Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Every cloud.....

I'm not a fan of flying. The motion makes me want to throw up, and I don't like the air conditioning, the noise, blocked ears as the plane descends, the food, "doors to manual and cross-check", screaming children in the next row, or any of it really. And that's before you even consider airport security prior to the flight and then queuing up for hours to get your passport checked when you eventually arrive.....

I stumbled across a partial antidote to my grumpiness on a recent long haul British Airways flight, however. While idly flicking through the duty free magazine, as you do on a 12 hour-plus flight, I was gratified to see some LEGO nestling among the perfumes, booze and other stuff. And better still, it was a set I didn't already have  - Set 7696 Commuter Jet. So I snapped it up and managed to get it home intact.

Although the box carries the "City" label and branding, it's apparently a promotional item only available from certain airlines. I was hoping it'd have the BA logo on the tail, but it appears that the sets aren't airline-specific which is understandable but a shame nonetheless.

The set contains 108 pieces. All but 2 of the pieces were sealed inside 2 bags. Somewhat bizarrely, a white wedge plate making up the leading edge of one of the wings was loose within the box, but the equivalent part for the other wing was sealed inside one of the bags. The other loose piece was a black 2x12 plate.

The set contains 2 minifigures (below) - a pilot and a passenger - and it appears that both of them are exclusive to this set. Random thought - why isn't the pilot wearing a hat ? I don't think I've ever seen a pilot in uniform without a hat, either in real life or in LEGO life....

The plane itself is a quick and simple build; it includes a pleasing sprinkling of dark blue pieces, but the parts palette is otherwise unremarkable. The design is somewhat reminiscent of the plane in the 2008 Air Mail set, albeit not yellow, a few studs longer and with jet engines rather than props. The logo on the tail is a sticker, and is the same as the logo on the tail of Set 3181 Passenger Plane, and also the plane in Set 3182 Airport.

The finished model isn't exactly sleek, but it's at least chunky and swooshable; some of the recent planes including 3181 and 3182 mentioned above have custom-molded cockpit sections, which means that the Commuter Jet looks somewhat retro in comparison. Given my dislike of large, custom parts, however, I guess I can't really complain. One thing I'm not impressed about however is the main 'play feature', namely the ability to open the fuselage in order to put the passenger in his seat. As you may be able to see from the picture below (click to enlarge) the roof tilts up by way of 2 large hinge plates which are so stiff that the roof invariably breaks apart rather than opening as intended - it's really not a very impressive piece of design....

If you're not planning a long haul flight on one of the qualifying airlines anytime soon and you're based in the UK you can pick this set up online for £15 + delivery from the British Airways High Life shop - at the time of writing there are 22 in stock. OK, so it's hardly a bargain for 108 pieces, but it's probably still worthwhile if you're an inveterate completist like me, and/or a minifig collector given the 2 exclusive minifigs in the set.


  1. I love these airline specials. There's been on average one available every year since the early '90s and I believe I have most of them. They are expensive, but there's never any problem selling them of if you need to.

  2. Martin10/8/11

    Thanks for the heads-up. I've just gone and purchased one for myself!