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Plane crash diorama — your thoughts, please

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  • Member since
    July 2019
  • From: Vancouver, British Columbia
Plane crash diorama — your thoughts, please
Posted by Bobstamp on Friday, April 24, 2020 4:54 PM

To be right up front, I don’t know if I will ever be brave enough to tackle any diorama project, much less the one I’m about to ask about. I’d appreciate your comments and suggestions about feasibility and techniques. 

This official U.S. Forest Service photo shows the T-34B Beech Mentor that I crashed in when I was 19:

 

T-34B crash photo

 

Both the pilot and I were badly hurt. The plane crashed on the steep, heavily forested side of a canyon in New Mexico’s Black Range. It was dicey: the crash happened late in the afternoon in early June. We had no survival supplies, but we were so badly injured that we probably would have succumbed to overnight temperature near or even below freezing (the altitude was about 8,000 feet (2438 metres) above sea level. As it was, before dark two smokejumpers volunteered to rescue us. They arrived with emergency supplies and a chainsaw. Next morning they cleared trees for a helipad and we were airlifted to hospital in my hometown, Silver City, New Mexico. I was in hospital for a week, the pilot a few weeks longer. We both were able to return to work. 

Now, what challenges would I face in using a 1/48 Minicraft T-34 kit to create a realistic diorama of the crash site? I’ve previously built one of the Minicraft T-34 kits, representing the aircraftI crashed in:

Minicraft 1/48 T-34B model

I have two more of the same T-34 kits, one of which could, in a very real sense, be truly kitbashed.

The biggest challenge I see in building a diorama showing the wreckage and its environment is achieving realistic damage. As you can see in the crash photos, the T-34’s wild plunge into and through the forest ripped, fractured, gouged, bent, wrinkled, and crumpled the plane’s duralumin skin. I think that a nearby tyrranosaur took a bite out of the rudder and fin as the plane passed him.  

The engine should be included in a diorama. It isn’t in the photo because it was torn from its mounts, and tumbled down the side of the canyon; the pilot was ripped out of his harness, soared through the air, and landed on the nearly red-hot engine, which gave him third-degree burns. I stayed in my (rear) seat, but the seat itself was torn almost free and was dangling outside the aircraft, right where you see it in the photo. When I regained consciousness, all I saw was the dusty forest floor about six inches below my face, and blood dripping from a wound on the back of my head. 

After I released my harness, I was able to wander about the crash site for a few minutes, in a daze. I never saw the plane’s canopy, its right wing and horizontal stabilizer, or its propeller, so I wouldn't need to include them in the diorama. The site reeked of  aviation gas, and I even tried to build a fire to keep the pilot warm. If I do try to build a diorama, and it doesn't work out, I could just create some alternate history by dousing it with gasoline and lighting a match to it!

Another possible idea: include the smokejumpers in the diorama. Oh my. Time to post this.

Anyway, I would appreciate your thoughts and ideas about how I might best proceed with such a diorama.

Bob

 

Tags: crash , diorama , T-34B

Finished, finally: Airfix 1/72 HP.52 Hampden bomber & Minicraft 1/48 T-34 Mentor trainer. On the bench: Italeri 1/72 UH-34 Seahorse helicopter & Academy 1/72 F-86F Sabre.

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: USA
Posted by keavdog on Friday, April 24, 2020 5:38 PM

Looking at that pic it's amazing either of you survived.  I haven't done a crash diorama, but perhaps you could do something representative without as much devastation.  Otherwise start with a beer can!

Glad your still here!

Thanks,

John

Ain't no reason to hang my head, I could wake up in the mornin' dead 

  • Member since
    April 2020
Posted by AmpLighter on Friday, April 24, 2020 6:13 PM

This could be a very challenging diorama to construct if one doesn't know where to begin. The more photos you can acquire from the crash site will give you a better chance of actually documenting the crash site. 

I would research model railroading as this has the most detailed instructions in the creation of the landscape, trees and ground cover. This really depends on how detailed or larger you want this scene to look. 

For me, the landscape would be easy as I've had experience in the products used to create this type foliage. The difficult part would be, once you build the plane, you would have to deconstruct the plane based on the photographs you have of the scene then actually bend or brake the plane apart etc. 

I would suggest that this could be a group effort. Allow someone who has the talent to create the landscape help you by actually constructing the landscape where as if you're better at the deconstruction of the pane then merge the two elements together.

