Big Cargo Aircraft
Lockheed C–5A – Antonov An-124 – Boeing 747-8F

Carrying freight is not one of the most exciting or attractive of human pursuit, but it is vital for our way of life. With this thought in mind I went along to have a look in the Gallery of Cargo Aircraft. There are some attractive and interesting aircraft there – and what about those big Russian helicopters – but what caught my attention was how big the big ones really are. A bricks and mortar museum would need a vast gallery to keep these three behemoths under cover but most of the other aircraft in that gallery would find protection from the elements under the wings of these three giants. Fortunately for us, our examples present no such problems, but even in their tiny scale they take up a lot of space.

Lockheed C-5A in 1/144 by Entex
The C-5 is a heavy long range strategic transport that has been in service with the US Air Force since 1969. In that time it has gone through many difficulties including cost overruns and wing cracks. All the old C-5A models have now been replaces by later versions including the much improved C-5M Super Galaxy which can deliver all but the biggest and heaviest things to any place around the world. Although there were plans to produce a civil version this did not eventuate so the only operator remains the US Air Force.

This is the very old Entex kit which was a reboxed version of the Otaki 1/144 kit that was first published in 1973 and has since been reboxed by Otaki and Revell. Overall it is quite a satisfactory kit although it is somewhat primitive in some areas. More desirable will be the 2017 Roden 1/144 kit of the C-5M which was later also published as a C-5B. It’s not going to be cheap, and neither will be all the paint that you will need to cover this model. There is a Workbench Note on the C-5 which you might find interesting.

Antonov An-124 in 1/144 by Revell
Around the time that the C-5 entered service the Russians thought they might need something like it so the An-124 is similar in many ways to the C-5 but a decade younger in design and a bit larger. On the other hand, it has not been upgraded over time as the C-5 has and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine means that planned improvements are probably on hold. Also unlike the C-5, the An-124 has been made available for civil operators and that is how most of them have been flown, including some that have been hired for use by NATO, which seems a little ironic.

This is the Revell 1/144 kit of the An-124 and the only kit of it to be published, so you’re stuck with it. Fortunately it is a very good kit to be stuck with and has as much detail as you’d normally want in a 1/144 kit. It comes with an enormous decal sheet with some colourful livery options and enough decals, most of them wing stenciling it seems, to drive you mad and blind – so I didn’t use most of them. Again, you will need to lay in a lot of paint for this beast.

Boeing 747-8F in 1/144 by Revell
The Boeing 747-8F is, like the other two, a true freighter. But unlike them it was designed from the beginning as a civil aircraft and is a development of the Boeing 747 airliner. It is the largest and last version of the 747 which incorporates some of the innovations introduced with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The 747-8 was offered in two versions, the 747-8I passenger version and this 747-8F pure freighter and has proved the more popular of the two versions which first flew in 2010.

This Revell 1/144 kit was published around 2014 and is very similar in quality to Revell’s An-124 which is of about the same vintage. In other words, it is about as good as it’s going to get in 1/44 airliner kits and has no hidden surprises for the builder. One thing that may make it more attractive is the greater number of airlines that fly the 747-8F, so it can be made into more colourful versions than the An-124, and certainly much more colourful than the US Air Forces C-5s. Again, make sure your paint locker well stocked before making this one.