Scale: 1:72 Kit type: Injection moulded Decal options: (three) VH-EAD, QANTAS, 1958; VH-EAG, Historical Aircraft Restoration Society, Australia, 1996; N1009C, Irish International Airlines, 1960 UK price: £19.99
For certain this new Airfix kit is based on the old Heller kit. The Heller logo appears on the inside of the fuselage and the parts are interchangeable with the Heller L-1049G. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that the intent of the kit is to represent the L-1049G, even though it is simply called the Super Constellation. The L-1049G was certainly the most common of the L-1049, or Super Constellation, series. Since this boxing is based on the Heller kit, many of its problems are well known, but I also found a couple of new ones. In keeping with the spirit of a review, I did not replace any parts and simply fixed kit parts as required.
There are 77 pieces moulded in light grey, 12 moulded in white, and 13 clear parts. The opaque plastic is soft and somewhat flaky. The primary difference between the original Heller L-1049G and this kit is that this kit has optional parts for the nose, which can be modelled with or without radar. The instruction sheet is a little over 8 x 11 in (20 x 28 cm) and consists of detailed assembly drawings covering a total of 14 pages, three of which are given to decal placement. Fairly detailed drawings are provided for each step, and the location of difficult to decide parts, such as the landing gear pieces, is clear from the drawings. Humbrol colors are used. Raised lines are provided for details, but the main cabin doors are engraved. Assembly begins with the flight deck, which consists of an instrument panel, two seats, two control columns, a floor and a rear bulkhead, all of which attach to the nose gear well. I assembled these, painted black and highlighted, and installed them in the fuselage. Virtually nothing will be visible when the fuselage is buttoned up. Next the fuselage halves were glued together. Whether from the age of the moulds or the thinness of the plastic, or a combination, the parts didn’t just click together. As a result, I started at the top centre and glued the halves together first using liquid cement. When the joint was good and hard, I glued the top front together, followed by the rear. Then I used a heavy coat of Zap glue along the inside of the top of the fuselage everywhere I could reach through the hole in the bottom for the wing. Once all was good and dry, I glued the bottom of the fuselage together. By taking this incremental approach I did not end up with any part of the joint I couldn’t fix by either sanding or with a little filler, and the join is quite strong. Because I decided to use Kristal Klear for the cabin windows, I did not assemble the clear parts. The cockpit windscreen appears incorrect, I believe because when moving from the L-749 to the L-1049, Heller simply made the part bigger and did not do what Lockheed did, which is make the area larger and raise it. To remedy this, I raised the windscreen about twenty thousandths of an inch, using sheet plastic. Then I built up the area to the rear of the part and blended it into the fuselage to give the heavy brow appearance so obvious on the real aircraft. In retrospect, I believe I’d raise the part about twice as high and perhaps make the windscreen panels larger. All the tail parts fit alright, but I used Mr Surfacer 500 for most, if not all of their joints.
The wing went together fine, although some filler was needed along the leading edge, particularly around the nacelles. If you elect to build an aircraft without the tip tanks, as I did, you will have to saw the tip tank off the bottom wing and then fill the resulting hole in the bottom wing with layered sheet plastic. If you do decide to use the tip tanks, be advised that they are too small and you will want to widen them about an eighth of an inch and extend them in length by about the same amount in the centre. The raised lines for the de-icer boot are much too large for the scale and should be filed and sanded away. The nacelles themselves have problems, some of which are easy to remedy. They are too long and the oil cooler intake and carburettor air intakes are too short. I remedied this by sawing about an eighth of an inch from the back of the nacelles and extending the intakes using 40 thousandths sheet plastic. They are also slightly too tapered at the front, which I ignored. Alternatively, you could completely replace them, a couple of replacement sources of which I am aware are to be found at www. HaHen. de and www. djparkins. clara. net. The props and spinners need some fixing as well. The spinners are too long, so I cut about an eighth of an inch from their backs and the propeller blades are too wide, being for the earlier version of the Connie. I thinned these while I was cleaning the flash off the spinners. Since I decided to make the Irish version, I also straightened the blades and squared of their tips, since these aircraft used the later style high-thrust takeoff propellers. Whichever version of the aircraft you decide to make, you will want to thin the blades for the L-1049 series. There is an intake cooling afterbody needed behind the propeller which I made from the plastic on the tree with the engines. I drilled out the exhaust pipes. The landing gear is crude, or maybe more politely said, over simplified, somewhat bulky and the wheels are too large. There was significant flash on every landing gear part. I used the wheels as they came, although smaller, thinner replacements would be more to scale. I drilled out the centre of the landing gear and inserted brass rod in it for added strength because I was worried about how well the rather soft plastic would hold up after I added about 2 oz (57 g) of lead to the nose.
