A Model Career

Career at a glance

Career at a glance

Introduction

I’m not an avid scale model airplane collector to the extent some people are. But, over the years, I accumulated a few models of various sizes, mostly of airplanes I’ve flown. Last year, it occurred to me that I should fill out my collection in one scale of all the types of airliners I’ve flown.

I wanted at least one example of each type I’ve flown, and I wanted it to be a specific airframe I’ve flown. I was ultimately unsuccessful as I was unable to find all the planes in the same scale. The best option was 1:400 scale, so I present for you here my model career: a 1:400 scale summary of almost all of my airline flying.

Size Comparison: DC-10, MD-11, 747-8, 747-400, CRJ

Size Comparison: DC-10, MD-11, 747-8, 747-400, CRJ

I wanted to photograph the entire collection together, creating scenes that have never actually occurred (and won’t). I considered several options for scenes. What you see here is a compromise between boring (set them on the floor and take a snapshot) and full-on airport diorama with 3d buildings and all. I printed out some ramp and runway tiles and taped them together to give at least a little bit of airport looking background on which to place the models. In a couple of the photos, I used the ramp markings to show the relative differences in size between the airplanes (this wouldn’t work if they weren’t all the same scale).

There are two important notes about the included (and excluded) airplanes themselves:

First, the missing airplane: the Comair EMB-120 Brasilia. I have a 1:600 model of the Brasilia (N1165G, a specific airframe I’ve flown), but I did not include it in these photos because of the different scale. Alas, there appears to be no 1:400 scale model available.

Second, the sole DC-10 in my fleet is has ATA (American Trans Air) titles. I never worked for ATA so this seems to be out of place at first glance. There are 1:400 DC-10’s in World livery, however, they’re all from a time before I worked at World. As far as I can tell, no 1:400 World DC-10 model was ever made in either of the last two World paint schemes (ala N277WA or N279WA as shown here). See below for why I include this airplane.

The Airlines

Comair, World, and NCA

Comair, World, and NCA

I have worked for three airlines: Comair Airlines (1996-2001), World Airways (2001-2013), and Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA; 2013-present). Of those, only NCA is still in business. Comair ceased operations on September 29th 2012, and World ceased operations March 27th, 2014. I’m surprised World outlasted Comair, and saddened at the loss of both.

The Airliners

Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia (not pictured)

As previously mentioned, I do not include a Comair EMB-120 Brasilia in this collection because no such model exists in 1:400 scale. The Brasilia was my first airliner and it’s the only non-jet airliner I’ve flown. I flew it only as a First Officer, checking out in April, 1996 and logging about 1,300 hours in it. I was unable to find a photo of the first EMB-120 I ever flew (N205CA; if anyone has a picture, I’d love to have a copy), but thanks to airliners.net, you can see the last Brasilia I ever flew here.

Canadair CRJ (CL-65)

Comair CRJ

Comair CRJ

Comair operated several variants of the CRJ until their demise in 2012, but prior to my departure at the beginning of 2001, they only operated the 50-seat CRJ-100 (identical to the CRJ-200 except for the engines). The Comair CRJ modeled here is ship 7250, registered N716CA. I flew this particular airplane several times in 1999 and 2000 in both seats (First Officer and Captain). In all, I flew over 2000 hours in the CRJ.

McDonnell Douglas MD-11

My first widebody jet was the MD-11. I started training in early-2001 at World Airways and flew my first flights in an actual airplane in May (N274WA, not pictured here). I flew the airplane as a First Officer through early 2008, accruing over 3,600 hours, more than any other seat or even airplane type. I later returned to the MD-11, adding over 600 hours of Captain between late-2010 and early-2012.

World MD-11 N277WA

World MD-11 N277WA

When I started at World, the MD-11 fleet consisted of the original eight that World received new from the factory, registered N271WA through N278WA, including N277WA as pictured here. 271 through 273 were passenger airplanes, 274 was a factory freighter, 275 and 276 were convertibles (could be converted back and forth between passenger and freight; I flew both in both configurations), and 277 and 278 were passenger ER (extended range) versions. 277 remained in passenger configuration for the entire time World operated it and I flew it in both seats looking just as its modeled here.

World MD-11F N279WA

World MD-11F N279WA

World acquired MD-11s from several other sources after I started working there. N279WA was the only one that we acquired from Sabena (City Bird). When it was originally delivered, it was in passenger configuration and had the standard white paint (ala N277WA). In the mid-2000s, it was converted to a freighter and repainted to look as it appears here, representing World’s MD-11F fleet in the final World Airways paint scheme. This was the last MD-11 I flew as a First Officer, and the first MD-11 I flew as a Captain.

