Airfix 1/72 Ford 5-AT Trimotor

KIT #: 4009
PRICE: $8.00 when new
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard


The Ford Tri-Motor was one of the outstanding civil aircraft of all time and a few of these machines are still in service. It was responsible for the growth of airline system in the USA, and achieved a record of reliability unsurpassed until the advent of the DC-3.

  In 1925 Henry Ford purchased the Stout Metal Airplane Company, and a year later produced the 4-AT, the first of 200 Tri-Motors produced during the next seven years of on assembly lines similar to those Ford used to produce cars. From 1926 until June 1929 the 4-AT was in production and in service with many airlines, opening up new routes across North America and laying the foundations for the present airways systems; many were used as executive aircraft and as transport by the military services.

 In 1928 the Ford AT-5 was introduced, this having more powerful engines and larger airframe to give increased seating capacity. The 5-AT-B had seating for 15 and the 5-AT-C for 17. 116 if this new version were delivered before production ceased in 1933, by which time more modern airliners such as the Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-2 were about to enter service.

 From 1934 until the 1960s many were used on regular passenger, freight and mail service in remote and unprepared regions, and the service was then modified to carry heavy machinery and fuel to mining areas. A few are still in use on passenger sight–seeing trips in the USA. The 5-AT Tri-Motor is powered by three 420 hp Pratt Whitney Wasp 7-cylinder radial engines, giving it a maximum speed of 153 mph and a range of 510 miles. The Tri-Motor had a wingspan of 77’10”, Length of 49’ 10” and a height of 13’6”.


This is a Special Edition re-issue under the box heading Classic Airliners as a series 4 models. Interesting about this issue is that it carried a popular American Airways of the pre war 1933 era that falls in the category of US Mail aircraft.   Markings are also provided for an overall metal finish Ford JR-3 that served with the US. Marine Corps circa July 1930 with pre-war style US insignia and markings.

 The kit is injection molded in silver plastic and contains 86 parts that include the fuselage side windows and cockpit canopy in clear plastic. There is provision for a complete cockpit office including crew figures in typical costume of the era, and also main passenger compartment with floor, seating for 12, bulkheads that separate the cockpit from passenger area and aft bulkhead. A fuselage door can be fixed in open or closed form. The engines are well detailed and the overall look of the model is quite pleasing. The wings have fine corrugated surface detail.


 This kit was built in accordance to the Airfix instruction sheet with a difference that it was completed in the livery of Star Airlines Inc. This entails some extra work on the model since it is built as a Tri-motor 2 version with registration NC9651.

 The extra work on the kit consists of the following: Extending the exhaust pipe at the side of engines; modifying the exhaust manifold fixed under the fuselage by inserting a thicker intermediate pipe with rounded ends. This was made from sprue of correct thickness; added pipe retaining brackets made from bent copper wire; added another pipe intersection at port side of nose; removed wheel mudguards, added control links to ailerons and elevators and tail wheel supports; replaced wing leading edge pitot tube with one made of thinner section. Finally the three two-blade propellers, which are supplied with pitch backwards, were corrected by flipping the props round and add new shaft at pressure side of prop.


 The kit is completed in the livery of Star Air Lines. This interesting colour marking comes with the 1/72-decal sheet from the range of Draw Decal sets 72-Trimotor-2 where the Airfix kit is recommended to be used. As operated in the Alaska Territories of 1942, the aircraft is in natural metal. The forward fuselage and engine fronts and cowlings gloss red. The kit was airbrushed in silver overall finish and red forward fuselage and other trimmings using standard Model Master paint.

 Draw Decal instructions also carried some interesting information on the history of the Airline. Alaska Airline grew out of a single-plane company established by Louis McGee in 1932. McGee Airlines merged with Star Air Service in 1934. Under the leadership of Raymond W.Marshall, the airline aggressively pursued further purchases to create Alaska Star Airlines in 1942. The middle name was formally dropped on May 2, 1944 narrowly beating out a competitor who also applied for the name Alaska Airlines.

 The decal sheet instructions also indicated that due to the corrugated surface of the Ford Tri-Motor the decal had to be printed a bit differently from other regular line in the range. The Star logos were printed on Alps printer, therefore very thin and will easily scratch. Care when handling and applying was therefore needed. The remaining decals are also thin and de-bond from paper if bent. It was suggested to apply a very thin coat of Future prior to cutting and applying the decals. For this reason the best results were achieved over the corrugated surface of the Tri-Motor. The kit was given an overall coat of Klear/Future.

 In the end exhaust and oxidised surface around exhaust area was applied using a mix of MM clear varnish and engine grey.


 Not a complicated detailing of a model but no rush was exercised in moving forward with this kit, a little at a time, and best results were achieved. This was another kit that falls in the category of ‘between the wars/Wings of peace’ era of aviation.

 Carmel J. Attard

July 2013

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