Anyone can enjoy the world of model airplanes, but aspiring pilots and history buffs are especially enthusiastic about this fun hobby. For the history buff, there is a story embedded in each model airplane kit. For the aspiring pilot, most airplane kits are historically accurate and have impressive, authentic surface details.
It is easy to get caught up in the process of assembling the model aircraft. For many model plan enthusiasts, it's the most fun part. Imagine putting together a puzzle that turns out to be a mini piece of history worthy of displaying in your home – that’s the payoff of building airplane models.
Be sure to read the reviews of our three favorite build-your-own plane models: the Revell Mustang P-51D, the Hasegawa F-22 A and the Revell B17 Flying Fortress. We also have articles on model airplanes if you want to delve deeper into the aviation world.
Model Airplanes: What to Look For
When on the hunt for the perfect model airplane kit, you must first decide what you want out of the experience. Are you looking to put together an intricate 100-piece, historically authentic plane? Do you want something simple you can complete with your kids? Are you looking for a gift for an aviation buff? Below is a list of model airplane characteristics to help you choose the right model for your needs:
You want your model airplane to look and feel as authentic as possible. It is imperative that the instructions to build your model are clear and precise and that all the pieces fit together properly. The Ease of Assembly score portrays just that. If a model’s instructions are easy to follow and the parts fit together seamlessly, we give the model a high score. The lower the score, the more problems we had with assembly. It is also important to consider that each model has a different number of parts and requires a different skill level. If you are looking for more of a challenge, a model with more parts should suit you well.
The scale of a model airplane doesn’t refer to the size of the completed project; rather it describes the size in relation to the actual airplane. So if a model's scale is 1/72, that means every inch of the model is equal to six feet of the actual airplane. If you want to know how large the completed model will be, reference the wingspan and dimensions of each model airplane.
Model airplanes make great gifts, but if you're buying for a history buff or aviation enthusiast, the devil is in the details. Each plane is a little slice of history, complete with a back story from its particular era. If the gift recipient on your list is a World War II aficionado, a historically accurate WWII military fighter may be the perfect model to give. For someone interested in modern air flight, a commercial jetliner may be more up his or her alley.
Losing the instructions to your model aircraft could result in an unfinished aircraft. Purchasing a model from a company that offers downloadable instructions is certainly convenient. A company that has a store locator on its website can also be helpful if you need to locate a store near you.
The best part about model airplanes is it's the kind of hobby that caters to all skill levels and fits any budget. You can make models that are challenging to build but not beyond your abilities.
From the cockpit’s bubble-shaped canopy down to the rotating wheels, the Revell P-51D Mustang is an authentic replica of the P-51D Mustang flown in World War II by Lt. Col. John D. Landers of the 84th Fighter Squadron and 1st Lt. Robert Welch of the 343rd Fighter Squadron. The Mustang fighter took its share of hits during World War II and is now considered that era’s most successful fighters. This model airplane pays tribute to the famous fighter.
In this model airplane kit, you’ll find 49 different parts that, when correctly connected, show off this plane’s impressive wingspan. At a scale of 1/48, the wingspan measures 9 1/4 inches. Revell recommends this model plane for those 10 years old or older who want to take on the rewarding challenge of assembling this skill level two, or moderately difficult, model. Glue and paint aren’t included in the kit and will need to be purchased separately.
North American Aviation designed the P-51D Mustang to answer the British requirement in 1940. A military aircraft known for its relatively long flying range, the single-seat P-51D Mustang combination fighter and bomber eventually took center stage for the Mustang family of airplanes during WWII. More than 15,000 were built over the course of its production lifetime. This plane was flown by several pilots, but this replica includes two different sets of water slide decals for Lt. Col. John D. Landers’ “Beautiful Doll” and one for 1st Lt. Robert Welch’s “Miss Marilyn II.” Paper laminated drop tanks and pilot figures are also included. The checkered pattern for the nose of the aircraft is unique to each version.
Most model airplanes have a fairly stagnant design with no moving parts. This model airplane kit is anything but stagnant. It has an engine panel that's removable, a convenient access panel for the machine guns mounted in the wings and an authentically replicated fuselage spine, cut down and leveled off to give the pilot better visibility.
