Having built some time-consuming conversions lately, I next wanted an easily-built model that could be assembled more or less straight from the box and finished in a relatively short time. Airliner models are generally easy to build I mused, being straightforward constructions without any interior and with no weapons ‘hanging off’ them.
Thus I acquired Revell’s 1:144 scale Boeing 737-800, which I had been told was one of the best airliner kits available. I also had Liveries Unlimited decals for the new Scandinavian Airlines paint scheme, a simple, but at the same time a very attractive livery. Surely it would be a simple task to finish this one?
At this time, I had occasion to fly to Troms, located north of the Arctic circle. When I boarded my Scandinavian Airlines Boeing 737 flight at Evenes Airport in Norway, I discovered that the markings for the aircraft I was due to fly in, LN-RPE, were amongst those included on the Liveries Unlimited decal sheet. There was one challenge though, this particular aircraft, (LN-RPE), was a 737-600, the shortest version of the Boeing 737 Next Generation ‘babies’. Despite this, I decided to model this particular aircraft, although it would no longer be an ‘out-of-the-box’ project.
According to the crew, the Next Generation series is not a popular workplace. The aircraft generate a lot of noise, both in the cockpit and in the cabin, and from an ergonomic point of view, the cockpit layout is a disaster. On top of this, the -600 with its short fuselage and long wings has very poor directional stability.
Generally the latest aircraft type of an airliner is the most popular to fly. Not so for SAS with their 737s. These aircraft are flown by rookies, whilst the experienced pilots choose the DC-9, MD-80 and -90!
The kit is available in two versions; the only difference being the decal sheet. The kits are No 4238 with decals for Hapag-Lloyd, and 4245 with KLM decals included.
Right: Liveries Unlimited excellent conversion notes for the 737-600.
Below: Three under construction views of the model during the conversion process. Note the cuts for the fuselage shortening and the re-shaped engine nacelles.
I started construction by filling the fuselage windows, using Milliput rolled out to a long cord and placed along the length of the windows on the inside of the fuselage. I then pressed the Milliput through the windows and let it dry before I sanded everything flush from the outside.
It has been reported that the windows row is a bit too low on the fuselage side and that this can make problems for aligning cheatlines with the cockpit windows and the tail. This was no longer a problem now. The next step was to shorten the fuselage.
The Liveries Unlimited instructions give detailed description on where to cut; 30.4 millimetres were removed in front of the wings and 26.8mm aft. (see their instructions, reproduced above, with their kind permission). I had good help from a mitre box that I had recently acquired. The 737-800’s tail bumper was removed at this stage.
Above and right: Close-ups of the original Revell kit, and modified, engine nacelles.
Gluing together the fuselage halves is a stage that should not be rushed. I joined two sections at a time, carefully ensuring that everything was aligned, and then allowed them to dry before attaching the next section. I also made sure that the left and right fuselage halves matched when joining the sections.
With the six fuselage sections joined together, I added some weight to the nose before I attached the cockpit transparency. I did not bother to protect the window glazing, since I would be using the decals to represent all the windows.
I removed the antennas on the fuselage top and bottom as they are too wide in scale and would easily break off when handling the model anyway. New scale size antennas were added later. The construction of the wings was very simple. The one piece for the lower wing half and fuselage section ensures the correct dihedral. The upper wing halves were then glued to the lower wing half. A main undercarriage well is also provided. This is attached to the centre section between the wings, from the inside. Care must be taken when the wings are attached to the fuselage. A blade antenna on the underside prevents the wing section to be snapped right in. I removed the blade antenna and replaced with with plastic card later on.
Moving on to the engines. These are the only parts on the kit that really need improvement. From various kit reviews I had read, the engines lack a proper intake duct and the ‘fan’ is just moulded to a bulkhead. This seems to be a common problem with many airliner kits. I decided to fix ‘the problem’. My way of solving this was to cut out a strip of aluminium from a beer can, about 3mm wide, and fold this around the fan disk. The engine was then assembled, and when dry, I filled the inside walls between the aluminium ring and the intake lip with Milliput. This was smoothed whilst still wet and finally sanded when dry. The small strakes on the nacelles were replaced with new items cut out from thin plastic card.
After cementing the engines to the wings and the wings to the fuselage I noticed that the shape of the engines is wrong! The NG series nacelles are both longer and wider than the 300-500 series of nacelles. Revell has managed to capture the increased length, but has failed to capture the higher intake opening. Whilst the 300-500 series has a flattened lower lip, the NGs intake openings are rounder. Thus the undersides of the nacelles are almost parallel to the aircraft’s centreline and to the ground, but the kit engines have a distinctive ‘nose-up’ angle.
