Airmodel 1/72 Lodestar
KIT #: ?
REVIEWER: Carmel J Attard
NOTES: Conversion


Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar

 One area in scale aircraft modeling that has always appealed to me is that of making models of those aircraft that were operated by the USCG over the years. This section is very diverse and covers quite a vast range of aircraft types. To simplify the selection I picked those aircraft types that operated over a particular period of time and therefore divide these in two basic categories. These are the period when the aircraft were finished in Chrome yellow and metal finish which mainly spans a time between the early years of the USCG until the post war era and another category consisting of the more recent period when the colour scheme was practically white and day-glow/international orange i.e. from the mid 50s until present.

 In this context I am dealing practically with the early period and several aircraft that come to my mind to name just a few are the DC3 and the B-17 USCG rescue aircraft, Catalina, Widgeon, Seagull, and Goose. I have not as yet added all of these to my ever-growing list of models that fit this section but I have already completed the Catalina, Seagull and Widgeon and next in line is the Lodestar. There is no complete kit of it on the market, and one wonders why this is so especially when one looks at its past history and when one considers that  so many have been produced during and after the war era. The following is the sequence of the method I have followed to produce my Lodestar in USCG markings. This general purpose aircraft was then better known as the LOCKHEED LR50-1/4/5. 

 The design and development of the Lockheed 18 Lodestar began as a result of the poor sales achieved of the Super Electra. The prototype Lockheed 18 was developed by converting a Super Electra, where the fuselage was lengthened by five and a half feet, in order to accommodate 15 to 18 passengers. Some were of high density seating of up to 26 passengers and were available with a variety of engines made by Pratt and Whitney and Wright. The prototype flew for the first time on 21/9/39 but it was a time when most operators were committed to purchase the DC3 from Douglas Corporation and Lockheed failed again to achieve worthwhile sales despite the improved economy demonstrated by the Lodestar. The type appealed more to export customers; airline and government agencies in Africa, Brazil, Canada, France, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, UK and Venezuela ordering a total of 96 aircraft. At first there was only limited military interest but later procurement by the USAAF in particular have raised the total to 625 aircraft it was able to fulfil an important medium-range transport role. A small number saw post war service with small operators. Companies in the USA like Howard Aero, and Lear Inc converted others to executive transport.

  Interest by the US Coast Guard

 One of the contenders of the Lockheed 18Lodestar was the United States Coast Guard, the first of which was delivered and accepted on the 24th May 1940, for use as executive transport. This was given the designation R50-1, Lockheed registration number 2008. The Coast Guard acquired four more R50-4 aircraft in the late 1942 with seating for 4 to 7 passengers. One of the R50-4 was based at New York and Elizabeth City, North Carolina before the CG Air Station was established at Washington National Airport. These were primarily used for administration flights. One R50-4 No 05049 that was assigned to Air Station Arlington crashed on the 24th of January 1948 in Baltimore claiming 4 casualties that were on board the aircraft. The remaining Lodestar were phased out between 1946 and 1953 and turned over to the Navy, the War Assets Administration and National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Over 600 or so lodestars C-56s that were put into service with the US Army Air Corps and the US Navy by various conversions. These machines were in service through the war period 1941-45 and alongside their counterparts, C-63, together provided vital transportation duties throughout the war.


 Producing a Scale Model of the Lodestar

 Airmodel of Germany produces the Lodestar in the form of a vacform conversion kit AM-039. This comes in the form of one white plastic sheet that contains two fuselage halves along with two upper wing halves. There is also a clear vacform cockpit canopy. This kit comes at a reasonable price and is intended to borrow parts from the Airfix Lockheed Hudson Kit No 04034 in order to make a complete Lodestar C-56 scale model. The Airmodel kit also comes with a most essential data and reasonably accurate drawings, which though basic, appear to be sufficient with construction details and colour notes to produce a USAAF aircraft. These instructions in fact also suggest a C-63 which was a Hudson transport version consisting essentially of incorporating the wings provided, blanking the nose and gun positions with the rest following the Airfix instructions.



