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777 boeing aircraft

15 Jul
2012

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Boeing’s 777 is selling better than ever, easily beating off the competition from Airbus. David H. Minton has flown on 777s in American, BA and United liveries and, following his standard practice, he set out to model them all. Having already started a Welsh Models vacform kit, he finished this in United colours, adding American and BA machines from injection-moulded Minicraft kits.

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In general when modelling airliners, I attempt to model ones in which I’ve flown. Where that is not possible, then I attempt to model those of particular interest, which, to me, usually means aircraft in interesting or historical liveries.
As far as the 777 is concerned, apart from differences in fuselage length and the raked wingtips of the 777-200LR and -300ER, the primary visual difference between variants and, indeed, sometimes within the same variant but for different airlines, is in the type’s three engine options. These are from the usual suspects, in the form of Rolls-Royce Trent 800-series, Pratt & Whitney PW4000-series and General Electric GE90-series turbofans. At a casual glance these engines appear to use very much the same nacelles on the aircraft, so as you do your modelling, note your references. Most carriers operate with only one engine type, with the notable exception of British Airways, which operates with both GE90s and Trents. Initially BA ordered the aircraft with GE90s, both as an economic and schedule consideration. The aircraft went into operation as such, but there was some political fall out in that it was argued that BA should use Rolls-Royces engines. Subsequent aircraft were duly ordered with Trents and now both types are in operation.
As a side note, about the same time as the engine controversy was raging, BA also introduced a new livery. It went from the traditional Landor scheme to a more stvlish and brighter scheme. In order to capitalise on its service to so many destinations, the airline hired various artists to paint themes on the tails of its aircraft. This set of schemes has usually been considered under an umbrella term as the ‘World’ scheme, but I’ve also seen it called the ‘worl’ scheme, a sideways reference, I think, to Andy Worhol’s modern style of art, and the ‘Crossing Borders’ theme. In any event, except for the variety that displayed what looks like the Union Jack unfurled across the aircraft’s fin, and hence is called the ‘Flag’ or ‘Union Jack’ scheme, these liveries were hugely unpopular and have all but gone.
By pure serendipity I happened to have flown on 777s belonging to American Airlines, British Airways and United Airlines, so naturally I decided to build one of each. To 1:144 scale, to the best of my knowledge, there are only two 777 kits available, ‘these are the Welsh Models vacform kit and the Minicraft injection-moulded kit. The Welsh Models kit comes
released a few years before the Minicraft kit. The Minicraft kit is available with each of the engine types, so is suitable for finishing in various liveries. Thus, one of the first things you are going to have to do is determine the engines of the aircraft you desire to model. T his can be a problem, because 777 engines look virtually identical when mounted. In reality, it is easiest to tell them apart by looking at the engine manufacturer’s logo on the engine nacelle, since all of the logos are quite different. The problem, however, is that not all aircraft display manufacturer logos on their nacelles. A good plan is therefore to consult the various airline fleet lists available in books or on the Internet to decide on the correct engine fit for your model.

boeing 777 jet

As it happens, I had already made good progress in completing the Welsh Models kit when I decided to build the Minicraft kit, so in this article I’m going to discuss both builds in detail.

