A very Special 747 collection trilogy. Part 3 – Oceania, Europe and Private

Written by Fabricio Cojuc

Australia’s QANTAS, a long-standing Boeing customer and leading B747-100 operator, seemed to be a natural SP customer when the type was introduced, but operated only two. The “Stubby Puppies” were most commonly deployed to the US West Coast and Far East.

The airline’s second unit (MSN 22672, 08.03.81, VH-EAB, “Winton”) carried the leasing company’s name and logo, visible in the lower front fuselage (it was renamed “City of Traralgon” in 1991). The classic 1970s livery features the iconic winged Flying Kangaroo logo over the traditional red-colored tail; a light orange cheatline; large red QANTAS titles together with “SP” references (mid-fuselage and upper tail); and the Australian flag above the registration. The special “Official Carrier Brisbane 1982” (Commonwealth Games) titles were applied just after its delivery flight to Sydney. This aircraft flew Pope John Paul II on a special PER-SEY-CIA flight on December 1, 1986. It was leased to subsidiary Australia Asia Airlines in the mid-1990s.

The first unit (MSN 22495, 01.11.81, VH-EAA, “City of Gold Coast Tweed”) also spent some time with Australia Asia Airlines and Australian in the 1990s. The 2000 look, based on the 1984 revamped livery, features smaller QANTAS titles, the airplane´s name in the lower front and “The Australian Airline” legend under the titles; the Australian flag; a modernized, wing-less Flying Kangaroo; and a subtle golden line along the outer edge of an elongated red-colored rear aircraft section. This livery has continued to evolve over the years through different adjustments but still retains, to date, the same basic elements.

VH-EAA and -EAB were retired and scrapped in 2002 at MZJ.

European airlines loved their classic Jumbos but not the SP, except French leisure carrier Corsair. Its only SP (MSN 21253, 08.27.76) was delivered new to South African Airways, leased to Royal Air Maroc in 1985 and subsequently leased to Corsair in 1994. It was first registered in Luxembourg as LX-ACO, becoming F-GTOM in 1996. Based at ORY, its frequent destinations included BKK, RUN, MRU, PPT (via LAX), FDF and PTP. It operated some flights on behalf of Air Tahiti Nui between PPT and NRT. The all-white fuselage featured large titles as well as a light and dark blue sea and sun tail design. The aircraft preserved the original Corsair color scheme until its retirement, unlike the rest of the fleet which migrated to TUI colors in 2004.

F-GTOM was involved in a serious wing-clipping ground incident with a Philippine Airlines B747-400 at LAX on June 6, 1999, sustaining considerable damage to its left wing and fuel tank. It was returned to service after repairs and remained in service until 2002. It was decommissioned and eventually abandoned at CHR.

The SP found a successful niche among private operators, especially in the Middle East, as a luxurious executive aircraft at the service of governments and royal families.  A fitting example is Qatar’s Amiri Flight VP-BAT. Originally delivered to Pan Am (MSN21648, 03.09.79, N539PA, “Clipper Black Hawk”) and transferred to United in 1986, it was sold to Qatar and transformed into a flying palace in 1996. The aircraft  featured a “Head of State VIP configuration” with 89 seats, several bedrooms , meeting rooms, health care area, and stylish lavatories. The aircraft was based at Doha and Bournemouth and registered in Bermuda. The SP was sold to the government of Yemen in 2018.  The 42 year old aircraft is currently on the selling block and in preservation at MZJ.    

Another Bermuda-registered SP, Las Vegas Sands Corporation VP–BLK (MSN 21961, 10.30.79, N58201 originally delivered to TWA) was sold to the United Arab Emirates Royal Flight in 1985 (A6-SMR) and converted to executive configuration.  In 2007 it was purchased by Sands as a VIP transport for corporate passengers and high roller casino gambling patrons,  becoming for many years a familiar sight at LAS. The aircraft has been parked for several months, presumably due to high operating costs and the sale of the Sands Corporation. 

The finale takes us to SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), a US-German partnership involving NASA and DLR. Fittingly registered N747NA, the SP was originally delivered to Pan Am (MSN 21441, 04.07.77, N536PA, “Clipper Lindbergh”), then purchased by NASA from United (N145UA) in 1997 and heavily modified into an airborne observatory over a whopping ten-year period. The major structural overhaul included creating a cavity to house an airborne telescope; installing all support systems; and modifying the cabin interior to provide working areas for scientist and educators. A large door in the aft fuselage can be opened in flight, enabling telescopic observations in the stratosphere thanks to the SP´s high cruise altitude capabilities up to 45 thousand feet. This one of a kind aircraft is mainly based in PMD, but also spends some time in CHC. The original Pan Am name was retained and is barely visible in the lower front fuselage.

Boeing manufactured 45 SPs between 1975 and 1989 of which only a handful remain active today. It proved to be an exceptional aircraft performance-wise, setting multiple speed and distance records, and exceeding many of its original design operational parameters. The SP was caught in the middle of rapidly evolving technologies, including the evolution of the B747-100 into the -200 and -400 series, escalating fuel prices, and the demise of Pan Am, its largest operator. The B747SP will certainly be remembered as a pioneering, game-changing commercial aircraft.

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A very Special 747 collection trilogy — Part 2: Africa and Asia

Written by Fabricio Cojuc

The B747SP’s ability to serve very long haul routes made it a natural choice for geographically challenged airlines, such as South African Airways (SAA), one of its earliest and second largest adopters with six ordered. Its long range capabilities were required to overcome political airspace bans imposed by several countries on SAA, implying circuitous routings and technical stops, and enabled nonstop service in key markets, such as JNB-SYD and JFK. SAA performed the world’s first SP commercial flight on 4.24.76, JNB-LIS-ATH-FCO, beating Pan Am by a few hours.

Three generations of SAA liveries were applied while the SP was in use, beginning with ZS-SPF (MSN21263, 12.22.76, “Soutpansberg”), its last unit delivered. The classic white, orange and blue original delivery livery features three distinctive elements: Titles in English (port) and Afrikaans (starboard); an anti-glare elongated “mask;” and the small Flying Springbok next to a reverse L-shaped line. It was sub-leased to Luxair, Air Mauritius, Air Namibia, and Linhas Aereas do Mozambique, and retired in 2008.

SAA’s livery was modernized in the 1980s, preserving the original colors and a larger Springbok, but not the mask, with revised dual language titles, as shown by ZS-SPE (MSN 21254, 10.21.76, “Hantam”), its fifth SP delivered. It flew too under sub-leasing contracts between 1989 and 1993, and remained in service until 2003.

Due to major political changes in South Africa, in 1997 a bold branding makeover took place, with new colors and larger titles, while eliminating “Airways”, the name in Afrikaans and the Springbok. ZS-SPB (MSN 21133, 02.24.76, “Outeniqua”), the second SP to enter the fleet, displays the revamped livery. It was also sub-leased from time to time, including to Air Malawi, Cameroon Airlines and Air Afrique, and sold to Panair in 1999.

In March 1976 ZS-SPA (MSN 21132, 1.27.76, “Matroosberg”), SAA’s first SP, set the record for the longest nonstop commercial aircraft flight upon its factory delivery, from PAE to CPT, which stood until 1989. In 1995 it also gave birth to Alliance, renamed Alliance Air in 1998, a joint venture between SAA and the airlines and governments of Tanzania and Uganda. ZS-SPA’s paint scheme on the model is a slight variation of the original one, which featured “Alliance” titles, a larger lion head and the flags of the founding nations involved. The “Special Performance 747” and “SAA Associate” titles in the lower aft fuselage were preserved. Alliance Air later acquired a stake in the national airline of Rwanda, hence the revised paint scheme featured four flags, all visible under the titles. ZS-SPA was wet-leased from SAA, based in EBB with routes mainly to Europe, and the company’s only aircraft. It was returned to service at SAA after Alliance Air went out of business in 2000 and scrapped in 2002.

The SP found great popularity in Asia. Iran Air, then a top Boeing customer, was an original proponent of the type and the first operator in the continent, with a fleet of four. EP-IAB (MSN 20999, 12.16.75, originally named “Kurdistan”) shows the airline’s 1990s livery. It features a dark blue cheat line; the iconic “Homa” Iranian mythical bird; the name “Khorosan” (adopted in 1992) in the lower front fuselage; and titles in Arabic in the front and back. The SP enabled the airline’s first nonstop JFK-THR service (eastbound only). It was stored in 2012 after close to four decades in service as a pillar of Iran Air’s fleet.

Further East in Taiwan, in 1991 China Airlines set up subsidiary company Mandarin Airlines, as a political workaround to the PRC’s boycott of China Airlines, due to its display of the ROC flag. China Airlines transferred several aircraft to Mandarin, including B747SP B-1862 (MSN 21300, 2.28.77) in 1993. The flag-less livery features Chinese and occidental titles, light and dark blue cheat lines, and as a stylish Chinese mythical gyrfalcon. It was deployed primarily in long haul sectors such as TPE-SYD and YVR, in lieu of China Airlines, until 1999.  The aircraft operated with six different airlines and was last spotted in derelict condition in Sharjah (UAE) wearing Kinshasa Airlines’ livery.

Stay tuned for the final chapter of my SP tribute trilogy ….

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A very SPecial 747 collection trilogy: Part 1 – US Airlines

Written by Fabricio Cojuc

From the moment I first saw the Boeing 747SP as a 12 year-old kid I immediately loved it. The SP (for “Special Performance”), a shortened and lighter fuselage variant of the original 747, enabled airlines to perform ultra-long haul nonstop missions for the first time. Its chubby look made the “baby 747” particularly special (pun intended).

The first SP was delivered on 05.19.75 to launch customer Pan American World Airways. The famed “Clippers” were deployed mostly throughout its Pacific network. My replica fleet includes N534PA (MSN 21026, 05.07.76) “Clipper Great Republic” and N540PA (MSN 21649, 05.11.79) “China Clipper” (the name is also displayed in Chinese letters) in the classic airline colors, plus N533PA (MSN 21025, 03.05.76) “Clipper Young America” wearing the billboard updated livery and 50th anniversary titles. All wear the famous Pan Am reversed US flag.

Before its delivery, in late 1975 N533PA performed a world demonstration tour for Boeing. This frame is famous for having established a RTW speed record for a commercial aircraft in May 1976, completing a JKF-DEL-HND-JFK flight in slightly under 40 hours. It also became the first 747SP to be scrapped.

In 1985 Pan Am sold its Pacific division to United for $750 million, including all the SPs (11).

United’s B747SP N147UA (MSN 21548, 07.12.78, ex N538PA) is a very special frame, “Friendship One.” In January 1988 it beat the RTW speed record then held by a Gulfstream business jet. It flew a SEA-ATH-TPE-SEA routing in just over 36 hours. United’s fleet traditionally carried the titles “Friendship,” thus “Friendship One” named after a foundation created to raise money for unprivileged children (141 seats were sold on the flight, yielding a donation in excess of half a million dollars). Its forward section featured titles of the project’s sponsors, however these were not applied on the model. The livery, known as “Low stripe Saul Bass rainbow,” was worn by United’s fleet from 1988 to 1993, when “Battleship grey” appeared.

The revamped image, seen on N145UA (MSN 21441, 05.06.77, ex N536PA), contrasted sharply with the former livelier colors. It featured a grey upper fuselage and striped blue tail with a smaller sized logo. Thin pinstripes of orange, red and blue color separated the upper fuselage from a dark blue belly. The titles added the word “Airlines” for the first time, with the legend “Worldwide Service” also visible in the lower front section. This model does not feature the Star Alliance logo, first applied in 1997.

TWA, American Airlines and Braniff were the other three US commercial airlines that flew the SP. The first has proven elusive to add to my fleet so far, but the last two have a special place in my collection.

American’s 747 “Luxury Liner” SP fleet was comprised of two original TWA frames. N601AA and N602AA were introduced in 1986 and allocated mainly to the DFW-NRT and JFK-LGW routes until their retirement in 1994. The sharply polished model is N601AA (MSN 21962, 04.80, ex N57202), which ended its career as a training aid for emergency evacuations in Luxembourg in 2002.

For its part, Braniff International took delivery of three new SPs from Boeing between October 1979 and May 1980. These operated for a very short period of time only, given the airline went out of business in 1982. They were used mainly on the DFW-HNL and DFW-LGW routes. Plans to deploy them on DFW-NRT and DFW-BAH long-haul routes never materialized. My “baby orange” vintage model is N603BN (MSN 21785, 10.30.79). It ended up as a VIP transport with the Royal Flight Oman fleet (A4O-SO) and is still active after 41 years in service.

More good SP stuff to come in part two of this trilogy ….

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Around the world in 80 Planes

Written by Brian Keene

We all have had that defining moment when we became captivated by aviation.  For some, it was their first flight. For others it was watching long white jet contrails high overhead. For me, it was my first trip to Kennedy International Airport.

It was the early 70’s and the Jumbo jet age was really beginning to surge. My family and I were seeing off my older sister who was heading off to India for a two year project.  From my vantage point at the Pan Am building, I gazed out over the airport ramp for the first time.  I marveled at the multitude of sparkling, brand new, 747’s arriving, loading, or departing at the International Arrivals Building (IAB).  Beacon lights and strobes were a kaleidoscope of color.  Freshly painted tails that were bright blue with the Star of David of El Al, large stylized Green A’s with red accents of Alitalia, and the unmistakable red cross and bandit mask of Swissair.  And there other lesser known jumbos,  but equally exotic,  including Air India, TAP, Sabena, Pakistan, Viasa, KLM, Alia Royal Jordanian, Royal Air Maroc, and Varig.

How they all intermingled and operated in that tight space was mesmerizing. I vaguely remember saying goodbye to my sister as I preferred wandering the terminal gazing out at the 747 activity and at the departure boards, while absorbing the dizzying number of destinations flickering by.  The announcements for boarding to Paris, London, Rome, Frankfurt, Madrid, Lisbon, Milan, Tel Aviv, and Casablanca combined with the liveries of the regal ships transporting hundreds of people to those locations, was intoxicating.

Since we lived on Long Island, as soon as I had my driver license, my trips to JFK became more frequent and lengthy.   My career choice was easy.  I would work in aviation for the rest of my life.  After graduating with an Aviation degree from Florida Institute of Technology, I worked for Pan Am, PEOPLExpress, Continental, and United, I ultimately retired after 35 years in the airline industry.  Today I work for ABM, a service provider to airlines and airports.

Over the years, when I had a little discretionary income, I would purchase small 1:500 scale airline models (mostly Boeing 747’s).  I was amazed that they had such detail due to a process called “tamp” printing.  My collection of 747’s grew.  However- keeping them in a storage box just didn’t seem fair.  They needed to be displayed in a way that I, and others, could appreciate their beauty.

Second to my love of aircraft, I was very interested in how airports accommodated these big behemoths’.  A trip to the new Hong Kong International Airport cemented a new vision and goal.  Taking a page from the model railroad hobby industry, I would build a 1:500 scale replica of the airport and display my aircraft as a miniature reminder that the precision and technical aspect of this world could also look beautiful, and might inspire a new generation of aviation enthusiasts.

I started with a large rigid, but thin, foundation board, and painted it a light ramp gray. I measured out the terminal size and realized I would need four of these boards!  This was going to be big! I studied many aerial shots of HKG and the unique positioning of jet bridges, parking stands, taxiways, and runways.

I built the terminal with wood and a flexible cardboard to simulate the stylized curved roof.  I found myself wandering through hobby shops and looking for simulated grass and racing tape.  The grass was installed between the taxiways and runway and the speed tape was used to create the lead in and taxi way lines.  I even re-created the ramp stains that result from spills and activity at a busy airport.

The first time I set the whole airport up with aircraft models, it took me right back to that day in the early 70’s, when as a kid, I remember that view of the 747’s with their explosion of color and design. Maybe that’s why I was so driven to complete this project.  It was a reminder of how I fell in love with aviation, as well as a simpler time.

We called the diorama “Around the world in 80 Planes”.  My son and I ended up entering the airport diorama in an art show at the Orlando International Airport and hey, we were awarded First Place!  The award simply validated that I, like many other Aviation buffs, love the business and appreciate it not only as a technical marvel, but also as a true art form.

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A miniature B747 retrospective on Cathay Pacific’s livery evolution (1970s-2010s)

By Fabricio Cojuc

As a teenager my adoration of the Boeing 747 ignited a lifetime passion for the aviation industry. What began as a very modest 1:600 scale diecast model collection in the early 1970s has grown exponentially in size and personal commitment.  My focus over the past two decades has been on building up an eclectic 1:400 scale commercial airplane replica fleet, with a preference for special or unique liveries involving of course the B747, with Cathay Pacific at the very top of my list.

The Hong Kong based carrier operated different variants of the B747 for 37 years, beginning in June 1979 with the rollout of its first aircraft.  B747-267B, line number 385, was fittingly registered VR-HKG and wore its magnificent 1970s/80s livery, including a prominent green color, owner Swire Group’s logo in front and the British flag in the upper tail.

With the handover of Hong Kong to China in July 1997 Cathay Pacific undertook a bold image evolution and livery makeover, reflecting a modern and stylish look. Delivered in September 1997, its first -400 series, B747-467 line number 1033 was registered VR-HNI for a short time only, as all VR- registered aircraft transitioned to China’s B- registry by the end of 1997 (B-HNI is applied on this model). The Swire Group logo was redeployed to a less visible spot aft of the last lower-deck window.

To commemorate Hong Kong’s new status, B747-267B (B-HIB) was unveiled on July 1 in stunning special colors. It featured the titles “The Spirit of Hong Kong 97” on the right side and its Chinese equivalent on the left side of the aircraft, a rendering of the city’s famous skyline on both sides and a traditional Chinese brushstroke character in the middle. It was retired in 1999 as the airline continued to build up its younger –B747-400 series fleet.

On July 5, 2002 special-liveried Boeing 747-467 (B-HOY) was rolled out, carrying “Asia world city” titles. Brand Hong Kong (its dragon logotype clearly visible) was launched as a government marketing initiative to develop Hong Kong´s image as a world class city, and what better way than to use a stunning globe-trotter flying billboard. This livery was removed in 2008 in favor of a B777-300ER.  The -400 series was phased out in October 2016, leaving Cathay with a cargo only B747 fleet since then.

Cathay Pacific received its first of fourteen new generation 747-867F cargo aircraft in November 2011. Line number 1427 (B-LJA) was delivered in the beautiful “Hong Kong Trader” livery in celebration of the airline’s new cargo terminal completion. The name was inspired from its very first 747-267F, dating back to the early 1980s. Elements of both B-HIB (city skyline) and B-HOY (Brand Hong Kong dragon logo) are visible on the fuselage, which was repainted in August 2018 into the latest image.

The current livery was implemented in late 2015. A variation of the former color scheme, it preserves the fundamental green/grey/white color combination and incorporates brush-winged markings, as displayed by B747-867F B-LJN.

Thanks to these great miniatures Cathay Pacific’s B747 legacy can be preserved and cherished.

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Gemini Jets 1/400 scale Boeing 737-300, Western Airlines Final (Bud Lite) Livery

Written by George Andritsakis

Western Airlines.  America’s Senior Airline.  The Only Way to Fly.  It helped make Los Angeles the big-time metropolis that it is (San Francisco, at the time, was far bigger, and was also the West Coast Terminus for the Transcontinental Air Mail).  It put Salt Lake City on the map as a viable airline hub, not just another backwoods destination.  Movie Stars flew them all over the West Coast.  Champagne and Hunt Breakfast Flights.  Swizzle Sticks and Wally Bird.  The airline that got me utterly HOOKED on this wild and insane industry.  Western was never a giant, but it managed giant feats for an airline its size, and with its geographical handicaps (thanks to a laggard Civil Aeronautics Board, Western’s Route System grew very slowly).  Once deregulation hit, the airline found itself struggling to survive.  Only a drastic redrawing of is system centered around the principal hub of Salt Lake City and a secondary hub in Los Angeles could save Western from an early grave.  That same new management also decided that the recently ordered Boeing 767-200’s just didn’t fit the new route structure, so the order, instead of being cancelled and valuable deposit money being lost, was converted to an order for a mix of Boeing 737-200’s and the still in development 737-300.  This move turned out to be the best thing for Western, and the rest is history.

Ever since I was a kid, I had always kept an eye out for any model with the iconic “Flying W” livery on it.  Any scale, any size, didn’t matter.  I had to have it.  Over the years, the 1/400 scale industry has exploded, and there have been a few Western Airlines releases over the years,  but usually it was in the Indian Head livery of the 1950’s and 1960’s, or the red and white “Flying W” livery introduced in 1972.  Very few offerings of the final bare metal “Bud Lite” scheme.  In fact, Gemini Jets released the DC-10-10 in said livery, and Aeroclassics also released a 737-300 and 727-200 as well, all of which have a spot in my collection.  But when Gemini Jets announced in Summer 2019 that they were releasing a 737-300 of N306WA, the 8th 737-300 delivered to Western, I never got the memo.  In fact, I never knew about the model until I walked into The Airplane Shop in Las Vegas just the other day!  So, I did what anyone in my predicament would do.  I bought the model and brought it home for review.

I’ve found most 737-300 models in 1/400 are terribly tail heavy, and therefore, tend to lean back on their tail when put on display.  The only ones I haven’t noticed this with are the original Dragon Wings mold (the New York Air example comes to mind).  In terms of the mold itself though, Gemini has the best one.  It is far more accurate and detailed that Dragon Wings was, or even Jet-X or Aeroclassics at that.  It also has a good heft to it as well and is solid metal through and through (unlike Dragon Wings).  The engines are (for once) properly sized and shaped to scale with the model, and the landing gear is correctly sized with the tires not oversized.  There’s quite a few molds out there that suffer from that (the original Gemini Jets 707’s for example).   The cockpit windows and window rows are properly placed and printed correctly as well (again, this seems to be a big issue with the 1/400 scale).  The livery is perfectly placed and in the exact shades it should be.  All in all, despite the tail-heavy tilting, it’s a fantastic model, worthy of being picked up by ANYONE into the classic airlines of yesterday.

My absolute favorite thing about Gemini Jets models is the packaging.  On the 1/400 models, you lift the top cover up to reveal the model, and the inside of the cover details the history of the aircraft type, and also includes pertinent information about the particular aircraft itself, such as delivery date, line number, etc.  It’s very cool packaging indeed, something I wish they would’ve done with the larger Gemini200 1/200 scale model line as well.  Ah well, maybe in the future?  Just something to think about, dear ADI (the folks who make Gemini Jets).

Speaking of the aircraft itself, N306WA was the 8th Boeing 737-800 delivered to Western Airlines, the 1,173rd Boeing 737 off the line, first flown on November 18, 1985; and delivered to Western just a few weeks later, on December 6.  She flew with Western for a little over a year when Western was fully merged with Delta Air Lines on April 1, 1987; where she flew faithfully and reliably until she was retired and withdrawn from use in May 2006 and met the scrappers torch in May 2007.  Delta’s 737-300’s were my favorite aircraft to fly on, and aside from a few examples, all of the former Western birds (and a pair of ex-Western Pacific logojets) stuck to the Salt Lake City hub during their tenure.

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Atlantic Models 1/100 scale 747-100 in Columbia Airlines livery (Airport 1975)

Written by George Andritsakis

I have a confession to make.  I LOVE those cheesy 1970’s disaster flicks, especially the iconic Airport series.  Out of the 4 movies, Airport 1975 is my all-time favorite.  Not only does it have a star-studded cast of legendary Hollywood heavyweights (look up the cast, go on, I dare ya), the inflight and air-to-air scenery are some of the best aerial footage ever taken (in my not so humble opinion).  Oh, and did I mention the Boeing 747-100 stole the show?  I’ve never seen a more well done and gorgeous fictitious livery.  OK, I may be stretching that last one a bit, it’s nothing more than American Airlines’ classic Silverbird livery modified for Hollywood to depict the unfortunately fictitious Columbia Airlines, but still, the Queen wore it stunningly well.

A few years back Inflight200 made a line of models depicting airlines from the movies.  They had the Trans Global Boeing 707 from the original Airport, Columbia’s 747-100 (with damage above the cockpit depicted) from Airport 1975, the Stevens Corporation private Boeing 747-100 from the mainly underwater adventure Airport ’77, and the doomed Federation World Airways Concorde from The Concorde…Airport ’79.  I barely blinked and the 747’s were all sold out.  I couldn’t find one anywhere, for ANY price (lately, I’ve been seeing the Stevens 747 pop up on eBay for somewhat extortionist prices, but the Columbia bird eludes me to this very day).

So, about two years ago, I got fed up with waiting for the 1/200 scale model to come across my path, so I contacted the fine folks at Atlantic Models in Miami, Florida and asked about making me a custom 1/100 scale Columbia Airlines Boeing 747-100, minus the cockpit damage.  I also asked them to make the plane completely chromed out and shiny, which added to the cost, but oh was it worth it.  Not only did the finished result look incredibly phenomenal, but the model itself also looked like a larger scale than the 1/100 it was.  You could call it a “Super 1/100”!  It took just a tad over 6 months, but the folks at Atlantic kept me up to date and sent me photos during construction to keep me drooling until final delivery.

Ok, enough drooling and reminiscing, onto the review.  Atlantic Models does a fantastic job on large scale models from 1/200 on up.  Honestly, in this avgeek’s humble opinion, they far outperform Pacmin in every respect.  It’s no wonder airlines like Southwest and American call on them for all their large-scale model needs (don’t believe me?  Just check out the lobby to Southwest’s Headquarters at Dallas/Love Field, or American Airlines’ CR Smith Museum for some of the most amazing model airliners you’ll ever lay eyes on).  The model itself is a solid, single-piece model, meaning the wings and stabilizers do not detach like most large-scale models do (I requested it built this way), and therefore is HEAVY (27 lbs., or 12.24 kilograms to be exact).  Which is perfect for its intended use, as the centerpiece in my recently remodeled living room, to be placed on top of a giant vintage travel chest.

Now, when it comes to this particular aircraft and airline, the smaller 1/200 scale version from Inflight200 has the “cockpit damage” look right above the starboard side of the cockpit, depicting where the Twin Baron collided with the 747 on it’s descent into Salt Lake City, Utah in the movie.  I’m not a fan of that look, at least not the way it looks on the model.  In my eyes, it just looks too hokey and fake (I know, I know, it’s just a fictitious airline from a movie, get over it, George).  The BigBird 400 model does not have the damage and looks absolutely stunning as well (I’m trying to get my hands on this one as well, but it’s been well over 10 years since I’ve seen one for sale).

Since my 1/100 scale version was chromed out, it looks far more realistic than a lot of other non-chromed 1/100 models from airlines with buffed out, bare metal finishes, and I LOVE that.  When compared to some of my American Airlines models, the Columbia model pops out far more.  The chrome added to the cost, but oh man, it was worth it.  The model has since become a centerpiece in my house.

The rest of the livery was perfectly applied by those magicians at Atlantic Models, and the model itself has no flaws on it and is proportionally accurate.  To keep with the accuracy and branding as close as I could to the actual film aircraft, this model also has the registration added (most 1/100 models sadly don’t).  The only real issue (a minor one, at that) is the top of the tail has some slight curving to it.  Not a whole lot, but it’s noticeable if you look for it.  Another thing, and most larger Boeing 747 models don’t have this either, are the HF Antennae on the wingtips were not included.  Other than that, again, the model is the absolute best and most gorgeous model I’ve ever had.  If you have the ability, funds, and room to do so, a custom-built model from Atlantic is a heck of a way to go.

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