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Model maker takes highway to the danger zone in Bible Hill

Mitchell LePine’s carefully-constructed F-14 Tomcat evokes 1980s Top Gun craze – and some little-known facts about the fighter jet made famous by Maverick and Goose.

Its wings swept back and missiles glowering underneath, the F-14 Tomcat can pack serious heat.

But luckily for everyone, this plane was a delicately-built plastic scale model on display at Bible Hill Junior High School, one of many on display at the Central Nova Scotia Modelers Scale Model Show and Competition on Sept. 22.

“I wanted to do something special. We lost a couple of very special people over the last couple of months. One was a 28-year old young lady who succumbed to leukemia, she was one of our model builders,” said its builder Mitchell LePine. “My best friend [Garth] who I had stand by me for 34 years passed on at the beginning of August, so I wanted to do a memorial flight aircraft in their honour.”

It took LePine months to put together his F-14, which he described as “a bit of a dog built,” as one of its wheels fell off. This include gluing together its wings, fuselage, landing gear and other plastic components. Its missiles were fixed onto its underside.

Next, he had to paint it, using his own unique greyish camouflage scheme quite different to what the U.S. Navy used on real aircraft and finally stick on the roundels and other markings.

Better-quality F-14 sets have become available in more recent years, but LePine said that this model kit was the best available in the late 1980s when the movie Top Gun was released. The film made the F-14 and its fighter pilots a pop culture icon around the world.

The F-14 remains well-known today, even after the U.S. Navy retired its Tomcat fleet in 2006. The planes were first deployed in the 1970s on aircraft carriers and also sold to Iran, then a U.S. ally, in that same decade.

“Everybody that wanted to build Tomcats wanted to build this,” said LePine of his creation. “This one is nostalgic for me, I’ve built four of them in my lifetime.”

However, fighter planes were just one of many different types of scale models on display. Others included antique cars, Star Wars spacecraft, tanks and armoured vehicles, historical and fantasy character figurines and dioramas. One of the biggest dioramas on display was that of a burning factory with a fireboat trying to put out the blaze.

One other model-maker was 14-year-old Jayden Parsons-Dauphinee and his father Mike, who together had built an entire fleet of battleships and carriers. Jayden started modeling in 2012 for the Titanic sinking’s 100th anniversary, when his parents bought him model sets of the doomed ocean liner.

“Jayden’s probably got about 50 or 60 models at home that he’s built, a lot of them plastic kits, some of them he’s built by scratch, which is out of his own imagination with whatever materials that he has around. He also combines the plastic kits with scratch-build,” said Mike.

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