Academy 1/72 KC-97L






Six options


Scott Van Aken




To say that Boeing has been in the business of building large, multi-engined aircraft, would be stating the obvious. Starting with the XB-15 of the mid 1930's and continuing today with the latest variant of the 747, Boeing has managed to do well with both the civilian as well as the military market. Probably this is because, in their early years, so many of their military aircraft were used as the basis for successful civil airliners and vice versa. 

With the C-97, it was the Model 377 civil version that came second with the C-97 being based on the B-29. The later 377 was based on the B-50, which was based on the B-29. Anyway, the USAF decided that it needed a long range transport aircraft and had Boeing build a number of cargo/passenger C-97s. It also saw the need for a dedicated tanker aircraft to replace the KB-29s that were in service and so had Boeing design a tanker/cargo version, which became the KC-97A. 

Both the C-97A and KC-97A were relatively short production run aircraft. Improvements in systems and additional design requirements to allow the KC-97 to carry more fuel resulted in several variants of the KC-97. Those most built, were the KC-97G version with 592 examples built in the early 1950s.  These were placed into service with SAC for use in refueling their long range B-50s and escort fighter wings, which were mostly F-84Fs. 

However, a problem arose when the fast jet bombers such as the B-47 and B-52s came on line. These aircraft were unable to fly slow enough to properly refuel from the KC-97G. Two things helped improve the situation. First, they started refueling 'downhill', so that the KC-97G could fly faster. Secondly, most were modified to KC-97L variants with additional jet engines under the wings to speed up the lumbering KC-97s. These versions were all allocated to ANG tanker units as regular USAF units transitioned to the KC-135, an aircraft that is still in service after over 50 years and looks like it is good for another 20 or so!


Academy is nothing if not frugal with its sprues. Many of the sprues are from the B-50 kit, and  the rest are from its KC-97G offering. There are also a number of like sprues that are the same as with the 377 Stratocruiser and C-97A kit. What is unique to this kit compared to all the others mentioned are the wing mounted jet pods. An interesting adaptation is that the refueling blister is part of the surrounding lower fuselage insert that replaces the cargo door of the C-97. This part is molded entirely in clear plastic.

All of the parts are crisply molded, including the B-50 bits. There is no flash and I couldn't see any sink marks and other mold release pin marks. Those may become evident as the kit is built, but a cursory look at some of the areas where they are most likely (landing gear and alignment pins), showed no evidence of these flaws.

The instruction sheet is written in the usual multiple languages with the standard pictorial construction steps and international signs. There is a color chart that gives just generic colors and not FS colors. There is also a parts diagram that is numbered to help one find all the parts. One thing I can tell you from my build of the KC-97G is that you'll need a lot of weight in the nose.

The decal sheet is quite large and very colorful. It gives markings for six aircraft. Five of them are Air National Guard planes (Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Arizona, and Ohio) while the sixth one is from the Spanish Air Force. The decal sheet looks very nice and is actually quite large.

I'd like to thank a friend in Korea for sending me this kit about fifteen years back so that I didn't have to pay a fortune for it.

June 2020

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