Very Few Actual Aircraft

Over on my recent Inflection Points video, Kyle Keller dropped a comment that I wanted to respond to:

Just remember friends it is a hobby that is supposed to be fun. I forget that from time to time, all the weather tricks are neat but very few actual aircraft ever had the type of weathering that is the norm these days does it look good sure is it accurate no so keep that in mind when you compare yourself to what people think something should look like.

Thing is, a proper response needs pictures. And YouTube’s comment system isn’t very good at that (given the nature of many YT comments, that’s probably a blessing). So I figured I’d take my response over here.

Supposed to be fun

First, sure, yes, the hobby’s supposed to be fun. But “fun” is a very nebulous term that means many different things to many different people. I mean, just consider the variety of kinks and fetishes that people have. Fun takes many shapes.

With modeling – or at least modeling as I approach it – I’m kinda reminded of the movie Pleasantville. And how the static, shallow pleasantness of black and white gives way to the full spectrum of human emotion. There’s passion and rage and regret and joy and introspection and it leads to growth and to change. To me, researching a subject is fun. Trying to do my best, and seeing that line move over time, is fun. Even the shitty parts give my mind something to engage with while it chews on bigger things in the background.

Fun is whatever it is to you. And that’s part of why this hobby is so engrossing, I think. There’s no pre-defined “fun”. It’s what each of us makes it.

Very few actual aircraft…

Now to this old saw that aircraft don’t actually have “the type of weathering that is the norm these days”.

In some cases, like highly stylistic takes on the Spanish school, or very aggressive panel line shading, sure. Absolutely. But the overwhelming majority of the aircraft I go after have their roots in real world references – and real world weathering. And I do my best to, if not replicate them, at least land in a representative ballpark. So I thought I’d do some side-bys of some of my various builds, and the references that inspired them.

In some cases I may exaggerate certain elements, or just fail to capture things the right way, but I think you’ll find that in a lot of cases I actually end up holding back compared to the real thing.

French P-47D-27

Me 262A-2a

Bf 109G-10/U4/R2

F4U-1 Birdcage Corsair

F-5B Freedom Fighter

F-104G Starfighter

P-47D-20 Thunderbolt

FG-1D Corsair

A-6E Intruder

P-38F Lightning

16 Comments Add yours

  1. As a maintainer for 22 years I can assure you very few aircraft exhibit no weathering at all. Look at F-35s out of Luke AFB and you will see some rough looking jets with all sorts of subtle and not subtle characteristics.
    To say otherwise is silly gatekeeping rubbish. Keep on pioneering Matt – we are the better for it.

  2. Gary says:

    I believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No one is wrong here. If you like lots of weathering sweet. If you don’t like so much, then also sweet. Dougs had shown pics of heavily weathered aircraft. I’m sure Kyle can show aircraft in the style he likes. Also. We’re do you find those excellent archival photos. I. An never seem to come up with those when I’m looking

    1. Doogs says:

      Beauty is absolutely in the eye of the beholder, and preferences are inherently subjective.

      But to say “very few aircraft” get weathered to the extent seen is objectively incorrect. As photo upon photo upon photo bear out, from WWI biplanes to F-35s.

      A subjective preference is totally fine. It’s perpetuating a falsehood that grates.

      As for photos, I’m good at google. Maybe I’ll make a video about it.

  3. Lawrence Landis says:

    I do agree that I am drawn to aircraft that display some degree of weathering. In actual use, the degree of weathering depends upon how a particular military is fairing against their adversary and the availability of replacement parts, as well as the availability of finishing materials and time between flight turnarounds. Combat aircraft are rarely ” hanger queens “.

    1. Gary says:

      Thanks doing. I don’t think I explained myself that well. I was agreeing with you but wanted to add a reason why he may have his opinion.

      Btw. Would love to see a video and image search’s

  4. liberty4tim says:

    Thanks for this post. I watch your builds on FB but rarely watch the videos because this is a hobby I do with my 8 year old daughter. In your pictures I sometimes wonder why you make a particular choice. Most recently both the linear direction and the massive area
    of the wear pattern on the top of the wing. My initial thought was, wrong way and way too big.
    After seeing the picture here, I see it’s an accurate reflection of reality. The same wear pattern stands out even on the planes in the distance.
    From the other pictures you posted, I’d say you’re right. You do less than reality.
    That Starfighter looks awesome. I hadn’t seen it before.

