These little airplane models give us a tangible way to appreciate and honor these wonderful flying machines, engineering marvels, country ambassadors, and world shrinkers. Each one of us has personal reasons to be particularly fond of some aircraft types and airline liveries. In those cases only one model might not be enough, after all, it doesn’t hurt to have a little more than enough of a good thing.
Such is the case for me with the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 in the American Airlines livery. The T-tail design of the DC-9 family is exotic and I find it more pleasurable to the eyes than the wing-mounted twin-jet design that is all too common today. And even though the latter design is the clear winner, I am grateful for the decent success that the DC-9 family had, as it has allowed us to delight ourselves with such a beautiful airliner design for several decades.
I find the MD-80 to be one of the most attractive members of the DC-9 family, especially the early ones with the pointy tail cone and black nose radome. Its good fuselage and engine proportions give it a balanced appearance without looking too modern or too vintage.
I have always perceived the DC-9 family to be poorly represented in the scale model/toy world. The DiMA database agrees with me as it has a combined total of 985 DC-9s (DC-9 + MD-80 + MD-82 + MD-83 + MD-87 + MD-88 + MD-90 + B 717) in 1:400 and 1:200 scales. For reference, there are 1932 B 737 models and 1721 A320s (A318
+ A319 + A320 + A321) in 1:400 scale alone. This isn’t an exact calculation as some models are listed under more than one type field, and some others are not registered at all in the database, but it gives a general view of the under-representation of DC-9 models.
In spite of the MD-80 shortage in 1:400 scale, one airline that has not been underrepresented is American Airlines. American MD-80s were iconic, and even though they were predominantly seen in North America, it is safe to say that aviation lovers worldwide have no issues connecting the aircraft and the airline. For 37 years the airline got to operate close to 400 of these aircraft with the same livery throughout, making AA MD-80s a bridge that connected the modern aviation scene with that of the eighties and nineties.
The first American MD-80s in 1:400 scale date from 2001 and were produced by Dragon Wings. Then around 2011 Jet-X produced some more. And finally, GeminiJets released some more in 2013, 2014, and 2019.
My first American MD-80 model was a GeminiJets MD-82 registered N573AA, I bought it when released in 2013. I was pretty happy with it, even though I was acutely aware of the oversized engines and oddly shaped nose.
Years later one of the original Dragon Wings examples from 2001 crossed my path at an accessible price. It was also an MD-82, but registered N473AA.
Dragon’s example has a black radome and pointy tail cone, which places the aircraft in the pre-2003 period, in line with its release date. Its Gemini counterpart comes with the grey radome and the new-style flattened tail cone. Additionally, the fuselage of my DW example is painted, while the GJ example is bare metal.
Beyond those basic differences come the differences inherent to the two molds. I will not go into a detailed comparison/review of these two models as that has been done before at Yesterday's Airlines. I will say, however, that if I had to choose between the two, I will personally keep the Dragon Wings version.
Enjoy the pictures and compare:
Jorge A. Zajia