Construction begins in the cockpit. A pair of ejection seats are included and are a very simple affair with 3 pieces each, the detail is very sparse which is unfortunate. Fitted into the tub though is the instrument panels for both the front and rear seats, with the rear having the ejection rail for the front pilot attached to it.
At this point, one also has the option of modeling the canopies open or closed, with options on both on how you want them posed, but it must be chosen now before adding the cockpit sidewalls. Speaking of the sidewalls, they are super thin, I was impressed as I knew this would be a good sign for when fitting the cockpit into the fuselage halves. Detail here was also very lacking but I've never seen one close up to know if this is accurate or not.
Decals were included in the box for the instrument panels and controls throughout the cockpit, but I hate using them as they never sit right or sit well and instead used them as a reference to paint them myself. I also went with a blank screen in a powered-off state for the displays rather than showing anything as the decals provide.
The next step in the construction is assembling the fuselage, which starts with fitting the cockpit and wheel bays into the halves and closing those up. There were visible seams that had to be filled but putty made quick work of this. I also drilled holes out for the external fuel tank and then closed it back up as I realized the aircraft I'm modeling doesn't use one. The instructions also give the option for speed breaks deployed and I opted to leave them closed this time around.
At this point, the instructions call out to add the front gear and doors but I skipped this step till later as there was no need to do them now versus at the end.
The intake ducts get built up and assembled, with some minor putty work done beforehand to close up some bigger gaps but not hiding them altogether as the real aircraft has parting lines here.
One of the final things in this part of the assembly was building up the wings, each having an upper and lower part that after a bit of sanding to thin out the lower part fit very well and didn't have much of a gap at all. Again the instructions call out to attach the main landing gear at this point but I opted to leave this till the end. The vertical fine halves are mated up and glued, taking care of seams yet again before attaching to the main body along with the elevators.
The engine of this model is very simplistic comprising of only a single piece that fits into the rear of the aircraft. I chose to leave this off till the very end in an effort to weather and paint it as realistically as possible.
With this model, I went with an aftermarket decal set so that I could replicate one of the aircraft from where I was stationed and as such the paint scheme isn't the same as depicted on the box, the colors are the same but how is different. The model received an overall painting of Mr. Color (insert paint color here) which was then masked off as appropriate for the tail and front of the aircraft that then received Mr. Color (insert color here) which is a nice dark color. The color callouts don't call out the gear bays or doors inside but a quick google reveals that they are white, which is what I'd have suspected considering most Air Force aircraft is this way. There is also a small spot on the very tip of the aircraft that is painted flat black, which I replicated.
The aftermarket decals that I purchased for this model were made by Caracal Models and printed by the legendary Cartograf. They are of very high quality and make the kit ones look pretty terrible after comparing them side by side. There are a few stencil markings in the kit decals that aren't present in the aftermarket ones and not being totally sure if those were relevant or not to the aircraft I modeled I went ahead and included them.
I started the process on the tail fin, with the markings for both the 49th and 50th squadrons on both upper surfaces and then markings for Columbus itself below them. From there not too many more markings need to be added overall, the USAF and roundel on the sides in the mid-section, and a few upper and lower surfaces of the outer wings. A few almost indistinguishable stencil markings also were added across the plane.
Once this was one the model was off to the spray booth for another clear coat to lock the decals all in preparation for a wash later.
Landing Gear & Gear Doors
Building up the landing gear was rather simple, with just a few pieces per each side, the main strut and supports to hold them in place. This all received XF-2 white before adding a quick black wash to accentuate the details. Gear doors then received the same XF-2 on the inside and were painted the lighter grey color to match the body on the outside. Good-sized locating nubs were included which helped this process for seating them into their final position.
Earlier in the process of building the model, I skipped the canopies and the details that go into them as I made a poor choice adding the supports early on. Now was the time to get back to those. In the middle of the cockpit there is a bar that goes across where the front mounts and the back canopy rests that needed to be painted first in interior colors, then the exterior color of the airplane before fitting it into place.
Next up was the canopies themselves which again needed a few pieces fitted such as mirrors and supports before making them off and painting them in the interior color as a base, followed by the darker exterior grey that's relevant.
One final piece to get added to this model was the access ladder which I painted yellow, with tire black where the rubber padding is before adding this to the model. Overall this was a fun one and to be modeled after aircraft i was familiar with on a daily basis made it even better!