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Aeroscale’s exclusive with Wingnut Wings

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Aeroscale’s exclusive interview with Wingnut Wings James Fahey talks with Richard Alexander in the staff lounge

Wingnut Wings don’t exactly advertise their presence in the southern Wellington suburb of Miramar. The sleepy industrial feel of the street masks the activities of this small model company that has shaken up the modelling world since they launched their first kits back in April 2009. Richard emerged from one of the unmarked buildings shortly after 5pm to invite me up to the staff cafeteria.

I had been hoping that the long awaited next releases might have arrived in time for our meeting. There, sitting on the low table in front of our couches, were a completed Pup and an Albatros. They are both very striking – the Pup for its big red (Japanese) meatball roundels and the Albatros for Otto Kissenberth’s striking edelweiss flower over a black fuselage. But Richard ruefully advised that the new kits have not quite arrived yet. The Albatros is actually finished from a previously assembled grey-painted test shot (the Pup is a proper build of the kit). He told me that the latest information from the shipping company indicates mid-March 2010 arrival. Oh well.

The extended time to market has been caused by a variety of factors, underlying all of which is the high standard Wingnut Wings set themselves on quality and accuracy. Richard said that ". . .many modellers would probably be happy enough with the first or second iteration of a Wingnut Wings kit but this isn’t where we are aiming. . ."

A Typical Day at the Office:
Richard really loves his job. A typical day starts around 8am with answering emails and then scanning the modelling forums. Next comes 2-3 hours with the digital modellers reviewing progress. He works closely with the 3D design team to ensure every detail is captured correctly and the parts are designed to be straightforward to put together. The rest of his day is spent researching markings and other details for the kits in development, and various meetings.

The design and build process is much faster now than it was for the original kits. Some of the current 3D modellers are now working on their third or fourth kit. When Richard joined Wingnut Wings the 3D modelling for the first three models was already underway. The Bristol Fighter was the first he was involved with from conception to completion. I got the impression that future releases will come much more quickly than the Pup and the Albatros have done.

The demand for the first kits has been very encouraging and Wingnut Wings are pressing on with approximately 30 kits in various stages of development.

I asked Richard how involved Peter Jackson is with Wingnut Wings. '. . .Well clearly this is not Peter Jackson’s main business (he is very busy making movies). . .", but Richard is in regular contact with him and he does take a personal interest. ". . .New kit subjects are decided principally by Peter Jackson, based firstly on the aircraft he is interested in and would like to build (yes, he does build them). . ."

The constraint on this is the need to have sufficient reference material available, ideally factory drawings and plans. Having a Datafile on a subject is always the starting point for any new model, but Wingnut Wings would not be able to incorporate the level of details required for 1:32 scale models if this was the only source. “. . .We have been lucky to have access to lots of additional information from various private collectors, museums and restoration companies (like The Vintage Aviator Ltd for example). . .”

They do take into account modellers’ wish lists and are open to suggestions – the third criteria for new kits is the likely level of demand from modellers.

Special Edition Kits:
The first Special Edition kits will come out this year but there are no dates set yet. The photo etched content will be extensive. Richard showed me a proof of the LVG photo etched fret and it is very impressive. Lots of extra detail for the engine and the interior. Some of the PE sets for Special Edition kits will run to 200-250 pieces! Wahoo! This will be a tough decision for the modellers who already built the basic kits because the desire to pick up the Special Edition version will be very strong.

There are approximately 200 figures due to be released, starting later this year. Some will be offered as stand-alone cameos, others only as part of the Special Edition aircraft sets which will have around 3-5 figures (more for the larger planes). The Special Edition Gotha will have three aircrew, four ground crew loading bombs and two mechanics plus ladder. The figures will be cast in resin and Richard is currently working to ensure that the spectacular detail of the original masters (sculpted by Michael and Alan Perry in the UK) is captured in the production versions. Wingnut Wings recognise that some modellers will not be expert figure painters and so the figures will come with a painting guide for beginners in addition to an artists’ guide for the more talented among us. Colour references will be provided (drawing on the extensive collection of original uniforms and flying costumes which Wingnut Wings have access to).

