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Airfix McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/72 scale aircraft kit with a ton of build options
Growing up in the 1970s, the F4 Phantom was the coolest plane around and has since remained one of my favorites. Airfix recently introduced an all-new tooling of the Spey-engined Phantom and it’s a beauty!

I was surprised at the size of the box for a 1/72 scale kit, but it’s packed to the gills with parts. Molded in soft blue-gray plastic, they feature excellent surface detail and finely recessed panel lines. Out of the box, there are three basic build options: in-flight, ready for a catapult launch, and stowed. Three marking options also are provided and the decals include airframe stencils — and there are a ton of them.

The 111 assembly steps may seem daunting. Study the instructions carefully and decide which version and options you wish to build. That choice can have you jumping between pages, but stay calm, take time to absorb it all, and everything will make sense.

The basic three-piece ejection seats feature molded belts that omit buckle detail. The smooth cockpit side consoles and instrument panels rely on decals for dials and controls. Overall fit of the cockpit was good, but I had to trim the center bulkhead. The bottom of the tub also serves as the ceiling of the nose-gear well and it had ejector-pin marks to eliminate.

The next couple of steps deal with cutting off the nose if you want to expose the radar. Separate inserts allow for the horizontal stabilizers to be posed level or in a nose-up angle of attack. 

I painted the full-length intake trunking flat white before assembly, then masked and painted the appropriate areas and fuselage sides with gunship gray, as it was the closest thing I had to extra dark sea gray. I sanded a little off the front bulkhead of the cockpit to ensure a sound, tight fit of the cockpit sides at the nose. The rear was perfect. The upper backbone of the fuselage is handled by a separate piece cleverly split along panel lines, so there’s no need for seam filling or rescribing. Hooray!

I wanted to load my Phantom with a full complement of stores, which requires opening holes and slots in the center section of the lower wing. There are two in this kit so be sure to choose the correct one. I believe the other is for the upcoming FGR.2 version with added strengthening plates. 

I deviated slightly from the instructions and attached the upper wings to the lower wing section before attaching it to the fuselage. Once joined, I noticed a slight gap so I cut a piece of scrap sprue and glued it inside the fuselage to spread the sides out ever-so-slightly to close the gap. 

It seems with most Phantom kits the biggest fit problem are the front outer intake panels. It was true here, too. While not terrible, it does need careful manipulating and clamping to minimize the seams.

Now comes decision time: folded wings or not, flaps and slats up or down, air brakes extended or closed. Opting for a clean wing, I trimmed most of the mounting tabs for the slats and flaps as the fit was just too tight. 

The main gear and nose gear are each two-piece assemblies. The main gear mounts with a tab that makes a stout joint. 

The tires are slightly flattened so pay attention when attaching. The nose gear doors are part of the clear sprue.

I chose to load my Phantom with centerline and wing tanks, Sparrow, and Sidewinder missiles. There are also rocket pods and bombs. Further build options include posable in-flight refueling probe and/or tail hook. I was originally going to use the one-piece closed canopy but the piece cracked while masking, so an open canopy it was.

Last but certainly not least is all the decaling. Be prepared to spend at least a couple of sessions on the decals as there are about 300 of them! Printing quality is excellent and they work perfectly. I found it best to just pick a starting spot and follow down the line, cutting the stencils into strips made locating them a little easier.

Checking dimensions, the jet scales out pretty much on the money and a quick comparison with my Academy, Hasegawa, and Fujimi Phantoms shows the fuselage to be slightly wider and shorter, correct for the Spey engined airframe. 

It took a little longer to build than other 1/72 scale Phantoms, mostly because of the decals.

Overall, I’m pleased with the result and continue to be impressed with the kits Airfix has been turning out of late. Anyone with moderate modeling experience should be able to build this and enjoy it as much as I did.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the November 2018 issue.


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