Fairey Firefly Mk1, Grumman Wildcat IV and VI
This Month's significant WW2 Anniversaries:
4 October 1939:
HMS Royal Oak is sunk in Scapa Flow by U-47, with massive loss of life.
16 Oct 1939: First German Air Attack on the UK; Rosyth Naval Base & Forth Rail Bridge bombed.
The Phoney War begins with 158,000 troops of the British Expeditionary Force joining French troops re-inforcing the Maginot Line and French borders;
Britain and France start to purchase large quantities of arms from US in a last ditch attempt to re-arm.
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Fairey Firefly Mk1, 1771 Sqn FAA, HMS IMPLACABLE, British Pacific Fleet, Truk Lagoon, 1945.
Frog/Eastern Express 1/72, built straight from the box.
Frog's Firefly is a pretty old kit, but has usually been relatively easy to obtain from eastern European sources, with Eastern Express the most recent Russian company to issue it; the moulds are holding up relatively well, albeit with some flash evident on the soft grey plastic.
All in all, it is a pretty simple kit, with all the virtues and shortfalls expected of Frog's output in the early 1970s; reasonably accurate in outline, but short on detail. Panel lines are delicately raised; wheel wells need boxing in. Cabin/cockpit detail is minimal (about the same as Airfix give you in their Firefly V kit) so I added some simple seats and radio cabinets, as well as a larger deck for the after cockpit. One nice touch is that the lower wing halves are split along the complex wing fold line, which would make it easier to either cut the upper wing for a fold, or even to extend the distinctive Fairey-Youngman flaps if one felt so inclined. My wings went together well with only minimal gaps, as did the fuselage.
Where the kit does fall down is with the transparencies; mine were very badly moulded (I suspect serious corrosion of the mould) with rough surfaces and lots of flash. I attempted to clean them up, carefully removing the flash and dipping in Klear to restore the translucency. However, although they were eventually just about useable, vacformed alternatives are easily available from Falcon (whose comprehensive FAA set is clearly targeted at ex-Frog kits and well worth buying), so I used them instead.
Undercarriage and wheels are somewhat spindly, and the one piece spinner-propeller is rather toy-like in appearance. I was also suspicious of the kit's chunky rocket rails at first, until I discovered some references showing that they are indeed the solid shape provided (they include blast shields for the wing).
Decals are well printed, offering two marking schemes (one British Pacific Fleet and one Dutch Navy). They have a very matt finish and are suspiciously thin, on rather rough backing paper. I fully expected them to crack, but despite having very little stretch or give, they actually went on very nicely, had reasonable colour density and little carrier film. Unfortunately, the white borders on the BPF roundels were badly out of register, something that was only really obvious once they were applied. I used some spares from a Modeldecal set to replace the problem areas. I also think that the "275" side number is slightly too large, not least because it doesn't really fit in the available space!
The "Evelyn Tentions" scheme provided in the kit is identical to that currently worn by the FAA Museum's Firefly. Its not actually the same aircraft (the museum one is a repainted target tug), but provides some useful references. Note that the colour of the lettering is different. Unfortunately, Eastern Express don't actually provide any sort of decalling or painting guide, apart from the illustrations on the box. After checking my references I believe that the box top picture is incorrect, as my reference pictures of Evelyn Tentions don't have the white band on the spinner (and neither does the FAA museum's aircraft). The wire aerial fit on the box is also wrong; whilst some Firefly wire aerials did extend onto the engine cowling as shown, again, my reference pictures show that this was not the case with this aircraft.
More details of the Firefly on the RN Props pages
Grumman/General Motors/Eastern Aircraft Wildcat MkVI, 882 Sqn FAA, HMS SEARCHER, British East Indies Fleet, 1945.
Airfix Club 2009 Limited Edition, built straight from the box.
For a number of years now, Airfix have run a modeller's club on their website. Although mainly aimed at the younger modeller, club membership also includes an annual Limited Edition model that has often been of interest to the more serious enthusiast. For example, recent years have included short runs of more desirable and rare out of production Airfix kits and 2009 has been no exception, with a special issue of 3 Fleet Air Arm kits, a Swordfish, Wildcat and Seafire, to co-incide with the Fly Navy 100 celebrations. Whilst the kits are far from "state of the art", they do represent aircraft and variants that are not well supported, at least in 1/72 scale. In addition, they come with a truly superb and very large decal/transfer sheet, printed by leading decal printers Cartograf and giving a choice of markings for no less than 6 different aircraft, 2 for each kit.
