Last modified: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 8:32 PM



"My hair has fallen down and can't get up! Repeat, my hair has fallen down and can't get up!"

I haven't been a rabid toy buyer lately. At the homestead, there's a scarcity of free space, and despite the fact that so much quality stuff is out there, I find very little of it to be attractive enough for me to shell out the bucks. It's not because the stuff is funky-- not long ago, I probably would have bitten. But something's changed... Oversaturation. There's too much choice and I've become very selective about what I'll allow to occupy valuable shelf space. Heck, I haven't bought a Dragon German set in a while, and even passed on their Svetlana/Eve 2 figure. Hey, that's a femfig! Hard to believe, huh?

This BBI aviator isn't a recent release, which in today's world means it's at least a few months old... I haven't followed the cascades of figure releases carefully, but BBI's was one of the first aviators that caught my eye. Dragon's since followed and who knows how many more aviator variations we'll see before this genre dulls our senses as "Special Ops-fatigue" did to mine? I didn't buy it when it first came out because it just didn't fit in with my collection, and I didn't want to get sucked into collecting an endless variety of figures from that genre. But one figure by itself would seem so lonely...

BBI's F-15 cockpit changed all that: it's really cool. One figure and a cockpit gives you a sense of completion, and gives you a place to stop. (Well... BBI also makes some flight jackets and helmets... just in case you want a little more.) So I ordered the cockpit, and then ordered the pilot. Thanks to War Toys and Priority Mail, the pilot arrived quickly.

I wasn't disappointed. This is my first "true" BBI figure so I didn't know what to expect (I think of BBI as being the distributor of Takara's Cy Girls rather than the producer). Frankly, the last Cy Girl I bought didn't evoke much excitement, since it was just a variation on the formula. But this sucker's detail rich as you can see from the pictures. I haven't been so impressed with a new figure in quite a while; for me, that's probably due to the novelty of the subject matter.

Once again, I must confess that I am not an "expert". I know almost nothing about aviators and this genre. But that's the whole point for some of us. A figure like this gives you a starting point and reason to begin reading. Is it accurate? I can't say. But the eye-appeal is great. I chose BBI's over Dragon's F-15E Night Strike Eagle pilot because it looked more like I expected a pilot to look. (The head is certainly less hideous.)

I can comment on a few things however. The quality of the tailored goods is outstanding, and on par with Dragon's during their heyday. There are a number of zippered and velcro'd areas; despite being out of scale (as such things always are), they don't look too awful. The oversized zipper are less obtrusive because of the dark colors and all the detail on the outfit. The die-cast buckles and fasteners are well-used; they're functional rather than gimmicky, and give an appropriate appearance. An neat detailing first (to my knowledge) is the tags inside the flightsuit and vest: they don't say "Made in China". They're miniature versions of tags found on real military stuff (see pic at bottom), except with peculiar typos, LOL.

BBI shot their wad on the outfit, which to me, seems understandable and acceptable. There's nothing new here-- the figure is rather humdrum and doesn't meet the same quality standards as the stuff it's wearing. Yes, it's a modern gang-hinged figure, but the joints have those annoying click-stops. A rotational bicep joint on mine was loose, indicating to me that they didn't spend a lot of effort on materials selection for long-wearing joints. One of the knee hinges seemed to be glued at one end-- not the kind of thing you want to force unless you're willing to undertake a repair operation. I'd rate it as comparable in quality to the "Outstanding Articulation" SOTW figure. Like I said, this seems acceptable. The focus is on the outfit, and putting a cheap-ass figure underneath is one way to make the figure's pricing palatable.

As you can see, they give you several replacement hands. The glove hands are near clones of Dragon's, although the pegs are shorter and therefore are not directly interchangeable. I suppose this means that they will probably offer hand sets? The watch (below) doesn't really fit very well squeezed underneath the thick edge of the glove hand.

The molded goods are part of the "outfit" and are equally well done. The quality of the helmet and mask is apparent from the picture at the top. Granted, the tinted visor and decalled helmet shown on the packaging would have been nice, but optional helmet sets are available, and tinting is probably easy with some Tamiya clear paint. The sunglasses are okay, but bulky-- hard plastic is a poor substitute for metal when making thin frames. The boots are solid black and well detailed with what's probably an authentic pattern on the soles.

