness.

If it doesn't work the first time: Well, this can happen. But you can use this part for last corrections of the lower contour if necessary (new line for cutting on the form).

homemade canopy and strips of painted decal


Cockpit hood frames:


kit frame


real construction


the original

While aircraft designers took (and take) great pains in reducing drag kit manufacturers take great care in making them as obvious as possible. Taking aside some pre WW  II aircraft the frames of cockpit hoods  had recesses in which the glass panels rested, a thin metal strip atop to keep them in place.  In effect  a flush appearance. Not so in kits! The term "greenhouse" is taken as real appearance. Prominent ridges  show where paint should be applied, pronounced height seeming mandatory. In the real thing such protuberances would stick out two to three inches above glass level.

Examples of cockpit hood framing (German page)

Model canopy/frames:  Masking the clear parts and sanding these unwanted "detail" off helps a little bit. In my opinion it's easier to make a new canopy, as told above.

For frames I use a decal not needed any more, paint it in appropriate color, and then cut out narrow strips. These are applied as usual  with the help of a cotton bud wettened with softing agent (water soluable glue may help too). See model photo above.



Pigments in solvent. On the real object applied for protection and camouflage. On models to make them look like the original. And therefore the question is what the real colour looked like. No problem it seems for there are a lot of model paints (alledgedly) mixed to official formulas. But beware:

Because of scale effect a 100 percent correct colour is too dark for a model.

As explanation another example of scale: If an aircraft weighs 20.000 pounds a 1/50 model should have a weight of 400 pounds. A little bit heavy, isn't it?

Therefore model paints have to be lightened. The smaller the scale the more. For 1/48 10 % should be sufficient, for 1/72 15 % are about right.

To get the right shade adding white isn't always correct. For red, green and brown it should be yellow, for this colour is included in each of these (though addition of a tiny amount of white can be helpful). For dark blue use light blue.

Colours of US Navy aircraft in general (for others I am no expert): "Sea blue" wasn't simply dark blue. It contained a sizeable amount of black and may therefore described als black-blue. Even darker was/is "Insignia Blue" (the disk below the star); it is/was nearly black and not bright dark blue as many decals show.  "Intermediate Blue" had a blueish gray appearance, by specification a shade exactly between "Sea Blue" and "Insignia White" (the bottom colour). Bleached "Sea Blue" therefore got nearer to "Intermediate Blue". The previous "Blue Gray" was a little bit darker than "Intermediate Blue" but still contained so much blue that even if very bleached it held a blue tinge (never plain gray). In short: Exept white all these colours "aged" to variations of blue-gray (neither lighter blue nor plain gray).

Original USN colours see "Originalfarben" in German page O

Inside colours: Article in IPMS Stockholm website.

Tables of colours to Federal Standard (same source):