I would offer to build the landscape for you while you work on the plane, But I'm overwhelmed with more project than I can currently handle. Perhaps if this was a different time or date I would have volunteered.

Perhaps you could create a group build and actually everyone in the group create a seperate elemnt of the scene based on thier skill level.

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Friday, April 24, 2020 6:22 PM

That sounds like a great idea. 

The challenge is to get the torn up material to be scale. The good news is that you will never touch the thing once you get the diorama built.

The kit will give you wheels, the engine and the prop. The seats maybe, the IP.

You can plunge mold the canopy from a clear piece of plastic. I like to use the lids from salad tubs. That will make it nice and thin to tear up.

A lot of the body skin can be pretty easily made by rubbing down aluminum foil over the kit parts. That will pick up every little detail. Lift it carefully and cut it out with scissors. 

Do you have the reg. #? Was the engine running when you encountered terrain?

It's great that you both lived. Makes the idea of the dio easier to think about.

AFA you and the pilot; I don't think you should include yourselves unless you are in the process of being saved. Frying pilot and passenger hanging out of the seat won't do at all. I suppose the jumpers could be tending to you. That would pretty much tell the story.

Modeling is an excuse to buy books

 

  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: Cape Cod, Mass
Posted by Rick Sr on Friday, April 24, 2020 10:02 PM

Check back issues of Model railroader and you will have some excellent articles on scenicking, especially mountains. It's fairly easy, so dont fret. A good base would be the pink insulation from Home Depot and a hot knife. Just make sure any glue you use is compatible with the materials you use. The November 2019 issue might be a good start.

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Friday, April 24, 2020 11:21 PM

The decal is a gloppy mess but AFA the metal, here's the idea.

Modeling is an excuse to buy books

 

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Friday, April 24, 2020 11:58 PM

N145Z. Beyond that I'll leave it to others to explore. I've been through your write up and the NFS stuff. It's story of a lifetime, although I suppose getting shot in Viet Nam is another one.

That airplane was reduced to bread pans. I am happy but shocked that you survived.

A plastic kit really has limited use here. As I suggested, the hard parts. Sounds like the engine was a ways off, maybe it's better not included. As you know, the point of a dio is to engage the viewer in what is, but also what's not shown.

An airframe w/o an engine suggests far more violence than an engine in view.

There are a couple of photos of the a/c from above that pretty much would want me to do the following (kind of kidding here but a way to suggest how to convey what happened.

Draw the outline in plane of the Mentor on a piece of paper.

Rub down foil over the wings, elevator and fuselage,

Cut out the shapes.

Have a cocktail.

Whack the pieces up into 1/2" squares.Lay them on the drawing .

Take a bunch of pictures.

When you get your ground base done. look at you pictures and do the same in a more relevant fashion to the parts of the airframe.

But don't try to make the plastic airframe model look like the crash. It won't work.

 

 

 

Modeling is an excuse to buy books

 

  • Member since
    July 2019
  • From: Vancouver, British Columbia
Posted by Bobstamp on Saturday, April 25, 2020 1:08 AM

Thanks to everyone for their interesting suggestions. I'm taking them "under advisement". More response tomorrow. Tonight, g'night! Angel

Finished, finally: Airfix 1/72 HP.52 Hampden bomber & Minicraft 1/48 T-34 Mentor trainer. On the bench: Italeri 1/72 UH-34 Seahorse helicopter & Academy 1/72 F-86F Sabre.

  • Member since
    July 2019
  • From: Vancouver, British Columbia
Posted by Bobstamp on Saturday, April 25, 2020 9:31 PM

Thank you, gentlemen. I'll try to respond to all of your our thoughts and suggestions. 

The Minicraft T-34 kit includes the seats but not the engine, so I'd have to look elsewhere for that or just not include it, as GMorrison suggests. As I said, I didn't see the remains of the canopy, the right wing and horizontal stabilizer, or the prop, or the wheels. I was told that the only item that was salvaged was the altimeter. 

I do know T-34’s registration number (see the photo of the model, which includes DIY decals showing the correct registration number).

The aluminum foil is an interesting idea. I've often thought that the wreckage resembled a ball of bright yellow, crumpled aluminum foil. Can aluminum foil be painted with Tamiya spray paint?    

