Minicraft 1/48 Cessna 150
Model, Text and Photos by: Ken Zelnick
The Cessna 150 is one of the most popular, if not the most popular general aviation trainer currently in use in the United States, and with good reason. Its docile characteristics and easy handling make it a very forgiving airplane, but one that can, with proper instrumentation, take a student from his first takeoff all the way through an instrument rating. It is therefore not surprising that Minicraft chose it as one of its line of general aviation aircraft. This model consists of forty-one parts molded in white styrene on three sprues, plus six more clear plastic windows. The parts are well formed, but with some flash, most noticeable on the smaller parts. Surface detail is good, with no sink marks evident. The kit also includes a stand to support the model in "flying" configuration, which is necessary unless the builder wishes to add quite a bit of weight to the nose to get it to set properly on its tricycle gear. My previous subject was the Minicraft Cherokee 140, and I was surprised at the amount of lead I had to pack in around the engine to achieve this objective. I would expect this model to require a similar amount of nose weight.
My first impulse was to model this kit after the 150 in which I received my first instruction, good old N213DA. However that plane is long gone, along with my memory, so I decided instead to model it after N150AS, which belongs to a good friend who is trying to lure me back into aviation after a 15 year hiatus. Either of these schemes will require me to either hand paint or create my own decals.
As one would expect, the first steps involve the interior. This consists of a floor, rudder pedals, and two seats. Although the 150 is normally considered a 2-place airplane, some are equipped with a rear seat and a placard specifying the maximum weight of the passenger in that seat. It is limited to a child. Since my friend's airplane is not so equipped, I decided to omit it. All 150's have seat belts, so I cut some strips of masking tape, dabbed a bit of silver on the ends, and installed them appropriately on the seats. The color of the tape was a pretty good approximation of the seat belts in my friend's plane, N150AS.
The instruments are represented by holes in the panel, and can be dressed up with a few dots of white paint if desired. The interior is visible through the kit-supplied windows, but the plastic is so distorted that any fine details are lost.
The interior color of this plane is sort of a red and off-white, probably light beige, so I mixed my own color using Ceramcoat acrylics, specifically Territorial Beige lightened with a little White. The red was done with Barn Red mixed with Bright Red, and for the black parts of the interior, namely the instrument panel, armrests, and front deck, I used a dark gray mixed simply from black and white. A touch of Silver for the door handles, and that wrapped up the interior painting. Note that acrylics darken as they dry, so mix accordingly.
It took a little fiddling to get the floor/seat assembly positioned properly in the fuselage. There are a couple guide pins, but they don't provide positive positioning, and some care will be needed to get the assembly centered and level. The instrument panel went in well, again using some care to make sure it was level and centered. The fuselage went together well, but the seam will require a little dressing. On the bottom, there is a hole for part # 10, which I have yet to identify. In scale, it's about 3.5" (9 cm) in diameter, and I've never seen anything like it on any 150. I decided to leave it off, and filled the hole with putty.
The top wing consists of three main pieces, plus two skylight type windows over the cabin. The pieces fit well, and the whole assembly mates to the fuselage with a little putty being required at the rear joint. The left and right horizontal stabilizers are different, so make sure you get them on the proper sides. The instructions illustrate this difference if you look closely.
The fit of the front and rear windows leaves something to be desired, the front being worse. There is a gap that should be filled. I masked the window with Scotch Tape that I de-tacked by first sticking it to my forehead (remove the Opti-Visor first!), then applied to the window and trimmed around the edge with a #11 X-Acto blade. This allowed me to fill the gap without clouding the window. Be careful with the blade so you don't scratch the window, and leave the tape on until you sand the putty smooth.
All three wheels come in two halves, which mate together quite well, but some dressing of the seams will be required. 150AS does not have wheel pants, but since I'm building this pretty much out of the box, the model will have them. If my buddy doesn't like it, he can buy some for his plane!
