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Building a Nigeria Airways VC10

While the previous page provides a lot of options, some available, some hard to find, to get your hands on a VC10 model, sometimes you want the pleasure of putting everything together yourself and choosing the colour scheme. David Connolly was asked by a friend to put his modelling skills to use on an Airfix kit with a spare fuselage and a set of aftermarket decals from Jet Set, to recreate G-ARVC during its lease to Nigeria Airways. He sent me the following description and photos so you can follow the steps of the build and see what it took to produce this model.


It started with this: an Airfix kit, two extra fuselage halves and a decal sheet.

This kit was originally released in 1964. In 1983 it was released as an airborne refuelling tanker, Airfix having modified the fuselage parts to the extent that the airliner version was no longer viable.

The model was built for a friend who provided the Jet Set Nigeria Airways decal sheet, and the Airfix VC10 tanker kit, plus a pair of airliner fuselage halves (with all the windows, and without the moulded centreline Hose Drogue Unit) from the original version of the kit. A couple of doors were missing.

The Jet Set decals were an unknown quantity to me, so I took the precaution of brushing Microscale liquid decal film over the entire decal sheet. However, the decals were printed on yellowish paper and so I completely missed that they were yellowed and a stint in sunlight may have helped.

I started by slicing off all the oversize antennae moulded on the fuselage halves, and by bolstering the interior of the inner wings to help avoid flexing (and glued joins splitting open.). A modern kit would put a spar in this space, extending through the fuselage “Just like the Real Thing” (- old Airfix slogan).


Adding structural strength to the inboard wings.

Added inboard wing fences, the Airfix kit does not include these, and modified outer wing fences. The fuselage has additional bulkheads to enable an entry vestibule.

Next, I cut and shaped a piece of thin styrene card to produce the prominent inner wing fences. These were stood in a shallow groove cut into the upper wing surface with a razor saw. The photo above also shows the insertion of fuselage bulkheads to facilitate construction of a small entry vestibule at the position of the forward port-side door. What is not obvious in this photo is that all the inspection panels embossed on the lower wings have been sanded off, together with the embossed panel lines, which have been rescribed. At the same time, the embossed panel lines on upper wings and tailplanes were rescribed.


Added material to hide the construction of the nacelles.

The next photo shows a narrow strip of thin styrene card curled to fit inside the forward part of each engine nacelle to hide the glaring seams within the nacelles. A little bit of model putty helped to smooth this fix to an acceptable degree. (There are aftermarket resin nacelles available which provide a more accurate solution).


Fixing a floor panel between the bulkheads.

The entry vestibule held several cupboards.

The end result will be visible through the open door.

The sequence above shows the build up of the entry vestibule and the final painting and carpeting in a delicate shade of Nigerian Blue. (OK, I made that up; the entire vestibule is furnished from my imagination).

At this point I could close up the fuselage. There is a piece of sprue glued between the fuselage pieces, at about the centre position, keeping the fuselage from flexing (and allowing the wings to be firmly joined to the fuselage without splitting the fuselage seams). The missing door panels were cut from styrene card to fit the openings. I also found that if I cleaned up the mating surfaces sufficiently, I could get a tight join between the wings and fuselage, that would require no model filler to hide. The second photo below shows the join surfaces thus prepared and masked to prevent paint build-up. The replacement cargo door in this photo later received an extra layer for a flusher fit.


The missing doors were replaced using styrene card.

The front freight door on this side is incorrect by the way, a mistake from Airfix.

Tamiya Fine White Primer was decanted from the spray can and airbrushed for the upper surface of the fuselage, engine nacelles and tailplane. This was then masked in preparation for the Humbrol 40 gloss grey used for the other surfaces (first photo below). The grey areas were then airbrushed (second photo below; the flying surfaces are not shown).


The white masked off in preparation for a coat of grey on the undersides.

The end result of the first coat of paint.

This fuselage masking had been applied with reference to the decal sheet drawings, rather than reference to photos. As a result, the cheatline decal, when applied, did not line up accurately with the cockpit windows. The cheatline decal should have been placed at least 1 mm higher. This decal also incorporated a symbol requiring some white paint to be applied over it, to cover the grey below the cheatline.

At this point the yellowed decals became evident. I tried my best to minimise the decal film by trimming as close as I dared. But the decals were also prone to shatter if cut too close (and in spite of the extra layer of liquid decal film). The decals also did not respond well to Micro Sol and Micro Set, so compound curves (particularly around the nacelles) became a problem, and I had to mix a shade of green to approximate the decal colour for repairs in several places.

Jet Set also provided a decal to ‘correct’ the Airfix cockpit windows, but this did not fit well. I think it relied on the kit glazing to be faired-in in an exact manner to suit the decal. Evidently my construction did not suit. I split the decal in order to make it good with paint (see first photo below). Notice the masking has been removed from the wing and nacelle join positions. I filled in the ‘missing’ cockpit window decals with paint. In the next photo, it has yet to be tidied up.


Fixing the cockpit windows using the supplied Jet Set decal proved troublesome.

The result of the decal, paint is still needed to tidy up the edges.

At this stage, I painted the two antennae ‘bumps’ on the upper fuselage (they had been much reduced in height earlier). After the decals were dry and brushed with a coat of Pledge, I could tease open the windows, removing the excess decal with a pointed blade. (first photo below). Then I could tidy up the windscreen and ‘eyebrow’ windows, and paint the anti-glare panel. An extra coat of Pledge on the radome differentiates it from the anti-glare panel (second photo below).


Opening up the fuselage windows by cutting away the excess decal covering them.

The contrast between the radome and anti-glare panel is the result of one extra coat of Pledge on the radome.

The decals for the reverse thrust grilles were applied and black decal strip was cut in small pieces to represent neatly various vents on the engine nacelles. I could now attach the wings, nacelles, and tailplane, and a few remaining decals (second photo below). A bit of paint, applied with a fine brush, was enough to finish any obvious joins. Various other small paint blemishes were fixed at this point.


Adding the details to the engine nacelles.

The aircraft looks mostly complete by now.

Attention now turned to the undercarriage. I was giving this model away, and I was sure that the undercarriage would not last long. I had to do something to reinforce it. The nosewheel leg was rebuilt around a piece of paperclip (first photo below). It was then mounted and bolstered by two supporting struts cut from thin brass rod (second photo below). Similarly, the main undercarriage transverse support struts were replaced with brass rod. So, all undercarriage units are now more resistant to knocks. All open undercarriage doors were replaced with thin styrene card, cut to shape and gently curved as appropriate.


Constructing a replacement nose gear leg using (amongst other things) paperclip.

The new nose gear leg in place. The rear nose gear door is not correct on this model.

Finally, the front door, which had been painted and decaled along with the fuselage, was attached with Blu-tack (so it can also be tacked on over the door opening when the airstairs are wheeled away). I also cut small notches in the wingtips for Kristal Klear nav lights painted with Tamiya acrylics.


The end result looks very convincing, helped by the opened entry door.

At the time of writing, I have still not finished panting the kit-supplied airstairs!

VC10 experts will spot some technical discrepancies in this model of G-ARVC, but I hope it is not too upsetting!

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