Airfix 1/144 BAC 1-11
KIT #: 3178
DECALS: Two options


Back when I was a kid, I thought "work" was some magical place where Dad went to do all kinds of things I could never dream of understanding. Now, of course, I realise that in those days he was as old as I am now, and all he was doing was putting up with the same crap I face every day at the office. You know, dealing with idiots, the usual stuff. But one thing he did get to do that I will truly never be able to do no matter how many meetings I sit through or how much business jargon I listen to is to fly the British Caledonian BAC-111s from London to Edinburgh. I remember how much he enjoyed that back when I was a 6 year old. Might have been something to do with the tartan-clad hostesses (yes, you could call them that in those days). So when I saw the Airfix re-release of this plane a few years back, I snapped it up. I started it quickly and then it languished on the infamous Shelf of Doom for half a decade or so.

British Caledonian was a private airline that grew from a charter operation to a fully competitive scheduled airline in the 1970s. By 78 and 79, when I became aware of it from the old man's business trips, it was really hitting its stride. New routes were opening up and its investment in widebody jets saw its profits at nearly 10 million pounds by 1980.

But airlines are a hell of a business. The following year it made a loss of 6 million pounds, and the 1982 Falklands War impacted its more profitable South American routes (because Argentina denied British aircraft landing rights in Buenos Aires, a lucrative destination for the airline). By 1984 it was back in profit, more than 10 million pounds, even more the next year.

But 1986 hit the airline really hard. Amazingly, it was decreasing oil prices that played a role. Most airlines would be grateful for that, but BCal flew a lot of oil people on its most profitable business routes. When the oil price dropped, those executives flew less. Chernobyl and the 1986 US attacks on Libya saw passenger numbers fall too (reportedly passengers were worried about Libyan retaliation, which did come in 1989 when a Pan Am jet was blown up over Scotland). Nigeria had currency problems, and as a major market for BCal, that was a big blow too. It lost 80 million pounds in revenue.

Mergers and acquisitions were mooted by various airlines. British Airways won in the end, and on 14 April 1988 British Caledonian was no more.

Its 13 BAC-111 short-haul passenger jets were sent out to regional routes, and replaced by Boeing 737-200s for operations out of London Gatwick.

The BAC-111 was a notoriously noisy jet (as a kid in a different city I lived under their flightpath). It came into service after the French Caravelle and was quite successful. 244 were made and many served into the 1990s until their noise was just too noisy.

You can read a preview
right here on MM:

In a nutshell, it's classic "good Airfix". Raised panel lines, yes, but nicely done. A few details like cabin and cargo doors you can pose open if you like. Otherwise fairly simple but appropriate for the small scale, given the kit's age.

It comes with open windows but no clear plastic to put in there. You need to either fill them up, noting that the kit's decals don't have windows on them, or do as the instructions suggest and make windows out of some clear substance after punching lots of holes in the decals. To be honest, that's a pretty dumb solution - either have decals with windows, or decals with holes where the windows go, right? At least the kit has a little dedicated holepunch.

Decal options are the British Caledonian you see here, or an Aer Lingus (the Irish airline).


A bit of weight up front is all you need before building this - there is no cockpit. If you plan to pose the doors open, some interior bulkheads might be worthwhile, or at least a floor (though of course, I didn't bother). When I assembled this I was planning on doing the doors closed, but later (like, two years later, when I got back to building this one before it went back onto the Shelf of Doom) I decided to pose them open. I'm not sure it matters that the interior isn't blanked off, but if I was doing it again I might make the effort (especially, I realise now, as I look at the photos).

Fit is pretty good. I had a bit of a mess at the top fuselage seam, through no fault of the kit's, but after a decent chunk of sanding, things were ok. The engines needed a decent amount of sanding too.

The internet abounds with lists of this kit's inaccuracies, but most of them didn't worry me too much. One simple, easy mod you can do to make this a bit more accurate is to add a wing fence inboard and delete the outboard one (keep the blob on the trailing edge that is the thing that operates the control surfaces). Just outboard of the innermost of those blobs, you want to make a pretty decent sized wing fence, as I have tried to do on this model. Google has more than enough photos. This is a very obvious inaccuracy, and an easy enough mod, so I did it. This goes some way to shutting up the former BAC-111 mechanics or similar internet busy bodies who will foam at the mouth if you dare post a picture of your un-modded build somewhere on the web.

