Minicraft 1/144 Boeing 737-300
|DECALS:||One option: American Airlines|
|NOTES:||Hawkeye's Ansett 'Sydney Olympics 2000' Decals|
The 737 was born out of Boeing's need to field a competitor in the short-range, small capacity jetliner market which had been opened up by the BAC 1-11 and the Douglas DC-9. Boeing was badly behind however when the 737 program was initiated in 1964, as both of these rivals were already into their flight certification programmes. To speed up the development time, Boeing reused as much technology from the existing 707 and 727 as possible, most notably the fuselage. This gave the 737 a critical advantage over the opposition - six abreast seating compared to the 1-11 and DC-9's five abreast layout, and also made the 737 cheaper and quicker to design. But the decision also dated the design, and created problems for future modernisation, which still haunts the current Next-Generation series to this day.
The short and stubby appearance of the first 737-100 earned it the nickname among Boeing engineers as "FLUF", being an acronym for "Fat Little Ugly Fella" (or whatever), although the industry affectionately called it the "Baby Boeing".
The -100 and -200 series are identifiable by their tubular engine nacelles which are integrated into the wing and project both fore and aft of it. The engines used on the Original 737 models are Pratt and Whitney JT8D turbofans. The Originals can also be identified by the smoothly curving upsweep of the tail fin - the Classics and NG models have a noticeable "kink" at the base of the fin.
The first 737 (a 100 series) took its maiden flight April 9, 1967 and entered service in February 1968 with Lufthansa, the first foreign airline to launch a new Boeing plane. The 737-200 made its maiden flight on August 8, 1967.
Lufthansa was the only customer to purchase the 737-100 from new and only 30 aircraft were ever produced. The lengthened 737-200 was widely preferred and was produced until 1988.
In the early 1980s the 737 had its first major facelift. The biggest change was to the CFM International CFM56 engines in place of the JT8Ds. The CFM56 was larger than the previous P&W unit, so the engine was slung underneath the wing rather than built into it. This posed a problem as the 737's limited ground clearance (a trait of the 707-derived fuselage) meant that the bottom surface of the engine nacelle had to be flattened out. At the same time, the 737 gained a partial glass cockpit from the 757 and 767. The first 737-300 entered service in 1984.
By the 1990s, the 737 had lost ground technologically to the newer Airbus A320. In 1993, Boeing initiated the 737-X or Next Generation (NG) programme.
The Next-Generation 737 encompasses the -600, -700, -800 and -900, and amounted to what was basically a complete redesign of the 30-year old airliner.
New wings, and revised engines were the biggest engineering changes, whilst internally, the 737 was given a hi-tech glass cockpit with LCD screens and digital systems heavily inspired by that used on the 777. An all new interior was designed for the Next-Generation 737, again borrowing heavily from the 777. The 737NG is almost a new aircraft, sharing very little with previous 737s, other than fuselage frames. The parts count is down by about 33%, simplifying maintenance greatly.
In 2001, the 737 was stretched one last time to create the 737-900, which is in fact longer and carries more passengers than the 707. However, with Boeing's decision to end 757 production at the end of 2004, there are now plans to create an even higher-capacity 737 to fill the vacuum left by the 757's demise. The so-called 737-900X is still at the planning stage, differing from the standard 737-900 by increasing the number of exit doors, which allows more passengers per widespread safety standards.
Today, the 737 remains the most popular jetliner in the world. Part of its success is down to its popularity among low cost carriers from all over the globe.
There have been three basic generations of the 737, known as the Original, Classic and Next-Generation (NG) models.
Original the 737-100 and -200 (Produced from 1967 - 1988)
Classic the 737-300, -400, and -500 (Produced from 1983 - 1997)
Next-Generation (or 737NG) the 737-600, -700, -800, and -900 (Produced from 1997-)
Some versions in different generations correspond to each other in size. These are:
737-100 Smallest, original layout
737-200 Extended version of the -100 in order to accommodate the US market
737-500, 737-600 Shortened versions of the -300 and -700 respectively
737-300, 737-700 The new base models, slightly stretched over the 737-200
737-400, 737-800 Stretched versions mostly to accommodate charter and business airlines
737-900 and 900X Recent versions stretched even further to close a gap in Boeing's product line-up
737-700IGW, 737-800ERX These variants have been awarded military contracts.
When referring to variants of the 737, Boeing and the airlines often collapse the model (737) and the capacity designator (-300, -800, etc.) into a smaller form, either 733 or 738. The exception is the 737-700, which is abbreviated as 73G, in order to avoid confusion with the model number itself. These notations may be found in aircraft manuals or airline timetables.
