ESCI Charly’s WM – BO 105

Kit #4081                                            Collector’s Market Value $16.00
Images and text Copyright © 2010 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background
        The Bo 105A made its maiden flight on the 16th February 1967 at Ottobrunn in Germany with Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB) pilot Wilfried von Engelhardt, at the controls.This lightweight twin-engine 5/6-seater multi-role helicopter received full certification by 1972 and then went into full production. The BO-105 incorporated a four-blade, rigid main rotor that provided excellent flight performance, maneuverability and total control, even in negative "g'' maneuvers. The blades are made of composite materials and are protected by an anti-erosion shield. The design also included a variety of safety features such as redundant fuel, hydraulic, electrical and lubrication. It could also perform acceptably with one engine out.
        This was the first German twin engine light duty helicopter to enter service and was found to be particularly suited for medevac, police, offshore, and passenger transport operations. In 1991 MBB was absorbed by Eurocopter and continued to produce the type until 2001. The German Ministry of Defense used the type as a light observation helicopter; several examples were fitted with Euromissile HOT missiles and used in the anti-tank role. Examples have been found in most military organizations in these roles as well as SAR roles. Several are in private hands as demonstration aircraft and the Red Bull Company uses one currently for that purpose. When production ended in 2001 1,406 examples had been produced.

The Kit
       Unless you are really up on your helicopter history and the background of the BO-105 in particular the title of this kit, Charly’s BO-105, may not make much sense. The title refers to Karl “Charly” Zimmermann who was the test pilot and demonstration pilot for the BO-105 and probably one of Germany’s most talented acrobatic helicopter pilots. This particular boxing of the 105 contains markings for the aircraft that Charly Zimmermann flew competitively, not the one that he met his death in.
       ESCI has packaged this kit several times with alternative markings and includes various accessory parts to make both military, medevac and civilian versions. The kit is advertised as 1/48 and while I cannot say with complete certainty that it is not, it does appear to me to be closer to 1/50. I make this statement not based on any measurement of the model but by comparison of several 1/48 figures to the model. I know it was a small helicopter and somewhat cramped in the cockpit but seriously could not be what I was seeing with the aftermarket figures. Possibly it is only an internal detail issue, not sure so take this entire scale discussion as opinion, not fact.
       Back to the kit, what do you get? Inside the small tray style box we have three sprues of high pressure injection molded polystyrene of a dark olive green color. The mold quality is very good with no flash or sink marks and only a few injector pin markings. External detail is engraved and consistent. Internally there is no detail on the instrument panel or center consol with the kit relying entirely on a few decals here. The flight crew seats feature molded shoulder harnesses but no lap belts. The passenger bench seat is very basic and there is no interior door or cabin wall detail. The two aft sliding doors are separate pieces but the forward doors are molded in the closed position. The cockpit does include foot pedals and reasonably good yokes along with a selection of secondary panels. Beyond the basic helicopter parts we also have some optional pieces to build different version of the aircraft. One sprue of parts contains rocket launchers, various antennas and other details dependant on the variant being modeled. There is a single sprue of clear parts which display excellent clarity and well defined delicate raised frame lines. The main glazing has a mounting hole for only one wiper which is consistent with some version but not with the aircraft depicted on the box cover; it should have two wiper blades which are included on the option parts sprue. Also included on the clear sprue are some small marker lamps and a landing light lens. Overall we have 100 dark olive green injection molded pieces and 11 clear parts for a total parts count of 111.

You may click on any of the small images above to view larger pictures

Decals and Instructions
        The kit assembly instructions come as an A-4 sized sheet that folds out into six panels. It opens with a reasonably good historical background of the helicopter in five languages. The panel following this contains basic model building safety tips and a fairly complete color chart with paints listed by name and Federal Standard number. We get nine exploded view assembly steps that are well detailed and include some very brief construction tips. The last panel deals with exterior painting and decal placement.
        The decal sheet contains marking for only one aircraft, that which is pictured in the box art. Note that the red and white bands on the upper housing of the fuselage are not included as decals and the modeler must mask and paint those markings himself. There are very few service stencils or warning markings included. The color density is okay and they appear to be in register. The decals are somewhat brittle, probably due more to age than anything else and require a strong decal solvent to get good surface conformation.

