Thrilling Dusk . This Branson Air Truck is a fine example of the brand; tough, no-frills, adaptable and cheap. Watch your head. . As a running gag, Branson Air Trucks are given ridiculous or inappropriate names. "They're so ugly that the only beautiful thing can be the name!" The Thrilling Dusk is no exception.
Its a late Series 11 Revision 3A, and despite the numerous changes since Series 1, the Branson Air Truck has never improved it's looks. Not even the red nose stripe, assortment of registration stickers or company logos can distract from it's perpetual, dour appearance. (I think it looks like a walrus.)
The first series was cobbled together from scrap passenger jets, modular buildings and a couple discarded fuel tanks. Despite this, it quickly gained a reputation as a dependable replacement for overland shipping methods like trucks and trains.
While some models did come equipped with jet turbines, B.A.T.s were never fast enough to make them an efficient option. This series uses 2 Lanow B90 Turboprops brandishing a mighty 3,240 SHP each. With these, the Thrilling Dusk can reach it's top speed of 250 MPH in only 32 seconds!
It may be considered old-fashioned, but the radio wire stretching between the lofty tail-fin and the cockpit has remained as part of the Air Truck's identity. The tail fin itself is essential for maintaining a course in strong winds.
Of course, B.A.T.s haven't been around for 150 years just for their looks. They were the first widespread application of the Branson Electric Induction Thruster. When Harold Branson made his first successful prototype, he sought high and low for a buyer. Unfortunately, the world wasn't ready for such a revolutionary and untested engine-- so Branson made his own application by cobbling together whatever he could find. As a result, no one ever complimented him for his aesthetic talent.
Early Branson EITs were underpowered and it required more than a dozen to make his creation fly. But by Series 3, the number dropped to just 10. Series 5 introduced the Articulated Thrust Management system, which allowed the EITs to pivot and tilt a small amount. This greatly improved stability and handling, making the Air Truck accessible to novice pilots.
As of series 4, antique passenger jets had been out of production for nearly 30 years and there were no more scrap fuselages. The upper section was redesigned from scratch with a more useable box-shape. Another notable change was the switch to virtualized navigation; a nose packed with sensors and cameras provides much more information than the human eye could ever discern.
The space under the nose has extra reinforcement to carry additional containers, winches, or whatever the current job demands. On this particular ship, there seems to have been some repair work done on the front left corner. Either that or someone began painting it and gave up when they ran out.
One of the more interesting applications is this Howitzer converted to a magazine-fed avalanche buster. With 10 shots and a built-in casing catcher, its extremely useful for making remote landing zones safer. Its use in any other scenario is strongly discouraged.
The EITs are powered by a large fuel cell at the back of the upper deck. The switch to the box-shape allowed for a larger unit with an improved, easy to service layout. Pipes feed hydrogen from each tank to the cells, while exterior turbines compress and force air through each side and a large humidity control unit keeps the whole reaction as efficient as possible. Excess steam from the reaction is vented through the exhaust pipe at the very back.
Up until the 4th series, simple and durable landing skids were used to keep costs and weight down. The addition of folding landing struts decreased drag and made landings softer, so it was a welcome trade-off. The pads are wide enough to allow landings on unpaved ground, though sand or marshes are off-limits.
It may be a relic from the scrap-fuselage days, but even the latest series still has an access hatch on the upper deck. It makes field repairs and maintenance much easier, with a ladder on either side for climbing around.
The greenhouse roof has been around since the first series where flat, cut-to-size panels were much cheaper than expensive curved sections. Its remained thanks to the broad visibility given and the B.A.T.s relatively low service ceiling.
Time for a look inside! The upper deck is just roomy enough to live in, with two sleeping quarters and a bathroom. The lack of windows reduces production costs, but tends to make the interior feel gloomy. If needed, the crew quarters can be stripped out to make more room for cargo, but this is the most common configuration.
The access door tucks neatly against the inner hull. The cockpit holds 3 comfortably, with the greenhouse roof and bubble side ports giving good visibility above and to each side. It's not uncommon for there to be only one pilot onboard, but two is recommended.
The generator room at the back contains the massive fuel cell assembly. There are 5 cell stacks locked behind insulated doors, which are only opened when the stacks need to be serviced. There's a workbench with some essential tools and a work light for minor issues.
One room has a closet, and the bathroom is complete with a shower, toilet and sink. The crew quarters have sliding doors to maximize space.
This charming tank is for all the human waste produced onboard. Its made to be removed by crane for quick swaps, but this system is known for leaky seals and you can already see spreading corrosion in the tank cradle.
Here we can see the Thrilling Dusk fully opened for your viewing pleasure. On the underside of the upper deck, you can see the runoff-tanks. Because the fuel cells produce a lot of steam, its easy to capture some of it, then condense/cool it for use onboard. When full, the red tank is so effective at keeping the ship warm that there is no other heating system on board.
While the Branson Air Truck never excelled at bulky cargo, it is perfect for smaller packages and pallets. The cargo hold alone can hold 28 pallets, or at full load, 64,000 lbs of cargo. Lets get it cleaned out first.
The loading ramp can go to the ground, or rest on the lip of a supply dock to make a flat bridge. Its wide enough to allow multiple workers at a time, and can even handle small forklifts.
The cargo hold has just enough spare room under the stairs for a refrigerator, a sink, an oven, and a coffee maker. The fire extinguisher is a freebie supplied in case of bad cooks. Each side of the cargo hold has rails for tying down cargo, and under the eaves are rows of capacitors that feed the EITs. The white and green tanks next to the main fuel tanks are for emergencies, and provide a scant 15 minutes of flying time.
There are two panels that give access to the landing strut's hydraulic systems. If needed, they can be pumped manually to extend the struts.
Uh-oh, the port chief is not gonna be happy about this mess. We better get someone over here to help organize it. Whoops, looks like he's not too happy either.
Lets call the fuel truck over to top off, and we'll get out of their hair... as soon as the truck is fixed.
Nevermind that, he's a determined fellow and will have that tank full in minutes. You can bet he keeps a ear open for engine starts though.
And just like that, the Thrilling Dusk is off again on another run. The only casualty noted is the truck driver's underwear.
Whew! If you made it all the way down, then I sincerely thank you for reading/looking over everything. I hope that you enjoyed the pictures and/or text, and will leave me a review. I want to say that this is my first true multi-level ship-- and even though it's not 100 studs long, I consider it a SHIP because of how many pieces I used. I also wanted to make a ship that was as ugly and purposeful as possible, and I think I achieved that. So thanks again for visiting, and click here to see all the pictures.