IBEX 1/48 PC-9M
KIT #: BX 4801
PRICE: $40.00 SRP
DECALS: Several options
REVIEWER: Pat Earing
NOTES: New tool kit with resin and brass parts. Vac canopies.
Conversion of T-6A kit.

HISTORY

The success of the Pilatus PC-7 led to the development of a new aircraft beginning in 1982.  The new aircraft emerged as the Pilatus "PC-9", with the first of two prototypes performing its first flight on 7 May 1984.

The PC-9 looks very much like a PC-7, though it is clearly larger and heavier, and has a distinctive stepped tandem cockpit with a raised canopy, giving the back-seater a much better forward view. The canopy hinges open to the right. The PC-9 has only about 10% commonality with the PC-7. The PC-9 is powered by a PWC PT6A-62 turboprop engine with 860 kW (1,150 SHP), downrated to 710 kW (950 SHP), driving a four-bladed Hartzell propeller. The cadet and flight instructor sit on Martin-Baker Mark CH11A ejection seats, ejecting through the canopy. The machine is fitted with hydraulically-operated landing gear and a hydraulically-operated ventral airbrake. The PC-9 retains the six underwing hardpoints of the PC-7, with the inner two being "wet" for carriage of 145 liter (41 US gallons) or 248 liter (66 US gallons) external tanks.

Following the introduction of the PC-9 Mark II, Pilatus introduced the "PC-9M", where "M" stood for "modular". It featured the tailfin fillet and OBOGS system of the PC-9 Mark II, along with updated avionics -- a "glass cockpit" with main and secondary multifunction displays (MFDs), Global Position System (GPS) navigation, and an optional head-up display (HUD) for the front-seater; when the HUD was fitted the back-seater had a repeater display.

Currently there are at least six countries using the PC-9M including Ireland.  The Irish Air Corps (IAC) began orders for the PC-9M in January 2003, at a cost of sixty-million Euros.  Eventually, the IAC purchased eight PC-9M aircraft, a simulator, associated equipment and a support package. The PC-9s effectively replaced two types in Air Corps service, the Fouga Magister (which had already been retired by 1999), leaving the small SF-260 fleet to soldier on until the new trainer's introduction in 2004. The PC-9Ms are assigned to the Flying Training School and entered service with few teething problems.

The PC-9M was used as the basis for the Raytheon "T-6A Texan II", the winning candidate for the US military's "Joint Primary Air Trainer System (JPATS)", intended to provide flight training for the US Air Force and Navy. JPATS was conceived by the Pentagon in the late 1980s, leading to a preliminary request in 1990. Beech Aircraft came to an agreement with Pilatus to obtain and modify the PC-9 design for JPATS, receiving two "stock" PC-9s, one in August 1990 and the other in March 1991, for development. The second PC-9 was gradually modified to incorporate new features, leading to the construction of two new-build JPATS prototypes. The first flew in December 1992, followed by the second in July 1993. The second new-build prototype was used in the JPATS evaluation.

The flight evaluation was performed from July through October 1994 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Manufacture of the T-6A began in February 1997, and the first production aircraft rolled out at the Raytheon (Beech) plant in Wichita, Kansas, on 29 June 1998. It performed its first flight on 15 July 1998. The T-6A received US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification on 20 August 1999. Initial deliveries to the USAF took place the same year, with deliveries to the US Navy following shortly thereafter.

The T-6A looks like a PC-9M externally, the only immediately visible change being a separate windscreen, but it is very much different in detail, with only about 30% commonality with the PC-9M. It has a strengthened fuselage; pressurized cockpit; and state-of-the-art avionics, including GPS, a collision avoidance system, and provision for a HUD. It is powered by a PWC PT6A-68 turboprop engine, normally rated at 1,275 kW (1,708 SHP) but limited to 820 kW (1,100 SHP), driving a four-bladed Hartzell propeller.  

THE KIT

 I have to say that the release of the Ibex T-6A got me a little excited.  Generally, I make note of new kit releases and start looking for future deals.  However, with this kit I threw out all reason and pre-ordered two from Squadron. 

While I waited for the kits to arrive I began collecting information and images in order to see if I could get a PC-9M from the Ibex offering.  Although the two airframes look similar, they donít in reality share much in common-but they look similar, and building on that I felt that a decent representation could be attained.

Eventually, (I was a very impatient customer) my two kits arrived.  My first impression upon opening the box was positive; however there is not a lot in that seemingly big box to start with.  The bulk of the kit consists of one large plastic sprue, a small plastic bag containing the resin parts, vacuformed canopies and a large decal sheet.  Having read a few in box reviews I was anticipating something marvelously state of the art, with Tamigawa-esque scribed panel lines and fit.  What I got was something more akin to an Aeroclubís low pressure injection molded conversion, and some disappointment. 

