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BOOK REVIEW: How to Build Brick Airplanes by Peter Blackert

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Peter Blackert has released his follow-up book to How to Build Brick Cars. Now it is time to reach for the sky!

Title: How to Build Brick Airplanes
Subtitle: Detailed LEGO Designs for Jets, Bombers and Warbirds
Author: Peter Blackert
Year: 2018
Publisher: Quatro Publishing Group USA Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-7603-6164-1
Content: 192 full color pages.
Price: Around $17, depending on region.

I have had the pleasure to get a sneak peek into the instructions in the book and have built a small selection of the models to see what it was all about.

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In this review I will give you an overview of the content of the book and dive into the builds of a handful of models from it.

Content

After a brief introduction and a guide of how to use the instructions in the book, there are three sections of building instructions: "Miniplanes", "Intermediate" and "Advanced". There are 7 miniplanes, plus the one from the free teaser instructions for the mini Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird which I presented here. In the intermediate section there are 5 airplanes, plus separate instructions for three of the engines. In the advanced section you will find instructions for the very, very big models of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and P-38 Lightning. Instructions for the engines of the P-38 are presented separately and the full model uses more than 2000 parts! 

Instructions

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The building instructions, and especially the part layouts, have undegone some transformations since the previous book; Parts lists are now shown in white in an appendix:

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Parts and color are written in tables in another appendix. In the previous book the part were shown in full color right before instructions of the individual model. I personally prefer the old way because I'm lazy and don't want to match color codes to parts, but I can see the advantage of saving some space and have more clear part images (white with contrasting black outlines are extremely clear in print compared to, say, brown parts).

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The instructions are fairly easy to follow. They are extremely compact with many "do this for both right and left hand side" and other shortcuts to save page space. There were a couple of times where I had to rebuild a small section due to mistakes, and a 1x2 plate shown upside down can be taken for a 1x2 jumper plate, but otherwise it went smoothly.

Miniplanes: Fokker DR. 1

All models in the book are prefaced with an introduction that includes the history and other trivia. This first model you might know as "The Red Baron". A German triplane from The Great War flown by Baron von Richthofen. 

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The instructions are simple, taking up only a single page. I believe the model itself uses less than 100 parts, but even with this minimalistic design, Peter has managed to pack some clever details. 

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Details include how a 1x2 plate with clip serves as both the rear wing and rear landing gear, how the stabilisers between the wings are held using dual clips, and how 1x1 plates with pinholes are used for the front landing gear.

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The models in this section are a joy to build. I can build a complete model during the evening after work and the stand is reusable for all but the big B-2 bomber, which has found its way into this section.

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And remember you can always try out the teaser build:

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Intermediate: Mitsubishi A6M Zero

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When I was asked which model to build, the Zero was on the top of my list. I cannot remember the last time I saw one built in LEGO, so I could only imagine that it is not an easy model to get right. Please note that I failed to get some parts in the right colors. For this model the thin liftarm 5 for the landing gear have to be white, while the windscreen has to be transparent - not transparent black. Given how rare these parts are, (each both a available in two Star Wars sets), I believe the part substitution is forgivable.

It took me three evenings to build the model. It is designed in sections and you can remove the wings for storage. 

The engine has its own section in the book and can be built as a separate display piece. The high level of detail for the engine, however, has a downside. I have not been able to mount it properly onto the body of the plane. It droops a little and comes off easily when the model is upside down. I will have to look further into this.

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The interior is nicely detailed - the best among the planes I have built. There is both a seat, control stick and instrumentation. The cockpit can be opened, although I am not sure it is intended to (it doesn't open like this on the real planes). A nice detail in the building instructions (carried over from the car book) is that transparent parts are highlighted when building sections, such as the window.

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The wings have all the moving details of the real thing.

The ailerons move:

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And the elevators:

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And the rudder:

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The landing gear folds in and you can turn the 1x2 plates to lock them in place.

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Other details worth mentioning are how the curved slopes nicely form the curves of the fuselage, how the red pieces are mounted to form the red stripe on the tail, how the 9 sections around the engine connect and give it a very authentic appearance, how the cockpit window slopes a bit upwards like on the real airplane and how a 1x1 tile with pin should be used for the rear wheel. I have used a 1x1 plate instead, since I was unable to locate the correct part in black (transparent and gold seem plentiful).

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The building instructions show how to build the standard version of the Zero. It is up to you if you want to make the modification for the carrier version with folding wings.

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I think this is a truly beautiful model. I know Peter disagrees with me on this, but I can't think of a place in this model where he has 'cheapened out'. It is richly detailed, looks nice on display and I would have no problem having it on display at home despite of how it was used by the Japanese Empire during World War II.

Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II

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(Please note that it should not have olive green parts - I have failed to locate my dark gray ones)

Now this is a fun model! Compared to the zero, this model is a bit more stable. There are a couple of hinges which can be difficult to work without having to reassemble some pieces, but that is a very small price to pay for having the "STOVL" version of the F-35 on display.

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The building instructions show how to build 3 version of the F-35. Even though I messed up a bricklink order and received 1x2 plates with handle in gray instead of dark gray (and the big dark gray slope pieces have vanished from my collection), I still think this version works out and the end result is a beauty.

Here are a couple of screenshots from the book so you can see all the version - and in the correct colors:

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Let's start out with all functionality which you might expect from now on: All the wings can turn in fancy ways and the cockpit opens. The landing gear can even retract.

Here is some wing action:

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The party trick of this model is something out of the ordinary. Open the necessary panels and it can turn into 'almost vertical takeoff' mode:

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The way that the landing gear folds in is also really neat:

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The keen reader might have spotted that I have used 4x4 dark gray plates with cutouts instead of the 6x6 ones, but I am also willing to bet that most of you have not noticed it before I just mentioned it. The 6x6 plates are rare and if you want them in dark gray, new dark gray, they come at a hefty premium on BrickLink. The 4x4 plates work just as fine in a hurry and I do not even notice them... perhaps because of the big olive green parts.

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The book mentions a service for getting the stickers for the model. They look nice, but I have not yet fully researched how to get them. 

Advanced: Allison V-1710 V-12 Engine

Now it would have been great to have shown you the humongous 2000+ pieces P-38... but its two engines will have to do for now. The engines are standalone builds, just like the engine of the Zero. Here they are placed next to the Zero so you can get an idea of how big the model is going to be. I have had some trouble getting some of the yellow pieces for the rotors, but they should arrive by the time the model is finished.

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The engines have Technic V6 engines (V12 engines would be too big and non-technic engines wouldn't have the sweet moving pistons. I will update this thread with pictures once I finish this or other models.

Final Thoughts

When building cars from the previous book I was impressed with the mechanical solution packed away inside of the models. For the airplanes on this book I am even more impressed with the level of details shown throughout the models - even the small ones! It is simply more fun and rewarding to build these airplanes, than it was the cars. I can't tell you why. Maybe it is because of the modularity of the builds, or maybe it is simply because I'm not used to build airplanes.

While Peter claims that old and new gray and dark gray parts can be sued interchangeably, I believe some purists might disagree, and this is where it might become expensive. Please check out the part lists before you start one of the larger projects. Some parts are rare and expensive because they only came in few sets a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

I was given early access to the building instructions and have been promised a printed copy.

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Wow those are some great builds, along with a great review! Good luck finding the right colours for the planes!

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