The first of these that I intend to build, continuing my current "FAA Fighters" theme, is the late model Wildcat VI, built by General Motors' Eastern Aircraft division. This is the equivalent of the late US Navy FM2 model and is particularly difficult to find kitted in 1/72 scale (Hobbyboss make one, but I am not convinced it is any more accurate than this).
The Airfix kit was first issued in 1964, with some lovely Roy Cross artwork. This latest issue is reasonably crisply molded with minimal flash, in a soft grey plastic. The fuselage is a little too skinny looking for my liking (as are the undercarriage and wheels), whilst the engine cowling has a strange lack of symmetry. The kit is also festooned with huge rivets that need to be toned down and the cockpit is decidedly bare, with only a basic "ledge" for the rather crude pilot.
That said, it is an easy and rewarding build with no real foibles, and thus probably well chosen for Airfix Club members. British Wildcats were almost all purchased outright from the US Government and served mainly in the Atlantic, North Sea and Arctic theatres, in temperate sea camouflage, so I was very pleased to see that one of the decal options is for a sea blue painted (and therefore probably lend-lease) East Indies Fleet aircraft from the Escort Carrier HMS Searcher.
The FAA Museum are currently restoring their Wildcat to an original WW2 state in a similar way to Corsair KD431. Visitors to the Carrier exhibition can see the aircraft in the workshop and plot progress.
More Martlets and Wildcats on the RN Props pages
BAE Systems Harrier GR.9 - Fly Navy 100 Anniversary Scheme - Naval Strike Wing, JFH, HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, 2009
Airfix, with Model Alliance decals
How could I miss out on these superb anniversary markings! This is the standard Airfix Harrier II (still my favourite), with Model Alliance's latest Fly Navy 100 set, to represent the aircraft that landed on HMS ILLUSTRIOUS in May 2009 for her visit to London for the Fly Navy 100 celebrations. I actually built the kit back in May, but it has been marking time until the decals were released! I have been determined to get it ready in time for the FAA Museum model show on 17 Oct at Yeovilton, although I was nearly defeated by the fact that I hadn't spotted that the aircraft is in the new overall Medium Sea Grey scheme and had already painted it in the 2 tone greys back in May.
Still, a little re-work and here we are!
More GR.9/7/5s on the Harriers Pages
Fleet Air Arm Museum Autumn Model Show It has become a regular family day out now (although the girls are getting a bit fed up with "Daddy's Model Shows". Nvertheless, once more we had a family stand at the Autumn Yeovilton show - a selection of items across the show that caught my eye can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8209006@N06/sets/72157622609739232/
Grumman Wildcat MkIV, 881/896 Sqn FAA, HMS PURSUER, Operation TUNGSTEN, 1944.
Frog, built straight from the box.
Well, I enjoyed the Airfix Wildcat so much that I have broken another out of the Stash, this time a MkIV in a Frog bag.
This kit was first issued in 1972, continuing Frog's regular Fleet Air Arm theme, but extending it to cover aircraft that might be of more interest to the US and worldwide market. It was originally intended to have an electric prop spinning motor inside the fuselage, which might explain its rather portly dimensions.
Having now built both, I am now convinced that the recent Academy kit is based on this one; even though Academy have given their version engraved detail, versus the Frog raised lines, the parts breakdown is identical and they are both rather fat in the fuselage. The Airfix & Hobbyboss Wildcats are both a lot narrower, more than the different engine fits can account for; I have yet to build my Hasegawa one, which I guess is likely to be the most accurate.
That said, this kit is typical late Frog - a little chunky in parts, but it fits together without any need for filler, and the level of detail is perfectly adequate. In many ways this one reminds me of the early Matchbox kits, even down to the very shiny plastic surfaces (I wonder if they used the same team to master the mould - by 1972, Frog were outsourcing this work to Hong Kong). The level of complexity is about on a par with the Airfix kit, although Frog's seat is marginally better and does come with a control column. The under fuselage windows are provided too, but these add to the see-through-ness of the fuselage.
Typical Frog - perhaps a little chunky, but easy fun to build and looks good when finished .....and those 37 year old transfers still worked perfectly too!
More Martlets and Wildcats on the RN Props pages
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