Scale 1/72
Manufacturer Hobby Craft
Kit ID 1354
Type U-1A / DHC-3 Otter 55-3267
Unit 4082nd Strategic Wing, Goose Bay
Date 1963
Aftermarket parts used PJ Production Transport Pilots
Other detail added Scratch built beaching gear
Model built by Alex Hunger
Date Completed June 2010
To be honest, at some point, I would have built an Otter regardless of it being used in the USAF, or not, just because the DHC line of aircraft were so fascinating in their rugged simplicity. I picked this model up while somewhat bored on break and thought it might end up in storage for an extended period after looking inside as I thought it would have to be built as an US Army aircraft. A brief search on the internet, however, revealed that 3 airframes with floats served in the USAF at Goose Bay AFB in Canada between the early 60s and 1973, when they were sent back to the Army.
The kit comes in light grey and somewhat brittle plastic and allows the modeler to build the plane with either wheels or floats.
The light grey interior is virtually bare, except for the front office, which I populated with the new PJ Production transport pilots. These can be inserted through the door openings after the fuselage is assembled. With the fuselage closed up and the clear parts masked, I assembled the wings and engine module.
The first thing to watch out for is that it is not possible to attach the wings to the fuselage as is, as the locator hole for the brace is too high. You will need to drill the hole down to a lower position so that the supported wing can be attached completely level. That done, the tail planes and the flap tracks can be attached. The complete airframe (minus engine) can now be primed with Hallford white and when dry, in Nissan gloss white. Later the wings and tail planes need to be masked so that the red high viz areas can be spray painted on at the correct locations as per the photos. This also includes the engine block, which I chose to attach after the painting stage.
The floats were built in parallel to the airframe, primed and then spray painted in Nissan silver. Attaching the floats was a little fiddly, to say the least, but did work in the end. Due to the geometry of the floats, the Otter sits on them very uncomfortably in a tail down position. You get the impression that the rear support strut is too short, though this is an optical illusion. Fortunately, I had thought of attaching beaching gear well ahead of time just to make the aircraft look a little bit more in service when sitting on my shelf.
A friend sent me scans from books of various aircraft, including one in USAF trim, on beaching gear which could be replicated with relative ease.
The 4 front units consist of V shaped plasticard bits and wheels made up of Hasegawa F-4 phantom rims and F-5 tires suitably drilled out. The rear units were made out of stretched sprue and left over white metal Aeroclub F-101 front wheels. There I'm less sure I got it right, due to the angle of the photos available. Nevertheless, with them the Otter finally sits right. I read that some otters had retractable beaching gear within their floats at a later point, but I'm fairly certain, mine had the simple ones.
The decals came from the kit set and some USAF bits from the spares box. I understand, the kit has been re-released with USAF decals.
All in all, the Otter makes a nice colourful change from the any possible lo-viz fighters.

Model, article and photographs by Alex Hunger