August 2009

25 July 2009 - Death of Mr Harry Patch, last British survivor of the WWI trenches.

6 Aug 2009 - Funeral of Mr Harry Patch and 64th Anniversary of the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb. 60,000 people killed. Nine days later, Japan accepts unconditional surrender terms.

24th Aug 2009 - 70th Anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, pledging neutrality between Nazi Germany and the USSR, in the event that either was attacked by a 3rd party. The treaty included a secret protocol dividing Eastern and Central Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence, anticipating potential "territorial and political rearrangements" of these countries. With Soviet co-operation assured, Hitler initiates plan for immediate invasion of Poland. However, Italian objections lead the planne dinvasion to be delayed until September.

If you have been browsing the rest of my site, you may have noticed that my collection of "between the wars" aircraft is pretty thin. This month, I will begin to redress the balance a little bit.

However, I do generally find biplane kits quite a challenge, and will no doubt revert back to models of noisy jet aircraft soon enough!

Fairey Flycatcher, No. 405 Flight, Fleet Air Arm, HMS GLORIOUS, 1929.

Aeroclub 1/72, built straight from the box.

Aeroclub models produce a wide range of very high quality accessories and conversion parts. They also produce a range of limited edition 1/72 kits, including this marvellous little Fleet Air Arm aircraft from between the wars.

Aeroclub Flycatcher header card

The Flycatcher was the main FAA fighter from 1923 to 1934, until replaced by the Hawker Nimrod. A commendably advanced and successful design when it started life, it remained highly popular with its pilots, but its unusually long service life foretold the creeping neglect of British Naval Aviation during the austerity driven inter-war years, when other areas of aviation were making rapid advances.

FAA Museum Fairey Flycatcher

Early biplanes seem to lend themselves well to the limited run process and this is no exception. The kit includes plastic fuselage parts, upper and lower wings, rudder and tailplanes, some very finely moulded white metal parts for the propeller, engine, cockpit, undercarriage and main wing struts, plus some extra plastic strut for detail areas. Colourful decals/transfers (with HMS GLORIOUS' yellow identification band) are provided for an aircraft in the markings worn by the Fleet Air Arm Museum's replica at Yeovilton (a small additional erratum sheet is also included, as there is an error in the colour sequence of the rudder markings).

Fairey Flycatcher

Building is straightforward, if fiddly. The white plastic used for the main parts is translucent, hard and rather brittle, whilst (in my kit, at least) the rudder and tailplanes were provided in a much softer beige plastic. At first glance the kit appears quite crude, but this is certainly not the case. Surface detailing is finely raised and very nicely done. Whilst parts fit is not good, this is only to be expected in an early short run kit and is very easily resolved with minimal sanding. Location holes are provided for attaching struts and other details, but these are quite shallow, so were opened up slightly during assembly. The cockpit includes a simple white metal seat and a nicely detailed control column, although little can be seen through the small cockpit aperture once completed (and in any event I added a pilot). Other white metal/pewter parts, including the engine, propeller, guns and the very complex undercarriage, are superbly detailed.

Fairey Flycatcher

Assembling and aligning the wings is also comparatively easy, due to the simple geometry of the Flycatcher's struts. Rigging (I'm using fine lycra) is a bit more difficult, mainly because the kit is so small, but also because it has a relatively complex diagonal rigging scheme. Since one of the Flycatcher's important innovative features were the full length wing flaps, I felt it important to add the pivot horns (using the supplied plastic strut) and their control wires, for which I pierced small holes in the flaps and used fine beading wire (supplied by Mrs T's sewing box!). As these needed to go over the wing markings, some thought had to go into the building sequence beforehand - in the event, the superglue used to fix the wire did a little bit of damage to the paintwork, but this was easy to tidy up.

