Name: Air Rider
Series: Superlink (Energon)
Alternate Mode: Fighter Jet
The US version, Treadshot.
Note: I have the Japanese version of this set, so I'm going with the Japanese names partly because of the G1 links and partly because Hasbro's reuse of names in this set is pathetic. Air Rider is the Japanese name for Air Raid, while Treadshot was a Decepticon Actionmaster.
Height: 5cm Length: 11.5cm Width: 10cm
A black fighter jet with baby blue wingtips and tailfins, Air Rider's design has elements of the F-22 and the Stealth jets and looks like a hybrid of the F-22 and a Stealth bomber. This isn't any real model of military aircraft, but it's got bits and pieces to the point where it looks like it _could_ be, which keeps me happy. There are golden highlights, including his air intakes and some pinstripe-like lines down the fuselage and wings. His canopy is a dark transparent blue surrounded by silver paint, which also features on his wings. There's a red Autobot symbol behind and to the left of the canopy, with is moulded (and the relief is white), while he sports a spark crystal at the back between the tailfins facing backwards. While it's not a perfect homage to G1 Air Raid, there's more than a passing semblance to Cyberjet Air Raid, which makes this one of the better G1 (ok, G2, but it's the same character) in this line. The black, and baby blue with gold highlights works really well anyway, and this is easily my favourite colour scheme of the five neo-Aerialbots.
There are some elements here that wouldn't work on a real jet fighter, of course. The most obvious are the holes in his wings, which are designed to allow Air Rider to attach his cannons - they go right through the wingtips and would wreck havoc with his flight capabilities. Otherwise the rest is minor - the spark crystal and robot arms tucked underneath. Air Rider is actually capable of resting on his arms if his landing gear is retracted, which I suppose makes them somewhat useful. Of course, you're meant to lower the front wheel and side wheels for this mode. There's a nice balance of jet bits here and there, such as plane lines on the fuselage, Stealth-jet angles on the nose and flaps on the wingtips. He even has a little seat inside the cockpit.
Air Rider's cannons can clip underneath or on top of his wingtips, but I'd strongly recommend against the latter. To be honest I'm not a huge fan of placing them underneath, either, since you end up with transparent blue sticking out the back as well as the front. You can also attach them to his fists, underneath the jet, but there's not really much point. These weapons represent the play value of this jet mode, so I should be disappointed that they're so lame. Thankfully Air Rider has lots of other stuff going for him.
Despite the silly weaponry, this is still a good jet mode. The colours are fantastic and along with the airframe they make for a good tribute to Air Raid (in his Cyberjet form). There's quite a lot of detail in the mould, and aside from the holes in his wings - for him to carry those weapons - this jet looks realistic enough. While it doesn't work quite as well as Sling or Skydive as a jet, the colours easily make up for this.
TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE
Retract the landing gear, unclip the wings and fold them back to form his legs. Unclip the panel holding the tailfins and spark crystal and swing forward to form his backplate. Lift the arms out to the sides, fold down the nose to form his head and reveal his head. Swing down his arms, lift up the feet and position his limbs as desired - you can even attach his weapons if you want.
For some reason, the wingtips now form winglets that stick out from his knees, and these winglets are on ball joints. These ball joints have no apparent purpose, but if you like you can rotate the winglets downwards. I actually rotate them down on Firebolt - who shares this mould to differentiate the two (it looks better on Firebolt's paintmask than Air Rider's).
Height: 11cm Width: 5cm
Again black and baby blue, with the gold confined to his fists and face, Air Rider has a black torso, black head, forearms and boots. His upper arms, thighs and the winglets on his knees are blue while the canopy on his chest is transparent blue along with his eyes - and there's a very effective lightpipe which will cause his eyes to glow if there's even an indirect lightsource behind him. Along with the silver paint around the canopy, Air Rider's robot mode has silver on the toes, knees and forehead. That moulded Autobot symbol now sits on the left of his chest and really belongs there. This is a sweet colour scheme, with the right balance of black and blue and the gold and silver paints used really well. Throw in that lightpipe and this is one of the best colour schemes I've seen on a Transformer.
Air Rider's torso is essentially the front of the jet - which is a tried and tested formula for jet Transformers. The winglets on his knees also allude to his alternate mode, without getting in the way. The limbs feature angular lines that match the angular torso (and it's stealth lines). The head is also quite angular, as is the single eyepiece, which is a two-plane visor. The face has a moulded nose and mouth, and while these are slightly lost amongst the gold paint, I don't really care since the glowing eyes make for a cool face - the rest is just minor detailing.
The forearms have moulded pistons inside them and the feet have well-designed heelspurs which do a great job of a anchoring Air Rider whilst not sticking out that far. The backpack that is the tailfins sits flush against his back and is a non-issue in terms of weight balance. G1 fans might notice that this backplate is in itself a homage to the G1 Aerialbots.
The head turns, the shoulders, elbows, knees and hips are all all joints and the ankles hinged, giving Air Rider great articulation for a basic (especially one that becomes the limb of a Gestalt). The heelspurs really help, since most poses are stable providing you get the feet right. It's just a shame that Air Rider doesn't come with better weaponry to help show off his poseability.
Those silly missiles that Air Rider comes with can now form either baton-like melee weapons or tuning-fork like double-bats (if you fold up the transparent blue ends). The handles are baby blue, meaning these weapons aren't interchangeable with Firebolt's (which have grey handles). While it's possible to lift one end up and leave the other down, the effect fails to look like a firearm since the raised arm is too long. Granted, the melee weapons aren't a total loss, but I'd much prefer a ranged weapon. There's also a blue connecting piece that comes with the twin-weapons - it's exclusively for Superion limb mode, in case you wonder why I haven't covered it.
Ignoring the weaponry - which you can of course substitute for other Energon weaponry if you like - this is a fantastic robot mode with excellent colours. Air Rider is poseable and stable with a sculpt that suits his airframe well. And the more I look at the lightpipe (which is illuminated by the light of my eMac despite being a foot away from the base of the computer as I type), the more I like it.
The gold paint described in my review has been replaced with a yellow paint (which is badly applied) on Treadbolt, who also has lighter transparent plastic.
All that and a can of coke, Air Rider is one of the best basics in Energon to date. The colours, paint mask and sculpt are all great, the robot mode is very playable and the plane mode solid. The colours easily put him ahead of Firebolt, although of course you'll need to grab both if you want to form Superion. If not for the rather lame weaponry I'd give this guy a perfect score - 9/10