1/48 P-61B Black Widow – Lady in the Dark

Welcome, this next build is one of my favorite World War II aircraft. I will be building the 1/48 Great Wall Hobby P-61B. The P-61 nicknamed “Black Widow” was the first aircraft specifically designed to be a night fighter. It was built by Northrop at their Hawthorn California facility. The aircraft was used in most of the theaters during the war. The scheme for this build is for the “Lady in the Dark” which is “unofficially” credited with the last Allied air victory before Japan surrendered (VJ day) in 1945. For this build I will be using the Eduard “BigEd” detail set which has eight photo etch sheets to detail this kit inside and out.

Starting off with the cockpit I added some of the photo etch to give details to the cockpit floor and rear bulkhead. The seats were assembled and then detailed with the photo etch seal belts. The rear seat in the cockpit has one of the control sticks for the remote controlled gun turret was detailed with new adjustment wheels and the levers to fire the four Browning .50 cal guns. The rear bulkhead was detailed with the holder and mounting strap for the fire extinguisher. I then sanded down the kit details on the instrument panel and added the photo etch. I added some photo etch details to the control stick as well.

I then started on the rear fuselage deck. This holds the four 20mm Hispano M2 cannons in the belly of the fuselage and the radar operator area. The photo etch set replaces the floor surface and the top step for the hatch. The Radar operator bulkhead that holds all the radar equipment for the kit is not used at all. The photo etch set replaces everything from bench to shelves and all the equipment. I am working on these now and then I can begin to detail the interior of the fuselage.

Week two of the P-61B I began detailing the interior of the fuselage. With the cockpit area detailed I started to detail the radar operator’s station. The avionics rack for the kit is a one piece molded section. The Eduard photo etch set replaces the kit part. The photo etch pieces include the desk frame and all the equipment. One of the things you need to do is remove the viewing hoods for the front and rear radar screens off the kit part. After finishing the avionics I then began detailing the starboard fuselage interior walls. The kit ribbing was removed in certain sections to add the photo etch walls.

Then the various control boxes and more avionics parts were added. The rear entry ladder was also detailed. The ladder will be in the open position when the model is finished. I used some 30 AWG wire to add the cables to the equipment and then installed the cockpit section and radar section floors. I am now detailing the port side of the fuselage and will be adding all the various cable to the radar avionics equipment. I am hoping to have the fuselage together this upcoming week. I started to make a dry fit of the fuselage halves together to make sure everything fits. There is some interesting issues that need to addressed. I will cover what they are and how I corrected them next week.

For the third week of the Black Widow build I spent a lot of time getting the fuselage together. First I completed detailing the avionics in the radar area by adding all the cables and wiring. I used 30 AWG wires for the cabling and 30 AWG bare wire for the wiring portion.

Next came the part of getting the fuselage halves together. Even without the photo etch details this kit is very challenging to get the halves together. The part that makes it difficult is the 20mm guns in the belly. The issue is the gun barrels stick out about 0.5 inches out the belly gun ports. The fuselage half has alignment pins that are about 0.2 inches long so the halves align correctly. The basic premise is to feed the gun barrels thru the ports and then slide the fuselage half back to align it with the other half. It may sound easy, however the guide pins being so long causes the gun barrels to bend outward. The bending of the gun barrels is very extreme especially with the length that needs to be fed thru the ports. I would like to note on the old Monogram kit the panels with the gun ports are separate panels. This kit has them as part of the fuselage halves. So moving forward I found it easier to cut off the alignment pins on the bottom. This allowed me to slide the gun barrels thru the ports then align the halves together. It took a little bit of work to get the bottom of the fuselage halves to line up but this worked out a lot better assembly wise.

With the fuselage finally together I needed a little putty along the seam. I then detailed the nose gear bay with photo etch. There are still some wires and cables that need to be added but I will add these later when I get ready to attach the nose gear. The forward crew boarding ladder is thru the nose gear bay. The kit part was then detailed with photo etch framing. With the main fuselage together I am now starting on the engines and they wing assemblies.

 Arriving at week four of the P-61B I built and detailed the Pratt & Whitney 2,250 hp R-2800-65W Double Wasp 18-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines. I chose to use the open cowl flaps so that the exhaust can be seen. The photo etch set adds the inner cowl flaps and the ignition wires to the engine. I painted the cylinder using Vallejo’s Metal Air Gunmetal gray. The pushrod covers and engine block were painted using the Metal Air duraluminum, and the Metal Air Exhaust for the exhaust pipes. The intakes were painted gloss black and ignition was dark canvas brown. The cowl flaps were painted insignia red for the paint scheme of the “Lady in the dark”.

The wings have leading edge intakes. The kit has solid plastic inserts but the photo etch set has open detailed pieces. The intake areas were cut open and the photo etch pieces were installed. I used a little putty to bland in the intakes to the wing. I then added some photo etch details to the upper wing and placed the dive brakes in the closed position. The photo etch set also has the parts to open them if you want. I am now working on the booms that hold the engines and the main landing gear. The photo etch for the landing gear bays is extensive and the photo etch sheet just for the booms is a large 8” X 6” sheet filled with many detailed parts.

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