F*CKING IRENE!: Building Kitty Hawk’s 1/35 UH-60L “Super 64 – Venom”: Part 3 – Corrections.

The phrase “paralysis by analysis” seems fitting as Venom has slowed to a halt as a multitude of changes and additions are required to get the most accurate MH-60L out of the Kitty Hawk kit. I’ve already blown through two self-imposed deadlines to have the entire kit completed, and I don’t think I’m getting any closer.

It seems that Kitty Hawk’s model is indicative of a later MH-60L, and is much closer to the type used in the movie Blackhawk Down, the type that appears to be shown in these great pictures on aircraftresourcecenter.com. In fact, it seems the model was specifically based off of those pictures (note the ceiling, the orientation of the crew seats, the internal aux tanks, etc).

Here are a few notes based on my primary sources. These are good for S64, and likely hold true to any of the Lima UH-60s present on October 3, but check your references (whew, good luck).

  • The interior floor of the crew compartment was covered in an armored blanket. The blanket was installed as 4 largely rectangular pieces. There is some uncertainty as to how many access holes to the cargo rings on the floor the blanket had, and if it extended to the rear bulkhead or ended where the aux tanks would be. There were pieces of the blanket under the pilot and co-pilot and it extended up the interior wall in front of the crew chief seats. The blanket appears to be more olive green than olive drab.
Correct orientation of crew seats also showing armored blanket.
  • The crew chief (CE) seats actually face outwards behind the mini-guns, not with their back to the pilots. This requires creating a bracket on the ceiling to attach the CE seats in their proper orientation.
  • The ammo cans in the kit are wrong, as is their location. We are researching to correct these aspects.
  • The SATCOM antenna on the kit is incorrect. It is not the cross antenna (parts C52 & G32) Kitty Hawk supplied. Again, research is being conducted to correct these parts but it will be more like the so-called bat wing antenna present on Little Birds in Mogadishu.
  • There were no laser threat detectors on S64, or likely any of the UH-60s on October 3, 1993. This means omitting D63 and D62 in step 14, and modifying the tail assembly in step 13 to reflect a more typical UH-60 tail. This will require some cutting and filling but isn’t anything too difficult.
Cut the kit part back to replicate the dimensions of scaled up schematics of the UH-60A.

  • The hoist controls (for the aircraft that had a hoist) in the kit are for a later version (also like was linked in the pictures linked above). We have designed a corrected hoist control that is being 3d printed.
  • There were no auxiliary fuel tanks present in S64. The distance to any target was too short to require the tanks, and the extra crew space was needed for Rangers.
  • The soundproofing material was present covering the entire ceiling, not leaving the ceiling structure partially exposed as in the kit. I fixed this by simply taping over the exposed interior structure and painting it. There are many ways to skin this cat, however.
  • On S64 the fast rope bars were locked in the extended position with the ropes installed. The ropes were 30′ long with the excess coiled on the crew compartment floor.
  • The external stores support system (ESSS) wings were not present on any of the aircraft on the October 3 raid. This means ignoring those assemblies in steps 17 and 18. Not referenced in the instructions, but included in the kit, are the correct ESSS stubs. These will be used instead of the wings.
  • The kit omits the prominent towel-rack antenna along the port side of the tail. This will require some scratch building.

This is the bulk of the corrections that we have noted and believe need to be corrected for a more accurate Mogadishu raid Blackhawk.

Next up I hope to have the interior together and the fuselage halves closed.

F*CKING IRENE!: Building Kitty Hawk’s 1/35 UH-60L “Super 64 – Venom”: Part 2 – Engine.

As seems to be typical with Kitty Hawk kits, this came with a rendition of the two GE T-700 turbo-shaft engines. The T-700 is the workhorse of the United States military helicopter fleet being found in everything from the Blackhawk, to the Viper, Apache and others. As such, I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see what I could do with the kit engines. And, as my vision for this project was for her to be displayed as she would have been early in the morning of 3 October 1993, an open engine compartment is a reasonable configuration as the crew could have been pre-flighting the bird to prepare for any potential mission of the day.

The engine is essentially two rather ill fitting halves with plugs that go on both ends for the compressor face or exhaust detail, and some plumbing. It fits securely into a very complicated engine nacelle assembly that requires a great deal of test fitting and patience to get aligned properly (this is not including the insane assembly for the transmissions, rotor hub and intakes that will be addressed later). When together, it’s a pretty impressive sub assembly straight out of the box. But, to do this right was going to take a great deal of plumbing to get anywhere close to satisfying an inspection on the judges’ table. So, I scoured my references and the internet for pictures of the number 1 engine in situ.

