HeavyLift Cargo Ilyushin Il-76MD RA76758 Aeroclassics 1:400 2004

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HeavyLift Cargo is a company with a complex history. Originally part of a Sydney, Australia based company, when the Australian Government banned the aircraft it was using (not for any reason other than the secretive Two Airline Rule the country operated), it moved its operations to LAX.

It was also involved with a company, that in effect held the rights to sell and distribute Antonov’s – from the end of the Soviet era, into the early days of Ukraine’s independence. That deal was terminated by Antonov who wanted the Volga-Dnepr Group (who own ABC Cargo and CargologicAir UK), to handle Antonov sales. That agreement ended when Kiev based Antonov effectively ceased operations, when the Russians invaded the eastern Ukraine a couple of years ago, and illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula.

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This appears to be the closest to the aircraft model livery

In this livery she actually operated out of the UK, from Southampton as part of the Oil Spill Service Centre contract HeavyLift won in 1991-1993. She would move booms, people and equipment to any crisis point around the UK to assist in oil field containment in the event of a crisis.

Unusually, it’s been very difficult to work out what happened to her, but she seemed after this to end up with Volga-Dnepr, and was broken up on Guam in 2002-3 after having been severely damaged in a typhoon that struck the island on December 8th 2002.

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Oil Spill Centre Southampton  tiles can be seen near the nose.

The Il-76, known to me in my Nato days as ‘Candid’, was probably one of the most successful transport aircraft of her generation. Designed way back in 1967, they were built in huge numbers (over 800), and were a major concern to Nato planners (of which you can count me one at the time). They gave the legendary Soviet Airborne assault troops and parachute regiments a way of penetrating deep into Nato territory, or move Soviet forces quickly to crisis area – a capability it simply didn’t have before this aircraft was delivered.

It formed the basis of  a new generation of Soviet anti-submarine aircraft that fortunately didn’t have time to develop before the Soviet collapse. There was an AWACS version, a tanker version, one allocated to support attack helicopters (one of its specifics was to get an Mi-24 Hind into the hold), and licensed copies are in use with Chinese and Indian forces to this day in various roles. Indeed the Russian Air Force took delivery of the latest versions only in 2014-15.

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Apparently this mould was used by Witty Wings for their versions.

The model itself is relatively rare, only 400 were made exclusively for Aviation Retail Direct. There were also 1:200’s made by SkyClassics and a few expensive looking 1:48’s.

1.Fusleage

The model itself is around the same overall size as the C-17, but much narrower in the fuselage. The wing dimensions are almost identical too. the detail is simple, well produced and very clean. In fact to look at you’d have to wonder how, 13 years later, things are little better, and often a lot worse.

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The build is different to, it’s the only time I think I’ve ever seen a three-part construction, where the entire wing cradle is one, the main fuselage another and the landing gear assembly, which also contains the cargo door/ramp, is another.

The Il-76 always had that odd “Buck Rogers” type cockpit, common on Soviet designs, but also found on the Hercules, and famously the British Victor bomber/tanker.  Indeed some versions of the Il-76 Candid were armed with canons in the lower nose and/or tail.

I actually really like the whole thing, it’s a good mould, the fuselage is beautifully finished and detailed.

2.Wings and landing gear

The wings are over painted, the gloss is too shiny and the detail greatly obscured. The leading edge silver is fine, no issues with that.

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What has to be said though is the wings and the gear assembly noted above, are superbly fitted, forming a highly unified model, verging on the seamless.

Aeroclassics tyre-wheels on spigots however are unsightly even if they are good quality. They appear incongruous, and toy like, taking the edge off the model.

Of course one of the down-sides to all this is that the model has no stand hole, so it became impossible to do aerial shots of it.

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3.Engines

This aircraft was destroyed before being upgraded to the TD variant with more modern PS-90 engines (these were only deployed from 2004 to meet exhaust and noise requirements in Europe), so she must still have the Soloviev D-30’s. Either way while the shape and appearance is excellent, the hideously shiny silver fans look silly.

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4. Nose detail

Totally excellent from the radome below to the windows, quite flawless.

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5.Tail detail

The huge tail – it’s almost as big as on the C-17, is truly superb, and highlights again its military origins, with rear windows above the tail gunners position. It’s a very odd thing to see even on an adapted civil freighter.

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6. Colours

It’s Aeroclassics, and of course they’re completely wrong. The blue is so, so far too bright it’s almost funny and the red is probably not too bad. In either event they’re not accurate.

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7.Score and conclusion

There is something about this that is very model like. The toyish wrong colours, the over bright silver fans, the gigantic tyre-wheels.

It’s a mildly incongruous oddity, and without any doubt an interesting, if somewhat eccentric addition to the RLSI collection.

If I was scoring it – which seems a little unfair because of its age, the three fails above would make it around 85%.

I paid £20 for this which was a buy-it-now bargain, I didn’t even hesitate when I saw it. This week someone has put one on eBay for £45. You’d have to be desperate to pay that for it.

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