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Minicraft 1/144 C-130 Hercules Coast Guard Search and Rescue

Kit: 14524
Scale: 1/144
Manufacturer: 847-429-9676, Minicraft Models
Price: $36.00
Comments: Injection-molded, 96 parts.
Pros: Great subject; nice size in this scale; good surface detail; comprehensive decals.
Cons: Decals wrong color; some shape issues.
The Coast Guard version is one of two releases from Minicraft of the venerable Hercules. Molded in white plastic, the parts feature engraved panel lines. The cargo bay includes floor and bulkhead detail that can be seen through the rear door. No cockpit is provided, but the wheels and landing gear carry good detail for this scale. The box includes 19 unused parts for the AC-130H kit Minicraft has released concurrently, and the port fuselage half includes cut marks to open up the gun ports for that version.

Clear parts include Minicraft's now-standard fuselage flight deck hood - great for blending the part into the body without damaging the glass - as well as wingtip lights and tiny landing lights for the front of the main gear doors.

A large decal sheet carries markings for the U.S. Coast Guard bird featured on the box cover and, although it's not mentioned as an option anywhere, a Canadian Forces low-visibility scheme. The sheet is comprehensive, with propeller-tip markings, stencils, and warning stripes, as well as all the USCG stripes and markings.

Unfortunately, the decals are also this kit's weak point. Coast Guard aircraft have bright orange-red panels on the flying surfaces as well as the stripe on the fuselage, but Minicraft's decal colors are insignia red (exactly matching the red stripes in the national markings). The same is true for the blue fuselage stripe. It should be a bright blue, but it's very dark insignia blue.

No window decals are included, but there are engraved cabin window outlines. I opened them up with a drill bit in a pin vise, but they could be painted or represented with decal circles.

I painted the cockpit black and the cargo bay light gray before assembling the fuselage and attaching the clear piece for the flight deck. The cockpit fit was OK with some minor sanding, but it's just a hair wider than the fuselage; I had a very slight overhang on one side. I used a little Mr. Surfacer 500 to eliminate seams.

The trailing edge is molded with the upper wing halves and is scale thin. The wings went together cleanly, but the leading edge seems unaerodynamically square. Each engine is made up of two halves and a front, with intakes molded in. The major intake is square; it should be round according to references. A flap underneath completed the engines, which were glued to the wings and the attachment points cleaned up with sanding.

The wings fit into sockets in the fuselage, providing a firm, positive fit with correct dihedral, although I had to file the plug slightly to align panel detail.

After airbrushing the model flat white, I painted the nose and areas behind the engines under the wings black. The instructions don't mention the latter, but it is characteristic of Coast Guard Hercs.

I used the kit decals, which were thin and went easily over the matte-white finish, responding well to Microscale solution. I attached the landing gear, props, and rear door, then sprayed Testor semigloss clear to seal the decals.

The finished model looks like a C-130, capturing the hulking stance well, and it's sharp, even with the off-color markings. It scales out almost exactly to published references. I spent about 15 hours on it - about normal for a one-color subject in this scale - and I enjoyed it. With so many military and civilian schemes to choose from, I plan on building more.

- Aaron Skinner


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