Revell offers the best customer support of all the model airplane manufacturers we researched. You can email their office with questions or review the FAQs on their website instead. The Revell website has downloadable instructions for the P-51D Mustang, a paint match guide and a service locator if your finished plane needs repairs. The included manual is very straightforward in its assembly instructions and painting directions. It breaks assembly down into sections to make each part of construction second nature.
The Revell P-51D Mustang is a beautiful plane to add to your model airplane collection or, if you’re new to the hobby, a fantastic premier piece. With a difficulty level of 10+ and 49 parts to piece together, it would be an ideal kit for hobbyists who know a thing or two about creating a model airplane. The history behind the Mustang is quite fascinating, and you’ll be part of it when you build this authentic scale model.
The F-22 Raptor is an unmatched aircraft in maneuverability, warfare and all-around tactical airpower. Even today, the F-22 is considered the best fighter aircraft in the world. This machine is a true modern marvel to the technological advances that we have seen since WWI. Hasegawa has replicated this modern marvel so it can now be a part of your model airplane collection. The sheer power, speed and stealth of this model is conveyed wonderfully in Hasegawa's replica of the F-22.
This is one of the best-looking models you are going to find. The model is equally as beautiful as the real thing. We gave it a score of 95 percent in our ease of assembly category. Though it is not an easy model to build, coming in 368 separate parts, the instructions are easy to follow and the pieces fit well together. It is not recommended that anyone under the age of 14 attempt to build this model aircraft.
This kit is not for the beginning model aircraft builder. With so many pieces to put together, this is a level 3 model. It is imperative that you have prior model building experience before you try to piece this one together or you may become overwhelmed. This Hasegawa F-22 Raptor is a 1/48 scale model. This means that every inch of the model is equal to 4 feet of the actual plane. This model is a nice size that isn’t too big or small. It measures 3.9 x 16.6 x 10.80 inches.
As much fun as the assembly of your model can be, it would all go to waste if the details of the product didn’t match the actual airplane. This model is a great representation of the Raptor F-22 fighter plane. Great detail was taken on every facet of this model airplane. When you open up the cockpit to this model you will notice great detail from the instrumentation of the plane all the way down to the eject lever in front of the seat. The immaculate detail of this model aircraft doesn’t stop at the cockpit. If you flip the model over, you will be impressed by the realistic detail of the weapons bay. This weapons bay gives you an idea why the F-22 is nicknamed “air superiority” boasting seven missiles and war technology that is second to none. Sold separately are etched metal parts to add to the realism of your model airplane. Included in the model airplane kit are a full pilot figure with two helmets and waterslide decals so you can reproduce one of three F-22s.
The F-22 is no longer in production, making this one of the more increasingly sought after model plane kits around. Though the F-22 is considered the superior fighting aircraft ever, it doesn’t come without its share of problems. Production of the F-22 Raptor has ceased for a number of different reasons. As you can imagine, building a fighter plane as advanced as this one can be pretty pricey. Combine that with the lack of need to use the aircraft and the production of the cheaper F-35, and the F-22 was grounded. The F-22 also had its mechanical difficulties. This aircraft had multiple problems with the pilots' oxygen systems. These problems would leave pilots disoriented after flights and was one the few precursors that lead to the eventual halt in production.
Hasegawa offers customer support via email and telephone. You can also use the store locater to find a store near you if you need to bring your model airplane in for any concerns you may have. The website does not have downloadable instructions or a FAQs section. We were disappointed to find neither on the Hasegawa website.
This is not a plane model for the beginning model maker. Make sure you have some prior experience before you try to conquer this 368-piece model. This is one of the best-looking models you are going to find. You will have a ton of fun putting the Hasegawa F-22 Raptor together and will be thrilled with the finished product.
The B17 Flying Fortress is one of the most famous aircrafts from the WWII era. This enormous airplane was designed to take a beating and dish out just as much punishment to the opposition. The B17 was dependable and heavily armed. Revell has done an incredible job to capture the sheer size and ruggedness of the Flying Fortress in model airplane form. The spectacular detail on all facets of this plane will capture your heart.
