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CollectAire 1/48 T-39A/D Sabreliner Kit First Look

By Fotios Rouch

Date of Review October 2005 Manufacturer CollectAire
Subject North American T-39A/D Sabreliner Scale 1/48
Kit Number 4862 Primary Media Resin, White Metal, Vacuform
Pros Nicest T-39 in 1/48 scale (only T-39 in 1/48 scale) Cons Out of scale seatbelts, missing landing light lenses
Skill Level Expert MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look


When the USAF put out a requirement for a twin jet utility trainer, North American Aviation responded with the T-39 solution. The prototype T-39 first flew on September 16, 1958. The USAF placed a production order and on June 30, 1960, the first production T-39A made its first flight. 143 T-39As and 6 T-39Bs were built for the USAF and 62 T-39 variants were produced for the Navy. After North American satisfied the bulk of military contracts they entered the commercial market with the Sabreliner where it became a very successful executive jet.

The Sabreliner has been used as a four-passenger military transport, as a light priority cargo, as a combat readiness trainer, as a radar and navigational trainer, a chase plane, and so many other roles. The Sabreliner had a pressurized and soundproofed cabin and was powered by two Pratt and Whitney, J60 engines.

Three versions of the Sabreliner, the T-39A, T-39B and T-39C were flown by the United States Air Force. The T-39D (42 aircraft) was used by the United States Navy as a training aircraft for naval flight officers and radar operators.

Back in 2003 I was privileged enough to see the original master parts and allow myself to fall in love with the upcoming kit. If you wish to see how a beautiful master looks like then click here to the photos the maker provided to me a few years ago.

The Sabreliner has been a favorite of mine as far back as I can remember. How far back? I would say circa the early 70's when I would see them as a kid coming to land at the Athens Hellenicon airport. Still I remember looking at them flying over our house with that big centerline speed-brake deployed! I always wanted this plane as a model. I even got the 72nd scale vac kit but never built it. When Collect-Aire announced that the T-39 was finally ready for production I placed my order for two kits. Upon receipt both kits were opened and the contents were laid out on the hobby bench for review.

The good news first. The kit is as beautiful in resin as it was as a master. The better news now. The resin quality is as good as I expect it to be from that nice little resin shop in Edina.

The parts are very well molded with minimal flash. What flash there is it is so thin that you can clean it with your fingernails. The fuselage came taped together as Collect-Aire always does to keep the fuselage parts straight and warp free. I mean how reasonable is that. Yet nobody else does it in the resin business as far as I know. The rest of the parts came in small bags and were free of any damage.

The Fuselage Standard affair of a left/right section with hollow castings. Very nice and discrete panel lines. Great looking vents and small surface details. Very nice interior. Complete cockpit, main cabin with all the seats, the galley the bulkheads, etc. Too bad little would be visible in the back through the small windows. However, the entry door can be posed open and the galley would be easily visible. I like the inclusion of the clear vac nose so we can do the radarless version with the landing lights hidden under the glass. This is going to be some work but it will be worth it.

The Wings Simple and clean but with leading edge flaps included and separate so they can be posed down as they are always when the aircraft is parked. The tail rudder comes as a separate piece but I do not think I will be showing it with any deflection dialed in.

Landing Gear Very nice and detailed. Lots of structural detail on the landing gear doors and the struts. The wheels are also very nicely details on both sides.

Engines This is one of the best parts of the kit. The J60s look great with all the panels, vents, intake scoops and bulges. Great looking and very well detailed.

Other The modeler will have to figure out a way to properly depict the tail cone that includes the fuel dump and the two position navigational lights. There are good details included in the instructions and this should help. The modeler will also have to cut the triangular windows out of the provided clear stock and position them on the fuselage.

Make sure you use lots of weight up front as this model is guaranteed to be a tailsitter!

Photoetch Details Nice and comprehensive providing instrument panels for both the A and the D variants. Lots of other small details are included as well.

Decals Here is were they went crazy! Super job, very comprehensive and beautiful. Five schemes included. All the stencils are included as well. The service tech manual was located early in the project and the stencils as well as their placement could be accurately depicted.

I am very happy with the end result and happy I ordered two copies right off the bat! One will be Air Force and one will be Navy. I might order a third on but this will be after I finish both of the kits I have already.

Finally the Sabreliner has landed!

Very much recommended to those that like the Sabreliner and love modeling.