Minicraft 1/144 727-200 USPS Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||May 2008||Manufacturer||Minicraft|
|Kit Number||14555||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Best styrene 727 'out there' in 1/144 scale||Cons|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$26.95|
The Boeing company wasn't the first with a jet-powered airliner, but it wasn't long before their Model 367-80 (Dash 80) was flying which led to two parallel production families, the 707 series for commercial operations and the C-135 series which gave the US Air Force its first jet-powered air-refueling platform. While the four-engined Boeing was the cornerstone of the company's new jet pedigree, it was the tri-jet 727 that was its first big hit.
Originally forecast for a total production run of 250 airframes, the 727 would remain in production for about 20 years with over 1800 built. The 727 was adopted by most of the world's airlines at one point or another, and while the type has been retired from US airline operations due to more stringent aging aircraft maintenance requirements, you'll still find 727s in smaller operations in the US and abroad. In fact, I saw one recently with new winglets and extended nacelles for the 'hush kits' to quiet down the aircraft.
The 727 would definitely not be Boeing's only success story. The 707 did well with all of its production variants; the twin-jet 737 which first flew not long after the 727 remains in production today - over 40 years later! The 747 remains the world's premier long-haul airliner even though rival Airbus developed their first four-engine airliner, the A340, and their monstrous rival of the 747-400, the A380. Even with the success of the next-generation 757 and 767 airframes, the 757 ceased production after 1000 airframes, and the 767 is nearing the end of its production life pending the outcome of the new USAF tanker competition. Nevertheless, the 777 and the upcoming 787 Dreamliner will push Boeing's commercial pedigree well into the 21st century.
The 727 has been an elusive kit in styrene. Hasegawa did the subject well in 1/200 scale, while KMC's first and only kit was the ambitious 1/72 727-200 that ended up with some problems. In the 'standard' airline scale of 1/144, the only choice was Airfix's venerable tooling, but for whatever reason, the Airfix kit also had its share of problems.
Minicraft stepped up to the plate several years ago with a new-tool 727-200 kit, also in 1/144, and it was met with mixed reviews. At that time, we opted to stay out of that fight and didn't do our own review. So what's changed? A few interesting developments that I thought I'd share.
- The Hobby Lobby chain suddenly discontinued the Minicraft line of kits in their retail stores last year. Remaining stock was marked down to half price. At that time, Minicraft was avoiding 'popular' subjects to avoid licensing issues and were releasing kits like their nice 777-200 in 'what-if' airline schemes, so even half-price sales were evidently slow
- During a recent trip through Hobby Lobby, I spotted many left-over Minicraft kits on the shelf. This $26.95 kit was marked down to around $8.00, so now it is time to play with one of these kits
- Minicraft has obviously started using real markings again as this one reflects a USPS freighter. Now we're talking..
The kit is molded in white styrene and presented on three parts trees, plus a single tree in clear styrene with the cockpit 'cap'. Out of the box, the kit looks as good as the test shots did several years ago at one of the hobby shows, but there are evidently a few issues that need to be addressed:
- With some careful sanding/filing and dry-fitting, the aircraft will go together with minimal filler. The clear 'cap' might be a bit of a challenge depending on part shrinkage
- The number two intake is a bit on the narrow side but can be opened up with a drill bit
- The landing gear may need to be trimmed to achieve a proper height (Google some of the online builds for ideas) and the nosegear is definitely fragile and will require modifications to strengthen the strut
- None of the three engines have thrust reverser actuator fairings. This can be easily remedied with some strip styrene and a couple of good photos
The Scale Master decals are nicely done should you want to build this as a USPS freighter. I wouldn't mind finding some UPS markings as I saw the sorriest-looking 727 taxing in as I was taking a load of skydivers aloft. This poor aircraft had its landing gear chained down and had flown from wherever it came from that way. Evidently the pilot before this one had neglected to lower the landing gear at its previous destination and you know that you've landed gear-up when it takes an excessive amount of power to taxi. This poor bird was on its way to the local maintenance shop to get repaired.
Kits like this one are nice subjects, but not for their own sake, rather these models are simply blank canvases. Upon these canvases you can apply a wide variety of colors and marking to replicate any of the colorful liveries that have adorned these aircraft in their service with the world's airlines and air freight companies. The paints and aftermarket decals are out there. Go have some fun!