 The Airmodel wing parts carry the minimum of engraved panel lines details opposed to the Airfix lower wing parts of the Hudson which needs to be used when making any of the two transport versions suggested in the conversion kit instruction sheet. So there has to be a compromise in toning down the excessive rivet detail on the Airfix kit and adding panel lines to the Airmodel vacform upper wing halves with reference to the scrap wing view supplied. Clear study to the shape and dimensions of the wing will show that the wings are 3mm too short towards the tips. The remedial action is to cut chordwise the wings at a distance of 14 mm from each wing tip and insert a 3mm wide plastic card and shape to conform to the outline of the wings. At this point and with the intention in mind of making the USCG R-50 I started by separating the fuselage halves from the backing sheet and drill through and shape the 7 rectangular windows which are adequately marked all along the fuselage sides. The fuselage halves are then sanded down and bulkheads and cabin floors are added. These were made from the surplus backing plastic but the forward bulkhead and cockpit floor, seat and column comes from the Airfix kit. The interior was painted in zinc chromate, and fuselage floor light grey. Seating for seven was built inside and these painted light brown/orange colour. The fuselage halves were then joined together and allowed to dry. Turning to the vacform fuselage again and checking with side view will clearly show that this is not quite deep enough and requires to be thickened at the roof area all along the length starting from a point 3mm close to the cockpit. In order to simplify this operation, I cut strips of 3mm thickness and 3mm wide and stuck these next to each other, covering the upper fuselage followed by fairing these with putty and then allowed to dry and followed by wet and dry sanding until the final shape is acquired. It will be noticed at this stage that the upper and lower of forward fuselage housed a variety of aerials and antennae. It is in the interest of the modeler to make reference to good photos of the type one has in mind in the end to build and represent.  

Turning back to the wing parts, these were first allowed to set from the first step of lengthening the wings towards the tips. Merging these halves with those of the Hudson kit will soon reveal that the Hudson kits needs to be modified to conform to the wing halves of the Airmodel kit. A strip of plastic 2.5 X 69 mm is inserted lengthwise to each of the wing halves as indicated in the photos. In doing so the correct wing shapes are now produced. At this stage and before gluing the wing halves together I added interior panel structural detail using stretch sprue. These followed the exterior panel rivet detailing and panel lines. The wheel wells interior was airbrushed in Zinc chromate shade and allowed to dry. The wing parts were then stuck together. A slot was cut at the fuselage sides and the wings inserted in them. The Lodestar has now started to take shape. Again making close examination of photos should help to add the type of antennae carried by the Lodestar, which varied from one batch to another.   The engines were Wright Cyclone with 2X three bladed Hamilton standard hydromatic propellers. These were similar to the Hudson engines and therefore could be used at liberty. Tail-planes and fins were also identical and were therefore glued in proper place. Fitting the clear vacform canopy needed little work as this conformed to the shape and dimensions to the cockpit area. Three tiny fairings close to the wings were added using scrap pieces of plastic to shape them up prior to fit them in position.


 The Lodestar model was now given a coat of Matt white to serve as a suitable undercoat for the yellow wings and silver fuselage. Several imperfections also showed out at this stage and these were attended to in time. The upper surface of the mainplanes and tailplanes was sprayed in coats of chrome yellow and allowed to get dry and applying light wet and dry smoothening in between coats.. The wings were masked adequately and the whole model was given a coat of Humbrol silver mixed with a little amount of satin clear varnish. Black de icing boots were then painted on the leading edges of the wings and tail fins

 Decals of the correct size are borrowed from a USCG Superscale sheet were then added to the completed model and finally wireless aerials from fine nylon thread was carefully added to the proper places.


This was a kit that contained a certain amount of upgrading in fact this needed more work than I expected. Looking hindsight, this has offered a challenge in some respects but the end result was pleasing. In doing so another important aircraft was added to my USCG section in my scale model collection. 

Carmel J Attard

May 2005


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