1/48 C-18S Magic by Moonlight

This next build is the 1/48 ICM C-18S “Magic by Moonlight” Air show Aircraft. The aircraft was also nicknamed the “Beech Twin 18”. The pilot, Matt Younkin performed aerial stunts at many air shows. One of the most visually stimulating displays was Matt performing his stunts at night with all the lights (plus extra lighting) turned on. With that in mind, I will be building this “in flight” and will be using many LED lights and some fiber optics to replicate the aircraft performing its visually stimulating night time routine. I estimate I will need about 20 LED’s and about 2 feet 0.5mm fiber optic lines.

I began with the instrument panel. The kit has a generic layout of gauges. I searched online and located a photo of the C-18S instrument panel. I scaled the photo and made a decal out of it. The panel was then sanded smooth and the area behind the gauges and displays was cut out. The decal of the panel was applied to a thin piece of sheet styrene and glued to the front. I then made a light box behind the panel to enclose a “warm white” LED to back light the instrument panel. I then dug into my scrap photo etch drawer and found the flight control levers for the center console. Moving onto the fuselage I installed the interior bulkheads and scratch built a channel with clear domes to house the cabin lights.

Another area that required modification is the wings. First, the kit only has one wing light and the actual aircraft has two. I measured the port wing light and duplicated it on the starboard wing. I then drilled out the under wing landing lights so I can later install clear lenses and LED’s. The last modification was to trim off the molded wing tip lights, drill a 0.5mm hole into the wing tip. I took a fiber optic line and heated the one end to form the wing tip bulb and fed the fiber optic thru the hold and into the wing. I will add the red and green LED’s. I am now laying out where the rest of the fuselage LED’s are going as well as the engine cowl lights.

Welcome to week two of the C-18S. I am calling this the “Let there be light!!” week. I spent this week adding the lighting to the wings, tail and some of the fuselage. The mounting of the fiber optics and the LED’s takes a little time as these are glued down using acrylic gel. The acrylic gel takes a while to completely cure and everything needs to be glued down in sections. Starting off with the wings I worked on the wing tip lights and on the navigation lights on the tail. I drilled 0.5mm holes and added 0.5mm fiber optic lines. To simulate the light housings I used a flame to slightly melt the one end of the fiber optic lines. Once mounted they were glued using acrylic gel to the top of the PICO sized LED’s. Then the LED’s were then glued in place. For the under wing landing lights I cut disks from a clear tree then sanded and polished the one end and glued an LED to the backside. Two more LED’s were mounted on the leading edge lights. I drilled a 0.75mm hole on the center of the lower wings and added a lens. This will later have a flashing red LED mounted behind it.

With the bottom side of the wings wired I then worked on the topside. The aircraft has lights mounted inside the cowls to illuminate the engines during flight. I utilized two PICO LED’s and mounted them on the top side of the cowls. While the acrylic gel was curing I started working on the fuselage. The instructions have you cut off the nose and replace it with another one that has two spots for lights. I drilled these out using a 3.0mm drill. I then test fitted two 3mm LED’s. I marked the front side with a marker then sanded the tops of the LED’s so they sit flush to the nose. Once they were modified I polished them to look like the light lenses. I am now working on the engines so I can finish the wing assembly and get the wiring routed to the aft section of the fuselage. The wiring will ultimately be fed thru the center of the rod that will hold the aircraft “in flight”.

 Moving forward with week three of “Magic by Moonlight” I assembled and detailed the engines using the photo etch add-ons. It was a little strange that the kit engines were not molded with the cylinder fins but Eduard was kind enough to provide these in the photo etch set. I then mounted the engines into the wings. I had to files two small grooves to clear the wiring for the cowl lights.

Next came installing the seats into the cockpit and cabin. The photo etch set does not include the seat belts so I made my own using some 3M cloth tape. Since I will be displaying the aircraft in flight I took a 1/48 WWII pilot to place in the seat. In order to look like the actual pilot Matt Younkin I used a Google image of Matt and a 1/48 ground crewman to modify the pilot to look like him with his red shirt and red ball cap. Matt was then placed in the pilot seat.

I then began assembling the fuselage. With 18 LED’s inside I routed all the wiring to the tail section and soldered all the connections. Then the styrene rod was installed and the wiring was fed down the center of the tube. After getting the wiring tucked into the tail section I was able to get the fuselage together. Everything lined up well considering I had to install the wings and tail on half the fuselage so I could route the wiring then carefully put the fuselage halves together. With the aircraft assembled I performed a light check and all the lights were working. (Check out the short video below) I am now starting to mask the fuselage for the paint scheme. I should have all the painting and decals done in the coming week.

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