Thursday, September 8, 2011
At last, I've finished the plane which started my craziness for airplanes and models: the C-141A Starlifter! As I mentioned in my earliest blog post, I saw one of these fly over our newly-constructed neighborhood on East Avenue J-5 in Lancaster Calif, as my family and I were inspecting our new home. The Starlifter's high wing and T-tail design really struck me as unique, as well as the TF-33 low-bypass turbofans which had a strange whistle or howl-like sound.
The C-141 was the Air Force's first jet cargo transport; and for as revolutionary and cutting-edge as it was in the 1960s, only Aurora chose to make a model of it in 1/108 scale. It was the only plastic scale model kit of the Starlifter for almost two decades until DML released a very crisp, but small 1/200 scale one in the late eighties. For serious modelers who wished to build a fleet of USAF cargo aircraft in the constant scale of 1/144, the C-141 was a frustrating missing link in the lineup. Only recently has a C-141A model kit in 1/144 scale been released, and it's a resin kit. But that's the story for many other military cargo transport aircraft; they just weren't very good sellers compared to sleek, armed combat planes.
This is my third build of an Aurora C-141A. The first one I built was at the dawn of my modeling days. I remember my Dad helping out on this one. Together we made a nice job of it. I used my Mom's black ceramic paint for the radome, and a few other details. It was one of my treasured models that I flew all over the house, front yard, and back yard. I even "flew" it down to one of our neighbor's houses down the street, who was a C-141A pilot based out of Norton AFB. This model came to a rather tragic end however, when, after a long flight around the house, I left it parked in the garage behind our car. Either my Mom or Dad backed out over it and crushed it. I was crushed too, but I learned my lesson: never leave model airplanes parked in the garage!
I built a second one a couple years later after we moved to another house. That one was done a little bit better, having the wing tops painted white like the instructions say. This third rebuild was a joy to complete, and I tried to keep it "factory display" looking by sticking to the instructions as closely as possible. Like most other model companies of the 50s and 60s, Aurora gives only basic guidance for painting and detailing. It's really all that's needed though for an odd-scale, sparsely detailed kit like this one. I suppose one could dress this kit up with bare metal foil or metalized spray finishes, but I think that would be better suited for the DML, Testors, or resin versions. The Aurora C-141A is a unique, vintage model kit though, probably never to be reissued as who knows where the molds are for it. It remains one of my most favorite plastic model airplane kits.