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20 July 2015

Fire to Your Plane

Following his exhaustive review of new Technic parts in the winter sets earlier this year, Ryan W. (merman) returns today to review an upcoming summer set; 42040 Fire Plane. At time of writing, prices have not been officially announced.

Traditionally, August is an exciting month for Technic fans, since it marks the release of the summer line-up with the big, spectacular sets. Official pictures usually show in the early months of the new year when the international toy fairs take place. So the times they are a-changing: I recall flipping through paper catalogues when I was a kid and going to the final pages with the Technic section as fast as my eager fingers possibly could. Those were the times without the world wide web. What Billund had in store in the field of Technic was a surprise until the catalogue arrived at the toy store. I remember salivating over the look of set 8880 black Super Car, knowing my parents would never get me one. And to this day I've never built it.

2015 has been a pretty good year so far already, with an impressive amount of small sets in the first half of the year. And with an even more impressive amount of new parts, as I reviewed for New Elementary some months ago. We hope to bring you a review of this year’s flagship, the impressive 42043 Mercedes Arocs 324 in the upcoming weeks. But to warm you up a little (pun intended), we start with the 42040 Fire Plane.


This was the set that was kept hidden from the general public the longest, since everybody was focused on the Arocs and 42042 Crawler Crane. The Fire Plane however is a charming set, of average size that may lack new parts, but that is loaded with functions. It has an impressive amount of usable panels and also provides younger builders an excellent lesson in the basics of studying building techniques, gear and movement transmission and even a bit of good old geometry. This review will mainly focus on the building experience.

Judging a Box by Its Cover


Technic boxes have become a bit more adventurous in layout, not simply showing the main model with a studless brick background. The box of 42020 shows the plane in full flight (maybe wrongfully suggesting the propellors are motorized due to the added swooshing effect) with cliffs and the shore on the background. There are even some red sparks visible, which is a sweet touch. In the bottom right corner there is an inset demonstrating the plane’s main functions.

The back of the box shows the ‘water’ dispension function (simulated by eight Bricks Round 2 x 2 (Design ID 6143) in Trans Light-Blue [TLG/BL]) in more detail as well as the B-model, a Jet Plane with separate fueling compartment.


The white and red plane comes in a moderately sized box measuring 38 x 26 x 7 cm. With the exclusive sets our beloved Danes have started using boxes that can easily be opened by cutting the tape at the sides, therefore allowing the builder to flatten and store them. A box which opens more easily may have the disadvantage that its contents may be stolen more easily. Even smaller Creator sets now have these boxes, but alas, the Fire Plane’s cannot be flattened. That was somewhat of a disappointment, considering the other two summer set have boxes that can be flattened. But I have my way of opening a box such as this one without having to damage it too much.

It’s the Inside That Counts


Once opened the box is about two thirds filled with tangible, mostly buildable stuff, with the remaining third consisting of Billund air. We find two tightly sealed booklets (that’s the non-buildable part), one for each model accompanied by a sticker sheet of regular quality. The gold touch of the Phoenix logo is worth mentioning, but I never use decals on Technic set, because I want to use the parts for MOCs and other projects.



Now that Technic instructions no longer are divided into several booklets, the cardboard protection also has been removed. That is okay, since sealed instructions do not tend to bend or tear very easily. This set is also the only one of the second 2015 wave that contains printed instructions for two models. So you do not have to bring your laptop or tablet to build the Jet Plane, something I wholeheartedly applaud.

There are seven unnumbered bags of several sizes. The biggest one holds all the panels and some studless beams, while the smallest bag contains only black pins. The total number of parts of the Fire Plane is 578. The general part distribution is: 21 panels, 9 gears, 64 axles, 221 pins and 263 beams, connectors and other parts.This confirms the widespread assumption that Technic sets are comprised of half pins and axles. But hey, it’s the glue that holds it together.

The Specials


Even though this set does not contain any new parts, it does have a staggering amount of useful panels. This new family of panels, called the third generation, was introduced in 2009 and are by far my favorite. Their look is slick and streamlined and I love how they can be combined. 


The Fire Plane marks the first set that has the Panel with Angle [Design ID 18945] in White, a new type of panel that was introduced in this year’s 42035 Mining Truck. You get the impressive amount of seven of these, which is a real treat. Other interesting parts include two Cylinder pieces [Design ID 2850], three Propeller Blades [Element ID 4651820] and two Pin Connectors Round with Slot [Design ID 62462] in Cool Silver [TLG]/Metallic Silver [BL] rather than the bland (and, if you ask me, rather unattractive) Silver Metallic [TLG]/Flat Silver [BL].

