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First Look Review
148
Boeing B-52H Stratofortress
Boeing B-52H Stratofortress
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by: Drabslab [ DRABSLAB ]

Introduction
Is was July 1985 (or 1987?) and I was wet, cold and hungry. In fact, I was feeling totally miserable. I had been wet for the last 4 days… and nights while that dream trip to the Fairford Air Tattoo I had been saving money for all year had turned into a nightmare of spitting, dizzling, pouring and any other variation of rain imaginable.

Most sensible people already packed their bags but some die-hards stubbornly stayed on the tarmac hoping for a miracle, or even less realistic, an airplane that would take off despite the heavy winds, the low visibility, the low hanging clouds …

The speakers cracked, and a voice in authentic chewing gum English said how sorry he felt for us air enthusiasts, that the weather was sooooo bad. “Don’t despair” he said, “the US Air Force would compensate for the bad weather with a performance that no-one, not even on the biggest air shows in the US, had ever seen.”

Far away in the distance we heard the noise of many, many jet engines starting up, we couldn’t see anything because of the slope of the terrain but definitively, and finally, something was happening. Suddenly, the noise doubled and an enormous tail appeared, Jaws style, on the horizon. A few seconds later a huge B-52 lifted of just in front of us and turned its nose into the wind.

This first Stratofortress was soon followed by 3 others who majestically, all made an identical turn at the end of the runway and disappeared in the clouds. We were staggered and waited if the planes would come back for a fly-by or to land.

Then we saw the plumes of smoke in the distance. Minutes later, the four B-52's, in a perfect four finger formation, thundered in a low pass over the audience, leaving us behind in a cloud of smoke and kerosene. In the distance, we could see them break formation coming in to land again. Unique, fantastic, flabbergasting, bamboozling. My best air show ever!

Fast forward to 2007, I had picked up modelling again and I was googling for a B-52 in my preferred 1/48 scale.

Quite surprised I stumbled upon a vintage looking website (http://www.sangereng.co.uk/) owed by a small company making vacu form airplanes. The site hasn’t changed much over the years and is definitively worth a visit if you like 1995 style layouts. More importantly, it promised that a B-52 in 1/48 scale was in the making and “very soon”, it would be for sale.

I hesitated, I never made a vacu form in my life and what I knew about it was not very comforting but… it seemed like the only possibility to get a 1/48 B-52 so I took an option on one of those kits.

“Very soon” took another 10 years but now here it is, a box with a vacu form B-52H in 1/48 scale.

The box
The box is quite large weighing 2.7 kilogram. The box art is limited to a big sticker shouting “FRAGILE”, the delivery address and a considerable amount of tape to keep it together.

Ok, this box is not made to attract buyers as this kit is a limited run (200 ) and only available from the manufacturers web site. It is quite sturdy though and able to protect whatever is inside from transporting damage. It does that job very well, no complaints here.

Still, it shows that I spent 150 British pounds on an extravagantly large model (even for a vacu form kit) from a tiny company. At this stage, I have some doubts about what I will find inside. What on earth have I gotten myself into?

The plastic
Opening the box first leads to a sheet of bubble plastic as extra protection and a number of white plastic Vacu formed sheets that fit perfectly in the box. Ok, the company may be small but they obviously have eye for detail and are very committed to have the product arriving in-tact with the customer.

The plastic seems to be between 1.5 and 1.2 mm thick. I expect that the vac formed parts themselves are about one mm thick with the plastic being slightly stretched during forming. The plastic is quite stiff. I expected that the long wings would drop considerably when held only on one side but that is not the case. What is even more surprising to me is the presence of recessed panel lines.

The surface of the parts looks reasonably smooth. However, it is covered with many tiny raised spots that will have to be sanded away. I assume that these spots indicate the location of the holes through which the air is sucked out from under the mould.

As seems to be typical for vacu formed parts, the surface is not perfect with here and there some blister like bumps. Also, the panel lines will need some repairs here and there.

Obviously, the quality of the plastic can’t be compared with the quality of injection moulded kits but it still is surprisingly good. So far, I feel a reassured, this is not the disaster I feared that it could be.

The kit is huge. The wing halves are approximately 65 centimetres long. The fuselage is made of 4 parts, the first halves are about 57 centimetres long, the aft parts are 40 centimetres long. For comparison, I added a picture of the tail with a 1/48 scale F-16 on top. The tail sections are visibly much larger than the wings of the F-16.

Size obviously matters. Still, this size could become a problem. I fear that the kit could, long term start sagging and I will put some extra reinforcements here and there. Another weak spot may be the point where the wings are connected to the fuselage; The relatively large weight of the wings may cause the bond to break.

