1/72 Khee-Kha Art Products CH-300 Pacemaker

Gallery Article by Carmel J. Attard on Mar 20 2017



The CH-300 Pacemaker is among the list of lesser-known but successful historic monoplanes by Bellanca Company. The CH-300 was powered by a Wright J-6 engine and a controllable pitch propeller. Pacemaker NC259M was brought to Alaska in November 1930 by frank Dorbrandt and Lon Cope for Pacific International Airways. Its speed and efficiency gave her a good reputation to earn her a place with small airline and charter operations in Alaska and Canada.

When in 1934 Star Air Service purchased competitor Mc Gee Airways fleet of 7 Stinson SM-8A, making the service Alaska’s biggest airline, the Bellanca aircraft was among the fleet. CH-300 Pacemaker registration NC259M ‘Aquila’ was the first commercial airliner aircraft to make round trip flight between Anchorage and Seattle in June 1934. Star Air Service founder and pilot Steve Mills completed the southbound leg of the trip in spite of a seagull strike, which took out the windshield and compelled to stop at Alert Bay, British Columbia, for temporary repairs. In August 30th, 1936 Pacemaker NC259M came to a sad end when it perished together with Steve Mills and 5 passengers on a mountain ridge on the Kenai Peninsula.

CH-300 Pacemaker was equipped with Skis in winter, Edo K4650 floats during the rest of the year but these were interchangeable with wheels as well, making it a most versatile machine for all types of terrain operations. The engine of NC259M had double exhaust outlets configuration.

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The kit 
Bush planes fall into a class of aircraft of their own.  Some of the early types, of the 1920s and 30s era are among the emerging range of kits issued by Khee-Kha Art Products of Wasilla, Alaska.  These are the pioneering bush planes made in white vac-formed styrene with resin detail parts that include the engine, propeller and other small detail parts.  Khee-Kha also makes a series of floats issued as separate resin kits to suite different types of bush planes.  Those who have tried their hands on vac form kits before will have an interesting surprise if they expand their range of interest also to bush planes in same way I did.  The model can be built as a land plane or a float plane.

Building the CH-300 is almost in pair with that indicated for CH-400 Skyrocket which evolved from it, and that has already been reviewed on ARC 
http://www.arcair.com/Gal13/12301-12400/gal12311-Bellanca-Attard/00.shtm  but with some minor changes as follows:

  • 1………The CH-300 Pacemaker has a Wright J6 engine. This comes in 3-part resin assembly, with highly detailed cylinders, multiple louvers to side of accessory section and an accurate controllable pitch left hand 2-blade propeller. The part exhaust manifold that is installed to engine front has a choice of orientation and the type selected for NC-259M had two exhaust outlets as mentioned earlier. The kit instructions illustrate very well the variation and type to fit different aircraft.

  • 2……….A partly rectangular and partly round block of scrap plastic to represent an oil cooler is cemented to the bottom of the accessory section also shown on plans, and these varied with different aircraft. Khee Kha Art Products gave reasons that with future kits this item will come with the kit.

  • 3………..As I opted for a floatplane version I used Edo K-4650 floats which comes as a separate resin kit. The quality and detail on these set of resin floats is incredibly complete with off-center Edo hand holds and rippled construction hull detail. Rudders and actuators had to be added with reference to scale drawings of the type Edo floats.  Khee-Kha will also now include rudders with all Edo floats in their catalog.

  • 4…………Another feature on the CH-300 is the rearmost window aperture, which should be oval instead of rectangular shape. On late production CH-300s these windows were rectangular, as on the CH-400. The CH-300 kit is molded with oval outlines so that either type is easily modeled..

  • 5………….Like the CH-400 the CH-300 could also take changes to the fuselage depending on skis, floats and wheel arrangements during service

Colors & Markings
There were a number of CH-300 Pacemaker in service with Star Air Service and these appeared in different liveries at different periods during service life. NC-259M had an early scheme consisting of red fuselage and struts, yellow wings and tail surfaces, white fuselage lettering Star motif and all other lettering being black. In due course NC-259M took another livery consisting of an overall orange, Kremlin white star on dark blue field with yellow ring which had the company name in red and blue at the center; black window and fuselage trim and possibly also a black trim on wing leading edges that could be misinterpreted as de-icing boots which were not applicable in those early days. Another Star Air Service Pacemaker with identical international orange colors was NC-168M. The “Kremlin Star” is also known as “barn star” and consists of the 5 points being divided into 2 colors each like the one depicted on the Skyrocket, the version just adopted in 1936 on NC259M at the time of the crash and not yet applied to NC168N. 

Whiskey Jack Special AK7203 decal contains the Anchorage-Seattle scheme of 1934 for NC259M and also decals for Star Airlines CH-400 NC10795. Besides the first round trip commercial flight between Anchorage and Seattle, “Aquila” was one of the first Bellancas in Alaska, beginning with Pacific International Airways in November 1930. The decals are printed on a solid carrier film and a Klear coat applied gave the decal strength during handling onto the kit. Note that on the decal instruction sheet there was a profile only for NC168N but decals only for NC259M. The black trimming mentioned above were not provided and I had to resort to a decal sheet called Fantasy Print shop Stripe set that I bought from Aeroclub of Nottingham UK which proved superb. 

Having made the CH-400 before, the building of the CH-300 was more of a straightforward job. The CH-300 was a real and historic plane that was being neglected. It was used in Alaska before WWII. It needs some thinking for a kit producer to go for something like this different and little known subject. Both the Pacemaker and the Skyrocket go together well and my recommendation is that if you go for one then add the other one too to form the Great Orange Fleet. These are vac form kits good for those with a little experience on building these types of models.

  • History by Khee-Kha Art Products

  • Whisky Jack decals history on the Pacemaker.

Carmel J. Attard

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Photos and text © by Carmel J. Attard