One of the better references was actually this video of a pre-flight inspection on a Blackhawk.

Pausing that at key points will allow you to see about any of the wiring and plumbing that you could want to add for whatever of realism you are wanting to build to.

Once I had a enough references and a plan in mind, I broke out my collection of lead wire, plastic rod, mini-drill set, and got to work. After several sessions at the bench I had something that I felt was a decent representation of the engine and plumbing.

I masked off the surrounding area and primed the engine and compartment with Mr. Finishing Surfacer 1500 black. I sprayed the engine with several shades of alclad including steel, dark aluminum, anodized aluminum, and white aluminum. Then, I sprayed the engine compartment with Gunze stainless steel.

Next it was time to pick out the wires and other details, beginning with Mig Silver applied with a fine brush and continuing on with a citadel brass type color and Vallejo Model Color’s light rubber, red, yellow, white and custom mixed combinations of the same with Tamiya’s green and blue. Then, I cleared with Alclad’s Aquagloss in preparation for some decals and weathering.

With the color mostly down it became apparent that some detail was lacking and that some placards on the engine would add a touch of needed realism. I dug out my sets of Aeroscale cockpit placards and tried to replicate a few of the more noticeable markings that exist on the engine and plumbing.

Now it was time for some light weathering including a simple dark enamel wash on the engine and compartment to add some depth and a tiny bit of grime. I opted for light weathering on the engine and compartment as these aircraft from the 160th SOAR were famously well maintained. In fact, in Durant’s book “In the Company of Heroes” he commented how his crew treated his aircraft like a hot rod, including putting armor all on the tires between missions. I put his book in the upper echelon of aviation related books. It is probably not as good to me as Robin Olds’ “Fighter Pilot” or Dan Hampton’s “Lords of the Sky”, but it is a good read.

In any event, after a light coat of Testor’s dullcote, the engine is complete and ready for installation when the fuselage catches up to it.

F*CKING IRENE!: Building Kitty Hawk’s 1/35 UH-60L “Super 64 – Venom”: Part 1 – The Cockpit.

Good luck boys, be careful.

All units IRENE, I say again IRENE. It’s time to get started on this long awaited project.

I’ve never built a Kitty Hawk kit, but I’ve heard lots of…things. Upon opening the substantial box, I am extremely impressed. I don’t feel a need to do sprue reviews, as others have done a far better job, but the detail is indeed very nice.

That said, I am trying to build Durant’s “Super-64” as it would have been on the morning of October 3, 1993. To do that as accurately as possible, my references indicate that there are some changes that will need to be made with the kit.

We will begin with some bullet points in the cockpit and crew areas.

  1. The most substantial accuracy issue is that, at least in Super 64, the crew chief seats are positioned with their backs to each other, behind the mini guns, and not with their backs to the pilots as is the only option in the kit. To correct this accurately will take a ceiling bracket that we have designed and had 3d printed. You could probably make the same with some scratch building skills.
  2. The ammo cans for the miniguns were 3000 round and probably positioned between the crew seats and the pilots seats. Ignore the kit directions on their locations. I am working on some confirmation of their positions and locations but it is clear that with the proper crew seat position the kits position of the ammo cans are incorrect.
  3. There were no internal fuel tanks as she was carrying 18 Rangers and needed the maximum passenger load.
  4. The fast rope bar would have been locked in the extended position with the rope attached and the running end coiled on the floor.
  5. There should be two survival bags mounted to the rear cabin wall. I am going to create this with apoxie sculpt. This too might be something we include in the aforementioned correction set if we find there is enough interest.
  6. The floor in the cargo area and around the pilots would have had 1/2″ thick rolled steel ballistic armor.

With those changes in mind, I started building the crew compartment. This is a very clever sub assembly that will be trapped in the fuselage halves once built up. The detail is superb, but there are a few problems.

First, note the way the instrument panel attaches into the combing along the top. These holes will have be filled and sanded along with the two circular holes along the top that are for parts not present in 64 (both parts F-34 should be deleted but not discarded).

Second, the instructions would have you install the rudder pedals (E-21) backwards. It’s difficult to explain how you can tell the difference, but the picture below should show what I believe to be the correct orientation based on several reference photographs of the same.

