Grumman Greats: The F6F Hellcat

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Written by Dennis Norman
Free Flight Scale
As seen in the March 2021 issue of Model Aviation.

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FREE FLIGHT (FF) Scale models of Grumman aircraft are legendary performers. Throughout the years, I have designed and built FF Scale models of the Grumman F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat, F8F Bearcat, and TBF Avenger. Grumman aircraft typically had a generous, square-tipped wing and classic proportions. All are excellent subjects for FF Scale competition. My build of a 25-inch wingspan F6F Hellcat from a Comet kit in my late teens gave me great flights.

this grumman lineup at westfac iii in denver
This Grumman lineup at WESTFAC III in Denver a few years ago was a living testament to the popularity of Grumman-designed aircraft—a natural for FF Scale competition. Photo by Ed DeLoach.

Referring to the Hellcat in his excellent book titled Detail and Scale Volume 26, author Bert Kinzey set forth many facts about the Hellcat. According to Bert, the Hellcat went from the beginning design stage to operational status in less than 18 months! He went on to state, "In only 2 years of combat, Hellcats shot down 5,156 enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat!" Bert also reported that "only 270 F6Fs were lost in combat, resulting in a 19:1 kill ratio." For more factual data and photographs, get a copy of Bert’s book. The contact information is listed in "Sources."

A Japanese Zero fighter that was captured virtually intact early in the war showed that it minimized the use of armor and other weight-saving measures to increase performance. Despite this, the Hellcat had a distinct advantage over the Zero because it had greater speed, better rate of climb, and made use of pilot-protecting armor.

Bert also reported that the first production Hellcats entered service aboard the USS Yorktown (CV-10) in early 1943. On August 31, 1943, they saw their first combat with the VF-5 [Fighter Squadron] in a raid on Marcus Island. By 1944, the F6F had become the Navy’s standard carrier-based fighter. By that time, according to Bert, Grumman "had produced over 4,000 Hellcats" and "a flood of aircraft" that became known as the Navy’s Big Blue Wave, which dominated carrier-based Pacific operations for the rest of the war.

The Hellcat accounted for 75% of the Navy’s aerial victories during World War II. Grumman eventually produced 12,275 Hellcats at its Bethpage Plant #3 on Long Island, New York.

Overall, Hellcats were credited with destroying more enemy aircraft while in service with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm than any other Allied naval fighter. The British received 1,268 F6Fs under the Lend-Lease Act.

The aircraft was initially called the Grumman Gannet Mk.1. The Royal Navy later adopted the use of American names for all of the US-made aircraft that were supplied to it. The F6F-3, for example, was known as the Hellcat F Mk.1. British Hellcats participated in the Normandy Invasion and wore the characteristic identity stripes of the campaign.

In the portion of this column that is exclusive to Model Aviation Digital, you will find the markings for one of the Hellcats that was used by the British in the Normandy Invasion. Also featured in the digital portion are 16-inch wingspan plans for an F6F from Air Ace Models.

If you wish to make a Hellcat in non-British markings, you will find that seven possibilities are offered, including a post-war scheme of an all-red F6F with a white tail that was used in the atom bomb tests on the Bikini Atoll in July 1946. There is also a list of drawing references, published history, marking details, and three plastic kits of the F6F.

this gorgeous 18 inch wingspan f6f grumman hellcat built by dave mitchell
Hopefully, this will give you some delightful alternatives in building and finishing your F6F. This gorgeous, 18-inch wingspan F6F Grumman Hellcat, built by Dave Mitchell, flew as well as it looked right off the workbench. Dave believes it is from a Mike Nassise plan. Mitchell photo.
the authors nearly completed 16 inch wingspan f6f
The author’s nearly completed 16-inch wingspan F6F Grumman Hellcat in Royal Navy Invasion stripes gives you a clear view of its pilot before it was enclosed in a cockpit canopy.
young oliver sand won the flying aces club
Young Oliver Sand won the Flying Aces Club (FAC) Simplified Scale event with his handsome Grumman F6F Hellcat. He also won the Blue Max for his 16th FAC win. Photo by Tom Hallman.
the author is shown at an fac banquet in the 1990s with his partially completed
The author is shown at an FAC banquet in the 1990s with his partially completed Air Ace Models Peanut Scale Grumman F6F Hellcat. The model flew well upon completion. Photo by Mearl Norman Jr.
f6f hellcats were popular offerings from guillows and comet as well as numerous
F6F Hellcats were popular offerings from Guillow’s and Comet, as well as numerous FF Scale manufacturers. The author’s Comet kit produced exciting flights. Photo by Holly Chenail.
medal of honor winner david mccampbell was the navys leading ace of all time
Medal of Honor winner David McCampbell was the Navy’s leading ace of all time. In this photo, his total victories was 21. His final score later rose to 35. Photo credit: National Archives.