Listed as a 2 in skill level, the B17 Flying Fortress is not a model airplane for beginners. To begin your model aircraft building adventure, the B17 comes in 148 parts. You may struggle with assembly of this model if you do not have prior model building experience. After reviewing this model airplane, we gave it a score of 95 (out of 100) on our ease-of-assembly score. This model airplane kit is designed rather nicely and the instructions are easy to follow. The size of the completed model and number of pieces for assembly should make this model a level 3 in difficulty.
This replica of the United States Army Air Forces strategic bomber is one of the larger models we reviewed. Its sheer size and heavy armor protected hundreds of U.S troops during WWII, and it is considered one of the most successful warplane designs ever. It is no surprise that this four-engine bomber has become such a sought-after model to collectors everywhere. Upon completion of this model, you will notice that the wingspan is a bit over 2 feet. Only one other model we reviewed has a larger wingspan than the B17 – its successor the B29. Dimensionally, these model plane kits measure 21 x 15 x 11 inches.
The most reliable WWII airplane will need extra glue and paint for total completion. Most models require extra paint and glue, especially if you are extra particular in the design of your finished model. You will notice that Revell includes an ample amount of detail in all of the model airplane kits, and the B17 is no exception. The cockpit, landing gear, gunner stations and interior of the plane are all heavily detailed to truly replicate the B17 Flying Fortress in all of its original glory. One of the truly special things about this Revell model is some of the parts move. On the B17, the gun turrets rotate as well as the four 1200hp propellers.
You aren’t going to find better customer service than Revell's. The website alone quickly answers any questions you may have about your model airplanes via downloadable instructions and an easy-to-navigate FAQs page. If you ever have any questions about any of your Revell airplane models, you can contract Revell via telephone or email.
It is hard to beat the assembly quality and attention to detail that Revell has shown with its B17 Flying Fortress model airplane. It truly gives you 1/48 scale of one of the most revered WWII planes in history. This is a must-have in any model builder's collection.
Revell B-29 Superfortress Review
The B-29 Superfortress is a favorite among WWII model aircraft connoisseurs. This legendary 1940s aircraft has deep-rooted history within the United States Army Air Forces as a strategic bomber that was used during the end of WWII, though it is mostly known for being flown during the Korean War.
One of the most historically important facts associated with this aircraft is that B-29s carried the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII. This model aircraft is associated with just as much war history as its predecessor the B-17 and is truly a special aircraft model worth building.
Given the giant size of the actual airplane, it is no surprise that this is the largest model we reviewed. Even though the B-29 is a 1/48-scale model, when completed this model airplane has a wingspan of 35 1/4 inches. This model is considered a 2 for skill level. This means it is a little too advanced for a beginning model airplane builder. You are going to start out with 105 parts that, with a little determination and patience, will become a high-altitude, long-range strategic bomber. This is a special model because it is considered one of the most technologically advanced planes for its time.
Out of the box, the B-29 model plane kit comes with molded gray plastic parts with realistic surface details and recessed panel lines, rotating gun turrets, detailed landing gear, Hamilton Standard propellers and authentic silkscreen waterslide decal markings. This model airplane pieces together rather nicely. You will need some additional paint and glue to truly get the finish you are looking for, but that is to be expected from a model this size. Even though this is only a level 2 kit, it will take you a good amount of time to finish.
Revell offers downloadable instructions if you happen to lose the ones that come with the model. You can easily contact Revell via telephone and email if you need help with your model kit.
This is truly one of the most special airplane kits you are going to find. With such war history specific to the United States victory in WWII, this is a must-have in every model builder's collection.
Revell B-24D Liberator Review
The original Consolidated B-24D Liberator was the United States Army Air Forces' largest bomber for most of World War II, and it performed in every theater of WWII. The Revell B-24D Liberator model airplane is a 1/48 scale replica of the famous aircraft, complete with waterslide decals to honor two specific squadrons.
This model airplane is the largest in our top 10 lineup. When you have completed the assembly process of your B-24D Liberator replica, you will have a 1/48 scale sized model, measuring 17 3/8 inches long with a wingspan of 27 1/8 inches.
