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Academy B-17D

Academy 1/72 B-17D Flying Fortress 'The Swoose' Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review June 2009 Manufacturer Academy
Subject B-17D Flying Fortress Scale 1/72
Kit Number 1683 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nicely detailed model of early and famous B-17D Cons Control surfaces molded solid; conflicting data on markings and color scheme
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $32.00

Academy B-17D
Academy B-17D
Academy B-17D
Academy B-17D
Academy B-17D

The Swoose is a Boeing B-17D-BO Flying Fortress, USAAF 40-3097. It is a slightly modified B-17C, with different cowling flaps and a extra pair of machine guns. This aircraft is the oldest surviving B-17 Flying Fortress, and the only D model in existence today. Originally named Ole Betsy, this B-17D participated in several bombing missions in the desperate weeks after Pearl Harbor. Later named The Swoose, it also served as transport for the commander of Allied Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific: Lt. Gen. George Brett.

The Army Air Corps accepted this aircraft and assigned it to the 18th Bombardment Group at March Field, California in April 1941. In May, it participated in the first mass aircraft flight from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii. In September, the aircraft flew from Hawaii to the Philippines in the longest mass flight to date.

Within hours of the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, Ole Betsy flew on the first U.S. combat mission in the Philippines. During the following three weeks, it struck at the Japanese forces invading the Philippines. After transferring to Java, it continued to fly combat missions.

On January 11, 1942, three Japanese fighters caused heavy damage to Ole Betsy – but lost two of their own in the process – during a running 35 minute engagement off the coast of Borneo. Maintenance personnel in Australia replaced the damaged tail with one from another B-17D, replaced the engines and converted the aircraft into an armed transport. The new pilot: Capt. Weldon Smith, gave it the new nickname, after a then-popular song about a half-swan, half-goose called the “Swoose:.

In the spring of 1942, Capt. Frank Kurtz, the personal pilot for Lt. Gen. George Brett, took over The Swoose (his daughter, famed actress Swoosie Kurtz, was named after the aircraft). The Swoose traveled to forward air bases in the combat zone, and sometimes the crew had to man the guns against enemy fighter attack. The aircraft also set two point-to-point speed records and carried several famous passengers, including Lt. Commander Lyndon B. Johnson (future president of the United States).

Gen. Brett came back to the United States in the summer of 1942 and brought The Swoose with him. The aircraft was stripped of weaponry and not needed equipment, overhauled and used as his personal high-speed transport until he retired in late 1945. Remarkably, The Swoose has the unique distinction of being in operational service from Pearl Harbor to the end of the war.

The Smithsonian Institution accepted possession of The Swoose in the late 1940’s and it remained in storage until the National Museum of the United States Air Force acquired it in 2008. After a complete restoration, The Swoose will be placed on display at the museum.

Academy is a model company based in Seoul, S. Korea. Minicraft, based in Torrance, California was the U.S. distributor of this kit.

The kit comes in a large tray and lid type box. The boxart shows The Swoose flying above clouds. It carries U.S. roundel type insignia: blue circle with a white star on the top of the port side wing and the fuselage side. Just forward of the starboard side tear-drop shaped waist window is the Swoose character painted. The aircraft is illustrated showing that it was olive drab above a light gray underside.

One side panel shows 5 full color walk-around type photos of the model made up. These photos show that the tail had red and white horizontal bars on the rudder sides and the black letter number code of 21 above 11B on the forward part of the tail. Which begs the question…why aren’t these tail marks shown on the box art??? The tail on that illustration is BLANK! The other side panel has a small repeat of the box art. Next to this is the remark that the kit was made in Seoul Korea by Academy. To the right of this is mention of what is in the kit and what is not. Also that the kit is aimed at modelers of 10 years age and above. This statement is repeated in English, Spanish, French, German, Korean and Chinese – under the flags of the countries speaking those languages.

Inside the box are 3 medium gray parts trees and one clear parts tree all in individual sealed cello bags. The decal sheet and instructions complete the kit’s contents.

The instructions consist of a single sheet, folded in the center to create 4 pages in 8 ½” x 11 ½” format.

Page one begins with a black and white repeat of the box art, this is followed by a 3-view illustration of the only painting and marking scheme offered in the kit (naturally for The Swoose). More questions about the marks arrive here. This illustration calls out the top side as olive drab (like the box art illustration), but then says the bottom was BLACK???? It also shows the tail code reversed, with 11B over 21. This is just the opposite of how it is on the decal sheet!! It shows the leading edges of outer ends of the wings as having black anti-icing boots and the underside of the aircraft having large black lettering U.S. ARMY on the wings. Other small stencil marks are indicated.

Pages two and three show a total of 8 assembly steps. The bomb bay doors can be posed either open or shut to show the nice detail that is provided for that compartment.

Page four begins with the parts tree illustrations. Below these is an actual black and white photo of a B-17 assembly line in Boeing’s factory. At the bottom of the page are some international assembly symbol explanations and Minicraft’s California address. The copyright for the kit is given as 1989.

The instructions do not contain any history of The Swoose.

Medium gray letter A parts tree holds: the fuselage halves, cockpit floor, control yokes, gear struts, bombardier’s compartment parts, Norden bomb sight, tail wheel, crew and pilot seats, bomb racks and compartment walls, machine guns, superchargers, dashboard, exhaust pipes, bomb bay doors, football antenna, belly gunner’s gondola etc. (41 parts) The rudder is molded solid and would take surgery to re-position.

Medium gray letter B parts tree holds: engine fronts, horizontal tail surface halves, main gear wheels, cowlings, propellers and bombs (51 parts) The horizontal tail surfaces have the elevators molded solid and will take surgery to re-position.

Medium gray letter C parts tree holds the wing halves (4 parts) Ailerons are molded solid and will take surgery to re-position.

Panel lines are all of the engraved variety.

Clear letter D parts tree holds: the cockpit windows, nose window, commander’s dome, tear-drop shaped waist windows, square fuselage windows and wing light lenses (23 parts)

This is a very nicely detailed kit of a B-17D. Interior of the cockpit and bomb bay are nicely detailed.

The decal sheet carries the markings for The Swoose. It has the roundels with or without he red circle in the center. On two, out of four of the larger ones the red centers are separate. The smaller waist ones have no red centers. There is a black anti-glare panel on the decal sheet for in front of the windscreen. Stenciling that goes on the back of the crew seats is provided. There is some other very tiny lettering that is not shown on the instructions where it might go. Seat belts are shown on the decal. The dashboard is a decal as well as an instrument panel for the bombardier’s compartment. There are numerous black stripes on this sheet that also are not shown on the instructions. I think that these omissions, and the tail code not matching the decal placement drawings, added to saying that the Swoose had a black bottom does not help the modeler much. It leaves questions about how The Swoose should look accurately.

Other than these marking and painting problems, I recommend this kit.