Sanger is adding a shape for a reinforcement to its instruction sheets. I am however thinking about a system that would allow for removing the wings to facilitate transporting the model.

There is very little interior detail. Some bulkheads to strengthen the kit, and a simple cockpit. Maybe this is irrelevant. How many of those highly detailed cockpits have I made that are totally invisible in the completed model?

The white metal
The undercarriage, two cockpit seats and a few other bits and pieces such as the engine fans are supplied in white metal. Considering the expected weight of the plane that metal undercarriage seems a necessity. It will also require learning a few new skills in using epoxy glue, or to learn how to solder that white metal.

The clear parts
There is only one vac formed clear part. It gives me the shape of the cockpit. This part will be very useful. One of the shortcomings of the white plastic is that the windows of the plane are not clearly formed. This large transparent part will not only be a good mould for checking the form of the cockpit, it will also easily compensate for any cutting errors of the windows.

The decals
Sanger has put an enormous effort in preparing the decals. You can buy a grant total of 32 different decal sets for each of the B-52A until H models that Sanger is producing. My choice was for the B-52H 'High Roller' Serial 80231 RAF Fairford. Not a surprise I guess after my introductory story.

The decals look somewhat different(?) than what I see from eg. Cartograph but seem of very good quality overall. I expect no problems here.

There is not only a huge choice in decals. Sanger supplies the kit as four versions along the lines of the various B-52 models that were produced over the years. You can choose between:

  • A. NB-52A
  • B. B-52 'A-E' Variant
  • C. B-52 'F/G' Variant
  • D. B-52 'H' Variant


The instruction sheets
The instruction sheets come in a separate large plastic bag and are simple black and white copies. There are eight A3 size papers giving information on how to assemble the model, there are four A-4 size papers with tips on how to assemble Vacu form models and how to deal with White metal, and there is an instruction sheet explaining how to deal with the decal sheets.

Great!! On some aspects, Sanger here gives more information on how to build a kit than many large companies.

Still, there is no paint scheme, and the eight pages’ assembly drawings look more like general guidelines than precise instructions. This will not be a straightforward Kinetamigawa build, that is for sure.

However, it feels strangely exciting having to do “my homework”, to seek al information missing on the internet, or in books, and to puzzle with the available information and parts until I get it right. I think that while building this kit I will raise “dry-fitting” to a whole new level.

The verdict
I can’t possibly rate this kit. Not only because I have no experience with Vac form and thus nothing to compare with, but predominantly because this kit is the result of so much dedication, determination, and stubborn continuation that any attempt to rate it would express nothing but arrogance.

A small company, most likely a one-man operation, produced a 1 meter long kit (not forgetting to study the subject to great detail) that none of the large kit manufacturers has dared to make.

The quality of the kit is, considering the limitations of the technology used, outstanding and bizarrely enough, where it falls short it appears like an invitation to deviate from the kit and scratch some things myself. What about adding functioning navigation lights, or adding a jet engine sound, or opening up the flaps in the wings, or opening and detailing the huge bomb bay …

It is a challenge to build and I just hope that I will be able to do this kit justice. Maybe this is just what modelling is all about.

Thank you Sanger!

SUMMARY
The mighty Boeing B-52H Stratofortress is one big plane, and Sanger have released this kit, in a beggars belief scale of 1/48th. Drabslab has bought one of these behemoth kits and gives us a tour of the contents.
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: N/A
  Suggested Retail: £128
  Related Link: Boeing B-52H Stratofortress
  PUBLISHED: May 03, 2017
  NATIONALITY: United States
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 85.00%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 60.00%

About Drabslab (drabslab)
FROM: EUROPEAN UNION

I made my first airplane models when I was about 11, a Mistubishi Zero, a Messerschmidt BF 109 and of course, a Spitfire. They were all Airfix and all 1/72. Sounds familiar? I remember I could not even pronounce Mitsubishi, I used to call it Mutsibutsi. I continued building mostly airplanes until...

Copyright ©2017 text by Drabslab [ DRABSLAB ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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Comments

