The Best Phantom Ejection Seats
For those modelers who want a truly detailed F-4 Phantom cockpit, if you are building in 1/72 scale, most out-of-the-box cockpits are not enough. The only truly detailed Phantom driver’s “office” I’ve seen in 1/72 was in the 1980's Monogram kit, and if Revell-Monogram has any marketing moxy, they will soon have these kits back on the market, even if only for a limited run. The only kit that comes close to the Monogram standard is Hasegawa’s F-4E, which provides raised detail on the instrument panels instead of the more common (at least for 1/72nd) decal. Even then, Hasegawa’s seats bear little resemblance to the actual Martin-Baker ejection seat used in the F-4.
Given the average level of detail in most 1/72 Phantoms, aftermarket seats are the way to go, for two reasons: Most manufacturers provide kit detail that gives only a perfunctory nod to what the F-4 cockpit actually looked like, and the seats are the most visible part of the cockpit once the model is completed. This article provides a side-by-side comparison of three aftermarket sets of Phantom seats, emphasizing cost, detail, and ease of construction: Aires, True Details, and Verlinden.
Go to the Source
Under ideal conditions, you can compare your model or aftermarket part to the real thing. In this case, I discovered an image of an F-4C ejection seat, circa 1966. This provided an excellent reference point when sizing up how realistic the aftermarket offerings are.
Aires’ Phantom seats are molded in beige resin and are painstakingly detailed. Alone among the aftermarket ejection seats for the Phantom, they include photo-etch (PE) parts and an illustration page on how to use them. Perhaps their best feature is that they include PE parts for the overhead ejection pull handles, which are among the most noticeable parts of the actual seat. Those who care should be aware that Aires’ seats lack the acute attention to seat strap detail to be found with other aftermarket manufacturers.
The Aires seat in profile shows the extent of the crisp detail.
Aires provide crystal clear instructions for placement of the photo-etch parts.
Aires provides an additional level of detail with its provision of photo-etch, including seat straps and overhead ejection pull handles.
True Details Martin Baker MK-7 seats - Kit No. 72407
True Details seats are molded in bone white resin and are advertised as suitable for the F-4 or late versions of the F-8 Crusader. They are even more highly detailed than Aires’ offering, with appropriately crisper molding, but unlike Aires they do not offer any parts representing the overhead ejection pull handles. A cautionary note: True Details’ seats are slightly bulkier than either the Aires or Verlinden examples, so either TD alone has the dimensions right, or they are slightly over-scale. They also come attached to a larger block of resin, and may be easier to saw free as a result.
True Details Phantom ejection seat in profile.
Verlinden Martin Baker Mk. 7 seats - Kit No. 0439
Verlinden seats come in a color that looks very close to RLM grey and are extremely well detailed. However, Verlinden is a bit misleading in that the pair of seats come in a box with a beautifully illustrated color photo showing expertly painted seats, complete with overhead ejection pull handles. The parts for the pull handles do not come with the kit, and there is no explanation -- the modeler must fashion the handles from wire, or, for the truly intrepid, stretched and bent sprue. What this kit lacks in arguably essential parts it makes up for with a first-rate painting guide in the form of the box illustration.
Verlinden sets the standard for packaging illustrations -- so good they can serve as a paint guide.
Whether you go for kit seats in your Phantom or spring for aftermarket resin is a matter of personal preference and how much you care about cockpit detail, most of which may not be visible. But of the makers of 1/72 Phantom ejection seats, those described here are among the very best. Each has its strengths and drawbacks, but no matter what, working with resin will require a bit more patience.
My preference among those detailed here is Aires, due to the provision of the overhead ejection pull handles, which are very visible as shown on an actual Phantom below. Those who aren't concerned about the handles or are willing to fashion them from wire will likely focus more on the quality of the individual mold in making a choice. Whatever your preference, Happy Modeling...