I'm sure that few people will have
heard of the PC-12/45, and even fewer will be aware that a number are in service
with the US Air Force. It is quite a unique aircraft, with a single nose
mounted PWC PT6A-67B engine low mounted upswept wings and a T tail. Build
by Pilatus, it is designed to be able to operate from short and unimproved
runway surfaces. It can operate from shorter runways than a C-130 and can
also land on dirt and grass strips, but can still carry a payload of up to
All the above make it quite a unique aircraft, and the US Air Force chose
a specialised version to provide intra-theatre support for AFSOC forces.
The aircraft was designated the U-28A and assigned to the 319th Special
Operations Squadron (SOS), who now operate 6 airframes. The 319th, part of
the 16th Special Operations Wing (SOW), commenced operations in October 2005 and
became combat ready during January 2006. The U-28A is basically a standard
PC-12/45 but with a rather specialised avionics fit (details
classified), notable by the pods on the rear fuselage and the large
numbers of aerials.
During late 2007 the US Air Force also announced that "vanilla"
PC-12/45s would also be acquired for airlift and known as U-28's. These
will be assigned to the 318th SOS at Cannon AFB and 10 will be acquired as part
of the 27th SOW.
Enough history, on to the kit itself...
images below to see larger images
I fancied building this aircraft from when
SIG Leader Haydn first mentioned it, and spent a considerable amount of
time looking for references which didn't seem to exist. The 319th
U-28A's are rather reclusive, and few pictures exist, although I
eventually managed to find half a dozen, picturing 3 different airframes.
I thought I would put off buying the kit, as the Heritage Aviation
model was not cheap. I almost bought a copy at one of the shows
early in 2007. Luckily I didn't - lucky because it turned out that
I'd already bought one and it had been sitting in the stash for at least a
First impressions were not good. The resin parts themselves
were very poor quality, with numerous air bubbles and the surface was
quite waxy. When I removed the 2 fuselage halves from their casting
blocks, I found that they did not fit together at all. Not only was
one fuselage half banana shaped, but there was a 1/4in step between the
tops of the halves when lined up. In addition, one of the upper
front halves was twisted forward and in and did not actually touch the
other half. The bottom rear of the fuselage where the lower fin and
strakes are did not fit at all, and I eventually cut the lower fin off
The halves around the cabin window area was wafer thin (so much so that
you could almost see through the resin), and it was possible to see where
plasticine and masking tape had been used to hold everything together when
the mound was cast! The small pieces were provided in white metal
and would prove to be usable, although needing a lot of cleaning up.
I started by spraying the inside of the fuselage halves in grey
using Halfords Primer which is a nice neutral colour which is almost a
perfect match for Dark Gull Grey (yes, I'm too lazy to use an airbrush!).
this had dried, I masked the outside of the windows using sellotape,
then filled the windows themselves with clear resin. Once this set,
I removed the sellotape, then sanded and polished out the resin to leave a
(reasonably) clear windows, although there were some air bubbles
which I had to accept.
The cockpit is a separate "tub" which drops in. I
used this "as is" but added an instrument panel decal from an
AMT/ERTL KC-135 - I figured that nobody would notice... The tub then
dropped into place, although I had to do a lot of trimming and adjusting
to get it to fit. The fuselage halves were then superglued together
- this left a large gap at the bottom rear of the fuselage where the lower
fin had been, together with a huge gap along the top of the fuselage.
I also twisted out and superglued the front halves together at this stage.
Next, I broke out the car filler (I
used Davids Isopon P38) and liberally filled the gaps. Once sanded out
this gives a really smooth finish. The next step was to attach the fin and
rudder and get these filled in - I ended up making the lower fin from plastic
card and copious amounts of filler.
I then moved onto the wings - these came in 2 pieces 1 left and 1 right,
with a butt joint under the fuselage, with the wing edges butting up against
fillets in the fuselage. Of course, none of this fitted and I again
resorted to car filled - one great advantage to this stuff is that it
holds a nice edge, and I was able to rebuild the fillets behind the wings.
At this stage, I had a virtually complete airframe. I pinned and
glued the T-tail into place and made up replacement lower strakes from plastic
card. The cockpit is a "clear" vacuform and this was polished
and dipped in Johnson Kleer then cut out and glued onto place, after I used
plastic card to make a "ledge" around the cockpit opening to hold it
I made up all of the lumps, bumps and aerials from plastic card, then
applied a coat of grey primer over the airframe which highlighted a number of
areas needing further filling, sanding and re-priming. After several
rounds of this, I was ready to paint. The U-28A has a simple scheme
- overall gunship grey - and this made the painting stage somewhat easier than
it could have been. I use Xtracolor paints which I spray at very low
pressure (6-8psi) and mixed approximately 50% with thinner. After a
couple of coats of Johnson Kleer, I applied the markings using a Two Bobs sheet
which I'd had hanging around for some time. There are no markings other
than the tailcode so this didn't take too long! A couple of coats of Polly
Scale Matt Coat and it was time for final detailing.
I used the undercarriage from the kit, although I did modify it slightly
as the aircraft appeared to sit too high. I used a propeller blade/prop
set from Aeroclub to save time and also to add weight and this worked really
And that was it. Despite the poor quality of the kit, I was really
pleased with the result!
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