I grew up just west of New Orleans, in a house that was about a half mile from New Orleans International Airport. During my childhood and teen years, I was a frequent visitor to the airport, and one of the airlines with several daily flights in and out of New Orleans was Southern Airways, a regional carrier serving primarily the southeastern United States. Southern got its first jets in June 1967, and N89S, the airline’s first DC9-30, arrived in April 1969.
These jets were painted in a color scheme known as the “Aristocratic S” scheme, consisting of a white upper fuselage with blue Southern titles, a blue stripe along the window line with a thin yellow stripe along its lower edge, blue engine nacelles with the thin yellow stripe and white Southern titles, blue and yellow tail stripes, and the “Aristocratic S” on the tail in blue with a thin yellow outline. A yellow rain erosion boot with a Happy Face surrounded by the phrase “Have a nice day – Southern Airways” was added in early 1972, but was short lived, as an entirely new color scheme began to appear in the summer of 1972. When Liveries Unlimited introduced its exquisite line of airliner decals in 1994, one of the first offerings, and one of the first I acquired, was sheet LU A4-004 in 1/144th scale. It was for Southern Airways Jets in the “Aristocratic S” scheme and included registration and fleet numbers for N89S, as well as the Happy Face and surrounding phraseology. The subject of a 1/144 scale DC9 project was in hand.
I started with the Airfix DC9-30 kit. This is an injection molded kit of early 1970s vintage; it has fine raised details except for the major control surfaces, which are recessed. Before gluing any parts together, I did a considerable amount of work that would improve the look of the finished model and/or ease the painting and finishing process along the way. Using an Xacto knife, with the raised panel lines as a guide, I scribed the nose cone and rain erosion boot, the tail cone, and the rudder trim tab. I used a sewing needle in a pin vise and a circle template to scribe the circles for the pressure equalization vents on the left forward fuselage, and a circle template equal in size to a #5 Waldron punch to scribe open the pressure dump opening on the left rear fuselage, just forward of and below the engine intake. At the same time, I punched a disk from .020 sheet plastic with the #5 punch for the pressure dump door. I used an oval template and needle to make the openings for the wing inspection lights. Next I deepened the rudder hinge line and completely opened the gap at the top and bottom of the rudder; as well as drilling, filing, and scraping open the APU intake and exhaust, and air conditioning vents on the rear fuselage.
Next came the wings and horizontal stabilizers. Using a straight edge, Xacto knife, needle, and scribing tool, I deepened the flap and aileron hinge lines on the wings, scribed in the spars, leading edge segments, wing tip lights, spoilers, and aileron trim tabs. On the horizontal stabilizers, I deepened the elevator hinge line then scribed in the leading edges and elevator trim tabs. The last things I did before assembly was to back the ovals I had opened for the wing inspection lights with disks punched from .010 sheet plastic, and fill the windows from the inside using PlastiZap CA and accelerator. I glued the parts together with Testor’s liquid cement, getting the softened plastic to ooze out of the seams as I moved along. Once I began sanding, I sanded away all remnants of the raised details and the small squares that represented the ADF antennas on top of the forward fuselage. I plugged the square openings meant to accept the kit’s VHF antennas, and glued the cockpit windscreen in place. While the kit’s centerline was still visible, I scribed a short line on the upper and lower fuselage to mark the locations for new VHF antennas, and drilled holes with a #70 bit at the locations of the upper and lower anticollision beacons. The upper beacon on a real DC9 is offset slightly to the starboard side of the centerline, so I located the hole accordingly. I drilled a hole into the leading edge of the vertical fin with a #78 bit for the rudder pressure sensor. New ADF antennas were cut from .010 sheet plastic with a needle and scribing template, and these were glued in place using the centerline for reference. The wings were handled as sub assemblies and construction was straightforward.
Once the engine fans were glued in place and the engine halves assembled, I set off again, using the Xacto knife and raised lines, to scribe in the forward cowling section and the two segments at the exhaust end of the engines. The intake lips were scribed freehand with the Xacto knife. I wasn’t happy with the appearance of the kit’s thrust reverse actuators, so I sanded them away and made new ones. The inboard actuators were made from sheet plastic; for the outboard actuators, I started with the large end of a flat wooden toothpick, and once the basic shape was attached to the engine, I built up and refined the shape with PlastiZap.
