US AIR FORCE Boeing C-17 Globemaster-III 10188 Gemini Macs GMUSA055 1:400 Scale

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I thought it was time for something different in 1:400. It’s not my first C-17, but it is the first Gemini MAC’s I’ve reviewed, and not before time really. I have a boxed up RAF one, but I managed to break the rear door off a couple of years ago. This one was relatively cheap, at a mere £18 from an eBay seller. They often go for twice that.

I wasn’t overly bothered about whose C-17 it was, but it seems fitting now that a project born in the late 1970’s originally, has finally come to an end, with the last ones having rolled off the old McDonnell-Douglas production line at Long Beach CA in 2014. At one point Boeing had planned to build what in Civil terms are known as ‘white tails’ – units built simply to keep the line open and sell later, but changed their minds when there just wasn’t any interest, and it looked like they might end up with several million dollars worth of aircraft they’d only have to sell at a massive discount – and lose money.

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An acquaintance of mine, now a retired RAF Captain, was head of the RAF’s programme to acquire and integrate them into the UK’s military transport infrastructure. Pride of place in his study at home, is a 1:100 given him by Boeing. It’s an amazing model.

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These were taken by me at Farnborough in 2012 – the last time a C-17 was displayed there.

This one is a 2015 issue by Gemini Macs, of the Stewart Air National Guard Base, Newburgh, in New York state, numbered 10188. The aircraft is one of 8 C-17’s based there as part of the 105th Airlift Wing’s 137th Airlift Squadron, which transitioned from C-5 Galaxy to C-17’s from 2011.  She seems to have taken part in lifting NY Guardsmen into the Manhattan and Atlantic City areas following the storm damage in 2015.

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One of the reasons I’m more interested is that every day, between 1100UTC and 1400UTC, two C-17’s travel west to east around the 1100UTC period, and around the 1300-1400 period two fly east to west. They have a very distinct,  4 engine vapour trail, where the outer trail appears much wider than the aircraft, the result I’m told, of the winglets changing the air flow, and the top of the vertical stabilizer horizontals.

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One of the rarest moments when weather and sun conspired to allow a ‘good’ photo. This is at 8 miles ground range and estimated 40,000ft elevation, so about 10.8 miles (16Km) at mag x186 direct line of sight.

They travel so high – close to 40,000ft – that it’s often hard to make them out even at 100x zoom, but now and again, you can just, (conditions being near perfect in October or Feb-April), make one out clearly enough. There’s no ID that’s publically broadcast, and I’ve no idea where they’re going, but the route would suggest Afghanistan.

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The whale tail is vast
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It just doesn’t seem as big inside as you’d expect somehow.

1.Fuselage

The shape looks pretty accurate to me, and the dimensions certainly pan out as expected. The big ‘extra’ with these C-17 models is the double opening tail. The upper tail section drops for in-flight personnel and cargo drops, as does the main vehicle loading ramp.

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The trouble is, as I found on the RAF version – and I haven’t stretched this one to the limit trying to make it do what I think it should – namely touch the ground with the main door/ramp, it doesn’t touch the ground, or anywhere near it. Last time I did try, as I said above, it snapped clean off.

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The failure of the door to touch the ground (and we are talking a scale distance of at least 10ft) makes any display with it trying to take on, say a set of presidential style limos, or some of those rare and near impossible to find military cargo/figures from a Herpa diorama, somewhat pointless.

Other than that, the detail and overall quality of the fuselage is excellent.

2.Wings and landing gear

The wings being above the fuselage, which of course is vital for shorter runway lift generation, and maximizes cargo space, are fitted the only way that’s practical, as a single unit that’s best described as a reverse cradle. They’re superbly detailed and finished, though I’d have said the gaps each end could have been a tighter, underneath they appear almost seamless.

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Silver flap inserts are entirely accurate, and appropriate for the aircraft, as are the USAF graphics above and below the wing.

