The SL 6 Supersonic Airliner was significant in that it was the first model kit based futuristic aircraft to appear in a Supermarionation series. The SL 6 was the direct ancestor of the many model kit based futuristic aircraft which would appear in Stingray, Thunderbirds, and beyond.
The SL 6 was not the first model kit based aircraft to appear in an Anderson television series. The first episode of Supercar, Rescue, featured two aircraft studio miniatures which were based upon commercial plastic model kits. These were Bill Gibson's airplane (a Monogram Piper Tri-Pacer) and a US Navy rescue helicopter (a Revell Sikorski H-19 on floats). Both of these model aircraft were filmed as built 'right out of the box' with few if any modifications. The SL 6 Supersonic Airliner, on the other hand, was a radical kit conversion that beared little resemblance to the original Lindberg B-58 Hustler kit upon which it was based.
The SL 6 Supersonic Airliner was built for use in the Fireball XL5 episode Space City Special. In this episode, the aircraft is used to take Dr. Venus and General Rossiter to Space City. Unfortunately, Major Todd, the jet's pilot, was conditioned by the evil Subterrains to throw the aircraft into a crash-dive when it reached an altitude of 40,000 feet. As the aircraft commences its dive, Steve Zodiac and Professor Matic fly to the rescue in Fireball Junior. Coming up alongside the stricken SL 6, they are able to talk Dr. Venus through the landing sequence and all ends well.
It would appear that at least two SL 6 models were built for use in Space City Special. One of the models was built in the standard configuration while the other had its wing engines pointed 'downwards' (in an impossible but visually interesting manner which made the jet exhausts point upwards!) for a vertical landing at the story's climax. Although the Lindberg B-58 kit was equipped with operating landing gear, it would seem that this feature was not used by the APF film crew, possibly because the kit's plastic landing gear had to be strengthened with wire. When seen in flight, the landing gear bays can be seen to be open and empty. Apparently the landing gear was simply removed for the flight scenes.
The flight configured SL 6 model was subsequently destroyed in the following episode, The Firefighters. In this episode, the aircraft was destroyed by a ball of flaming gas from outer space!
Each SL 6 miniature was built from a Lindberg Convair B-58 Hustler model kit and the horizontal stabilizer fin from an unknown Lockheed F-104 Starfighter kit. Basically, the SL 6 Supersonic Airliner was made from the B-58 as follows:
- The fuselage was built basically according to plan and then the tail fin was cut off.
- One of the outboard jet engine pods was grafted on to the end of the fuselage, lengthening it by about three inches.
- The fuel tank/nuclear weapon pod was assembled and attached to the top of the fuselage with the end even with the jet exhaust, and then the two 'upper' fins were removed.
- The tail fin was trimmed back and then attached to the top of the fuel tank/nuclear weapon pod.
- The wings were attached to the fuselage about three inches behind their normal positions.
- The inboard engines were attached to the tops of the wings.
- The F-104 horizontal stabilizer was cut in half lengthwise and then attached to the front of the aircraft as a canard surface.