Construction starts with the nose gear bay which attaches to the cockpit floor pan. The wheel bay interior detailing is first class, as good as you will find in plastic. I painted it with Tamiya XF-56 metallic grey and dry brushed with chrome silver, which I always find produces a nice realistic metallic finish. The cockpit and seats are beautifully detailed. I painted a base coat of Revell 09 Anthracite (which is not quite black and works better for scale models). A decal is provided for the main pilots instrument panel but I never use these as long as raised detail is provided, and to my mind you cannot beat a bit of careful painting and dry brushing. The seats appear accurate enough, and although they could undoubtedly be improved with some resin replacements I went with the kit parts and they came up very nicely to my eye. I did add my own etched seat belts from my spares draw because, as ever, none are provided in the kit. Putting the cockpit together was my first taste of the kit engineering and it is brilliant. Everything clicks into place perfectly and this is the kind of kit that if you have fit problems, then you know it is your own fault and not the kit. Interior side walls are then painted up and used to enclose the cockpit. These are then surrounded by the fuselage nose section in two halves and as expected, these clicked into place perfectly with no significant seam removal needed.
This is probably a convenient point to take a slight side step and point out that although the instructions contain over 100 steps (which is a little daunting), Airfix do have this habit of repeating steps for opposite parts (e.g. wings) rather than the "times 2" or "opposite" nomenclature used by most other manufacturers. This does result in a larger instruction manual than strictly necessary. However it does make parts identification a bit clearer and less prone to error as well, so I'm not complaining.
The canopy is in four parts, the two permanent elements and two sliding covers. The instructions imply that you need to commit to glue either the open or closed positions, as they are attached to separate runner parts. However a little test fitting convinced me that the clear canopies could be glued directly to the runners and be left free to move, which turned out to be correct. The canopies were masked up with Tamiya tape. Alas, no Eduard mask set was yet available, so I had to use the old fashioned method. However, I decided to leave the moving parts off and spray them separately and mask the open cockpit directly otherwise I would have trouble with overlapping camouflage areas. This only now leaves the undercarriage, ordnance and various sensors and aerials which I would leave off until after painting. I also chose to leave off the refuelling probe assembly at this stage, although this would come back to haunt me later.
I then masked off the underside and sprayed the top with Tamiya XF-54 "Dark Sea Grey". This was followed by a panel bleach of a slightly lightened version to highlight the panels. Then the camouflage pattern was masked out using Blu Tack strings and tape, before finishing with the RAF green coat (a mix of XF-27 and XF-5) and a similar panel bleach on top of that. A couple of coats of Klear followed ready for decaling.
Next a panel line wash of black oil paint was applied and this enhanced the panel lines nicely. A final spray of satin varnish toned everything down nicely. The final stage was to post shade the panel lines with a thin brown/black mix and a little additional fine pale grey filter. I also used a thin oil wash to add some oil streaks and rain marks.
Finally, I painted and finished the jet intake and exhaust covers and built and painted the crew access ladder. This latter is nicely made, I am not sure about it's accuracy although I suspect there were various ladders used in practice. To complete the "at ease" model I also made up "remove before flight" covers and tags for the pitots and refuel probe.
In conclusion, and despite those couple of difficulties, this is quite possibly the best kit Airfix have produced so far. It builds into a large and impressive model that looks fantastic on the shelf, and the covers and ladder really do add an authentic feel to the overall result. I simply cannot wait to see what they come up with next!