The 727 was the most important jetliner of the 1960s and 70s in terms of aircraft sold and thoroughly deserves a wide range of releases in 1:400. In my collection it certainly is a major feature as I own 149 727 models ranking it third behind only the 737 and A320 families. 84 of these models represent the series 200 so I'm in a good position to compare the 5 different moulds of the series 200 that exist, which is what I'll do in detail here.
The 727-200 in 1:400 scale is one of the few types where mould superiority is not immediately obvious. I know a lot of collectors have their favourite and I doubt anything I say will change their minds, however I can at least point out the differences and try and score the models against each other as best as I can.
Hopefully this will at least give collectors some idea of the strenghts and weaknesses of the moulds and I freely admit all have both of these factors. I own all 5 moulds with the breakdown in my collection as follows:
The dominance of the Aeroclassics 727 in my collection doesn't necessarily speak to its superiority and says more about the sheer volume of Aeroclassics 727s that have been made.
Models used in this review are as follows:
As is usual the structure of this review is scoring out of 5 across a number of areas for each mould. In this review there are 8 sections for a 100% score of 40/40. This is obviously somewhat subjective but I hope to provide photographic evidence backing up the decisions and compare the models directly to the real thing.
The scoring does not take into account non-mould aspects such as livery details, colour, printing or quality control, which can vary wildly between models.
NOSE / NOSEGEAR / WING ROOT
Depending on load the height of the nosegear changes quite significantly.
Starting with the Aeroclassics effort the mould has a decent nose and cockpit. It maybe slightly blunt but has a nice angle and size. The nosegear is also good with a nice length and accurate gear leg. The tyres are well sized but have the simple gearhub typical of most Aeroclassics. The wingroot has a seamline but it does follow the general line of the real wing/fuselage fairing. This is a solid start.
The Aviation400/ Witty Wings nose and cockpit are also good but the angle of the underside of the nose is not acute enough and it gives it a rather chunky look. The nosegear is shorter than the Aeroclassics, which isn't necessarily a problem, and has a better sized nosegear door. At the wingroot there are no problems, in fact this is the best of the bunch here. There is no seam and the shape and fit of the wings is great.
The Dragon Wings mould, which predates the AV400 effort, looks very similar to the AV400 at the nose. This means the nose is a little blunt and slightly too deep. The nosegear isn't bad but as is typical for older Dragon moulds the gear leg is lacking detail. Often on older models the nosgear also lacks a hub. The wingroot is well shaped and has no obvious seam (although there is a small one on the underside). The wing is a little chunky where it joins the fuselage.
The original Gemini is another old mould but has a very good nose region, at least as good as the Aeroclassics and possibly better. The nosegear is fine and has the best sized gearhub so far. Once again being an older mould the gear leg is a little simple. The wing root fairing is a good shape but broken by a seamline. The fit of the wings isn't completely flush along their topline. It is a matter of opinion whether you prefer this seam or the Aeroclassics I'd say.
The updated Gemini mould with rolling gears has the same nose and wingroot as the original mould above. The new rolling tyres are the best of the bunch with an accurate and detailed gearhub. Unfortunately the geardoors themselves are too large and the gearleg is inaccurate (the rear process is way too small).
So scoring for the first 3 categories looks like this:
The Aeroclassics and Gemini moulds have slightly better noses and the Aeroclassics and Aviation400s the best nosegear. When it comes to the wingroot Aviation400 and Dragon Wings take it away.
MAINGEAR / SIDE ENGINES / TAIL & #2 EXHAUST
The 727 has very short maingear with unusual geardoors that cover part of the wheels. The central engine intake is circular (unlike the series 100) but otherwise the tail has the familiar complex shape. Especially noteworthy is that the front line of the tail angles up towards the top tip and that the width of the tailplane is not parallel. The rear angle (rudder line) is at a shallower angle than the front. The top of the tailplane angles downwards gracefully with the rear tip well below the top.