All sub assemblies and small parts were primed with Model Master #2737 gray primer from their line of Car Colors. I thinned the primer 50/50 with Model Master Airbrush Thinner and sprayed at 15-20 psi to keep application slightly on the wet side. Three to four coats of primer were applied, drying each coat for at least four hours in a food dehydrator, and sanding with 600 grit wet paper then washing before the next coat. Sanding the final primer coat with 600 then 1200 grit papers insured a smooth surface for the steps to follow. The entire fuselage was airbrushed with SNJ Aluminum Spray Metal, buffed, lower surfaces polished with SNJ Aluminum Polishing Powder, then sprayed with a light coat of Future thinned 50/50 with denatured alcohol. After drying in the dehydrator, I masked off the wing root fairing from the front of the wing slot rearward, and airbrushed with Model Master 36495 light gray. Again after drying, I masked the engines and pylons along with the lower fuselage; I also filled the openings for the wing inspection lights with Kristal-Kleer to mask them from the following coats of paint. First I applied thin coats of Testor’s Colors by Boyd #57219 white primer, just until the bare aluminum no longer showed through. I dried this for two hours, then sprayed Boyd’s #52712 high gloss white, finishing the application with a mist coat of pure thinner. The outer surface of the pressure dump door was also sprayed at this time. I removed all masking and dried the fuselage for four hours. Next I covered the nose area with Parafilm, exposed the rain erosion boot by cutting through the Parafilm in the line I scribed before assembly, then airbrushed the rain erosion boot with Testor’s 1114 yellow. I painted the inside of the ram air intake on the tail with Polly S flat aluminum and used a damp swab to clean up the edges. I left the fuselage in the dehydrator overnight to make sure the enamel was thoroughly cured, then applied a gloss coat of thinned Future and dried for an hour. The fuselage was ready for decaling.
The wings and horizontal stabilizers were painted at the same time, in the same steps, so I’ll discuss them together. After priming, sanding, and washing, I airbrushed the entire wing and stabilizer surfaces with Pactra gloss black. I placed these parts in the dehydrator while I cleaned the airbrush, then rubbed in and polished SNJ Aluminum Powder. I dried this overnight, then applied a Future/alcohol coat. Next the leading edges were sprayed with a 50/50 mix of Monogram Humbrol Metalcote polished aluminum and polished steel, buffed, and given a coat of Future. After drying, I masked the wings and stabilizers with Scotch frosted tape, cut the tape in the recessed spar outlines, and exposed the spars. These were airbrushed with a 50/50 mix of Polly S flat aluminum and oxidized aluminum then coated with Future. The wingtip lights were painted with Tamiya clear red and green at this time. Wing vortillions and flap track fairings, outer surfaces of the landing gear doors, and the inner surfaces of the pressure dump door were sprayed with SNJ Spray Metal, buffed, polished with SNJ Polishing Powder, then sprayed with Future.
I started the decaling process with what I suspected would be the most difficult steps, the nose and engines. The Happy Face-Have A Nice Day-Southern Airways was laid out on the decal sheet to all fit inside the yellow rain erosion boot, while photo references showed only the Happy Face inside the yellow boot with the remaining phraseology just outside. This meant that the eyes and grin were too close together and the arc of the wording was too tight to fit in place without modification. I solved this problem by cutting the decal into twelve smaller pieces; applying the eyes and grin each separately, then applying the Have-A-Nice-Day as four separate words, followed by Sou-the-rn Air-wa-ys as six separate decals. This process took about six hours, most of which was consumed moving the small decal pieces around to get the proper look.
Next came the engines, for which the decal sheet provides a one piece blue decal with the lower yellow stripe included, and the white Southern title as another decal. The blue part has a wedge-shaped slit in the front edge to help wrap the decal around the nacelle; I started by cutting the decal in two lengthwise at this slit, then carefully cut away the yellow stripe to be applied separately. First I applied the inboard section of blue, aligning it against the engine pylon. When this was dry, I applied the outboard section, aligning from the back end just below the thrust reverse actuator. Next came an application of Microsol, and when this was nearly dry, with the decal just starting to settle into the engraved panel lines, I used a scalpel to cut through the decal and remove any excess from the intake lips and rearmost segment of the exhaust area. Several more applications of Microsol followed, using a dampened finger to smooth out wrinkles and air bubbles, and slicing the decal at the panel lines to allow it to settle into the recesses. Now I applied the yellow stripe along the lower outboard edge, again removing any excess and settling it into the recessed lines. The final engine decal was the Southern title, applied referenced to the thrust reverse actuator.
The rest of the basic decaling was straightforward using the Micro system and working one side at a time. I started with the tail stripes, followed by the “S” logo and fleet number. Next came the fuselage stripe, windows, blue parts of the door and emergency exits, and Southern titles. This was followed by registration numbers, white parts of the door and emergency exits, Southern DC9 title next to the main cabin door, tail cone vents, and the fleet numbers on the nose gear doors. When this was all dry, I applied the cockpit windshield decal. I carefully cut the emergency wing walks from the decal sheet using a straight edge and Xacto knife, then used the resulting openings in the decal sheet as a template to pencil these same shapes onto white decal film. I cut these out and applied them to the wings, then overlaid the wing walks from the Liveries Unlimited sheet. All decals were sliced at panel lines to help them settle into the recesses. The leading edge of the tail fin was also done with decals. I used a flexible ruler to measure the distance from the top of the ram air intake to the top of the fin. On a sheet of ATP decal film finished with aluminum Metalizer, I laid out a stripe approximately 2mm wide, penciled the appropriate length onto the stripe, then used a #3 Waldron punch to punch one hole split in half by the upper edge of the stripe, and another hole split in half by the lower edge of the stripe. I applied the decal to the leading edge of the tail with the lower half circle centered around the top of the ram air intake, then placed one of the punched out dots in the half circle opening in the top of the stripe; this gives the top of the stripe a perfectly round edge.