OkayÖ disappointment may be too strong a word choice.  Really, what I opened up was a very decent and buildable looking model kit.  No, the molded details are not as crisp as we currently have come to expect; but, they are recessed and the resin bits are fantastic.  Clearly I had high expectations, and the reality fell a bit short from a visual perspective.  Nevertheless, it does look like a T-6A, and looks buildable.

CONSTRUCTION

For years I have wanted to build a PC-9M in Irish Air Corps (IAC) markings-really since I saw an advertisement in SAMI for Joe Maxwell and Patrick J. Cummins  book The Irish Air Corps: An Illustrated Guide with a haunting cover image of an IAC PC-9M in flight.  Unfortunately, there is only one rather obscure resin kit currently available of said aircraft; until now.

Although the T-6A and the PC-9M do not share much, from a modeling perspective they share enough and importantly the right things.   Obvious differences abound between the two aircraft in terms of the cockpit.  However, the airframes are close enough in size and shape to at least consider a conversion.  The canopy is a major difference, and there are sheet metal differences as well as panel line discrepancies, but in the end I felt that a convincing PC-9M could be attained from the Ibex T-6A.

I began construction with the cockpit.  All of the cockpit components and fuselage interiors were painted with Model Master RAF Interior Green.  As far as I can tell, the biggest cockpit difference between the T-6A and the PC-9M is the layout of the Instrument panels and the ejection seats.  I fixed neither.  Ibex has cast the Ďglassí instrument panels very nicely and leaves it to the skill of the modeler to paint the instrument bezels.  All of the instruments, glass or traditional, are provided in decal form.  I chose to represent the plane shut down, so only used the dial instrument decals.  These are very small, and tediously difficult to place for both instrument panels.  The placement guide provided in the instruction sheet was excellent.  Side console decals are also provided; however, I found them to be slightly over sized and a little less than convincing.  Certainly from a time perspective they worked fantastic, but a good paint session would yield a more realistic outcome. 

The IAC PC-9Mís use a Martin Baker Mk !! ejection seat as opposed to the fancy version supplied in the T-6A.  There are no aftermarket copies of the Mk !! available (or, at least that I could find) so I simply modified the canopy breakers to more closely approximate the ones on the Mk !! seats and painted them up.  The resin is well cast and I found no obvious pin holes or flaws.  The seatbelt detail is very petite, but painted up well.

The only other change made to the cockpit was the addition of an instrument bezel on the left forward cockpit near the panel that is obvious on IAC aircraft and missing from the kit and oxygen hoses.  I now installed the cockpit into the left fuselage along with the nose gear bay and glued the fuselage together.  Fit was great, but there are prominent seams through both cockpit coamings as well as in the large NACA vent under the nose that required extra attention to make nice for paint.  At this juncture I also glued the wings together with Tenex.  Again, the fit was excellent, and using care no filler was required.

The instructions remind you twice to put 20oz.of weight in the nose.  I donít have a scale, but I did fill the whole area over the nose gear bay with fishing weights.   I then carefully installed the resin nose piece, making sure that I aligned the lower NACA vent sides with thin CA glue.   Now was as good as any to attach the wing assembly, which I did.  There are some funny gaps at the wing root that required filling, but overall the fit was not too bad-somewhere between a typical limited run injection molded kit and what we have come to expect from the name brands.

At this point I began addressing the exterior differences between a T-6A and a PC-9M.  The biggest challenge and most obvious difference is the canopy.  The T-6A has  a distinct step in the profile at the front and a two piece canopy in relation to the flowing lines of the -9Mís one piece canopy.  Looking at lots of images, it became clear that the Ibex rendition of a T-6A canopy is a hybrid at best, and very good for my conversion plans.  Using one of the kit canopies-which are crystal clear and well formed-I created a master using Plaster of Paris.  Once the master was dry, I modified it by removing the forward canopy frame and slightly re-profiling the shape.  I covered the new master with multiple coats of automotive lacquer primer and final sanded to shape with 600 grit sandpaper. I then dug out my shop-vac and vacuform box and proceeded to make a new canopy.  For vacuformed canopies I like to use K&S 15 thousandth clear sheets.  Because of the size and shape it took three pulls to get an acceptable canopy, which I trimmed and checked to the opening.  I found that my canopy came up about 2 mm short in length of filling the opening as provided by Ibex.  So did the provided Ibex T-6A canopies.  That is not really a problem if I wanted the canopy open; but the lines of the plane are tied to the shape of the canopy, and I certainly wanted to pose the plane with the canopy closed.  Hummmm, what to do about the gap.  In the end I split the difference and used thin plastic strip to flesh out the rear canopy frame.  Up front, I filled the difference with bondo and sanded to shape.  Once things were ready I dipped the canopy in Future and painted the interior canopy framing in black.  The canopy brace, resin part number 47 ended up being too narrow.  Again, not a problem with the canopy open, but for closed I chose to simply affix it in place between the seat and rear coaming prior to affixing the canopy.  Not wanting a repeat of a recent canopy dust debacle, I made sure that the entire seam around the canopy was filled with CA glue, then masked and primed the canopy area.

