I have not been alone in calling out the MD-80 as the least well represented major type in 400 scale, and a twin-stripe TWA edition has been one of the most obviously missing high-selling model options for years along with a slew of others (SAS, Alitalia, AirCal, Delta Ron Allen etc etc etc). I wonder how many years this model has been sitting in the Gemini warehouse and what other Mad Dogs are still there? I guess in time we'll find out but as Gemini tend to release only one a year we may well be a lot older by the time we do!
Each review is to split into three key areas:
Almost unbelievably this is the 2nd Gemini MD-80 of the year and we're only 4 months through! Is this the time for giddy excitement about the possibility of further MD-80s? Probably not, after all they released none in 2022 and one in 2021. That means for MD-80 lovers you're still reliant on the ancient old Dragon Wings / Jet-X mould. That is a decent mould but has been showing its age now for a long time, and Dragon didn't use it as widely as you might think.
The other available MD-80 moulds are nothing special, however I'd say this version is quite a lot better than the later Jet-X mould and the Phoenix version (also used by Gemini in the past). The first edition of this mould in 2013 was not good, but thankfully the oddly misshapen nose was improved in time for the 2014 release and this TWA edition is the 16th use of the mould since.
Gemini have both versions of the basic MD-80 bauplan available - the pointy tailcone and the screwdriver tail. This aircraft, having been delivered in 1987, has the later screwdriver tailcone (or at least did by 1989). The rear of the mould is very good but I do think the screwdriver could be better. The downward angle of the horizontal stabilizers at the top of the T tail is well finished, however the top of the tail is too angular and flat topped. The rest of the tail is nice and importantly the engines are suitably chunky and well sized.
The wings and maingear are excellent too and the mould is seamless, with slot in wings rather than a cradle mount. Illustrating the nature of Gemini's 'make the model and leave it in the warehouse for ages' approach some of the recent MD-80s have not had aerials and some have. This is presumably an indicator that the aerial-less versions are quite old and have just been in storage.
This version does have the rooftop aerial but lacks the forward belly aerial, even though it has been present on the Aeromexico and FAT versions (from 2019 and 2020 respectively). I can only think this is probably an aspect of Gemini cutting costs - something I've heard about from various sources. The aerial is quite large but accurately so I would say.
The front end of the mould is the weakest area. The nose region is not quite the correct shape. I don't think any of the lines are correct but then again they aren't appalling either. It is the curve under the nose that is probably the most incorrect, it seems to start too early. Compared to the excellent Aeroclassics DC-9 nose it definitely comes up wanting.
So, in conclusion I'd say that aside from the nose this is an excellent MD-80. With the current nosecone form this becomes only a decent MD-80, but one that I'm more than happy to buy. Arguably, it falls between a 7 and 8 but I'm going to go with the lower score knocking marks off mostly for the nose form, with half marks off for the missing aerial, tail top and screwdriver shape.
SCORE - 7
PAINT & LIVERY
The solid-titled Twin stripe livery is a surefire classic and fits most aircraft beautifully. Originally launched in 1975, with hollow titles, in 1979 they were filled in when they proved hard to read. The scheme wasn't static and was modified over the years.
In the 90s the black anti-glare was dropped ahead of the cockpit and the airline also began to add black stripes on the wings to show ice build-up. So, there are several scheme variants for the MD-80 (including the tailcone options) that could be made, but obviously won't be by Gemini.
There aren't a lot of photos of this aircraft around wearing this version with the black anti-glare but this one from Airliners.net is probably the best and the one I'll use here for the most part. There is also the image above too. By 1997 the anti-glare was definitely gone - as shown in this FlickR image.
Gemini's rendition of the livery is hard to fault. The red fits the images well and I can't see any problems with placement of the cheatlines or font of the titles. The fleet number is present on the lower nose and it is too churlish of me to drop points for the model lacking the very slight downcurve of the white at the tailtop above the US flag.
SCORE - 10
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
Print detail is a Gemini strongpoint and there is pleasingly plenty of it on the model, especially on the fuselage and engine undersides. It is a shame that the cockpit has been printed a bit too low (this has been something of a recurring issue with GJ MD-80s). The mould form doesn't necessarily help get the cockpit in the right place but the middle windows do seem to be angled downwards giving a slightly angry look to the model.
On a nitpicking note the distance between the cheatline stripes and the black anti-glare at the nose are not equidistant as they appear to be on the real aircraft. Once again I think the overall nose shape contributes to this slight imperfection.
The majority of the build quality is good, excluding the starboard side maingear. The tyres on this don't roll, which I can live with, but also the gearleg isn't straight and both tyres don't touch the ground.
SCORE - 8
I welcome MD-80 releases and given the paucity of available moulds they have to be on this one. JC Wings have a Finnair edition (albeit in the later 2000s scheme) in the pipeline but there are so many waiting to be made. Obviously a superior mould and a company willing to use that mould regularly are what is really needed to satisfy the backlog of Super 80s, but this TWA example is a perfectly fine model that has been needed for years and years. It will proudly join my TWA fleet and looks good.
FINAL SCORE - 25/30
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I'm Richard Stretton an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale models. On this page I take a detailed look at new releases.
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