Fairey Flycatcher

The main fuselage and wings/tailplane were painted with Humbrol Metalcote matt aluminium, while the forward fuselage was painted in Metalcote gloss aluminium. The engine is dilute Metalcote and black mixed to taste, and the whole thing has a coat of Microsol acrylic satin varnish to finish. Decals were densely coloured, nicely thin and easy to apply. The yellow fuselage band needed a little trimming to fit and in retrospect, I think the red centres of the fuselage roundels are too large. I used a little Humbrol Decalfix to settle everything down as they appeared a little wrinkled after application.

Fairey Flycatcher

All in all, this is a lovely little kit, easy to build and eyecatching when finished!

More Pictures of the Flycatcher and other Naval Biplanes on the RN Props pages

Hawker Osprey, 801 Sqn, Fleet Air Arm, HMS FURIOUS, 1938.

Airfix 1/72 Hawker Demon, with scratch modifications and decals.

Although it may have seemed to the Fleet Air Arm that the Flycatcher would hang on forever, by 1932 it was finally being replaced by naval variants of two of Hawkers' beautiful Rolls Royce Kestrel powered biplane fighters, the Nimrod, based on the Hawker Fury and the Osprey, based on the Hawker Hart. Both these aircraft represented quantum leaps in speed and capability. In the case of the Osprey (which could also operate as a seaplane), it was the Fleet Air Arm's first high speed 2-seater fighter reconnaissance (or spotter) aircraft.

Hawker Osprey, 801 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, HMS FUROUS 1938.  1/72, conversion from the Airfix Hawker Demon kit.

The Airfix Demon kit first appeared in 1968, as a modification to the 1957 mould of the Hawker Hart. Originals can change hands for very high prices, but the basic kit has been released much more recently as part of the 'RAF Collection' set. In this form, I believe it is still one of the better Airfix biplane kits, nicely detailed and crisply moulded. There are a few ejector marks beneath the wings, but otherwise it is really very good.

Hawker Osprey, 801 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, HMS FUROUS 1938.  1/72, conversion from the Airfix Hawker Demon kit.

To convert it into an Osprey, I have used another kit from my collection, the Merlin Models Frog Penguin replica. Now, this IS a crude little blob of plastic, although it too can be built into a nice model.

However, it does include a nice 1/72 scale drawing of an Osprey, which I have compared with the Airfix Demon, and as a result these are the simple changes I intend to do:

For the new rear fuselage, I cut out an appropriately sized ring (from a spare Meteor intake!), which was fixed into position, then faired in with Milliput. The arrestor hook is an old paperclip, bent and cut to size. The lower wing inner sections are simple plastic card overlays, with aerofoil plastic strut for their supports.

Hawker Osprey, 801 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, HMS FUROUS 1938.  1/72, conversion from the Airfix Hawker Demon kit.

Rigging this one is a little easier than the Flycatcher - for example, Hawker managed to fit the Osprey's aileron control lines internally and it is also a bit larger, with easier handling access. I used my normal method of lycra thread, attached with superglue that has been applied on a cocktail stick. My hit rate with the superglue is still a little unreliable and messy, but I am definitely improving. However, as with any biplane where the interplane struts are angled in two planes, some care is required with angles and supporting the wings whilst the glue sets.

Hawker Osprey, 801 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, HMS FUROUS 1938.  1/72, conversion from the Airfix Hawker Demon kit.

Fortunately, for me, by 1938, the FAA had removed most of the colourful Squadron and Flight markings from their aircraft, leaving only the fuselage carrier ident band, in this case red for HMS FURIOUS. Mine is a little simplified; it should really have a double edge, but that was beyond my painting skills!

Hawker Osprey, 801 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, HMS FUROUS 1938.  1/72, conversion from the Airfix Hawker Demon kit.

Despite its age, this is really a very good little kit and the conversion to an Osprey is very straightforward. The only problems I had during this build were a broken cabane strut (it snapped as I removed it from the sprue) and the Observer/TAG, who fell off his seat and got jammed in the after fuselage! Some judicious and firm joggling with the tweezers eventually freed him and he was re-seated on a piece of sprue to stop him falling back through.

More Pictures of the Osprey and many other Naval Biplanes on the RN Props pages

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