Aoshima 1/48 'Airwolf'

KIT #: 038246
PRICE: $34.99
DECALS: One Option, side windows only
REVIEWER: Dan Hamilton
NOTES: A fun kit for a break from the norm.


“Subject AIRWOLF. Top Secret. A mach one plus attack helicopter with the most advanced weapons arsenal in the air. Sought by governments friendly and foreign, AIRWOLF is hidden somewhere in the western wilderness by its test pilot Stringfellow Hawke. To be returned to the U.S. government only if his brother St. John, an MIA in Vietnam, can be found. ….  Capable of speeds rivaling the fastest jets and backed by unmatched firepower, Airwolf is a weapon too dangerous to be left in unenlightened hands. Finding AIRWOLF is your first priority.”

So began the voice-over for many of the first season episodes of the 1984-87 CBS television series “Airwolf.”  Though the show’s titular star was Jan-Michael Vincent (whose acting range went from unblinkingly staring with squinty eyes to unblinkingly staring with wide eyes, and everything in between), the real stars were Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine (man, could he make the worst dialogue believable) and an impressively modified Bell 222 helicopter called “Airwolf.”  The latter looked like a flying shark and its post production enhanced sound effect as it flew past the camera was something like a high tech screeching pterodactyl.  Sure there was much over acting, the occasional schlocky dialogue and often farfetched plots, but like other similar TV classics as “Tales of the Gold Monkey” and “Ba Ba Black Sheep,” the show could not be missed at the very least because of the flying.  Whoever the stunt pilot was, he was a daredevil and jaw droopingly reckless when he flew close to the ground and explosions – but oh it made for exiting TV!  The highlight of practically every show was the dog fight between Airwolf and some number of jet fighters or missile equipped attack copters.  According to the web, the show was cancelled after three years due to the excessive cost of production, less than spectacular ratings, and the alcohol and drug related problems of Vincent.

As to “the Lady” – i.e. Airwolf, its supposed stats were:  

RANGE: 950 miles (armed crew of 3) Midair refuel capable 1450 miles long range (crew of 2)

CEILING: 11,000 feet unpressurized 89,000 feet pressurized

 WEAPONS SYSTEMS: 2-40mm CANNONS 4-.50 cal. CHAINGUNS 2-BULLPUP missiles 12-SIDEWINDER 10-SUNBURST  superfast missiles 4-AGILE missiles

 So a skeptic might ask, how could a helicopter -- even a high tech version – fly at “Mach one?”  An online flight manual (the show has a cult following) explains that Airwolf was “an aerodynamic lifting body with a rotor system, driven by twin turbines, capable of propelling it to three hundred knots. This rotor system can be disengaged to ignite two turbo-thrust boosters, which can increase AIRWOLF'S speed to exceed mach two from sea level to 85,000 feet.”  On TV, anything is possible with a big enough budget – not necessarily believable – but possible.


Though the print on the box says “Aoshima,” the kit apparently is a reboxing of AMT’s 20 year old kit (the sticker on the box even expressly says “AMT” – but includes a “new” 21st Century price of $34.99).  The instruction illustrations were workable, and had to be since I can’t read Japanese characters.  Though the cockpit is reasonably detailed, the interior in no way reflects that of T.V.’s “Airwolf.”  Since the kit has the parts for a stock Bell 222, only a solid bulkhead between the cockpit and the passenger compartment is provided rather than Airwolf’s open divider between its cockpit and the “EDCC” (Electronic Data Command Center – i.e. where viewers could see Borgnine act during interior flight sequences).  There is no EDCC in the kit but only the stock passenger benches.  For those who can scratch-build better than I please see:


 I started off by cutting the bulkhead between the cockpit and the passenger compartment to simulate that of Airwolf and, though I suspected (rightly as it turns out) that my EDCC would be invisible, I just could not put in benches or simply leave a blank space.  Accordingly, I cobbled together a scratch built EDCC that somewhat simulated the basic layout in the show but thankfully cannot be seen once the model was completed.

The kit went together well and was fun to construct.  Though the exterior of the kit contains the necessary parts to transform the Bell into Airwolf, its panel lines are so deeply recessed as to be downright embarrassingly excessive.  The many necessary coatings of paint helped fill the lines, as did the fact I made no attempt to post shade them. 


This raises the controversial question: “What the heck color is Airwolf anyway?”  My memory and videos I have of some of the episodes depicts “the Lady” as sometimes somewhat olive drab, sometimes downright tan, and sometimes greenish more than anything else.  Apparently the color looked different depending on the lighting, the background landscape and the film stock used to photograph it. 

The directions, which -- as an exception for which an English translation was actually given -- misleadingly states the color should be “Midnight Blue.”  My web research instead confirms that the “real” Airwolf was painted with a color by DuPont known as “Phantom Gray Effect” – a color I could not find anywhere.  Thanks to another modeler’s courageous experimentation that he posted on the internet, it appears that Model Master’s “Anthracite Gray Metallic” comes closest to the color as shown on my TV which, after all, is the only place Airwolf “really” ever existed.  This color required numerous airbrush coats and challenged my infantile masking skills, but could have come out worse considering many of my past painting disasters.  The photos taken under different lighting conditions, indoor (with and without flash) as well as outdoor in natural light seem to meet the test of the cameleon like color changes of the real Airwolf.


 Every once in a while I have to take a break from nerdy research and modeling of cool real world aircraft to do nerdy research and modeling of cool but fictional aircraft.  If you need a similar break, and to relive a guilty pleasure from 1980’s TV, “finding AIRWOLF is your first priority.” 



Ultimate Airwolf Episode Guide

Dr. Moffet’s

Dan Hamilton

March 2009

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