Review: Fascinations Metal Earth Space Shuttle Atlantis

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Last week I went to Walt Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. As you may know, Kennedy Spce Center has Space Shuttle Atlantis on display. After seeing such an impressive piece of history, naturally I needed a souvenir. I found this: the Fascinations Metal Earth Space Shuttle Atlantis.

I could not find any good reviews of this model, or any of the other three space shuttle models they make, so, I decided to write one.

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There was no clear way to open the package. I ended up opening it along the side.

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This is the steel sheet all the parts come in. They are laser cut and engraved. The package says, “Pop them out, put them together, show off your steel model”, but even popping them out was somewhat difficult. Take out all the small pieces first by rotating them back and forth on the pivot points from the triangular attatchement points and then take out the bigger pieces.

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This is the enormous instruction sheet included in the package with a quarter for scale. The pictures were easy to follow but there were almost no written instructions to follow, which made things somewhat confusing. You can tell it was written by an engineer, because it says, “Assembly Flow Chart” at the top.

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I finished the first part before I thought to take more pictures. Horst, you take a cylindrical object and roll the sides and payload bay doors around it. I had to get some help for this part because I didn’t know what to use or how to use it. We ended up using a fat Sharpie. Use it to roll the roof and then hand-bend the sides approximately parallel.

After you roll the roof, attatch part #2 to the nose as it shows in the instructions. Hand-bend the cockpit down and bend over the tabs. I thought this was going be very difficult, but the nose was the easiest part.

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Yes, it’s the same picture as before.

Engineers are big fans of confusion, because then you skip across to the other side of the instruction book to build the tail ad engines. I rolled the smaller maneuvering engines around a Lego 4l bar, the kind that can clip into minifigure hands. This piece is ever-so-slightly too big, so you won’t be able to insert the tabs on one end into the holes in the other. Insert the two tabs on the back of the engine into the two holes on the engine plate, part #3. Make sure the engines are attatched to the side of part #3 that has grooves in it.

We used Lego Technic pins for the main engines. These were a little easier than the maneuvering engines. Insert these with the ugly side where the ends meet facing in on the same side of the plate as the maneuvering engines. To fold in the tabs, which each main engine has four of, the instructions and the website say to use a needle-nose pliers. I say, no. If you put the pliers in the wrong place when gripping, they will leave marks and ruin the look of your model. We used a tweezer, which works just as well and doesn’t leave marks.

After the main engines, you build the big bulges on the back of the shuttle. We found a pen that was the same size as the circle on part #3 and rolled the cylinder part of part #6 around it. We used a tweezers to bend in the cone part of it. The hexagon part, #7, goes on the end. I hand-bent three of the four tabs on both of the nacelles, because the tweezer was a little hard to use on that.

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After that comes the tail. The tail is very easy to build. Fold parts #8 and 9 and put them together. Be careful not to squash the tail when bending the tabs.

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Tha tail goes in between the two nacelles. The whole tail assembly is then attatched to the body of the orbiter.

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You then go back to the right side of the instruction sheet. Fold the stand so that the dark side is out.

The wings are next. They are kind of confusing. You fold them so the middle hangs down below the wings. It shows this on the package and in the instructions. However, some pictures online show it being flush with the bottom. Maybe those people put it together wrong. Fold the wing first and then fold the channel second. Lay the wing on a hard, flat surface and fold the channel part up so the wing stays flat. Do not hand bend it. Insert the stand into the proper holes in the wing.

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After this, all that is left is to put the two halves together. It is relatively easy with just four tabs. It will be considerably harder if the bottom of the body is splayed out, so try your best to keep them straight up.

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The completed orbiter.

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The orbiter ends up about four inches long, three inches wide, and two and a half inches tall. It is incredibly shiny. The only problem I have with it is that it has a big hole in the bottom, but you can’t see it anyway. Since there are holes behind the main engines as well, you could easily put a red LED in and light up the engines.