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The Welsh Models kit, when I bought it, cost about twice in LIS dollars what I paid for the later Minicraft kit. That makes it an expensive buy and I am uncertain if it is currently available, I haven’t seen it on any listings lately. Because of that, 1 don’t think I would recommend it over the Minicraft kit, although it does have some things going for it, including its surface detail. It is definitely worth building if you have it, however. What you get is a large stiff cardboard box with a vacformed sheet, some resin parts, and some white metal parts. There is also a large instruction sheet and a decal sheet, printed by Liveries Unlimited, which publishes many excellent airliner decal sheets of its own. There are 32 vacformed parts, ten resin parts, and 24 metal gear parts. The gear parts consist of the wheels, struts, bogies, and stays. The resin parts consist of the flap fairings and front and rear engine nacelle components. The vacformed parts consist of the fuselage, fuselage stiffeners, a wing fitting, the wing, tail, engine nacelle and pylons, the main gear doors and the hinge fairings.
Construction is pretty conventional for a vacformed kit. Although 1.5-mm plastic is used throughout – meaning the model is quite strong – I still highly recommend that you use the fuselage stiffeners as recommended in the kit. If the plastic flexes slightly after you have fully assembled the model, you will not be very happy. And given the amount of sanding you are likely to do, it just seems the prudent choice to use the stiffeners. The same with the wing spar, use it to gain a more rigid assembly and hence more strength in the entire model. One problem with the spar is that it doesn’t easily fit to the wing. If you cut the spar out and mount it in the fuselage, then where it comes out to join into the wing, it has a given depth. Unless you build the model very differently than I, that depth will be nowhere near sufficient to reach the top and the bottom of the wing. In order to solve this problem I used scrap plastic, which I attached to the top and the bottom of the wing spar as necessary, until its depth was sufficient to fill the wing and give the joint good strength. The scrap I used was 0.005-thou, which gave me the opportunity to build up the thickness gradually until the spar fit into the wing like the proverbial glove. Then I used liquid cement on the interior of the wing joint, for it’s slow setting time, and cyanoacrylate on the actual joint itself, because of its fast drying time. The end result is a very strong and not very flexible joint, at a point where those qualities are particularly needed. This is definitely handy while you are filling, sanding, painting, masking and so forth, and I believe addresses one of the problems other modellers ask me about most often when it comes to building vacforms – how do you make all of the joints strong?

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logos. There is a small strake on the inside of the engine nacelles of all types of engine. It is usually finished in the same colour as the engine nacelle. Neither the Welsh Models kit nor the Minicraft kit provide this feature, so you will have to scratch build it. All of the engines have been finished and had strakes added to their inner sections in the photograph above. The engines shown here are the starboard units from each of the aircraft being modelled, (all David H. Mintonl

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In their unpainted forms the engines are not very easy to tell apart. I therefore wrote the engine type on the top of the pylons with a felt pen so that I didn’t end up making a mistake. With the engines painted, decaled, and ready to be put onto their respective aircraft (above), it’s easier to tell them apart. This is particularly true where the livery includes the engine manufacturer’s logo, but note that this is not the case here for the Rolls-Royce engines, since American does not display engine

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I painted the entire lower wings in Boeing Gray (above), then used Tamiya masking tape to mask the flap-jack fairings and the inner sections for painting as corrogard panels. Of the aircraft I modelled, only the British Airways machine had corrogard on its uppersurfaces, but all of them had it on their lowersurfaces.

The Minicraft kit suffered from fit problems along its fuselage seams and where the windscreen/upper forward fuselage fitted to the main fuselage, and there were sink marks on the upper and lower surfaces. Also, I had to rebuild some of the fuselage engraving, which was incomplete on the kit. The photograph at right shows how much work was required along the top of the fuselage. The fuselages of both Minicraft kits suffered from these

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problems to a greater or lesser extent. Nor was the Welsh Models kit immune from these types of problems. There were no sink marks on it, since it was vacformed, but the windows either had to be drilled out or filled. I chose to fill them and of course, the fuselage seams required filling and sanding. None of the transparent sections fits very well into its fuselage cavity. Since the clear plastic of the Minicraft kits was somewhat harder than the white styrene of the rest of the model, I resorted to carving away the offending clear section with my No. 11 blade, and then sanding the entire region smooth. As can be seen, there is a significant amount of remedial work to be completed before painting can begin.