The Revell B-24D Liberator model airplane is recommended for hobbyists currently at skill level 2, which essentially means that the kit is easy to moderately challenging for kids over 10 years old, and it requires the use of glue and paint. There are 167 parts to figure out how to connect, so this kit isn’t for the faint of heart.
Engineered to carry a relatively large payload over long ranges, the B-24 Liberator was used extensively by every branch of the United States' Armed Forces during the war, and it also bolstered the air and naval forces of a number of America's allies. It served with particular distinction in the China-Burma-India Theaters, as well as battlegrounds over the Pacific Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Western Europe. Due in large part to its widespread, multi-national service during World War II, the B-24 Liberator has become, and remains, the most produced U.S. military aircraft in history, with more than 18,400 flying the skies since 1941.
Revell’s replication of the famous bomber is impressive. The plane itself is made of light gray and clear molded plastic with landing gear and a painstakingly detailed cockpit interior. Decals and other markings for two specific squadrons are included with the kit. Depending on your preference, you can choose to decorate your model like the original Fightin' Sam or Jerk's Natural.
Assembly is required to build the Revell B-24D Liberator model airplane. Glue and paint aren’t included with the package, so you will need to purchase those separately. Many model airplanes are completely stagnant once they're complete, but this model boasts adjustable guns and turrets, and it even has an option to leave the bomb bay doors closed or open with bomb load. Pilot and co-pilot figures are also included with the model airplane kit.
Clearly illustrated instructions, with helpful diagrams for each step in the assembly process, are included with the model airplane kit and can be downloaded from Revell’s website. If you need technical support, a phone number and email address is available. You can also find a store that sells Revell products or a service center via an online store finder.
The Revell B-24D Liberator model airplane is a 1/48 replica of a famous bomber that flew in every theater of World War II. Its molded gray exterior and moveable figures make this model feel authentic while still allowing for play.
Revell Messerschmitt Review
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 model aircraft is a must-have model for the WWII history buff. It is just as important to German WWII history as some of the great American warplanes are to American history.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was in heavy production back in the late '30s to mid '40s. In fact, there were over 30,000 of the Bf 109s built within that time frame, making it one of the most produced aircrafts ever. This plane became a jack-of-all-trades, serving as an interceptor plane as well as a fighter, ground-attacker and reconnaissance aircraft. The Bf 109 really has some rich history in German aero engineering.
This model airplane shouldn’t take you too much time to piece together. Even though it is listed as a level 2 for difficulty, there are only 40 pieces to assemble. This model airplane should really be listed as a level 1 because it is a simple model to build. The minimum age requirement for this model is 10 years old but could be dropped down to 8. This model is a 1/48 scale model that only has an 8.1-inch wingspan. This is one of the smaller model plane kits we reviewed.
Perhaps the best part of model airplanes is the experience you gain from building one. You want to know exactly what you are going to be getting into before you start your model building adventure. This model airplane did not receive the best ease-of-assembly score because the pieces do not fit together as well as some of the other airplane models in our review. Also, this model is labeled as a skill level 2 model, which is for intermediate builders. We felt this model should be considered a beginners model which factors into the lowered ease-of-assembly score.
In terms of customer service, Revell is one of the best model airplane kit providers around. You will find a list of frequently asked questions on the Revell website if you need some quick answers to any concerns. You can also contact Revell via email or telephone if you need to contact personnel with questions about your model plane kits.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is a great model airplane to build, especially to have a piece of German WWII history in your collection. Though this model is much simpler to build than initially instructed, it is still a fun build for a beginner model maker.
Revell SnapTite F-18 Blue Angels Review
The Revell F-18 Blue Angels model airplane is our kind of plastic model kit and perfect for beginners. You see, the Revell Blue Angels model plane is a SnapTite kit, meaning all of the pieces are pre-painted and snap together. Goodbye paint and glue.
The actual F-18 Hornet is 56 feet long with a wingspan of almost 37 feet. Revell’s F-18 Blue Angels model is a 1/100 replica of the original, with a 6 3/4-inch wingspan. This model airplane is much easier to put together than other kits because it only has 16 pieces, and they snap together. Revell recommends the kit for ages 8 and up, and because the model is so simple to assemble, it would be great for beginners.
