1/72 Heritage Aviation Pilatus U-28A 

(PC-12/45)

by Chris St Clair

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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 3,000lb.

 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...

Click on 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 year!

 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 entirely.

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!).  Once
 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 set of
 (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 in place.

 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
 well.

 And that was it.  Despite the poor quality of the kit, I was really pleased with the result!

 Don't forget to check out our website for SIG news, details of all our models and an ever expanding review section! - www.usaf-sig.org 

Chris

Photos and text by Chris St Clair - www.usaf-sig.org