In the early 1980s Airfix had released their set of NATO Ground Crew, a set that concentrated mostly on the mechanics and airfield guards. Almost all were wearing NBC suits, and only one suited pilot figure was included. By the later years of that decade the Cold War was thawing and NATO's role was evolving, so Esci may have felt the time was right to make a new set of NATO aviators, and to throw in a few more pilots for good measure. The result was this set, which was among the last figure sets that they made.
Esci routinely produced sets of 50 figures in 15 poses, but this set breaks with that format and provides an impressive 20 poses. Unlike Airfix, it seems Esci were putting more effort into their later sets rather than less. The poses are a mixture of ground crew and pilots, and are all reasonable. However almost everyone is standing still or crouching, so there is not much action to be found. OK, so these men are not in a normal battlefield situation, but we would have liked to have seen a pilot running to his aircraft or something of that nature.
As might be expected, costume is very varied, which is reasonable considering the multinational nature of the subject, and the relaxed dress code of such troops most of the time. The ground crew wear various overalls, NBC suits or simply trousers and a T-shirt, and a couple are stripped to the waist. Though we could not confirm all these styles, all seemed realistic. The pilots are naturally more carefully dressed, but still in various styles. Some wear the G-suit, but all are again apparently realistically attired.
Esci may have deviated from their formula for variety of figures, but the standard of sculpting is still excellent. Faces are nicely done and every crumple in the clothing is reproduced. There is some excess plastic to be removed, and on our example we found rather more flash than is usual. We were surprised to see the figure saluting with his left hand (first figure, top row), but in general we thought this was a good set, and while inevitably dated after all these years, it is certainly a little more relevant to today's NATO air forces than the set from Airfix.