Sometimes fate just sets you up for something great without you realizing it. I keep an F-14 Tomcat (of VF-84) on my desk at work, and not long ago I noticed that I, or someone, had bumped the case it was in, thereby separating the Alpha probe from its place on the nose cone. Before I could remember to take in some glue to make my repair, an offer came out to the IPMS-USA Review Corps to evaluate this very item from a new Polish manufacturer called Master (typically referred to as Master-Models on other internet sites). I immediately requested this particular item, and was pleasantly surprised when I was given the ability to perform this review.
With this item, which is part of their Air Master line, you will receive both an Alpha probe as well as an Angle of Attack (or AOA) probe, which will work on any 1/72 scale F-14 kit (in my case, it was installed on a Hasegawa release). The probes are incredibly well detailed, and make a great difference in the appearance of the plane. The shape and size are true-to-scale, and they have well engineered attachment points on them, which makes installation a simple enough task (unless you cause problems for yourself as I did).
For the purpose of this review, I temporarily attached the original Alpha probe in order to show the comparison with the replacement part. If it looks a little off in the photograph, it was, but as it only needed to be on for a couple of minutes, I only wanted to show one probe against the other. My problem came as I attempted to drill out the nose cone for the new probe as I did not break one, but two carbide drill bits in the process. The moral of the story is that in the future I would start out with either the correct size drill bit (#72), or not start my pilot hole with as small of a bit. My little mistake led to a fair amount of time in repairing the damage, where the new probe would have fit perfectly had I not broken the bits (at lease it looked to be perfect when I set up next to the nose cone). I was more successful with installing the AOA probe as I simply cut off the original, drilled my hole, and installed the new part. My other tip is to be extremely cautious with the AOA probe as the sharp tip is easily bent (ask me how I know). I am not sure how I managed to do it, but I found a 90 degree bend in the probe tip as I removed it from the packaging. Fortunately, a little time and perseverance with the glass on my workbench and small-pointed tweezers remedied the situation.
I was very pleased with the end results, and I wish that I had used these probes during the original construction. I would absolutely recommend these detail parts for anyone wanting to take their Tomcat to the next level with detail, but would also recommend that the person have some experience with small detail parts in order to save any frustration. Another word of caution is that the AOA probe tubular body is also part of the attachment point, so check your references to set the correct depth, or leave the correct amount showing, depending on how you look at it.
As far as my hits with this item are concerned, the level of detail is just amazing for such a small scale, and with some time and patience on the part of the modeler will add some fantastic detail to your Tomcat. I have no misses with this item as any problems that I encountered were strictly self-imposed. I will personally be keeping my eyes open for these products in the future for some of those kits that I have sitting in my stash patiently waiting their turn on the bench.
Before I finish, I would also like to mention that the Master web page does a great job of showing their various products nicely magnified. They also have links to both wholesale and retail carriers of their products in several countries, including the USA. Although the text is in Polish, it was not too difficult to maneuver my way around the site where they also have photographs of some of their products installed on models.
My thanks go out to the folks at Master for providing samples like mine to IPMS-USA for review, in particular this set, and thanks to you for taking the time to read my comments.