Let the Build Commence


Enough with the talking, let’s build the plane!

The fun starts with the undercarriage. Nothing spectacular though, but I always like the way the Pythagorean properties of the Technic Liftarm 1 x 9 Bend (6 - 4) [Design ID 32348] are used. Here these liftarms are used to make the steps for entering the cabin. There are a total number of four wheels hidden behind the panels of the undercarriage. The small ones are added at the early stages of the build.

If we can even pinpoint a trend of the second wave Technic models of this year then it would be that the engine is built in the first few steps. (Same goes for the Mercedes Arocs, which we will demonstrate in a later review.) The addition of a fake engine with two opposite cylinders is a nice touch - the designers could have done without it, but it is an educational introduction to the system that is used in most sophisticated Technic sets. It is also intriguing for kids to see things move. I am glad to see LEGO® improved the shade of yellow of Engine Pistons Round [Element ID 4112203], because in the near past these were almost orange. I also noticed this improvement in my Arocs set. Unfortunately, the Engine Crankshaft piece [Element ID 4119474] tend to become darker yellow, almost orange. These parts are made of softer ABS, making it harder to get the colours right.

At first I wasn’t sure why the designer used two different types of liftarms near the engine block. At the top we see two red Liftarms 1 x 2 Thin [Design ID 41677] meant to fix the axle, but at the bottom there is a black Liftarm 1 x 2 Thick with Pin Hole and Axle Hole [Design ID 60483]. Even though this set-up is flipped upside down eventually, the use of two different types of liftarms is unclear. Admittedly, it saves one part and maybe it serves a specific purpose for the Jet Plane. The two exhaust pipes are an aesthetically pleasing detail. The engine section is completed with two red panels and then mounted onto the undercarriage.

There is not much gearing going on in the Fire Plane, but there we get some transmission lessons for engineers-to-be when the front wheels are mounted and connected to the rest of the assembly with the use of some Technic brackets. There is no gear reduction because all gears used are either single- or double-beveled 12 tooth gears. The bottom section is finished by the use of six white panels to cover up the wheels.

Next are the sides of the airplane, which bring the potential danger of boredom kicking in. Fortunately the two sides of the plane lack symmetry, so lack of repetition is guaranteed. One side is very different from the other, because it holds a mechanism for opening the cargo door. The door is held in place by a white rubber band and a Sand Yellow [TLG]/Dark Tan [BL] Technic Axle 5 with Stop [Element ID 6055631] which can be pushed to open it. A very effective and clever mechanism!

By far the most fun part of this build - which has been pretty entertaining and interesting so far - is the tail and wing section. This is where a lot of mechanisms work together in a small space. The techniques used here reminded me a lot of what was worked into 2009’s 8263 Snow Groomer and last year’s 42025 Cargo Plane. A transmission stick is used to allow movement in four directions. Turning it forwards or backwards operates the elevator flaps of the tail wings. Moving it sideways makes the ailerons of the wings move with the use of black Knob Wheels [Element ID 4248204]. The tail rudder can be moved manually. This is illustrative of the imagination and eye for detail of set designer Milan Reindl, who was an AFOL before he joined the Billund Technic team. He really tried to creep in as many functions as possible in a medium sized set like this one.

In the final stages the wing and tail section is attached to the rest of the build. The front window is formed by two black Axle and Pin Connector Toggle Joints [Element ID 4660886] that are basically attached to... nothing. Not a very satisfying solution, although I do not know how else to fix this. The back sides of the plane are formed by two of the new trapezoid panels and fixed in the back by two black rubber Axle Connectors Double Flexible [Element ID 4198367]. A fairly neat solution, considering the fact the sides of the plane run one stud offset towards the back of the tail. At the final stages the supports for the wings are constructed. This is not a perfect Pythagorean triangle. To be precise: there is an extra 0.08 stud that lifts the wings just a wee bit higher. Not noticeable with the bare eye and though not perfect, it is an acceptable construction nonetheless that hardly stresses the Technic liftarms.

I Love It When a Plane Comes Together


The left-over parts are nothing to write home about. In fact, when opening the sealed bags of a set I make a game out of keeping the spare parts separate. I always get it right and actually I never miss one of these small parts. In the case I miss something (which occasionally happens) it is always a bigger, heavier part.


