As a major manufacturer of model aircraft it was natural for Airfix to also make ground and air crew to go with them. This set followed on from the successful World War II British, American and German ground crew sets, and was the only one Airfix made for post-war aircraft. It was also the last ground crew set they made.
These figures were designed at the start of the eighties, and this is most obviously illustrated by the fact that most are wearing NBC ('Nuclear-Biological-Chemical') protective suits. At the time NATO's main effort was defence from attack from Eastern Europe, and any or all of these types of warfare could reasonably have been expected if such an attack ever came. Today the World is a very different place, and such suits are seldom seen, at least in public, though of course the dangers they address are as real as ever. However they do make the job of reviewing easier, since they cover the uniform and make accuracy fairly easy. Having said that, all examples we could find of such suits had several pockets whereas none of these have anything of the sort, which seems unlikely. Ankles and wrists are correctly bound tight, and hoods are snugly held round the gas mask. The armed men wear a helmet over their protective suit, which looks to be the British Mk4 or similar, and so appropriate for the date, although this would be replaced over the following decade. The respirator looks to be the S6, which again is a British item that was current in 1980. Those not in NBC suits are properly sculpted, including the pilot.
The ground crew carry a variety of tools of the trade, but the three guard poses in the bottom row carry a version of the FN FAL battle rifle. This is a good choice as this weapon was used by many NATO countries at this time, allowing these figures to be usable for several nationalities.
The inclusion of the guards means there are fewer aircrew poses than normal, though in general the poses are all reasonable. However we felt the man with paddles should be wearing more protective clothing, and not just his casual uniform. The purpose of the crouching radio-operator was not apparent in a set such as this, but the guard with dog is a nice piece.
All the later Airfix figures are beautifully sculpted, and these are as good as any. Great proportions and realistic folds in clothing, and no flash worthy of the name. What detail is required on such relatively simple figures is all present and well done, so for example the weapons are nice and clear, while the helmets with their camouflage material are particularly good.
Not perhaps the most exciting subject in the hobby, this is still a very attractive set, despite our misgivings about the design of the suits. Despite the title you get rather fewer ground crew figures than might be expected, but the guard figures are well-made and for some will offer possibilities that make the set more appealing.