March 2016

Boulton Paul Sea Balliol T.21

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Boulton Paul Sea Balliol T.21

Maintenance Test Pilot School, RNAS Abbotsinch, 1962

Special Hobby 1/72

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Background Image: Cosford’s Sea Balliol before its recent restoration

The real thing:  A sole Sea Balliol remains in captivity at the RAF Museum Cosford

I tend to associate Special Hobby with the premium end of the short run model business; their kits are invariably well researched and accurate, with excellent surface detail, although buildability can be a little testing and prices are high.  This is no exception, although the general fit (e.g.of the two fuselage halves which have no locating pins) was remarkably good.

A small amount of resin is provided for awkwardly shaped parts and a comprehensive etched sheet for detail such as seatbelts.  This latter feature, intended to furnish the otherwise very comprehensive cockpit area, is a big letdown - some parts are wildly overscale and effectively unusable, especially the seat belts. However, the biggest issue is the fit of the cockpit transparency, which does not sit over the fuselage.  I used a tight clamp to try and force it down, which sort of worked, although it subsequently pinged off, destroying the tail wheel assembly in the process (the carpet monster now has this part)

Apart from these issues, the kit lives up to its premium status, building into what looks like a very sleek and streamlined aircraft, until the greenhouse canopy is attached that is!  

Decals are very nice, giving  a good range of sufficiently different options, including an aircraft detached to HMS TRIUMPH, but strangely excluding the markings for the sole remaining aircraft that resides at the RAF Museum Cosford.  In my ever present search for colour (its just a phase) I went for the mixed scheme MTP aircraft. This is a little complex, but entirely feasible scheme to paint, although the dayglo remains as always a challenging colour to apply.

In summary then, this is not a kit for the novice, but is fully recommended for those with moderate skills, patience and experience, who fancy a bot of bright colour in their collection!

February always sees the Fleet Air Arm Museum’s spring model show and this year was especially busy.  Once again a small part of my collection made a rare foray from its stowage boxes, this time accompanied by Mrs T and a colleague with a somewhat tall 1/72 Saturn V rocket!  

The Balliol and Sea Balliol were developed toward the end of WW2 to replace the Douglas Harvard trainer in Fleet Air Arm and RAF service. Originally intended to carry an Armstrong Siddeley Mamba turpoprop, production aircraft were revised to carry a more conventional Rolls Royce Merlin, of which there were plenty to spare!  

Sea Balliols remained on active service for a relatively short time in the mid 1950s, as the rush to jet power moved the focus toward the Vampire jet trainer instead.  Two naval squadrons flew the Sea Balliol, 781 Sqn at Lee on Solent and 1843 Sqn RNVR at Abbotsinch (now Glasgow Airport).

The subject of this  kit also flew from Abbotsinch, this time with the RN Maintenance Test Pilot School, remaining in use until 1963. As such it carries an unusual colour scheme, combing the early yellow trainer stripes with the late day-glo panels.  

The real thing:  The Sea Balliol prototype - © Crown Copyright IWM (ATP 23421D)

The real thing:  A sole Sea Balliol remains in captivity at the RAF Museum Cosford