Boeing 377 Stratocruiser

Boeing 377 Stratocruiser - Transocean Air Lines by Minicraft
1/144 scale
Kit No. 14466
Cost: $16.00
Decals:
One version, Transocean Airlines -  High quality markings by Invisa-Clear
Comments: Engraved panel lines

History
Developed from the Boeing C-97 military transport, which was in turn a transport version of the B-29 Superfortress, this civilian version was first flown on July 8, 1947.  The Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser was at the time the largest and heaviest American airliner ever built.  It was luxurious by the standards of the day, featuring a double deck arrangement that provided for a unique and exclusive lower deck lounge.  The first 377's were delivered to Pan Am.  British Overseas Airways also added the Stratocruiser to their fleet, purchasing their first six directly from Boeing.  One of them was registered G-AKGL, and given the name "Cabot."  In 1959, it was sold to Transocean Airlines and received the U.S. registration N404Q.  This Stratocruiser was modified to accomodate 117 passengers.  It had a top speed of 375 mph, with a cruising speed of 340 mph at 32,000 feet.  The powerplant was four 3,500 hp Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp engines.  Eventually, N404Q was retired from airline service and sold to Aero Spacelines, where it was used for the construction of a small fleet of outsized "Guppy" cargo liners. 


Transocean Airlines was an Oakland, California based airline that operated from 1946 to 1960, operating both charter and contract passenger service with the motto, "We fly anything, anywhere, anytime."  Organized by a handful of maverick aviators with more dreams than money in their pockets, Transocean Air Lines became the largest supplemental air carrier in the world, employing at its peak over 6,700 workers at some 57 bases around the globe.  The men and women of Transocean Air Lines helped make modern air transport possible for today's world. At its height the Transocean organization included ten companies, making it the first aviation conglomerate. The airline itself employed 1,500 persons. Including the personnel of its subsidiary companies, the total number exceeded 6,700. Transocean’s gross annual sales climbed as high as 50 million dollars.  By April 1958, after 12 years of operations, Transocean’s aircraft had flown a total of 1,290,966,900 passenger miles, 126,990,642 cargo ton-miles, and 66,828,237 aircraft miles. 


The Kit
Minicraft's Boeing 377 is molded in white and consists of 49 parts, many sporting engraved panel lines.  This kit is from Minicraft's Legends of Aviation series, and is notable for its simplicity (meaning apparently worry-free construction) and high quality markings.  Given the scale, there is no interior to speak of, and the instructions recommend a nose weight to prevent the completed kit sitting on its tail.  Construction is straightforward -- all the major components, fuselage, wings, nacelles, and elevators, consist of two halves.  Slots are molded into the fuselage for the wings to ensure a secure fit. 


There is a fairly large, bulbous clear part for the upper half of the nose which will require seam-hiding, and will have to be carefully painted to leave the cockpit windows clear -- unless the modeler opts to use the decal provided for that purpose.  The main challenge with this kit will be the painting, if you opt for the livery depicted in the box art, since the yellow, white and aluminum scheme is attractive, but will require a little skill and a lot of patience to duplicate.  The landing gear for this kit look delicate, and will have to be handled with care.

Decals
The markings may be the best thing about the kit, appear to be very high quality ScaleMaster examples printed by Microscale; the decal sheet also bears the Invisa-Clear logo.  They are perfectly in register with excellent color quality and have a high gloss.  If looks are any judge, they will work quite well.  They are for a single Transocean aircraft, Serial No. N404Q, which began life as a BOAC airliner, and include the Transocean logo exactly as depicted in the box art. 

Conclusion
A great airliner kit from the Legends of Aviation series, notable for its eye-catching livery.  Strongly recommended for those interested in civil aviation.


References
The Encyclopedia of World Air Power, Crescent Books, New York: Copyright 1980
www.wikipedia.org

The markings alone are sufficient reason for interest in this kit!


Here the challenge of painting the glazed nose of the Stratocruiser is obvious.  When will someone come up with an Express Mask for this?


A Pan American Airways Stratocruiser on the ramp at London's Heathrow Airport, December 1954.
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