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Bell 206 B-III Jet Ranger

by gregbale (1:32 IMC)

Bell 206 B-III Jet Ranger

Some years ago I purchased a beautiful set of 1/48 markings for a Toronto Police Department Jet Ranger from JBOT Decals in Canada. I intended to use them with one of the several Esci or Italeri kits I had in my stash. When I recently went to start building, I was surprised to see that the decals were (mostly) far too large for 1/48.

Fortunately, I had a few of the old IMC/Hawk/Testors 1/32 kits on hand as well, so one of those was nominated.

Considering its vintage, the old kit stands up fairly well detail-wise. The modeler is provided with a decent core of an engine (no plumbing), a complete basic interior and a full set of dual controls including sticks, pedals and throttle/collectives. The instrument panel has low-relief switches and the molded outlines of gauges, but is too narrow, with too small a housing, compared to assorted photographs. Of all the detail the seats are next to perfect, correctly shaped and with the most amazing molded upholstery texture I've ever seen. I didn't fully appreciate it until I started dry-brushing, and that marvelous texture popped right out.

The biggest challenge was that the Jet Ranger III the Toronto PD used had the extended skids and skid struts common to many later versions, whereas the kit came with the original-style shorter ones. I removed the sizeable mounts molded into the fuselage, and new struts from styrene tube stock slid over bent paper-clip cores provoded sufficient strength and an easy attachment surface for step and bracing detail. I used sections of styrene rod (reinforced internally with metal pins) to extend the kit skids.

I decide to keep the kit's original “working features” of hinged front and baggage compartment doors, since they were reasonably unobtrusive and would help show off the detail. The baggage hatch proved quite robust, but the pilot's and copilot's doors were too fragile where I had pared down the mechanism a little for scale, and I ended up shedding and re-attaching each several times.

There's a wealth of high-detail photographs available online for the Bell 206/Jet Ranger family. I used assorted shots to scratchbuild the instrument panels and consoles, and additional details like headsets, fire extinguisher and miscellaneous cabin fixtures. I used Eduard pre-colored etch seatbelts designed for 1/35 Blackhawks; the configuration is slightly different from civilian-style belts, but the gorgeous detail was too good to pass up.

I found a website with great photos of the real Toronto PD birds, which gave me details to scratchbuild the searchlight, the Wescam EO/IR sensor and the corresponding electronics in the cockpit to monitor it all. I also found a great maunufacturer's photo of the emergency flotation system hardware. I made the floatation bladders for the skids from facial tissue rolled around plastic rod and liberally coated with thinned white glue. I couldn't find any info as to where the inflation tank itself would be installed, so I took a leap and guessed it might have been placed in the baggage compartment for easy access. I made the tank from a sprue section and detailed it with assorted bits including punched-out discs, stretched sprue, rod and tubing.

Interior color throughout was Testors acrylic gray primer, a great semi-gloss shade that closely matched photos of the real thing. Exterior colors were all Tamiya gloss acrylics, with a lot of masking involved over and around molded surface detail. I overcoated with “Pledge with Future-Shine” as a good basis for decals (and later as a final coat, since the real aircraft had a high-gloss finish).

The JBOT decals themselves were superb. Since the Alps-printed decals are fairly fragile, I pre-coated them with Microscale Decal Film, which made them easier to handle. I supplemented here and there with home-made decals for instruments, stencils and data-plates, and the “AIR 03” markings under the windshield since those supplied on the sheet were still far too large.

The fuselage stripes were made up from Microscale trim color sheets, since those supplied by JBOT appear to have been the only things actually to 1/48 scale.

The configuration shown is from the 2000-2001 timeframe. It seems the Toronto PD air unit was subsequently shut down following a long and still-ongoing public debate in Toronto about the whole concept of police helicopters.

From what I can gather, the air unit has recently been reactivated on a contracted basis, but with a different color scheme.

I hope you enjoy the photos.

gregbale

Published on 01. November 2011

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