Academy’s newly tooled Korean T-50 Golden Eagle looks like a cross between an F-16 and an F/A-18: the upper fuselage, wings, and tail resemble an F-16; the air intakes, an F/A-18.
Academy protected the clear parts well with sturdy gates. I was impressed with the fine, consistently engraved panel lines. The decals, supplied by Cartograf, were perfect — vivid and crisply printed on thin carrier film. There is only one color scheme specified, but extra serial numbers are included to allow you to build any of the aircraft in the current T-50 fleet.
Parts breakdown was somewhat unconventional for a basic aircraft kit, with a one-piece upper fuselage and main wing, two-piece cockpit/nose, and a one-piece lower aft fuselage. The cockpit features raised instruments and side consoles, with decals to represent the MFD displays. The ejection seats are multipiece and looked great when assembled despite lacking the prominent seat harnesses seen on modern ejection seats. Also included are two pilot figures differentiated by their arm poses.
The kit has full-length intake and exhaust ducting! There’s also a decent amount of detail in the landing-gear bays. You have a few options with the kit: open or closed canopy and speed brakes; smoke missiles on the wingtips; flaps that can be deployed; positionable elevons; two boarding ladders; and two sets of landing gear, one with compressed oleo struts like the aircraft is on the ground, another with struts extended as in flight with the landing gear down.
Instructions are in seven pages and 15 assembly steps. A second sheet shows decal placement. I found only one mistake in the instructions, I think; painting instructions for the cockpit state the console should be the same shade of gray as the rest of the cockpit. Though I’m not 100 percent certain, my guess is that the side consoles should be black or a very dark gray.
The kit’s fit was exceptional! I just followed the instructions and was impressed with the overall engineering. With careful fitting, I needed no filler for nearly perfect seams. Although the instructions don’t mention it, I did add a couple of lead sinkers in the nose to ensure my model would not be a tail-sitter.
The only step that requires caution is installing the main landing gear. Follow the instructions and be sure to glue the main gear to the rear bulkhead (Part B-27) before gluing the gear bay from above. A large pin secures the landing gear to the rear bulkhead; things will be way more difficult to get together if you don’t follow the sequence.
I airbrushed Tamiya pure white (TS-26)decanted from a spray can and let it dry for a couple of days before applying the decals. They performed perfectly, settling into the panel lines with only a little Micro Sol. The carrier film was so thin that I applied a little puddle of water to the surface and floated the decals into it, then used a cotton swab to move them into final position without tearing them. I had to mix some paint to match the orange decals on the wingtips and fuselage belly stripe, using Testors Model Master Ford engine red with a few drops of white and yellow — a pretty close match — to paint the smoke-missile rails and the area around the barrier hook on the lower aft fuselage not covered by the kit decals. After decaling, I gave the model a black sludge wash to accent the panel lines.
I did find one small fit issue: The front canopy could not be placed as far back as needed because the instrument panel/head-up display was too tall. There was no way for me to adjust it at this point, so I got it as close as I could and glued it in place.
I found the whole building experience extremely enjoyable! Between the superb fit and top-notch decals, Academy’s T-50 makes an attractive model. I only spent 15 hours on mine, 5–10 fewer then I would on similar models. Unused parts are a hint that more versions will follow!
Note: A version of this review appeared in the September 2012 FineScale Modeler.