In the moments before the crash, the engine was running smoothly, probably at maximum rpms: seconds earlier, we had flown past a small forest fire, and the pilot was planning to climb over a ridge to our left, just as we had done after our first flypast of the small forest fire we’d been sent to. It seems likely that the plane stalled, and the pilot was trying to regain control when we crashed. The Mentor has a known instability problem in low speed turns. He was an experienced pilot, with 25,000 hours experience, although I don't know how much of that was in the Mentor.

I had all of two or three seconds from the time I realized the aircraft was upside down (or the trees were growing down from the sky) until we hit the trees. I knew I was going to die — people just don't live through crashes like that. I wasn't afraid of dying; what's the point of being afraid of dying when you "know" it's imminent? I remembered that I hadn't told my mother that I was going to be flying over a forest fire. For a few seconds, the ride was like being on the mother of all bucking broncos, and then I was knocked unconscious. Since I had no more than a small cut on the back of my head, I assume that my head was thrown about so violently that my brain was repeatedly slammed hard against the inside of my skull by the violent forces of the crash, during which it seemed we were being thrown in all directions at the same time. I was unconscious for several minutes, at least, and perhaps as long as half an hour. I've since learned that any period of unconsciousness following trauma is evidence of severe concussion.   

Many people, of course, have told me that it was a miracle we weren't killed, but I don't buy that at all. Neither the pilot nor I died because the T-34's kinetic energy bled off relatively slowly with each tree it hit before “encountering terrain” (nice euphemism!) at a shallow angle and sliding through the forest. As well, my safety harness also helped to protect me from severe injury or death. I had asked the pilot if I could unbuckle the harness; it was so tight I couldn’t easily turn to take photos. He suggested that I just loosen it slightly. I did that, and while the safety harness probably saved my life, I was violently slammed against it multiple times during the crash and ended up with a black V-shaped bruise from my shoulders to below my belly button. For a few days, just breathing was difficult.

The plane must have come to a stop very suddenly, because, after the crash, I found my brand-new Yashica-Mat TLR camera at the base of large ponderosa pine several yards from the wreckage. My shoulder harness kept me from flying out of my seat when the plane came to rest, but my camera was secured only by its neck strap around my neck. When I found the camera, its neck strap had snapped in two, and it had obviously hit the tree at high speed: its viewfinder, view screen, and back were gone, the crank that wound the film and set the shutter was bent into a "U," and the sides of the camera body were caved in. Remarkably, its lenses were untouched. When I picked it up, the roll of 120 film tumbled onto the ground, so I'll never know if I got the picture I wanted, of a Grumman TBM dropping a load of fire retardant on the small forest fire.

I joined the Navy a few months later, and was posted to the Navy hospital in Yokosuka, Japan. I took the wreckage of the camera into a camera shop in Yokosuka; they sent it to the Yashica factory in Tokyo, and it came back to me a couple of weeks later, completely refurbished and in operating condition. I have it still, although it went through two other owners before I re-acquired it. I know it's the same camera: I remember the scratches it exhibits, and the crank shows signs of the crash damage. Here's a photo of the camera as it is today:

Yashica-Mat TLR camera

I will look into obtaining copies of those model  railroading magazines. Yesterday I was thinking that the proposed diorama was way beyond my skill level. Today I’m thinking that it just might work out, thanks to your suggestions.    

Bob Ingraham

Vancouver

 

      

Finished, finally: Airfix 1/72 HP.52 Hampden bomber & Minicraft 1/48 T-34 Mentor trainer. On the bench: Italeri 1/72 UH-34 Seahorse helicopter & Academy 1/72 F-86F Sabre.

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Saturday, April 25, 2020 10:28 PM

Aluminum foil takes any kind of paint.

I'm happy to encourage you to do this.

"Encountering terrain" is a spin on a technical term, which is "Flying into terrain".

That usually suggests the crew didn't see it coming.

Anytime you are flying over a fire, all kinds of air conditions will be out there waiting to kill you. Not a pilot, but I do read a lot about that service.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkE24axSBTI

 

Modeling is an excuse to buy books

 

  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Sunday, April 26, 2020 2:52 PM

My Experience:

       When in the Navy I got to see something unusual. An F-4 -J didn't miss the carrier! he hit it right in the stern above the hull. Broke through the bulkhead and sent burning debris everywhere.