The maingear of the Aeroclassics 727 is excellent. The gear doors are a good size, well positioned and angle upwards correctly. The side engines are also very well shaped and have well detailed exhausts. The mould has been strongly criticised for its tail and it is the weakest area. Along the front edge it doesn't quite angle up enough at the top. There is also a seam line where the horizontal stabilisers are fitted as one piece. The rest of the tail is pretty good but the number 2 engine exhaust is too large.
From the side the maingear of the AV400 727 is as good as that of the Aeroclassics. The side engines aren't quite as detailed and there is a rather obvious seam running down the middle of the engine. The tail initially looks very nice with an excellent tail top and no seamline. Unfortunately the tail is rather ruined by an unfortunate mistake at it's rear. AV400 have made it parallel to the front, which means it meets the fuselage too far forward. It is out by only a couple of mm but is hard to unsee once you've noticed it.
I am not a fan of the Dragon Wings maingear. The gear doors are way too long and large and cover too much of the tyres. Additionally the are annoyingly hard to get fitted in a way where both have the same appearance. The side engines on the other hand are excellent with a great shape and detailing. The tail is also good. The forward top tip angles up nicely and although there is a seamline it blends in ok, albeit with a bump at the front. The angle of the top of the tail is a little flat because of this. The rear margin and #2 exhaust are beautifully done. The tail region is probably the strongest area of the Dragon mould.
The maingear of the original Gemini is nice. The gear doors are angled a little acutely but it doesn't really impact the look that much. The side engines are rather simplistic a both the front and rear and also have a seam line down the middle. The tail isn't very well shaped at its top. There is little or no change of angle at the front and the upper margin is rather flat. There is also a rather obvious seam. The rear margin is fine but the #2 engine exhaust is poorly shaped.
The modified Gemini has new rolling gear and a completely new seamless tail but neither necessarily improve the mould. The new maingear doors are too short and don't cover the tyres at all. The tail has removed the seam and opted for slot in horizontal stabilisers but no effort has been made to improve the shape of the upper parts of the tail. There is still no upward angle and the tail top is still too flat. The horizontal stabilisers also angle downwards slightly. The side engines and #2 exhaust remain the same as the previous edition's.
From the front you can see that the AV400 gear doors splay out too much and that the Dragon and Gemini Mk2 gear doors are completely inaccurate.
Scoring for categories 4-6 looks like this:
Dragon has the weakest maingear but conversely the best tail region. AV400 has the best tail in all respects aside from the rear chord, which is a major failing. Aeroclassics' mould has strong maingear and engines.
The 727 has a complex high-lift wing design with lots of detailing for the model manufacturer to pick-up.
The belly of the 727 has an unusual central triangular intake scoop and large rectangular maingear doors.
The Aeroclassics 727 has a strong intake scoop and gear doors. The seamline allows for a well shaped underside although the maingear doors are a little too small and incised rather heavily.
There is almost no detailing on the AV400 underside including no gear doors. The intake scoop is a little small too.
Dragon have a good notch but no gear doors, plus the under belly seam to hold the wings in is a bit obvious.
The Gemini seam rather interrupts the underside of the model but the mould does have the best shaped maingear doors of any of the four manufacturers.
There is no change to the second version of the Gemini mould from the first.
What is clear to me from this investigation is that each of the 727-200 moulds has its strongpoints and weaknesses, which rarely overlap. On the one hand this is annoying, as none is clearly superior to the other, but on the other hand it also means all of the moulds are at worst acceptable. Which you prefer comes down to your personal acceptance of a particular issue. Here are the final scores:
The final scores slightly favour the Aeroclassics mould but if AV400 hadn't messed up the rear line of the tail on their mould it would win by a point itself. Going into this review I had actually expected the Gemini 727 to score the best, but in detail it doesn't quite match the rest. Having said that it is still my preferred mould over the Dragon Wings 727 because I prefer the nose and undercarriage. What is clear is that Gemini haven't really improved their mould by adding a new tail and landing gear.
Although none of the existing moulds are perfect I don't really see a need for a new 727-200 myself with both the Gemini Mk2 and Aeroclassics still in circulation. It'd be nice but given the available moulds other types must surely take priority.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of 1/400 scale model aircraft and airports. This blog reports work on my model airport dioramas and discussion of the model manufacturers output.