I would definitely recommend this to space fans. I would also definitely buy another Metal Earth model if I could find one with less round pieces to make and a little bit less complex. Other online reviews say this model is good for beginners. Compared to some of their other models, I would definitely agree. However, there are other models that are simpler than this. This was challenging but definitely fun. It took us from 5:18 PM to 7:02 PM, a grand total of 1 hour and 44 minutes. The guy at the gift shop at KSC said he built the model they had for display in 45 minutes, but perhaps he’s built some Metal Earth models before. They had others for sale there, like the Apollo lander and a Mars rover, but they didn’t have display models up for those.

Overall rating:

5/5 Stars 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Review: Fascinations Metal Earth Space Shuttle Atlantis

Plane of the Week #8: ERCO Ercoupe

This week’s plane of the week is the ERCO Ercoupe.

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The ERCO Ercoupe is a low-wing monoplane aircraft that was designed and built in the United States. It was first manufactured by the Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO) shortly before World War II; several other manufacturers continued its production after the war. The final model, the Mooney M-10, first flew in 1968 and the last model year was 1970. It was designed to be the safest fixed-wing aircraft that aerospace engineering could provide at the time, and the type continues to enjoy a faithful following.

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The Ercoupe was the first aircraft certified by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) as “characteristically incapable of spinning.” The high-winged General Skyfarer obtained the second certification by licensing the ERCO technology. The first production Ercoupe, serial no. 1, NC15692 built in 1939 was donated to the National Air and Space Museum. In 1941 that aircraft, designated YO-55, was used in US Army Air Force testing.

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The two-seat ERCO Ercoupe 415 went on sale in 1940. LIFE magazine described the aircraft as “nearly foolproof” and showed pictures of a pilot landing with his hands in the air. Only 112 units were delivered before World War II intervened, halting all civil aircraft production. By mid-1941 aluminum supplies were being diverted to war-related production, so ERCO decided to manufacture Ercoupes for military use by using wood as the principal building material. The substitution of wood resulted in a heavier but quieter aircraft, because the wood absorbed vibrations from the engine and airflow. Ercoupes were flown during the war by the Civilian Pilot Training Program for flight instruction, and the Civil Air Patrol used them to patrol for German submarines.

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The ERCO Ercoupe was perhaps most notable for being the first aircraft sold in retail stores. It was the perfect plane for it, too, due to its safety and it’s simple controls. It only had a throttle and a steering wheel, while many other planes even today have pedals for yaw control. It was sold in Macy’s and J. C. Penney’s, among other places. They cost $2,665 brand new and 5,685 were sold.

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The Ercoupe had a crew of one and could carry one passenger. It weighed 749 pounds empty. Its maximum speed was 144 miles per hour and it’s maximum takeoff weight was 1260 pounds. It was 20 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 6 feet tall. It had a range of 300 miles.

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My Lego ERCO Ercoupe.
My Lego ERCO Ercoupe.

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Next week: Not a plane, but a place…

Plane of the Week #8: ERCO Ercoupe

Plane of the Week #7: Grumman Gulfstream I

This week’s plane of the week is the Grumman Gulfstream I

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The Grumman Gulfstream I is a twin-turboprop business aircraft. It first flew on August 14, 1958. The G-I is a low-wing monoplane powered by two Rolls-Royce Dart turboprops with four-bladed constant speed propellers. The Gulfstream I has a retractable tricycle landing gear, with twin wheels on the two main units and the nose gear. The cabin is designed to take up to twenty-four passengers in a high-density arrangement or only eight in an executive layout, although ten to twelve was more usual. The aircraft has a hydraulically operated airstair in the forward cabin for entry and exit.

