GELI #70 Saab Draken 'Ostarrichi' - the full story of how it came into life.
The story in fact starts in my childhood - maybe almost every childhood of an Austrian boy back in the sixties, when paper modeling was a very popular hobby. It was so popular that it was taught and practiced in schools, and passionately continued at home. Results were compared and discussed, every new model shown around, and the ceilings of all child's rooms were crowded with dozens of paper planes suspended from above.
GELI #51 Saab 105 Ö - in the background the original 1/33 scale model, in the foreground a 1/200 version from it
The one and (nearly) only vendor of paper models was GELI. The reasons were simple: GELI was an Austrian company; their products - only models of airplanes in 1/33 scale - were incredibly cheap and hence affordable to everyone. A vendor based in Germany - Schreiber - was far too expensive for the small wallets of pupils, and publishers from eastern countries did not make it across the iron curtain and were not available at that time.
Gertraud Litscher and Karl Wittrich in their GELI shop in Klagenfurt 2007
The owners of GELI - Gertraud Litscher and Karl Wittrich - would be worth an entire article here. Karl Wittrich was a fighter pilot during WWII, and already designed paper models for the Dr. Matthiesen & Co. KG Verlag in Berlin. Due to his flying skills he became test pilot and flew various top secret prototypes, among them the Henschel 132, from which, according to his own words - 8 functional prototypes were built and tested in Graz Thalerhof.
After the war, they founded the company, where the name 'GELI' simply was the acronym of Gertraud Litschers name. The official interpretation - General Education Literary Institute - was designed for the planned American market, that however never was really entered successfully.
GELI #52 McDonnell Douglas Phantom F4
My fascination for paper modeling never really died, although due to lack of time and other interests and occupations it dimmed down. Around 1999, some children saw the ancient handful of built GELI models in my office, that had survived over long years, and were taken away. The models were taken away as well by the kids, and I told them they can be purchased in every paper shop for a small amount of money and it makes a lot of fun to build them.
Soon afterwards I learned, that GELI models aren't available any more in paper shops. Not only GELI models, but all of them were gone. No market. No interest in building paper models. Available, only if you're lucky, in specialized toy shops. That was when my addiction came to life again. I browsed through toy shops, paper shops and shops for office stuff only to learn that no one remembered GELI and their models. What in the hell has happened?
In short, I gave up, searched for the telephone number of GELI, and ordered their whole portfolio two times. This was the first time I talked to Mrs. Litscher, and it took a while until the package arrived. Soon after that, the production of GELI ceased due to problems with their old hardware and also health problems of Mr. Wittrich. So I guess I was one the last persons who got a complete set of their models.
The 'Ostarrichi' Draken
In 1996 Austria celebrated the 1,000-year anniversary of the first documentary mention of the market county 'Ostarrichi', the origin of today's Austria. At the same time the air traffic control squadron celebrated its 20th anniversary, the decision to paint a Draken of the Austrian Air Force was obvious and was decided in an internal design competition in favour of the ingenious design of Capt. Michael 'Kim' Kirchner.
Saab J35Ö Draken 'Ostarrichi' live at Airpower 2003
The design shows the red-white-red national color together with the 'Ostarrichi' lettering from the document of Emperor Otto III dated with November 1th, 996 for Bishop Gottschalk of Freising, which settled the donation of the estate 'Niuuanhova' (Neuhofen an der Ybbs) 'in regione vulgari vocabulo Ostarrichi' (in the area which is colloquially called Ostarrichi).
The 'Ostarrichi Draken' quickly became popular and soon the celebrated star and eye-catcher of the airshows. It's not only the most beautiful design that ever adorned a Draken, but probably one of the most beautiful paintings of any fighter jet.
To be honest, I'm not too much interested into military stuff and already was occupied by the Crawler Transporter project, so it was not before 2007 when I came across a picture of the Ostarrichi Draken just by accident. And was totally blown away by this beauty. I searched the web and learned that this amazing beast went out of service already two years ago, but is displayed at the Military Air Museum in Zeltweg.
I had to see this thing in real, and eventually, design a paper model from it.
Ostarrichi Draken at the Military Air Museum in Zeltweg/Austria
My stay at the Air Museum was incredible. The museum staff was fantastic when they learned about my plans, and offered every help you can imagine. I was allowed to climb onto the Draken and take pictures from every angle, got tons of documentations and addresses I could turn to should any question arise.
Back at home it soon became evident, that a design from the scratch was not an option, if I wanted to finish the Crawler Transporter project in the next future.
At the same time, bad news from GELI arrived. A guy in Germany had patented 'GELI Modellbau' as his own brand and started to publish copied versions of the original GELI design. This caused bad blood among the GELI community and in the community of paper modelers as well. After years of living in the lime-light, GELI was in focus again.
GELI #48 - Saab J35 Draken
So my decision, to design an Ostarrichi version of GELI #48, was quickly made. It would be a perfect statement for the mainly Austrian GELI-fans, and a life-sign of the community of paper modelers, who would not accept a take over by copy cats.
Finished GELI version of the Ostarrichi Draken
Back in school, geometry was one of my favorite topics, so I felt quite comfortable with the task. I wanted to keep Wittrich's style in all aspects, so that the model had the look and feel of an original GELI model. Now, Karl Wittrich's designs are ingenious approximations to the real thing. They reduce the original to its essence and you recognize the modeled aircraft at the first glance. However, when you take accurate measures, you'll find out that - although the proportions seem perfectly correct - heavy deviations from the real thing.
So the real challenge was to apply the textures in a way, that they fit on the model but do not obviously violate the impression from the real Ostarrichi Draken. Also, missing features like the additional tanks had to be constructed from the scratch using the design language of the doyen.
Example page of the finished GELI version of the Ostarrichi Draken
I published the whole construction process including the built in the German card modeler forum kartonbau.de. It had an enthusiastic resonance, and soon many people asked for the files to print and build their own Ostarrichi Draken. However, as I was not the owner of the copyright and the Draken was just a fan art project, I had to deny these requests. But the seed was planted, and I grabbed the phone for another call to GELI. And to my biggest surprise, was invited to come.
The doyen with his latest design - the SR 71 Blackbird in gigantic scale 1/33. Yes, even with detailed chassis
Klagenfurt is around 150km away from my location - perfect for a short weekend trip for my wife and me. For a GELIan this visit was an absolute highlight. Mr. Wittrich was a very sociable person and his joy about our GELI enthusiasm was written in his face; Mrs. Litscher is a charming lady, ladylike in the best sense of the word; I leave out the idiotic phrase 'for her age' completely - we were simply impressed and enthusiastic about the youthfulness, which both radiated.
Unpublished GELI prototypes
We saw the new prototypes, and here I confess the only drop of bitterness of this afternoon, I had left my camera at home, so I only have a few subaltern mobile phone photos to offer (remember this was back in 2007).
We had a great and memorable dinner and well - Mr. Wittrich gave us his permission to publish the GELI Ostarrichi Draken for free download on the web, limited to my own website here and to the German paper modeler forum www.kartonbau.de.