Over the years Hasbro has had to do some “quick thinking” when it came to character names. Due to issues of copyright, Hawk became “Tomahawk” and eventually “General Abernathy”; Scarlett became “Agent Scarlett”, etc, etc. Most fans were able to accept these name changes and simply move on. However, in one instance it wasn’t the name that was changed but rather the person who used that name. In 1983, Franklin Talltree was introduced as the “Helicopter Assault Trooper – Code name: Airborne”. He was the first Native American on the team and he was depicted as the gunner in the Dragonfly, at least according to the package art and vehicle decals. Sadly, in the RAH line this was the only version of Specialist Talltree to grace the line. However, in 1990 a new Airborne figure was released—but it wasn’t the character that fans had known since 1983. Robert M. Six, parachute assembler and field medic, was the “Airborne” of the Sky Patrol team and an entirely new character. He’s also my favorite figure in the Sky Patrol subset.
Airborne is one of those examples of a repaint that is a drastic improvement over the original figure. In this case, Airborne reuses the body of Lift-Ticket, the pilot of the GIJoe Tomahawk helicopter. The original figure, in my opinion, was a bit garishly colored with a uniform comprised of green, tan, and red with the detailing painted in black. He also had one of the most ridiculously exaggerated head sculpts of the entire GIJoe line and so, as a young Joe fan, I was never interested in acquiring him. Airborne takes that excellent figure mold and gives it the treatment it so richly deserves, with fewer paint applications. The basis for the uniform is now a light gray with slate gray patches used to form a camouflage pattern on the legs and arms. Over the top of this camo jumpsuit is a dark gray vest with silver shoulder pads. The boots, belt, pouches, and gloves are all painted gray with the knee pads, airborne pin, and shoulder mike and cord detailed in silver. The result is an extremely realistic and believable color scheme for a uniform that was previously rendered in a very cartoon-like fashion. Many of the molded details on the vest, such as the holster, straps and pouches, are not given any additional paint detail and this minimalist approach works surprisingly well. Rather than highlight the features, it instead gives the figure a very cohesive look. The Lift-Ticket mold is now rendered in colors that don’t make me snicker and give Robert M. Six the look of someone who would engage in clandestine missions. (Heck, Static Line will be drawing all of the fire with his silver shoulder pads!)
If the body wasn’t enough of a reason to buy this figure, the head sculpt is. One of the more realistic RAH-era sculpts, Airborne’s facial expression conveys the impression of a man who means business. There is a slightly aged look to the face as see in the cheeks and the corners of the mouth, which is set in a determined line. The eyebrows are slightly furrowed as if Airborne is assessing the situation at hand and trying to determine the best course of action. His hair is almost entirely slicked back with the exception of two wispy strands that seem to have minds of their own. In some ways, the facial sculpt reminds me of a young Charles Bronson from his appearance in “The Great Escape”. It’s a great sculpt and one that is MILES ahead of Lift-Ticket’s smirking visage which previously graced these shoulders. Airborne is an example where the re-release and repaint of a previously-used figure far surpasses the original.
When it comes to gear, Airborne seems to have escaped the “weapons curse” that hit Static Line and Altitude with such a vengeance. His gear is simple—an over-sized rifle that seems capable of dropping a T-Rex dead in its tracks, a silver helmet with molded red visor, and the requisite parachute pack. (Ironically enough, Airborne’s rifle was re-released with the Dino-Hunter Ambush figure!) Normally I would have a problem with such an over-sized rifle in the hands of a 3.75” figure but for Airborne it seems to work. Perhaps it’s that whole “Charles Bronson” image I’ve got in my mind but I can forgive the skewed weapons proportions this time. The helmet actually reminds me quite a bit of Scoop’s helmet with its similarly designed visor. What I do find odd is that, as the team’s combat medic, Airborne comes with no medical gear whatsoever. As I stated in the review of Airwave I suspect that this omission is a result of the inclusion of the working parachute packs. After all, these figures were still selling for under $4.00 in my town back in 1990 so the cost-per-figure had to be kept in check. I might see if I can give him an extra RAH-era backpack just to rationalize the fact that he’s carrying around some medical gear on the ground but otherwise he’s completely good-to-go as he is.
Hands down Airborne is my favorite member of the Sky Patrol. He’s got a great color scheme, a terrific body mold, a dynamic head sculpt, some good gear, a well-written file card and just plain kicks Cobra tail! In previous reviews of the Sky Patrol I’ve given the advice: “If you’re going to buy one you might as well buy them all.” Airborne is the exception to that rule. Honestly, if there is one figure to purchase out of the entire set, it’s Airborne. If you’re worried about what to call him because you already have an “Airborne” on your team, then think of it this way. Sky Patrol file cards make NO mention of the GIJoe team in any way so it is therefore a reasonable leap in logic that they aren’t actually part of the team. I see the Sky Patrol as an entirely separate unit who also has an operative who uses the code name “Airborne”. See? Problem solved! Go out and snag an Airborne figure today. He’s one of those RAH gems that you will have no regrets about purchasing as he is worth every precious penny!