1/72 Sikorsky S-43 Baby Clipper
by Jim Schubert
Pan American Airways'
founder and president, Juan Terry Trippe, commissioned
Sikorsky to design the S-43 in 1934. These twin-engine, 18
passenger, "Baby Clipper" amphibians were designed
for coastal and other routes in the Caribbean and in Central
and South America. The first and second airplanes, however,
went to Inter-Island Airways, Ltd, (now Hawaiian Airlines)
in 1935. Inter-Island later took delivery of two more S-43s.
Pan American ordered a total of twelve S-43's; one source,
though, says the total was 13. Of these Pan Am, themselves,
operated only three; the balance going to subsidiaries Pan
Air do Brazil (7) and Pan American-Grace Airways, Inc. -
PANAGRA - (2). After a crash, Pan Am's c/n 4316 (NC-16927)
was rebuilt, using parts from crashed c/n's 4307 and 4308,
as a twin-tailed S-43B. William Vanderbilt and Howard Hughes
each ordered S-43's for personal use. Vanderbilt's was
fitted out, and used, as a "Flying Yacht"; Hughes'
was fitted with extra fuel tanks and radio/navigation gear
for a round-the-world record attempt. Hughes later had his
NX-440 rebuilt in the twin-tailed S-43B configuration and
thereupon crashed it in Lake Mead. The record attempt was
never made with the Sikorsky but Hughes did break Wiley
Post's record in a Lockheed L-14 "Super Electra"
in July 1938. The U.S. Army bought seven as OA-8s and the
U.S. Navy bought five as JRS-1s; some of the Navy's were
allocated to the U.S. Marine Corps and to the U.S. Coast
Guard. Another buyer was China National Aviation Corporation
(CNAC), of which Pan Am owned 45%. CNAC allocated one of
these to Madame Chiang Kai-Shek for her personal use as head
of the Chinese Air Force. Aeromaritime, of France, operated
S-43s in West Africa. Other airlines operated them in
Norway, the Philippines and in The Soviet Union.
That I am aware only two
of this type survive; one is the Hughes airplane recovered
and restored to its original single-tail S-43 configuration
and fitted out, and used, as a "Flying Yacht". The
other is an unrestored ex-navy JRS-1 in the collection of
the US National Air and Space Museum.
It's a beauty! And, it's
big; wingspan is 14 5/16" (385 mm). And it comes in a
precedent setting - I hope - relatively stout, lidded box.
By my count, the kit contains 161 parts. 113 are crisply
injection molded, with no more flash than a typical
Tamigawagram kit, in a medium-grey polystyrene. There are no
mold release ejector-pin marks anywhere that they will ever
be seen on the finished model. The review sample had only
two tiny, easily filled sink marks between the 3rd and 4th
cabin windows on the left side. 25 detail parts - engines,
seats, etc. - are cast in polyurethane resin that is the
same medium-grey color as the polystyrene parts. These resin
parts are very finely detailed. 23 parts injection molded in
clear polystyrene comprise the windscreen/cockpit side
windows and cockpit roof, 20 cabin windows and two landing
Engineering and assembly
of the kit are quite conventional with a minor exception in
the fuselage. There are the usual vertically split halves
but, in order to provide the requisite detail atop the
forward fuselage this area is molded as two separate halves
that are installed after the interior of the fuselage is
detailed. The clear part for the windscreen and cockpit side
windows also includes the cockpit roof in order to provide
crisp detail for the pilots' escape hatches. The interior is
well provided with detail but the windows are all so small
that none of it can really be seen unless you pose open the
aft entry hatch atop the rear fuselage and the two pilots'
escape hatches. Don't open the forward entry hatch for that
would reveal that the forward fuselage compartment is not
detailed at all.
One quirk in the
engineering of the kit parts is that 7/8" (22 mm) of
each wing tip is molded separately. The only reason that I
can imagine for this is to make the wing fit the box!
I am quite impressed with
the level of detail provided by the myriad parts that make
up the undercarriage. One detail not included in the kit is
the RDF antenna "Football" fairing frequently seen
on S-43's. Optional parts provide for exposed or capped
wheels, main entry hatch open or closed and wheels up or
Big old complaint: 53 Baby
Clippers were built; only 12 went to the military, yet the
only markings offered in the kit are for a JRS-1 of the U.S.
Marine Corps and for another of the U.S. Navy. The decal
sheet itself is sharply printed in perfect register and
looks dense enough for the white of the insignia to be
opaque when applied. I hope the Editor prints the scan that
I sent him of a Pan American Baby Clipper to offset this
The 20 page (five folded
A4 sheets) instruction booklet provides a brief history - in
English only - a parts map, a 21 step assembly sequence and
four pages of detailed drawings showing the two color
schemes provided for by the decal sheet. The very small
amount of rigging required on this plane is well presented
in these instructions.
IPMS-Seattle member Bill
Johnson bought this kit in mid-May at Hannant's in Colindale
enroute to visit the RAF Museum at Hendon. He paid 16.95
Sterling - about US$24.50 - for it there. Our local
connection, Emil Meinerich, owner of Skyway Model Shop
expects the US retail to be about $42.00. Thanks to Bill for
loan of the kit for this review. I don't want to give it
A fine kit of a great
subject. Buy at least one for your collection of
"Golden Age" airplanes. Heaps of kudos to Sword
for their continuing brave, bold choice of subjects.
Dear Messrs. Sword: May
we, good sirs, have a Lockheed L-14 "Super
Electra" and an L-18 "Lodestar" - both with a
selection of civil markings - sometime in the future?
Pan Am, An Airline and its Aircraft: R.E.G.
Davis & Mike Machat, Hamlyn, Twickenham, 1987, ISBN:
The Pan Am Clipper - The History of Pan
American's Flying Boats 1931 to 1946: Roy Allen, Barnes
& Noble, 2000, ISBN: 0-7607-2187-4.
The Aircraft Treasures of Silver Hill: Walter
J. Boyne, Rawson, New York, 1982, ISBN: 0-89256-216-1.
Flight Journal, February 1999: Feature article
by Budd Davisson.
Skyways Quarterly No. 21.
Skyways Quarterly No. 22.
Skyways Quarterly No. 32.
Skyways Quarterly No. 35.
Aeroplane Monthly April 1996.