Randy Snow – Master Model Builder!


Like all sport, Carrier flying is always moving forward as the top fliers try to find that little bit extra in their technique, their model building or their designs to get them to the top of the leader-board. In the UK Nigel Frith has just recently opened a whole new chapter in design with his Kamikaze Zero for BCD, which features a see-through pre-built Russian combat wing mated to a rather floppy EPP/Carbon rod fuselage and tailplane – maybe it  sounds odd but my goodness, it’s light, quiet (electrically powered) and scores top points! However, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I did hear some pilots at the recent UK Old Warden meeting muttering to each other things like “Whatever has happened to REAL Carrier models?!”


Well, I can now tell them – fear not, REAL Carrier modelling (that is, semi- or full-scale models built and finished traditionally) is doing well! In the UK we have Peter Tribe and Mike Welch among several others building REAL very near scale models, and in the USA REAL Carrier is in the safe hands of  Randy Snow! Randy and I have been corresponding over the past couple of years, firstly regarding the WW1 tribute class and lately by sharing details of his fleet of amazingly well-realised profile Carrier models, ranging from ‘tween-war biplanes to modern jet-outline aircraft. His attention to detail is superb, and I’m knocked out by the artistry he shows in his design, build and finishing.


I asked Randy to talk me through his inspiration and the methods, construction sequences and project timing (from plan to flying model).This page is based upon his replies and pictures to illustrate the points he makes, I was encouraged to hear that he too seems to have a number of builds going in parallel, picking up one when he runs into problems with another – my workshop is also full of part-finished models!


Picture0210As an example (actually, as you’ll see, more of a starting point!) Randy told me about building the Curtis Helldiver that I’d particularly liked – he said: “I started by having a local company print out the Walt Musciano (WAM) plan to give me a starting point, then I get my Wylam drawings out…” (Note by Webmaster: for those who maybe haven’t encountered the work of “Bill” Wylam (1915-2015), he was an ultra-respected engineer, writer, inventor, holder of NASA  citations and (incidentally!) a prolific producer of accurate three-view aircraft drawings for Model Airplane News for 30 years). Randy continues:Working with these I started redesigning the fuselage construction and imagineering everything else I might need to change, since the finished model always needs to be strong enough for carrier. I wanted something that was actually “Scale”, and Wylam had the detail that the WAM plans didn’t.

The fuselage sides are 1/8″ lite ply, as are the formers for the needed strength. The basic construction of the components took about a week and a half, including a lot of that “imagineering” (lol!), such as using 4:40 machine screws for attaching the struts to the wings. Once I had the components done, I assembled everything together, then found out I could only install the engine while the top wing was off; no big deal, easy because the wing is attached with those 4:40’s! Then I came to the how and what material to use to cover the wings and the fabric section of the fuselage. I didn’t want to use heat shrink plastic, but although I had some Coverite fabric on hand I didn’t want to “try for the first time” on this model, so I put it aside until I came up with something that I’d be happy with.

SOME DETOURS – FJ4-B, Skyraider, BF2C

In the meantime I finished putting together my FJ4-B (which had sat around for some time – like a couple of years, don’t ask me why – I don’t know! Then I built my Skyraider (took a week & a half from receiving plans to being finished, including having to redesign the fuselage construction and strengthen the wing construction with a ” D tube”. Then I thought about my Helldiver F8C again, but instead decided to finish my BF2C, which had sat around suffering from the same thing my F8C suffered from – the fact that I had NO idea how to go about covering it (lol!)



In the end I decided to try that Coverite on the BF2C, using their silver and yellow fabric. The silver has a soft finish and as I was putting it on, I scuffed it up. I thought I could just shoot some silver dope over to clean it up, but I was WRONG! I used Brodak / Randolph silver dope but found this stuff was more of a gray silver rather than an aluminum silver. I’d got the entire model covered when I shot that dope over the silver fabric and it broke my heart that the dope was crap– you’ve no idea how disappointed I was when I saw this gray-silver instead of SILVER-silver!  So, I stripped all the covering off, and ended up using Hanger 9 Ultra coat silver – right quality of silver but way too shiny to use on my F8C. I now have some Sig Silver dope (a true Silver/ Aluminum) for not just the Musciano F8C, but also an F4B-2 from Dick Early’s plans and an F11C that I’ve built for profile scale outright. It has the same scale and  same wing platform as my F6C but with a symmetrical airfoil so I can stunt it, using a Super Tiger .40 r/c for power. I’ve also used Coverite’s yellow for the upper surface of the BF2C’s top wing.


