Monogram PA56·398 'Air Power'

By Michael Bludworth

 

The Monogram Air Power set is one of the most mythological kits of all time. It is almost unique among all kits because it features a large number of scaled aircraft on a display base. It shares that distinction with only the similar Monogram rocket/missile sets and the much smaller Hawk Jet Power Korea kit.

The biggest draw, and drawback, to this kit is the fact that it has never been re-released by Monogram. Their companion US Missiles set, Kit PD40·298, has not only been re-released , but has also been modified, added to, and deleted from many times over the past 40 years.

So, this has become a very unique kit in a very small modeling niche.

The kit consists of 18 USAF planes from the late 1950s. In a constant 1/240 scale, they are beautiful molds, and unlike typical Monogram practice of the time, feature recessed panel lines. The aircraft are suspended above a blue plastic name plate base by using “flying wires”, which sometime give the effect of severe Clear Air Turbulence as they move about! No undercarriage is provided and there are no clear parts. Part fit is excellent and you can finish the basic construction in a matter of minutes. The joy is in superdetailing and adding stunning paint schemes if you are so inclined. The decal sheet can easily be copied so you can actually use it without ruining a precious historical item.

Here’s a list of the provided aircraft:

B-47, B-52E, B-57, B-58, B-66 bombers

C-130A cargo lifter and KC-135 tanker

SA-16B air/sea rescue and T-33 trainer

F-84F, F-86E, F-89D, and F-94C representing first generation fighters

F-100, F-101A, F-102, F-104A, and F-105B of the 'Century Series'

An obviously amazing assortment of timely aircraft. The molds, for the most part, are of extraordinarily high quality. I had already mentioned the recessed panel lines, but there are other details that come out. The B-52, for instance, is the only model made of the E version, even though there is not a big difference to be seen! More importantly, since this display shows the aircraft in flight, the B-52's wing tips are upswept, giving the proper impression for an in-flight Stratofortress.

The parts count on the kits varies. Some, like the T-33, are single pieces and only need cleaning up. The B-52 has a total of 13 parts and qualifies as a 'real' kit on its own. All the other aircraft are somewhere in between for complexity. Among other detail points, the wing walks on the B-47 will need to be filled in and sanded flush.

The decal sheet provides lots of national insignia and lettering, those wing walks, and other details, but will not let you build up the set as seen on the box art. (Editor's note: the decal sheet in my recently obtained kit still looks brand new - amazing!) On the other hand, the high quality of these little kits will prompt you to get your detailing skills out and go to work!

Also included in the kit is a wonderful brochure which details each of the planes, and a guide to 1960 USAF designations.

To be completely accurate, Monogram actually DID re-release some of these planes. In the early ‘70s these 3 sets appeared in their 'Forty Niners' series. They were:

Refueling Group, kit PA-406·49; B-47 and KC-135

Fighter Group, kit PA-407·49; Century Series fighters

Bomber Group, kit PA-408·49; B-57, B-58 and B-66

These 'Forty Niner' kits each had their own unique decal sheets, bases and stands. All together, these three 'Group' kits can command a higher price than the full Air Power set alone! As far as pricing goes, the PA56 kit can sell from $200 and up. Before you buy, make sure the wires are all there! Those are the toughest items to replace.

The quality of this kit makes it a hot item for those who build 'little' air forces, and the scarcity of the kit lends itself to commanding prices. With luck you can find loose pieces on the market that you can restore to display quality. There are however no identifying marks on the individual planes so it may be hard to tell these Monogram pieces from other 'toy' plastic airplanes that are running around loose. On the other hand, there is little chance of confusing a 1/240 SA-16 with anything else ever made!

For me, this is one of the iconic kits from my past. Four planes made it from my childhood to the present day and they are now treasured items. Since then I have been able to get my hands on enough pieces to build up a set and, in a lucky move, was able to purchase a 'factory' built set that needed repair.

It’s too bad these wonderful kits weren’t in a more common scale like 1/200 but their high quality, diverse selection and unbeatable display potential mark them as a cornerstone of collectible kits.

Thanks for the trip back in time, Michael! As always, until next month, "Build what YOU like, the way YOU want to", have fun and be sure to visit Al's Place while you're surfing the 'Net!

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