Heller 1/72 T-33 Thunderbird

KIT #: 80301
PRICE: $10.00 SRP when new
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


Developed from the F-80 because it was felt that those pilots transitioning from props to jets would need some jet experience prior to flying one themselves, the T-33 actually benefitted by the lengthened forward fuselage and was faster than the F-80. The aircraft served as a hack in just about every squadron and base in the US. It was also the principal jet trainer in the USAF until replaced by the T-37. Even then, the aircraft soldiered on in ancillary duties until it was finally retired from US service in the late 80s/early 90s.

The type was license built in Canada and Japan with those aircraft flying into the 2000s. It was also widely exported to a number of nations and I believe that perhaps Bolivia might still be flying them. As you might guess, they are fairly easy to maintain and so are favorites with the war bird crowd.


In the mid/late 1970s, Heller was a major player in the plastic kit market. They released dozens of new kits, all of them well detailed for the day and reasonably priced. They were of the raised detail genre that was in vogue at the time and still hold up well today. These were before the days of multiple inserts for a variety of types, but Heller does provide two different nose sections so the RT-33 can be modeled. Also typical of the time are a lot of ejector pin marks, mostly on the inside of things like gear doors and the speed brakes. I also found a number of sink areas, primarily the set head rests and the main wheels.

The cockpit has nice side console detail in the tub and raised detail for the instrument panels. Seats are a single casting and adequate for the scale. Two control sticks completes the interior bits. The nose gear well attaches to the underside of the cockpit tub. There is a properly long exhaust that ends in a bulkhead to add support to the rear.

Since the kit offers two different noses, it may be wise to attach the nose one is going to use to each fuselage half before joining the halves. You have shallow intake pieces that fit from the inside and one needs weight for the nose, though the amount is not provided.

The wings are fairly standard with a single lower wing and two upper halves. The tip tanks are molded into each wing half. Single piece tailplanes simply slot into the rear fuselage. Landing gear is nicely done aside from the sink areas on the main wheels. The nose wheel is molded into the nose gear. Gear doors are all butt joins. The canopy/windscreen is a single piece so cannot be displayed open without some cutting.

Instructions are standard for Heller of the day with six exploded construction views with paint offered in generic terms. The decals are probably less than useful due to age, but one is offered a Thunderbirds plane along with a French recce bird. The latter only has a small unit badge and serial for the nose. For the Tbirds scheme the decals provide the white areas and some of the blue. The red will need to be painted.  There are a lot of aftermarket sheets in 1/72 for these planes so you don't need the kit markings.  


Up until the Platz kit was released a few years back, this was arguably the best 1/72 T-33 out there. It is still a very nice kit and can often be found at quite reasonable prices. Well worth building if you are a fan.

February 2019

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