I strengthened the fuselage joints in a similar manner. After separating and sanding all of the parts, including the fuselage stiffeners, I carefully fitted and glued them in place. Then, using leftover kit plastic, I cut very thin strips which I laid along the inside of the fuselage joint, top and bottom, between the stiffeners. These formed a kind of shelf for the other fuselage half. Using liquid cement for the whole assembly, I was able to achieve a strong and rigid joint which would easily withstand the rigours of building the model. Most of the rest of the kit’s assembly is relatively straightforward. Because the fan assemblies and the hot parts of the engine are in cast resin and fully formed as cylindrical, the problem of getting the engine nacelles rounded and complete is a little unusual. The basic approach is to fit the parts to the engine pylon assembly and then fill or stretch the pylon parts as necessary to match the circular cross section of the engine afterbody. Once you have done this, then you can do the same with the nacelle parts and the fan assembly – fitting the two assemblies together then completes the task. 

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Above: After a lot of filling, sanding, priming and painting, eventually the Minicraft kits start to take shape and begin to look like 777s. Note in this view that I have painted the leading edges in accordance with the Minicraft instructions, which I subsequently discovered were incorrect.

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The Minicraft American Airlines decals did not fit completely or uniformly around the model’s nose, so some work using a knife and Aero Gloss was necessary. I touched up any final problems with Testors paint. The same problem occurred with the Xtradecal set for the British Airways livery, although in a different area. In this case the fin markings didn’t fit exactly to the model’s tail, so some touch up work was necessary. Because extra decal material came with the kit, I was able to use Aero Gloss thinner to patch up the missing areas and did not need any Testors paint.

Below: The British Airways Xtradecal was especially complete, although the large tail sections fragmented in the water and a lot of care was needed to apply them to the model.

model airplane plastic

For certain, the fan-nacelle arrange – ment is more prominent than the hot section, so use more care on it. Be prepared to take your time, and remember that the vacforming process can also lead to irregularities in shape, so maybe it isn’t due to your bad modelling that the parts don’t just snap into place! Sanding and filling and sanding and filling again will yield quite pleasing results, however. Note that although they are on the kit’s drawings, no particular attention is drawn to the nacelle strakes and you will have to fabricate these from scratch. 1 used 10-thou plastic sheet.

Boeing 777-300er

When sanding the wing and tail panels for assembly, be sure to make the trailing edges quite thin. This will result in a more appealing model. There are some pin holes present in the plastic, these being a feature of the vacforming process. I think there is one on every inspection panel and there should be none. On the upper wing panels, where there is something of a dearth of inspection panels, the sneaky little rascals sometimes appear in the engraved panel lines! Get rid of these also; the back of a No. 11 X-Acto blade works well. The flap-jack fairings are easy to locate on the wings and I glued them in place with cyanoacrylate glue. You must fabricate the small main and nose gear doors from scratch, as well as any antennae that appear on your model. The flap-track fairings are provided with the kit, but 1 found it easier to fabricate them from scratch.
I think the metal landing gear is the worst part of this kit, as has been the case with other Welsh Models products. Hard plastic or resin might be better materials for the undercarriage because the mouldings are quite rough and working in metal is more tedious. In any event, I think every wheel was slightly out of alignment in the mould, not an uncommon problem with metal, and as a result I spent a lot of time cleaning up the seams to make the wheels smooth. The same was true of the main gear struts, although these were not quite as bad. In any event, once you have done all of this cleaning up, assembly is relatively straightforward. There are, however, issues to which you must attend to ensure the main strut alignment is correct and that the wheels all sit ‘flat’ on the ground. Mostly these involve being sure that the strut of the main gear fits at the correct angle into the wheel bogie. I used brass tube to create a fitting in the kit’s plastic for all of the gear parts, because I was worried that the plastic might be too thin to support the white metal gear without a larger surface area being provided. This involved cutting very small sections of brass tubing, each about 1 mm long, which had an interior diameter matched to the gear component. 1 then drilled holes in the wings and fuselage for the undercarriage units, before gluing these fittings in the holes with cyanoacrylate. I then glued the gear struts into the brass fittings, resulting in overall much stronger joints.