Future Refinements:
Wingnut are continuing to improve their kits based on feedback from the modelling community. Starting with the Albatros, the basic kits will include photo etched cooling barrels for the Spandau and Parabellum machine guns. Also, the very fine fit tolerances for some of the assemblies will be eased slightly (although this change has come too late to be incorporated into the latest new releases).

Decal design is now being done in-house so Richard is more fully involved in the accuracy and fact checking aspects.

Wingnut Wings have refined the appearance of rib tapes, starting with the Pup and Albatros kits, making them slightly less prominent. Richard said ". . .if you look carefully you can see the differences between the RFC and German tape stitching styles have been depicted on the Pup and the Albatros kits. . ." That’s what I call attention to detail!

The lozenge decals are expected to be available before the middle of 2010. Timing and order of other 2010 releases are still under wraps at this stage.

I asked Richard what his preferences are for rigging material. His rigging materials of choice are 'Knit in Elastic - Pyjama Cord' (see here) stocked by a local handcraft store for RAF streamline wires (as seen on the Japanese Pup) and fine EZ Line for the rest (both are stretchy elastic). He has used the photo etched RAF Wire for sample testing purposes. The Wingnut Wings PE sets for the RAF streamline flying wires are still under development. Turnbuckles are also still in the pipeline.

Is there any chance of Wingnuts producing kits in other scales? “Not in any smaller scales” said Richard with a wry smile.

What about possible changes in their distribution strategy? Presently Wingnut Wings only sell direct from their website - even the local hobby shop can’t obtain wholesale prices. Richard is very aware that some countries around the world have very low thresholds for imposing VAT and import taxes, and this has added substantially to the all-up cost for some modellers. Some deliveries seem to get through without additional costs but there is nothing legally that Wingnut Wings can do to reduce VAT and import charges. Richard has no plans to establish overseas distributors as the final retail price under such an arrangement is unlikely to be much different to the current all-up cost.

Some Accuracy Questions:
I asked Richard how Wingnut Wings handle misinformation about their kits, for example the ‘anhedral’ issue with the Junkers J1 top wing. He believes there are sufficient experts frequenting the various forums that most problems are self-correcting within a short while. A few specific points: he assured me that the length of the German observer’s Parabellum machine gun is correct, and also that the lozenge decal colours match original fabric samples which he has access to. Modellers emailing with comments or questions will find Wingnut to be responsive and forthcoming but Richard prefers not to respond publicly regarding issues on forums.

The Latest Releases:
As the interview came to an end Richard passed me a couple of bags with two Sopwith Pups (RFC and RNAS versions) and two Albatros kits (D.V & D.Va versions) inside for reviewing. This came as quite a surprise as only single kits were expected to be released. He noted that the price for each will be US$59 and the worldwide free shipping offer has been extended to include these four new models.

Detailed reviews of the models will be covered in Aeroscale’s Early Aviation Forum but a few general observations can be made at this stage.

The instruction booklets are really very impressive and show Wingnut Wings’ dedication to research and accuracy. They are in full colour A4 size and include numerous photos of surviving aeroplanes and engines plus crisp & clear historical photos, many of which appear to be previously unpublished. The photos of the Daimler-Mercedes D.IIIaü 180PS - D.IIIav 200PS engine in the D.Va kit are outstanding! Wingnut Wings have gone out of their way to provide modellers with all the reference information needed, even for the detail-afflicted amongst us.

The choice of markings is interesting and varied. The two Albatros kits are all of mauve/green finished aircraft, with lozenge-printed fabric options still to come. In fact, nearly 70 further Albatros D.V and D.Va decal options are in development for release later in 2010 and 2011. What a mind blower! This indicates a very serious focus on excellence from Wingnut, lifting the bar even further.

These decals will be made available in several ways, some will be included in forthcoming special edition kitsets, some will be sold separately as aftermarket decals and some will be released in limited edition kitsets.

This approach to the Albatros suggests to me that a similar approach will probably be taken for the Fokker DVII when it comes out.

