Take a Stand

Since building the blitz-build, totally-a-toy Mystere IV, I’ve been staring and mumbling…

…more than usual.

When I began building plastic model kits, it never occurred to me to attach the landing gear to the airplanes and sit them up on their wheels. That was crazy talk. Airplanes belong in the sky. Airplanes fly. Building models of them sitting and squatting on the ground looked–wrong, somehow.

And I never thought about putting the models up on the little stands that were included in the boxes. If landing gear looked bad, stands looked dumb. A proper model plane was flying. Even if it was, technically, sitting on a shelf, it was still flying. An airplane model should not be a ground pounding military vehicle. There’s a world of difference between a tank and an airplane, and don’t you forget it.

But then I fell under the influence of “the modeling press.” Like some kind of peculiar, plastic version of puberty, at the age of twelve I learned that you can’t fly anymore. You can only sit and squat on the ground, your wings forever clipped, as the maintenance crews stand by and the aircraft is subjected to an autopsy. They called it “super detailing” but I called in spinach and I said the-hell-with-it.

But the cumulative effect of all that pressure (the only people in the world who shared my affliction insisted that proper models had wheels) I gradually relented. After all, when I was a child, I played with toys. When I became a man, I threw the toys into the outhouse and developed manly pursuits like women and firearms (hey–it was a rural area). Models had to look like the ones in the magazines (just like the women) and it would all lead to good things by and by. Surely.

Well, here I sit, looking down from the lofty height of “maturity” and I can tell you that somebody was full of it. I’m still convinced that any model of an aircraft in flight looks better than than the damn thing on the ground.

So what am I going to do about it?

The fact that “no airborne models” has become so much a part of our weird hobby is reflected in the lack of websites or forums or blogs dedicated to the art of displaying a model without the wheels. Just like the fans of the airbrush, the “landing gear down” community are more numerous and so they appear to be firmly in charge.

But are they? Are they really? Doesn’t the brave red heart of an “in flight” model builder beat within the chest of every Melvin Landing Gear? You bet it does. Kits used to come with stands.

Clockwise from left: Revell, FROG, and Airfix stands from the nifty sixties. These stands worked just fine for what they did. They allowed the builder to get rid of that damned landing gear. No longer would a warbird be forced to expose its personal bits to the cold glare of daylight. Airfix, one of the last of the defenders of the “in flight” model, even made different sizes of stands. Here are some large ones.

Those bad boys might come in handy.

The idea of building a “serious” model and putting it on a stand is about as weird as building a “serious” model and painting it with a brush. To a lot of people, it doesn’t matter whether it’s good, or fun, or whatever. They key question is “what do the others think?”

The reality of worrying about “what others think” fascinates me. We all claim that we don’t care, but that’s the biggest lie we can tell ourselves. We do care. It’s just that, sometimes, it’s important to think about something OTHER than what other people may mutter under their breath.

There is a reason that almost all models considered “serious” are painted with airbrushes and displayed in a “on the ground” configuration. But doggone it. It’s not a good reason. Find your own path.

My next model is going to be wheels up. Take that, Beast of Group Approval.



5 Replies to “Take a Stand”

  1. I didn’t know it was such a big deal. Did you know that every aircraft I have built since ‘coming back’ has been ‘in flight’ on a stand? Thats right, every one. Hence every one has a pilot in, fully painted, with gunner (pending aircraft) hacked up so the arms look like they are gripping the MG. I like a model to be in its natural element. Wheels down with an open cockpit is nice, but I have never built one this way.

    My favourite stands have always been the Matchbox stands, and I would seriously pay money for these things, but they are nowhere to be had. Build on ball swivels, I can turn the aircraft whatever way I choose, instead of the airfix stands where the aircraft is stuck in one stance. The stands supplied in the airfix dogfight doubles are nice, with one big stand and prongs for each aircraft, but they only come in the overpriced kits.

    I have been trying to design my own stands, but good materials are hard to come by. I think I will look for some wooden drink coasters and sand up some sticks off the local trees and see how I go, constructing a ‘cradle’ inside the airframe for it to sit in.

    It would be so much easier if they simply put the stands back in model aircraft though, especially the matchbox type….

  2. I even noticed some companies have stopped putting pilots in the kits! And when I complained about this on some of the modeling forums some time ago, I was told it was better this way!

  3. Well an aeroplane on a stand is a kind of diorama in itself! 😉
    I rarely build aircraft flying. When I grew up in Greenland aircraft would be sitting on the tarmac or helipad or I would be inside of it! Of course at times I saw them in the air and that was nice but that would be the prologue to me going to the airport/helipad to fly. 😀
    At times I do build a flying aircraft; because the story warrants it or out of necessity. For the first one the Bf-110 of Wolfgang Falck approaching Værløse Airfield on the morning of 9. April 1940. The second like when I couldn’t get the undercarriage of the Airfix Mosquito to sit right into the wheelwell or had borrowed the nosewheel of the Airfix Phantom for building a Naval Jaguar!
    Then of course there is the issue of geardoors… closing the Bf-110 ones made for need of lots of putty to make them look closed and not gaping. The geardoors of the older kits was much easier to fix in the closed position.
    This is just one issue but it also pertains to other matters as when on some aircraft part of the geardoors would shut when the landing gear is deployed… So making silly undersized geardoors isn’t all there is to it dear kit makers. 🙂
    Leaving out pilots or crew or ordenance is a deficit in a kit to me. The crews aren’t that important to me but when I need them I need them and don’t like to buy expensive pilots – is anybody doing such in 1/72 scale? Ordenance is another matter – WWII aircraft usually does have it but modern jets!!! They have been in action all over the world since WWII so why leave it out! Of course equipment changes but for the basics…
    Oh and do I care what others think of my modelling. It’s mine, my own – my … precious! 😉

  4. Ah yes, the undersize doors for the wheel wells…annoying.

    But then you build an older Heller kit or derivative and…you can see up to the pilot through the wheel wells when the wheels are down!

    1. Correct – though the old kit shortcomings are easily remedied. At least when you’ve build one you know what to look for. Those are in need of an enlarged cockpit floor and usually a dashboard or in the case of the FW 190 a wheelwell cover with holes drilled appropriately into it.
      Returning to the main issue; of the new kits I’ve bought Tamiya have been the ones to still include a stand and a very nice one too – though no pilot!

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