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Minicraft Models 1/144 scale Trans World Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80

Manufacturer: Minicraft Models Inc., P.O. Box 3577, Torrance, CA 90510, 310-325-8383
Kit: No. 14452
Scale: 1/144
Price: $16
Comments: Injection-molded, 54 parts, decals
Pros: Most-wanted subject, accurate size and shape, alternate standard or "screwdriver" tail cones
Cons: Decals thin, translucent, and don't quite fit
The McDonnell-Douglas DC-9, designed as a replacement for the DC-3 and a variety of other twin-engined piston and turboprop airliners, was stretched and modified so many times that a new generation of the plane had been developed by 1977. Named the DC-9-80, it was renamed MD-80 in 1982.

Working on Minicraft's kit was a pleasure. The fit is excellent and the moldings are crisp and free of flash, with both raised and scribed panel lines. There's not much to the assembly - the basic fuselage halves, wing halves, and so forth - but there are some nice wrinkles. The front end of each engine nacelle is a separate part, eliminating the hard-to-fix seams found in some kits. I like the wing setup; long tabs at the roots slide through the fuselage and into slots in their mates, creating a positive fit and proper position automatically. The only clear part is the cockpit window area, which allows plenty of room to glue it to the fuselage without the risk of getting glue on the panes.

The instructions are clear and provide a parts map and detailed color and decal guide. The Scale-Master Invisa-Clear decals for the current TWA livery appear well printed and give you the option of silver cockpit window outlines or blacked-out windows (to match the cabin window decals). Two sets of registration numbers are provided, one each of the standard tail cone version and the screwdriver tail-cone version.

Only a dab of filler was needed on the fuselage seams, and none on the wings. After a little sanding on the bottom of the vertical fin, the tail cone fit perfectly. There was just a slight gap next to each flap where the wings fit up against the fuselage, but it did not require filling.

The only parts that then remained were the horizontal tail planes and the various landing gear pieces which I left to the very end. When installing the landing gear and wheels, place the model on a flat surface and adjust the angle of the gear struts and the play of the wheels on the axles so they make contact with the tabletop. You might want to thin down the gear doors before installation.

The decals turned out to be a challenge. Be forewarned that Invisa-Clear decals are extremely thin and are liable to double back around the backing paper. I slid each decal into a puddle of water on the model. Keeping the decal afloat allowed proper positioning.

It was immediately evident, however, that the decals did not exactly fit the moldings on the fuselage. If you place the decal's door outlines on the scribed door locations, the red/gold stripe rides too low on the fuselage and the cabin windows end up too high compared with the cockpit windows. Also, when the forward portion of the stripe is joined to the aft portion, the windows where the decals join are too close together. I had to increase the length of the forward stripe with paint.

The decals also turned out to be translucent. I initially painted the dark blue bottom of the aircraft right up to the crease line in the fuselage. When the red stripe decal was applied over this dark blue paint, the red decal turned dark maroon. With the left side decals already on and the color change irreparable, I quickly repainted the right side to lower the demarcation line and the right side looks fine. I recommend separating the window and door portions of these decals from the stripes to make the application job easier.
Any airliner enthusiast who can handle multi-color schemes and has had some practice applying decals should be able to make a nice model out of this straightforward kit. I spent 20 hours on mine, three- quarters of that on painting and decaling.


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