by: Matthew Robeson
The Super Constellation is not a plane that should require an introduction, and the Warning Star was the AWACS/ECM version developed for usage in the Vietnam and Cold War. The large, stable platform of the Super Connie was well-suited to the task, and Warning Stars would continue on in service from 1954-1978, with one naval version soldiering on until 1982.
This new boxing from Plus Model contains the classic Heller 1/72 EC-121 kit, along with a raft of upgrades that Plus Model also sells separately. Included with the base plastic are new engines, new dropped flaps, tail planes, and gear bays all in resin. Also included is a large card of photo-etch to detail up the interior of your kit. Finishing off the add-ons is a beautiful decal sheet with four distinctive options covering every paint scheme the Warning Star carried.
The first problem with this kit concerns its packaging. Eastern European kits are not known for their sturdy boxes, except for Zvezda, and this one is no different than most of the others. The kit comes in a very, very large but flimsy top opening box. The box art is a Warning Star on start-up, ready to go keep the skies safe for other planes. My kit came to me with one side of the box squished in, so that is a knock against this one.
Taking the lid off, you see that all of the plastic parts are in one huge bag, with multiple parts broken off in my boxing. One fuselage half was free, along with one wing, and the clear parts were just floating loose in the bag. Luckily, these were scratch and damage-free, so were tossed straight into a Zip-Lock to keep them safe.
The plastic inside is the classic Heller EC-121 kit in both white and silver plastic. Raised panel lines are the order of the day, so will probably look good with a describe to bring up to modern standards. Luckily, Plus Model includes new antennas to replace the kit ones, as most of them were broken off. Not sure why Heller would have ever thought to mold the antennae in place, but it's asking for trouble. Since I'm sure almost everyone has seen a Connie kit at some point, I'll focus more of my attention on the updated parts.
The first resin parts you will probably see are the small, narrow cardboard box containing the engine set. I assume this is the same packaging you get if you purchase this set separately, and it's the best packed part of the kit. Inside the small, flip-top box you get parts for four new engine cowlings, and a new set of antennae for your kit. The parts look to be very well molded, and come in two halves per cowling. They are attached to some light pour blocks that shouldn't be too difficult to separate. Just remember as always to use lung protection when dealing with resin parts. You will need to use the kit engines, but you really don't see too much inside of the cowlings on the model. Separate parts are included for the cowl flaps, so you can have them open or closed on your build.
The next bag you see contains all of the other detail and update parts, and there are a lot here. The tail planes require you to cut the rudders and elevators from the kit, and replacing them with these new bits. This will allow you to pose the surfaces if you want, and give you nice, sharp edges that the Heller kit lacks.
The flap set is beautiful, but very involved in this kit. You get resin flaps and flap bays, which require you cut the kit flaps out and thin down the wing surface. You add PE hinges to the flaps, and then they should fit in place well. Getting the separate control surfaces means you can add a bit more action and drama to your build, but they look to be very well molded with no noticeable bubbles or flash. Plus model looks like they produced some top-notch parts here.
The final resin set concerns itself the wheel bays, and these come in a mixture of resin and PE. The nose bay comes as one nice resin piece, but the main gear bays are made up of PE parts to form that detail. You do get wonderfully thin gear doors, and a brand new set of wheels to replace the ancient Heller examples. Now you just need some reinforced landing gear to support the weight of your graceful kit on its new wheels. The PE parts look like they'll produce more than an acceptable level of detail for the main bays, and dress up two very spartan areas of the base kit.
The cards of photo-etch in the kit concern themselves with the interior, wheel bays, flaps, and antennae. You get a choice of both resin and PE antennae, so it depends on your preference here. You will want to do some research on the actual antennae suite your plane carries, as the instructions do not list this info. Every plane was different, so you might have more tweaks to make involving window fittings. Research will definitely be your friend with this build.
At the bottom of the box is a large decal sheet with four great options on it. The decals look wonderful on the sheet, with great register and color density. They are produced by an unknown company to me called BOAAGENCY, so time will tell how they work in practice. They cover the four big schemes, and have most of the large stencils.
The instructions feature sections on adding all of the new, updated parts onto the kit, and a couple of small addendum sheets just for the detail sets. I ended up stapling the small sheets to the front cover of the instruction booklet to make sure I didn't end up losing them. The color & markings sheet features all four schemes with four-view drawings, which is a very nice touch. Too many companies just give one or two views, and expect that to be enough.
Everything is not great with this kit though, and I feel I have to report on the negatives as well to give the prospective buyer a clear picture. The shape problems with the Heller Warning Star are well-known, mostly concerning the radomes and the nose section. Plus Model has not addressed these two areas, so you will still need to replace those or live with the problems. Fisher Model makes parts for those areas, if you are so inclined. The packaging is a negative, but my boxing came out okay, with no broken or damaged parts.
Looking in total at the kit, this is great for those of us that don't already have a Heller Warning Star in the stash. This is much more of an update and detail set than a new kit, and should be seen as that. The price is also very, very high at $160USD, so whether it's worth it is up to you. Plus Model sells all of these sets separately for those out there that have the kit already, and I can highly recommend those detail sets without reservation. I still look forward to the challenge of building this kit, the big Warning Star is a very imposing kit of a beautiful plane. Someone needs to produce some strong landing gear for this though to support the weight of the kit with detail sets.