Airfix 1/144 Orion 2001 Spacecraft






Pan Am and ????


Scott Van Aken




Forever in the annals of great Science Fiction movies is thegroundbreaking 2001 of 1968. In this movie so many of the effects that wesee everyday on the small and large screen got their start. It is also one ofthe few sci-fi movies to portray accurately the physics of space. No swoopingspace fighters, no groaning low frequency noises as gigantic vehicles passoverhead. All motion is determined by reality and not by earthly atmosphericeffects. One of the most visually interesting scenes is early in the movie asthe Pan Am spaceliner slowly, serenely, and accurately maneuvers itself intoposition for entry into the space station. It is in many ways quite unfortunatethat most modern movies do not portray space in the way it is; instead relyingon earth bound physics and fantasy to portray motions in space. Nonetheless, 2001is a movie that I watch frequently; not only for its cinematic import but justto see those neat spacecraft!

For more insight on 2001,  LeeKolosna gives a modelers viewpoint.


The Orion spaceliner is a kit that has been mass marketed onlyby Aurora and Airfix, though there have been quite a few garage resin kitsavailable from time to time. Aurora's is now a collector's kit, while this isthe third release from Airfix. The first was in Pan Am markings and the secondin the rather fanciful and ugly ones shown on the box top. Fortunately, the PanAm decals are included in the kit.

Well, what does oneget in terms of vintage plastic?  Actually, despite the size of the box(due to the long fuselage), there are darn few pieces. Including three clearbits there are 15 parts to the spaceliner and two for the stand. That is it. Nolanding gear, no opening canopy. The kit itself is mostly raised panel lineswith the rest of the detailing a bit overdone and blocky. See the image to theright. The kit is too big to fit on my scanner for a complete parts rundown.Again, this is a 25+ year old kit! I won't comment on its accuracy; after all,it is a movie model. However, it does look just a bit different that what I canrecall from the movie. Mostly the nose, I guess. It seems to me to be more ovaland a bit cut back on the top on the movie version. I'll be dragging out the DVDon this one and doing some stop action comparison before building it.

The decal sheetis adequate for the Pan Am version, and why they included the other markings isbeyond me, but they did. Maybe the kiddies will like the nice colors. Theinstruction sheet is the standard pictorial diagram version in 5 steps. Colorcallouts are by Humbrol paint numbers, without any indication of what the colorsare. Frankly this type of thing is irritating at best. At least Airfix could saythat 33 is flat black and 22 is gloss white. Humbrol paints are not availableeverywhere, you know. 

Anyway, it is nice to see this one back in circulation. Probablymakes the kit collectors cringe now that this kit can be had for less than $50!I plan on getting a few more to tide me over the next 15 year drought after thisproduction run is over with and to try out a few more airline liveries on! Withthe stand provided, it isn't going to take up much room and will look very coolamongst the other sci-fi movie and TV stuff I have on the shelf. 


Well, no cockpit orinterior on this one, so can't start there. What I did do first was to glue thewings together. It may be easier for you if you removed the alignment pins as Idid on one wing as they tended not to mate the parts together straight. This isa real problem with older kits like this one. Once they were glued, theinevitable seams and sink marks (mostly around alignment pins) were filled withputty and left to dry.

The engine exhaust area is atwo part assembly that frankly, doesn't fit too well. You are also left withthree very difficult seams to fill and sand. The putty was liberally appliedthere and also left to dry while I contemplated how to sand them down when dry.Since there is no interior to the kit, I installed the clear plastic bits to theinside of the fuselage halves and painted them black on the inside. It waseither that or paint the interior black. A few sink marks on the fuselage werefilled at this time. 

Once all the filler haddried, it was a happy sanding party!! Actually it didn't take that long and theexhaust was sanded down using both sanding sticks and rolled sandpaper. For afew areas, a second coat was needed. Meanwhile, the exhaust area was glued intothe fuselage half and the halves were glued together. Fit was not too bad.

Then all the assemblies werebrought together. There is a really neat interlocking arrangement  whereinthe bottom panel actually locks the wings to the fuselage. The wings fit throughslots in the fuselage and pins in the bottom section then fit through tabsattached to the wings. Unfortunately, this gives the wings an anheadral thatmakes the stabilizers of an F-4 Phantom look flat!! Needless to say, I cut offthe pins on the bottom section and just glued the wings and bottom sectionindependently of each other. The fit was better, but not good. The bottomsection also includes some exhaust ports and there is a seam that runs right aftof them. It proved to be a real paint to try to clean up.

Bottom line is that you wilspend a lot of time fussing over fit and trimming things up to get it somewhatclose. Then you'll have to slather filler over all the joints to get things assmooth as possible. It took several sessions with filler to get things smoothedout. At this time I also sanded the nose to a more chisel-like appearance, whicheffectively removed the 'intake' that is originally there. The upper fuselagehas an 'intake' section that fits near the engine exhaust and another largeintake on the top of the fuselage. These were glued on and any filler needed wasapplied then.

Once all the sanding and filling was done, the windows on theside were masked off and it was off to the paint shop.


Wasn't really sure if I wanted to do the movie version or not asthere are lots of interesting airliner schemes that could apply. However, in theend, I went the conservative route and used the kit Pan Am scheme. This isbasically overall gloss white. Several coats of flat white were followed by acouple of gloss white. The exhaust and various intakes were painted flat blackwhile some smaller bits were painted with Metallizer. Then the decals were puton. These fit very well and submitted to setting solutions without a fuss. Whilenot really important for a white airframe, the white on the sheet is offregister, so if using the Pan Am scheme on anything other than white, you'llhave to take that into consideration.


Once the paint and decals had dried, there were only four otherpieces to add on, two of them being the stand. The windscreen was painted blackon the back and then inserted into the small slot in the front. Actually, itfell into the kit not once, or twice, but three times before I finally got it tosnap into place! Then the tail antenna was added and painted in several shadesof Metallizer just to give it some interest. 

Not having any landing gear, the kit must be displayed on astand. The plastic for the stand is quite soft and weak so the hold back lip onthe top of the stand broke off first time I put the kit on the stand. That meantthat the kit had to be superglued to the stand in order to display it. I wouldhave rather displayed it with an upward angle but the stand is designed foraircraft so it is level. I must make a decent stand for this some time in thefuture.


For a kit with so few parts, it took several weeks to finish. Ican lay the blame on the generally poor fit of the kit. This is very typical ofmost Sci-Fi and Fantasy kits not only of 20 years ago, but today as well and issomething one just has to get used to when doing these types of kits. Overall, Iam happy with the results. I have wanted to build this kit for years, but wasn'tready to pay collector's prices for one. It is great that Airfix chose toreissue this kit and to include the Pan Am markings.

While any competent builder can make a good model of this kit,it isn't recommended for the beginner or the faint of heart!


References were multiple viewings of the movie 2001.

May 2000

Review copy courtesy of me and my wallet! 

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details inthe Note toContributors.

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