   Luckily, that end was empty at the time because we had the whole wing airborne. The Pilot and RIO did eject in time! The COD was slightly singed, But we Damage Control and Fire guys got it extinguished. First and only Military air crash I ever saw. I will say this. The Crew sure got teased about our carrier coming into port with " Her Bloomers" down. LOL. There wasn't much left but little and big smushed aluminum and other metal parts.

    Turns out, at the minute they "Got the Ball," Both Engines quit! On yours I would recommend making use of a lot of bent and scrunched foil parts, Broken trees and skidmarks. And Canopy parts if any survived . The Engine doesn't need to be in the scene. Just the chaos of what The Aircraft became. With a few( Very few) recognisable parts, A wingtip, Flap, stuff like that.

       You can buy the trees and brush at Hobby Lobby especially because they do " Craft Project Bases" with the recommended stuff in a kit, or buy the kit of your choice and modify it. I don't do scenery ,But it doesn't scare me anymore either! If there was a groove in the ground then you can cut it in with a small screwdriver. You don't wan't it smooth and then cover it with fractured plant life in part!

    BoBStamp; Nothing is beyond us. You worked in a field that would've scared me to smithereens. You can do this!

      My actual experience has been the reason I won't fly unless I am in the office. I survived a 747 Crash! Yup. I still have bad dreams about it too. But now I can talk about it at least! 1978, that was the year.  I don't remember the airline. A plane under Contract to another Airline. We hit the ground at landing speed and quickly got spread all over the airport.

 My seat and the one next to me got thrown about, I think, 20 yards into the side of an airport fire truck! I was able to get out of my seat after the rescue folks cut my belt. The lady next to me didn't make it! I won't talk about the airport so don't ask.  

  • Member since
    November 2008
  • From: Central Florida
Posted by plasticjunkie on Sunday, April 26, 2020 7:18 PM

Glad you made it back. That is one experience you will never forget. The foil idea is very possible but look into "Tooling Foil" sold at Hobby Lobby and is sold in packets with several sheets. The material is very similar to wine bottle foil and is just a tad thicker than kitchen foil and will hold its shape much better being sturdier too. I use the tooling foil or wine bottle foil all the time to make rifle slings, tarps and even aircraft parts like the gun hood on my 1/48 Eduard Dora. The kit's plastic hood was too thick and way out of scale but the foil hood looks perfect in details and scale thickness. 

 

 

 GIFMaker.org_jy_Ayj_O

 

 

Too many models to build, not enough time in a lifetime!!

  • Member since
    October 2004
  • From: Orlando, Florida
Posted by ikar01 on Sunday, April 26, 2020 11:24 PM

Good luck on this one, it's going to be quite a challenge.  Wrecks are one reason I would never fly unless it was for a mission that I had to do.  I have been to several aircraft crash sitesand it's amazing where the pieces end up.  At one where a Marine A-4 went down there were pieces hanging in trees.  On the last wreck, which happened to be mw wife's old aircraft the wreckage was spread all the way down a mountain side with the nose compacted into a slab of metal abotu 4 feet wide near a road.  That C-130 was all over the place.

Do you think that you will fly much if any, in the future?

  • Member since
    July 2019
  • From: Vancouver, British Columbia
Posted by Bobstamp on Monday, April 27, 2020 1:35 PM

Thanks again for everyone's suggestions and comments. If it weren't for Covid-19 isolation, I'd be shopping for some supplies to begin that diorama, but it is going to be a long-term project. 

@ikar01: The only "fear of flying" that I've encountered was during the helicopter flight from the crash site to hospital. I did not want to get in that chopper, and I was afraid all the way to the hospital that it would fall out of the sky like the T-34 did. But within four months, I was taking my first airliner flight from Albuquerque to Navy boot camp in San Diego in a Lockheed Electra II, and loving it. Since then I've flown in Martin P5M2 Marline seaplane, a Lockheed Constellation, DC-3s, A Twin Beech (Beech 18), a Cessna 172, UH-34 Sea Horses, a C-141 Star Lifter, a C-130 Hercules, and whatever Huey helicopters are called these days. On my wish list, unlikely to be fulfilled: flights in an open cockpit biplane, a hot air balloon, and a jet fighter. So, no, I guess I'm not afraid of flying!

I can't explain why, but I've never enjoyed flying in helicopters as much as fixed wing aircraft. It's not fear. Helicopters just don't seems like real aircraft to me. But since they twice helped to save my life, I'll happily share my world with them!

