Avro Jetliner by F-RSIN

1/144 scale
Kit No.  FR14032
Cost: $48.99
Decals: One version
Comments: Resin kit with white metal landing gear legs; limited run kit; engraved panel lines on control surfaces

History

Taking flight on August 10, 1949, the Avro Canada C-102 Jetliner was the first indigenous jet aircraft to fly in the Dominion of Canada, and the first jet airliner produce in North America and the Western Hemisphere.  It was the second to fly in the world, after the British DeHavilland DH-106 Comet 13 days prior, and the third designed in the world, preceded by the Fokker F.26 Phantom of the Netherlands, and the Comet.  The Jetliner prototype first flew over eight years before the first flight of the American Boeing 707, and was powered by four Rolls Royce Derwent V jet engines, the same engine that powered the Gloster Meteor F.4.

Design of the Jetliner began in 1945 almost as soon as the Second World War ended.  Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA) was considering updates for its routes and wanted a new design for a passenger aircraft.  During the war Canadian aircraft were built by Victory Aircraft at Toronto which worked from British designs.  The plant was to continue manufacture in case the British Isles fell to Nazi Germany.  Since this didn’t happen, it was taken over by Avro Aircraft of Great Britain, later becoming Avro Canada.  This was where the C-102 design was developed and culminated.

Originally CTA wanted a twin-engined turboprop, however, during a trip to England, Director Jim Bain saw development of the new Rolls-Royce AJ65 Avon axial-flow engines and decided these would be more effective in performance of the new project.  Unfortunately development and certification of the Avons fell behind, a common occurrence in early jet developments.  So the Rolls-Royce RB.37 Derwent V centrifugal flow engine was selected instead.  However, since the Derwent produced only 2,000 lbs of thrust per engine, compared to the Avon’s 6,500 lbs, the aircraft had to be redesigned to take four engines for a total of 8,000 lbs. of thrust versus the original planned 13,000 lbs.  Even with this reduction in power, the Jetliner would break records or passenger-carrying aircraft.

Avro planned for the C-102 to become operational for CTA by 1952 and hopefully to be exported as well. Indeed, the Jetliner began to set records with the world’s first jet delivered airmail taking place in April 1950 going from Toronto to New York City in just 58 minutes, and flying from Chicago to New York in 1 hour, 42 minutes.  While there several airline representatives had a chance to look at the new type of aircraft and many were quite intrigued.  The Jetliner reached speeds in excess of 500 miles per hour early in the flight test program, and flew higher and faster than any transport plane flown up until that time in North America.

The production Jetliner would have been fitted with newer technology engines, and would have carried 60 passengers at a cruising speed of 450 mph.  This represented the biggest single improvement in speed for passenger aircraft designed on the American continent at any time, before or since (the maximum speed of the Douglas DC-6, a contemporary aircraft, was 315 mph).  The Jetliner broke every passenger transport performance record in the book during its route proving trials in North America during 1950-1951, so much so that American observers were astonished at its performance.  However, back in Canada things were taking an ominous turn against the C-102.

Howard Hughes in front of the one and only production Avro Jetliner.

As Canada increased the size of its armed forces to meet its obligations as an ally within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), treaties with the U.S.A. such as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and its own self-defense, a controversy erupted in connection with the Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck, Canada’s first designed and built jet-powered, all weather interceptor.  The Canadian Minister of Reconstruction, Clarence Decatur “C.D.” Howe, made a unilateral decision to cancel the Jetliner project and had the almost completed second prototype halted, then destroyed.  He also moved to have the original prototype “CF-EJD-X” broken up as well, but then, enter the American aviation millionaire Howard Hughes.

Hughes, no stranger to high performance aircraft, leased the prototype and took it for a test flight himself around Culver City, California.  He immediately formed plans to supply TransWorldAirlines (TWA) and National Airlines, two carriers in which he had a controlling interest, with a fleet of C-102’s.  He tried to order 30 aircraft for flights between New York and Florida, but was frustrated in these efforts when Avro cited its limited production capacity and the fact that it was under pressure from the Canadaian government to focus on the CF-100 production line.   C.D. Howe had directed that only the CF-100 was to enter production.

Hughes then engaged the Consolidated Vultee Convair company to conduct licensed manufacture of the Jetliner in the United States.  C.D. Howe again intervened to block Hughes, concerned that nothing interfere with or distract from the CF-100 production.  Despite the high level of interest in the Jetliner from Hughes and other American quarters, in December 1951 the Canadian government effectively cancelled the new, record-setting passenger jet when it ordered Avro to concentrate on CF-100 fighter production and, in a telling example of micro-management, to “move the C-102 out of any useful manufacturing space in your plant.”  C.D. Howe, a driving force behind this order, would later play a critical role in the demise of the revolutionary Avro CF-105 Arrow interceptor.

