Friday, 25 December 2015

Famous planes & pilots

Not really a proper top 10 listing, this is just a selection of (mostly) named pioneering aircraft and/ or famous flyers as a theme for a shelf display of diecast model aircraft.

In the beginning, there was Orville and Wilbur Wright - whose Wright flyer made history at Kitty Hawk in 1903. The diecast model I have is by Corgi, part of the toy company’s celebratory ‘100 Years of Flight’ range. It is only a small version, with a wingspan of approx. 11 cm, and the not-to-scale detail is merely satisfactory, with clear plastic ‘windows’ supporting the wing struts so the model isn’t too fragile. Still, it’s a starter for this decidedly modest collection.     

The second pioneer is Louis Bleriot, whose ‘Bleriot XI’ mono-plane was, in 1909, first to cross the English Channel, proving that the Aerial Age had truly begun. Again, the Corgi diecast model uses clear plastic to hold the framework together on this smaller scale. Bleriot appears as a character in British docu-drama feature The Conquest Of The Air (1936).  

In 1927, Charles Lindbergh piloted the ‘Spirit of St Louis’ for the first non-stop New York to Paris flight, ushering in the Golden Age of Aviation. Corgi’s fit-the-box scale model is one of their better efforts in this 100 Years of Flight range. In Billy Wilder's 1957 bio-pic, The Spirit Of St Louis, Lindbergh is portrayed by Jimmy Stewart. 

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean. Her plane was a red Lockheed Vega 5B. Corgi’s diecast model is the best of their 100YOF air-pioneer set. After a few episodic outings, plus a TV-movie in 1976 starring Susan Clark, Earhart's story finally got a big screen showing in Amelia (2009), with Hilary Swank playing the heroine. 

A year earlier than Earhart’s 1932 flight, Amy Johnson set a record time flying from Britain to Japan. Her plane was a de Havilland DH.80 Puss Moth named ‘Jason II’. The 1:72 scale model is by Oxford Diecast and is very good quality as a collectible.

Designed to be fast, the de Havilland DH-88 Comet was built for the MacRobertson (London-to-Melbourne) air race in 1934. Flown by C.W.A. Scott and Tom Campbell Black, the striking red version of the plane, named ‘Grosvenor House’, won the race.

The Comet model by Oxford Diecast (a 'Black Magic' version is also available) comes in 1:72 scale, with a very shiny red finish.

The next choice for a famous pilot is a cheat, really. James ‘Biggles’ Bigglesworth is a fictional hero of WW1, and his Sopwith Camel bi-plane makes a fine addition to this collection. The diecast model is produced by Amercom in 1:72 scale. Apart from a 1960s TV series, the only screen adventure for this archetypal British hero is sci-fi movie Biggles: Adventures In Time (1986), starring Neil Dickson. 

Since we have Biggles, it would be churlish to neglect his airborne opponent, Manfred von Richthofen, the ‘Red Baron’, and so I have a placeholder model of his Fokker Dr.1 tri-plane. It’s a smaller scale diecast made by Lledo, and I’m not sure if the green and red colouring (see below) is authentic. German movie The Red Baron (2008) celebrates his career but, of course, makes him the hero of the war.  

Representing flying aces of WW2, there’s legendary RAF pilot Douglas Bader, whose Supermarine Spitfire is a 1:72 scale model in Corgi’s low-cost Warbirds range.
This is a well-made diecast, but it lacks the detachable undercarriage of the other Spitfire in my collection, an unarmed reconnaissance version in blue (below), also made by Corgi in 1:72 scale.   

Nowadays rightly celebrated for breaking the sound barrier in 1947, US pilot Charles ‘Chuck’ Yeager also flew a North American P-51D Mustang, named ‘Glamorous Glen III’ (after his wife Glennis). This diecast model is a smaller Corgi, quite nicely detailed for its fit-the-box scale. Most famously, Yeager was played by Sam Shepard in The Right Stuff (1983).   

Friday, 18 December 2015


Nothing about this remake works as it should. The pace seems awkward, and its tone shifts from SF-horrors to action fantasy with all the finesse and charm of a coal sack falling off the back of a lorry. There are a few good sequences with dramatic impact, and its darker style, with some disturbing or at least unsettling moments, looks fine. By far the best thing about this version of the Fantastic Four is the CGI character of the Thing.

When reminiscent of Cronenberg shockers, or superhero movies like Watchmen, this is an average comicbook adaptation. But with its overlong childhood scenes and quite dementedly rushed climax, Josh Trank’s failure might have sunk hopes for a renewal of Marvel’s most family-friendly franchise.