Bob  

Finished, finally: Airfix 1/72 HP.52 Hampden bomber & Minicraft 1/48 T-34 Mentor trainer. On the bench: Italeri 1/72 UH-34 Seahorse helicopter & Academy 1/72 F-86F Sabre.

  • Member since
    December 2002
  • From: NYC, USA
Posted by waikong on Friday, June 26, 2020 1:04 PM

Perhaps I'm too late, but I would suggest using thin aluminum, like the bottom of voltive candles or at least 'heavy duty' foil.  The voltive candles are thin and will bend, but will hold it's shape compare to foil.  Here's a picture of a damaged B-57

And here's my recreation using the aluminum from a voltive, along with spare pe, and scratch built plastic for the innards on an 1/48 Airfix kit.

If you are interested, more in progress pictures and explainations here https://waihobbies.wkhc.net/index.php/37-models/sky/vietnam-and-the-cold-war/126-b-57-canberra

Good luck, show us when you start - sometimes we all just overthink it and stops us from building!

 

My website: http://waihobbies.wkhc.net

   

  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Friday, June 26, 2020 1:14 PM

Hey!

       Someone broke my all time fave bird. The use of the votive foil is excellent!

  • Member since
    December 2002
  • From: NYC, USA
Posted by waikong on Friday, June 26, 2020 1:19 PM
Wasn't me!, it was North Vietnamese Ack Ack :)

My website: http://waihobbies.wkhc.net

   

  • Member since
    July 2019
  • From: Vancouver, British Columbia
Posted by Bobstamp on Friday, June 26, 2020 3:37 PM

@waikong: What an impressive model! But I am a long way from developing the skills I would need to do something similar with a T-34 model. Still, you've inspired me to continuew thinking about doing a diorama of my crash site.

It’s interesting that Col. Mason’s mission happened just 10 days after I was wounded in Vietnam. I know there weren’t many Canberras in Vietnam, but I did see one that flew low over our bivouac area at Chu Lai.

Bob 

Finished, finally: Airfix 1/72 HP.52 Hampden bomber & Minicraft 1/48 T-34 Mentor trainer. On the bench: Italeri 1/72 UH-34 Seahorse helicopter & Academy 1/72 F-86F Sabre.

  • Member since
    December 2002
  • From: NYC, USA
Posted by waikong on Friday, June 26, 2020 4:12 PM
Wow, that's quite a series of coincidence, who knows, maybe it was his plane that you saw. Finally, I wanted to tell you I appreciate your service in the armed forces.

My website: http://waihobbies.wkhc.net

   

  • Member since
    May 2011
  • From: Honolulu, Hawaii
Posted by Real G on Friday, June 26, 2020 6:32 PM

Amazing story, and very fortunate that both you and the pilot survived.  I think it brave that you would want to make a diorama of the crash - most people I would imagine would prefer not to be reminded of such an incident.

That being said, I find your project very interesting.  I'd add aluminum duct tape to the list of possible sources of thin metal.  Just wash the adhesive off with a bath of lacquer thinner, and you'll have a lot of thin sheet aluminum for cheap.

Regarding the layout of the diorama, I would suggest having it tell your story versus a strict reproduction of the crash.  Combine elements to show the various details you described in the composition.  For example, the base could be more on the vertical, both to heighten the dramatic impact as well as to represent the terrain the plane went down in.  The smoke jumpers could be on scene (don't forget the chainsaw), with you tending to the pilot while waving to signal them.  Oh yeah, add the camera too.  As for the damaged aircraft, well the real thing got shredded, so you are pretty much free to do anything you feel like!  The small scale will be challenging, but if you can pull off the details, it will make for an awesome diorama.

  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Saturday, June 27, 2020 11:17 AM

When a B-57 flew over Fire Base Alpha it startled us.

      We didn't hear it coming. Just one very neat airplane, whether the British version or the American one . I was fortunate to get into one in the States. Nice Bird!

  • Member since
    November 2015
Posted by STOVK on Thursday, July 2, 2020 4:27 PM

As others have noted, use Aluminum foil. However, I would suggest commercial grade Extra Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil. While heavy duty foil used in a home is usually 0.024 mm (0.94 mils), commercial heavy duty aluminum foil is 0.08 mm, or 80 microns thick. This level of thickness allows for sustained durability. Anything beyond this thickness is custom made.

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