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The landing gear of course isn’t connected to the wings. It’s the one area that’s a little sloppy. The main gear is installed in pods either side of the central fuselage – the spread allows for greater weight, and keeps the cargo space clear of protruding equipment.

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The gear doors open up to the two, six wheeled main bogies – these are two outer ‘standard’ arrangement wheels but have a central pair that are only half visible inside the bogie. Gemini moulded this into the unit as a fixed item, and then painted the bottom half black to pretend it’s a tyre, making it look a bit weird, and it’s not neatly managed. The doors also – and again – correctly, are very pale grey, but the outer dark grey has been sloppily applied, and gotten on the door edges.

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The gear hydraulics are cheap looking plastic and the nose gear is the same.

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3.Engines

Superb units, excellently painted and moulded, but they have one gruesome flaw that looks utterly ridiculous and out-of-place; hideously bright silver fans. Seriously Gemini on what planet have you ever seen fans this colour? Even more so on a military transport vehicle? It makes it look toy-like and seriously undermines it’s credibility if you look at it head on. The good thing is that the fans are well recessed, and they don’t catch the light too much.

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4. Nose detail

Everything looks as though it’s where it should be. No visible issues.

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5.Tail detail

Here we have something that we can only wish for on civil airliners. This should be the next big thing – we’ve had aerials – OK it took three years to get them right – but this has a red, plastic, top of the tail running light!  And, do you know, it really does add something to it, that little bit of something extra, a quality piece of added detail.

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The tail, which is humongous given the size of the aircraft, which isn’t as big as you would think – it actually leaves me a little underwhelmed once you see it in real life – the tail is excellently detailed, and a single mould. And this is the surprise – it’s actually moulded into the fuselage. You soon realise why; the doors in the tail would be impossible with the length of the prong needed to secure the huge tail. Even if you could put it in during assembly, and expect it to stay there – gravity would have a very different idea of how it would work, and you can imagine the mess Chinese assembly would make of it.

6.Colours

No issues. This is 2015, before Gemini truly lost the colour plot with JCW.

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An RAF C-17 spots a Typhoon Class SSBN and a Soviet Kashin-II missile destroyer escorts it in the North Atlantic. An exercise in forced perspective, the C17 is 1:400 the other two are 1:3000 (10ft:1mm), they’re actually only about 8″(20cm) apart. They were used to war game scenarios against the Soviet Union in the 1980’s and rarely see daylight now.  Different kinds of tissue paper layered, created the background and sea. The stand had to be angled away from the camera so it didn’t show, and the base under the paper – no special effects were allowed and no Photoshop!

7.Score and conclusions

  • -4 for the silver engine fans, totally unrealistic
  • -4 for the rear main door/ramp not deploying fully – either do it or don’t bother
  • -3 for the cheap plastic landing gear – not acceptable on full retail prices
  • -2 for sloppy paint around the main landing gear
  • 87% is a good score

It’s very novel having the doors, but it doesn’t work properly so what’s the point? It’s a bit like having a square wheel – amusing for six seconds while you laugh at the stupidity of it while recognising the concept can be improved upon, but utterly pointless, adds to the cost of manufacturing, and delivers no tangible benefit.

For a little spice and variety at RLSI I might wheel it out now and again, along with another soon to be reviewed Gemini MACS model. If you wanted a military air transport section to a civil diorama – and if I had the space I would –  the attraction of these is enormous. However it’s a very limited market with relatively few customers. There are always several of these hanging about as old stock in almost every retailers inventory, though they do eventually sell out.

My recommendation: It depends on your collecting criteria, and interest in military aircraft. I like the idea of the occasional C-17 in transit through RLSI, and my interest in military aircraft has waned – I spent 10 years of the Cold War up to my neck in them so it’s a passing interest now. However, to add a bit of variety, if you can get one for a good price, it won’t hurt – and it adds depth and nuance to a 1:400 diorama. 

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