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Minicraft Models 1/144 scale United Airlines Boeing 777

Manufacturer: Minicraft Models, 921 N. State St., Elgin, IL 60123-2146,
Kit: No. 14483
Scale: 1/144
Comments: Injection-molded, 55 parts, decals
Pros: Topical subject, fine landing gear and engines, superb decals
Cons:Joints between wing-fuselage and wing-engine pylon joints require filling
Each time my grandson asks me what's my favorite aircraft of the many types I've flown in an almost 40-year aviation career - I tell him, "No contest: the Triple Seven." Being a typical 10-year-old, he frowns because he wants me to name something with guns, missiles and a tailhook. Nope. Boeing's Queen of the Fleet wins that honor, hands down.

Minicraft's new 1/144 scale release of the 777-200 is molded in flash-free white plastic with recessed panel lines. Some sink marks were present around thicker sections of plastic, such as locating pins and under-wing flap track fairings. Most were easily filled, but a couple were present on circumferential panel lines, which were less easily taken care of.

Fit was generally good throughout. The fuselage is long, so after assembling it, I used the cockpit opening as access to pour five-minute epoxy to the interior of the seams for reinforcement.

I particularly liked the way the big Pratt & Whitney PW4077 engine nacelles and pylons built up. The deep, one-piece cowl lip eliminates the unsightly interior nacelle seam, long a bugaboo for airliner enthusiasts. The main feature of these high-bypass turbofans (besides their sheer size) is that most of the thrust actually comes from the large-diameter fan and not the jet exhaust. Hence, the fan stage, with its wide-chord blades, is prominent.

The instructions show the assembly for the Rolls-Royce Trent engines (included in a different Minicraft issue), but the steps for the Pratts are identical, though their part numbers are different. Minicraft omitted the small airflow strake on their inboard sides of the cowls; I made mine from sheet styrene. A fairly large gap around the engine pylon-to-wing joints needed to be filled.

Each wing, a two-piece molding including the flap track fairings, features an alternating tongue-spar arrangement to assure correct dihedral and increased strength when assembled to the fuselage. The trailing edges of the wings and tail are thick, so you may want to sand the inside surfaces before assembly. Minicraft has accurately reproduced the wing's pronounced undercamber.

The landing gear is exceptionally well done and detailed; the main gear features separate struts and six-wheel truck assemblies, which greatly simplifies getting all wheels to touch the ground at the same time - another big plus for this kit. However, you'll have difficulty building the aircraft gear up, as the main gear doors don't match the openings. The doors look accurate, but the openings would have to be altered. The culprit is the omission of small trapezoid-shaped doors just outboard of the main strut doors; I made mine from sheet plastic.

The fuselage of the 777 is a real antenna farm, but only the upper VHF antenna is supplied in the kit. If memory serves, there are 13 different antennas and at least 11 external probes and drain masts on the aircraft - superdetailers will be busy for a while. I added a small lens to represent the red upper anti-collision beacon.

The kit features a one-piece, drop-in clear part for the cockpit and a black decal for the flight deck windows, so the modeler has the choice of masking the windows or using the decal. Although not called out in the painting instructions, all flight deck window frames should be natural metal.

The painting instructions are a bit confusing. The recommended color for the fuselage is "gray" - Testor 4693, an Acryl stock number for FS 16473 "aircraft gray." The bottom wing center section is labeled "dark gray FS 16473" - hmm. The color of the fuselage should be close to FS 16270 (gloss modern "neutral" gray), so I used Gunze Sangyo Aqueous No. H306 and overcoated it with clear gloss, then used Gunze H53 for the underwing center section.

The Scale-Master/Cartograf decals are great, but one of my sample's multicolored cheatlines was printed slightly off register. The thin silver outlines to the cabin windows are done perfectly and even the minuscule stars on the U.S. flags are visible.

Markings are provided for Boeing's test ship WA003, which flew the April 1995 round-the-world demo flight. This aircraft was finished in United's livery with large "Boeing 777" titles aft of the airline's name. Though the fleet number (2071) is correct, the U.S. registration number should be N771UA, not N2071UA. I corrected mine with scrap-box decals.

My pilot's logbook notes that I last flew 2071 from Chicago to London just 10 days before I retired, so I couldn't resist leaving off the "Boeing 777" decal titles and finishing the model as the airliner I flew.

This is a nice kit with some excellent features. Despite the size of the model and fixing the small omissions, assembly is straightforward and should present no problem to modelers of even modest skills.

Okay, so the FAA says I'm too old to pilot The Magnificent Sevens; but I'm still young enough to fly it - vicariously - with this cool model on my airliner shelf.


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