Home     What's New     Showcase     Workshop     Products     About Testor     Search     Links

KC-97L Stratotanker

by Mark Krumrey




This subject of this article is the Boeing KC-97L Stratotanker powered by a combination of piston engines and jets. This variant is easy to identify compared to the KC-97G which has underwing tanks, and with the C-97 which has neither tanks nor jets

Boeing built 888 C/KC-97 airframes. The prototypes used B-29 wings, engines and tails.  Production models utilized the Pratt and Whitney R4360 engines and an eight foot taller tail that would fold to allow entrance into existing hangar facilities.   

The aircraft served until the mid 1970’s with many Air National Guard units. A number were cobbled into the “Guppy” program, and to this day some examples are still flying in Latin American countries. 

Most recently, a converted KC-97 is being utilized the TCAH as a storage facility at the site of the former Minnesota Air Guard Museum.  

The C-97 was never a satisfactory cargo aircraft and, as a Tanker, had to be retrofitted with jet engines to permit refueling of modern jets.  This being said, it still served it’s purpose, from delivering over a million bags of coal to a beleaguered Berlin during the Berlin Crisis, to refueling aircraft during the Viet Nam conflict, and soldiering on with many Air National Guard units well into the 1970’s.  



This is a review of my Academy 1/72 scale KC-97L kit, and associated accessories.

Academy's KC-97L In the Box

A long awaited kit in modeldom, the KC-97L Stratotanker is another addition to Academy's 1/72 stable of the B-29/C-97 family.  If you have built the B-29 or B-50 you will recognize a lot of the parts.  

Upon opening the box the modeler is presented with 167 crisply molded parts, with the clear parts in separate bags. All the parts have nicely recessed panel lines. 

The decals are fairly complete considering they are kit decals, and give the modeller options to build several Air National Guard A/C, or a SAC tanker.  There are enough detail decals, including the propeller warning stripes for the fuselage and inboard cowling,  APU, and Wing walk areas, etc. to provide the modeller with a very satisfactory model when complete.


After-Market Accessories

For the aftermarket enthusiast there is (at least, there was) a nice decal sheet from Airway Graphics - sheet AGM7-002 - with a multitude of markings, detailed instructions, to include a brief history of each aircraft represented, and enough little detail decals to do one airplane.

Several Air National Guard Units are represented, to include a colorful California Air National Guard aircraftThe instructions to this sheet also supply titles for several states including Minnesota Air Guard, that you can copy onto decal paper using a copy machine.  I have done this with satisfactory results.   Sadly, this company is now out of business, and the sheets are hard to find, and a bit expensive at around $27.00; but worth the price and effort to find them.

Cobra Company, www.cobracompany.com has a nice resin set for $24.95, which includes corrected cowlings, the turbo superchargers, correct wheels, the steering dampener, the later light rails found on most “L” models, and an under fuselage antenna blister that was carried by some aircraft.   In my opinion, these parts are nice and do improve the look and accuracy of the model, but if you just want a KC-97, the kit parts look alright, and only the most discriminating C/KC-97/Stratocruiser  aficionado would probably notice the difference. 

That being said, I used the cobra set on this KC-97L, and will probably use them on future projects.  

Eduard, Photo Etch set 72-351, available from Roll Models, gives the modeler a ton of goodies to work with to super detail the kit.  The problem is, most of the detail will never be viewable to the human eye once the model is put together! 

The wheel well parts are neat but again not highly visible, and how far does the modeler want to go?  I was also disappointed that despite the quality of the exterior details, no wiper blades were supplied!   

Eduard, also makes a pre cut mask set,  XC080.  I was not particularly happy with this product.   

Cutting Edge, makes a canopy and wheel mask set that I like.  I don’t know the number as I threw away the packaging and instructions, but it is part of their Black Magic Canopy and wheel mask set.  The wheel masks are nice in that they give you something to hold onto whilst painting the hubs!





I painted all interior parts, wheel wells etc.  Model Master Medium Green FS34102.  The Fuselage base color is Floquil Old Silver; I observed that Old Silver is brighter than Bright Silver. 