The engine is made up of the smallest, most intricate pieces in the kit. Coincidentally, these are the same pieces that have the most flash. However, they can be cleaned up with just a little effort. I didn't put a lot of effort into it because once the cowl is in place, only the front of the cylinders and the lower ends of the exhaust pipes are visible. However, the engine as built didn't quite fit inside the cowl, so I had to do a little sanding in various places to get a proper fit. Also, the air intake filter on the bottom of the engine didn't fit properly into the corresponding cowl opening. Because this part of the engine is hidden, I cut the filter/carburetor assembly from the engine and glued it to the lower cowl in the proper, and visible, position. If you know this going in, you can avoid the cutting step by just attaching it to the cowl in the first place. Trust me, no one will know the difference.
The lower cowl fits pretty well, but there are some gaps around the upper cowl. These can be easily filled in with a little putty, and the curves blended in to the rest of the fuselage. The front piece fits well against the other two.
The main landing gear fit into two recesses in the bottom of the fuselage, and these need a little putty to blend them into a nice smooth transition. Alignment wasn't a problem, but you need to make sure the wheels will look level with the "ground" when they are attached.
At this point, I was ready to start painting. I thought I would try spraying the overall white, so I carefully masked all windows and stuffed tissue paper into the cowl holes. I am fairly new to airbrushing, so this was something of an experiment. I used Ceramcoat White thinned with Future. It sprayed well, but I was too heavy-handed and had some runs, so I wound up stripping off most of it with ammonia and respraying in a couple of light coats. It wasn't until I removed the masks that I found a problem - The windows don't fit tight enough, and I had some leakage around the skylights. There was nothing that could be done at this point, as the cockpit was already sealed. As a warning to other builders, be careful to completely seal the windows if you plan on spray painting. Brush painters shouldn't have this problem, but sealing is still a good idea.
It was at this point that I started looking in detail at the kit decals. They are definitely meant to be applied before the horizontal stabilizers are attached. The decals show a slit where the stabilizers are supposed to go, and they're right in the middle of the decals. Even though I printed my own decals on some blank decal paper, I'm going to run into the same thing. However, some careful trimming should allow me to place them appropriately. I should note at this time that my decals are only an approximation of the actual color scheme of N150AS. My drawing tool is too crude to allow the fine tapering of the actual stripes, and I was unable to find an acceptable font with the reverse italic necessary for the port (left) side.
When I first tried printing on the decal paper, I found that even after I let the ink dry for several hours, it still smeared. I wiped it off, sprayed the decal sheet with Testors Dullcote, and reprinted. This time the ink stayed in place better, but still had a tendency to smear. Overcoating with Humbrol Clear fixed the ink nicely. After all the experimentation, I was pleased with the way the finished decals went on. They laid down well on flat surfaces, but had some trouble on the curves. Just a touch with some liquid cement and they laid down all over.
Now it was time for the final touches, the wing struts, propeller, and antennae. The struts fit well, but I found that the propeller shaft was a little higher in the cowl than it should have been. At this stage, there was nothing to be done about it. I used a piece of heated, stretched sprue for the front antenna, and a piece of beading wire for the antennae at the top front of the vertical stabilizer. In both cases, I drilled a small hole to receive the antenna. I drilled all the way through the tail so the antennae on both sides would line up. A drop of glue held it in place. An overall coat of Future floor finish gave the model a nice gloss finish. I almost forgot to add the steps on the main landing gear. These are not included in the kit, but are easily scratched from some thin styrene card. I scavenged a piece from a disposable drinking cup.
The one remaining step was to attach the piece that will be inserted into the stand. It is important to make sure the model will balance properly, so care must be taken when placing the support. Mine balanced with the support approximately ½" behind the main landing gear attachment points.
This is a "must-build" for anyone
wanting a model of a Cessna 150. It's simple enough for the novice, and offers
the opportunity for customization to create whatever N-number plane desired.
It will make a good addition to your collection of aviation paraphernalia.
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