Minicraft kit

The Minicraft product is pretty standard for an airliner kit. It comes with three different engine options, represented by different kits. In other words, except for the engines and nacelles, all of the parts of the three kits are common. Since I already had the Pratt & Whitney engines in the Welsh Models kit, I built GE – and RR-engined 777s from Minicraft kits. ‘The kit comes in a large box and moulded entirely in white plastic, except for the clear windscreen. There are five sprues and two fuselage halves, plus the windscreen component. The sprues are one each for the upper and lower wing surfaces, which have their flap-track fairings moulded in; one for the two tailplanes; one for the landing gear; and one for the engines and pylons. It is the engine sprue which is different in each kit. There is a total of 55 parts, of which 14 comprise the engines and pylons and 32 the landing gear, including the nose gear well.
Assembly is fairly straightforward. I painted the interior of the model in the cockpit area black and weighted its nose. The instructions call for 3/i oz (21 g) of ballast and I’m sure I used at least that amount, but I tape my models together and check them to be sure 1 have enough weight inside. The weight was held in the nose using Milliput epoxy putty. Again, everything was painted black inside the cockpit, including the ballast.
I built the model in subassemblies; fuselage, wings, engines and landing gear. There are no real surprises in construction, although I did not find that the windscreen fit easily to the fuselage, again a problem common to Minicraft kits, so a lot of filing, filling and sanding was necessary. I masked the front windows with tape and left them clear on the completed model. For some reason Minicraft made these so that they are somewhat countersunk, rather than flush, as they are on the real aircraft. Alternatively, you could fill them in and use the decal provided for
the front windows, which will result in a more flush appearance. Since there are no side windows provided, these were added using decals, which I much prefer to drilling them all out. On both of the Minicraft kits I built there were various shrink marks and sink holes around the alignment tabs, so filling and sanding around these was also necessary. In this regard, for the cost of the kit, I felt that the Welsh Models kit was better than the Minicraft offering. An additional problem with the Minicraft models was the fact that the fuselage detail was, variously, incomplete, misaligned from one half to the other, much too broad and in some cases, rough. This led to more filling and filing and sanding and re-scribing, until I was happy.

Engine conundrum

Assembly sequence No. 5 covers the assembly for the engine components. These are made up of the compressor blades, engine and pylon left and right parts, a hot part or tail cone, left and right nacelle parts and the front cowl ring. All of the instructions I have seen, regardless of the kit variant, have these parts listed for the Rolls-Royce engine. Therefore, if you are building the American Airlines version, or any other RR version, the part numbers in the instructions are correct. If you are building a GE or P&W version, however, the part numbers in the instructions do not match the part numbers on the sprues. This is noted in the instructions in a somewhat oblique manner, but the parts are few and the assembly straightforward, so it shouldn’t cause any trouble. The fit of all of these engine parts was adequate, but filling, filing, sanding and re-scribing was necessary on virtually every seam, which was rather tiresome.

Again, and typically for airliner models, the landing gear is probably oversized for the scale, but scale gear probably would not support the model adequately. The assembly of the undercarriage, especially the main gear, can also be a little tricky. There are three things to pay attention to during the assembly. As presented in the model, part 30, which is the main wheel bogie for all six of the wheels on each side of the aircraft, has a front to back order. I cannot find a reference or actual aircraft on which the features on the kit gear parts match the real aircraft, but after spending some time studying photographs of 777 landing gear, 1 guesstimated that the large body goes to the front and the two smaller bodies go to the back, so installed the gear accordingly. The other two problems you have to consider, common with the Welsh Models kit, are the main gearwheel bogie alignment. The main gear strut is aligned tilted slightly backward, hence the bogie must be aligned with its forward end slightly canted up so that the model will sit horizontally on its gear. This all sounds rather more difficult than it actually is and I did not find a jig necessary. One problem I did notice, however, is that there was a natural tendency for the main struts to twist slightly inward, making the gear somewhat pigeon-toed. To combat this I used cyano-acrylate glue, holding the relevant parts in place until it was sufficiently hardened. David describes how he painted and decaled his 777 trio

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