Japan Air Lines Douglas DC-8-61 Twinset
A DISASTROUS DUO
400 Scale seems to be going through a purple patch in terms of models being made outside the standard manufacturer release announcements. Aeroclassics, or at least the factory that makes Aeroclassics, has been one of the prime movers in this space and as long as the releases don't conflict with Andrew's own releases he seems fine for them to do side deals with others. A little annoyingly these releases are often not announced at all, whereas at least the Panda related retailer releases generally get some advertising.
A recent example of this was a pair of Japan Air Lines Douglas DC-8-61s, which first appeared out of the blue in April 2021. As I understand it these are not retailer exclusives and where actually made instead for a Japanese marketing firm. The models represent two identical DC-8-61s registered JA8048 and JA8061.
It is somewhat surprising that Aeroclassics themselves haven't already made a JAL DC-8-61 and in fact they have, just not on this mould. As discussed in my stretch DC-8 mould review Aeroclassics have had two DC-8 moulds.
The first DC-8-61 was used under both the Aeroclassics and Big Bird brands and in 2004 both released a series 61 in the 1970s scheme whilst Aeroclassics also made one in the earlier delivery colours in 2006. The earlier mould is a little chunky especially aound the nose. It was only used 9 times and 4 were Japanese (3 JAL and 1 Japan Asia). It was reworked into the current mould in 2008, which has an excellent shape and much more delicate landing gear.
The new twinpack comes in a rather stylish box but it doesn't shed any clues as to why the models were made or why they both wear the same livery. Other than eBay the only place I've seen the set for sale has been Prairie Diecast. That is where I was able to purchase my copy. It is an attractive set and I can't help thinking the sort of release that would have sold fine as a standard release.
JAL was of course a major DC-8 operator and took delivery of 9 DC-8-61s as well as 15 DC-8-62s and 17 earlier DC-8 variants. Additionally in the early 1970s they took on almost all of Eastern Air Lines DC-8-61s - 14 out of 17 (the others went to Air Jamaica (2) and ONA). Both of the airframes represented by these models had incidents in their service history.
JA8061 was formerly N8775 with Eastern. Delivered to Atlanta in April 1967 she moved across the Pacific in July 1973. Her end came on February 9, 1982 when operating JL350 her pilot crashed her into Tokyo Bay. The flight had been standard since leaving Fukuoka for Tokyo but upon descent the pilot appears to have had a 'mental aberration' and at only around 160 feet on approach to Tokyo he turned off the auto-pilot, pushed his controls forward and idled the engines. The co-pilot was unable to regain control in time and the aircraft hit the water ripping the nose and right wing off. The captain had a history of mental problems, which had led to time off duty and was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Sadly 24 passengers were killed of the 174 people aboard.
JA8048 was a JAL original DC-8 delivered new on March 12, 1971. Her career was also ended in 1982 when she overran the runway at Shanghai Hongqiao on September 17th. Operating flight JL792 the aircraft had just departed when the crew heard an unusual noise, which was followed by a loss of hydraulics and air brake pressure. The aircraft overran the runway in the subsequent emergency landing and came to rest in a drainage ditch. Fortunately there were no injuries. The incident was caused by the explosion of the air brake bottle destroying the hydraulics. For more information see the Aviation Safety Network report here. Interestingly the aircraft was moved to the Shanghai Aerospace Enthusiasts Centre where she remains on display.
Given the number of DC-8-61s in service with JAL it surely cannot be an accident that this pair of aircraft were chosen for the models and it makes you wonder just what kind of marketing the commissioners of these models were doing! Nonetheless, I have nothing against making models of crashed aircraft and the models could be seen as something of a memorial. They certainly make an interesting pair and look fantastic.