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World War II
Discuss WWII and the era directly before and after the war from 1935-1949.
Hosted by Rowan Baylis
Old 'n' chubby - Matchbox Buffalo (OOB)
Mechworker
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Ontario, Canada
Joined: September 20, 2013
KitMaker: 289 posts
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Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - 01:09 PM UTC
It’s not just loser cars that I like. I also like loser airplanes. For all the great aircraft that have served the US Navy over the course of its lifetime, there have also been a few… well… flops. The word “flop” really seems appropriate when you consider the Brewster F2A Buffalo. Sure, it was the first USN monoplane, so you have to cut it some slack… but still.

I have several 1/72 Buffalos, like the Farpro Japan and ancient Revell. However, it will come as no surprise if you’ve ever visited my site, that I’ve always wanted the Matchbox. It’s been hard to find, and the first time I’ve seen one since I was a kid was this year at the HeritageCon show in Hamilton, Ontario. Of course I got it, and it won a poll I ran to see which was the kit most people wanted to see reviewed.

So, check out this classic bit of Matchbox engineering, and remember, it doesn’t get any better than this!

https://adamrehorn.wordpress.com/matchbox-1-72-brewster-buffalo-oob/


Jessie_C
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British Columbia, Canada
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Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2019 - 02:19 AM UTC
The only reason the Buffalo was a 'flop' was the US Navy's insistence on trying to fly it like the old biplane fighters they had previously used. When flown to its strengths (as the Finns did), it was the equal to its contemporaries and superior to many.

Much too late, the US Navy tried comparing it to the Wildcat (which also suffered from similar misuse early in its career, thus birthing the legend of the invincible Zero). When the Navy pilots used the Buffalo in the same way they used the Wildcat (Zoom climbs, dives and other energy manoeuvres rather than turning) they found it to perform just as well.

The second (and decisive) reason the Buffalo flopped was the Brewster Factory in New York, and Brewster's unscrupulous sales tactics of promising what they could not deliver. The factory was in a multiple story urban building nowhere near an airport, and had no room to be converted to fill the volume orders the Navy required. Each airframe had to be lifted between floors during the different stages of production, disassembled, trucked to the airport and reassembled. This arrangement was perfectly acceptable during peacetime, but hopelessly antiquated, slow and unresponsive during wartime.
Mechworker
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Ontario, Canada
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Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2019 - 01:05 PM UTC
Jessie:

You're correct about the tactical misuse of the Buffalo. Let's face it, most US fighters of WWII (with the notable exception of the Mustang) were more "slashers" than "knife fighters" - big heavy planes with big engines and heavy firepower are an American thing! Actually, except for a few notable exceptions, that's always been the way, right up until the late '70s when the Vietnam Experience finally put paid to that idea.

I did NOT know that about the Brewster factory. What kind of fool puts a plane factory nowhere near a runway? May as well build boats in the desert or trains on a barge!
Jessie_C
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British Columbia, Canada
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Posted: Friday, April 26, 2019 - 04:02 AM UTC

Quoted Text

I did NOT know that about the Brewster factory. What kind of fool puts a plane factory nowhere near a runway? May as well build boats in the desert or trains on a barge!



The short-sighted kind. It started existence as an aircraft division of Brewster & Co., a company that originally sold carriages and had branched into automobile bodies and airplane parts.
...production was slow, at least partly due to an inefficient factory in Queens, New York.

During World War II, it became apparent that Brewster was mismanaged. The company had grown from a relatively minor aircraft parts supplier to a full-fledged defense giant in only a few years. Brewster ranked 84th among United States corporations in value of World War II military production contracts. Jimmy Work had hired Alfred and Ignacio Miranda as the company salesmen. They had been involved in frauds, spending two years in prison for selling illicit arms to Bolivia, and had over-promised Brewster production capabilities to customers.


The whole mess is quite well explained in the In Action book.
Redhand
#0
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New Jersey, United States
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Posted: Friday, April 26, 2019 - 08:14 AM UTC

Quoted Text

The only reason the Buffalo was a 'flop' was the US Navy's insistence on trying to fly it like the old biplane fighters they had previously used. When flown to its strengths (as the Finns did), it was the equal to its contemporaries and superior to many.

