Last week, I showed a small, 2-seater aircraft in 1:48th scale that I intend to use for Pulp wargaming: the Avia BH-11. Whilst this will be useful, I really need an airliner for my next intended scenario. However, an iconic 1930s plane such as the DC-3 has a wingspan of 95 feet. At 1:48 scale, that's very close to 2 feet (60cm) across! A German Ju-52 trimotor has almost exactly the same dimensions, so that's no better.
On a 3' gaming table, a 2' wide model would dominate, leaving little room for anything else. Equally, the cost of such a large kit and the storage requirements of the completed model are offputting. So, what to do?
Instead of looking for a medium-sized airliner such as the DC-3, I decided to search for much smaller twin-motor craft. Here's one that I found...
The Beech Model 18
The Beech Model 18 (also known as the "Twin Beech", or "C-45 Expeditor" when in USAAF service) was a small transport aircraft that was produced in surprisingly large numbers. It typically carried about 7 passengers (compared to the DC-3's capacity of 30 or so). The Model 18 first flew in 1937, so it just about fits in the Interwar period that I desire for Pulp adventures.
Because the original is a relatively small craft, the 1:48th scale model has a wingspan of marginally under 1 foot (30cm). That's much more manageable on a wargames table! I've included a 28mm figure for comparison purposes, as well as a home made set of steps.
So, what can I tell you about this model?
- It's built from a kit by ICM, though I believe that Revell have also released a kit from the same tooling.
- The kit is fairly easy to find online; there are a number of sellers who offer it. I paid around £20 for mine, which is significant but not prohibitive. Your circumstances may differ, of course.
- The interior is fully detailed, with instrument panels, controls and seats. Normally, I would assemble a model fully before undercoating, painting and sealing it. In this case, I had to paint the sections separately before final assembly - and then fill & touch up the paint around the joints.
- No crew figures come with the ICM kit (& probably not with the Revell one either, I imagine). However, I added a pilot from another kit. He's just about visible in the left hand, front seat. Apparently it's convention for the pilot to sit in the left seat for a fixed wing aircraft, but the right seat in a helicopter!
- I've cut down the propellers and added "spinning disks" instead, as I want my model to be preparing for take-off. Opinions in the scale modeller world on the effectiveness of this technique seem to be fairly negative, but it works for me.
- For the most part, the pieces fitted together well. However, two area were problematic.
Firstly, the seats had some very thin and brittle parts (the frames/legs). I broke quite a few of these when trying to cut them from the sprue and even had to replace one shattered seat frame completely with wire. Fortunately (or unfortunately, considering the amount of effort I put into these), the passenger seats can't really be seen inside the completed model.
Secondly, the undercarriage is composed of a large number of spindly struts. Assembly of this was complex and I think that these are easily the most fragile part of the plane.
- I haven't fitted radio aerials to the model; these would probably be in the way when wargaming and don't add hugely to the overall appearance.
- The colour scheme and markings are entirely fictitious and my own work, though I did take inspiration from some real life airlines.
The ICM Beech 18 kit makes a nice model that is a very good size for 28mm figures and not hugely expensive either. However, it is primarily intended as a scale modeller's kit rather than for wargaming. Consequently it was a bit more intricate to build than I might have desired. The big concern I have is how fragile it will be, though as a static centrepiece for a game it shouldn't have a lot of handling.