103rd Fighter Wing
"The Flying Yankees"
Modeling the 103rd FW
Creating 80 Years of History in Plastic
BY: Len Roberto
IPMS Igor Sikorsky, Stratford, CT
The Connecticut Air National Guard is one of the nationís oldest units tracing its lineage back to WWI. In 1923, the unit was permanently established as the 118th Observation Squadron attached to the 43rd Infantry Division and was flying the classic JN4 Jenny. Through WWII to today, the unit has been involved in many conflicts the US has entered including most recently, Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In late 2001, 103rd pilot Captain Brian Boeding and SSgt. George Schnyer were thinking about ways to celebrate the outfitís rich history with the 80th anniversary of its birth approaching. Brian had embraced the legacy of his unit and had acquired boxes of photos, memorabilia and other historical items. A mini-museum on the unitís history seemed within reach. Our model club member Glenn Higgs, happened to call Maj. George Worrall at the same time this idea was germinating to request information on unit markings. One thing led to another and the idea was born to recreate all of the aircraft flown by the unit in scale models. The goal was 1/48 scale but they all realized a few would have to be in smaller 1/72 scale due to kit availability and to size restrictions. Glenn approached our model club in August 2001 with the idea and enthusiasm quickly built. A preliminary list of what aircraft were desired was distributed to those who wanted to join the build.
On July 30, 2005, IPMS Igor Sikorsky model club members were invited to the formal dedication of the recently completed modeling project that spanned four years and involved over 30 scale models. The 103rd Fighter Wing now has a display the equal of the best aviation museums in the world. Beautiful mirror-backed display cases present the models as well as historical memorabilia including photos, uniforms, ordnance, and documents. Visiting dignitaries including President Bush have commented on the uniqueness and breadth of the display. The creation of this amazing modeling project is a great story and is a tremendous way to honor the members who have served in this historic military unit.
Many club members happily contributed their skills to help Brianís vision come to life. Air Guard member George Schnyer acquired the kits needed as well as decal sets, resin bits and custom decals to create the unique unit markings found throughout the 80-year history of the group. Most of the models were classics like P-40ís, P-47ís, P-51ís, and of course the unitís current mount, the A-10 Warthog. The list also included more difficult builds like an O-46, early jet fighters, and a number of WWI-era biplanes.
Our goal was to produce the most accurate and well-built models that we could. Some of the subjects were well documented with numerous photos to help the modeler with the location of markings and aircraft paint schemes. Conversely, other subjects were documented with only a single photo so assumptions had to be made based on the best information available. A local printer helped us produce sheets of black letter decals for the "CONN ANG" markings we would need for many of the postwar aircraft. The unitís "Flying Yankee" artwork was also scaled down to decal form. Each month, a model or two would be completed and handed over to George for transporting up to the Operations Building at the unitís Bradley Field base.
The first batch of 20 or so models was placed in a large glass case. Eventually, a budget was approved for 10 walnut trimmed, 2-shelf cases with mirrored back panels. These gorgeous cases now line the walls of the Operations Building. They tell the story of the unitís history in chronological order form the Jenny to the Warthog. Above the cases hang framed paintings, drawings and photographs further illustrating the unit, its members and aircraft. Taken as a whole, the display is one that any aviation museum in the world would be thrilled to have within its walls. The stars of the display are the models:
It was an honor to be part of this project and all of us who built models are justly proud. Hopefully, we can inspire other model clubs to do similar projects for their local military units.
Please click below to see all of the pictures
103rd FW Modeling
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