The other thing you might want to try is sharpening the nose cone. The Airfix kit depicts the very earliest model of the BAC 1-11, but almost all the production run had a pointier nose. I decided against this for reasons that will become clear as you read further.

The cargo doors appear to have popped out, then slid down under the fuselage, leaving easy access to the cargo hold. Have a look at the picture linked below. I simply glued the doors in place on the bottom of the hull. Meanwhile, the main passenger door goes on facing outwards, as though it simply slides to the left as you open it. And the air stair at the end operates in an obvious way.

The engines don't fit perfectly to the fuselage. Do some remedial work if you like, though I wasn't too fussed.

I had a bit of difficulty getting the canopy glass into place. I ended up trimming here and there with a knife, but in the process I scratched the decals with my fingernail.

Man, I really messed this thing up. I tried a few different greys for the underside and wings, decided I didn't like them, and then tried another one. I forgot the golden rule that Tamiya acrylics and Gunze enamels aren't friends. I made an unholy mess and in the end I had to sand the entire thing back to the bare plastic.

So. Over. Sanding.

That's why I chose not to sharpen the nose cone. More sanding? Screw that!

This is why my model languished on the Shelf of Doom for, like, forever.

In the end the colours I went for were gloss white (Tamiya X-2) over Vallejo 71.883 silver grey. I considered (ie applied then sanded off) Light Gull Grey too, but went with this instead. Look at the pictures linked under references and make up your own mind (some are of the -500 model, not the -200, but the scheme's the same). I think the Vallejo colour is a little lighter than the Light Gull Grey. The wing leading edges are some kind of silver colour so I went with Tamiya XF-16, my go-to aluminium paint. The blue is Tamiya XF-8 "Flat Blue". I used a matt blue because the decals are very flat, and this colour was a pretty close match.

All but the white was brush painted; the white came from a spray can (after some aborted efforts at brushpainting it which were also sanded back).

You don't need to be too careful with the demarcation between grey and white, because the decal (at least on the British Caledonian version) takes care of that. You just need to work out roughly where the line should be. I trimmed off the relevant decals and put them on the side of the plane, then traced a pencil line where they ended, and made sure I painted just a bit inside of it. That worked pretty well.

Surprisingly for an Airfix kit of this era, the decals are actually usable. They respond well to Mr Mark Softer which you'll need to get the nosecone area decals to smooth out. Mine weren't perfect but pretty good. The Union Jack on the airline name for the fuselage sides is out of register but it isn't too appalling. Sadly, the tail emblem is the yellow design only, and doesn't come with the blue background. This means you need to paint that and do your best to make it match the blue colour on the fuselage stripe. Annoying!

There are some smaller decals, but apart from the registration number and a smaller one near the nose, I only used the black grids that are meant to represent part of the engine exhaust (something to do with reverse thrust I think). The smaller little labels I just left off. The decals do not include the prominent lines for the main and emergency doors. This is especially annoying as they are so obvious on the real thing. If you decide to add them somehow, be sure to add only one overwing exit per side, not two. British Caledonian flew the shorter and longer variants of the BAC 1-11; this kit is the shorter one with just one overwing escape route.

One last thing to note is that the decals were very fragile. I scratched the B in British on the left side as I was trying to install the cockpit window. I had to touch it up with a marker pen

As someone said, it's the only injection moulded BAC 1-11 there is. And I'd say it's the only one there's ever going to be. Even right out of the box it looks pretty close to me, but with the simple wing fence mod, and maybe sharpening the nose, it's as good as "dead on" as you can get - you'll convince all but the most detail-oriented 111 experts. In 1/144 it is an entirely manageable size, too, about the size of an smaller 1/72 jet fighter. I like the option to have the passenger doors and cargo doors open, too. You could probably make a neat diorama with a few figures and perhaps a vehicle or two. Recommended for all but beginners, despite all the trouble I had, which was entirely my own fault.

This pic is of the actual aircraft in this kit:
Pic of cargo door alignment:

Richard F

March 2015

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