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