Of late, the urge to build an airliner has resurfaced after being squashed attempting to build a Hasegawa 1:200 747-400 some years back. I naturally will blame the resurgence of this keenness on the excellent participants and contributors of the Aircraft Resource Centre airliner forum. Are you listening Nenad, Brady and Dimitriy??
The final barrier was dropped when I found a nice looking Virgin Blue “Reverse Livery” decal sheet by Underworld decals on eBay. These were snapped up in short order and looked most fine on the sheet (but not on application – more on that later).
Time to go out and purchase a kit to drape the decals on, but which one? Research and some questions followed and a week after getting the decals I came home from the hobby shop with a Minicraft 1:144 737-300. This kit was the American Airlines boxing, for those who really needed to know.
Opening the box revealed a crisply moulded set of sprues and a clear nose transparency. The decals looked good on the sheet, being in register and the instruction booklet was adequate and only a little vague in spots. So far so good!
Assembly started with assembly of the wings and the fuselage. I pre-sprayed the fuselage halves with black to hide the lack of interior when looking through the main wheel wells and added some fishing sinkers to the nose to make sure this little airliner sat on its nose. The clear transparent nose was added and most of the sanding and seam clean up centred around the nose to blend everything in. This is where the flex-i-file really came into its own, allowing seam removal to take place with ease, without sanding flat spots over the fuselage. All the fuselage doors bar the cargo hatches were filled in to avoid issues with mismatched decals.
Dry fitting of the assembled wings and horizontal stabs indicated that I could leave them off until the fuselage had been completed and decaled. Now this was a first for me and testament to the quality of the kit. Only a little filler was needed to smooth over the engine nacelle pylons to the wings. Any other gaps got the PVA glue wiped over with a cotton bud treatment. Time for painting!
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
I then used a spray can of Citadel Skull White for the white fuselage body layering on multiple light coats with fine wet n dry sanding in between. I then set that aside and more questions over the correct colour grey were asked. The consensus was Modelmaster FS16440 Light Gull Grey. I prefer Acrylics and Modelmaster Acryl paint is not to be found west of Sydney, so delving deep into my paint locker uncovered an ancient bottle of Modelmaster acrylic FS16440. Half an hour of stirring and thinning with Tamiya thinner produced a paint fit to fire through the airbrush onto the wings and horizontal stabs.
After the grey had dried I masked and sprayed Tamiya AS-12 BMF over the leading edge of the wings, stabs and tail. Removing the masking revealed a successful exercise and everything was looking great.
Too great in fact!
Johnson’s Super Stride was applied in three thin even coats using a flat wide brush, preparing the surface for decal application.
Decal time and I was salivating to how good the decals were going to look on this earliest of Virgin Blue’s 737’s
The decals turned out to be a really big problem. The tail logo refused to even lay on the surface let alone conform. After many attempts I gave up, leaned back in my chair and tried desperately to figure out what to do. Aha!! Virgin Blue took an ex Ansett 737-300 and applied their livery over the Ansett colours. Tramping back upstairs to my trusty PC, I surfed over the Hawkeye Decals and within 20 minutes ordered Ansett decals depicting the 3 Sydney Olympics 2000 mascots, Syd, Millie and Ollie. They look so nice on the sheet I purchased another sheet at WASMex 2004!
These decals performed beautifully! They are a little thick, but went on well, only needing a little coaxing with Decal solution to snuggle down well. A good result out of a potential disaster!
I sealed the decals in with another 2 coats of Super Stride and put aside the fuselage to dry.
I then tackled the engine nacelles and undercarriage assemblies. Smoothing out the seams inside each nacelle was fiddly but with a little time and effort all was well. The inside of each nacelle was painted with Humbrol polished aluminium and washed with a dark grey sludge wash to bring out the fan blade details. The burnt iron and gunmetal engines were masked and each assembly painted white to match the fuselage. Once the Sydney Olympics logo was added and sealed with Super Stride, they too were set aside ready for final assembly.
The undercarriage was then cleaned up, painted and made ready for installation after the wings and horizontal stabs were added and left to dry overnight.
The only problem I found was the fiddly and difficult assembly of the main undercarriage doors. Must be another easier way surely, than cutting up each door into 3 pieces and installing insitu?
With the installation of the engine nacelles and undercarriage, the 737-300 was finished.
Well, my first airliner successfully built and I am pretty happy with the results. Lessons learned will help me build my next airliner in this scale.
I wholeheartedly recommend the Minicraft 737-300 kit to anyone!
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Michael “madmike” Johnson
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