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A G-I purchased by Walt Disney in 1964 and last flown on Oct. 8, 1992 is on display at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The aircraft logged 8800 flights and 20,000 flight hours with notable passengers Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Julie Andrews, Hugh O’Brian, and Annette Funicello. Disney used it to scout out locations for Walt Disney World in the 1960’s. The only way to see the plane is to take the Backlot Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Towards the end of the tram ride you will see it on display. Admission to the Studios is required, and the fee varies based on the type and length of ticket purchased.image

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Unfortunately, we are skipping Hollywood Studios and will not get to see this plane.

Next week: the plane that was sold at J. C. Penney’s.

Plane of the Week #7: Grumman Gulfstream I

Plane of the Week #6: Lockheed-Martin F-117A Nighthawk

This week’s plane of the week is the F-117 Nighthawk.

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The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is a single-seat, twin-engine stealth attack aircraft that was developed by Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works division and operated by the United States Air Force (USAF). The F-117 was based on the Have Blue technology demonstrator, and was the first operational aircraft to be designed around stealth technology. The maiden flight of the Nighthawk happened in 1981 and the aircraft achieved initial operating capability status in 1983. The Nighthawk was shrouded in secrecy until it was revealed in 1988.

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The F-117 was widely publicized for its role in the Gulf War of 1991. Although it was commonly referred to as the “Stealth Fighter” and had a fighter designation, it was really a small bomber. F-117s took part in the conflict in Yugoslavia where one was shot down by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) on 27 March 1999, the only Nighthawk to be lost in combat. The Air Force retired the F-117 on 22 April 2008, primarily due to the fielding of the F-22 Raptor. Sixty-four F-117s were built, 59 of which were production versions with the other five being demonstrators/prototypes.

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Next week: Walt Disney’s airplane

Plane of the Week #6: Lockheed-Martin F-117A Nighthawk

Plane of the Week #5: Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog”

This week’s plane of the week is the A-10 Warthog.

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The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II is an American twin-engine, straight wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild-Republic in the early 1970s. It is the only United States Air Force production aircraft designed solely for close air support, including attacking tanks, armored vehicles, and other ground targets with limited air defenses.

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The A-10 was designed around the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon that is its primary armament. The A-10’s airframe was designed for durability, with measures such as 1,200 pounds (540 kg) of titanium armor to protect the cockpit and aircraft systems, enabling it to absorb a significant amount of damage and continue flying. The wings were built with “honeycombs” in them so that they could lose a vertical stabilizer, half of a horizontal stabilizer, half a primary wing, and I believe one engine and keep flying. The A-10A single-seat variant was the only version built, though one A-10A was converted to an A-10B twin-seat version. In 2005, a program was begun to upgrade remaining A-10A aircraft to the A-10C configuration.

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On 25 March 2010, an A-10 conducted the first flight of an aircraft with all engines powered by a biofuel blend. The flight, performed at Eglin Air Force Base, used a 1:1 blend of JP-8 and Camelina-based fuel. On 28 June 2012, the A-10 became the first aircraft to fly using a new fuel blend derived from alcohol; known as ATJ (Alcohol-to-Jet), the fuel is cellulose-based that can be derived using wood, paper, grass, or any cell-based material, and are fermented into alcohols before being hydro-processed into aviation fuel. ATJ is the third alternative fuel to be evaluated by the Air Force as a replacement for petroleum-derived JP-8 fuel. Previous types were a synthetic kerosene derived from coal and natural gas and a bio-mass fuel derived from plant-oils and animal fats known as Hydroprocessed Renewable Jet. This was also the first Air Force plane to by powered by anything other than jet fuel.

This is one of my favorite modern aircraft and it is very unfortunate that they are retiring it soon, but the planes are forty years old, and that’s pretty old for an airplane. They have considered extending their use, though, so that’s what I’m hoping for.

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For some other interesting facts, visit this website: http://www.boldmethod.com/blog/lists/2014/08/13-little-known-facts-about-the-a-10-thunderbolt-2/

Next week: one of the first successful stealth planes.

Plane of the Week #5: Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog”