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Boeing B-50D Superfortress

by Dave Hansen


Boeing B-50D


Academy's 1/72 scale RB-50G Superfortress is available online from Squadron.com




Boeing’s B-50 has been treated by aviation historians as an SAC trivia question.  Essentially a Boeing B-29 with more powerful engines and built from stronger metals, the B-50 represented the last of the propeller driven bombers operated by SAC.  Superior to the underpowered B-29, the B-50 was completely overshadowed by the awesome Convair B-36. 

Originally intended exclusively for nuclear delivery, B-50s were eventually deployed as electronic surveillance platforms (read: Spy Planes), weather reconnaissance aircraft, and most notably as tankers. Ironically the B-50 served in Air Force service longer than its proposed replacement, the Aluminum Overcast. Arguably, the B-50 has never received the recognition it deserves for its contribution to strategic air power in the early days of the Cold War. 



Academy's 1/72 Scale B-50D


The good news about the Academy B-50 is that well, it is a B-50! It is also far easier to work with than mating resin plugs to the Jurassic Airfix B-29. The bad news is that it has a little too much commonality with its stablemate, the B-29. As a result, some of those characteristics unique to the B-50 leave a little bit to be desired. I’m sure this is largely due to almost  nonexistent references available for the B-50. 

Here is a list of the deficient points in the kit: 

1)       A rather unsightly locator rib in the bombardier’s  glass.

2)       R-3350 (9 cylinders per bank) engines carried over from the B-29. R-4360s have 7 cylinders per bank. 

3)       Very crude propellers. Those in the new Boeing 377 Stratocruiser are a start in the right direction. 

4)       Main wheels carried over from the B-29. Okay for a B-50A, but not a D. Cobra Company’s Boeing 377 wheels are a good match. 

5)       Horrific nosewheels. Way too narrow and have unsightly ejector pin marks on front faces. Practically unusable.

6)       A general lack of surface detail, particularly the wings and nacelles. Fortunately, the remembered the air to air refuelling doors. However, B-29 crews were totally unaware this capability existed in their airplanes. Apparently, LeMay was a rather cagey fellow. (Joke. Doors need to be filled in on the -29). 

7)       The cowlings seem to taper too much in profile and the cowl flaps frill out too much. When closed, they are perfectly streamlined with the nacelle. Exhaust stacks are not very well defined. 

8)       Not really an error, but Academy chose to feature the streamlined upper forward turret. This configuration caused a lot of buffeting problems, and a round turret was often substituted on top of the streamlined fairing. On an operational airplane, this lash-up installation looks funny but interesting. By the way, you can use this turret and the B-50 radome to build a late production B-29.


I built this kit mostly out of the box, due to a lack of really good references on the airplane. “City of El Paso’ was based at Biggs Air Force Base, TX and was tragically lost in a takeoff accident when the flaps were accidentally retracted instead of the landing gear. Boeing has since increased funding for ergonomics research. 

I used thin bodied super glue almost exclusively for putting the parts together and filling the seams. I like to mix together a 50-50 mix of thin and medium viscosity glues to fill seams. It’s much easier to sand down than the thick stuff used alone. 

I added seat belts from Masking Tape to the seats, and made little posts out of plastic tubing to mount the pilots seats to the floor. Attachment to the armor plate bulkhead is vague and puts the seat too far from the control column. I’m not one to go overboard on interior detail. If you cannot see it, it’s a waste of time, IMHO. 

Believe it or not, you cannot see too much detail through the clear parts, despite their size. Those of you who are detail or penlight freaks may prefer to use a Falcon Clear Vax canopy.

The fit of the kit is about average. The separate trailing edge segments (B-29 lineage again) do not fit particularly well and required much sanding to blend in. Same goes for the nacelles. As separate assemblies they require a lot of filling to blend smoothly into the wing, particularly at the wing leading edge and the upper aft surfaces. This kit is an ideal application for Mr Surfacer 500 and 1000, but I didn’t know about the stuff in 1994. Speaking of the nacelles, location on the wings is poorly defined so be sure to check for proper spacing. Also some work will be needed to ensure that the thrust lines of all four nacelles are the same. On mine the outer nacelles cant upward slightly. It’s enough to notice. 

You might be wondering about nose weight. Using 5 - Minute epoxy, I mixed up a “Jam” of ball bearings and epoxy and poured into the space above the lower forward turret, and through the astrodome into the lower forward bomb bay. This wasn’t a problem as the bomb bay needs a lot of work, and the lines of the airplane look a lot better with the doors closed. 



Painting and Markings


For painting I used a combination of Scalecoat Aluminum (which makes a really dull, flat aluminum similar to corrogard or silver dope) and Sn’J spray metal for the polished areas. Handling the model with white cotton gloves (after the tedium of priming, filling, wet sanding, polishing, etc.) I masked one area off at a time with Scotch removable tape. After spraying each panel I let it dry for about 10 minutes and then rubbed the powder into the panel. After drying for about an hour I rinsed off the excess with a wet kleenex to which I added a few drops of dishwashing detergent. I was really afraid of tracking aluminum dust all over the model, and this worked. It also made for a very clean model! While time consuming, I do get a lot of variation in tones between panels. I also used 3M plastic pin striping tape for masking on compound curves. This is really great stuff and comes in handy for scribing lines, too! 

One of the problems I ran into with the removable scotch tape was that sometimes it didn’t quite remove; sometimes it left adhesive behind. You would not notice this until you spayed over it with Sn’J. AARGH! Regular scotch tape (touched to the surface to pick up the excess adhesive) and careful wet sanding with 2000 grit  took care of most of the problem. 

The red on the vertical fin tip was done with Humbrol gloss red. I added gun barrels from hypodermic needle tubing and dressed up the nose gear somewhat with a “horsecollar” made from laminated sheet styrene and brass wire. I also substituted true details wheels for the kit nose wheels. I sanded down the bulges on the sides, which look too pronounced. In retrospect, the wheels still look too narrow. 





This is probably the most ambitious project I have finished to date. I know a lot more about the B-50 now and I plan to build another, “New and Improved” one in the future. Now that I have Skylancer Decal’s B-50 sheet, I will probably build Lucky Lady II. I’ve always liked the looks of the B-50 and while this kit has its problems it’s still the best way to go. Hopefully Cobra or somebody will do a resin update kit specifically for the B-50 someday.  I hope you like it. 

A Special Thanks to Scott Murphy for the JPEGs and Laszlo Jakushovsky for the photographs.

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2001 by Dave Hansen
Page Created 29 May, 2001
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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