Minicraft 1/144 McDonnell Douglas

By Michael Benolkin


As the US entered the jet-powered air transport marketplace, the major aircraft designers up to that point had been Boeing, Douglas, Martin, Convair and Lockheed. Boeing was first into the jet market with the 707 family, followed closely by Douglas' DC-8 series.

As jet transportation became more commonplace, it was readily apparent that the shorter haul markets needed a specialized aircraft to fill the void. Boeing answered the requirement with the 727, followed by the 737 series. Douglas introduced the DC-9.

The DC-9 evolved as the marketplace grew. The fuselage was stretched and engines updated as the aircraft's potential was still being realized. The ultimate update to the DC-9 came with a new class of engines and a new wing to accompany yet another fuselage stretch. This would become the versatile DC-9 Super 80.

Before the merger between McDonnell Aircraft Company and Douglas, a few aerodynamic improvements were being incorporated into the Super 80 design. Most notably, the pointed tailcone was replaced by a chisel-shaped tailcone to reduce aerodynamic drag. These improvements began to appear around the time that the aircraft were redesignated to reflect the 'new' company. The DC-9 Super 80 would become the MD-80.

Listening to 737 and MD-80 pilots talk is like listening to the ongoing Mac versus PC holy wars. There appears to be very little middle ground in the loyalty and preferences of these crews. Both aircraft have their advantages and disadvantages, both have had their share of technical glitches, but both have been reliable workhorses in airlines around the world.

The Kit

When you open the box, you can understand why this kit was selected as Squadron's Kit of the Year for 2001. Despite its small scale, Minicraft has paid attention to detail.

The kit is molded in white injected plastic, sporting scribed details throughout. The windscreen is clear, and molded as a 'cap' that can be glued and filled in the fuselage without endangering the 'windows.'

The instructions recommend installing around 7 grams of ballast in the nose in order for the kit to sit properly on its landing gear. Assembly appears to be straightforward. There is a surprising amount of detail with the landing gear and gear doors for a kit of this scale.

One tid-bit that may not be immediately obvious, but this kit includes the standard 'chisel' tail fairing of the MD-80 as well as the pointed fairing of the DC-9 Super 80. This will give you some interesting options in your aircraft era and color scheme selections.

The various underwing flap fairings that are common to the DC-9/MD-80 series are also represented nicely here. There are fine pinholes in the underside of the wing halves to assist in the proper location of these various parts.

The wings are nicely designed to dovetail together inside the fuselage halves to ensure proper dihedral. The horizontal stabs do not have enough room to do likewise. I would suggest drilling a small hole into the same location on each horizontal stab, right where the alignment tabs are located. You can then insert a short section of brass wire/rod to act as a spar to connect the two horizontal stab halves through the vertical tail and then bend to the correct dihedral angle prior to gluing. This added rigidity will help hold the tail together during handling.

Decals are provided for Trans World Airlines' current MD-80 fleet scheme. The decals are produced by ScaleMaster for Minicraft, so these will no-doubt be trouble-free.

At the RCHTA show, these were several profiles on display at the Minicraft booth to show some of the upcoming MD-80 decals that will be coming from Airway Graphics in the near future. Stay tuned to Internet Modeler for more information.


Minicraft has filled a major hole in the 1/144 scale airliner fleet with the introduction of this kit. I can easily recommend this kit to airline builders of all skill levels. My sincere thanks to Minicraft for this review sample.

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