With the basic painting and decaling completed, it was time to move on to detailing. The integral airstair door outline was taken from a Microscale door sheet and applied below the main cabin door. Static port stenciling and red circles below the pressure equalization vents were taken from various Microscale military sheets, with the aluminum dots punched from metalized decal film. This same technique was used for the larger static ports lower down the side of the fuselage (not visible in the photos). The fuselage side lights were made with a #1 Waldron punch and aluminized decal film. The angle of attack vanes started life as Pitot probes on the Airwaves Caravelle photo-etched detail set. These were sprayed with gray primer then painted with Polly S oxidized aluminum. I already had some decal film sprayed a dark shade of Metalizer, and from this I punched a dot with a #2 Waldron punch and applied it in the location of the AOA vane. Baggage compartment door outlines were drawn with a light pencil and template onto clear decal film, sprayed with Future, and applied. At this point all the decaling was done, so I cleaned up any decaling residue with a swab dampened with warm water, then airbrushed a few light coats of Future/alcohol mix to protect the decals. When this was dry, I brush painted the landing gear bays and insides of the landing
gear doors with Polly Scale IJN sky gray (close to 36495). I painted the wheel hubs and landing gear struts with Polly S flat aluminum, and added taxi lamps to the nose gear strut made from dots punched from mirror finish spangle material topped with a drop of Kristal-Kleer. The tires were painted with Aeromaster tire black.
I next accented all of the recessed panel lines, control surfaces, engine fans, gear struts, gear bays, and wheel hubs with neutral gray ink and/or a finely sharpened mechanical pencil. I also lightly stained the APU and exhaust vents with dark gray pastel powder. Everything was now given several coats of Future/alcohol mix, slowly building up to a high gloss. After this dried for 10 to 15 minutes, I sprayed the fuselage and engines with a fine mist coat of thinned Future to “soften” the gloss. The wing and horizontal stabilizer spars, emergency wing walks, and landing gear struts were sprayed with a thinned mix of Future and Tamiya flat base, then everything was put in the dehydrator for a few hours to thoroughly cure.
Coming into the home stretch on this project, the openings for the wing inspection lights were half filled with Kristal-Kleer and allowed to partially set. I placed MV Products LS300 railroad lenses into the nearly dry Kristal-Kleer and allowed this to dry completely. I then came back and filled the remainder of the openings, embedding the railroad lenses in Kristal-Kleer. A drop of Kristal-Kleer was applied at the mid point on either side of the pressure dump opening, and when partially set, I placed the pressure dump door half way into the fuselage in the open position. Once completely dry, I applied more Kristal-Kleer with a fine brush where the pressure dump door met the opening to make sure the attachment was secure. I now went back to the location of the AOA vanes and started a tiny hole with the point of a hypodermic needle, then slowly drilling the hole with a #80 bit so as not to damage the clear coat or the decal below. The hole was filled with Kristal-Kleer and the pin end of the AOA vane inserted. After this had set up a little, I positioned the vane with a slight droop. I now attached the wings and horizontal stabilizers with PlastiZap and laid the model on its back in a cradle of nipple foam. I attached the leading edge vortillions, flap track fairings, and landing gear struts with Kristal-Kleer then set the model upright on the landing gear legs to check their alignment and allow them to dry. Once again, I put the model on its back to attach the wheels and landing gear doors, set it upright to check alignment, and allowed the Kristal-Kleer to dry. One more time on its back, the model received the lower VHF antenna and anticollision beacon, which was inserted into the hole drilled during the assembly phase. I now used a fine brush to apply thinned Kristal-Kleer into the hairline seams under the wings and stabilizers, around the vortillions and flap track fairings, and at the base of the antenna and rotating beacon; any excess was cleaned up with a damp swab or moistened brush. With the model now sitting properly on its landing gear, I finished the topside by adding the VHF antenna and rotating beacon in the same manner as on the lower fuselage. The rudder pressure sensor was the final addition, made by inserting a short piece of .015 guitar string into the hole I drilled before painting. Kristal-Kleer was again used for the attachments and to fill
The finished model is displayed on a base made from a scrap of expanded foam plastic used for advertising displays. The parking outline is rather generic, derived from those I’ve seen at many airports over the years. I have a drawing of this, which I traced onto the plastic base using yellow carbon paper made for tracing sewing patterns onto fabric. Once laid out, I masked the design with drafting tape, covered the remainder of the open area with masking tape and computer paper, and airbrushed the design with Polly Scale USAAC yellow orange. When the yellow was dry, I finished the base by overspraying the whole thing with a mix of Future/Tamiya flat base/flat brown/flat black thinned 60 to 70 percent with denatured alcohol. The model is attached to the base with Kristal-Kleer.
I’m proud to say that this model was the first place winner of the 1/101 and smaller Jet Airliner Category at the IPMS Nationals in Columbus, Ohio in July 1997.
1 thought on “Southern Airways “Aristocrat” DC9-30”
I read about this model in Airline Modeler, but this is of course so much better, being illustrated in colour. Amazing, how the Airfix Nine has taken on new life. Thank you, Eugene!