KIT:  OKB-144 Tupolev Tu-104A, 1/144th scale
KIT # 101
PRICE: $20.00
DECALS: 3 Soviet aircraft
REVIEW & PHOTOS BY: Andrew Abshier
NOTES: First kit by this manufacturer



On March 22, 1956, KGB Colonel Serov arrived in London on a Tu-104 to lay the groundwork for a state visit by Premier Khrushchev.   The appearance of the Soviet Union's first jet stunned the aviation world, particularly since the West's only jetliner, the De Havilland Comet, had been grounded for several years due to structural problems.

Like Boeing did with the 307 Stratoliner, 377 Stratocruiser, and Boeing 707, Tupolev developed their first jet from a military design, the Tu-16 'Badger'.  First flight was in 1955; domestic service with Tu-104s commenced in September of that year.  International service to the West commenced in 1958 with the improved Tu-104A.   These aircraft served on airline routes until the early 80s, when they were replaced by the improved Tu-134 and Tu-154 aircraft.  Several Tu-104s continued in service in various roles, including cosmonaut training, until the late 1980s.


Those of us of a certain age may recall the few model kits we saw from the Soviet era.  Although this is a brand-new kit, it harkens back to those days in many respects.  This is limited-run injection molding the old-fashioned way, with loads of flash everywhere!

On second look, the kit didn't seem too bad.  Surface detail is very finely raised lines.  The overall outline looks accurate, based on the photos I have, and the control surface detail, at least, looks very good.   Those really high windows on the fuselage are wrong, but with the windows being perfectly circular, fixing it shouldn't be bad.

No interior detail is provided at all,  Normally this isn't an issue in 1/144th scale, but with the Tu-104's "greenhouse" canopy it would be worth adding at least some seats to the cockpit.  The landing gear is a bit basic but OK, and the wheels are fine.  Best of all, OKB-144 included a sheet of brass for a number of the details, including landing gear doors, turbine faces, and the wing leading edge inside the engine intakes.  Wing fences and landing gear retractor arms are included also.

The clear parts include the cockpit windows, navigator's nose bubble (not a bombardier's station, though it looks like one), and all cabin windows.  Molding is so-so; they will need some polishing and a coat of Future before being put on the model.

As for how this kit will go together, you're going to have to work for a good result.  Not only are no wheel wells provided, the gear doors are molded in the closed position, so they will have to be opened up by the modeler if he/she wants a gear-down Tu-104.  No locator pins or sockets are given, even for the landing gear, so that will have to be addressed as well.  The instructions are in exploded view format and are fairly clear on what goes where, and it does include several views so that the wing and stabilizer dihedral can be set correctly.  The color call-outs are in generic colors, with no color matches to FS595 or any paint brand.  In reality colors on these aircraft were seldom standardized, so the TLAR method (That Looks About Right) will be needed here to get the colors on!


Decals actually look good!  The decal stock looks thin,  and the printing is on-register.  Markings for three aircraft are given:

1.  SSSR-42387: Aeroflot italicised titles, actually a VVS aircraft used as Marshal Zhukov's personal aircraft.
2.  SSSR-L5421: Aeroflot upright titles, a civil airliner used to set several world records in 1957
3.  86601302, red 48: VVS aircraft based at Chkalovskaya

Those building an Aeroflot-marked Tu-104 prior to about 1968 or so should remove the black door outlines, as these were not mandated until the late 1960s.


Probably the best way to approach this kit is to think of it as a vacuform kit that already has the parts cut out and (mostly) sanded for you!  On those terms, this kit looks fairly good.  It is nice to finally have some kits of the important Soviet airliners of the past and present coming out of the former Soviet union, but I would like to see the quality improve.


Robert J. Ruffle, "Tupolev Tu-104", Airliners magazine, Spring 1990 issue: authorotative article by a known Soviet aviation expert that includes a number of good photos of the type.  This issue is now hard to find, however.