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P-51B Mustang
in flight

by Fred List


North American P-51B Mustang
363 FS/357th Fighter Group, Pilot: Captain Don Bochkay


Tamiya's 1/48 scale P-51B Mustang is available online from Squadron.com




"Here They Come...!"

I guess I’ve always thought that most aircraft look best in the air and arguably, none more so than the Mustang.

As a kid nearly all the aircraft models I made were made “gear-up” and immediately upon completion, hung from the ceiling of my room. Conversely, as an adult modeler my aircraft models were all grounded, but I’ve always admired the work of modelers such as Caz Dalton and others who choose to model their aircraft in flight.



So, in order to change things up a bit this time, I elected to make Tamiya’s excellent 1/48th scale P-51B kit as an “in-flight” desk model mounted on a wooden base.





The construction of the Tamiya Mustangs has been covered many times here and elsewhere so I won’t say anything more than it was a very straightforward build that presented no problems. Modifications from straight OOB construction were limited to the ailerons, which were separated from the wing during construction and re-positioned to display a slight left roll attitude.

Since I wanted to mount the model on a base, but still give the impression of a “dynamic” scene, I elected to mount the model using a thin, but sturdy bit of metal rod that bent back out of the way as much as possible. I found the perfect size and strength in a heavy wire clothes hanger. I cut off most of the upper section, keeping only the straight bottom and one of the U-bends. After first test fitting several times, I used a rat-tailed file to sand a hole for the rod to exit along the bottom of the aircraft along central axis, behind the tail wheel. The U-bend part of the rod was further bent into a loop so it wouldn’t twist within the plane, and was glued into the fuselage with a lot of 2-part epoxy. The fuselage halves were then glue together.
For the pilot, I elected to modify the Tamiya pilot figure slightly, by lopping off his head (!)… and re-positioning it looking to his left. I then used a small bit of Squadron Green putty to re-contour his neck. An oxygen mask and hose was made from liquid latex and very fine copper wire (fuse wire), wrapped around a pin.

The kit drop tanks were assembled with 2 loops of aluminum wire added on the top of each tank as mounts. The tanks were then painted, weathered and set aside to be added last.



I’ve always thought that the shape of the Tamiya prop spinner for the Mustangs was a bit oddly. It comes in two parts and the rearmost of the two parts flares out at a slightly greater angle than the front part. I haven’t heard anyone mention this before, but it bothered me enough to want to fix it as best I could. My initial thoughts were since I was doing an “in-flight” model I wouldn’t use the propellers, but just have the spinner. (I changed my mind later on this). I glued the two halves together and filled in the prop holes with Squadron Green putty. This required two applications as the putty does shrink a bit. Following this, I smoothed the putty flush with the spinner and in the process sanded down the rear half of the spinner until it was flush with the front half and had what looked like an even cone shape.

My only concession to the aftermarket for this build was the addition of Moskit metal exhausts of which I’m a devoted fan.





In looking at the photos that are available of the 357th FG aircraft there appears to clearly be two “shades” of green used. The conventional wisdom says that Mustang fighters painted in the US factories were USAAF Olive Drab, and ones delivered to England in natural metal/silver lacquer were camouflaged there using the widely available RAF Dark Green.

Fortunately, while I was building this model and trying to decide on what colors and markings to use, Merle Olmsted (357th FG Armorer & historian), posted photos of Speedball Alice 36963 on the C.E. “Bud” Anderson website, along with information on the correct serial numbers for Bochkay’s aircraft. This information was invaluable in getting the colors and markings right. The information on the specifics of this aircraft (as well as many others from the 357th FG), can be found at the C.E. “Bud” Anderson website,

The decals for this aircraft were from the Super Scale sheet, but the decal sheet includes a serial number for this aircraft that is incorrect as are the color call outs. The correct serial number was made up by cutting the needed numbers out of another decal sheet.





After the painting and assembly of the aircraft was finished I hung the drop tanks from the aircraft on 0.001 inch thick stainless steel wires. Unfortunately, wire this thin doesn’t have much strength and they promptly broke when the model was moved. I then tried 0.015 inch thick wire that was stronger, but was still thin enough to be unobtrusive.



When I started photographing the model I realized quickly that I wasn’t satisfied with the realism of the propellerless spinner, so decided to swap out the propellerless hub with the prop from my other 357th FG P-51 model. I used a hairdryer to spin the prop, which had the added benefit of causing the droptanks to oscillate, and added to the realism. (Thanks for the idea Snake!). After photographing, I put the spinner with the props back on my other model and put the prop-less one back on for static display. The photos were taken using a Nikon Coolpix 950 digital camera using a mixture of fluorescent and incandescent lighting. I used Photoshop to erase the mounting rod and the wires suspending the tanks, but otherwise the photos aren’t enhanced in any way.

This was a quick, fun project that didn’t require a lot of super-detailing or aftermarket expense, but still built into a nice conversation piece for my work desk. Maybe next a Bf-109 to put in front of it….?





  • 357th Fighter Group. Squadron/Signal Publications

  • P-51 Mustang Walk Around Squadron/Signal Publications

  • P-51 Mustang In Action Squadron/Signal Publications

  • Super Scale Decals sheet # 48-554


Model, Images and Article Copyright © 2002 by Fred List
Page Created 17 January 2002
Last updated 04 June 2007

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