Nose Section Sheet Metal Panels/Skin

Nose Section Sheet Metal Panels/Skin

In this month’s entry I detail the fitting of the Viper nose section sheet metal panels or skin.

For me, this is make or break time.  As a proof of concept, the completion of the nose section hinges on how well the sheet metal panelling/skin turns out.  If it is successful and appears as I have envisioned (remembering that my vision is based on the WW2 warbird costruction techniques of the Spitfire, Corsair, Mustang, etc), then in my mind, it green lights the rest of the project.  It will prove to me that the design and construction techniques I have employed for the nosed section can deliver the desired results for the remainder of the airframe.

If the panels/skin doesn’t work as planned, then it’s pretty much back to the drawing board for the entire project.  Given the time I’ve already invested in the project (estimated at 150 to 200 hours), then I’m not sure I’d be prepared to start all over again.

So here we go, here’s what I’ve done.

I firstly etch primed and painted the nosed section frames/bulkheads and stringers.  I’m not sure this is absolutely necessary on an aluminium airframe construction, but I figured better to provide as much anti-corrosion protection as possible.

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I then begain the fitting of the panel/skin to the top, relatively flat section of the nose.  Better to start simple and work my way up to some of the more complicated curved sections.  I used 1.0mm aluminium sheet for this part of the skin.  Cleco’s were used to hold the panel in place while all holes were drilled.  The holes in the sheet panel were dimpled and all stringer\bulkhead frame holes countersunk.  The panel skin was then attached with countersunk aluminium pop rivets.

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My aim is to replicate the panel lines of the original design as best I can.  I’ve elected to use the panel lines on the Moebius 1/32 Classic Viper model as my guide.  It’s a very good replica by all accounts and it is relatively easy to measure and scale up the individual panels on the model.

I then started on the bottom panel, using the same method for alignment and attachment, but using 0.6mm sheet aluminium.  For this panel, however, I left the outermost seam unattached, to allow overlap of the other panels.

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With top and bottom attached, I then started on the right hand side panels.  The pictured panel appeared to be the least complex in terms of curved profile and it also forms the central panel from which all the other side panels can be designed and positioned.

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Then the inter connecting panels to for the skin between the side panel and the bottom panel were sized, cut out and fitted, all from 0.6mm sheet.

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I then begain to design and fabricate the upper panels/skins.  I decided I wanted to make one of the panels a compartment door, complete with hinge.  This is to give it a practical look and feel, similar to the old warbirds, but also to provide me with internal access to the fuselage.

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Well there you have it – that’s the story so far.  I’m very pleased with the results.  Looks like a classic  Colonial Viper nose section to me and it looks like it was built using the classic WW2 warbird construction techniques.  I’ve yet to finish off the compartment door and then complete the side panelling on the left hand side of the nose.  Then it will need filler applied to the countersunk rivets and some unnecessary panel lines, before priming and painting.

From my point of view I’m inspired to continue with the rest of the project.  It has validated the design and construction techniques I have used and I know they will work effectively for the rest of the airframe.

I welcome any feedback on the project to date and would like to hear any suggestions people might have.

Until next time…


Intake Ducting

Intake Ducting

This time I’ll be detailing the intake nozzle ducting within the nose section.  It’s not a part of the Viper that’s usually seen in the original Battlestar episode footage – even in close ups the nozzle intake appears as a ‘black hole’, with no visible detail of the internal ducting.  It appears a blackened plate or fine screen is used to block the internal detail.  Rather than adopt the same strategy as used on the props, I thought it would be great to attempt to give the nozzle a more practical look and feel.

I’m a big fan of the Sabre and Super Sabre jets from the 50’s/60’s and I assume the nose intakes from these aircraft were a big inspiration for the Viper design. These aircraft and the plastic model Viper kits were used as my basis for the design of the ducting.

First up, I constructed an internal former for the rear of the intake ducting and fixed this in position with rivets.

I then developed some cardboard templates from stiff cardboard sheet to work out the dimensions and fit for aluminium sheet ducting.


Intake ducting templates

Intake ducting templates

Intake lining templates

Intake lining templates

I marked and cut out aluminium sheet based on the template design.  As much as I would have liked to form the duct from a single sheet of aluminium, with only one join line, this was to prove too difficult.  The rolled out shape was too large for the sheets I have and the internal curves very tight, even for 0.6mm sheet aluminium.

The aluminium ducting walls were then drilled and fixed around the internal shape of the nozzle and bulkheads with clecos.




The holes were then countersunk with a simple home made die tool and fixed into place with countersunk rivets.


I also plan on installing a metal wire grill at the rear of the ducting, but this will have to wait until the nose is removed from the rotisserie.  Only then, with the jig frame removed from the centreline of the nose section, can the grill be installed.

Next time, it’s make or break time as I design, fabricate and fit the external panels to the nose section.  My efforts up to this point will account for nothing if the panel fitting stage isn’t successful.  Wish me luck…