Due to the lack of certain types of slopes and panels for flaps, rudders, wing edges and the like LEGO certainly isn’t the best way to pursue an aviation model hobby, but of course that doesn’t stop the company from trying just as it doesn’t stop me from almost instinctively buying every reasonably looking set of that type, especially since they are still relatively rare (not counting the many City helicopter and airplane sets here). The Futuristic Flyer (31086) set is no exception.
Admittedly this model wasn’t particularly high on my list. It has a distinct appeal, but at the same time there are some glaring shortcomings that were clear to me even just by looking at the package and marketing photos. I was quite a bit hesitant and only committed to the model after Jangbricks did a review on his YouTube channel that alleviated some of my concerns as well as showing some of the interesting technical details.
Naturally, the most stand-out feature are the forward-inclined wings. As a longtime aviation aficionado I could chew your ears off explaining the pros and cons of such a configuration, but suffice it to say that there are reasons we don’t see more aircraft of this type and it was and is more or less relegated to experimental planes like the old X-29 or as Jang mentions, the Sukhoij S-37 Berkut. On the model this is implemented quite ingeniously by locking the wings into place between some angled place using those small ball joints. The added benefit here is that the wings can be easily taken off for transport and clicked into place again when needed, allowing to use a smaller storage box.
The extra pieces depicted in the above photo are meant for the secondary and tertiary build, a sort of generic space fighter and a small Gundam-like mech. I haven’t really bothered with either, but at least the space vehicle seems on par with the jet in terms of complexity and quality while the robot really feels like a throwaway idea they just crammed in to get three overall models at all. It really doesn’t look that attractive and feels a bit out of place here.
Speaking of quality – that’s of course a relative term for a set with barely 150 pieces. That’s also why this set wasn’t a top priority initially. Unfortunately once you move on from the cleverly constructed middle section holding the wings, the rest of the model doesn’t really live up to that standard. To say it has been grossly simplified would be an understatement as it really feels like the nose and aft were just lumped on after the fact without much consideration. The nose is particularly disappointing as you just can feel how simple it potentially might have been to shape a gently sloped tip from a few different wedge plates and curved slopes.
The same can be said for the engine exhaust using the old plastic wheel. It completely ruins the otherwise sleek appearance. You know, it’s not like this hollow cone doesn’t exist, not to speak of even better solutions like dual exhaust pipes. Keen observers will also have noticed that the model sits terribly low. It’s simply propped up on some standard small wheel plates as commonly used for three-wheeler vehicles in City and Friends. It’s acceptable when you see this as a play item as it’s at least a stable solution, but of course could be improved.
My main takeaway from this set is that it offers some good ideas and inspiration, but the technical execution could have been done better in places. It’s once more a matter of 150 pieces vs. perhaps 200 pieces where those 50 extra parts could have made a huge difference for the better. Don’t misunderstand me: I understand this this is aimed at kids for playing first and foremost, but the missed opportunity of making this also a better displayable showcase model is still highly regrettable.