Making Basic Tissue Sheets

A. Preparing basic tissue sheets

To prepare the basic tissue sheets, start with heavy-gauge (67-pound) white 8.5 × 11 paper for each item to be printed. Because the raw tissue will be attached to the edges of the basic sheets, use 1/8- to 3/16-inch double-sided tape around the edges of the sheets. The excess double-sided tape should be trimmed from the sheet using a paper cutter or sharp knife.

B. Printing the surface-detail sheets on basic tissue

Take a sheet of tissue large enough to make four surface-detail sheets and lay it (smooth side up) on a flat table. Next, take the raw tissue and stretch it by placing pieces of Scotch tape at each corner and midway on each side between each corner. Place a basic tissue sheet running lengthwise with the tissue grain. The double-stick frame should then be lightly placed against the raw tissue and firmly attached by using a printer’s roller.

When this is done, carefully cut the detail sheet from the raw tissue using a paper cutter or sharp knife. The color sheets are then printed on the surface-detail sheets using a color copier.

For directions on covering the model with tissue, see the following Covering Instructions section.

White Marking Techniques

A. History

My original effort to brighten white areas was to paint them with white paint on the inside of the tissue. I have since used label stock for this purpose.

B. White label stock method

The 8.5 × 11-inch pattern sheet shown in the photo is for areas to be brightened on the model. Because the white areas of label stock will be cut from the pattern sheet and applied to the inside of the t issue, you pattern sheet on the back of the label stock sheet.

After this is done, cut the white areas carefully from the pattern sheet using scissors or a new single-edge razor blade. Be careful to precisely cut the white area. You want to be exact because any label overlap will show through the colored portion of the tissue.

Covering Instructions

Welcome to a different approach to covering rubber-powered FF Scale models. Using a heat-fused copier, I created a waterproof, lightweight, and highly detailed Japanese tissue that will permit you to quickly achieve stunning results.

Following are tips for covering with this preprinted tissue.

1. Use scissors or a similar tool to cut the pieces from the sheet as needed. With the exception of the edges of the main sheet, the tissue paper is not attached to the heavy backing paper. By cutting into the paper, the tissue piece separates for application to your model.

the f6f hellcat building plans file is 8 5 x 11 inches
The F6F Hellcat building plans file is 8.5 × 11 inches. Enlarge it to a 16-inch wingspan.
the surface-detail sheet files are 8 5 x 11 inches no size change is required
The surface-detail sheet files are 8.5 × 11 inches. No size change is required. Print it on tissue.

2. Use a permanent glue stick to adhere the tissue to the frame. Coat only the outside edges of the part of the frame to be covered.

3. In working with the tissue, it is best to keep your hands both clean and damp because dry fingers might damage the tissue while working with it. Do not overwork the tissue; it will tear if you are not careful.

4. If you wish to wet cover, lay the tissue piece, printed side down, on a piece of waxed paper. Using a soft brush, dampen the unprinted side of the tissue. After approximately a minute on the waxed paper, transfer the tissue piece using the waxed paper as a carrier to the part of the airframe to be covered.

Align the tissue piece with the frame then pull the waxed paper away. Fingertighten the tissue piece to the frame, adjusting as needed to accurately align the tissue piece with the frame.

5. In the case of fuselages with compound curves, wet cover as previously described for best results.

Note: Do not use dope to attach this product and do not apply dope as a coating. If a different finish is desired, use either Testors Dullcote (1250 Clear Flat Lacquer Overcoat) for a flat finish or Testors Glosscote (1261 Clear Gloss Lacquer Overcoat) for a glossy finish.

the white markings pattern sheet
The white markings pattern sheet is 8.5 × 11 inches. No size change is required. Print it on 8.5 × 11-inch white label stock on the non-label side.
references for the f6f hellcat
References for the F6F Hellcat.
the f6f insignia and individual markings file
The F6F insignia and individual markings file is 8.5 × 11 inches. No size change is required. Print it on 8.5 × 11-inch white label stock. Individual markings are then cut from the label stock with scissors or a similar tool. The backing of each piece of label stock is removed and the sticky side is applied to the inside of each piece where a white area appears. If this step is not taken, the bare white tissue will appear gray.
the multiview f6f alternate scheme files
The multiview F6F alternate-scheme files are 8.5 × 11 inches. No size change is required.

SOURCES:

Detail & Scale Military Aviation Archives

www.detailandscale.com

National Free Flight Society (NFFS)

www.freeflight.org

FAC

cinc@flyingacesclub.com

www.flyingacesclub.com

Air Ace Models

(216) 906-6146

dennis@airacemodels.com

 

By Dennis Norman | dennis@airacemodels.com

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