        Prior to starting this build I had just completed a Vietnam era jet with jungle camouflage so the idea of doing another similar scheme was not real attractive to me. Before cutting any plastic on this one I spent a couple days surfing looking at pictures of BO-105s and found there were many attractive civilian schemes to choose from. Ultimately I came across the Scottish Ambulance Service which operates a 105 in Medevac configuration and found myself drawn to that lime/yellow finish and since I am of Scottish heritage it just really clicked. I could see right away that some modifications were going to have to be made in the interior of the aircraft and some custom decals would be in order. Now that I have a specific subject aircraft in mind I can start cutting plastic.
        For the interior of the aircraft I deleted the weapons sub-panel from the center consol and left out the passenger seat in the rear. The molded seatbelts were shaved off to be replaced with after market. My initial thoughts for the passenger area was to replace the bench seat with three folding jump seats to allow for patient transport and with this in mind I built three seat backs and installed them to the bulkhead. I knew I wanted a stretcher but something more modern that a canvas Vietnam era thing. After locating a reference image on-line I constructed a stretcher from sheet plastic and wire adjusting the scale using a 1/48 figure as a victim. Interior of the cabin was painted white with a medium gray floor. It did not take long to realize that placing a stretcher from side to side in this small and aircraft was not an option. I had to look for a solution then realized they insert the stretcher from the aft cargo door, time to rethink the jump seat idea.
        I think the jump seat idea still has merit but not three of them. Now I picture a flight nurse sitting next to the head of a patient. This results in the aft bulkhead being cut open and a new dividing bulkhead being inserted in the cargo compartment creating a section for patient and a section for equipment. The scaled stretcher fits nicely now. When I was looking for stretcher information I had come across several pictures for Medevac equipment packages for helicopters and using this as reference I built a variety of small panels to mount on the aft bulkhead and overhead along with an Oxygen hose made from a guitar string. Now it’s starting to look like a working piece of equipment. I wanted to show this unit closed up and opened up so will have all doors on the Port side shut but need to open everything on the Starboard side. Using a razor saw and razor knifes I removed the co-pilot’s door without damaging it.

You may click on these small images to view larger pictures

       I want to have the patient aft door open so that was cut free as well. I continued the color scheme of white walls and ceiling with medium gray flooring into this area. I found the fit of the floor pan to the rear of the interior fuselage to be very poor. I ended up shaving off the interior alignment tabs and building up the edge with some glazing putty. Now the fuselage halves are glued together and the clear parts are treated with Future then masked after drying. The two clear roof panels were painted on the inside with transparent green acrylic after the Future was dry then the exterior was masked with tape before being glued in place. The nose glazing was a reasonably good fit needing just a little pressure on the top to flex it into the correct shape and fit. Rather than try to stuff this thing with tissue paper to mask the doors and risk damaging the interior details I simply lined the open areas with masking tape and was careful to not shoot paint into the openings. The model was primed with Model Master neutral gray cut 50/50 with lacquer thinner.

       Now let’s talk about the exterior finish. The kit includes a variety of accessory parts for several different models of this helicopter. Obviously for this configuration I do not need missile launchers so those parts stay in the box. The aft ventral antenna is shown in the instructions as being cut down however my pictures of the actual Scottish Medevac unit show it NOT cut down – that is the importance of reference pictures. I studied my pictures carefully to determine which, if any of the different antenna provided by the kit would be used. Turns out hardly any will be. The reference images do show three fine roof aerials which I will fabricate from fine magnet wire. The finish color is a little bit of a challenge as I cannot find any hobby paint manufacture that makes a rescue vehicle lime yellow. I did find a gloss lime green paint from Humbrol so simply mixed my own paint from Testors flat yellow with a few drops of Humbrol lime green. For decals there is no one who makes Scottish Ambulance Service markings in 1/48 so that needs to be created on the home front.
       Making these decals is not that hard and really anyone can make good decals right at home at a reasonable cost. This is what I did:

       #1       Using photo editing software (Adobe Photoshop CS2 in my case) I selected a font and color that matched my reference pictures and typed out all the needed text at 200 dpi.
       #2       I searched the Scottish Ambulance Service website until I found a good image of their crest and copied that into the photo editing software. I digitally scaled this crest to match the text size – not the model, not yet.
       #3       I measured the side of the model to determine how long my text should be then scaled the digital image to that measurement.
       #4       The artwork is printed to white paper and cut out. This is then held up to the model to verify size and placement. Some slight reduction in size was needed so back to the computer and make some changes. Step #4 is repeated until satisfaction is achieved.
       #5       The artwork is now duplicated to create at least three copies of each item needed. This is so they can be overlaid on the model if necessary to improve color density.
       #6       The final artwork is printed to white paper. This is taken to my local print shop along with a sheet of clear and a sheet of white decal paper. Any item that has white in it must be printed on white paper which will require very careful trimming in the end. At the print shop I will have them run this through a color thermal copier to make the decals. They charge me $1.00 for this service.
       #7       Printed decal sheets are treated with Testors decal fixative and allowed to dry.

       Here you can see my artwork from step five. When you click on this small image the resulting image appears very large but this is because it is done at 200 dpi. This gives a printed image of normal size but with a more dense ink layer. This first set is done on clear decal film. The small crest images are repeated on a second sheet of white decal paper. I purchase my decal paper from Bare Metal Foil. Materials wise I now have about $8.00 US tied up in my decals plus some artwork time. About the same I would spend on a basic aftermarket set if someone were actually making what I wanted. Definitely a lot less than paying someone else to make a one-off set for me.
       My paint is mixed, it is thinned with lacquer thinner and the model is now painted. The landing skids are done with some flat black then glued in place once dry. The tail skid is painted and installed. A variety of small details around the exterior are painted black and some of the masks can be removed. The exhaust ports are painted Alclad Steel then dusted with Alclad pale burnt metal. Once dry they are installed. The rotor head which was not masked is touched up with a paint brush. Soon my custom decals can start being placed.

       Time for some decals, the home made pieces went on nicely and once they were dry I applied a second layer of decals to get good color density. The decals behaved nicely with standard Micro-Sol setting solution. The toughest aspect of the decals was cutting the right side sets to conform to the open doors. The service stencils and factory markings on the fin were from the kit sheet. A sludge wash was applied to the panel lines and cooling grills. After everything was dry the model was sealed with a coat of Micro-Flat and the masks were all removed. New roof aerials were made from medium magnet wire and the side doors were attached, it’s time to get the rotors done up.

       The rotors are pretty simple on this kit, the blades were done with a neutral gray then masked off so the center hubs could be done with Alclad steel. The tips of the tail rotor were done in basic Testors flat yellow. Once these were installed the model was ready for some pictures.

You may click on these small images to view larger pictures

       This really was a very pleasant build. The kit fit together quite well with hardly any filler needed. Because the kit was designed to allow for several different versions to be built and because the instructions do not show all the possible modifications the modeler must take special care to open holes where needed for conversion pieces. The instructions are basic and will get the job done but that attention to detail from the modeler makes all the difference. The decals are okay if somewhat limited in scope. Overall I was very happy with the kit, it produced a very nice looking model and I had a lot of fun building it – isn’t that what really matters?

Allied Aircraft     Axis Aircraft     Civilian Aircraft     Forum     Helicopters     Home Page

Instruction Archives     Post War Jets     Links Page     Odd Stuff     Sci-Fi     Tools & Tips