After a number of years of flying in support of the CF-100 flight test program, the remaining Jetliner was finally broken up for scrap in December 1956, after more than seven years of almost faultless flying and paving the way for the new generation of jet transports.  Despite its premature demise, the Jetliner attracted respect and admiration for Canada’s aviation capability, expressed quite well by British aviation writer Bill Gunston in his book “Encyclopedia of Commercial Aircraft” which included this quote:  “The Avro Canada C 102 Jetliner was Canada’s first jetliner.  It remains an example of how a talented and motivated team could work together to produce a unique aircraft in record time.”

But the Jetliner was more than just another cancelled aviation project.  It represented the same kind of quantum leap in air passenger service in North America that the Messerschmitt Me 262 represented over the North American P-51 Mustang in the arena of combat aircraft.  Unfortunately, it ran afoul of the fourth dimension highlighted by Sir Sydney Camm, when discussing the gauntlet that all modern aircraft must run to get from the drawing board, off the assembly line, and through the factory exit gates:

“All modern aircraft have four dimensions: span, length, height…and politics.”

The Kit

F-RSIN’s Avro Jetliner is molded in pale beige resin and consists of a dozen parts in a single clear plastic bag.  A smaller clear plastic bag within contains three white metal parts for the landing gear.  To be fair, the kit, particularly the fuselage, is crude and has some of the hallmarks of a short-run kit, having almost no surface detail whatsoever, with the notable exception of engraved panel lines for the control surfaces (rudder and ailerons, but for some reason the manufacturer skipped the scribing on the elevators, perhaps due to the thinness of the resin there).  The wings are very cleanly molded but the fuselage will require significant clean-up — likewise the leading edge of the vertical tail, which is rather ragged.

The kit’s primary virtue is the attention paid to molding its wings and their four turbojet engines, easily the cleanest, most accurate, and most detailed part of the model.  The four nacelles are thankfully molded as a single component which is combined with the wing center section and underbelly.  The underside of the wing center section features, nestled between the nacelles, an aperture for the main landing gear, with machined holes into which the white metal gear can be cemented.  The two single-piece outer wings are very crisply molded and will require the least clean-up.

The fuselage is in two halves and has a fairly rough surface — as noted above it will require significant clean-up.  It has no surface detail of any kind, and F-RSIN relies exclusively upon the decals to depict cabin windows, windscreen, and doors, so proper alignment will be crucial.  There is also an aperture in the nose of the fuselage for the nose gear, but like the rest of the fuselage it is crudely done, will require clean-up, and lacks any pre-machined hole into which the gear may be cemented.  No landing gear doors are provided, which combined with the deficiency in the nose gear, may induce some modelers to depict the Jetliner in flight.

The decals are manufactured in-house by F-RSIN and have a nice, semi-gloss sheen.  They include markings for the windscreen, anti-glare panel, cabin windows, as well as small, traditional Avro Canada logos for the tail.  However, both the Jetliner” logo and the cabin windows are slightly out of register.  The sheer length of the marking for the cabin windows, which is accompanied by a single black pinstripe, may be a bit intimidating.  It runs the entire length of the fuselage and includes the “Avro Canada” and “Jetliner” logos, and will be challenging to apply cleanly.

The fuselage is just over 6.75 inches (the equivalent of roughly17cm) long, and the dimensions of the decal will make establishing a completely smooth fuselage surface all the more essential.  There is an option for either the “Avro Canada” or simply the “Avro” logo for this marking, and if the latter option is selected it will somewhat ease the task of applying this extra long decal, as it will require snipping the leading 2.5 inches off the main large Avro Canada decal and replacing it with the Avro one.  There are six resin wheels for the double wheel arrangement of all three landing gear.  The smaller nose gear wheels will require delicate clean-up, as they are the least crisply molded of the wheels.

The kit includes no instruction sheet, and with so few parts, it is not really necessary.  But it does include a sheet with color plates providing a paint scheme, which provides for one of two options:  The first is an all natural metal airframe with yellow vertical tail, a yellow stripe running the length of the mid-section of the fuselage, and yellow undersurfaces for the four engine nacelles.  The second is nearly identical to the first, but with the upper half of the fuselage painted what was likely a gloss white.  Regardless of which option is chosen, the biggest challenge with this kit may be painting the yellow stripe in the proper position along the mid-section of the fuselage, because the long decal with the pinstripe and cabin windows must be precisely aligned with it, so that the pinstripe forms the bottom border of the yellow stripe.  On the actual aircraft this stripe appears to have been at least a foot in width.

Conclusion

Avro Canada’s C-102 Jetliner – an aircraft representing a quantum leap in air passenger service that incredibly, never entered production.

This will be a challenging kit, and is not for beginners, likely best tackled by a modeler with at least a resin kit or two under his or her belt.  While it has huge historic interest, it is not widely available and its relative rarity makes it even more interesting.  Other than a kit by IRMA (the International Resin Modellers Association), this kit is the only game in town if you want to add an Avro Jetliner to your collection.  Highly recommended, with the caveat of patience, patience, patience…

References

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