Following a lead from a previous client we were contacted by the Officer Commanding (OC) of Army 173 Squadron now based at Holsworthy Barracks in western Sydney. They had recently handed over their KingAir 350 twin Turbo-prop aircraft to the air force and had now started flying the OH-58A KIOWA light observation helicopters. These aircraft had come from 161 and 162 SQN based in Darwin, which had recently taken delivery of their new TIGER ARH-1 helicopters.
The Squadron had decided they wanted a nice display model of their new mounts. They chose an aircraft to model being A17-034, one of their most used. A Revell kit of the Bell 206 in 1:32 scale was purchased as the base model. The basic model was used however much of it had to be scratch built including a new tail boom (the KIOWA tail boom is longer due to long main rotor blades), skids (taller for more ground clearance) and much of the interior. The front doors were to be left off (how they fly most of the time) so a much more detailed interior was scratch built.
Under the KIOWA is a myriad of antennae, lumps and bumps for all the additional equipment carried by the Army aircraft. The interior was completed including photo-etched harnesses, new pilots seats with blue-grey lamb's wool seat covers and a new instrument panel. It was masked up whilst the exterior of the model was completed and the windscreen and lower windows fitted. These were then masked up and the model painted in its Dark Tan, Dark Green and Black camouflage pattern.
All the decals were printed on our laser printer including the new 173SQN logo of an Australian Red Back Spider which was placed on the vertical tail. Once all dry, the model was sprayed in Testors Dull Coat spray and then the masking was removed. The tail and main rotors were added and the model mounted onto a clear acrylic stand. The model looked great and we were very pleased with the result.
We contacted the Squadron to let them know their model was ready to go. They asked how we normally sent our models out. After a couple of days of planning, it was decided that the best way to ensure the model would arrive intact, the Squadron OC approved a training mission to fly down to our property outside of Tumbarumba and pick the model up.
Along came the day and the weather was beautiful for their flight down. Around 2pm the distinctive sound of a KIOWA was heard over the hills and the gathering group of neighbours and friends who had come to see them arrive waved frantically as the KIOWA passed overhead just above the tree tops. They circled around and landed on our helicopter pad near the work shop and shut down. After spending an hour or so on the ground having a nice warm cuppa, chatting to the locals and checking out Russ' collection of models the crew of A17-034 mounted up and after a couple of circuits of our property headed off back to RAAF Base Wagga to refuel then off to Sydney. The model was very well received by the Squadron the next morning and now graces the foyer of their headquarters.
The pilots enjoyed their visit to Tumbarumba and meeting the locals.
In mid 2012 173 SQN got hold of us again to request a second model. This one was going to be presented to the family of one of their pilots who was killed in action in Afghanistan in a crash in 2011. We quickly got hold of the kit to modify and in 5 days the model was completed and delivered to their Holsworthy base. This model was given the number A17-016 which was the aircraft he soloed in. A fitting tribute for his family to remember him by.