Next up was the vertical fin fillet.  Using images again, I cut fifteen thousandth plastic card stock and fitted a fillet panel to the forward part of the vertical fin approximately half the vertical distance of the fin and half the horizontal distance to the fin on the existing fillet.  Once the glue was dry I sanded for a better profile and primed the area.  On the bottom, I carved off the T-6A strakes and reshaped the lower fuselage profile.  Then, again using thin card stock, I created a new lower strake as found on the PC-9M.  Please note that part number 21 fills the hole in the center of the horizontal tail assembly and represents the actuator for said assembly.  This is not shown in the instructions, but is clear from images of the real aircraft and closely studying the instructions, which show the part attached, but neglect to mention it.

The only other real change needed to complete the conversion was sanding and rescribing of panel lines.  As I did not have an accurate line drawing, and really feel that there was no positive return to be gained for the work to be invested, chose to ignore the panel line differences (Scribing is the worst form of torture for meÖ), fixing only what was lost and moving on to the paint shop.

COLORS & MARKINGS

 Once all the final bits were attached I pulled out the decals.  The IAC decals for my PC-9M came from Max Decals sheet number 4820: Irish Air Corps Selection 1990-2010.  The color callouts with the decals are for RAL 7040 and RAL 7035.  HuhÖ whatís an RAL number?  Using the internet I quickly found that there are all kinds of discussion about what the FS equivalents for these colors are, or arenít and found that my two colors are very contentious.  Oh well, I eventually found a couple of less vocal and more obscure sites that alluded to actual FS equivalents.  For RAL 7040 I went with FS 36375, or Testors 1728 Medium Grey.  For the RAL 7035 I used FS 36495, Testors 1732 Light Ghost grey.  That sorted out I preshaded panel lines with Floquil Engine Black and started painting light to dark with my Iwata airbrush.  Once dry to the touch I masked and painted the wing tips, horizontal and vertical tail tips with Testors International Orange.  Again, when things had dried I masked the wing leading edges and painted them with Folquil Engine black and top coated the whole thing with Model Master Glosscoat from a rattle can.

Decals went on with no problems, setting down well with Micro Sol.  Once dry and washed, I top coated the model again with Glosscoat to seal everything and masked the wing walkway and nose panel for applications of Engine Black and Dullcoat.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

The landing gear and doors were now attached.  I painted the wheel bays gloss white and the gear legs with Floquil Old Silver and got it sitting on three.  Please note that you must cut the nose gear door apart to display them open.  For whatever reason I struggled with this operation, and as a result my doors are a bit narrow.  Rather than use the kit supplied landing lights, I drilled the plastic parts out and installed 1.8 mm MV lenses, painted the backs white and installed them in each main gear bay.  Additionally, I created four antennas that are specific to IAC aircraft and added them to the bottom using pictures for position reference.   I painted the propeller blades the top color grey on the front and black behind with white warning stripes on only the front side tips.  I posed them feathered as the plane would look sitting on the ramp.  The resin exhaust stacks are fantastic and are painted up using Model Master Titanium and shades of blue and brass to represent heat coloration.  I did a light wash with acrylics using a mixture of black and Burnt Sienna and a light weathering of the tail with pastels for exhaust staining.  

CONCLUSIONS

Overall a rather pain free conversion that looks very convincing.  I know that the rivet counters are probably unhappy, but it certainly looks the part!  It is my understanding that a conversion kit will soon be available from down under, so for the sticklers there is hope on the horizon for an accurate PC-9.

The Ibex kit builds nicely.  Although there are some problems, most of them being mine; it is a good kit from which a convincing representation can be achieved. Recommended for all modelers but beginners due to fit issues with the vacuformed canopy-and an excellent first build for those wanting to test the water with mixed media construction.

REFERENCES

Pilatus Turbo-Trainers.  greg goebel / public domain .  http://www.vectorsite.net/avpc9.html

New Wings for the Irish Air Corps.  Kevin Wright http://www.airsceneuk.org.uk/hangar/2008/475iac/iac.htm

Maxwell, Joe and Patrick J. Cummins   The Irish Air Corps: An Illustrated Guide.  W &G Baird, Ireland.  2009

Google Images

Pat Earing

April 2012

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