The plane looks amazing from all angles and even without the stickers this is a very handsome looking plane, very close to its real life counterpart. The build is straightforward but entertaining, without too much repetition. The instructions are easy to follow and I am glad LEGO has now made a good distinction between Black and Stone Grey [TLG]/Dark Bluish Grey [BL] thanks to the use of white outlines. Although there is not much red in this set I did not notice any remarkable unwanted colour varieties. Same goes for the white parts, even though this usually occurs in regular bricks and plates, types of parts that are not present in this set.



The Fire Plane lacks open spaces, courtesy of the wide array of panels used. Aside from the formation of the front window and the steps that lead to the cabin, nothing looks unfinished or rushed. For a medium-priced set your household gets a cute and satisfying set that teaches you (or your offspring) the basics of aircraft engineering. And most important of all: it is extremely swooshable!

Here is a list of all the functions:
  • opening the roof allows you to access the cargo door
  • a lever on the roof can be pushed to unload the cargo (the eight ‘water bricks’ included)
  • moving the plane makes the fake engine pistons move and the propellor rotate
  • moving the back lever forwards or backwards actuate the elevator flaps of the tail wings
  • turning the lever sideways causes the wing ailerons to move
  • manual adjusting of the tail rudder



Our thanks to the LEGO Community & Events Engagement Team for providing this set, which is released in August. Consider using our affiliate links to buy it (or anything); this helps support New Elementary!



10 comments:

  1. ....I just can't learn to love Technic. Am I a bad person???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, but it's nothing to do with the Technic.

      Delete
  2. None of the parts in this set should be Cool Silver—that color (a very pale, washed out silver) was both introduced and retired in 2006. Cool Silver, Drum Lacquered is probably what you mistook the parts in question for, but it too only lasted until 2011. The parts you refer too actually ARE Silver Metallic, one of the purest silver plastic colors we've had in Lego (and not to be confused with the older, less attractive 131 Silver, which Bricklink ALSO calls Flat Silver).

    I'm a big fan of the generation three Technic panels, which are much more versatile and attractive than the bulging generation two panels. Interestingly, the generation three panels actually got their start in the 2008 Bionicle vehicle sets. I'd love to see new Bionicle vehicles that can take advantage of the major strides the Technic theme has undergone in recent years!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those connectors might also be Silver Ink, the color that replaced Cool Silver, Drum Lacquered. They do come in that color: http://brickset.com/parts/6051386

      What's the Element ID listed for those connectors in the inventory in the back of the instruction manual?

      Delete
    2. My bad. I forgot about Silver Ink. That's probably more likely, considering it was also used in 42033 Record Breaker this year.

      It's weird how one part can exist in two silver colors that are so similar during the same period of time. I have some in Silver Metallic from last year's MetalBeard's Sea Cow.

      Delete
  3. Boy, I am so glad this set has instructions for both models. It annoys me so much when an alternative model looks really neat & and I can't build it right away! You know, every set with an alternative model used to have instructions for both, even 8880 Super Car. Why can't they do that any more?
    --Chaz Fairbanks

    ReplyDelete
  4. It seems like there are 2 different basic types of silver, the drum lacquered shinier silver that is a base color coated with silver paint and the perl silver which has the silver mixed into the plastic. Then LEGO has had multiple variants of both styles over the years as they tweak the exact pigment they are using.

    There is also the chrome silver (the really expensive really shiny stuff) but they dont seem to use that anymore (because of its cost no doubt)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I doubt the disuse of chrome silver is due to cost—after all, they still use chrome gold for coins and such.

      I think a bigger part of it was how nasty and damaged it tended to get. Take the classic chromed swords and lightsaber handles—when minifigures would grip them it had the chance of scratching the finish and leaving an unsightly blemish. The same applied to any sort of regular use—they could take a lot of damage just sifting through a bin of assorted parts. Drum lacquered parts, from what I've seen, tend to be more durable and don't show scratches as easily, while silver plastic formulations hardly show scratches at all (due to being the same color throughout).

      Personally I'm a big fan of the current silver plastic color, Silver Metallic, which is a heck of a lot better than past silver plastic colors, being less inconsistent, shinier, and purer in hue. I'm okay with Silver Ink, which is almost the same color as Silver Metallic (though it's not a perfect match and is generally rarer). I don't generally like Chrome Silver, which can look okay on display pieces but tends to look too shiny for anything duller than actual chrome or polished silver, and is very susceptible to scratches and other damage.

      Delete
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