I painted the de-icer boots first, using Floquil Grimy Black, then masked and painted the rest of the model. I painted the model using Testors PLA white for the crown and, after polishing the rather pebbly wing surfaces, Alclad II Polished Aluminum for the wings. Although the instructions show the wing walk areas in grey, I was unable to determine that this was accurate and painted mine instead using Alclad II White Aluminum.
Decals are provided on a rather large decal sheet (114 x 1812 in; 28.6 x 47 cm) and cover three aircraft and various hull markings, such as the wingwalks and some of the de-icer boots. Specific decals are for VH-EAD, VH-EAG, and N1009C. VH-EAD, hull number 4607, is a QANTAS L-1049E and the markings provided are for the delivery scheme with the red cheat line and the winged kangaroo on the tail. VH-EAG, hull number 4539, was an L-1049C and was also, previously, a QANTAS aircraft. The markings for it provided in the kit, however, are for the restored aircraft belonging to the Historical Aviation Restoration Project, which have a red kangaroo on the tail and the titles ‘CONNIE’ on the fuselage. It shares the red cheatline with the QANTAS aircraft, along with the tip tank flashes and the Australian flag on the tail. Both of the Australian aircraft operated with tip tanks, so you could model the wings as they come. To model the ‘E’, you can use the kit as provided. To model the ‘C’, which was a freighter, you will have to scratch build the cargo door and as far as I am aware, all the ‘C’s were delivered without any cabin windows. N1009C, hull number 4807, was a Seaboard and Western L-1049H, which was wet leased by Aerietna for flights between New York, La Guardia, and Shannon, starting in spring 1958. In order to use these decals with any accuracy would require a conversion of the kit to L-1049H standard, the latter being a convertible freighter version of the aircraft. Externally, the main difference between the ‘H’ and the ‘G’ is the presence of cargo doors on the port side, a large one at the front and a huge one at the rear, and a bunch of differences in the windows. The passenger doors were mounted in the cargo doors, for when the aircraft were operating as airliners, as when Aerietna used this example.
Aerietna also leased two other aircraft from Seaboard and Western during the same period, N1008C and N1005C. ‘8C was another L-1049H, of which Seaboard operated a number. But ‘5C, hull number 4557, was an L-1049E. It was originally leased to Cubana as CU-P573, but was later taken up by Seaboard and Western as N1005C. It was returned to Seaboard in 1961. Except for some differences in the window arrangement and the door arrangements, the ‘E’ appears very similar to the ‘G’. The forward cabin door on the Heller kit is actually more like that of an ‘E’ rather than that of most ‘G’s, although some ‘G’s did operate with the same type of door as the ‘E’. This is the one I decided to make. I ignored the window problem because the cheat line came with the widows already cut out.
There was another major problem I found with the decals, besides them being for the wrong aircraft. The titles on the decal sheet read ‘Irish International Air Lines’. My references agree that these titles were carried on the port side, which was often the boarding side. But on the starboard side, the titles should read ‘Aerlinte Erinne’. This was not an uncommon practice in the 1960s, many aircraft having English titles on one side and native language titles on the opposite side. I made these new titles by cutting the letters apart and reassembling them. I had to hand paint extra arms for a couple of ‘E’s, made using some extra ‘I’s. The final problem was that the window borders are provided in silver-grey for this aircraft, which is accurate, but they did not fit. The problem is that there is not enough green above the windows at the top of the cheatline for the frames to fit, so I left them off. The cheat-line comes in three pieces for each side, a centre, front and rear part and that is how I assembled them, centre first, then the front and the rear. There is extra material to fill in any gaps and I did end up with one on either side. Although the decals are opaque enough, they have a white background, there were some problems with the fit which I made up for by painting the areas around the window frames that were not adequately covered. If I had it to do over again, I would probably just paint the cheatline. There are two shamrock logos provided for around the rear entry door on the left side. I can say that on most L-1049Hs there are circular view windows at this location. On ‘9C, however, sometimes at least, these windows were covered by the
shamrock. For the L-1049E I assumed the markings would be the same, so included them on the model. Decals are provided for some of the de-icer boots, but I did not use any except on the propellers. The Hamilton Standard logos do not appear on the later, square-tipped propellers. The wing walk decals generally went on well, but didn’t exactly fit around the complex nacelles and I ended up hand painting that area. I couldn’t find any photographic reference for the strange engine nacelle decals and so didn’t use them. After the decals dried, I coated the model with Future and it was done.
Scalewise, I would estimate that the model is a bit overstated, by which I mean it is heavy. True, the tip tanks are a bit small, but the wingspan is a bit large and I believe the fuselage is even larger still. Without the tip tanks, I measured the span at about 125 ft 6 in, compared to the actual 123 ft. With the tip tanks it is even larger. I didn’t measure the fuselage because of the radar dome, of which there were different variations and so there are a number of different fuselage lengths reported. I was not certain which came without the radar dome. In conclusion, if you like the Connie, you can’t not like this model and it is good to have it reissued. Although it doesn’t exactly click together, there is nothing a modeller with average experience can’t handle.
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