First I had to prepare for a new lower lip. With a pair of scissors I cut out another short strip of aluminium from a beer can. I superglued this part on the outside of the original flattened lip, thus giving the opening a rounder appearance. The space between the new lip section and the kit part was then built up with Milliput, as well as the underside of the nacelle. When this was dry, I filed the intake duct to make it deeper in height and sanded the underside to shape.
Now that I know the problems with the engines, I would do the stages in a slightly different order, by first attaching the strip to the fan disk and then assembling the engine. Then I would fix the intake opening and the nacelle underside. Finally, I would build up the intake duct before attaching the engines to the wings.
All the work on the fuselage and engines had removed many of the panel lines. On a model in this scale, not much should be visible anyway, but with panel lines on some areas whilst other areas were devoid of any lines, it would not look so good, so I carefully rescribed most of the lines, trying to get them as delicate as possible.
The undercarriage on this model is very nice and is more detailed than on many larger scale kits. One thing should be noticed though, on the kit instruction sheet for the Hapag-Lloyd decals option – the right and left undercarriage legs have been switched and show the torque link scissors incorrectly. This has been corrected on the KLM kit instructions.
To make it clear, part 42 is the starboard leg, whilst part 49 is the port, and the torque link scissors should be on the front of the legs. I basically used the parts from the kit, except from thinning down the torque links and replacing the nose wheel doors with thin plastic card. The various antennas were replaced with
Right and below: The much modified finished model in the striking SAS livery.
items also made of plastic card. I added a few antennas missing in the kit as well, using photos as reference.
Now I was coming to the stage where I would bring life to the model. Studying photos of Scandinavian 737s on the Airliners. net web site, disclosed a few inaccuracies on the Liveries Unlimited painting instructions. This is, according to the manufacturer, because the decal sheets were designed before many SAS 737s had entered service and SAS painting instructions had been used as reference. I would recommend the Airliners. net web site to anyone who builds civilian aircraft models. It contains thousands of photos. (A search on Boeing 737 300-500 series from any airline resulted in more than 15000 photos!)
First I gave the model a coat of light grey to reveal any scratches and/or blemishes. I found a few areas that needed extra filling and sanding. I then started applying the actual colours. Xtracolor produce paint for two of the colours for the new SAS livery. The fuselage grey (X338) and the engine red-orange (X339). Unfortunately, no paint for the blue fin is provided, but RAF Roundel Blue (X30) is nearly spot-on. Xtracolor also have other general colours such as ВАС 707, also known as Boeing Grey (X301).
I started with the wings, painting these ВАС 707. The undercarriage and the wheel well bays were also painted in this colour. Leading edges of the wings, tailplanes and fin and the fuselage rear end were then painted with Humbrol Polished Aluminium and polished with SnJ polishing powder.
I painted the intake lips with Xtracolor X331 Corroguard, a darker and duller metal finish than the wing leading edges. The insides should be the same colour, but to achieve a shadow effect I used a darker shade here, Xtracolor Natural Steel.
The engine fans were painted Humbrol Gun Metal. The ‘hot end’ of the engines were painted Corroguard and Xtracolor Oily Steel. With the wings and metal finishes masked, I painted the fuselage and the engine nacelles in SAS grey.
Next came the red-orange sections on the nacelles. The strakes are described as red-orange on the instruction sheet, but they were SAS grey on the aircraft I modelled. This seems to vary between the aircraft, grey on some red-orange on others. Engine nacelles are frequently hit by baggage trucks and other vehicles, making repairs necessary. The metal leading edges and the demarcation between the Boeing grey and SAS grey on the nacelles is not quite accurately described on the instructions.
Liveries Unlimited provides the complete fin as a decal, which is why Xtracolor has not produced this paint. However, the demarcation between the blue fin decal and the metal and grey leading edge is not correct for many aircraft, including LN-RPE. I have mixed experience with decals covering a complete surface like this and since the SAS logos are also included as separate decals on the sheet I decided to paint the fin.
Before I could start applying the decals I had to touch up a few places and overshot a few places with the airbrush. In addition to the painted door outlines, the sheet also provides separate decals with panel lines for the doors and hinges as well as for the baggage hatches. I chose to not use these, since these lines are not visible on the real aircraft from a distance. The sheet also includes a large number of small stencils which made the decalling job a rather lengthy one. It took me two evenings to apply all the little devils to the model. It prevented me from spending money at the local pub though!
What I thought would be a fast build model took me over a month to finish. However, much of the work was done the first week and I wasn’t as effective as I could have been over the following weeks. Now that I know the few faults with the kit and how to deal with them, I will certainly build another one. But the next one will be built as a straight -800 with no modifications to the fuselage length.
Thanks to Jennings Heilig for producing this set of Liveries Unlimited decals, thus making it possible for me to build this model.
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