These kits have quality written all over them. A first look at the plastic parts shows some very fine moulding and attention to detail as we have come to expect. There are lots of variant parts included such as a choice of propellers, windscreens and (in the case of the Albatros kits) a choice of engine and radiator types. The Pup has optional side cowls, engine cowls, 2 propellers, a 9901a Type fuselage and upper wing. There is even a little flare pistol for the Albatros and a couple of different flare cartridge racks. All rigging holes have been pre-drilled.

Each sprue is bagged separately, as well as the instruction booklet and decal sheet, to keep everything protected.

These kits are so well done I run the risk of appearing to be a ‘fanboy’ lacking in objectivity. I don’t think there is any such thing as a perfect kit, but these four certainly impress on first look. Expect to see some stunning builds coming soon. Expect to be seriously dazzled when the Special Edition kits are launched.

Disclosure of Interest:
I am not directly associated with Wingnut Wings although I do go to the same IPMS club as Richard and two other Wingnuts staff.
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About the Author

About James Fahey (Jamo_kiwi)

I started modelling Airfix kits in the late '60s, eventually building most of the range and hanging them from the ceiling of my bedroom. In my teens I did a bit of wargaming, first WWII then Ancients using 28mm white metal figures. My first foray into WWI modelling was also for wargaming and I built...


Come over to the darkside "D" we have cookies!
FEB 26, 2010 - 10:08 AM
Girlscout cookies? Where?
FEB 26, 2010 - 10:17 AM
Hi Rowan, whilst a lot of people want WNW's to use a traditional distribution method, i think (as the interview alluded to) that wholesaler and retailer markups would probably mean you end up paying the same or maybe even more anyway. Plus i bet you'd get them a lot slower as well. I've been thinking for years now, that in these days of near instant worldwide electronic communications why we even still have the old style wholesalers/distributors at all. And then along comes WNW's and proves my theory. I hope more companies follow them. But the question of customs duty/tax is valid, but i assume if they were bought in by a distributor they are still paying some form of duty or tax and putting in their markup anyway? Andrew
FEB 26, 2010 - 11:09 AM
Hi Dave This is from Richard Alexander "Please note we still have limited stocks of our 1st 4 models which also include free worldwide shipping" So go for it! Happy Modelling James
FEB 26, 2010 - 11:45 AM
Yield to that temptation. Take the plunge into the Depths of early aviation, don't look back, your modeling skills will be honed and sharpened to a keen edge, your accomplishments will be the envy of all who witness your completed builds and you will ascend into a new realm of modeling glory. Well, they are a lot of fun anyway.
FEB 26, 2010 - 03:25 PM
Hi there Check out the latest edition of Windsock for full builds of the Pup and Albatros kits - absolutely stunning! I think I'll simply have to buy an Albatros too now! All the best Rowan
FEB 27, 2010 - 02:06 AM
Hi Andrew The real problem here is not just the cost, but not knowing how much you'll get clobbered for. It really seems to be pot luck. When you're on a tight budget, you simply want to know up front what the final cost will be... Buying in the shops couldn't be slower than it has been already for me - because I'm sad to say the current system has put me off buying altogether so far! But that will change with the release of the Pup and Albatros kits. All the best Rowan
FEB 27, 2010 - 02:15 AM
I really feel for you guys and your problems with taxes, import fees and postal limitations. It is sad there is no way to cure it. These kits are absolutely stunning and worth the $59.00. I do not think it is fair that you have to pay up to twice that amount. I am sure the folks at Fort Wingnut would love to find a solution. But being a respectable company, their hands are tied. But let me focus on these kits now. For as long as I have been a member here, I have been complaining about the lack of a 1/32nd scale Albatros D.V / D.Va. Now, we are close. Really, really close to a double release. They look amazing, and I am anxious to get my grubbies around them.
FEB 27, 2010 - 06:59 AM
MAR 01, 2010 - 10:58 AM
This is their teaser format. When the icon boxes change to active status the frenzy begins. Also look for a bit of fun in the reviews section very soon as well. http://www.wingnutwings.com/ww/
MAR 01, 2010 - 03:24 PM