Hi again Drabslab What I find really exciting is that your Review is probably the most-read article we've ever had on Aeroscale in terms of its rapid rise up the ranks of current Reviews! It's great to see a vacuform kit produced by a small company totally overshadow the latest kits from the "big boys" in the industry. I think Gordon Stevens would be delighted. You've seriously got me thinking about building the 1:48 vacuform Fw 58 Weihe which I bought many moons ago. I mustn't get distracted form current projects, but that's one which I will come back to. All the best Rowan
MAY 05, 2017 - 07:59 AM
Common Merlin, You do know that the only reason for the rapid rise of this review is my exquisite writing style, and not the subject itself But yes, it is very nice to see how this review seems to be beating all records. I guess that modellers don't really care whether it is vac form or injection, its the subject that counts the most "1/48 scale B-52" must be an eye catcher for any decent aircraft modeller. I should not shout victory too fast and wait until I put together a left and a right part and see how well they match. If that goes well then I can finally conclude that vac form should be on the technology list of any modern kit manufacturer next to injection, resin, white metal casting, phot-etch and whatever else is there ... Sanger, and the reaction on this site to the review, prove here that there is a market for "bigger than ..." kits. Can you imagine an A-400M, or a C-17 in 1/48 scale. The large parts in vac form, the details in anything else, up to photo etch ... Would make someone dream, no Something else which is not so good. In one week time +/-2000 hits on the article, but only 220 hits on this forum thread, and only 6 (very welcome of course ...) reactions. Don't misunderstand me, I am not begging for whatever you may think I am begging for, but I do find it sad that such innovative and rare subject doesn't make the forum explode. I do not understand that
MAY 08, 2017 - 05:33 AM
I always wondered if this would ever be attempted. I just can't see the possibility, of ever being able to display it. Only option would be to hang from ceiling
MAY 18, 2017 - 05:20 AM
I'm curious to see if one ever makes a model show
MAY 18, 2017 - 05:23 AM
You could also say: "if ever one will be finished." I have been walking around this kit now for almost 3 weeks and its a huge amount of work, and requires quite a bit of planning if you want to do more than simply put it together and paint it. Displaying it is not such a big deal, it can easily be put vertically against a wall, or be hung from a ceiling. (at least that is what I am telling myself now
MAY 18, 2017 - 07:04 AM
I always considered Scratching a 1/48 KC-10. I have the research collected, but haven't progressed further
MAY 24, 2017 - 06:59 PM
There is a proposal for a vac form campaign in the forum. I've asked for a 3 year period as I will need it. Merlin, Rotorhead67: its now or never
JUN 02, 2017 - 03:27 AM
The best way to do that is to purchase a smaller, less complicated vac kit to practise on before you attempt your masterpiece. If you like, I can recommend several different ones. Once all the parts are cut out and prepared, a vac kit is very much like any other kit apart from the thickness of the plastic. You need to plan out supporting tabs along the edges of the parts, and for a large kit such as yours, you will likely need internal supports. There are several threads in other fora regarding the building of vac kits which can teach you much[/quote] The styrene is 1mm thick, which is about the average for injection molded models. The type of styrene used for vacuform models is formulated differently (softer, less rigid), which is why there is a greater amount of flex in the parts. The best way to use support tabs is to alternate them on each side of the fuselage, making them interlock with the tabs on the opposite edge. The scrap plastic left over from the wing sheets is perfect for making tabs,; just sand off the ridges until the surface is level and you're good to go. Adding internal supports, like bulkheads, will eliminate the flexing. This kit contains parts for six bulkheads, four for the main and two for the rear fuselage sections. For a model 39.2"/995.4mm long, that isn't sufficient to eliminate torsional rotation along the fuselage. Adding two more in the main fuselage, with two more in the rear, will make for a sturdier, stiffer model. Invest around six bucks in a contour gauge. You can get accurate contours of the inside of the fuselage along different points and make bulkheads which will fit perfectly without any gaps around their edges and the fuselage. You could also use the contour gauge to fabricate ribs to reinforce the wings. If you want to take it a step further, reinforcing the interiors of both fuselage halves with fiberglass cloth will result in a really solid, non-flexing part. Good scale drawings are a must when constructing this kit. I printed a set of 1:48 scale drawings using a Boeing factory plan. They're huge; but, they make building this model less of an ordeal. If anyone is interested in the plans, PM me. I'll provide you with a d/l link.
JUL 26, 2017 - 05:07 AM
An interesting thing to note is that, according to the drawings I have, the spine of the rear fuselage isn't parallel to the main. There is a +2° rise of the spine, from where it attaches to the front main section. It's almost unnoticeable; but, it's there. You will see it if you lay the sections over the drawing. You can glue an 8x70mm strip of .010 styrene along the join line on the inside of the front main fuselage; then, place the section on the drawing. Next, place the rear fuselage section on the drawing abutting the tip of the spine of the front section, keeping the styrene strip under the join line edge, aligning the top of the rear fuselage with the drawing. There will be a narrow wedge that will be formed. Brush a small amount of liquid cement where the styrene strip meets the rear fuselage join line in order to secure its position. Apply some 5 Minute epoxy along the wedge, filling it. Wait until it sets and sand the joint smooth.
JUL 26, 2017 - 08:30 AM
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