  5. saburo6 says:

    As always, simply inspiring. Keep it going.

  6. Doug Eby says:

    I’m not going to spend much time commenting upon the real world weathering vs your builds topic, anybody who has spent any time following your work knows that few modelers posting videos of their work spend more time researching and experimenting with techniques to achieve realistic results.
    I think that it would be well received if you put together a “tips and tricks” video on researching and sourcing historical photographs of modeling subjects. Just seeing your response to the post with the inspirational pictures made me want to see more – I’m thinking where does he find this shit? I spend a fair amount of time looking for reference pictures but I do not often come up with the gems that you do. Every once in a while I come across a website with amazing picture and I wonder how I never found it earlier. Obviously there is more to Google than just typing in “p-47d”. Teach us how to fish!

    1. Paul Moore says:

      Yes! Let us in on your gouge.

  7. Steve Rewey says:

    Every airplane gets weathered: from a Cessna 152 to the Airbus 330 I fly. (actually with airliners, they usually just need to be washed).
    Point is, airplanes weather to one degree or another. The models you built vs the photos were spot on!

  8. Paul Moore says:

    As an A-6 Intruder pilot, flying overhead the ship you would get a good view of the bottom and sides of other aircraft waiting to recover. USN carrier jets from the 90’s were strewn with corrosion work, repainted areas, hydraulic fluid, oil, grease, etc. We used to say, “if the A-6 wasn’t leaking hydraulic fluid ….it didn’t have any!” Even the Delta jets I used to fly had dirt, oil, “blue juice” stains, hydraulic fluid, and various stains about the sides, top of the wings, engines and especially the bottom of the fuselage. I agree with Kyle that the hobby is supposed to be fun but I think it was good that Doog challenged the statement that, “very few actual aircraft ever had the type of weathering that is the norm these days …. All I can positively state is the photo of Doogs A-6 is spot on!

  9. ericbergerud says:

    I’m going to come down solidly in the middle of the weathering question. In point of fact there were so many fighters produced during WWII that you would have seen them sporting every form of wear and tear. But the large number of planes also meant that many of them were not flown very often before lost or badly damaged. But even a “new” plane would still show wear – those huge radial and inline engines carried by fighters would kick out exhaust – and there’d be dirt and mud underneath. And with all of the hydraulics lots of fluids. Naturally some planes flew scores of missions and if in difficult climes (figure the Russian winter or the New Guinea sun/rain) would pick up a lot of fading and surface distress. So if you like to weather, fire away, there would have been thousands of heavily weathered fighters in WWII. If you’d like to weather something as it appeared “factory fresh” – there would have been thousands of those too, and maybe difficult in its own way. I’m not sure if I’d generalize about jets. Once you got into 1950s jets were appearing that stayed in service for years and would have flown far more hours than a WWII plane. (The big jets flying around for Vietnam were essentially a completely different technology than a WWII fighter.) So I don’t doubt postwar jets would have developed a patina.

    1. Doogs says:


      There’s enough variety to be found that you can proceed with a cleaner or dirtier build according to your preferences and still be in the bounds of reality.

  10. Kamicosmos says:

    I’m always amazed at how beatup and ‘worn out’ looking the planes and vehicles in WWII are! I mean think about it, a lot of those planes and tanks are only 2-5 years old! But it shows how hard they (and the men that operated them) were working: flying multiple sorties a day, long distances, under combat, operating in rough environments, mainly dirt. There wasn’t time to wash them, let alone repaint. So to me, unless the model is ‘factory fresh’, there should be weathering on it, at least a little just to show some dirt, grime, exhaust and oil leaks, etc. I have not done much weathering, and I’m sitting on 3 Tamiya models (Tiger, Corsair, BF109) and just got an A26 and I need to learn how to do it. I have some pigments, and youtube so hopefully I can do them justice!

    1. ebergerud says:

      I don’t think the moderator would mind, but I found Doog’s detailed weathering instructions for a 1/32 Tamiya Corsair to be extremely helpful for making a Wildcat. Check and That was a South Pacific plane and I think they were built weathered – the conditions there were beastly, especially if you were flying off a coral air strip like the one at Munda Point that hosted the famous “Jolly Rogers.”

  11. Pete Fleischmann says:

    Hey Doogs-
    The glossy sea blue finish on your FG-1D is the best I’ve ever seen-no shit. Is there anything on your blog about how you were able to achieve such an awesome result?

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