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.
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.
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.