Although used by the Blue Angels to perform spectacular and dangerous maneuvers, the F-18 Hornet was originally designed to be a strike fighter for the United States Navy and the Marines. The aircraft uses the latest technology to product sixteen thousand tons of thrust. It is a single-seat aircraft, which means only one person can be in the plane at a time – the pilot. The Hornet acts as either an escort fighter or a light-attack aircraft. However, no matter what it was originally designed to be, the F-18 Hornet is forever paired with the famous Blue Angels, and the Blue Angels still use several of the very same methods and techniques to coax their F-18 Hornets into performing the group's precision maneuvers that they used in their initial shows back in 1946. The Revell F-18 Blue Angels model airplane is a historically accurate replica of the Hornet, with structured surface details and authentic waterslide decals.
Because the F-18 is a snap-together model airplane, many of the steps you would expect from a typical kit aren’t necessary. You don’t need glue, you don’t need paint, and you don’t need several days to complete the project. In the instruction manual there are a total of six steps to complete the model. One downside to this type of design is that the parts don’t move – the wheels are stationary.
Revell’s website has a pretty good help and support system in place for its customers. You can find out historical information about the plane you’re building or download the instruction manual, all on the same page. There is also a helpful Getting Started page that explains, in detail, all of the model airplane lingo that you need to know for getting into the hobby. We are also impressed to see a store and service locator online. If you have a specific question, check Revell’s FAQs page first, and then you can contact someone via email or phone for additional support.
The Revell F-18 Blue Angel model airplane is can be enjoyed by seasoned hobbyists, but it's simple enough for newbies. It only has 16 pieces that snap together, but the history behind the plane adds depth to the model. The Blue Angels use the F-18 Hornet to complete amazing tricks, but it was originally designed to be a strike fighter in the 1940s. With this model airplane, you have a fun project to complete while commemorating the plane’s history.
Revell P-40B Tiger Shark Review
Revell is famous in the model airplane world for its premier airplane kits and historically accurate replicas. The Revell P-40B Tiger Shark is based on the famous fighter plane that heroically flew to defend the United States after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
This plane is a 1/48 replica of the P-40B Tiger Shark – a good-sized model of the fighter plane. Revell recommends the Tiger Shark for hobbyists at a skill level two or above. According to Revell’s website, a skill level of two is defined as “moderately challenging; glue and paint required. For ages 10+.” Because assembling this model airplane is on the difficult side, if you plan to give it to a child, plan to take advantage of the opportunity to work on it with them. Fully assembled, the P-40B Tiger Shark measures 8 inches long with a wingspan of 9 1/4 inches.
Aesthetically, this model plane is incredibly cool looking – living up to its name: Tiger Shark. A shark face, sporting a nasty, evil, tooth-filled grin, runs along the underside of the aircraft's fuselage, from the propeller to just before the wing. We especially like how historically accurate this model airplane is to the original. In addition to the aircraft's camouflage-style exterior, the kit includes specific decals, such as aircraft ID letters, distinguishing artwork and various national markings. A completely assembled model shows realistic raised rivets, panel lines and a cockpit interior that looks so real you'll think it is fully functional. The package includes enough decals to cover up to three model airplanes, allowing you to experiment with which ones you like better on the completed aircraft. The cherry on top is the dashing pilot figure that sits comfortably in the cockpit, reminiscent of the Flying Tigers that so bravely defended our country.
With the Revell Tiger Shark model airplane, at a skill level of two, you have a big job on your hands when putting it together. Painting, gluing and connecting are all part of the fun of building this famous replica. When it's complete, the plane has a propeller that spins, landing wheels that roll and a clear plastic canopy over the cockpit that slides to give you both an open and closed option.
Revell has been in the model airplane business for a long time, over 60 years, and the company knows how to treat a customer. Help and support information comes with the airplane kit, and you'll also find online support. On Revell’s website there are helpful tips for beginners, FAQs for seasoned hobbyists and even a downloadable user manual. You can search for a Revell store near you or find a repair shop instead.
The Revell P-40B Tiger Shark is a historically accurate 1/48 model of the actual fighter plane that fought in World War II. It is a somewhat difficult airplane model to put together, ranked at a skill level of two with 61 pieces.
