promotex online - articles   checkout | index
 the largest selection of herpa, herpa wings, wooster and promotex models online

The Models of September 11

October  1, 2001, by Bill Cawthon

We humans sometimes seem to be drawn to tragedy. You’re familiar with the everyday phenomenon of drivers slowing to a crawl as they pass the scene of an accident, even if it’s not blocking their way. And look at the endless fascination with the Titanic, although it is certainly not the worst maritime disaster in history. That’s how it will be with the events of September 11, 2001.

I have no intention of minimizing the terrible events of that Tuesday. The thousands of casualties, the massive destruction and the terrible shock to the soul of a nation surpass the capability of words to encompass. Like many, I was concerned for a friend’s safety. Like many, I watched in shock and sorrow as the events unfolded. It was truly a day where our world changed. In a way, America learned about its own mortality.

Whether one is interested in them as a memento of the day, a curiosity or just because of our very human attraction to the accidents and incidents that shape our psyches, there are models of the vehicles involved. Just as there are numerous models of the Titanic, Lusitania and other lost ships, there are model planes from Herpa and Dragon to match some of the real aircraft involved in the terrorist attacks. As of the writing of this column, none of the Wooster models is a match, although one is close.

To help you save some time, I did a bit of research. Using the model listings from the Promotex Online catalog and Herpa Wings catalog, I compared them to the aircraft data in preliminary crash reports from the Federal Aviation Administration and information posted on the Aviation Safety Network, an international web site that tracks details of airline crashes and other mishaps. Here are the models of September 11:

American Airlines flight 11 (Boston to Los Angeles) crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower at 8:45 AM Eastern Time. All 92 passengers and crew lost. This was a Boeing 767-223ER, registration N334AA, built in 1987. Dragon Wings 155170 is a both the correct aircraft and livery. Herpa Wings 504294 is a model of a 767-200 in current American Airlines colors. While not the exact variant, it is the correct class of plane and correct paint scheme. Wooster 605519 is a 767 in American colors, but it is a 767-300, a larger plane.

United Airlines flight 175 (Boston to Los Angeles) crashed into the World Trade Center’s South Tower at 9:03 AM Eastern Time. All 65 passengers and crew lost. United 175 was also a Boeing 767-200, but the 767-222 variant, registration N612UA, built in 1983. Dragon Wings 155160 is a 767-200 in modern United Airlines colors and is the closest match. There are two other United 767s in the Dragon Wings catalog, but both are incorrect. Dragon 155204 is a 767-222, like the real plane on flight 175, but it is finished in United’s older paint scheme (in fairness, it must be noted that in N612UA’s long career, it did wear the colors of the Dragon model. However, it had been repainted in United’s current style before the crash). Dragon 155186 is a 767-300 in modern United colors, but as mentioned above, it is the wrong version of the 767. The 767-300 is 21’ 1” longer than the 767-200.

American Airlines flight 77 (Washington-Dulles to Los Angeles) crashed into the Pentagon at 9:40 AM Eastern time. All 64 passengers and crew lost. The plane was a Boeing 757-223, registration N644AA, built in 1991. By an almost uncanny twist of fate, a new model of the American Airlines 757-200 is among the Herpa Wings releases for October 2001. Wings model 512718 carries registration number N645AA. The prototype for this new model was the plane registered immediately after the one that was crashed into the Pentagon (N644AA). Sometimes coincidence strains the bounds of credibility, but chance is the only explanation. As Andreas Spector, Herpa Wing’s Customer Service Manager, said, “I knew this kinda stuff would come.” It certainly isn’t pleasant for anyone to realize an item created for innocent pleasure is forever linked to disaster by circumstances completely beyond their control.

Herpa Wings 503846 is also an American Airlines 757-200, but in the “Lightning Bolt” livery, which is incorrect.

The last of the hijacked aircraft was United Airlines flight 93 (Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco). Apparently, some passengers sought to regain control of the plane from the hijackers. Whatever occurred, the plane did not reach either its scheduled destination or its intended target. It crashed into a field near Somerset in western Pennsylvania at 10:00 AM Eastern time. Flight 93 was another Boeing 757, this time a 757-222, registration N591UA, built in 1996. There are no current models in the Herpa, Dragon or Wooster lines for this plane. Ironically, a group of aviation buffs had photographed this exact jetliner at the Newark International Airport, just three days before its final flight.

While we will associate these planes with misfortune for a time, it is actually unfair. They really are good aircraft. As you may already know from the news reports, the 757 and 767 share a type rating, allowing a pilot certified on one to fly the other without recertification. This is a great benefit to airlines, allowing them more flexibility to schedule aircraft and crews to match the traffic. They are also very efficient people haulers, providing some of the lowest per-passenger-mile costs in the industry. And they are also among the safest. Hull loss percentages (this is where the aircraft is so badly damaged that it is written off as a total loss) for the 757 and 767 are among the lowest for any commercial aircraft in history.

The Boeing 767 first flew in 1981. In its 20-year history, Boeing has built more than eight hundred thirty-five 767s of various kinds. They have flown countless millions of miles. In that time, there have been a total of eight incidents where the plane was damaged beyond repair and that includes both the planes involved in the attacks on New York and two that were damaged on the ground during the Gulf War. Not one incident was caused by a failure of the aircraft, although two were traced to improper maintenance.

The 757 made its first flight in 1982. Boeing has built over nine hundred sixty-six 757s and there have only been seven incidents in which the plane was totaled. Once again, not a single life has been lost due to a failure of the aircraft.

Compare those figures with the 737, a little plane we see everywhere and the best-selling airliner in commercial aviation history. In the thirty-four years since its first flight, there have been more than one hundred hull loss incidents. Of course, Boeing has built nearly four thousand 737s, so the odds are still pretty darn good. I flew on a 737-500 both ways when I took my recent trip to Chicago (see last column). The plane was quite comfortable and I was quite happy with United, too. I wish there was a Herpa Wings model of a 737-500 in United’s modern livery.

One last thought: If you decide to add these models to your collection, why not set aside an amount equal to your purchase as a donation to the American Red Cross or other worthwhile charity? The need is just beginning; we focus on the grief of those who lost loved ones, but they and thousands of others have have been left without support or jobs and they well may suffer from these losses for years to come. The Red Cross is stepping in right now to help with the immediate needs while the City recovers.

By giving, your collection additions can also be a memorial with meaning. I donated an amount equal to what I receive for this column shortly after I finished the first draft.

- Bill Cawthon

Bill Cawthon is an award-winning modeller and collector. His primary modeling interests are model railroading and vehicle models in 1:87 and 1:160 scales. He has written numerous articles for regional and division NMRA publications and is a contributor to the newsletter of the 1-87 Vehicle Club. He follows both the automobile industry and the European scale vehicle industry.

In real life, Bill is a full-time marketing and public relations consultant for the high-tech industry. He lives in Houston, Texas with his wife and four children.

Bill writes bi-weekly for Promotex Online. To learn more about him, click here.


home | checkout | pricelists | search | contact

published by Cadabra Corp. This page was lasted updated: October 12, 2005