Helicopters are a constant component of the LEGO City theme and have often been criticised as a result of their sometimes repetitive designs. However, 60179 Ambulance Helicopter features a bright red and yellow colour scheme so really stands out, not least because these colours are unusually faithful to real rescue helicopters.
The price of £17.99 or $19.99 appears very reasonable for a set containing 190 pieces and three minifigures, each of whom includes new elements. In addition, 60204 Hospital will be released in the summer and should prove to be a suitable companion for this set so I have been looking forward to adding it to my collection.
This set includes two paramedics, one of whom serves as the pilot while the other tends patients in the passenger bay. A new uniform has been created for these minifigures which features the blue Star of Life emblem along with metallic silver stripes that increase visibility. I think both designs look superb and appreciate the variation between male and female torsos, although they are sufficiently similar to be used interchangeably if you wish.
A pair of orange sunglasses protect the pilot from the snow's glare and he wears a white helmet while the doctor comes with a new hat and hair piece. This combination of reddish brown hair with a red hat only appears elsewhere in 60183 Heavy Cargo Transport so it is very rare and I think it looks fantastic, matching the torso designs and including impressive moulded detail. The figures are equipped with a radio.
A snowboarder waiting to be rescued completes the set. He sports a white protective helmet and his head is brand new, featuring a stern expression and a pair of blue-tinted goggles. Unfortunately, there is no alternative expression printed on the other side but this is excusable in my opinion as the helmet would not entirely cover such a design. Presumably this head will also appear in the Arctic sets being released in the summer but for now it remains exclusive.
The torso, however, has been in use since 2011. This green jacket is perfect for a wintry environment and I like the detailed zip printed down its centre. It may be safe to assume that the snowboarder likes green as he is also wearing lime green trousers and his snowboard, which is decorated with a couple of stickers, is lime green too! A printed snowboard would have been preferable but the stickered designs do look good.
The Completed Model
The helicopter measures 29cm from nose to tail and it feels even larger as a result of the impressive blade span. I am not sure whether this model is based upon a specific helicopter but it resembles the AgustaWestland AW139 quite closely, right down to the red and yellow colour scheme. These bright colours are very striking and the curved fuselage looks superb, due in part to some large specialised components but also to the excellent use of more traditional pieces.
This sleek cockpit element was introduced in 2010 but is new in yellow. It looks marvellous here and I like the Star of Life sticker on the front. Matching designs are present on either side of the cockpit. The helicopter rests on four skids situated at the front and rear of the fuselage These are articulated so are ideally suited to landing on rough terrain or snow, as indicated on the box. It is a bit disappointing that the landing gear cannot fold up but it can be removed very easily for a more realistic flight mode.
Removing the canopy reveals space for a single minifigure and a printed control console. There is also room to place some accessories behind the pilot but there are no clips in the cockpit which is a shame. I like the trans-red and trans-green 1x1 round tiles denoting the port and starboard sides of the helicopter though and the yellow spotlights hanging underneath look splendid as well.
The cargo bay is fairly small but you can still slot a minifigure onto the stretcher and there is plenty of equipment inside, including an intravenous drip, a lime green syringe and a heart rate monitor screen which is depicted by a sticker. There is no space for the medical staff though, who must instead sit on the hinged platforms beside the cargo bay. This seems odd but is actually quite sensible as it allows you to move the figures back and forth with ease.
Sponsons project from either side of the helicopter. These support the landing gear and include warning lights as well as two clips for attaching accessories. Ambulance stickers are applied above the sponsons and I like the angled air intakes linked to the engine. This dark bluish grey assembly stands out very clearly against the yellow fuselage and it includes some nice mechanical details so looks reasonably realistic.
A hinged hatch opens at the rear, providing easy access to load the stretcher. This works nicely but the angled fuselage does not match the underside of the tail boom very well. Fortunately, the curved slopes on top look much better and I like the consistent transition between red and yellow which continues for the length of the tail boom.
The tail boom includes a vertical stabiliser with a sticker on each side and a tail rotor. A total of fourteen stickers are included which is quite a few for a set of this size but they look great and I found them fairly easy to apply. The tail rotor can rotate in its housing and you can also change the angle of the rotor to point in any direction as it is mounted on a Technic pin.
The main rotor consists of four large blades and its tips are decorated with small hazard warning stripe stickers. The blades spin freely and conserve momentum remarkably well so will continue to rotate for several seconds following a good push. This is vital for play and I am very impressed with the overall strength of the model which is perfect for enthusiastic swooshing and occasional rough landings!
The LEGO City theme has offered no shortage of helicopters in recent years but 60179 Ambulance Helicopter really stands out as an excellent example. I love its bright red and yellow colour scheme which is suited to a rescue vehicle and the shaping of the aircraft looks superb, closely matching a number of real helicopters. All three minifigures are great too and I am particularly satisfied with the new paramedic uniforms.
Furthermore, the price of £17.99 or $19.99 feels very reasonable in relation to the content of the set. A more spacious area for tending patients would have been welcome as it does look slightly cramped at the moment but in all other respects I think this is a marvellous model and I would therefore highly recommend it.
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