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Pilatus Turbo-Porter

by Thomas Muggli


Pilatus Turbo-Porter


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If your destination is to one of the remote areas of the planet, and it happens to have an airstrip the size of a large beach towel, you’re likely getting there in a Pilatus Turbo-Porter. This rugged flying “jeep” has become the favorite mode of transport for missionaries in the Amazon, oil workers in the Sahara, tourists in New Zealand, trekkers in the Himalayas, paratroopers in the Alps, covert US operatives in Southeast Asia, and other assorted military and civilian operators worldwide. It also has the distinction of being produced in the same place for the last 40 years, the Pilatus Aircraft factory in the town of Stans, Switzerland, which builds Turbo-Porters in small numbers each year.

Utility transport planes such as the Turbo-Porter are not among the popular subjects of kit manufacturers. Nevertheless, I found two Turbo-Porter kits in 1/72, which happens to be my favorite scale: One is from High Planes Australia, the other is from Classic Plane Germany, both are limited run kits. As a Swiss Air Force buff, I wanted to build a Turbo-Porter model in Swiss military colors. The Light Aviation Squadrons (Leichtfliegerstaffeln) of the Swiss Air Force have 18 Turbo-Porters in use. Of these, 12 were procured in 1967 as piston-engine Pilatus Porters and later retrofitted with turboprop engines. The Swiss Air Force uses its Turbo-Porters mainly for liaison duties, but they are also the aircraft of choice for the Swiss Army’s elite parachute commandos (Falschirmaufklärer).


When I examined my two Turbo-Porter kits, I noticed that, in the Classic Plane kit, the dimensions of the wings and fuselage were quite a bit larger than those in the High Planes kit. Crosschecking against my references revealed that the dimension on both kits were off. The correct size of the model should be somewhere in between the two kits. Inaccuracies like these are almost impossible to correct, so I chose to ignore them and moved on.

I decided to use the High Planes kit for my Turbo-Porter model. The Classic Plane kit would be used for a conversion to a piston-engined Porter. This project would yield a whole other story, which is why I will stick to a description of the construction of my Turbo-Porter model. As with any other limited run kit, the High Planes Turbo-Porter kit requires a lot of special attention. The parts are molded from powder blue plastic and have good surface detail. However, they are marred with lots of flash and require many cleanups.





I wanted my Turbo-Porter model to have its side door open, ready to take on a load of parachute commandos, so much of its interior would be visible. The floor, two pilot seats, instrument panel and a white metal control column are provided in the kit. The floor turned out to be too short so I added a 1-cm portion using sheet styrene. While I had the sheet styrene out, I also fashioned a rear cabin wall and a bulkhead, which would be installed forward of the instrument panel. I scratchbuilt rudder pedal assemblies from pieces of sheet styrene and stretched sprue according to reference photos.

It did not take me long to realize that it would be a big challenge to create realistic looking cabin windows. They are provided in the kit as part of a vacuformed clear sheet. Trying to cut the windows from the sheet and achieve a decent fit seemed futile to me. I decided to go another route by replacing the four doors with clear sheet styrene. The port sliding door, the starboard swing-open door and the car-style cockpit doors were cut from 1-mm clear styrene and dry-fitted to the fuselage halves. To reproduce the two round windows in the rear of the cabin, I cut 1-cm squares from the fuselage halves in the appropriate area and replaced them with pieces of clear styrene. The outside and inside of the fuselage where the clear piece had been glued were then sanded smooth so no seams would be visible. Next, the area was polished with a polishing kit so the window area would be clear and transparent. I then installed the new clear port cabin door, and cockpit doors with small amounts of super glue ensuring a tight fit. The starboard cabin door, which was to be posed open, was installed only after the model was painted. The windshield was the only clear kit part I used. It was fitted and installed after construction was complete.


While dry-fitting the fuselage halves I noticed that there would be a nasty seam visible on the cabin ceiling once the halves were joined. To remedy this, I cut a new ceiling from thin sheet styrene and glued it into position to the inside of one of the fuselage halves. Once again, I consulted my references and installed molding made from sheet styrene along the edges of the ceiling and between the cockpit and the cabin. I also added some knobs on the cabin ceiling and made a jump seat from styrene scraps and stretched sprue, The jump seat was installed instead of the co-pilot seat to make more room for the parachute commandos. Aluminum foil from a yogurt cup cover was the material I used to make seat pockets and seat belts for the pilot seat.

Before the interior was painted, the windows needed to be masked. They would also have to be masked on the outside before painting. I realized that the masks on the inside and outside needed to be exactly the same size to avoid edges of the interior paint to be visible on the outside and vice versa. To accomplish this I made templates of each window from 0.75mm sheet styrene and glued them to a 10 x 5 cm styrene sheet. To make the masks, I placed a piece of Scotch tape on the template and cut around it with a fresh No. 11 blade. The masks were then carefully removed from the templates and placed in the appropriate positions on the new clear doors with tweezers. I repeated the process for each window. Once all the masks were in place, I airbrushed light gray and a coat of clear gloss to all interior components. A black wash was applied and various details painted with a fine brush. Once everything looked satisfactory, I joined the fuselage halves with superglue. This went off without problems thanks to dryfitting all components many times during the construction.



Final Assembly and Finish


The remainder of the model was assembled according to the standard construction sequence (as with many limited run kits a complete instruction sheet is not supplied with this kit). I added wings and tail assembly after cleaning up the parts and ensuring proper fit. Tailwheel and landing gear struts are provided as white metal parts. I replaced the wing struts with Contrail strut stock and the propeller blades with items from my spares box. Cleaning up the kit parts of these items would have been too much of a chore. Lastly, I fabricated more small exterior details such as antennas, beacons, mudshields and footrests from styrene scraps and wire. These items would be added after painting.


Polly Scale acrylics were used to finish my model. I mixed the colors myself to match reference photos and hope that I got them more or less correct. I used the decals provided in the High Planes kit for a shark-mouthed Turbo Porter of Leichtfliegerstaffel 7. However, I replaced the national insignias with decals from a Shadow sheet.

And there it is – my Turbo-Porter – ready for its next mission to a remote airstrip in the Alps!


Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2004 by Thomas Muggli
Page Created 25 April, 2004
Last Updated 25 April, 2004

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