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Christen Eagle II

by Clint Sims


Christen Eagle II


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The Christen Eagle was introduced in 1978 by Frank Christen and set a new standard for kit aircraft due to its very high quality and completeness.

When I first saw it in 1980 I decided to scratch build one of my own in about 1/24 scale. I ordered the info pack that was offered at the time from Christen Industries and a poster set. From this information I was able to build a brass tube fuselage frame. This was about all the further I ever got on that project since I decided there were other models I wanted to build in my life time.

Ever since, I have collected pictures from magazines, and even taken a few of my own when I saw them at airshows. The Eagles Aerobatic Team was one of the best in the World. Having seen the team perform many times in their single place Eagle I aircraft, the action started right after take off with all three aircraft doing a inside snap roll and the action didn't stop until they landed.

About nineteen years or so after that first project, I was at the Williams Brothers website reading their message board when I came across a posting that said anyone interested in aerobatic aircraft. It was from Pete Groves the owner of Airshow Models.com explaining that he was going to be making resin 1/32 scale aerobatic aircraft. In 2 seconds I was at the airshow models site looking at molds of what would soon become the Christen Eagle II kit. I could not believe it! I contacted Pete about the kit and when it would be out. I got the kit in June of this year and finished it on October 19th.



Airshow Models.com 1/32 Scale Christen Eagle II


When I ordered this kit I thought “well its in resin and I will do what ever I can to make it look like a Christen Eagle”. Having seen other resin kits that look like some kind of molding accident I didn’t know what to expect, but the pictures he had sent to me of it setting together looked great. When I opened the kit box I was quite pleased to say the least. The contents fitted my opinion of what a resin kit is supposed to look like. Clean crisp detail, almost no flash, 2 canopies, (in case you screw one up), white metal parts, a photo etched sheet, complete instructions with history and decals for 2 different paint schemes. Wow!




I started by assembling the fuselage and bottom wing together. Next came the elevator. I cut the elevator at the hinge line to be reset later in the down position. You will have to add some plastic scrap to the opening just after the elevator on the fuselage. After the wing and elevator joint were filled and sanded, I started on the cockpit. I decided that with such a large and clear canopy, that I could assemble it in the closed position.

I also supplemented the details of the kit by adding a few of my own. The first was a canopy frame made from brass rod. This was made to fit the white metal cross member and simulated canopy hinge that come with the kit.



Next I added a small lip of plastic around the canopy opening to give the brass frame a place to sit. This also gave me something to glue the canopy to. Next I cut and fitted the canopy to the opening.

On the real aircraft the canopy is made up of a one piece plexiglass unit, set into a metal frame work, with a fiberglass skirt. The whole unit opens to the left side. I decided to simulate the skirt around the canopy with a thin plastic sheet glued around the outside. While this was taped in position I decided to dry fit the rest of the kit. After fitting all the pieces, they were removed and I began painting the cockpit.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

I decided that I was going to model this Eagle after the first Christen Eagle built N2FC. Since this is the aircraft that appears in the info kit I bought in 1981 it is the one on which I have the most documentation . The cockpit of N2FC is mostly flat black with only the seat cushions in a medium blue color. The cockpits of Eagle IIs vary from builder to builder since it is a kit built aircraft.

The kit includes the front and rear seat assembly, with seat belts molded in, canopy latch panels, throttle quadrants, and control sticks, I added a manual fuel pump to the bottom left of the back seat and various small info decals. The kit comes with a great dashboard and decal for instruments. There are also decals for the EXPERIMENTAL text that is on the right side of the cockpit.

After a little dry brushing to bring out a few of the details I was ready to glue on the canopy and the new skirt I had made.

Next I deepened the exhaust opening on the cowling and attached it to the fuselage. This required a bit of sanding since the cowl is a bit wider than the fuselage. The landing gear legs were next. After very little filling and sanding I was ready to move on to the cabane struts.

When the kits were first done Pete e-mailed me and told me the kits were ready to be shipped but he was just was not happy with the cabane struts and how they were molded in white metal. I told him to send me the kit and I would make my own. Which is what I did. This was kind of a blessing since I was modeling the first Eagle built (N2FC) and it did not have a fairing at the top of the cabane struts like the white metal part in the kit. I made my own cabane struts and attachment points. It was at this time I final fit the top wing and outer I struts. Next I fit and glued the wheel paints to the landing gear.

Just a small note: Pete has sent everyone who has bought a kit brand new brass parts to replace the white metal ones.

These new parts are much stronger and molded cleaner. This should give you some idea how committed, Pete Groves at Airshow Models.com, is to making a quality kit and making sure, you as the buyer, are happy with it.

Thanks Pete!

After I assembled the prop blades to the spinner I added a cuff that is around the opening of the spinner. This has now been added to the new spinner you get with the new metal parts.



Painting and Markings


Next was final sanding and primer. When I was satisfied with the finish of the primer I rescribed the panels lines (not too many of them) and got it ready for gloss white.


After painting it all gloss white and letting dry for a few days, I was ready for the part I had been waiting for, decals. The decals are fantastic in this kit which is important since they cover at least 90% of the aircraft. They lay down great and only need a bit of Solvaset on the leading edges to get them to conform. I started with the bottom of the lower wing and elevator.

Next was the top of the bottom wing and elevator and fuselage sides. I finished with applying the top wing decals after painting the I struts that I glued in. I made the registration numbers on the computer and printed them on decal paper along with new prop decals. The prop decals in the kit had a yellow background instead of gold.

When the decals were completely dry, I touched up a few places with paint and gave it a coat of Testors gloss lacquer. I am not sure I would do this again since the decals started to crinkle in some places. This fortunately went away after the paint dried. Next time I will use future floor wax. After the clear dried for about three days I used Novis plastic polish to buff out everything. While polishing the top wing I decided to drive my finger nail right into the top wing decal all the way down to primer. Many words were said that I can repeat that night. I e-mailed Pete and he was able to send me new decals and a new top wing in case I needed it. What a life saver! Thanks Pete. While waiting for the new decals I finished the prop and started detailing the rest of the aircraft.



Finishing Touches

I had most of the white metal parts on the plane when I got the new brass parts from Pete, which were shipped with the replacement decals. So I was only able to make use of the new brass tail wheel assembly. After painting it white and detailing, it was glued on. A tailwheel control arm for the rudder was made from plastic and connecting springs from a single strand of copper wire. These details can be seen in the photo taken from behind.


After the top wing was redone, all flying wires and details were added. The kit gives you photoetch flying wires and javelin struts, which I though were just a little too wide in width so I used guitar strings in two different sizes for the flying wires and made my own javelin struts from plastic rod. I did use all the other photoetch parts, which include, aileron drive arms, rudder drive cables and canopy handle. The last thing to add was the prop.




In conclusion this was one of the most satisfying kits I have ever built.

Will I build another one? You bet. Airshow models offers a conversion to make the single place Team Eagle and will soon be coming out with a S-2B Pitts Special.

I would like to thank Pete Groves at Airshow Models.com for the parts, and encouragement and Bill Cook for taking the pictures.


Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model and Article Copyright © 2002 by Clint Sims
Images Copyright © 2002 by Bill Cook
Page Created 18 January, 2002
Last updated 04 June, 2007

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