Revell SnapTite F-16 Fighting Falcon Review
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a fighter jet originally manufactured in the 1970s. Its impressive features and super agile design are still relevant today, and the fighter is still in action. Revell’s SnapTite F-16 Fighting Falcon model airplane is a miniature version of the famous jet. Its snap-together design means it takes less time to build the plane, leaving you with more time to enjoy it.
The Revell SnapTite F-16 Fighting Falcon is a scale model of the original fighter jet. Its SnapTite functionality is ranked at a level one, meaning builders 8 years and older are the ideal audience. It contains only 19 total parts. Once assembled, the plane measures 5 3/4 inches long with a wingspan of 4 1/16-inches.
Initially engineered as a day-mission only fighter aircraft, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has been upgraded mechanically and technologically since its virgin voyage in 1974. As of 2012, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has evolved into one of the world's most popular multi-purpose airplanes. It's capable of supersonic speeds, agile maneuverability and a relatively long range. Due to its comparative affordability, in addition to its aforementioned performance features, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has seen more than 4,450 of its brothers and sisters roll off the assembly line since production was approved in 1976. The model version of the F-16 includes structured surface details and waterslide decals.
This intelligently designed model kit is an ideal one for beginners and first-time model assemblers due to the pre-colored, snap-together parts that do not require any gluing or painting. The plastic parts are constructed, decorated and painted at the factory prior to packaging for retail sale. As a result, the parts, once assembled, are unmovable.
Because this kit is a snap-together design, the instructions are a little bit easier to follow than most model airplane instructions. Each step is presented with clear and concise verbiage, as well as with illustrations. Revell has a phone number and email address that goes directly to their support representatives, in case you run into trouble. You’ll also find FAQs and a service locater online.
The Revell SnapTite F-16 Fighting Falcon is the perfect model airplane for all ages. It is recommended for children 8 and above, and the snap-together design means it is simple to put together with no glue or paint required. Based on the original F-16 Fighting Falcon manufactured in the 1970s, this airplane model is sleek and modern.
Academy Nieuport 17 Review
Manufactured and distributed by the Academy Plastic Model Company, headquartered in Korea, the Nieuport 17 model airplane is a historically accurate replica of a famous allied fighter in World War I.
Once you have completed the assembly process for your new Academy Nieuport 17, you’ll be in awe at the replica’s sparkling sliver exterior and bold red, white and blue stripes. It is a 1/32 scale model of one of France's most famous allied fighters, flown by aces like Georges Guynemer. It is a decent-sized model, measuring approximately 6 3/4 inches in length with a wingspan of 10 inches. The skill level it takes to build the Nieuport model airplane is recommended for ages 10 and up.
The small biplane was manufactured in France, where it took flight for the very first time in 1916. From that virgin voyage, the fast and furious Nieuport 17 would go on to become one of the most famous allied fighter planes that fought in World War I. It had a single-seat cockpit and was powered by one double-bladed-propeller-driven engine. The replica does a good job of showcasing the fighter’s best features, with a detailed cockpit interior and engine compartment and two battle-ready machine guns affixed to the top of the biplane's upper wing. An authentic decal sheet is included with the model airplane kit.
The Academy Nieuport model airplane does require assembly. Once assembled, the included wheels do not move. However, the ailerons are molded in a way that allows you the choice of where to fix their position. Also, a thread intended to be used as support for the model's landing gear and wings is included.
The instructions that come with the Academy Nieuport 17 are clear and concise instructions with easy-to-follow pictures. This is good, because other assistance from the manufacturer is fairly limited. As a Korean-based company, Academy’s website is primarily in Korean. When you translate it to English, it doesn’t have very much content. You can download a user manual and high quality images of the Nieuport 17, but that’s about it. A Korean phone number and fax number are available to contact the company directly.
Academy Plastic Models has been making model airplanes like the Nieuport 17 for 41 years. The product is impeccably made, and when it's assembled, it is beautiful with its shiny silver exterior and red, white and blue bands. The model does the original WWI fighter justice, with an aesthetically pleasing and historically accurate exterior.