World MD-11 N803DE

World MD-11 N803DE

World also acquired three passenger MD-11s from Delta. One of them, N803DE, wound up receiving a special one-off retro paint job recalling the 1970s World livery (though it wasn’t identical) and using the 1970s World logo on the tail. It was the only MD-11 ever painted this way. This is the airplane I flew to Tel Aviv and back on my only trip to Israel in 2007.

Douglas DC-10

World was the 2nd longest operator of the DC-10 in the history of the DC-10. World’s first DC-10s were delivered in 1978 and they operated the type through the end of 2010 for a total of about 32 years continuously. By the time I started at World, none of the original airframes were still on the property (some of their replacements were actually older!). I flew the DC-10 from 2008 to 2010, logging 1,000 hours in it, all as Captain. It is the only airliner I’ve never flown as a First Officer.

ATA DC-10 N701TZ, later N139WA

ATA DC-10 N701TZ, later N139WA

In 2007, the parent company of World and the parent company of ATA merged and formed what was ultimately called Global Aviation Holdings. The holding company bought the last of Northwest’s DC-10s, including the one pictured here (they were -30s, not -40s, in case you’re curious). World received three (N136WA, N137WA, and N138WA), and ATA received three or four, including this one, N701TZ. When ATA received it, they painted the tail section blue (from Northwest’s red). The paint remained that way for the rest of its days. After ATA ceased operating in 2008, World began operating this one airplane of ATA’s, re-registering it N139WA and occasionally entrusting me to wander around with it. The paint remained the same, but the ATA titles were replaced with World titles. When World parked the last of the DC-10s, I went back to the MD-11… and then…

Boeing 747-400 and 747-8

World B747-400F N740WA

World B747-400F N740WA

World filed for Bankruptcy for the first time in early-2012 and parked half the fleet. I was downgraded to First Officer. I chose to transition to the Boeing 747-400. World had a total of four 747-400s, two of which remained after the (2012) bankruptcy. N740WA, pictured here, was the first of Worlds -400s. It was a converted freighter, having originally been a Malaysian Airlines passenger airplane. I flew my last flight at World Airways in this airplane in April of 2013 (I went back to the simulator after that, but never flew at World again).

NCA 747-400F JA04KZ

NCA 747-400F JA04KZ

I started at NCA in mid-2013 but didn’t fly an airplane until January of 2014. Around the time I started, NCA had eight 747-400s, registered JA01KZ through JA08KZ, all delivered brand new to NCA between 2005 and 2008. By the time I flew my first leg, JA02KZ had already been parked, so I didn’t get to fly it (01 and 03 have left the fleet more recently). I have flown NCA’s other seven -400s, including JA04KZ, pictured here. It has a unique paint job with green paint on the nose where the other -400s have blue paint (it has been dubbed the “green freighter,” suggesting NCA’s environmental concern). Otherwise, the livery is identical to the other NCA -400s.

NCA 747-8F JA13KZ

NCA 747-8F JA13KZ

NCA began taking deliveries of the 747-8 in mid-2012 with JA13KZ, pictured here. This airplane and JA12KZ were delivered before I started at NCA. The last of eight firm orders was delivered this month (January, 2015), finishing out the range of JA11KZ through JA18KZ. I have flown all but JA17KZ (the latest delivery). I imagine I’ll get to soon. Over 70% of my NCA flight time has been on the 747-8, and the percentage has been increasing with most of the U.S. flights being on the -8 now. At the moment, I have over 600 hours on the 747, all of which is in the right seat.

The Comair, World, and NCA fleet

The Comair, World, and NCA fleet

Conclusion

I did all this mostly just to enjoy seeing my career at a glance. I have a small case holding the models which sits next to my computer monitor. It serves as a reminder of how fortunate I’ve been to fly such stylish airplanes all over the planet. I hope you’ve enjoyed coming along with me on this miniature review of my career so far.

V-

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One Response to A Model Career

  1. Jason Bolton says:

    Awesome! I think almost all kids dream of flying an airplane at some point, but I remember when I first met you your freshman year at Roosevelt you told me you were going into the Air Force and would fly planes someday, what a great accomplishment. Thanks for sharing this with us Varrin.

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