1/72 Airmodel Boeing YC-97

Gallery Article by Carmel J Attard on Dec 17 2013



Boeing YC-97

The C-97s A to L were development of the X-97/YC-97aircraft which was a transport version of the B-29. Originally designed in 1944 the C-97 was to the B-29 as the 307 Stratoliner was to the B-17. From the YC-97 then came the C-97A, B, C, and D which were all transport aircraft used in M.A.T.S. C-97 units entered service from 1945 with the USAF and Reserve units until more recent years (late 90s) when replaced by modern jet tankers and transport type.

YC-97 45-59588 is the type which had R-3350 engines at first, later it was taken to Boeing plant in Washington and returned with a new R-4360 engines circa 1950. Six YC-97s were built, one crashed. The accompanying picture of 59588 was taken in 1948 at Goose Bay, Labrador 1st 555 out of Biggs AFB Texas. YC-97 had R-3350 engines, which were on B-29 configuration.


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Make: Airmodel conversion kit No 185
Scale: 1/72
Comments: Vac-form kit with parts to complete model but lacks decals and props and wings which should be provided from an Airfix B-29.

The Kit
This is basically the Airmodel kit No 185 in 1/72 scale molded in white soft plastic. The cockpit canopy and also the refuelling bulging aft gondola are in clear vacform acetate. Apparently at the time of its release (circa 28 years ago) there was also a separate kit conversion to produce a B/KB-50 that was not yet released in injected form at the time. These two Airmodel kits seemed to borrow parts from each other.

The kit comes with a detailed instruction sheet comprising 6 pages A4-size which contained aircraft history, method of construction, exploded views of parts, side scale plans scrap views and five port side views suggesting color schemes that included one in civil livery, that of Pan American Airways and four other side views all in USAF markings, some very colorful. Two more pages from the kit instructions contained no less than 11 graphic detail sketches, which proved to be very useful when it came to detailing the undercarriage, cockpit office, and interior layout. I did not go for any of the liveries suggested as these concerned or depicted a later type that went into service but instead went for a YC-97, a prototype/early version. One day I will make a KC-97, Academy kit that I have in my stash and that will be in ANG markings, which should be a more straightforward job than this one. 

The Airmodel conversion kit was designed for use in conjunction with the Airfix B-29. It was determined at the early stage to go for a prototype C-97 since there was a wide variation between the early mark and later versions.

Fuselage parts are first separated from the backing sheet followed by sanding producing parallel fuselage joining surfaces. Wing joints were then cut in the YC-97 fuselage. This area was further reinforced with the wing slots of the Airfix B-29 kit, i.e. the area was separated from the B-29 fuselage by sawing and was inserted inside the fuselage to correspond with the slot already cut in the soft vac plastic. In doing so the wing root area is now much stronger.

Internal bulkheads, three in number, were cut and fixed at intervals between cockpit and rear fuselage. Windows on fuselage were drilled, cut and shaped with a flat file. Cockpit interior layout was mostly scratch built but utilising parts from B-29 kit. Intermittently spaced tabs were attached to fuselage edges to serve as guides when halves are mated together. Front wheel wells were boxed using plastic card parts. Another enclosed compartment at the forward fuselage housed lead weight. A triangular shaped panel was cut at rear forming tail bumper, which also corresponded with that on B-29. At this stage the interior was painted cockpit green and then the fuselage halves were joined together using liquid cement. Masking tape secured these together until these were firm enough to hold as one piece.

The high tail fin and rudder was then cut from the vac fuselage as this was that of later version found on KC-97 and was replaced with one from the Airfix B-29, this time using super glue for a firm joint. Area was smoothened with filler. Reference was made to scale plans located in ‘Aircraft of the Fighting Powers’. The rest of kit assembly followed that of the Airfix instructions.

The internal strengthening of wing root and joints at an earlier stage paid off well as it served as good support for the heavy Airfix wings. Tail planes added and finally cockpit interior was painted and scale crew figures added before the vac clear canopy lowered into place.

The YC-97 was a service test aircraft. Photos of the aircraft showed it in B-29 type of engine cowlings and propellers, tail unit and wings at the time. An astrodome above the cockpit and also a handle bar antenna were added to forward fuselage. A gondola shaped forward radome was carried under the fuselage. This was shaped from half part of a 1,000lb bomb and painted black. This early version had the wire antenna attached to the vertical fin. Nose wheel and main wheels were also identical to those of the B-29 pattern.

Color scheme and markings
The YC-97 was overall natural metal with entire aft end and wing tips (including control surfaces) in ANA 509 red, FS11136, clean and unweathered. For natural metal I used commercial ‘Hempel’ local commercial brand paint we refer to as ‘Polporina’ This has the same effect of Modelmaster paints, costs same price but contains 10 times the volume. The Natural metal behind tail serial number and the USAF lettering on wings was on a metal finish area 21.9mm x 67.75 mm long. A fuselage stripe green decal from Airways International Graphic decorated the aircraft.

There is some contention as to the exact color of the winged motif and fuselage stripe as some color photos may be misleading making it appear dark blue more than green. This reminds me of the occasional dilemma, which arises concerning the top camouflage of Mustang of 365-fighter group, which appears dark blue in most color photos when in fact it was dark olive drab camouflage on top surfaces.

The subject I have picked definitely is a colorful one reminiscent of those hay days of the 50s era when every transport, trainer, or prototype aircraft and those operating in the arctic region wore bright high visibility colors.

It is with big surprise that with skies getting so congested with liners and military type no longer is given regard to these bright high visibility colors, but then it is quite understandable considering the advancement in radar contact, state of the art communication continuously progressing, new anti collision remedies introduced and continuous watchful eyes from ATC and area radars that make aircraft in the sky easily located and recorded and thereby the chance of mid air collision these days is very slim.

My next kit build now should be the Academy KC-97Stratotanker.

Carmel J Attard

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YC-97 Stratofreighter 45-59588


Photos and text © by Carmel J Attard