The final generation piston airliners
Boeing 377 Stratocruiser – Lockheed L1049G Super Constellation – SNCASE Armagnac
I think there’s something sad about the final generation of piston engined airliers. For the most part they were the culmination of several decades spent working our what was the best way to design and build a large commercial airliner. Then the jets came along and swiftly relegated these engineering marvels to second line status, reduced to flying cargo and then the scrap heap. Here are three, two well known and the third a footnote in the history of airliners.
Boeing 377 Stratocruiser in 1/144 by Minicraft
The Boeing Stratocruiser was a civil development of the C-97 freighter which was, in turn, a development of the Boeing B-50 which was an advanced version of the B-29. It was a large comfortable airliner with a unique two level passenger cabin, the a lowere deck passenger lounge was capable of accommodating 14 passengers. They were, however, unreliable and expensive to operate so they disappeared from commercial operations soon after the arrival of long-haul jet airliners.
There’s not much choice when it comes to making a 1/144 scale model of a Stratocruiser. There was, once upon a time, the ATP fully resin kit what I once had and got rid of. There is the Welsh Models kit which is a full vacform kit and probably not much fun to play with. This leaves us with the Minicraft kit which was first published in 1998 and has appeared since in the liveries of a few other airlines. It’s a fairly basic kit in comparison to the more modern kits from companies like Revell and Zvezda. (You have even less choice in 1/72 with only the Academy Stratocruiser to chose from. I wrote a Workbench Note about making this model in which I write mainly about my first experience of coming across what can happen when you cross enamel and lacquer paints.
Lockheed 1049 Super Constellation in 1/144 by Minicraft/Welsh Models
The Super Constellation was a development of Lockheed’s earlier Constellation which had been designed as a civil airliner but had been put into production as a military aircraft during World War II. Development of the Super Constellation began in the late 1940s and they began entering service in 1951. They were more popular than the Boeing Stratocruiser, with less problems so, when the jet airliners arrived and pushed them out of major airline service, many Super Constellations went into service with second level and freight airlines.
There are three options when it comes to making the Super Constellation in 1/144, the older Minicraft kit that dates from 1998, the newer Revell kit that comes to us from 2006, and the much older Welsh Models vacform kit. Of these the Revell kit is preferable and reviews in Modelling Madness and Fine Scale Modeler recommend it. Back in 2013 I set out to make models of the Constellation, Super Constellation and Starliner using Minicraft and Welsh Models kits which you can read about here.
SNCASE SE2010 Armagnac in 1/144 by F-Rsin
Design work began on the Armagnac in France in 1942 to meet a requirement for a long range airliner capable of carrying 60 to 160 passengers. Wartime conditions meant that planning was delayed until after the war and the prototype first flew in 1949. It was a large, roomy airliner but slow and inefficient. While 59 Stratocruisers and 259 civil Super Constellations were constructed only 9 Armagnacs were built. Air France had planned to take 15 but declined to buy them and TAI flew then for eight months before declaring them unprofitable. Most were broken up in 1955 though two flew the French contingent to the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956.
You’re out of luck when it comes to this model. I bought this full resin kit from the producer, F-Rsin, in 2014 and it has since gone out of production. I can find hardly a mention of it anywhere on the interwebsbut you might have some luck if you look hard and long enough. When you do get it you will probably be disappointed by its relative crudeness and lack of detail. You could try replacing the engines and propellers with an aftermarket set, which I wish I had done, but that might also be hard to find these days.