Picture0251Where did we begin? Oh ya, the F8C Helldiver! Now that I have what I need to finish it up it should soon be ready to fly, but for some reason I’ve just started putting together an Aichi B7A-1 Ryusei-Grace, for 15 carrier with my Cox Conquest 15 in it. So there ya have it (lol!) probably didn’t give you an answer to your question about my F8C build though! Maybe I should start “Log Books” on my models – ormaybe not…


You asked “Why do I build carrier modes the way I do?” Well, when the MO-1 first came out for Carrier in the late 60’s, everyone said “It’s just a fast Rat”! OK, it was judged legal for use but many Carrier modelers opted out of the event”  (note by Webmaster: presumably because it was pretty much unbeatable, and actually still is in the right hands e.g. Burt Brokaw , Eric Conley, Jan Odeyn) Randy continues:  “In real life the MO-1 was evaluated by the “Top Hatters” US Naval squadron for Carrier operations and found to be too heavy for “Safe Carrier Use” and was allocated to land use ONLY…is that a real Carrier prototype? Hmm…


I want to show other Carrier modelers that building models that really LOOK like the actual aircraft modeled isn’t difficult — It takes no more effort to build a model that actually looks the way it should as opposed to an ” abstract “version” or an “impression” of a version. This Carrier event was created and encouraged by scale modelers who wanted to build Carrier models that look function like the real machines. What would they think if they could see  what is being built now? I think that they would shake their heads and say “Why even bother calling it ‘Scale Carrier’ or require that models be based on an actual carrier aircraft” – like them, and the guys who opted out when the MO-1 came along, I’ve watched carrier models slowly become less and less of what they once looked like.

My response to this? I’ve been posting my models on NCS (Naval Carrier Society) and other websites for Control line Flying and Control Line Enthusiasts, on Face Book too, I’ve had a great response — really great– which gives me a very warm feeling! I do so appreciate their “likes” and many of them share my posts on their timelines. One guy on NCS said something that really hit the nail on the head: “After all these years of seeing models that really don’t look like an actual aircraft, Randy’s do actually LOOK like the prototype!” and Dick Perry (the editor of the Carrier column in Model Aviation) said the details of my carrier models are done better than most profile scale models! I enjoy building, and build to make myself happy. I seem to build models that no one else builds to a quality that few others build to,because that’s how I do it! When someone says “Damn, that looks great!” it’s really nice having modelers give me a “Thumbs Up” for my model building efforts, but hey, maybe it’s nothing more than an ego boost (lol!).


Picture0195The Skyraider I mentioned earlier is one of the latest from the shops here. It’s for nostalgia profile carrier, with power from a Thunder Tiger Pro 36. It’s a scratch built model to a J. Roberts design as kitted by Brodak; I bought just the plan as I don’t care for kits. As with other plans I work from I needed to redesign the fuselage, not only for a stronger model but to include those iconic Skyraider details – cowl, cowl flaps, and the fuselage blending into the fin. Next up I have in a basic frame-up of a 1″ scale F4B-2 for full-fuselage Carrier .36 – doing that corrugation took some time!  I have a Boeing XF8B-1 Class 1 model (K&B 40 powered) waiting to be painted, a Douglas Destroyer in a rough frame-up, plus a .15 powered SB2C Helldiver nearing finish.


Randy has promised to share some of his methods and techniques with us in the hope that they’ll be of some help to other modellers. I’ve illustrated my correspondence with Randy with pictures of the models he’s been working on recently – very much Carrier eye candy! He’s also sent me some of those Wylam drawings, which make an interesting comparison with classic scale model plans. It’s a fact that some people get blase about people that continually deliver top quality – it almost becomes expected – as Randy said to me in an email, “I sometimes post these models on the Stunt Hangar forum and lately I don’t get much feed back- It’s like-” Oh – it’s another one!” But we mustn’t  ever forget the inspiration that this kind of creativity, ingenuity, attention to detail and yes, sheer productivity can have on the whole population of Carrier fliers. We may never have the skill or time to deliver models like Randy’s, but if seeing his prods us into doing just that little bit more to produce beautiful models, that MUST be a good thing!


F8C Helldiver     Douglas Skyraider       Curtis F6C2      F4B-2

Aichi “Grace”    NA F4J Fury   Sopwith Sea Pup    F4B4    Extras!


Finally, Randy has a special affection for the Sopwith Sea Pup. His model of the original is 29 1/2″ wingspan, has 300 sq” total wing area, and is powered by a Thunder Tiger Pro .36. He has dedicated it:
“To the memory and inspiration of Squadron Commander E. H. Dunning RN, being the first pilot to successfully launch and land an aircraft on an aircraft carrier – H.M.S. Furious – while under way; his piloting skills and tragic death ushered in true Naval Aviation carrier operations”.