I drilled out the holes in the fuselage for the antennae, extra pitot tubes from the Eduard set, the APU Exhaust port, located on the port side about amidships, light bar and the refueling boom docking hardware. 

Forward on the port side of the actual aircraft is a drift indicator, a sort of bulbuous looking thing, that I drilled a hole for and used a piece of rounded sprue to simulate the indicator.   Check references for exact placement of the pitot tubes, drift indicator, and the APU exhaust port.  I did get a chance to look at the Air Guards C-97 for a lot of the details.  I then cut the aft tip of the fuselage off, as there is a clear tip on the KC-97’s.  There are lines indicating where to cut, and the clear piece fits well, without any sanding. 



The fuselage windows have a little dot on the inside to indicate which side is up, as they are curved to meet the curve of the fuselage. I glued in the windows when dry, using Tamiya Yellow tape, masked off the painted area. 


I built the interior per the instructions, painting everything Testors Modelmaster Medium Green FS34102, save the seats, which I painted Model Master Olive Drab FS34087.   I then installed the interior and the nose gear landing gear well to the starboard side of the fuselage. I built a small bulkhead and cemented it behind the nose gear well, then  used three .45 caliber miniballs and modeling clay  for nose weight, and that is sufficient. 

Main Fuselage Assembly

Fit of the fuselage parts is pretty good overall. The main problem area is the bulbous canopy section mating to the rest of the fuselage. Be prepared for a lot of sanding. This is the third Strat I have built, and still have trouble hiding all the seams, so I camouflage them, by depicting the seam line as a panel line, and use a different shade of Metalizer on this area.  Checking reference photos, one can see that there is in fact a panel line there, and that the canopy section is a slightly different shade.  

I use CA glue to fill seams.  I used to use accelerator, but the CA glue would get as hard as concrete, and was difficult to sand.  With patience, and a little coaxing, this can be fitted, with a minimum of  sanding and filling. The boom operators bubble is a clear piece that fits in the cargo door area, in the aft part of the fuselage, and fits fairly well. I masked the window areas before installing as it easier to cut the masks before it is on.  

The tail is a separate piece, but fits quite nicely, with minimal clean up. I then assembled the operators boom, per instructions and set aside. 

At some point you will have to assemble the main and nose gear.  The Eduard PE set gives you the steering dampener and the hydraulic lines.  I pre assembled these pieces and painted them during fuselage assembly using Floquil Old Silver, and set them aside. 



Once all of the fuselage sub-assemblies were cemented I finished sanding the entire model, attached the chin radome and boom docking hardware, checked for seam coverage, masked off the remaining windows, (the lower ones), painted the panels on the inside of the line up light bar per instructions, masked them using the Eduard masks, and attached at the pre-drilled holes, and painted the entire model and operators boom. 

I polished the exterior of the airframe using Brasso, then painted each fuselage half using Testor's Metalizer, masking different panel lines and using different shades of Metalizer, then buffing each section using SNJ buffing powder.  I have found that using SNJ buffing powder, the modeler can buff any silver paint to good effect.  

Weathering the Metal

Once I had all the panels buffed and was content with the appearance, I applied Future using a Q-tip brand cotton swab.   I use a top to bottom motion, as that is how the metal “weathers”, and this motion adds to the overall effect. 

Detail Painting

When the paint was dry  I painted the bottom forward section of the fuselage directly behind the forward gear doors to right before the aft belly antennas black.  I used the light rails that come in the Cobra resin kit, to determine the correct length of the black area, as it is no longer than the light rails. 

Once dry, I masked the bottom of the fuselage, the heater exhaust area on the port side of the tail, and the APU Exhaust area on the port side of the fuselage and painted the natural metal on the rest of the aircraft using the same techniques.  The canopy area was painted Dark Anodonic Grey, as were random panels, and buffed, masked, then the remaining areas painted Floquil Bright silver, and buffed.  When all the paint had cured, I removed all the tape, did some minor buffing and once again applied another coat of Future.



