The model aircraft willBy Burl Burlingame
be displayed at Saturday's
Paradise Model Show
AS a boy scrambling around Hawaii's aircraft graveyards in the aftermath of World War II, Young Chu Park would occasionally "liberate" bits of aluminum.
"Oh, there were acres and acres of wrecked fighters and bombers," he recalls. "We climbed all over them. The aluminum was really good quality, and we could make rings and bracelets and stuff like that out of it for our girlfriends."
The images of dissected aircraft are still vivid, and today Park makes detailed scale models of the famous Grumman F4U "Corsair." And he's still scrounging aluminum to do it.
"Aluminum is the real thing -- it looks more natural than any other material," said Park, who's now a dentist. "I really liked the metal from when I was flying U-line models; I'd make my own bellcranks and pushrods and stuff.
"I also really liked the Corsair. It's the ultimate Pacific War aircraft. It's a beautiful aircraft, the nicest plane around. Maybe only the P-51 Mustang can match it. I started collecting everything I could on the Corsair; manuals, maintenance and repair specs, picture books, drawings, piles of materials."
Even though there are Corsairs still flying, Park sighs when he says he hasn't seen the real thing since the 1940s.
When Park turned 65, he was in the midst of building a traditional Lockheed Vega flying model out of balsa, and once again began working with aluminum, making window frames and such for the Vega. "And I had a good time doing it! Then I looked at the Vega model -- what an old clunker! -- and thought, it would be good to build an all-aluminum airplane model. Subconsciously, I thought, balsa is not the stuff for me."
Even so, Park still fooled himself. He started with the Corsair's rudder, a relatively intricate but small assembly. It turned out well, so he built a little more of the tail. Then slowly began working his way up the fuselage.
"If I had started with the front end, with the engine and all -- no way! Too complicated! But I built the simple stuff first and then I had to finish it. Or so I told myself."
Park settled on the F4U-1 variant of the Corsair, an early model. "That's so I wouldn't have to build the bomb racks and stuff on the later versions," he claims. The model is 1/16th scale -- 3/4 of an inch equaling a foot -- which he decided was big enough to see detail, but not too big to keep on a workbench.
Many of the parts are milled using a Sherline milling machine. Park sent pictures of his model to the Sherline company, and they thought at first the images were of a real aircraft. They're now considering acquiring it for their corporate headquarters.
But if that happens, Park won't be Corsair-less.
He's started on another one. "This one will be REALLY nice! I learned a lot from the first one," said Park.
What: Models like Young Chu Park's, plus fantasy figures, aircraft, armor, cars and ships and other items, at the Paradise Model Show. The event is sponsored by the Figure Modelers of Hawaii
When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Windward Mall upper level
Notel: Anyone can display their handiwork. Setup time is 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, and security is provided.
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