The revolver is cool. As you can see, you can chamber rounds; 12 are supplied on a gold sprue. This is a pretty absurd level of detail, and gives you an idea of how radical the competition has gotten in 1/6th scale figures. The autoloader is kinda perfunctory-- but I suppose they felt they needed to increase the parts count? The watch is nicely done and has a raised magnifying hump for the date on the crystal bezel. You also get a Strobe Marker which you can conveniently hide and forget in one the vest pockets.

An accessory not shown here in detail is the zippered helmet bag. It's great that they provided this since it gives you a place to stash all the extra hands, visor cover, spare bullet sprue and stuff which doesn't fit on the figure. Just like in the real world, where you never know when you'll have to whip out your Thumbs Up hand sign.

There aren't very many weaknesses that I can comment on, outside the unknown issue of authenticity. The only thing I encountered that "didn't work" was the helmet's chinstrap attachment. It's made of molded rubber, and as we've seen from other manufacturers, rubber pins are not rigid enough to hold parts in place when they're stretched. With the facemask on, it's really a moot point though.

An "extra" that's provided is their figure stand, a high-tech fufu-ish looking thing using ganged acrylic ball joints for the support spine. It's a neat mechanism which might have some interesting kit-bashing potential. Although the figure appears to be able to stand unassisted, mine will end up sitting in a cockpit. Even without that though, it's common knowledge that manly figures stand on their own two feet, right? ;^)




ADDENDUM, 09/16/01

As I've said, I'm not an expert or authority on this kind of stuff, but that doesn't prevent me from buying books written by people who are. Bone Domes & Speed Jeans (by Hans & Mike Halberstadt, 1995/Windrow & Greene Ltd. ISBN 1 85915 081 0) delivers lots of color photographs punctuated by a very readable commentary on the fighter jock's equipment and its uses. It's an interesting read about an interesting subject-- especially the split-second sequence of events that occurs after a pilot pulls the Eject handle! Knowing a little bit about your stuff always enhances your appreciation of it.

BBI's rendition appear to be faithful to the 1:1 scale patterns, within the usual limitations which we accept: A 1:1 scale fabric isn't ever going to look 1:6 scale. As mentioned above, this is especially true of velcro and zippers. That extends to things like the rubber boots and gloves, which are a compromise between practical functionality as a toy to be mass-produced and capturing the general look of authenticity.

A die-hard customizer could improve some of these details-- for example, making fitted leather boots and nomex/leather gloves over hands. Trimming the name badge slightly. Transferring the iron-on patches to fabric and gluing them in place (so you could remove them later). Remaking the sunglasses in wire. The figure's head, particularly the hair, could be vastly improved with a little work. This is the kind of stuff you do if you're seriously bored or severely anal-retentive.

DIY wire-rim sunglasses
Bend 2 pieces of 26 gauge wire to left & right lens shapes with temple pieces. Cut top support segment. Bend & cut short nose piece. Solder top support & nose pieces to lens frames. Fit to head, trim and bend ear pieces. Heat-form clear plastic sheet over convex curvature. Trace & cut lens shapes. Superglue lenses to back of frame. Coat eye side of lenses with Tamiya clear Smoke paint. (Gosh... recipes make it sound so easy, LOL!)

(Wire sunglasses... I was bored and in an anal retentive mood.)

For the benefit of those who care about the military equipment ID numbers, here's a short list of the main stuff provided in BBI's set (taken from the miniature tags or ID'd from the book):

  • Coveralls, CWU-27P
  • Life Preserver, LPU-10P
  • Mesh Vest, SRU-21/P
  • Oxygen Mask, MBU-5/P
  • Helmet, HGU-55/P
  • Strobe Marker, SDU-5E

A notable omission from the set is the PRC-90 Rescue Radio; this is a pretty important piece of survival equipment, after all.

From browsing the BD&SJ book, it appears that there are a lot of local variations to a fighter jock's gear; buying BBI's F-18 aviator would expand your choice of equipment. But then you'd have two figures. And then you'd probably want to get Dragon's stuff... And then... Arrrrrgh. That's how it gets started, and before you know it, you're drowning in this stuff! Beware...



Review: DML's F-14 Pilot     Review: BBI's F-15 Cockpit