Much too late, the US Navy tried comparing it to the Wildcat (which also suffered from similar misuse early in its career, thus birthing the legend of the invincible Zero). When the Navy pilots used the Buffalo in the same way they used the Wildcat (Zoom climbs, dives and other energy manoeuvres rather than turning) they found it to perform just as well.




I am an admirer of the Buffalo, but to your discussion I would add that crappy, overhauled, former airline R-1820 engines installed in many B-339 versions (especially in Dutch aircraft) contributed to its poor reputation. These second-rate engines (all that were available) definitely degraded performance.

The aircraft also had an undercarriage that could not withstand the rigors of carrier landings, and its reputation suffered because of this.

Finally, the F2A-3's flight characteristics suffered even more with the addition of an extra foot of fuselage added forward to increase fuel load. This did not endear it to pilots. But that is properly the Navy's fault, not Brewster's.

The Finns had the best version, and they made good use of it. As a modeling subject. the Buff is one of my all-time favorite subjects.


Mechworker
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Ontario, Canada
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Posted: Friday, April 26, 2019 - 11:40 PM UTC
I also wasn't aware they used radial engines that were... previously enjoyed, shall we say!

I do have a couple questions, though:

1.) Is the Matchbox an F2A-2 standard, then? I can't tell if it has the foot extension or not, but I don't think the export planes had that.

2.) Did all Navy planes have the tube sight? Most pics I've seen of USN Buffalos show a tube sight, but not all do. My Farpro has one, and the Revell shows it (I believe), but foreign versions and the Matchbox do not have it. What's the deal there?

Thanks!
Jessie_C
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British Columbia, Canada
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Posted: Saturday, April 27, 2019 - 11:06 AM UTC
The Matchbox kit is the export Brewster 339. It can't be built as a US Navy aircraft without a few mods. The In-Action book explains all the differences between the US Navy and the export versions.
Mechworker
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Ontario, Canada
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Posted: Saturday, April 27, 2019 - 09:22 PM UTC
Thanks, Jessie, for that info! That's too bad, I really wanted to do a USN version. I guess I'll have to use the Farpro for that, or get my hands on that "In Action". I have many of them, but not the Buffalo one!
stooge
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South Australia, Australia
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Posted: Sunday, April 28, 2019 - 12:07 PM UTC
Are there any 1:48 kits of the Buffalo about?
c4willy
#305
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Christchurch, New Zealand
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Posted: Sunday, April 28, 2019 - 12:57 PM UTC
Funnily enough both Tamiya and Classic Airframes have both made versions of it in 1/48. Tamiya's is definitely the easiest to build, I built Jeff Fiskens aircraft with it and it went together as easily as you'd expect. I think Special Hobby also do one in 1/32 although I've not seen the actual kit firsthand. And Special Hobby has the old Classic Airframes moulds so I think they produce a kit in 1/48 as well, have I missed any?
Jessie_C
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British Columbia, Canada
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Posted: Monday, April 29, 2019 - 02:50 AM UTC

Quoted Text

Funnily enough both Tamiya and Classic Airframes have both made versions of it in 1/48. Tamiya's is definitely the easiest to build, I built Jeff Fiskens aircraft with it and it went together as easily as you'd expect. I think Special Hobby also do one in 1/32 although I've not seen the actual kit firsthand. And Special Hobby has the old Classic Airframes moulds so I think they produce a kit in 1/48 as well, have I missed any?



The Tamiya kit is the more available of the two. It can easily be built to 21st Century standards, which is quite remarkable for a kit from 1974. Here's a lovely build of it elseforum. The kit's biggest issue is that there's nothing behind the engine, which is very visible through the wheel wells. An aftermarket Wright 1820 would do wonders to make it look better.
stooge
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South Australia, Australia
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Posted: Monday, April 29, 2019 - 11:33 AM UTC
Thanks for the kit info and the link to excellent build. Much appreciated.

I'm sure Aussies flew Buffalos somewhere but I've not paid attention to where when. Back to the library.