I applied the decals to the Fuselage at this point.  The Airway Graphics instruction sheet provides good instructions, but a good photo reference is a must.   Once all the decals were on and cured, I cleaned up the solvent with a paper towel and warm water, and attached the nose gear, antennas and Pitot tubes using CA Glue.   When all had set, I set the fuselage out of harm's, the adolescent's and the cat’s way.


Construction Continues 

Wings and engines.  The engine nacelles, and the exhaust shrouds are correct for a very early C-97A, the B-29/B-50 wheels are incorrect; although only the most knowledgeable judge, individual would notice . Before assembly don’t forget to drill out the holes in the wings for the jet engines or fuel tank pylons.  Wing assembly is done per directions, with minor sanding on the leading edge of the wings, and the trailing edge flaps.  

I lost one of the wing tip marker lights, so I used the tip of a red toothbrush, per Jack Mugan, cut and sanded and looks quite good.  Had I a green one, I would have done the same for the right side.  It is an easy process and really enhances the appearance of the wing tip.  The engine nacelles are assembled per instructions, and seams sanded.  Again, the fit of the nacelles is pretty good, and doesn’t require much filling if any.  The fit of the trailing edge flap fit can be questionable, and dry fitting is recommended.  Engine nacelle to wing must also be checked for proper placement.  There is only one guide on one of the wings.   I don’t quite understand why it is there in only one spot, but it is; so it is essential to line up the flaps and the engine nacelles at the same time. 

I left the engines and cowls off until all wing painting and decaling was accomplished.  Instead.  I painted the  cowls Floquil Old Silver, buffed, and masked the cowls, and then painted the cowl flaps Model Master Dark Anodonic grey, and buffed.  

I painted the engine cylinders  Model Master Dark Ghost Gray FS36320, the gear box I painted Model Master Aircraft Gray, FS16473, and the little rectangular thingies I painted flat black, and the ignition cable rust, then dry brushed with silver to slightly weather the assembly.  The engines really aren’t correct at all, but once inside the cowl, and with the large prop attached, it is really not that noticeable.  Once dry, I assembled the engine/cowl assembly.  I painted and decaled the props, and then attached them to the engine using the kit supplied washer.  That way, if your friend comes over and asks “Do these spin”? while he deftly puts his finger on the prop blade; you don’t have to have a panic attack, and can stand back with pride and say “Yes!”  



I mentioned the Cobra Company Cowlings.  I have used both.  The Cobra Company Cowlings have a more correct engine molded in the cowl.  These cowlings require a lot of cutting as there is a large resin “plug” that  needs to be sawn off.  The modeler should check the cut of the sawing regularly to ensure an even cut.   Once sawn off, some sanding and test fitting and it is ready for paint and attachment.  If the modeler is going to use these, the attachment tabs on the nacelles need to be removed.  A simple procedure.  The holes in the engine for the props also need to be drilled a little for placement of the props.  After a quick polish with Brasso and a wash with Dawn brand dish detergent they are ready to be attached.  

The engines should be attached before cementing the wing onto the fuselage.  There are several decals to be put on the wing, and before attachment to the fuselage is the best time to do that.  Once the decaling is done, a coat of Future, and ready to go.   If the modeller is going to “rig” the antennas on the underside of the fuselage, now is the time to do it before the wings are attached.  

The main gear should be attached at this time.  Ensure the opening for the gear strut is wide enough.  I scraped away some plastic, to ensure proper fitment and alignment of the main gear.  I attached the tires to the gear before attaching the gear.  

Be sure to check your references for antennae wire attachment to the tail.  They varied between the C-97 and the KC-97.

Using CA glue, I glued the wings and stabilizers to the fuselage.  As they are butt joints, there is no need for filling and sanding.  A little pre fitting and the fit is perfect. 


Home     What's New     Showcase     Workshop     Products     About Testor     Search     Links

Photographs and Text Copyright © 2002 by Mark Krumrey