This project is the largest I've ever attempted. It's been in development for around six months now, with me working constantly on it for a couple of hours each day. It was supposed to be the leading project for my portfolio, and I wanted to create something big for that.
When I began working on this plane, the only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to make an F-14, or more specifically, an F-14A. In terms of the final environment, or the setup of the scene, I had no firm plans. The in-flight render of the F-14A was my main goal and it turned out to be one I filled almost completely - the only major change being that my plane's engines ended up belonging to a F14A+/B.
I used a number of reference photos for this project, most of them take from the truly excellent site http://www.anft.net - a very complete and wonderful reference work for all things related to the F14 (Fig.01 and Fig.02). I can't overstate how helpful this single page was in the creation of this project! Other useful sites were http://www.airliners.net, and lastly, http://www.primeportal.net.
I realised early on that this project would be a challenge. Looking at the mere insanity that was the nose landing gear bay (Fig.03) was an intimidating sight for sure, but in the end it was quite fun working with such a detailed model. 3D Studio Max performed admirably in this difficult environment and I didn't run into many modelling-related problems.
I began by setting up a set of high-res blueprints, given to me by a friend (two 4096 sheets with all the standard views), which proved to be very helpful in outlining the general shapes of this plane. As I was outlining the basic shape, I kept looking for reference images, both for the overall form and for small details. Primeportal.net supplied those images, but I didn't stumble across that one until the modelling stage was almost completed. I had to make do with smaller images for the most part and do a little bit of guess work for small details every now and then, especially for the landing gear bays (Fig.04 and Fig.05).