Also shown in the picture above is the re-use of parts F-34 under the instrument cowl and the location of the PE angle brackets. The instructions do very little to help install the PE brackets in a way that makes sense and that is as close as I could get them to my reference photographs (note: I’m not as confident about this orientation as I am the pedals).

Third, the ceiling, while a nicely rendered part is in desperate need of some up-detailing with wires and some plaisticard. The UH-60L ceiling could be covered with a type of soundproofing panels and Kitty Hawk has decided to have part of that covering off exposing the underlying structure. I initially tried to build this to some reference photographs I have of an aircraft with a similar configuration and I got about about halfway done with some plumbing when it was confirmed that Super 64 had all of the soundproofing panels in place. Back to the drawing board. Note also in this photograph that if you are moving the crew chief seats into their proper assault configuration as discussed above, there are holes to be filled (and holes that exist to apparently receive the bracket for the crew chief seats leading me to believe the bracket has been contemplated by Kitty Hawk but not included for some reason).

Getting to this point, I was eager to get some paint on the instrument panel and see what I could do with it. Even with that, I wanted to try out the kit instrument panel decal. By trial, and without reservation, I can say do not use it in its entirety. Instead, punch out individual dial faces, or other minor details, and use them individually. I did that and also augmented those with some aeroscale instrument decals, then painted the MFDs with transparent green, picked out a few dials and buttons per references, and gave it all some weathering to tie it together. I also added some lead wire in bundles behind the instrument panel to give a hint of the business behind there. After a coat of dullcote the lenses of the instruments were filled with Bondic, or Future for the MFDs. I’m pretty impressed with where this is headed so far.

Up next, I’m going to give the engine some detailing before I get back to the crew compartment.

PROLOGUE: Taking Kitty Hawk’s 1/35 MH-60L on a personal journey.

October 3, 1993, is a day that many will probably only remember because of the 2001 Ridley Scott film “Blackhawk Down” (based on Mark Bowden’s 1999 book of the same title). It’s something more important to me.

Super 64 in her final resting place.

In a very real way, though nothing as significant or as tragic as those that were actually involved in Mogadishu on that Sunday in 1993, the arc of this story had a profound impact on my life. I recall being 14 and following the story of the total loss of the aircraft and pilots of Super 61 in Mogadishu. I vividly recall reading of the loss of Super 64, the capture of Mike Durant, the loss of 64’s remaining crew, and being in awe of the subsequent heroics of two Delta operators who held off a whole city of hostiles until they gave their own lives, eventually being awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Durant’s tale was the proverbial straw that convinced the camel’s back that while I knew I was going to be a pilot, that instead of the Navy (thanks “Top Gun”), or the Air Force (despite “Iron Eagle”), being an Army pilot was my life’s calling. My father, a civilian fixed wing pilot and aerospace engineer, was not particularly pleased. I heard more than once that “those things aren’t supposed to fly” and helicopters just “beat the air into submission”. To him, while he never pushed me in any direction and was always supportive of my decisions, I should be going “mach 2 with my hair on fire.”

In 1999 after Bowden’s book was released, I was a 20 year old college student at Ft. Benning, Ga., going through Airborne training. I was checking all of the right boxes to earn my gold bars and then my slot in flight school. While there, I read Bowden’s book, reinvigorated in my career choice, and I knew that those coveted silver airborne wings were soon going to fall slightly on my uniform to be replaced with the wings of an Army Aviator.

In early 2002, having just watched my peers get their commissions and head off to lead men in far away deserts, I watched “Blackhawk Down”, broken hearted, having my life’s dreams dashed by the cold, final determination of a medical discharge. As much time as I had spent devouring all things helicopter, it took the better part of two decades for me to look at one again with any sort of awe or appreciation. I could only see what should have been and feel the hurt of losing control of my life’s direction.

In late 2019, as a 40 year old father and husband, supremely happy and content with the life that I have been blessed with, I have finally decided to revisit, and both put to bed and again appreciate with child like wonder, a part of my youth that had such a big impact on my life. This project is the result.

While I don’t have permission to use any names, I have reached out to, and surprisingly was able to enlist the help of, an individual who is very important to this story. I want to try to get the UH-60L “Super 64 – Venom” as correct as possible for the memories of all of those affected by that day almost 30 years ago. To that person, who will probably never see this, you have my most sincere gratitude for more than you can possibly understand.